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Later that day, Hermione sat in the Quidditch stands, a large book open on her lap. The late autumn breeze ruffled her unruly chestnut curls, causing her to groan with irritation. Her head was bent over the text and she was attempting to be oblivious to the action on the field, while at the same time trying not to think of the conversation that morning in the library with Malfoy.

All in all, she was failing on both counts, and with a groan she gave up, turning her head towards the pitch.

The day was warm, unusually so for the end of October, with the sun riding high in a sky full of cotton-white clouds that danced on the cool breeze. Most of the students had opted to spend the afternoon after lessons out of doors, enjoying the last, lingering days of the season before the brutal winter arrived.

Some of the members of the Gryffindor team were tossing a quaffle around whilst working on their flying skills. The members of the Slytherin team had taken the time out of their busy schedule to come and mock Harry's effort at a late afternoon practice. On the other side of the field, a group of Slytherin girls sat whispering and shooting Ginny and the other Gryffindor girls patented, nasty looks. Way up high, above the stands and the goalposts on the field, Draco Malfoy did lazy circles on his broomstick, oblivious to everything that was going on around him, simply enjoying the afternoon.

Normally, Hermione enjoyed Quidditch. She loved the excitement, the danger, and she was proud of Harry and the entire team. She had been especially proud when, after Oliver Wood had left Hogwarts, Ron had made the team's Keeper. But now she wished he never had. Secretly, she wished that everyone would stop acting like he was the best thing to happen to the sport since the first ever Quidditch World Cup and she hated how arrogant Ron could get when he was surrounded by his teammates. She loathed the way Lavender and her girlfriends cheered and giggled from the stands, as if Ron were Keeper for the Chudley Cannons, and not just for Gryffindor!

All of it made her a bit ill and as she sat in the stands, Hermione curled into herself even more hoping that no one would notice her. Bloody Quidditch. Sodding Ron. Stupid Malfoy.

But even though she tried to concentrate on her schoolwork, she couldn't quite ignore the laughter around her, the sound of Ron's voice in the distance and the way Lavender was fawning over him. And she couldn't get Draco Malfoy's words out of her mind.

Am I really being a coward? Maybe I should just tell Ron how I feel! Maybe he never knew – he can be a bit thick.

Hermione gnawed her lip jealously as Lavender adjusted the collar of Ron's shirt and gave him a peck on the cheek, her face beaming. Ron seemed rather taken with her, unfortunately, and it made Hermione both angry and sad.

What if I make a fool out of myself? I could bare my feelings to him, but what if he laughs at me?

But no, Ron wasn't that kind of bloke. He was still her friend first and foremost - and a friend would never treat her that way.

Still, if he doesn't return my feelings, it would be the worst kind of humiliation. I might not be able to concentrate for weeks, and that'll be detrimental to my lessons.

But, if she didn't say something, Draco Malfoy's suspicions would be confirmed. Her eyes swiveled up towards the blue skies where he was a dot on the horizon, gracefully hovering and moving with the breeze, almost like some sort of black and green bird.

And why do I care what he thinks?

Sighing, Hermione pouted for a moment, so deep in her thoughts that she didn't notice Luna Lovegood who had joined her in the stands.

"You all right, Hermione? You seem…so determined to do something?"

Hermione blinked rapidly, glancing at her friend.

"Oh, um…yeah."

Luna gave her a tolerant smile. Hermione noticed her earrings were made of what looked like small pieces of wire wrapped with orange paper. It was quite bizarre.

"You should try Felix Felicis," she suggested. "Or maybe you did? It's like you're…"

"I haven't, Luna."

"Oh. Well, you've been acting a bit odd lately, did you know that? Did you get stung by a billywig? My father says they make you crazy-"

"No, Luna."

Hermione glanced again at her strange friend, but Luna offered only a dreamy smile and stared up at the clouds for a moment.

"It's going to be a cold Samhain. You can tell from the shape of the clouds."

"Hmm."

In the end, Hermione gave up on going to see Ron. After all, she would need some liquid luck if she was going to take such a huge step. Instead she sat down once more, all her earlier reckless intent gone. Trying to get her mind off of Ron only made her think of Malfoy, who was still doing lazy loops in the afternoon sky above them.

"Luna, I was thinking about Divination earlier today."

Luna looked at Hermione, startled, gray eyes lighting up.

"Really? It's good that you've opened your mind up to the possibilities," she said conversationally.

"I didn't say that."

Hermione paused and bit her lip, throwing caution out the window.

Oh, what's it matter anyway?

"I was having a chat this morning with someone on just this subject. Say you divined your true love's name starts with a "D". How would you know whose name it really is?"

She avoided looking towards the Slytherin flying high in the sky.

"There are many boys whose names begin with that letter. There's Dean and Dennis, and then Dexter from Hufflepuff. Or Draco and Derek in Slytherin…"

Luna smiled happily.

"That's easy! Divination is never just black and white."

Hermione tried not to roll her eyes.

Of course it's not. That's because Divination is rubbish, plain and simple.

"I've asked my father to do an article in the Quibbler on just that! I've read loads on Divination with apples, Hermione. If you really want to see the face of your soul mate, you have to cut your apple into nine pieces. Then you stand facing away from a mirror in a dark room and you eat each piece. When you get to the ninth, you toss it over your shoulder and look into the mirror. You should see the face of your true love."

Luna smiled, as if the whole thing made complete sense.

"See? You won't have to worry who it is, because you'll see him right before your eyes!"

Hermione stared, her eyes wide. Then, she snorted in disbelief, feeling badly at the sudden look of hurt on Luna's face. It disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

"You can't really believe that."

Her laugh was weak, for she could see from Luna's expression that the ash-blonde girl clearly believed it.

"Nine is very symbolic, Hermione. It represents finality, the last simple, single-digit number. It's been associated with couples for centuries. I don't see why it's that hard to believe."

Luna's face was solemn, her words affirming her strange belief. Although Hermione found herself wanting to laugh at such rubbish, she realized that at least she could tell Malfoy what Luna had told her, and therefore get him off her back for good. She had more important things to think about, after all.

She stood, gathering her things, and tightening the red and gold scarf she wore around her neck. Luna stood with her, a smile on her face. Harry, who had just joined Ron and Lavender, turned his green eyes up towards the stands, giving Hermione and Luna a happy wave, his dark hair tousled from the wind.

Hermione waved back, forcing a smile she didn't feel and Luna spoke, pushing her long hair off her thin shoulder.

"You really ought to open your mind to the possibilities. Divination traditions shouldn't be scoffed at. After all, if people have been following them for centuries, there must be some truth to them."

Hermione nodded as she watched the Gryffindor team fly off to the side of the bleachers, while the Slytherins took the field and Malfoy flew down from great heights to join them.

"I find all of that so hard to believe."

"Then why did you ask?"

It was a simple question, and Hermione had learned awhile back that Luna was never accusatory – she was simply curious about everything. Hermione's eyes strayed down to the field where a certain blond Slytherin stood, holding his broomstick and laughing with Crabbe and Goyle. On the field he wasn't the cross, scowling boy that she knew from lessons. He seemed comfortable, both in posture and in the casual trainers, trousers and shirt he wore beneath his brilliant green Quidditch robes. His face was flushed from the autumn wind and his hair carelessly tousled.

He looks like a boy, not a bully. That's a first.

But on closer inspection, which Hermione was prone to, she could see that he was carefully avoiding Pansy Parkinson's gaze, angling himself away from her, and on occasion he would shoot glares in Blaise and Daphne's direction, his expression dark and almost hurt.

I suppose no one's life is perfect. Some of us try harder than others, though.

Hermione realized that Luna was still waiting patiently for an answer which starlted her out of thinking about Malfoy. The fact that she was thinking about him at all was disconcerting, to say the least. She chalked it up to the fact that lately, she was seeing things about him that she normally didn't see. That was all. It wasn't as if she liked him.

Hermione sighed, turning to her friend.

"No real reason, Luna. Just curious I suppose."

Somehow, sharing the conversations she had been having with Malfoy of late weren't what she wanted to talk to Luna about right then. Instead, she offered her friend a smile.

"Call it broadening my horizons."

Luna smiled warmly in response and pulled on Hermione's sleeve.

"You won't be sorry. You need to focus on something besides Ron. I know why you were upset in the Great Hall the other day. We all thought you'd end up with him, you know. Sometimes life is funny, though."

Hermione felt her stomach curdling and her face falling. For a few moments, talking to Luna had been a brilliant distraction. That, and the fact that Malfoy-

Too bad those moments didn't last.

"Right."

Ginny had joined Harry, Ron and Lavender down on the side of the pitch and Hermione watched with a strange, jealous feeing as she leaned up to give Harry a peck on the mouth.

Harry's so happy. Ginny and Ron are too. I'm the one who feels left out. Let them spend the rest of the week giddy over those stupid apple peels. What do I care? Let Ron move on with someone else when I was the one who-

Hermione felt horrible, hanging her head so that her friends couldn't tell how upset she was, blinking away tears of frustration.

"I should let you wear my moonstone pendant," Luna said suddenly in her soft voice.

"What?" Hermione sniffed.

No matter how brilliant she considered herself, Luna's mind remained a mystery yet to be solved.

"Don't you know? Moonstone helps calm emotions and brings well-being. I should-"

Hermione stopped her.

"Thanks, Luna. But don't worry. I'll be fine."

She clutched her books to her chest, taking a breath.

"I'm going to the library. I'll see you later?"

Luna looked as if she would argue Hermione's point, but thankfully she didn't.

"See you."

I'll make a quick getaway. No one will see me.

But just when she thought she was free and clear, everything happened all at once.

 




Everything was better on a broomstick. Draco had learned that his first year at Hogwarts, the moment he had pushed off from the ground and sailed into the air, clutching his Comet 260 with a mixture of exhilaration and trepidation. It had been like nothing he had experienced before. When he was up in the air, Draco didn't have to think about his lessons or pretending to be someone he wasn't. He didn't have to worry about Pansy or what she would say next. Or how betrayed he felt by both Zabini and Daphne.

And on days like this one, when the breeze was perfect and the sun shone brightly, Draco believed all was right in the world. As everything carried on below him, he found he was just fine floating above it all lazily, meandering without purpose back and forth above the field.

The Nimbus he was currently flying was one of the first models to have come out and Draco smirked, remembering how his father had so graciously bought each of the Slytherin fliers their own broom, solidifying Draco's place on the team after their first year. Though Draco loved flying, he knew he wasn't a particularly good Quidditch player. And so whilst others had upgraded their broomsticks, Draco had held onto his original; it served him just fine.

He smiled, looking down for a moment. Yes, everything was better on a broomstick.

Draco knew that soon enough he'd have to come back down to earth and call practice, as their game against Gryffindor was only two weeks away and some of his beaters were a bit out of sorts. But, he didn't want to because from his vantage point above the field he had caught a glimpse of Pansy Parkinson and her friends, Blaise and Daphne holding hands and the fact that Potter and Weasley were holding court.

For a moment he wished he didn't have to come down from the clouds at all. The last thing he wanted to do was come up with new ways to brush off Pansy's incessant devotion. He didn't want to watch Blaise groping all over what had once been his. And he certainly didn't want to face Harry bloody Potter or any of his friends; he was constantly reminded that even though he should be better than they were, he never felt like it was true.

It doesn't matter that he associates with Mudbloods and blood traitors or that he's not even pureblood! Everyone still fawns all over him like he's Merlin come to life once again! It makes me sick!

No, there were definitely reasons for him not to come down to earth. Unfortunately, he found himself gracefully soaring towards the ground and that was when he spotted her.

She was so plain, that most of the time she would have escaped his attentions, but something about the way the sunlight glinted off of that ridiculous hair made Draco take notice. She sat six rows behind Weasley, next to Loony Lovegood. Quite predictably, there was an impossibly huge book open on her lap but she was not reading it, instead staring at the back of Weasley's head, wearing a miserable expression.

As Draco touched the ground, his face was a hard mask of irritation and growing anger. Something about the fact that she was so miserable made him angry, but he wasn't able to define what that something was.

Weasley is such a wanker. Why would any girl, even Granger, waste her bloody time on him? It's not like he's got anything to offer, is it?

He decided that was why he was angry with the whole situation – simply because Granger should have been too intelligent to pine after someone as stupid as Weasley. Draco thought that she ought to have known better. She had an answer for everything, after all. She was the one with the sharp comebacks; the one who had put Zabini in his place.

She even put me in my place.

And that was, if nothing else, rather impressive.

But she acts like this when it comes to Weaselbee, who is a complete moron compared to me.

It made absolutely no sense.

Ignoring Pansy's syrupy looks and Zabini's self-satisfied smirk, Draco walked across the pitch determinedly until he was facing Potter, Weasley and the rest of their motley group.

Nothings, all of them.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't Potter and his brainless entourage," he found himself saying, simply because it was expected of him.

"Why don't you go choke, Malfoy?"

Draco sneered at Ginny Weasley, who had instantly jumped to her boyfriend's defense.

"My, Potter. How much do you pay her to defend you? I know her family's poor, but that's a new low, even if they are Weasleys."

He watched with amusement as Potter's face hardened.

"You're not wanted here, Malfoy. I called Gryffindor practice."

"You might have called practice, but you didn't officially reserve the pitch so I suppose you'll just have to share, won't you? Though that'll hardly matter, seeing as your Keeper is worthless and your Seekers can't catch for shit."

At the mention of his prowess as a Keeper or lack thereof, Weasley launched himself forward, his face turning pink and clashing unfortunately with his hair.

"You're a worthless little git, did you know that? You're not wanted here and you've got no friends so you run around bullying everyone you can! Why don't you leave us alone?"

Draco found himself laughing and in that moment he felt her eyes on him. Granger's eyes. Strange, how he could feel them. He glanced at her casually from over Ron Weasley's hair and suddenly, their earlier conversation washed over him.

Grinning at Weasley then, he spoke.

"Someone ought to do everyone a favor and hit you with a bludger. That ought to put you out of your ugly misery."

Weasley went from pink to red.

"You…you…"

"So eloquent, too."

Everyone was watching him, and Draco felt…well, it didn't feel right. Usually, when he won these little victories over the Boy-Who-Lived and his worthless companions, he felt good. But right at this moment all he felt was irritation and vague discomfort.

Potter advanced menacingly, raising his wand, and Draco smirked, taking a step back.

"Now, now, let's not have any unpleasantness," he drawled, his tone a shade too snide. "I'm not staying. I've got better things to do than stare at your ugly faces all afternoon."

Even though Potter was angry, Weasley was speechless and their stupid girlfriends were looking righteously indignant…still Draco felt something wasn't right.

He didn't take the time to analyze his thoughts though, instead turning on his heel and stalking towards his team, head held high. He was too good for Potter and the rest of them, anyway. It was in that moment that Draco realized he was not only angry with Potter and Weasley, he was angry with Granger too.

Turning around, he looked up in her direction, and she still sat there, a befuddled look on her face.

"Oi, Granger! For about a day I did think you were intelligent."

He shot Weasley a look of disgust.

"I changed my mind."

He spared her no more time, turning around and glaring at Zabini.

"Take over for me."

"And why should I do that? Where do you have to go all of a sudden?"

"Quit being such a nosy prat. I've got my reasons," he spat in disgust.

Without another word he walked off the pitch in the direction of the locker rooms, never looking back. For some inexplicable reason, Draco realized that the only reason he could think of happened to be that he didn't want to see Hermione's Granger's face.
 

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