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Chapter 6: From the Dungeons to Hogsmeade The Potions classroom loomed with an intense heat that caused the students to squirm uncomfortably under their robes. Although the frost had now erupted outside, the class remained stifling due to the many cauldrons that bubbled within. Harry and Ron sat with their hands folded nervously in front of them, as they both glanced at their cauldrons, which lay several feet away; both were hoping their potions would turn a bright blue. They flashed one another a fleeting look – the same look they had exchanged during their exam, as they both struggled to remember the amount of wolfsbane to add to their potion. Since Professor Snape had separated Hermione from her housemates, the two boys had to rely on one another for support. Hermione sat more calmly, as her mixture had already turned the desired pigment. She placed her elbow on the table, and rested her head against her hand. Her gaze was lowered, which gave off the impression that she was busy looking down at her notes. However, this position allowed her to gaze at the young man on the left side of the room, without getting noticed. Draco’s face was half shielded from her view by his hair, as he too glanced down at his notes while Snape lectured in front of the class. She had been watching him like this since class first started. He had owled her a book on Ethnography that morning. The book, which had been advertised in the back pages of the Daily Prophet, was something Hermione had considered purchasing for herself. She had had the pleasure of browsing at it during much of her breakfast, and was captivated by the research that Davinia McCloud had done on a group of goblins she had lived with for nearly two years. The strong assumption from Harry and Ron was that the book was a gift from Professor Monroe, which caused Ron to mutter, “Teacher’s pet” under his breath. A smile then crept onto Hermione’s lips; she was pleased by the effort Draco was now putting into their project; which was, of course, due to her intervention. Although she did appreciate his little gift to her, she had trepidations about seeing him in Potions class. She hoped and prayed that whoever the culprit was, they would not place another letter on Harry’s seat. But she was finally relieved to discover that Harry’s chair lay bare. She had then bestowed Ron and Harry with a look that told them, “See, I told you it wasn’t him.” Ron had answered her back with his own retort. “So,” he said smugly, “this doesn’t prove a thing. Just because there’s no letter today doesn’t mean there won’t be others later on. Besides, he probably overheard us talking last night.” Hermione glanced down at Draco’s lap; he no longer had his journal concealed there. Its absence from many of their classes was something she clearly noticed. Perhaps he did not trust it, she mused; the idea of someone tampering with it and having access to his intimate thoughts would surely have caused him to stop writing in it. But Hermione doubted this; she had placed the book in the exact spot she had found it on the shelf. He’s just being more cautious about displaying it out in public, she said to herself. Her heart thumped as she thought of the study session she would have with him later that night; the prospect of studying with someone who was an academic equal was a new and exciting venture. So distracted was she with watching Draco’s every move, Hermione didn’t realize that the class period had commenced, until she saw other students getting out of their chairs. While packing up her belongings, she tried to make eye contact with Draco when he walked past her, surrounded by his friends. He was laughing at a cruel joke his Slytherin housemate had made, and glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. But the exchange was brief, as he quickly looked away once more. Hermione watched him leave, before she went to join Harry and Ron, who were waiting for her by the door. ***************** Hermione glanced down at her notes for the last time, as she made her way down the marble staircase. She wanted to be ready for her session, and did not wish for a repeat performance of the night when she faltered on a crucial date. She, of course, had received some suspicious glances from Ron and Harry as she was leaving the common room. Both boys had stopped in mid conversation to look up at her. “And where are you off to now?” Ron had asked. This question was answered with a flippant “None of your business.” She now held onto the railing, as she stared at the parchment in front of her face, while trying to maneuver down the steps without losing her footing. When she reached the bottom of the staircase, Draco was leaning against the wall, waiting for her. Hermione abruptly crumpled the parchment and shoved it in her pocket. However, the smile on Draco’s lips told her he knew what she was doing. He stayed quiet, and watched as she approached him – a gesture that made her feel suddenly uncomfortable. There were no greetings from him, or even any attempt to initiate an exchange about the weather; only staring. When she had finally reached him, he turned on his heels and said, “This way.” Hermione watched him walk in the opposite direction of the library. She hesitated following at first, but eventually trotted alongside of him. “Why are we going to the dungeons?” she asked when they rounded the corner. Draco didn’t answer and continued to walk. What she was feeling at the moment could not be classified as panic per se, only deep concern. She wondered if he was taking her down to the Slytherin common room, in order to ridicule her in front of his housemates. “I should have known it was too good to be true,” she said to herself. Her hand slowly crept into her pocket and wrapped around her wand, just in case. However, the Slytherin common room was not their destination. They instead stopped in front of their Potions class. Draco took out a rather large key from his possession and opened the door. “Won’t we get in trouble for being in here?” Hermione asked. “No. Professor Snape knows I come in here sometimes.” He then busied himself by turning on all the lanterns in the room. Hermione saw for the first time that there were blotches of blue on the floor from that day’s experiment. She took off her robes and draped them on the back of a chair. “So, you bring your conquests back here for the evening?” “No,” Draco snapped. “I come here to study.” He then paused as he considered. His hand traveled to his face, as he began to leisurely stoke his chin. “I might bring someone in here, if the mood suits me.” Hermione rolled her eyes at the comment. “But I mainly come here to study,” he added. “This room is not as noisy as some of the others.” Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Noisy?” “Well, yes. It’s hard to concentrate in some of the other rooms in this castle because you hear the sounds of moaning and…other people’s extracurricular activities through the vents.” Hermione stared at him for moment, before looking away. “I’m sorry I asked,” she muttered under her breath. Draco paid no attention to her comment and rummaged through his bag. He pulled out a parchment, and sat down on one of the desks in front of the class. “I’ve made a list of some of the obscure questions Binns might ask us on the exam. He has a habit on quizzing us on things we briefly went over in class.” Taking a seat in the next row of desks, Hermione clasped her hands in front of her and looked up at him, as he began his questioning. Some of the questions – in fact, many of them – were very difficult, and caused her at times to lower her head, in order to think of the answer. She sometimes wondered if he was not testing her intelligence for his own pleasure, instead of helping her prepare for the exam. Regardless, she answered every question correctly. After nearly two hours of rapid-fire questioning, Hermione’s head remained lowered, as she waited for him to ask her something else. She finally gazed up at him when he remained quiet. “That’s all I’ve got,” he said. He got off of the desk and began to put away his parchment. Hermione tried to find any signs on his face that showed he was disappointed by her flawless performance; but his expression was hard to read. “You’ll do fine,” he quickly added. Hermione continued to stare at him, to see if he was being genuine, but he turned away too quickly. She then began to gather her own belongings. “Do you do this sort of thing nightly?” she asked him. “I’m sure everyone in your house is lining up to have a study session with you.” Draco flashed her a hard look from over his shoulder. “Why would I want to waste my talents on any of them? None of them are worthy of my time.” The statement nearly caused Hermione to take a step backwards. Was he paying her a compliment, she asked herself. She decided not to utter a word, and continued to stand near her desk, as she fidgeted with her bag. After a long and awkward silence, she was finally prepared to make her way out of the door, when he spoke. “I’ve finished part of my report,” he said. He pulled out a neatly rolled piece of parchment from his bag. “I just wanted you to look it over. I know Monroe said we shouldn’t share our findings with one another, but…here it is.” Hermione hesitated, before reaching for the parchment. She resisted looking down at it immediately, because she knew it would highlight her shortcomings. But when her eyes finally scanned the report, she was taken aback by what she read. She glanced up at him and gave him a look of disbelief, before bringing the parchment to her face once more. According to sociologist Andrew Cohen’s strict definition of gender roles, Hermione Granger strays from the characteristics that are often ascribed to females. Although this would be seen as deviant behavior on her part, close observation shows she exceeds the socially constructed limits and boundaries that are placed on her sex. Hermione stayed quiet, long after she had finished reading. She carefully rolled the parchment and handed it back to him. “That’s only a rough draft,” he said. “There’s still more I have to add.” The astonished look on Hermione’s face was still present. But she soon adapted a casual expression and said, “That was good. It’s too bad I didn’t bring my report with me.” But even if she had it, she would be too embarrassed to hand it over to him; she was not as kind about his failings, as he was about hers. There was still more silence, as neither one of them made any attempts to leave the room. But Draco soon opened his mouth to say something. However, Hermione also spoke at that exact moment. “I think that we should…I’m sorry, were you about to say something?” “Yeah,” replied Draco. “I was going to suggest that we meet up in Hogsmeade. There’s still a lot we don’t know about each other.” “That would be fine.” Hermione then watched as walked out of the room, without saying another word to her. ***************** The Three Broomsticks was not as busy that day, as it was on previous excursions. But the low traffic inside the establishment did not guarantee that Hermione and Draco would not be disturbed. There were plenty of other students on the streets who made it a habit to walk past the large front windows to have a glimpse at them. Pansy and her group of Slytherin girls even stopped by twice to gawk at them. The distraction caused Hermione and Draco to move to the back of the room. Hermione looked back at the window just in time to catch Seamus and Dean press their faces against the glass and give her a mournful look. “I wish they would just go away,” she muttered when the waitress placed a bottle of butterbeer in front of her. Draco, on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the added attention as he took a long swig of his drink. Even the raised eyebrows and whispers of several other patrons and barmaids did not seem to fluster him. After several minutes, Hermione stopped looking around. Her gaze now focused on the long parchment in front of her, she said, “The one area we have not examined yet would be our romantic entanglements.” That said, Draco leaned forward in his seat and placed his elbows on the table. “I’m glad you brought that up, because I meant to ask you something: why did you ask if I brought my ‘conquests’ to Professor Snape’s classroom last night?” Hermione quickly glanced up at him. She didn’t give him an immediate response, as she was somewhat taken back by his directness. “I think you’re very much aware of your reputation,” she finally said. “Oh that.” The neutral expression did not diminish from his face, and he now leaned back in his seat and asked, “And you believe all of the talk?” “Well, I’ve seen all of the evidence I need.” She fixed a long stare on him, before clearing her throat and looking down at her parchment. “But we’re not here to discuss my opinions of you, now are we?” Draco reached out his hand and placed it on top of her parchment, preventing her from bringing it to her face. “No, I want to hear your opinion.” “Are you sure about that?” When Draco nodded, she said, “I’ve heard of you running around with several girls at once. And from what I’ve seen, I’d say those rumors were true.” “My, my, is that a disapproving tone I hear?” Draco cocked his head to the side and grinned. He then sank back in his chair and stroked his chin in the slow manner she had watched him do the night before. “Why do you look down on me, when all I am doing is searching for the right girl?” Hermione rolled her eyes. “If that’s what you call it.” “No, I really am.” Draco placed his hand on her arm, causing her to immediately gaze at him. “I’m in search of an equal…someone who can keep up with me. And with such a search, it is inevitable that I have to sample what the school has to offer. Wouldn’t you agree?” He then flashed her a smile. But Hermione’s eyes were no longer locked on his. His long milky fingers remained on her skin; and although the touch was very light, it still made her jolt back in her seat and prevented her from looking anywhere else but down at his hand. He immediately pulled away. Silence loomed over their table once more, as Hermione resumed her pastime of watching the other patrons. But she eventually turned to him, and gave him a long stare. She then thought back to her conversation with Mandy, and the lingering affection the Ravenclaw still had for Draco. Her eyes lit up when she remembered something Mandy had said to her: “There was something intense between us. I guess you could say it was love. I think it overwhelmed him because he suddenly withdrew.” Hermione placed her hands in her lap and asked, “During your searching, have you ever once found the right girl?” Draco’s eyes drifted in Hermione’s direction for a moment, before settling on the group of people sitting in the table behind her. The expression on his face was tense and outright serious, causing her to wonder if she had angered him. But he regained his calmness and glanced at her once more. “Maybe,” Draco responded in a soft voice. “There was a time…” He paused and stared at Hermione. When he spoke again, his voice went back to its usual casualness. “Who knows if I’ve ever found the right girl? I’m still a young man, and I have many years to look around.” Although his words told her one thing, Draco’s posture and eyes betrayed his true feelings; although this betrayal was very subtle, Hermione had now spent enough time with him to recognize it. Known for his intimidating eye contact, that was the first occasion he did not keep his gaze entirely on her as he spoke. She had hit a sensitive subject, she mused. She was taken aback by this minor show of vulnerability. However, she decided it was best not to ask him any more questions on that particular subject, for now. They then spent another hour talking about something that never seemed to put either of them on edge: academia. ***************** Harry and Ron stood outside the Three Broomsticks. They had been standing there for the past ten minutes, observing their friend inside. “When she comes out, just let me do all of the talking,” said Harry. Ron mumbled something under his breath, but Harry knew there was no way he would be able to keep from interjecting his opinion. They could understand the motion of Hermione meeting Draco in the library to go over their project, like they assumed she did the previous night, but meeting him during the weekend went beyond their comprehension. They both stayed pressed against the brick wall and watched as she and the Slytherin headed to the door. Draco was the first to pass them. He paused on his way to Honeydukes, and looked them both up and down. A grin then appeared on his face, which caused Ron to omit an angry grunting noise from deep in his throat. Harry grabbed Hermione’s arm just as she walked out of the door. “What were you doing in there with him?” he asked. Hermione gasped loudly and nearly dropped her bag out of her hand. “My report.” Ron tried to talk, but the taffy in his mouth was preventing him from doing so. He eventually spit out the wad onto an unfortunate passerby’s shoe. “With my untrained eyes,” he finally said, “it looked as though you guys were on a date.” He then fixed an accusatory glare on her. “We saw you in there, flirting and tossing your hair about.” “How do you know what I look like when I’m flirting?” Hermione asked. “Oh, I know.” He gave her a meaningful glance that caused her to look away. He then placed his finger on his temple and looked up at the sky. “Gee, I wonder if Crabbe would share Death Eater secrets with me if I took him out to dinner?” “We were not on a date,” protested Hermione. She then swung and hit Ron’s arm. “Hermione,” said Harry, “it looked that way to me, too. You seemed to be really enjoying yourself in there.” “Well, what am I supposed to do? This project is very intense and it is necessary that we cooperate with one another.” Ron snorted loudly, causing Hermione’s narrowing eyes to flitter his way. “That’s not true,” he said. “I overheard Justin talking about his project and he said he and his partner…” He turned to Harry just then and asked, “Who’s that girl he’s working with again? That manly looking Ravenclaw.” When Harry was too slow to respond, he addressed Hermione once more. “Anyway, she and Justin don’t even like one another, and their project is still going along fine. You don’t see them sneaking out to have late night rendezvous.” Hermione was going to comment on the rumors surrounding Justin’s preference for his own sex, but kept quiet. “Justin and Lisa Turpin are going about it the wrong way,” she finally said. “All that negativity they have towards one another is going to be evident in their reports.” “Do you think that by being nice to him,” asked Harry, “he’ll write something positive about you?” “No. That’s not what I mean at all. It’s just that fighting with your partner will only slow down your whole project.” But her explanation didn’t seem to ease the harsh expression on Harry’s face. “Look,” she said as her fingers grazed Harry’s arm, “I wasn’t on some date or anything like that. We came here because we wanted a casual atmosphere in which to interview one another on our private lives.” Harry moved away from her touch, as he eyes widened with surprise. “You’re telling him about your life? Now, he’s surely going to learn more about me.” “Don’t worry. I haven’t talked about you. Nor has he asked. He’s spent the afternoon just asking about me.” The look in Harry’s eyes still indicated that he was unimpressed by her answer. “But he’s bound to find out something if you keep talking to him,” he said. “Hermione don’t you see what he’s doing? He’s trying to get you to feel overly relaxed, so that you’ll eventually slip some piece of information to him. Because from the way you were laughing in there, it seems as though he’s almost got what he wants. Malfoy’s not dumb, Hermione. You even said it yourself. This whole reporting process is going to benefit him.” “No it’s not,” said Hermione. “And Ron, don’t you dare say anything.” She glanced back at Harry, after a threatening stare proved enough to silence Ron, and said, “I think he’s starting to trust me because he was opening up today.” Harry leaned against the wall and folded his arms against his chest. “So, what have you learned so far?” Hermione remained quiet. She then glance across the street as two pairs of skeptic eyes now rested on her, awaiting some answer. “She doesn’t have any information,” said Ron. He seemed almost happy – well, at least the smile on his lips would suggest so. He nudged Harry in the side with his elbow. “I told you she wouldn’t get anything out of him.” “I know I don’t have anything on him now,” Hermione responded in a silent but defiant voice, “but I will eventually.” The statement caused Harry to sigh loudly. “Just make sure you find out his secrets before he learns ours.” Hermione’s gaze traveled from Harry’s face to Ron’s. Her chest heaved in and out as she watched the disappointment and anger on her two friends’ expressions. “I know what I’m doing,” she said forcefully. “It’s amazing how the two of you can suddenly doubt my abilities.” And with that, she took off down the street. ***************** Hermione didn’t make it back to the common room. The news of her venturing to the Three Broomsticks with Draco had spread amongst the students, and she didn’t want to deal with any questioning from her housemates. She now stood in the middle of the hall, debating whether to go to the library, or find some other refuge. Finally deciding to escape to the library, she turned a corner and ran into someone. “I was looking for you,” said Draco. “When do you want to meet next?” When she did not respond to his question, he took a step closer to her and gazed at her face. “What’s wrong with you?” “I’ve just had an unpleasant…” Remembering who she was talking to, she quickly decided to hold back on giving him any information. “It’s nothing.” Hermione glanced over her shoulder when she heard the sounds of footsteps coming down the hall. And a moment later, two girls walked rather slowly past them, all the while glancing unabashedly in their direction. “That’s my problem,” exclaimed Hermione when the girls had finally put a considerable distance between them. “The stares and the whispering. That’s what’s bothering me.” She placed her hand on her forehead and remained quiet, as she stared down at the floor. “Listen,” she said in a much more calm voice, “I don’t think we should have anymore excursions to Hogsmeade. In fact, I don’t think we need to meet with one another again.” Draco did not react to what she was saying and only glanced down at her as if she had made an offhand comment about the windy weather outside. “I think we can both do our reports without anymore research,” she added. “So,” Draco finally said, “are you finally doing what you accused me of? And later tattled on me, might I add?” “And what would that be?” “Bailing on the assignment.” “I am not doing that,” Hermione said defensively. “I just think we have plenty of information to finally finish our reports. We’ve already spent enough hours talking and…what are you laughing at?” Draco had his hand over his mouth, but immediately removed it and exposed his smile. “Oh nothing. Continue with what you were saying.” “No. I want to know what’s so funny.” “It’s amazing how you would let other people’s opinions scare you away from continuing with a project.” He lost the smile on his lips and gave her a scrutinizing look. “I always thought you had more gumption than that. But I guess not.” Hermione gave him a hard stare and then snorted loudly. “You’re the one to talk. Wasn’t it you who wanted nothing to do with me in the first place?” “But that was before.” “Before what?” “It was before we started. I now realize that I want us to really know each other. Because it will make our reports that much better,” he added quickly. “I think the professor will sense it if we’re making up things about one another.” His hand then flickered to his neck, as he turned his head to the side. “I had a lot of trouble writing my report about you after our first meeting. I went though about ten pieces of parchment.” Hermione raised her eyebrows. “But why would you want me to get good marks on the project? Didn’t you say you wanted me to fail?” “No, I don’t want you to fail. I want you to do a great job on it because you’re my rival. What’s the point of having a rival who’s not on equal footing with you?” “You just want to me to continue,” stated Hermione, “so you can try to beat me at my best?” She kept her mouth slightly opened, as she glanced at him in disbelief. She then shook her head and began to walk away from him. Draco grabbed her arm and prevented her from getting far. “That’s only part of the reason. I think your report might affect the grade I receive on mine. Monroe will get suspicious if you do a sub par job on yours, and mine is excellent. She might mark me down for that.” Hermione gave him a harsh look just then to ask why it had to be her who would get the failing grade, but Draco ignored her and continued. “But the most important part,” Draco said, “is that our discussions have been…rather interesting. It’s a new experience to be around someone who’s on equal footing with me, intellectually that is. To not have your eyes glaze over when I’m talking to you is…different.” Draco paused for a moment. “You’ve been with girls who were like that?” “Unfortunately.” “Well, that’s what you get for shagging everything that crosses your path.” For a split second - which surprise even her - Hermione regretted taking this jab at him. But it only came automatically, considering this had been the nature of most of their exchanges during the past six years. “I think you’re right,” she said quickly to take away the sting of her last comment. “We should continue…to get the highest marks possible.” She reached into her bag and rummaged amongst the books for a piece of parchment. “I made a list the other day of some publications that might help us with—“ The last words of her statement were never uttered, because her mouth suddenly became enveloped by Draco’s lips. Hermione moved back so suddenly, that her head hit the wall behind her with a loud thud. “Ow,” she said as she rubbed the back of her head. Instinctively, she brought her hand back to her face and glanced down at her fingers; there was no blood present. “Did you cut yourself?” Draco asked as his hand dug into her thick hair. His fingers then felt along her scalp for any bumps or abrasions. His chest was now rubbing against her, as he conducted his inspection. She normally would have pushed him away, or demand how he could dare place his lips or any part of his body on her, but the suddenness of the events and the throbbing she now felt in her head was overwhelming. Hermione finally moved away from him. “I’m all right,” she said as she stepped to the side. “It just feels a little sore. I think I might go to Madame Pomfrey.” But she did not go to the Hospital Wing. She stood still, as she rubbed her head, all the while wincing when her fingers ran along the bruised area. Draco remained motionless as well, until… Hermione saw it coming, as if it was being played in slow motion in front of her. She knew exactly what he was going to do; yet she did not move out of the way – it was because she was overwhelmed by shock, she told herself till this day. But she held her breath just as his mouth made the lightest of contact with her own. Her eyes remained opened, as she contemplated the sensations running through her body at that time: pain, surprise and bewilderment. And just as suddenly, the realization that he was actually kissing her again caused her to push him away. “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked. She was now breathing heavy, as her heart thumped against her chest. Draco said nothing and continued to stare at her with a look of serenity on his face. He acted as if their embrace had been an everyday occurrence. When he did not provide her with any answers, Hermione clasped her book bag tightly against her chest, as a form of protection from him, and began to walk backwards. When she was a safe distance away, she turned her back to him and quickly walked down the hall. She raced up to the girls’ dorm and sat on top of her bed. Bringing her knees to her chest, she contemplated what had just happened. Although she tried to keep herself as still as possible, her body still shivered. Her hand trickled to her mouth, as she moved her fingers slowly across her lips. She could still picture him against her, his mouth gliding along… “No,” she said to herself. “He did not just kiss me.” She got up from her bed and walked to the window. With her hands pressed against the glass, she lowered her head as she tried to control her breathing. When this act failed to calm her, she went back to her bed, where she lay for nearly an hour.

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