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Chapter 5: And So It begins The swooping of the owls’ wings during breakfast caused the students at the Slytherin table and around the Great Hall to cover their bowls and plates with their hands, lest they wanted an extra treat in their food. And almost immediately, packages from home, notices of detention and other assorted correspondences landed in front of various students. Draco reached out his hand and grabbed the rolled parchment that was delivered to him by a small brown owl. His gaze remained raised in expectance of more letters, preferably those scented with perfume, but there was nothing else for him. He glanced down at the measly package, which had the school’s official seal on it. Thinking it was from Snape, he quickly unrolled the parchment. But he scrunched his eyebrows when he realized it was not from the Potions Master, but from Professor Monroe. He read the short letter, which ordered him to continue with the project, before slamming it against the table. His gaze then went in search of the young woman who had tattled on him. He didn’t have to search long, as she was staring back at him. She then looked at the table of teachers to her right and exchanged a glance with Professor Monroe. Draco leaned forward in his chair and continued to stare at Hermione. There was definitely no need for her to involve their teacher, he thought; he was going to soldier on with the project – outside forces had made sure of that. But he did enjoy leaving her in limbo. He rolled his hands into fists, as he eyed the triumphant smirk – which always came so naturally to him, and was now his trademark – that was plastered on her face. His mind was then flooded with thoughts on how he would obliterate her in his essay. But as he continued to stare at her, his anger began to slowly diminish. The tense look of vengeance that was on his face eased, as his mind started churning with ideas. He sat up straight once more and circled his finger around the edge of his plate. He then smiled to himself. ***************************** Hermione pressed her head against the wall and looked up at the ceiling in boredom; she had been waiting outside the common room for the past twenty minutes. She had tried to talk to the girl the minute dinner had finished, but had lost her among the crowd of students, all of whom squeeze out of the Great Hall at the same time. She lowered her gaze as another Ravenclaw stepped before her and eyed her up and down, before disappearing through the portrait hole. That was the sixth Ravenclaw in a row who looked at her in that manner. She assumed they were curious as to what business she might have in their section of the castle. Or perhaps they were asking themselves why she had chosen Draco as her partner, she thought; she had been bombarded with question from other students on this topic for the past couple of days. Regardless of the glares, Hermione was determined to wait in that hall until she saw the person she so eagerly wanted to speak to. After fifteen more minutes of pacing up and down the hall, all the while being glared at by the man in the portrait, she finally saw Mandy climbing up the stairs. She immediately rushed towards the girl, who seemed taken aback by her presence. “I hope you don’t find me impertinent,” Hermione said as she approached the young woman, “but I need to talk to you about something.” She then eyed Mandy’s friends, who were leaning against the railing of the stairs, whispering amongst themselves. “Do you mind if we go somewhere private for our chat?” Mandy looked hesitant at first – and she had great reason to be so, as she and Hermione were never close acquaintances. But she eventually turned around to her friends and said, “You guys go in without me. I’ll be back in a few minutes” A small classroom on the second floor, which had long gone unused for over a hundred years, now served the purpose of providing the two girls with the privacy they needed. The walk to that room was tense and devoid of any chatter; Hermione had considered starting up a conversation with her on the weather, but decided her energies would be more useful if saved for their more serious discussion. They sat in desks facing one another in silence for several minutes. After tracing with her finger the names of former students which had been magicked into the wood of her desk, Mandy began to nervously looked down at her watch, before fidgeting in her seat “As you might know,” Hermione began, “I am currently working on a project with Draco Malfoy.” The statement caught Mandy’s attention and forced her to quickly look up at Hermione. “So it’s true,” she said. “I heard the rumors, but I never really believed them.” She opened her mouth to say more, but paused. “But what’s that got to do with me?” Mandy asked after tinkering with her watch once more. Hermione placed her hands on top of the desk and leaned forward in her seat. “Well, our project requires that we do some observational study on one another. And so far, he’s been unwilling to cooperate with me or even let me anywhere near him.” Mandy continued to stare at her with a blank expression on her face. “Like I said before, what does this have to do with me?” Hermione cleared her throat. “I though you might be able to give me some insight on his personality.” The look in Mandy’s eyes became rigid as she brought her arms to her chest. “What makes you think I would know anything about him?” Her gaze flittered to the nearby wall, before returning to Hermione and staying fixed on her. When Hermione did not answer her quickly enough, she added, “Why don’t you ask his Slytherin friends for that information?” Hermione tried hard to stifle a laugh, as she did not want to offend the other girl. “First off, they wouldn’t talk to me. Secondly, I don’t think they’d be able to provide me with the information I need.” When she saw Mandy raise an eyebrow, she sat back in her chair and added, “I fear that his friends might only see one side of his personality. I need the insight of someone who’s seen him when he’s…not behaving like an alpha male. I need information from someone who’s been in an intimate relationship with him.” The scowl on Mandy’s face grew more intense. She dropped her arms from her chest and slammed her hands against the desktop. “What are you implying?” Hermione brought her finger to her lips as she thought of a delicate way to state her reply. “I just thought you and he were…” “What you’ve heard are lies,” snapped Mandy. She then flew out of her chair and stood over Hermione. “You have some nerve to question me about my private life. Especially considering you don’t even know me.” Her breathing grew more intense and her nostrils flared with every breath. “I’ve had enough people make comments to me about Draco. And I’m going to tell you the same thing I always tell them: mind your own business.” She then stomped to the entryway, and placed her hand on the doorknob. But she didn’t leave. Glancing over her shoulder, she bestowed Hermione with a much less intense look than before. “I really thought you were above this,” she said in a soft voice. “I never knew you would fall prey to lies and innuendos.” Hermione got to her feet as well and slowly approached the other girl. “Mandy, I’m really sorry about this. I didn’t mean to offend or upset you in anyway.” She continued to stare at Mandy’s back. Mandy’s fingers were still tight around the doorknob and her head was lowered. But despite her earlier display of anger, she remained in the room. Hermione took this as a sign that Mandy was willing to hear what she had to say and continued to talk. “I only asked you here because I wanted to know more about Malfoy,” Hermione said. “This project means a lot to me and I don’t want to fail. And since I had heard that you and he were…that you…” Hermione lifted her hand and began to scratch her head. Although she had read clear evidence of their union in Draco’s journal, she had no way of forcing Mandy to own up to that fact. Plus, she did not want to anger her; the insight the Ravenclaw might have had on Draco was much too important. Hermione took a deep breath. “If the rumors are wrong, I apologize for embarrassing you and wasting your time. I just thought you could help me.” She grabbed her bag from the floor and flung it over her shoulder. But as she approached the door to leave, Mandy touched her arm. “Wait.” She slowly lifted her head and stared at Hermione. “You were only asking me about Malfoy because of your project, right?” Hermione nodded. Mandy closed her eyes. She then glanced at the desk Hermione had once occupied and pointed at it with her finger. “Have a seat.” Hermione did not utter a word and quickly took her place at the desk. She folded her hands in her lap and kept her eyes on Mandy, who sat back in her desk across from her. “Do you swear not to repeat what I’m about to tell you?” asked Mandy. “I swear.” Mandy stared at Hermione for several seconds, as her eyes flittered along the other girl’s features. She lowered her head and remained in that position long enough to cause Hermione some concern. “Mandy,” Hermione said softly. She was about to tap the other girl on the arm, when she sat up in her seat. “Draco and I are…” Mandy began. “We were a couple. If that’s what you call it.” She searched Hermione’s face again, to see if she was being judged. When she was satisfied with what she saw, she continued to talk. “So, what do you want to know about him?” Hermione grabbed her bag and took out her notebook. She quickly glanced down at the questions she had written for Mandy. “What is he like in a relationship?” Mandy leaned back in her chair and gazed just above Hermione’s left shoulder. “He’s just…I don’t know. When I was with him, he would make me feel as though I was the only thing that mattered.” She smiled to herself and began to glide her finger along her jaw line. “And he always seemed interested to learn about my life.” Her gaze flittered to Hermione. “I’ve dated guys who only wanted to talk about themselves, but not Drac—“ She suddenly stopped talking. “Why are you making that face?” Hermione jolted in her seat. She had not realized it before, but a look of disbelief, mixed with disgust was not plastered on her features. She then tried her best to adopt a more neutral expression. “I know it seems unbelievable that I would describe him in that way,” said Mandy, “but…” She stopped talking when she saw Hermione open her mouth to say something. Mandy held up her hand and continued to talk. “You don’t have to explain yourself. I would be skeptical, too, if I were you. But let me assure you that he was very attentive with me when we were alone.” Mandy grew quiet and glanced down at her nails for a moment. “You were right in thinking his Slytherin friends only know one side of his personality. I think they would all be amazed to learn that he’s a romantic at heart.” Hermione was busy scribbling on her notepad, when that comment caused her to stop. She then slowly looked up at Mandy. “It’s true,” said Mandy. “He would never forget my birthday or the anniversary of the day we started dating. And on those days, I always received a really nice gift.” Hermione continued to stare at her for another minute or two, before she glanced down once more. “And what about his reputation for being a playboy?” The question obliterated the smile that was on Mandy’s lips. The Ravenclaw’s features became tense as her brow creased into a frown. She was then grew quiet, causing Hermione to wonder if she would walk out of the room. But this was not the case. “I’ve heard that rumor as well,” Mandy uttered. She lowered her voice to a soft whisper. “And I guess it’s true to some extent.” Her hand flittered to her neck and remained there for several minutes. “I know he’s been courting several other…when I was will him, I only felt total devotion.” Hermione soon felt a pang in her heart that made her regret ever asking the question. The expression on Mandy’s face caused her to look away. But she decided to ask Mandy a question she thought would bring the smile back to her face. “What attracted you to him?” Mandy leaned back in her chair and exhaled loudly. “He’s very smart. And of course, he’s handsome.” “How did the two of you get together in the first place?” asked Hermione. “It’s kinda weird how we just got thrown together.” She placed her fingers over her lips and chuckled to herself. She remained quiet as she reminisced; but upon looking at Hermione, she finally said, “We were in the same Literature class together. I was talking to my friends one day about being disappointed that we weren’t allowed to read a certain book by Louis—well, it doesn’t matter what his name is. Anyway, the next day, an original copy of the book was owled to me.” “And you fell for him then?” “Oh, no. Of course not. It took months before any of that ever happened.” Hermione continued to write feverishly as Mandy described the first hints of flirtation between her and Draco. She soon stopped looking at the parchment in front of her and kept her eyes on Mandy, as her tale grew more and more compelling. Her quill slipped from her fingers and she found herself leaning forward in her seat as not to miss a single word that spouted from Mandy’s lips. She continued to look at Mandy, long after the other girl had stopped talking. “And what about now?” Hermione asked. Mandy folded her hands in front of her and considered her answer. “I don’t want to go into that right now.” She got out of the small chair and stretched, before standing in front of the window. “Was that enough for you?” Hermione watched her in silence. It was only when Mandy glanced over her shoulder did she respond with a low, “Yes.” While placing her notebook in her bad, she tried to think of words that would show her gratitude to Mandy. “I really appreciate you talking to—“ “You won’t use my name in your project, will you?” asked Mandy, still facing the window. “Of course not. I wouldn’t do that to you.” She waited for Mandy to say more; but when she remained quiet, Hermione slowly crept out of the room and left her with her thoughts, or regrets. When she got back to her dorm, Hemrione climbed in her bed and spread out her notes on her bed. However, she didn’t need to review it, as Mandy’s words rang over and over again in her head like a recorder. Her head resting on the pillow, she tried to force herself into seeing Draco as the young man Mandy had describe. After five minutes of trying to do this impossible task, she made a face and gave up. A laugh escaped her mouth as she thought of Draco, the Romantic. She had wanted to do this early on during the night, but had kept herself composed for Mandy’s sake. Plus, the tale proved to be an intriguing one. ***************************** Hermione sat in the room and waited patiently for him to arrive. She scratched her chin and thought of the note Draco owled her during dinner. That he would come around so quickly and ask for another meeting to go over preliminaries of their project almost startled her; but she quickly attributed his behavior to nothing more than feeling the pressure of Professor Monroe to continue with her project. She sat back in her chair and clasped her hands in front of her. It was difficult not to smirk, as she was now in control of the situation. But she forced a neutral expression onto her face; but she was, however, gloating inward. And a minute later, Draco sauntered into the room. He grabbed the chair opposite of her, and like last time, dragged it to the far corner of the room. Hermione watched his actions very carefully, as she tried to witness any signs of distress, anger or otherwise. That he would want to sit so far away from her was evident of his anger, but other than that gesture, he seemed composed. He even had his quill and parchment in hand, which surprised her; but she bit her tongue and fought back the urge to utter a smart-alecky remark. “Shall we begin then?” she asked. Draco did not respond and merely poised his quill over the parchment. He glanced up her through his long lashes, as he waited for her to talk. But when Hermione did not utter a word, he began to speak. The views that Draco uttered amazed Hermione, and caused her to raise an eyebrow every now and then; it was clear he done his research. She tried to keep her head lowered, and not show any signs of surprise on her face when he began to quote several of the chapters in their book. But she couldn’t feign her disinterest for much longer and gave him a hard look. “It seems as though you’ve read that book through and through,” she finally said. Her voice was kept neutral enough, but there was still a lingering envy in her tone; he had talked of chapters she had not yet reached. “Why wouldn’t I know about the subject matter?” “Well, you never talk in class…unless it’s to goof off with your friends.” She couldn’t help but to roll her eyes when recalling all the times she had seen Draco participating in acts of tomfoolery, instead of listening to the teacher. “And you never participate in the discussions.” “But isn’t that your department?” He cocked his head to the side as he glanced at her. “I don’t need to flaunt my intelligence to everyone.” Hermione huffed loudly. “Of course you don’t. Because you’re obviously known for your modesty, and would never walk about school drawing attention to yourself.” Draco considered her statement for a moment and brought his finger to his lips. “You’re right to be sarcastic,” he said, causing Hermione to open her mouth. “But aren’t you showing off as well when your hand goes up in the air every time the professor asks a question?” “No,” Hermione answered, with a little too much force. “I’m simply answering her question.” She found herself growing more heated as she stared into his face and looked at the smirk that was growing on the corner of his lips. “My actions are nothing like yours. I don’t go around making fun of others in front of the whole school or making sarcastic comments in Potions.” Draco said nothing and only smiled at her. “I am not showing off,” Hermione said in a louder voice. “Just because I’ve done my homework—“ Draco held up his hand. “Listen, I don’t have time to argue back and forth with you. We’re already behind as it is.” “And whose fault is that?” Draco shot her a stern glance, which normally would have provoked her to say even more, but she kept quiet. “I have some books that might help us with our project,” said Draco,. He then bent forward and reached into his leather bag, pulling out several books on the art of interviewing and observational research. He then held out the books to her. Hermione glanced at them with deep concentration on her face. Her first feeling was that of regret for not thinking of getting them herself. But she held out her hand and tentatively took them from his fingers. “Won’t you need them?” she asked as her eyes scanned the spines, which had his initials written on them. She huffed loudly. “It would be like you to claim something that isn’t yours.” “First of all, those are mine. I ordered them a couple of days ago. And secondly, no, I don’t need them. I’ve already read them.” Hermione sat back in her chair and stared dumbfounded down at the books weighing down heavily in her lap. “Why are you doing all of this?” she asked. “Why the sudden change?” “Doing all of what?” “Being so cooperative.” Draco got up and began to place his parchment and other documents in his bag. He didn’t answer immediately, which made Hermione wonder if he had heard her. But when he quickly glanced at her with a smug look on his face, she knew he had heard her perfectly. “I’m not doing this for anyone, but myself,” Draco finally said. “At the end of the school year, it will be my name Dumbledore calls out when he announces the student with the highest seven year marks. I’m not going to let a trivial thing such as this project deprive me the pleasure of surpassing you when that day comes.” With that, he flashed her an evil grin for several seconds, which caused her to lower her gaze. Hermione, now done with thinking that they might actually be civil to one another, threw the books into her bag, and watched as one of them missed the target completely and skidded across the floor. “You will pay me if you cause any damage to my books,” Draco said. He stood with his hands crossed and watched her pick up his book. But he quickly changed his stance and stood in the entryway, looking at a nearby wall. “We’re having a Quidditch practice tomorrow. You should come and watch me play…for the report.” “But aren’t you afraid I’ll tell the Gryffindor squad your strategy?” Hermione asked. “No. They can use all the help they can get.” ***************************** Hermione sat frozen on a bench in the stadium, looking up at the green colors that whizzed through the sky. That night was indeed chillier than she had imagined. During previous matches that were played in equally frigid weather, Hagrid was always able to block the majority of the cold winds. But she was now the only person in that section of the stands watching the Slytherins practice. Just a few feet away from her sat several Slytherins girls. But unlike her, they had not prepared for the drop in temperature. Although apparently suffering from the cold, they tried to look content in their skirts and low-cut tops. They would force a smile onto their faces whenever any of the players passed by them; but they would immediately huddle together for warm afterwards. Hermione wrapped the wool blanket around her head and body. Not only was the garment able to keep her warm, it also shielded her from the glares she received from the other girls, who turned around periodically in their seats to point and glare at her. “Will you stop looking at those girls?” Draco shouted at his team. “Terry, if I see you glance down one more time, I’m going to beat you with that bat myself. Now, settle yourselves down so we can start.” He looked down at one of the other chasers, who was now hovering just inches from the ground. “Evan! What the hell is wrong with you?” “It’s too cold be out here. I can’t fly in this weather.” “It seems like you can’t fly in any weather. Stop being a little pussy and come up here.” While Evan floated up in the air to join his teammates, Draco continued to mumble not so quietly to himself. “I can’t believe I have to deal with you fu—“ Hermione winced. Although she had become accustomed to hearing such profanity from Ron, it still startled her to hear them in such rapid succession. Although shivering, she was able to jot down notes on everything she saw and heard that night. But nothing that Draco displayed on the pitched changed her views about his personality. When the practice was over, she scurried to Draco before he could escape to the changing rooms. “How could he let her watch us?” muttered one Slytherin when he walked past Hermione. Hermione ignored his comment and grabbed Draco’s arm. “I think you should watch me as well,” she said. “I’m having a study session tomorrow night in the library at eight.” Draco continued to wipe the sweat from his brow. He then inspected his broom for any scratches. His gaze finally met Hermione’s. “That should be fun,” he responded in a sarcastic tone. He then walked away and left her standing in the middle of the field. ***************************** “I can’t believe you’re doing this to us,” said Ron as he paced back and forth in front of Hermione. “Now you’re sneaking out to meet him?” Hermione kept her gaze fixed on the reddening glow of the fire, as she kicked up her feet on a nearby chair. Her quill dangled from the corner of her lips as she thought over the piece she had written so far about the Quidditch practice. Since it was late in the night, she assumed she would have some time to warm herself near the fire and wallow in her thoughts without being disturbed; but her plans for peace had been demolished nearly ten minutes before, when Ron and Harry tiptoed downstairs to confront her. “Hermione, are you listening to me?” snapped Ron. When Hermione finally turned to look at him, he continued. “I don’t know why you would even consider going along with this.” “Going along with what?” she asked. “It’s only an assignment.” “’It’s only an assignment’ she says. Don’t you see what your actions are doing to Harry?” Ron raved. He then pointed a finger at the young man slouched in the chair across from Hermione. “You’re running around here with Malfoy like it’s some fun game, all the while ignoring the fact that he’s been placing letters from You-Know-Who on Harry’s seat in Potions.” “Don’t be daft,” said Hermione. She sat up in her chair and wiped away a smudge that was on her parchment. “No one knows for sure if it’s him. That doesn’t even seem like something he’d do.” Hermione didn’t have to look up to know that both boys – even Harry, who seemed as though he wanted to distance himself from the conversation – were now staring at her. “You know what?” said Ron. “I think Hermione’s right. Because why in the world would a mean-spirited son of a Death Eater want to do something like that?” He then shrugged his shoulders. “What must I have been thinking to come to that conclusion?” Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. He then grabbed Ron’s arm. “Can you please not yell? You’re going to do my head in.” Ron leaned across the table towards Hermione and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Don’t you see what your golden boy’s little letters are doing to Harry?” Hermione continued to look down at the table. “I still don’t think he’s the one doing it. He’s too smart for all that.” She glanced up at them both when it was apparent that further explanation was needed. “Placing a letter on someone’s desk seems too simple for him. Plus, I don’t think he would do something as blatant as that, considering everyone’s watching him already.” “Wow. Since when did you become such an expert on Malfoy?” “I’m not an expert. I’ve just been…” Harry finally sat up in his chair. He reached across the table and touched her arm. “Hermione, what exactly are you trying to prove with this assignment?” “I thought I could learn more about the Death Eaters’ plans by interacting with him.” She pushed her parchment away. “And yes, I know he won’t volunteer any information to me,” she said quickly to Ron, “but I have a feeling I might be able to learn something.” “Herm, what you’re doing is really dangerous. By interacting with him, he could learn about our routines and then tell Volde—“ “That won’t happen,” Hermione interrupted. The tone of her voice seemed too casual, considering the subject matter, and both Ron and Harry took notice. “I didn’t mean for it to sound like that,” she added quickly, when their glares finally caught her attention. “You know I would never tell him anything that would jeopardize your safety.” Her eyes rested on Harry, where they remained for several minutes. Harry gave her an appreciative, but still unsure nod, before heading off to bed. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” said Ron. Hermione ignore his comment and kept her gaze lowered as she looked over her notes. ***************************** Hermione twirled her thumbs and glanced down at her watch for the second time; he was ten minutes late. She assumed he would be punctual, like he was for their second meeting. His unexpected tardiness was now starting to way down on her nerves and caused her to wonder if he had decided not to cooperate with her anymore. The two boys sitting at the table with her kept watching as she stared at the library door. “Can we please get started?” asked Ron in an impatient voice. “I can’t stay here all night. I have…other things to do.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “I can just imagine what those ‘other things’ are.” Ron rubbed his chinned and gave her his usual toothy grin. However, Hermione to not notice his patronizing smile, as her eyes were now set on the person entering through the library doors with his usual robes billowing behind him. “You won’t have to wait any longer,” she said. “Because here he comes now.” She pulled a chair from a nearby table and placed it several feet away from where she, Harry and Ron were seated. Harry and Ron both turned around and watched as Draco approached them. “Where the hell does he think he’s go—“ Ron stopped talking when he realized that Draco was heading their way. Ron opened his mouth in horror when Draco grabbed the chair Hermione had set for him and moved it even further away from the threesome. He quietly sat down, placed his parchment in his lap and glanced up at Ron and Harry, who were now standing up. “What the hell is he doing here?” shouted Ron. “I invited him to join us,” said Hermione. “We have to observe one another for our project. And since he invited me to watch him practice last night, I only thought it would be fair to have him observe our study session.” While Ron’s eyes grew large and darted from Hermione to Draco in a horrific manner, Harry’s reaction to the news was a lot calmer. But his displeasure was surely visible; he crossed his arms tightly against his chest and moved away from his seat, which was closest to Draco. He stared at Hermione for a moment, before grabbing his bag and whispering into her ear, “I can’t be here.” Hermione grabbed his hand and moved close to him. “Please to leave,” she uttered against his earlobe. “Trust me on this. I thought that this project with Draco would help you. And I know that with time—“ “I’m leaving too,” interrupted Ron. “I won’t stay here with that little—“ “Ron, sit down!” Startled by the power of her own voice, Hermione looked around the room to see if anyone had notice. The entire room was staring back at her. She tilted her head and looked at the librarian’s desk; Madame Pince had a content expression on her face, as she licked her finger and turned the page of her newly delivered book. “You’re not going anywhere,” Hermione said to Ron in a more quiet voice. “You need all the help you can get.” She then turned her attention back to Harry. “I’m not trying to cause you any stress. I’m trying to get information out of him, so we can find out who’s been sending you those letter—“ “We already know who it is,” interjected Ron. “It’s Draco.” Hermione flash Ron a warning glare that finally quieted him. She then focused her attention back to Harry as she ran her hand up and down his arm in a reassuring man. Harry was unresponsive to her touch at first and kept his gaze lowered. “Please stay here,” she whispered. Although Harry continued to stare at the floor for another moment, he eventually went back to their table. Seeing that his sidekick had surrendered to Hermione’s pleas, Ron begrudgingly took his seat as well. Draco remained quiet and watched the excitement in front of him as if it were a fascinating theatrical play. He had chosen to take a seat under the window, and the large tree outside cast a shadow over most of his body, except for his shoes. Not having a pale face on which to focus his anger on, Ron spent his time glaring at Draco’s leather shoes instead. When everyone had finally calmed down, Hermione opened her history book. “I guess we can get started now. Ron, I’ll quiz you first.” She placed her list of questions in her lap and cleared her throat. “When did the Wiccan Wars begin?” Ron continued to stare in Draco’s direction, until Hermione snapped her finger in his face. “What?” Ron asked angrily. “The Wiccan Wars. When did they begin?” “I don’t know.” Hermione rolled her eyes, before asking Harry the same question. Harry only gazed at her from the corner of his eyes. He then shrugged his shoulders and muttered in a dead tone, “Don’t remember.” “It was 1132,” said Hermione. “We went over it in class just a couple of days ago, remember?” Ron and Harry’s inability to answer any of the questions continued throughout the night. In the beginning, their lack of focus could have been attributed to Draco’s unsettling presence; but it was now clear that they had not studied. “Come on you guys,” said Hermione as she banged her hands on the surface of the table. “I don’t understand why none of this information is sticking.” Taking a deep breath, she stared up at them once more. “Now, what did Abigail Igner do that is so important to the Wizarding world?” Harry had his elbow on the table and was supporting his head in his hand. He traced his finger along the surface of the wood table and quickly glanced up at Draco. And in a small and hollow voice, he muttered, “Abigail Igner introduced witchcraft to Wales.” Hermione stared at him for a moment, before placing her hand on his shoulder and bestowing on him a jovial, “Well done.” The smile on her face seemed exaggerated, but at that point, she was overjoyed at finally hear a correct answer. She then turned her attention to Ron, who stared at her with disinterested. “Okay Ron,” Hermione said. “When did Ms. Igner do this?” With his finger in his mouth, Ron gave off the impression he was deep in thought. But he finally moved his hand away and muttered, “905 AD?” Seeing the annoyed look on Hermione’s face, he quickly changed his answer. “I mean 915.” “You’re just blurting out random dates.” “No, I’m not—“ “926 AD,” said Draco. He kept his hands firmly folded in his lap and watched for a reaction from the other three. “Who the hell asked you?” replied Ron. He moved his head to the side so he could better glare at Draco, but the other boy’s face was properly obscured by the darkness. “I just thought that someone might as well say the right answer, since both of you are struggling.” “I wasn’t struggling. Anyways...” he paused and looked back at Harry, who had his head turned and appeared as though he did not want to get involved. Ron moved away from the table and took a step towards Draco. “I’m surprised you’re even daring to say something to me, considering your two friends aren’t here to fight your battles for you.” Draco huffed loudly and examined the parchment in his lap; he already knew where the conversation was headed. “Why don’t you and I go outside and settle this?” asked Ron. The comment caused little reaction from Draco; in fact, he continued to go though his notes. “As appetizing as that might sound, I’m actually here to do a project.” Ron was soon standing in front of him. “Perhaps I could change your mind.” And just as swiftly, Hermione got in front of Ron and prevented him from initiating anything. She grabbed him around the waist and pushed him back to the table. “Why are you starting stuff?” “Me? He’s the one that started it by making fun of us.” “He wasn’t making fun. He was simply stating the right answer.” Ron looked down at her in silence, and then back at Draco. “Why the hell are you defending him, when I know you heard all the little comments he was making during the whole session?” “I didn’t hear him saying anything derogatory towards you or—“ “Oh, get out of my way.” Ron brushed her aside and picked his bag from the floor. “I don’t even know why I agreed to this.” He kicked his chair back in its place and turned to Harry. “Let’s get out of here.” Harry slowly got up from his seat. The worried lines on his face appeared more intense as he flashed Hermione a sharp glance. His eyes then traveled to Draco, who moved away from the shadows and greeted his stare with his own harsh glare. When the other boys had left, Draco got to his feet and approached Hermione. “The Wiccan Wars stated in 1133, you know. The skirmishes between the regions started in 1132, but the Mister of Magic didn’t declare war until 1133.” “I don’t think so,” said Hermione with a confident smile on her face. She then worked quickly to find the passage in the book that would prove him wrong. But that smile faded when she discovered that it was she who was incorrect. She hastily closed her book and tossed it into her bag. “I guess you’re right,” she said in a voice that was barely audible. She expected Draco to start gloating over her indiscretion; but he did not. He picked up his bag and continued to the door. Hermione quickly packed her own bag and trotted alongside him. “They’re not very bright, are they?” commented Draco as they reached the exit. Hermione stopped in front of him and placed her hands on her hips. “Like your lot is smarter. I’d like to see Crabbe and Goyle try and answer those questions.” Draco raised his eyebrows. “I guess you’re right,” he muttered. He took one last look at her, and then walked into the hall. Hermione leaned against the library entryway and watched him walk away. She placed her hand in her hair and twirled several strands around her finger. “1133,” she mumbled to herself. That had been the first time she had been incorrect about anything in regards to her studies, and the feeling was not pleasant. She raced after Draco. “Listen,” she began. “I was wondering if we could…” She paused as she re-thought her decision. But in the end, she decided she could not take any chances when it came to her grades. “Would you be available to have a study session with me?” “Why? Does it look like I need help?” “No. I was thinking you could help me prepare for the test, since you seem to know the material so well.” She squeezed her eyes just then when she heard the comment escape her mouth. Draco stared at her in silence, causing her to think he was going to decline her offer. “I guess I could pencil you into my schedule,” he said in a low voice. “I’ll owl you tomorrow morning.” And with that, he continued back to his dorm before she could utter another comment.

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