Draco woke to a burning sensation all over his body. “Uuuuuuugh,” he groaned.
“I think he’s up…”
“Shh! Don’t wake him. Madame Pomfrey said he needs rest…”
“Draco, love? Can you hear me?” his mother asked.
“OUT! OUT! All of you! Except you, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy.”
Pansy, Theodore, and a few members of the Slytherin Quidditch team scurried out of the Hospital Wing.
Draco licked his cracked lips. “Water,” he croaked.
Madame Pomfrey tapped her wand to his lips and a stream of water poured into Draco’s mouth.
“You’ve been unconscious for three days, son. We almost moved you to St. Mungos, but Dumbledore feared that would only exasperate your injuries.”
Draco struggled to focus on his father. His vision was blurred and he was suddenly aware of pain besides the burning…Merlin, my chest. What had happened?
“Draco, do you remember anything from the Quidditch match?” his mother asked.
The Quidditch match. He was racing Potter for the Snitch, but he didn’t catch it, did he? No, he couldn’t have.
“I – I was going for the Snitch…”
“Yes. You lost your balance and crashed,” Madame Pomfrey concluded in her brusque tones. “It’s a mercy you didn’t die. There’s not many could survive that kind of impact.”
Madame Pomfrey turned to Lucius and Narcissa. “It will probably be another three or four days before he’s recovered enough to attend lessons,” she said. “Theodore and Pansy have been collecting his homework, and I know that Dumbledore has charged Miss Granger with the task of sharing his Prefect duties with Miss Parkinson, and relaying any pertinent information to him when he’s more recovered.
"As I understand, there’s a Hogsmeade trip to plan, so I’ll allow her a brief visit later this week if Mr. Malfoy is feeling better. Dumbledore is prepping them both for Head Boy and Girl positions next year. However much Miss Granger protests,” Madame Pomfrey ended.
“Protests – why?” Narcissa asked in confusion.
“It’s not my job to get inside students’ heads,” she replied. “I’m just telling you what I overheard. Something about ‘Might not be around’ or some such nonsense.” Madame Pomfrey snorted. “Where would a 16-year-old go but to school next year? Ah, well. I just keep to my Mediwitch duties.”
She bustled off, leaving Lucius and Narcissa with their son.
Malfoy struggled to speak.
“Wh-wh-why…wouldn’t Granger be here?” he finally asked.
Lucius’s brow was furrowed. “I’m not sure…but I think she must anticipate that by this time next year the Dark Lord will have taken over. She and other Muggleborns won’t be allowed to attend Hogwarts. And with the number of times she and her friends have defied Him, she will likely be apprehended and killed should she try.”
Narcissa sighed. “She will probably be killed regardless. I wonder if she has had the sense to set up wards around her house…?”
Draco struggled to sit up, crying aloud as the pain in his chest threatened to overwhelm him.
“Draco! What are you doing?? Stay still!” His father commanded.
“Did you not hear Madame Pomfrey? You mustn’t exasperate your injuries!” Narcissa exclaimed.
Draco sank back into his pillows, panting.
Madame Pomfrey came hurrying to his bedside, ready with another Sleeping Drought.
“That’s enough visiting, I’m afraid. Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy, I’m sorry – but your son must rest now.”
“We understand,” Lucius said.
Narcissa kissed Draco’s forehead, smoothing the silken strands of his platinum hair back before leaving.
The week after Malfoy’s accident saw a rise of tension between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Slytherins were convinced Harry knocked Malfoy off balance on purpose, while Gryffindors were mad that Slytherin was making such a big deal of it – especially since (in their view) Malfoy should have had the skill to stay on his broom in the first place. Snape seemed to be so furious he wasn’t able to so much as look at Harry, let alone speak to him, which suited the Gryffindors perfectly. It made Potions classes much more tolerable.
Hermione and Pansy Parkinson were sharing Malfoy’s Prefect duties. They took care not to speak to each other unless absolutely necessary. Which meant that the better part of their four-hour corridor patrols were stupidly boring.
The night before Hermione was scheduled to meet with Malfoy to arrange the first Hogsmeade weekend, she and Pansy were wandering the castle, peering into alcoves and empty classrooms to check for errant students.
“So, I hear a Hogsmeade trip is coming up,” Pansy suddenly said.
Hermione jumped in shock, so used to the silence they’d been observing.
“Um, yes. Should be first weekend in November,” Hermione said. “Just have to hammer things out with Malfoy. I’d like to have the times extended by a few hours. It seems ridiculous that it takes 30 minutes by carriage and we only have 4 hours in the village. I think for the older students especially, it’d be nice to have the option of staying til 7 or 8. Anyway, that’s a decision for Dumbledore, but I’ll discuss it with Malfoy tomorrow. He has to be on board if we’re going to make it a legitimate request.”
Pansy looked surprised. “That’s a really good idea.”
Hermione nodded. “Thanks,” she said. This is strange, she mused. Pansy’s not driving me insane.
“He’s getting better, by the way. Not that you’d care, of course...“ Pansy said. “But you won’t have to take his Prefect duties after this week. Just thought you should know.”
“No, that’s good.” Hermione shrugged and sighed. “I was actually really worried at the Quidditch match. He hit so hard. Harry was too. He never meant to knock him off balance.”
“Yeah, I figured. I walked past him on my way to the Hospital Wing and he looked pretty shell-shocked.
“I think most of us are just mad that we didn’t make it to the championship,” she continued. “That’s why Potter’s been slogged on so much this week.”
Hermione nodded. “I thought so. Harry’s pretty upset; it’s making his guilt worse. I tried to tell him that was the reason, but you know boys.”
Pansy rolled her eyes. “I know, right? The other day Theo was mad because he spent all last week playing Quidditch instead of studying Arithmancy, and he failed the test. Then he’s moping about the common room, complaining that Professor Aldritch hates him.
“I was like, ‘No, you failed because you didn’t study.’ He looked at me like I was crazy.”
The grandfather clock chimed 1 p.m. Both girls looked at it, surprised. “I guess we’re done,’ Hermione said.
“Guess so,” Pansy replied.
They nodded at each other.
“Well, have a good night, Parkinson.”
“Yeah, you too, Granger.”
They smiled a little confusedly before Pansy headed to the dungeons and Hermione turned back toward the staircase.
“So what do you have to do?” Ron demanded.
Hermione sighed. “I already told you. I have to discuss the first Hogsmeade trip with Malfoy, at least to see if he agrees that we should have more time in the village.”
“Why wouldn’t he agree?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know. Regardless, Dumbledore wants us to be on the same page, since the first Hogsmeade trip will determine all the others.”
Harry nodded, frowning. “Well, be careful. He’s probably furious that I knocked him off his broom.”
“You know, maybe we should go too,” Ron said.
“Guys, it’ll be fine. First off, he’s bedridden. And secondly, Malfoy’s not that bad,” Hermione said.
“Not that bad??! Are you crazy??” Ron exclaimed, changing color.
“No, I’m not. Think about it. Has he ever hexed me? No. Has he ever really caused harm to any one? No. He’s hexed you two, but nothing worse than what you’ve done to him. Child’s play, really. I don’t like him, but Malfoy’s not cruel. He’s not Zabini.”
“His dad is a Death Eater, Hermione – which is what he’ll be someday,” Harry said.
“He is, but in all honesty I don’t think Lucius is evil either,” she said.
Harry and Ron stared at her incredulously.
“Merlin! What’s gotten into you?” Ron asked.
“Nothing! I just think we need to keep things in perspective. I mean, look at Bellatrix or Mulciber...or Voldemort (Ron, don’t flinch)… that’s evil. I’m not saying the Malfoys are good people, but they aren’t on the level of other Death Eaters.”
Harry was staunch. “They still support the Pureblood cause, Hermione. In my opinion, that makes them just as bad as the worst of them.”
Ron nodded fervently. “And they’re Slytherins. They’ve all got evil in them somewhere.”
“Fine. Think what you like. I’ve got to go – I’m off to meet the Prince of Darkness,” she said sarcastically.
Malfoy was staring at the ceiling, bored out of his mind. He pulled at the neck of his hospital robes. This was so degrading. He tried to tell Madame Pomfrey that he was ok, well enough to be allowed to go, but she insisted on keeping him there through the weekend. Malfoy groaned. Two days away. And he felt greasy. She hadn’t even allowed him a shower, and cleansing spells only went so far.
He’d done all the homework Theo and Pansy had brought to him and checked it over twice. He should have asked them to bring him something – anything – from the library, but hadn’t thought of it at the time. It was just so nice to have a distraction from the sterility of life in the Hospital Wing. Even Pansy’s simpering attention was welcome.
Suddenly he heard the door open and Madame Pomfrey speaking in low tones. Draco sat up. A visitor! Craning his stiff neck, he tried to see around the Mediwitch’s plump figure.
“You have half an hour.”
Hermione stepped around Madame Pomfrey and caught Malfoy’s gaze. His surprise was evident. “Granger!” she heard him gasp.
She raised her eyebrows and stepped to his bedside. “I thought Dumbledore told you I was coming to discuss the Hogsmeade trip?” she said curtly.
“Oh. Yeah, I guess – I think Pomfrey said something about that, but I was pretty out of it,” Malfoy mumbled. He was painfully aware that he was in a disgusting hospital gown and hadn’t showered in four days. Plus, there was the scabbed-over bruise spread across one eye… I must look an absolute mess.
“You don’t look that bad,” Hermione said.
“Huh?” Malfoy said.
“You said that aloud.”
“Wha – oh!” he flushed.
“I mean, you don’t look great…” her eyes softened as they lingered on the wound over his face. “But that’s to be expected. Merlin, that hit…” she trailed off, shaking her head. “I thought you were dead.”
He watched her. “Yeah, if it wasn’t for the pain, I might have thought so too,” he said.
Hermione frowned. “Is Madame Pomfrey out of bruise ointment? That’s the only reason I’m not walking around looking like a zombie after all these years.”
“No, she gave me some, it’s on my bedside table. I just keep forgetting to put it on. I can’t see where I’m putting it anyway,” he added.
“Oh.” She paused. “Do you want me to do it for you?”
He stared at her warily before giving a brief shrug.
Walking around his bed, she lifted the jar off the modest nightstand, empty but for some rolled-up scrolls and schoolbooks. “So, Hogsmeade,” she said.
“Hogsmeade,” he echoed in a businesslike tone, not looking at her.
Hermione unscrewed the jar of ointment and poured some into her hand, leaning over him.
“I think we should ask Dumbledore if we can extend the Hogsmeade hours, at least for upper-classmen. And I scheduled it for two weeks from now – November 3rd. That way Quidditch is sure to be over and…”
Draco was having trouble concentrating. Hermione was gently dabbing the cool ointment from his hairline to his left cheekbone, talking all the while. For the first time in longer than he could remember, Draco felt his whole body relaxing.
“What do you think? Malfoy? …Malfoy? Draco.”
He started. “Oh, um, that sounds good. I agree.”
Hermione looked at him, her golden eyes darkening with something like amusement.
“I don’t feel well,” Malfoy said defensively. “I – you – you said my name.”
“I didn’t know how else to get your attention. Hitting you was out of the question; you’re hurt enough. Anyway, don’t apologize. I’ll take care of everything. And I think you agree that the Hogsmeade hours could be extended?”
“What! Oh, yes – that’s a good idea,” he said.
“Only for the upper-classmen, of course.”
“Right. Yes.” He settled back into his pillows, already missing her touch. He had no idea he’d been so desperate for human contact. The pain of the last week and the stress of a house filled with the likes of Mulciber and Bellatrix over summer had only increased the need.
“Ok, that’s settled then,” she said quietly.
He hazarded a look at her, embarrassed to be in such a vulnerable position. Her gaze was warm. She frowned suddenly, looking at his brow. Sweeping more ointment into her hand, she sat on the edge of his bed.
“Close your eyes,” she said.
To her surprise, he obeyed instantly.
He trusts me, she thought with sudden tenderness.
Softly, she dabbed the healing potion over his swollen eyelid, holding his head steady with her other hand. She watched as his breathing steadied and his muscles relaxed. He needed touch so badly, Hermione mused.
When she was done, she carefully lifted her fingers from his face and stood up. He opened his eyes slowly and looked at her. “Well, I should go,” she said quietly.
Malfoy didn’t trust himself to say anything, so he just nodded. She gave him a gentle smile and turned to leave.