The library was as quiet as it normally was just after dinner, so finding an empty desk was not a problem and I quickly plopped my stuff down at a more secluded spot. It was beginning to near the end of the school year and the teachers had all decided to pile on the homework every weekend to ensure that we covered as many topics as possible. The amount of homework was getting a bit ridiculous, even for me. With a great sigh, I inked my quill and began the first of four assignments that were all due at the beginning of each class on Monday. I always preferred working on my homework assignments in the library; that way if I needed any other books to add in information, I wouldn’t have to go far to get the book I needed. Between the many books at my disposal and the quietness, this really was the ideal place for me to work.
I was just getting into the groove of my first paper about the different uses for hellebore when someone else threw their school bag onto the table, causing me to jump. As I looked up from my parchment, I realized that the noise wasn’t the most startling part of the person’s appearance, but rather, it was their appearance in general. He looked a little worse for wear this evening and I wondered if it had something to do with his trips to the Room of Requirement or just the after effects of a long week.
“Hello Granger,” Draco said, pushing his chair back onto its two back legs and propping his feet up on the desk in front of him, which just happened to reach the edge of my parchment.
“Malfoy,” I stated as I reached my hand out and knocked his feet off of the table.
He came crashing back into the table and let out a loud “oomph,” as all his air was knocked out of him. I couldn’t help the small chuckle that escaped my lips, which I could tell from his glare only managed to anger him further. He made sure to make as much noise as possible after that just to annoy me, I’m sure; whether it was rustling his parchment or throwing his books on the table, he made sure he did it as loud as possible. Finally after trying my hardest to ignore him for a half hour, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“You know there are plenty of other empty tables,” I told him, irritation lacing every word.
“Uh huh,” he mumbled, acting like he was the good studious one at the table and I was the one making all the noise.
“So why don’t you go study at one of those?” I all but begged him.
“Don’t feel like it,” was his quick reply.
Figuring that there was nothing else I could do short of moving, I turned my attention back to my homework stretched out before me; besides, he was being quiet now so there was no reason to move. That was, until he started in on it again, this time making more noise than he did last time. I knew he was only doing it to get a rise out of me, which he was doing a great job at, and I wondered how Madame Pince hadn’t picked up on all the noise yet.
“Do you have a problem Malfoy?” I practically shouted at him, which of course finally caught the attention of Madame Pince as I was shushed.
“Actually, now that you mention it Granger,” he started, pausing for a moment to pick up one of his many assignments, “I just don’t understand what the Hag-lady is asking in this question.”
“If by Hag-lady, you actually mean Professor McGonagall, then she wants you to write out the step by step process of becoming an Animagus and at what stages of the process can things go wrong and to specify what they are,” I told him just barely above a whisper to keep from being kicked out of the library.
“Well why didn’t she just say that,” he quipped as he inked his quill for the first time this evening.
“She did,” I answered, as I tapped my index finger towards the bottom of the transfiguration assignment.
“Huh, so she did,” he said in a mocking sort of manner.
I sighed but decided to ignore him for the rest of the evening, which actually worked really well as he didn’t make any more noise until he started packing up his stuff. Briefly, I glanced up at him, trying to figure out how he had managed to finish up his assignments before me. He didn’t say anything but shot me a quick smile, not a smirk but an actual smile, and walked away, leaving me alone for the first time in hours. At first, I really enjoyed the silence, it allowed me to write some of my best stuff of the evening, but as the hours dragged on and the library slowly emptied out, I sort of wished that Malfoy would have stayed here with me. I realized that while he annoyed me, he had also kept me company, and that was something that very few people were willing to do unless they wanted me to tell them what to write and strangely, Malfoy hadn’t been like that. As a matter of fact, the only question he had asked me was about the transfiguration assignment and I figured he did that only as a way to annoy me further and not because he really didn’t know the answer.
It was sad to think that maybe the one person who could really compete against me with grades was one of the many who believed in blood superiority. Then again, he hadn’t called me a Mudblood in a long time and we almost seemed to be getting along. I would even almost call us friends of a sort, though that might be a bit of a stretch. One thing was for sure though, I didn’t feel as threatened around him as I used to, and anyone would be able to tell if they watched him like I did, that he was extremely distracted by something, something that scared him. I wasn’t sure which would be the most damaging, the thing Malfoy was scared of, or the small friendship beginning to form between the two of us.
Finally, after another hour, I was finished my homework, though I would have been done ages ago if my mind hadn’t been so caught up on Draco Malfoy’s weird behavior and just what it was that was forming between the two of us. These thoughts continued to distract me as I walked back to the common room, causing me to almost miss a huge mile stone. There, wrapped up together in the middle of the corridor, stood Ginny and Harry. I couldn’t help the small squeal of surprise and happiness that escaped my lips for the new couple.
“Hi Hermione,” Harry said a bit breathlessly, “let’s, uh, let’s not tell Ron about this.”
I just nodded my head at him, too shocked to say or do anything else. The three of us all looked at each other, an awkward silence spreading between us and it was only when Ginny finally cleared her throat a few seconds later that I realized they probably still wanted to be alone. After a few attempts at trying to say something to them but not succeeding, I shuffled by, my cheeks flushing in embarrassment, though I wasn’t sure why I was embarrassed. It took me a second to realize that while I was staring at Ginny and Harry kissing, I was thinking of another red head and how I still wished that was us, even though these thoughts became much less frequent as the days continued on, I still carried a small flame for him.
As I began walking again, I started thinking about just how lonely I was. Everyone was already starting to pair off, Harry with Ginny, Ron with Lavender, it even seemed like Neville and Luna would soon be getting together, and yet here I was alone, without even a thought of anyone besides someone who was already taken. Sure I had Viktor Krum two years ago but I had never been romantically interested in him as he had been in me. Was I really that bad that no one would ever want to be with me?
It seemed like I wasn’t going to get a reprieve from my thoughts even in the comfort of my own bed as I laid there and listened to Romilda and Parvati talk about their new boyfriends. I would never really understand what it was about girls that made them want to brag and talk about boys all the time, but I figured these two and Lavender could probably out talk any other girl. They all seemed to have some twisted radar for any juicy news and could easily squeeze it out of their prey without them even realizing they had given up anything.
I tried ignoring them; really I did, but their high pitched giggling voices were far superior to my pillow, triggering me to rip back my curtains and yell out, “Alright, I get it; I’m the only one without a boyfriend.” I didn’t even realize what I had done until the room became so silent that you were able to hear the tiny drip drop from the faucet in our bathroom. “Uh, right, I’m just going to go to bed now,” I told them and closed my curtains. One thing was for sure, I had had enough of this day and its unexpected turns.
The next day started off with a lot of promise, promise for what I’m not sure, but hopefully it was something good. Today the third years and higher were allowed to go into Hogsmeade, the local Wizard community, to spend their whole Saturday if they had permission slips, so the bedrooms and common room were all soon a buzz with activity as anyone who wanted to go got ready for their departure. I was glad that I already had all my homework done so I could spend a guilt free day at Hogsmeade unlike the last trip when I had decided to go with Harry and Ron even though I'd still had one homework assignment left to finish and I hadn’t been able to enjoy my time at all.
Apparently, our group was growing larger everyday as Ginny now joined us on our journey to Hogsmeade, making our original group of three now expanded to five as Lavender had joined us for the last two trips. This once again brought on my feelings of loneliness and I quickly left the group behind after one drink at the Three Broomsticks, deciding that I didn’t want to be the extra wheel for the whole trip. I wandered aimlessly around the street, briefly glancing in at the many shops but never going in them, fearing that I would end up spending money just to starve off the feeling of loneliness.
I had almost continued past Honeydukes when a large sphere of chocolate claiming to taste like an orange caught my eye. It didn’t take long for me to decide to rush in the store and buy one for myself. Besides, wasn’t chocolate supposed cure loneliness and be a girl’s best friend? Well, as a girl I decided that it was my right to buy as large a chocolate bar as I could. As I continued to the cash register, I wasn’t sure that this one chocolate bar would be enough to cure the amount of loneliness in my life; so instead, I ended up grabbing five other assorted chocolates on my way there. Surely one of them would be just the cure that I needed.
Making my way out of the store, I broke into the chocolate that had first caught my attention, and moaned from the first delightful bite. The wrapper had been spot on when it claimed that it would taste like an orange and I easily found myself on the second chunk before I had even walked away from the door. My surroundings became less important as I lost myself in the delicious bar of chocolate and barely noticed the chuckling hand holding couples all around me. I felt so much better now that I had consumed half of the chocolate bar, besides the slight stomach-ache that was currently brewing inside of me so when I walked by my favorite store, Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop, I couldn’t help but go in.
The little bell dinged above the door as I walked in, announcing my presence in the store, and I began my journey through all things writing. My hand swiped out and felt across the tops of the different parchments, something that I always did when walking past parchment, books, or fabrics and I couldn’t help the small smile that graced my lips at finally not feeling alone. I grabbed a sheet of my usual parchment as the bell signaled another customer, and continued my slow walk through the store. The smell in here by itself was enough to calm me down and bring me to my favorite place; a shady spot just under our one tall tree outside our house during the summer time, curled up with a nice book and a glass of lemonade. I was so lost in my thoughts that I nearly jumped out of my skin as someone tapped me on my shoulder.
I placed my hand on my chest as I turned around to face the tall slender build of Draco Malfoy. After a few seconds of silence between us while I tried to calm my racing heart beat and Malfoy stared straight at me, I finally spoke up, “geez Malfoy, you scared me half to death!”
“Oh, only half to death, I guess I’ll have to try harder next time,” he said with a small crooked smile on his face telling me that he was joking.
“Ha, ha,” I said dryly.
“It’s not so nice being followed around is it?” He asked, though this time he was not joking around.
“At least you knew somebody was following you, I know I’m not the stealthiest person around and sometimes have a case of two left feet. But you, you’re like a vampire or something with how quiet you are,” I told him, as I turned around and began walking through the aisles again.
“I can assure you, I’m not a vampire, though I can’t be so sure about my grandfather,” Draco responded with a straight face.
I looked back at him, wondering if he was telling the truth or not but he only laughed and walked past me. We made our way through the store, neither of us really saying anything and only exchanging short glances here and there. I was afraid to admit it, but I rather enjoyed Malfoy’s company, at least when he wasn’t being annoying, and I silently wondered how long the nice act would last. It was all an act, right?
“Malfoy,” I said and paused for a moment, both in speech and movement, “what is this?”
“Well that Granger is a special quill ink that changes color after each use,” he responded, breaking everything down as if trying to explain something complex.
“No Malfoy, not the ink, us, I mean are we friends or-“ I didn’t get to finish, as he butted in.
“For once Granger, could you try to not define or explain something, and just let things happen? If we try to define this, it will only make things more complicated than they really are,” he grabbed a bottle of black ink and made his way towards the counter, leaving me to follow after him.
“That will be three sickles,” the silver haired man behind the counter said as he rang up the ink.
“That too,” Malfoy told the man, pointing at the parchment in my hands.
“Eight sickles than,” the man told him and held out his hands to receive the appropriate coins from Malfoy.
Malfoy swiped his ink off of the counter and sauntered out the door causing the bell to ring out, and all I could do was follow behind him. I wasn’t sure where we were going, or why I was following him for that matter. Was I even supposed to follow him or was I supposed to go my own way and pretend that none of this had happened?
“Um,” I called out to him as we neared the exit of Hogsmeade, “where are we going?”
“Well,” he responded in a teasing voice, “I’m headed back to Hogwarts and I’m not really sure where you are headed.”
My cheeks flared a light shade of pink as I continued following him. I still wasn’t sure what exactly was going on between us, but for once I decided to take his advice and not think on it and just let it be as it is. We continued on our path, leaving Hogsmeade and its many inhabitants far behind us. I quickened my pace, trying to catch up to the blond Slytherin in front of me. I had to keep at a faster than normal pace to keep up with his long strides. He looked over at me and shot me a rare smile, as he noticed that I was having difficulty keeping up with him, a smile that I couldn’t help but return, and slowed his pace down.
We walked in silence the rest of the trip, though we would occasionally shoot glances at each other. On more than one account I tried to start up a conversation with him but I really wasn’t sure what to talk about so instead I let the silence be. It wasn’t until we had reached the gates of Hogwarts when I noticed a dramatic change in his facial expressions from slightly carefree to almost scared. I wondered what it was that had caused such a huge change in him and was about to ask him when he turned to look at me.
“Don’t follow me,” he stated his eyes searching mine.
“Alright,” I responded a bit timidly wondering what he would be doing that I would not be allowed to follow him.
He began walking again and I really had no choice but to continue on behind him towards the school. We only made it a few more paces before he turned around to look at me, his eyes and facial expressions only showing anger.
“I said don’t follow me,” he spoke through clenched teeth.
“The school is that way Draco,” I said letting his name slip out. “Listen once we get to the school you can go whatever way you want and I’ll go back up to Gryffindor Tower and leave you alone.”
His only response was to turn back towards the school, though I could tell he hated having me here as his whole body was a tense as a tiger’s before pouncing. I couldn’t understand what had brought on the change in him other than the appearance of the school and even that was confusing. What would he be afraid of there?
“Listen, you know you can talk to me about anything. Right?” I finally called out to him.
“No, I can’t,” was his only response, but it seemed almost like a slap in the face to me.
“You can Draco,” I told him.
“No you don’t get it Hermione,” he said, the sound of my name coming from his lips made my stomach feel like it was on a roller coaster going down the largest drop, “I can’t talk about it.”
“Why can’t you?” I asked as I caught up to him.
“Because whatever this is, it would be gone, because even I hate myself for this,” he whispered, not wanting to meet my gaze.
“You don’t know that I will,” I told him wanting more than anything for him to believe me.
“Yeah,” he said sarcastically, “and if I told you that I’m plotting to kill Dumbledore or my family is dead, you would just say that you completely understand what I’m going through. Well guess what, you don’t know what I’m going through!” His voice had grown in volume and by the end was all but yelling at me, which only caused my own anger to surface.
“No, you’re right Draco,” I threw his name out there to stress my point. “I don’t have someone threating to kill my family; instead I have someone threating to kill everything that I am and everyone that I love. But you know what, you’re right, I have no idea what any of that must feel like. You’re all alone and have no one to turn to and guess what, that’s entirely your fault because anyone who has offered to help you, you just dismiss them and say they would never know what you’re going through.” I turned sharply on my heels and started walking away, realizing that I couldn’t do anything for him until he realized that he isn’t alone in all of this.
I wasn’t sure if he was serious about plotting to kill Dumbledore or if he was just making it all up to scare me but at this point, it didn’t matter. I hated walking away from him when I knew that he was hurting inside about something, but I knew that just standing there wasn’t going to do anything to make him realize that I would still be there, he had to come to those terms all on his own or not at all. I didn’t make it very far down the hallway before Draco’s hand was placed on my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks. We stood there like that, neither of us speaking, for a few moments which seemed to drag on for entirely too long for my liking.
“Granger,” he said, finally breaking the silence. I held my breath as I waited for him to continue on, my heart pounding rapidly in my chest. The silence spread out before us once more, though his hand dropped back down to his side, allowing me to walk away once more if I wished it, but instead I stayed in my spot.
“I don’t know what to do,” he whispered, his shoulders shaking up and down.
I didn’t know what to do to help him either so instead I did the first thing I could think of, I grabbed ahold of his hand.
AN: Thanks again to my wonderful beta Giola who has been so helpful and encouraging to me since the start! If anyone is looking for any good reads check out Rose by Giola which is absolutely wonderful and original. Also In The Black by TenthWeasley is another great read! Also want to give out huge Kudos to adluvshp and littlemissmb for reading and reviewing almost every chapter so far. Don’t be shy to leave a review, even a simple liked it will do wonders for me!