They saw no one as they made their way to the kitchens. Since it was now well after dinner, everyone was settling into their dorms, hanging out in the common rooms, showering, or getting ready for bed.
The kitchens were located directly under the Great Hall. Once at the entrance, Hermione’s hand went to the pear on the broad portrait of fruit to allow entry. It opened to a room as large as the hall above it with matching long tables and stone walls, but it had what looked like an oversized fireplace at the far end.
They walked the length of it slowly, noticing the vast numbers of pots, pans, and skillets of all shapes and varieties hovering magically above them.
It would’ve been completely dark if the fireplace hadn’t still been giving off its warm glow.
It appeared that no one was there except for two hungry students. Everything was spit spot clean and ready for cooking the next morning.
“It appears we are too late for leftovers,” Hermione commented sadly.
But just then a kitchen elf magically appeared. She seemed a bit shy and timid.
“Students in the kitchens?” she questioned. “No. No. Mustn’t have students in the kitchens. School rules forbid,” the elf explained in a fairly kind manner, seemingly unsure of what to do about the situation.
Draco crouched down to her level and the elf’s eyes grew wide.
“Hello,” he greeted. “What is your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Starlet. I’m afraid we’ve missed our dinner this evening. Is there anything left that we might have something to eat?” he asked kindly. “We’re terribly hungry.”
Hermione was in such shock, she thought she might fall over. She fully expected Draco to threaten the elf’s life if she didn’t fix something for them immediately. But stooping down to her level and asking politely was baffling.
But the elf’s reaction was even more shocking.
She narrowed her gaze. “Master Malfoy?” she questioned him, unsure.
He was surprised that she knew him. “Yes. I’m Draco Malfoy.”
The elf’s face lit up with happiness. “Starlet has a cousin who serves the Malfoy family, sir… at Malfoy Manor.”
“Trinket, sir. Trinket is Starlet’s favorite cousin!” she said with giddy excitement, clapping her hands, and shuffling her feet happily. “Trinket told me what Master Malfoy did at Christmas,” she said excitedly. “And the decorating… and eating at the Master’s table… and seeing Dobb…”
“Oh she did, did she?” he interrupted.
The elf just nodded her head sheepishly with a huge grin on her little face.
“Well, I can see why she is your favorite cousin, as she is my favorite Malfoy elf,” he smiled.
Hermione rolled her eyes, unconvinced of the little ‘act’ Draco was putting on while her stomach made not-so-kind noises.
“Excuse me. But do you think you could get us something to eat?” Hermione piped in. “Something easy… like some bread or something?”
But Starlet didn’t like that her conversation with kind and sweet Master Malfoy was so rudely interrupted. She looked past Draco with an eyebrow raised at Hermione in disapproval.
Realizing that Hermione had offended the elf, Draco tried to divert her attention back to him. “Yes, Starlet. Bread sounds nice. And maybe some pumpkin juice to wash it down?” Noticing Starlet’s hesitation and reluctance, he added, “For both of us, please.”
She looked back at Draco. “Starlet would be most pleased to serve Master Malfoy,” the elf replied as if purposefully leaving Hermione out of their conversation. “Be right back.” She smiled at him. But when she looked at Hermione again, her smile abruptly left. And with a huff and a snap of her fingers, the elf disappeared.
Hermione was shocked and a bit offended by what she had just witnessed and couldn’t keep her mouth from dropping slightly.
“Care to sit?” Draco offered as he chose a seat at the end of the table closest to the fireplace, which turned out to be a large old-fashioned brick oven created to feed the masses of students and faculty.
She meandered her way around and sat across from him so they were directly facing each other, placing his cloak on the seat next to her.
“Mind telling me what just happened?” she asked a bit irritated.
“Whatever do you mean?” he said with a hint of playful sarcasm, knowing full well what she meant.
“Pardon me if I’m surprised that you were actually ‘playing nice’ to that elf.”
“I have ten house elves, Granger. I know the best way to go about getting what I want from them. First, stooping to their level usually surprises them and makes them feel somewhat respected. It usually works, but not all the time, especially with a free elf… as they don’t have to do anything at all.”
“I thought you might threaten her to get food. Isn’t that the Malfoy way?”
“Sure. If you want her to spit on it before serving it to you. Or worse. No thanks.”
The elf was quick to bring Draco something.
“Starlet has a treat for Master Malfoy,” she announced as she magically placed a large plate in front of him… heaping with a variety of bread pieces and dinner rolls. “Dipping oil with spices for bread and softened honey butter for rolls,” she said happily at her upscale, gourmet offering.
“Excellent, thank you,” Draco replied as Starlet began pouring his pumpkin juice.
But she did not do the same for Hermione. Instead, she blatantly placed an empty glass beside her with a clunk and set the pitcher down on the table for Hermione to help herself.
Hermione’s face twisted in offense and disbelief.
Draco just laughed. “Thank you for the bread and juice, Starlet. It was so nice meeting you. When I see Trinket again, I shall tell her of your kind hospitality and how Starlet served me after-hours when she didn’t even have to.”
Starlet beamed at his words. “For Trinket’s happy Christmas, Master Malfoy is most welcome anytime.”
“Thank you. That’ll be all then.”
As soon as the elf happily apparated away, Draco scooted the large plate of bread toward Hermione a bit so that they could easily share it. He also took her glass and filled it with pumpkin juice.
“There. Feel better now that someone poured your juice for you?” he questioned chuckling.
After she picked up a piece of bread and began chewing it, she picked up another and threw it at him.
It hit him dead in the chest and fell to the floor. “You wasted it.”
“No, I didn't,” she smiled.
He just smiled again, amused that a kitchen elf managed to hurt her feelings.
“You treat them better than humans,” she commented flatly.
He gave her a snide look. “Yes. Father hates it when I do that,” he said just before taking in another piece of bread.
His response surprised her and had her wanting to apologize for some reason. “Sorry.”
While they were filling up on their late night meal, Hermione began her questioning, beginning with what Starlet meant, talking of Christmas.
He answered her questions about everything, including how he used Dobby to deliver the gifts to the Weasley’s house.
“Dobby didn’t do it for me. He did it to help his friend, Harry Potter have a good Christmas.”
“You mentioned having ten of them. What are their names?”
“Well, there’s Trinket of course, decorator, general indoor cleaning, and help for Mother when she needs it. Tauller made the mother’s ring and is the oldest of them. He is mostly the maintenance and fix everything elf. Pickett, Starkin, and Lolly have kitchen and laundry duties. There’s Monty, who doesn’t like me too well. Father made me punish him once and I hated it. He serves as the butler and whatever it is my father wants him to do. Barley, Judd, and Britt are grounds maintenance and gardening. And lastly, is Skippen. Skippen is my own personal elf. He is the only one that I own outright… the only one I can free by giving him clothing. Since I am a Malfoy, I can give them all orders, but I can’t free them. Only Skippen.”
“Why don’t you free him?”
“He doesn’t want to be free.”
“That’s absurd. Of course they would want to be free,” she protested after downing her juice.
“You know nothing of their culture. They want work to do. It’s their pride. It’s what they do.”
“Dobby wanted to be free.”
“Dobby wanted to be free from my father, not free from working. It’s a disgrace to them to not have a family and have ‘no use for themselves’… as they put it.”
“That is not true.”
“Yes… It is. They can even kill themselves just by losing the will to live,” he said adamantly. But he did not raise his voice to her. Instead, he pointed out something that he knew she would agree with.
“The way they are treated by their families is a separate issue. I happen to agree with you about treating them better than they are now… even paying them. Treating Starlet with respect was not an act.”
She quietly pondered his opinion of the subject. He had surprised her yet again. He had grown up with house elves and watched as his father treated them terribly. She considered then the possibility that that fact alone might’ve created some sort of soft spot in his heart for their treatment.
She shook her head slightly in thinking that Draco Malfoy had a soft spot in his heart for anything… let alone for the treatment of house elves.
“You do know that you’ve done nothing but shock me tonight, right?” she finally blurted out. “You have me wondering where the ‘real’ Malfoy is. You know him. He’s selfish and arrogant and insulting. He couldn’t care less about the ethical treatment of house elves and he would never, ever share a plate of food with me as my filfthy blood offends him!”
He expected her rant, but honestly was surprised that it took this long for it to finally show up.
“Feel better now that you’ve finally let that out?” he smirked. “Granted, I am the most selfish person you’ll ever meet in your entire life. And I’m definitely arrogant. You see, as you are the brightest witch of our age, I’m the brightest wizard. But no one says, because that fact goes without saying. It’s quite unnecessary,” he teased with gray eyes flirting with her.
“Huh!” she voiced a sarcastic protest, playfully rolling her eyes.
“And yes, I am a master of insults. But don’t take that away from me. It’s the only creative outlet I have in this place.”
“You call hurting people’s feelings a creative outlet?”
“Yes!” he said with his mouth full of bread, pleading as if trying to convince her.
When he was finally able to wash it down, he joked. “Being selfish, arrogant, and insulting is not a crime in magical law,” he smiled. “I can hear the judge now, ‘Sorry Miss Granger, but being an ‘intolerable, selfish git’ is not a punishable offense. Mr. Malfoy is free to go with all of his character flaws intact.’”
He had her giggling again. “Character flaws, indeed,” she agreed, dipping her bread in the spiced oil.
He grew a little more serious then. “To be clear, I’ve never treated my servants poorly. And as for your blood…” he paused, searching for the right words to say so that she wouldn’t call him a liar too.
“I was taught to hate you from birth. Taught that Muggle-borns were dirty, foul, stupid, second class citizens. But living with you here at Hogwarts had me questioning that logic. Of everything that I’ve revealed to you tonight, I would’ve thought you’d come to the conclusion that your blood no longer offends me. It… I know this might seem hard for you to believe… but it doesn’t matter to me anymore.” He shook his head a bit. “Not anymore.”
Hermione sat frozen in her seat. Draco Malfoy had just told her that her blood status didn’t matter to him anymore.
He felt her slipping away a bit and was quick to bring her back.
“You are still a second class citizen though… but that’s just because you’re a Gryffindor,” he played with her again as he flashed her a gorgeous smile.
It made her smile back.
“Draco Malfoy, prepare to be jinxed. Because one of these days when you least expect it, you’re going to wake up with that blond head of yours turned charcoal black and grown long. You’ll be running around here looking like Snape’s child when I’m done with you,” she warned in a half serious, half kidding tone.
“What a terribly creative insult,” he teased.
“I swear your hair will be as black as your robes.” Hermione thought about that for a moment. “Speaking of black robes, must you wear the color of death all the time?” she asked while picking up yet another piece of bread.
“Black isn’t the color of death,” he friendly protested. “I’d say a lifeless ashy shade of gray would be the color of death. Black on the other hand is very much alive as the color of respect and reverence… of power and prestige. That’s why judges wear it, members of clergy, and businessman. It is serious and quiet. It’s a reflection of myself, I suppose.”
“You mean grief, sadness,” she countered.
“Mysterious and intriguing,” he shot back.
“Funeral attire,” she remarked flatly.
“If you were to ever wear my favorite color, I doubt that you’d be looking like you were going to a funeral.”
He was thinking of seeing her in a black party dress hiding something made of black lace underneath.
Hermione took notice of the hungry look in his eyes and it burned deep within her being. She never thought that she’d ever experience such a look coming from him. It had her saying something that she never thought she would ever ask.
“Your bed sheets are black, aren’t they?” she flirted back. But as soon as she asked, she scolded herself for mindlessly speaking before she thought it out properly first.
Her question had him thinking. Had Hermione been the one to Poly Juice herself into looking like Pansy Parkinson, she would’ve known that his sheets were indeed as black as a shadow at night.
She would’ve had no reason to ask such a thing, unless she was just covering for herself. But he didn't get that vibe from her though.
It made him happy to discover that she was not the twisted witch that used a potion to get to him. Hermione Granger would never lower herself to such dark deeds and he was so happy that she unknowingly confirmed that fact.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” he replied in a gruff voice, more of a statement than a question.
He loved this… flirting with a girl whose very name rhymed with danger.
When she smiled, the darkness of his life seemed a world away. It was just the two of them sitting by a glowing fire, throwing playful insults at each other, learning about one another… caring for each other.
She was surprised that he was talking to her so much, such wonderful lengthy intelligent conversation mixed with lighthearted flirting.
The time passed quickly as they went back and forth with their playful banter, but eventually the subject got serious again.
“Tell me, what’s it like… at your home with your parents?” he asked her in a slow, quiet manner.
Hermione caught the tone of his voice. It sounded so wonderfully caring and warm. It was so soothing and reassuring. She never thought that he could actually sound like that, a deep calm washing over her.
Hermione looked into his eyes and saw a genuine concern. She saw the sincerity of someone trustworthy. It made her want to confide in him about things that she’d never revealed to anyone, not even Harry as her best friend or Ron as her past love.
“Do you truly want to know?”
Oh, how she wanted him to care. Did he? Could he? Was it even possible? Her mind raced.
“You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want,” he told her, continuing the deep level of care in his voice.
There were things that she was hiding in her heart concerning her parents, feelings that she kept under the surface. She was reluctant to tell him, except that not answering his question truthfully when he had revealed so much of himself that night seemed wrong.
It was only fair that she open up to him, at least a little.
He noticed that her expression became one of wonder and sorrow as she cocked her head to the side a bit. He was wondering if she was actually going to answer.
She swallowed and finally, softly gave him a truthful answer, whispering one simple word.
“Lonely,” she finally said, as she looked to him for a reaction. "It can be very lonely."
He nodded his head and closed his eyes briefly as if he held a deep understanding.
“Yes,” Draco whispered in return with his head down a bit. “I know what lonely is.”
He almost told her about how his father would lock him in his closet, but he thought against it. That particular experience was on a level of lonely that he hoped she would never fully comprehend.
Instead, he spoke of another time of feeling so neglected and lonely he thought he might run away to Hogwarts early.
In his young mind, he thought if he could be able to convince the Head Master that he was smart enough and that he already knew a long list of spells, that the old man would let him in early.
He got as far as the black wrought iron gates of their apple orchard when the young Malfoy realized he didn’t know where he was going or how to get there. And he found out rather quickly that he wasn’t very brave.
After a long pause, he added, “I once went almost a month without speaking to anyone one summer. I was wondering how long it would be before anyone spoke to me after my grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy’s funeral. It was also around the time when my mother’s sister, Andromeda had been disowned by the family for marrying a Muggle-born. My mother was deeply distraught. To her, it was like a death in the family and so I was basically left to fend for myself. My parents were busy with their problems and I basically became… invisible.”
“There were adults in the house with you that wouldn’t speak to you?”
“It’s a big house,” he replied, trying to be lighthearted. But there wasn’t anything light about it. “The ironic thing is when someone did finally speak to me it was my grandfather’s portrait that came to life one day. We had a good relationship when he was alive. But I didn’t find out how much I was like him until my conversations with his portrait.”
Hermione was in shock once more, sitting across from him while he revealed yet another glimpse into what it was really like at his home, growing up in darkness. Neglected and ignored? A month without being spoken to? Her heart broke for him again, his life not being at all as it seemed.
She fought the urge to reach across the table and comfort him. It was no wonder that he lacked good memories living like that. She wanted to ask, “You understand that is not normal, don’t you?”
But she didn’t.
“Have you no good memories of your childhood?”
“Of course I do. I once had the most amazing train set that a child could possibly have. It was set up in the large open space of the dungeon. I would go down there and play for hours, perfecting it. I had created a perfect miniature Diagon Alley, complete with Ollivander’s Wand Shop and Gringott’s Bank. I had people running about and I could make it snow if I wanted. And the train of course was The Hogwart’s Express.”
She could tell it was a fond memory with the look on his face as he described it.
“I had a replica of Hogwarts, but father kept telling me it was wrong. I hadn’t been to Hogwarts yet, so I couldn’t ever get it right. One day, I was determined, so I took the miniature Hogwarts to my room along with the yearbook that I gave Potter and used a picture of the castle in it to try to replicate it, but father told me it was still wrong. I really liked that train set and was proud of it until it was no more.”
“What happened to it?”
“One day I ran down there to play only to discover that every last bit of it was gone. Father told me that it was time for me to grow up and quit playing with childish toys and that he needed the dungeon space for its intended purpose. He had Dobby and Skippen dispose of it. An incorrect Hogwarts was the only thing that remained because it had been in my room, unfinished.”
“He couldn’t have kept it somehow?”
“I guess not. It was time to grow up, I suppose. I got my letter and left for the real Hogwarts shortly after that... and it was most definitely better than the one I conjured.”
Ever since his dream, he had been curious about something… curious about her home life. He wanted to ask her about something that had the potential for a very serious answer.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Please tell me…” he said rather nervously. “Why were you at the Weasley’s for Christmas morning instead of your own home?” he asked in the same caring voice as before.
“They were on vacation,” came the quick surface answer. It was the answer she had told everyone and it seemed to be a good enough excuse for Harry, Ron, and all the other Weasleys as none of them thought to further question her about it.
But Draco had read her deeper than that.
Time seemed to have slowed just then. The air around them seemed so very quiet and private.
Everything slowed... including their words.
“You could’ve gone with them or apparated to wherever they were,” he said slowly. “It would seem that there might be another reason.”
Hermione took a breath at his insight. He knew there was more to it than her quick answer.
“They are very kind people and I love them very much.”
She wanted to be clear about the obvious difference between her parents and his.
“But… let me guess. They don’t understand you?” he guessed spot on.
She swallowed hard.
“When I speak of mandrakes, house elves, and hippogryphs they look at me as if I’d gone mad with a wild imagination. And if they knew half of the dangers of the magical world, they would never allow me to return. So I have to choose my words carefully and limit what I reveal to them.”
He nodded slightly and gave her a look of understanding, encouraging her.
“I find it difficult to be around them because… I feel like I can’t be my true self. I feel like they don’t really know me at all.”
She took a sip of her pumpkin juice to clear her dry throat before continuing.
“When Ron broke up with me three days after Christmas, I stayed alone in my parent’s home by choice. The loneliness nearly drove me mad, but I still didn’t go to them. I couldn’t.”
The caring expression she saw on his face had the walls of her heart tumbling down around her as she quietly told him the real reason why she was not with her parents during the holiday break… the painful part of it.
“You have to understand that when they question me about our world, they want to know every detail of it. So, I have to put on my best fake smile and tell them that everything is wonderful in the magical world. But as we both know all too well, it is an enormous lie. I’ve been lying to them for years and I… I hate it. With each passing year, everything gets worse and worse… and more dangerous than the last. By avoiding them this year, I didn’t have to look into their eyes yet again… and lie my heart out.”
Her voice cracked as she confessed her inner-most feelings, trying not to shed tears as her eyes began to blur.
He listened as she spoke her heart. He already figured that Muggle parents would never really understand the life of a magical child and he expected that would be why she hadn’t gone home. That part would be obvious.
But her confessing to him the pain of lying to them for so long was completely unexpected and really, it surprised him. He never would have guessed that Hermione Granger would ever have a reason to lie to anyone. She was too good for that, right?
He let out a long sigh of a breath that he didn’t realize he was holding in.
Draco saw her watery eyes and wanted to comfort her so very badly. He had brought it on with his questioning and he was sorry for doing it.
“Our family lives are obviously very different, Granger, but I understand fully what it’s like to live a life lying to people. It is difficult and… regrettable,” he acknowledged in a gentle manner. “But take comfort in the fact that your parents love you. Even though they will never know who you really are or understand our world, they will love you anyway. And I would imagine that with you living here, they miss you… very, very much.”
She wasn’t sure if it was his words or if it was the way that he said them, but she couldn’t help but feel as if he had just wrapped her heart in comfort. He hadn’t pulled her into an embrace, but somehow, she felt held by him all the same.
He understood her, at least on some kind of level. She would never confess such things to Harry, as he would never know what it would be like to lie to a parent. And Ron would never have to lie about the dangers of their world to Molly and Arthur, as they were in the very thick of it.
Talking of Hermione’s parents had Draco thinking of a situation that could be very, very bad. He had to tell her… to warn her.
“Hermione. I have to tell you something.” He was trying to think of a good way to say it.
“Yes?” she questioned, thinking that it was going to be something about his parents.
“Having parents with no magical capabilities leaves them… vulnerable.”
That was obvious to her, but they weren’t involved in the magical world, so she didn’t consider them to be in danger in any way.
“Harry Potter is your best friend and he is the Dark Lord’s enemy. Hermione…” He looked at her with all seriousness. “He uses the ones you love the most to get what he wants. He will use them to get to you. Then you to get to Harry. Your parents will be in danger of being snatched.”
“They are Muggles. They wouldn’t go after them, would they?”
Draco knew full well that they would.
“I know the mind of a Death Eater,” he answered with sorrow in his heart that he was one of them. “They will be in danger eventually. My parents will never win any parenting awards, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still my parents. If it were me, I’d protect them at all costs, whatever the consequences of my actions.”
Hermione wasn’t sure what to think or say. The thought that her non-magical parents might be in grave danger never really occurred to her.
“I don’t know how or what, but you need to think of ways to protect them.”
He had rendered her speechless at his warning.
“Okay,” she managed to say with a nod.
Draco didn’t want her to feel bad, but he was happy that she had opened up to him and that he was able to warn her in time to help her parents. He felt good about it.
He realized the significance of it. The two were not friends. But they had made an emotional connection with their words… hidden in the depths of their conversation.
He knew that that type of connection had the power to bond two people together even more so than the physical kind.
It was more than he could’ve ever hoped for, but now he wanted to bring her back up to her happy self again.
He thought of something that he and Skippen would do when his parents weren’t home. It got him into some trouble, but he didn’t mind because it was fun doing something he knew he shouldn’t. And he hoped Hermione would feel the same.
The two had their fill of bread and had stopped eating several minutes before. Taking one of the leftover dinner rolls from the plate, he took out his wand to transform it into something that looked like a brown tennis ball.
“What are you doing?” she asked, alarmed that he had taken out his wand.
“Wizard’s table tennis,” he explained, taking down two of the many frying pans that were hovering above them.
“Skippen and I would play table tennis in the dining room when my parents weren’t home. Here,” he offered, handing her the skillet and walking away from her to the other end of the long table. “We won't break anything of too much value.”
Hermione just stood there with a skillet in her hand not sure of what to do. She didn’t play games. Ever.
“Well… what are the rules?”
“There are no rules. It’s similar to Muggle table tennis, except our table is a half a mile longer and we have no little net. And you can bounce it off anything you want and it’s fair. The walls, the ceiling… whatever.”
“I really don’t think we should be do…”
“It’s coming to you, Granger,” he warned as threw the thing into the air and served it to her like a real game of tennis.
But she just stood there in disbelief and didn’t even try to hit it back to him. It went flying passed her and bounced off the brick oven’s hearth and onto the floor somewhere.
“You’re supposed to hit it back. Accio ball.” It returned to him and he caught it in mid-air. “What are you, afraid of it? Live a little, Granger.”
“Alright, fine,” she said, preparing herself. She would not be afraid of a transformed dinner roll.
But this time Draco served the ball too high and it blasted across the bottom of a dozen or so pots and pans that were hovering above the tables, causing them to clank and clatter against each other quite loudly.
“Shhh,” she scolded him as if he did it on purpose. “You’re going to wake the entire school. Accio ball.”
It came to her, but she did not catch it. Instead she whacked it as hard as she could with the back of her skillet. It made a line-drive to his head, but he was fast and was able to return it to her perfectly. They went back and forth exactly like a huge game of tennis. They were having fun, both of their minds on tennis and not their troubles.
But then it went off to the right and caused Hermione to hit the ball at an odd angle and it went flying into the ceiling. Which was fine except that when it made its descent, it got stuck above the hovering layer of pots and pans and bounced off a baker’s dozen before finally coming down. It made a noise much louder and longer than Draco’s errant serve.
Once the clatter had died down, Draco looked at her from her far off distance. Even though it was a bit dark, he could see her blushing cheeks of embarrassment.
“Accio ball,” he commanded quietly.
“Who’s down there!?” came a loud gruff voice from the other side of the brick oven.
Hermione and Draco looked at each other and simultaneously, silently mouthed a name.
They both literally threw their skillets into the air, returning them to their hovering state with the hundreds of others.
Hermione grabbed his cloak and ran toward Draco to escape through the portrait that was behind him.
Draco took out his wand to charm the pots into clanking and clattering against themselves making a horrible noise, hoping that it would stall Filch long enough to make their getaway.
At the last possible moment, she grabbed his arm, pulling him through the portrait.
They ran for their lives down a hallway and up a flight of stairs, through a corridor, and beyond. They didn’t stop until they were both gasping for breath from running and laughing so hard.
The pots and pans rang out loudly in the kitchen, causing it to echo throughout all of Hogwarts. When they finally stopped they could still hear the muffled sound of it in the background.
Draco watched as her eyes squinted in hysterical laughter at all the noise he had made.
“If Filch doesn’t get a professor soon that can stop it, the entire student body will be driven insane!” she said giggling. “It sounds like the loudest alarm clock in history.”
She continued her laughter and it was contagious. Soon he was laughing right along with her, hearing the same annoying sound playing over and over again by the clickety clanks of a hundred pots and pans that really did sound like an awful alarm going off.
“I’m regretting it already,” he laughed.
Once her breathing finally calmed, she sighed a long drawn out breath and smiled at him.
“Draco Malfoy, I will never forget this night as long as I live. I hope this qualifies as one of those happy memories that you spoke of wanting.”
She had no idea! He wasn’t going to tell her that this night was the best night he’d ever had with a girl and he wasn’t even on a date.
And he certainly wasn’t going to tell her that if he could bottle an emotion, it would be what he was feeling right now, exactly at that very moment. A level of happiness so high that it made him feel truly, wonderfully alive.
“Oh, it qualifies,” he affirmed with the most genuine smile that she’d ever seen on him.
“I do love your sense of humor,” she admitted.
He put a hand to his chest mockingly. “Did you just admit that you loved something about me?” he teased.
“Yes. I suppose I did, didn’t I?” She thought of what else she loved. “I loved what you did at Christmas. And I love what you did for me today.”
“You made me forget,” she answered, not looking at him. “Today on the train… there were things that were fiercely weighing down on me. And being with you… you made me forget. I only thought of Ron once or twice when we were talking of Christmas. But that was it. You made me forget that he rejected me. And well… thank you for that.” She cast a bittersweet smile at him.
He made her forget the hurt of rejection. And she made him forget the darkness.
“You are most welcome,” Draco replied in a quiet, serious manner, shaking his head slightly. “Trust me. You have the same effect on me. Forgetting things.”
He didn’t elaborate on what things exactly and she didn’t ask.
The pots and pans finally stopped and they took notice.
“And the torture finally ends,” he acknowledged with a smile.
She smiled back.
He took a photograph of it in his mind. When he closed his eyes, it was precisely what he wanted to see… Hermione Granger smiling at him… approval with a hint of affection.
“Can I say that this night turned out better than I expected? Not only did I get to prevent my dream, but we somehow managed to not fight, have some fun, and… Hermione Granger didn’t hex me. She kissed me.”
This made her blush profusely.
“Your cloak,” she offered, handing it to him, knowing their lovely evening together had finally come to an end.
Their eyes held with a quiet seriousness as they read each other’s expressions once again.
There was a certain sadness coming from them both for all the things they wanted to do, but couldn’t. So many things left unsaid.
Did they really need to say them?
Without words or action, they communicated a longing for each other that would go unfulfilled… for so many reasons beyond their control.
His eyes held an apology for it, while hers held an unspoken disappointment.
“As the brightest witch of our age, I must ask you a favor,” he said, not taking his eyes off hers. “When you figure out the potion that allows a wizard to re-live a day over and over again… let me know. Will you?”
Her heart soared with his words. Another man might've said, “I had a great time tonight,” but not him. He managed to say it with an ocean-deep meaning without actually saying it at all. And it was poetry to her ears.
“I will,” she promised as if it was a vow. “And if you ever figure out how to make a magical night last forever, will you tell me?”
“I will,” he nodded with a look that could only be described as ‘almost shy.’
With that, Hermione Granger left Draco Malfoy in the now peacefully quiet castle alcove.
They didn’t say goodbye to each other or even bid one another good night.
They didn’t want to. It would seem too final.
And so he watched her as she disappeared into the darkness of the hallway, allowing time and space to separate them… as if they had not just spent the most amazing time together.
As soon as Hermione tiptoed into the Gryffindor common room, feelings of sleep deprivation kicked in at an overwhelmingly fast pace, rendering her half asleep as she slipped quietly into bed.
She lifted her shirt to her face, inhaling the remnants of his cologne.
And the only thing she recalled as she teetered on the brink of unconsciousness was his lips when she had kissed him.
He had kissed back. She had felt it… the slightest bit of pressure. And it made her smile while she slept, as if she was having the sweetest of dreams.
As Draco stealthy walked to the Slytherin common room, he couldn’t help but think of the wonderful gift she had given him… a kiss, yes. But it was actually much more than that. She had given him the one thing he craved most… a good memory.
One that he would hold close to his heart and cherish no matter their future.
He walked into the common room to find a very awake Blaise Zabini on the couch with Astoria’s head on his chest, sleeping soundly.
He attempted to walk past them without incident. But Blaise simply asked, “Did you two set off some kind of an alarm?”
“Actually... kitchen pots and pans,” he breathed a slight chuckle.
But Blaise did not laugh. Instead he remained quite serious as he whispered, “You can’t fall in love with her, mate.”
Draco gave him a serious look in return. “Too late.”
“Do you mind telling me how it was that you were smiling with a tear in your eye in that carriage today?”
Draco was a bit surprised that his friend had noticed or even remembered. He slowly sat down across from the couple in his favorite oversized leather chair, thinking of an explanation.
He voiced his answer in a low tone, being careful not to wake Astoria.
“She has a way about her, Blaise. It’s hard to describe. But being with her on that train…” He paused to put his feelings to words. “… took every bad thing that has ever happened to me, every dark thing weighing on me and made it all disappear. It’s a powerful thing that can manage that trick. What you saw was the effect it had on me. And when she smiles at me…”
“Lots of girls smile at you,” Blaise interrupted.
“Yes. She is a Mudblood.”
Draco lowered his head and shot his friend a look of caution.
“You play with a most dangerous fire, my Death Eater friend.”
Just then, Astoria began to stir a little and Blaise gently put a hand to her head and stroked her hair lovingly to comfort her back to sleep.
Draco took in the scene, Blaise with Astoria, and suddenly became overwhelmingly envious of his friend.
Blaise had the privilege of having the woman he loved in his arms and not a soul blinked an eye of disapproval. But Draco could never have that… never hold the one he loved for all the world to see.
For the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy felt truly deprived. He could have any material thing he wanted and almost any girl he wanted, including the one that was currently sleeping on his best friend’s chest.
But he couldn’t have his Granger.
“If you love her, the best thing you could ever do for her is leave her alone,” Blaise warned quietly, fearing for Draco’s safety.
“I know… and I will,” Draco replied sadly as he stood to make his exit.
Tossing his cloak over one shoulder, he breathed out a long sigh. “I’m envious of you, Blaise. Truly I am.”
He walked away then… wondering if he’d ever be able to get Hermione Granger out of his mind, while trying to keep her safely in his heart.
Was such a thing possible?
He would try.
As Draco stepped into the blackness of his room, he undressed rather quickly, looking forward to laying down and getting some much needed rest.
But just before he was about to slip into bed, he was greeted by someone who had been waiting for him.
"Draco, love. I've missed you," Pansy purred.
He cursed Blaise in his head as he realized why he and Astoria were still in the common room. His friend had known Pansy was there and was giving him privacy... privacy to help him forget a certain Mudblood.
He wasn't remotely tempted of course, until she said something that made his will-power want to reconsider.
"It seems you have a lot on your mind these days. Come, let me help you with that," she offered as she placed her well manicured hands to his bare chest.
NO!!!! Not Pansy! Okay, from the reviews, people hated this ending. I feel your pain. I'm so sorry, but it was a necessary evil. It pulled Draco from the clouds and back down to reality... and back to the Slytherin man that he is. He is still sorting out his feelings and will learn what remorse is. I promise.
On a good note, 'Poly Juice Girl' was not his Granger! Yeah! And it was her that opened up and let him into her world a bit.
Thanks to all who follow this story and to the Reviewers who I appreciate so very much. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to send me a message.
Up next, Lavender Brown will remind him of a very sad part of his dream… her last five words, “I will not die invisible.”
Until the next chapter…
Love you all,
P.S. Now at 11,200 Reads and 93 have Favorited. Just AMAZING! THANK YOU!
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