“Help yourselves to the refreshments,” Hermione said indicating the small spread she’d set up near the clump of chairs. “We only have one item to cover today – a back to school event. We thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the reopening of Hogwarts and the headmistress is leaving it up to us to plan it. Malfoy is passing around a sheet where you can sign up for different committees - decorations, food, entertainment, and cleanup. We will all help set up for it.” Hermione beamed at the group around her. All of the prefects had been on time and agreeable this morning. Several had even voiced positive affirmations in regards to the idea of a black tie event versus something more casual.
“As you know, the headmistress’ goal for the year is school unity,” Draco said, his voice seemingly uninterested, “Because if this, we have decided that dates must be from a different house.”
Hermione shared a look with him; waiting for the outburst they were sure would come from such a statement, but instead they got a few thoughtful nods and a couple of frowns, but mainly the group looked accepting as they broke out into conversation about this new development.
“If you’d please,” Hermione spoke a little louder than necessary, “we still need to decide on a theme.”
“Fall – you know, pumpkins and things?” A small blonde named Melody, a fifth year Hufflepuff, spoke up.
“Right? With pumpkin carvings and things!” Zach, a sixth year Ravenclaw agreed.
Luna stood up, swaying back in forth in a vibrant green dress, “What about a masked ball?”
“That’d be so cool!” Ginny agreed.
Several others supported Luna’s idea, prompting Draco to call for a vote, “By a majority of hands raised, it is decided that the first event will be a masked ball.”
The rest of the meeting went quickly as the prefects talking animatedly on the subject, suggesting various decorations and other ideas. Soon, one by one or two by two the prefects began filtering out of the Head’s dorm until it was just Draco and Hermione again.
“That went well,” she said, smiling at him.
He nodded, gathering the plates and napkins left behind and setting them on the cart the house elf had brought. Hermione watched over top of her notes as Draco flicked his wand quickly, straightening the room. She went back to writing a summary for the headmistress as he summoned the elf and started moving the chairs back to where they belonged. A loud pop caused her to look and what she saw prompted her raised her eyebrows.
Draco was knelt down on one knee, conversing with the tiny house elf, “Thank you, Binkie. The food was wonderful!”
He smiled as the house elf bobbed in response before popping out with the tray. Hermione couldn’t believe her eyes. He’d never been outright rude or mean to Kretcher, but she’d never seen him be polite either. Honestly, it is a struggle to be nice to that elf. And she’d never seen him treat an elf with a lick of kindness in the past before the war blew up. Draco caught her watching and shrugged awkwardly before heading into the kitchen. Sighing, Hermione knew she’d put it off as long as she possibly could. Ginny hadn’t attended the prefect meeting, which hadn’t surprised Hermione, but she knew she had to be the bigger person and find the girl. It’s time to figure out this mess.
“Malfoy,” she popped her head into the kitchen, resisting the urge to laugh when she saw him perched on the counter, “Don’t forget we have to meet McGonagall tomorrow.”
Hermione grabbed a sweater from the table by the door and headed down to the pitch. Harry had been going on and on about practice every day, so Hermione knew she’d find him and the team there – and that meant Ginny. She leaned against their locker room when she got there. They were still running laps, but that meant that practice was almost over. Sure enough, ten minutes later Harry blew a whistle and the team gathered in a group, listening intently to Harry’s pointers. They only people to even acknowledge her presence were Harry and Ginny. Harry only glanced in her direction once, an eyebrow raised. Ginny glared daggers at her, clearly not listening to a word Harry was saying. She’s probably plotting a way to discreetly curse me with slugs or some other horrid thing. The group dispersed into the locker room, some greeting her with nods or hellos as they passed, others were too focused on their performance during practice. Or, in Ron’s case, too embarrassed to meet her eyes. He hadn’t spoken to her since they’d been back, but Hermione didn’t mind – that much. She knew that Ron would talk to her when he was ready.
“Gin,” Hermione placed a hand on her arm when he made to pass, “please, let’s talk.”
Ginny looked down at her hand before meeting her eyes, “Hermione. I have nothing to say to you. I said it all.”
“Then listen,” Hermione grabbed her, pulling her around behind the structure, “I don’t know what is going on between you and Harry, but whatever it is, isn’t me. He’s my best friend, Gin. I won’t apologize for that. But that is all he is and ever has been to me.”
Ginny stared at her before shrugging and walking away. Hermione watched her go, knowing that it wasn’t settled.
Draco waited for Hermione the next morning outside of the headmistress’ office. He’d knocked on her door before he’s left their dorm, but she hadn’t answered. He knew she was usually on time at the latest, so the worry pooling in his stomach shocked and surprised him. He wasn’t sure when she had begun snaking into his thoughts so much, but he found he wasn’t too put off by the occupation. Finally she rushed around the corner, hair disheveled and the collar on her sweater askew. He felt relief when he saw her – and confusion from the relief.
“I’m so sorry,” she gasped, hands on her knees as she fought for air. “I fell asleep in the library.”
He smirked at, “Shocking, Granger. So shocking.”
Shaking her head, a small smile flickering across her face before she stilled her features and pushed open the office door, “I’m sorry, headmistress. I was running late.”
Draco’s smirk grew when the headmistress raised an impeccably groomed eyebrow at Hermione’s appearance before accepting the papers the Head Girl was handing her. She read over them carefully, nodding frequently, “Good. This seems to be in order. Please keep the patrols running smoothly and update me as the ball plans develop.”
She duplicated their notes before handing the originals back to Hermione, clearly done with the two of them. They rose and left, Draco clicked the door shut behind them.
“Timetables were handout this morning at breakfast,” Draco began, grasping at anything to make conversation.
“Yes!” Hermione practically bounced. “I’m so excited! I have so many advanced classes and they’re amazing! The homework load will be gruesome, of course, especially with the added duties from our position. I don’t know how I’ll find the time, but I must I suppose.”
He looked down at her, trying – and succeeding he hoped – in masking his fondness for her, “Yes, the new class options are nice and I’m sure you’ll be fine with the work load. After all, you managed to stop the Dark Lord numerous times while still keeping me solidly at second in our class.”
Hermione laughed and they fell into a comfortable silence, continuing toward their dorm. Draco knew she had a point about the workload, but he also knew this year couldn’t be as stressful as past years.
Monday morning came far too quickly for Hermione. She’d spent Friday night working the invitations for the masquerade ball and managed to owl them all out Saturday morning. She had invited the board of governors, the majority of the ministry, and the alumni from the past fifteen or so years. Saturday and Sunday she sent holed up in her room, preparing for the next few weeks of classes. She tried to tell herself it was so she’d be prepared for whatever her professors threw at her, but really it was to avoid Harry and Ginny. She didn’t want to avoid Harry, he was her best friend and she never knew that being somebody’s friend could be wrong, but Ginny was making her feel like it was. Straightening her tie, Hermione stared into the mirror, mentally preparing herself for breakfast and everything that came with it.
“Hey,” Draco’s voice was soft as he peeked around the door leading into his bedroom. “Mind if I-”
“No,” Hermione motioned to the other sink, “go ahead.”
Hermione watched out of the corner of her eye as he ran some gel through his hair. She found herself blushing when she realized he was shirtless. Awkwardly, she focused on her reflection, smoothing her hair into a French braid and wrapping the end into large bun. He’d been friendlier to her since being back at Hogwarts and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She knew it was a good thing overall, but she couldn’t help wondering why now and not at Number 12. She found herself watching him as he wandered back into his bedroom. Ginny is right about one thing, he sure is nice to look at. Shocked at the thought and the fact she’d caught herself ogling the Slytherin’s backside, Hermione fled into her bedroom, seeking a moment of peace before she had to join her house for breakfast.
When she finally emerged a few minutes later, she found Draco leaning beside the portrait hole, waiting for her. The walked down in silence until a Slytherin she didn’t recognize stepping in front of them, effectively stopping them in their tracks.
“Hanging with trash again, I see.”
Hermione laughed hollowly, “I’m sorry, but I think you must be mistake. You see, Draco’s upgraded.”
She pushed by the kid, ignoring the fact that both he and Draco were staring at her in amazement.
“Granger,” Draco began when he caught up to her, but she cut him off.
“I know, I know,” She said over her shoulder. “You didn’t need my help.”
Hermione didn’t bother to stop and hear whatever Draco was trying to say to her, she had her own issues to deal with today. She joined Harry and Ginny at their usual spot, right before Ron and Lavender slid in across from her.
Harry and Ron greeted her; while Lavender and Ginny pretended she didn’t exist. I’m over this.
“Good morning everybody,” she grinned at them, doing her best to act like nothing was wrong. “Gin, how was your weekend? I was up in my room the entire time reading textbooks.”
“Of course you were,” Ron laughed, heaping ridiculous amounts of sausages on his plate. Hermione beamed at him. He’d finally broke his silence and it felt just like old times.
Ginny smiled tightly at Hermione, “Harry and I spent the weekend outside mostly.”
The rest of breakfast went just a smoothly and Hermione found herself smiling on the way to her first class – Muggle Studies: The History Between Us. Picking the desk that was front and center, Hermione began dating her parchment, content to be back in class. She looked up when somebody joined her, surprised to see Draco.
“Granger,” he said, leaning toward her slightly. “About this morning, that was – I mean, thank you.”
He looked so sincere that she couldn’t help but smile in return, “Like I said before, Malfoy, accepting help doesn’t make you weak.”
He rolled her eyes at her, sitting up straight and turning his attention forward. She shook her head, confused. She didn’t know why she was trying so hard all of a sudden to make friends with him, but she found herself not being able to help it. Well, that was when she wasn’t finding herself crazily annoyed with him. Like at this moment, for instance. He had gone back to pretending she wasn’t sitting next to him and that it wasn’t his choice that they were sharing a table. She was distracted when the professor walked in and began lecturing right off the bat without any introduction or polite pretext that she almost missed the first few points.
The class passed quickly and Hermione found herself rapidly taking notes. When the bell rang and the professor stopped lecturing, Hermione quickly gathered her things, anxious to get to her next class so that she could grab the same seat. She realized that Draco had again fallen into step with her. They walked together for a few hallways before heading into different directions. The rest of the day passed quickly and all together uneventfully for Hermione. She spent lunch in her dorm getting a head start of the morning’s assignments and her afternoon classes were void of friends, although the classes made up for it by supremely interesting. She’d chosen to focus on the divide between muggles and magical folk, wishing to somehow devote her life to making sure that no other generation had to fight and struggle to be accepted.
She buried her head in a book at dinner, doing her best to absorb the information needed to write her potions essay for Wednesday’s class, when Ginny gently pushed her book down, forcing her to look up.
Ginny’s voice was stiff, but it was obvious she was making an effort so Hermione smiled at her, “Hey. How were your classes? Mine were fascinating and I don’t have Ron or Harry in any of them.”
“Merlin, classes were brutal!”
Hermione glanced at Ron. He – and Lavender – had just made it down to dinner. Harry slid in between Gin and Neville, reaching over to grab some bread. The group fell into a stilted conversation in between stuffing their mouths with the food.
“’Mione, wanna join us?” Harry peaked around Ginny, eyes hopeful.
“Yeah, we’re all going to the library!” Lavender smiled sweetly across the table at her.
Hermione resisted the urge to glare at the pretty blonde. Sweet sounding or no, Hermione just couldn’t warm to her, “No, thanks! I’ve studied enough with Ron and Harry to know that when I actually need to study, I need to do it alone. So, I’ll be in my dorm.”
They bid her goodbye and left the table as a group, Ginny’s arm slung around Harry’s waist and Lavender’s looped through Ron’s. Neville, Seamus, and Dean trailed along awkwardly behind them, obviously single and obviously uncomfortable with the couples in front of them. Luna skipped – literally skipped – over to the group, happily looping her arms with Neville and Dean’s, laughing and chatting as they left.
Hermione couldn’t help but smile. They looked content. Looking not so content, Draco stalked out of the hall. What’s got his knickers in a twist? Looking over at the Slytherin table, she saw the source of his annoyance – a loud and rowdy group was jeering in his direction. Shaking her head, she headed upstairs to study in their dorm, hoping that she wouldn’t run into her roommate and be forced to confront the puzzling emotions he caused.
After changing into pajamas and making a cup of tea, Hermione settled into their empty common room, parchment and books strewn around her. She’d finished her homework for the next day and then moved on to one of the books she’d picked up while school shopping. American Royalty: The Untold Pureblood Story was fascinating. She was deep into chapter seven, nibbling absentmindedly on her quill – she’d been annotating the book as she went – when the portrait hole swung open and Draco stumbled in. At first, Hermione thought he’d been drinking, but then she saw the dirty, torn, bloodied Quidditch kit he wore. As he wobbled farther into the room, she saw he was just as, if not more, bloodied as he clothes. She covered her mouth shakily; his hair was matted, his left eye swollen almost shut, his nose was bent sideways, and he limped heavily. Oh my gosh.
“Draco,” she breathed it out, trying not to startle him. He obviously hadn’t seen her yet. He swung his head slowly in her direction, wincing at the pain. She hurriedly hopped up “Meet me in the bathroom.” He made to speak, but she raised her hand, “Do not argue. Just meet me up there.”
She rushed up the stairs, knowing she had a few minutes. It would take him at least that to struggle up the stairs. He obviously had shown up to practice and it hadn’t gone well. Digging around in her trunk, she pulled out several bottles of various potions she’d made over the last few years. She’d gotten quite good at haling spells and potions during the last year or so of the war and she’d continued to study the subject. She’d briefly thought of being a healer, but realized she didn’t want to confront death that often. She heard him stumble into the room next to her and she gathered all of the vials and bottles in her arms, along with a small black bag.
Pushing open the door, she felt her stomach drop. With just a few feet separating them, he looked awful. She motioned for him to lower himself onto the edge of the tub and she stood in front of him, wondering where to begin. He just stared up at her, eyes empty. Working in silence, she had him drink two different small vials, both intended to help ease his pain. Muttering a few words, she healed some of his superficial cuts and scrapes. Tilting his head up, he finally made eye contact with her. It felt like a sucker punch to her gut. She couldn’t stop herself; she reached up and brushed his hair back from his eyes.
He stood up, invading her personal space, and removed his shirt. It was awkward for a beat, until she noticed why he did it – a deep gash lashed his abdomen, cutting across a few scares that somehow stood out bright white even against his pale skin. She traced her fingers lightly across his chest, trying to avoid the bruises and cuts there. She dabbed something from a different bottle onto a cotton ball and dabbed it on the gash.
“I think – um – water.”’
“Water?” Draco managed to smirk down at her, even bloodied.
“You need to-”
“I need to water?” Draco cut her off, clearly amused at how flustered she was.
She sighed, pointing to the shower, “I need you to clean up before I can finish. The pain should be manageable until then.”
He nodded and started to pull of his bottoms. Hermione quickly spun around, accidentally catching a glimpse of his boxer brief waist band. She colored brightly. She faced the wall while he quickly showered. Of course she’d been in the bathroom over the years while Harry or Ron showered – a few times at Number 12, once or twice at the burrow, and even once while staying in the tent. But it was different. She wasn’t sure why, but it felt less invasive when she was with them.
Draco cleared his throat, “I’m done.”
“Okay,” Hermione hoped she didn’t sound as uncertain or nervous as she felt when she gestured to his door. “Let’s go in there.”
He walked behind him as he limped toward his bed. She hadn’t noticed that morning, but thin scars crisscrossed his back. They looked years old. Lucius? Hermione had always assumed that the Malfoy patriarch had been verbally abusive, so it shouldn’t have surprised her that he might be physically abusive, too. After all how many times had Hermione witnessed his cruelty?
Draco struggled down to his bed, the towel knotted at his waist slipping a bit lower. Her throat tightened, but she focused on the task at hand. With her wand, she traced each gash, sealing them up before rubbing a thick slave on them. She tilted his head back and dropped three drops of a different potion into his swollen eye. She handed two vials to him with the instructions to drink and she performed one last healing spell on him.
Settling onto the bed next to him, she watched him for a few moments before speaking, “What happened?”
He didn’t look up, reminding her of Harry when he thought he’d done something wrong, “I went to Quidditch like you suggested. I realized you were right.”
“Quidditch did this to you?”
“No, the angry Slytherins in the locker room did. Apparently, they didn’t like that I took my rightful place as captain.”
Despite his injuries, he sounded every bit of the haughty, Slytherin prince she had abhorred in the past – it almost made her smile. She nodded, unsure of what to say, and they sat there in silence. He settled in against his pillows and instinctively, she found herself brushing her fingers against his arm, attempting to bring him some sort of comfort. He looked at her fingers for a long time.
“Hermione,” his voice was so soft; at first she thought she’d imagined him saying her name. The look in his eyes told her otherwise. They were pits of emotion and it terrified her.
“Goodnight, Malfoy,” She spoke just as soft as she rose from the bed, making her way out of his room.
Hermione didn’t look back as she hut the door behind her. Despite the late hour, she knew she couldn’t sleep. Not after that look. Heading downstairs, she picked up her book, determined to forget the way he said her name.
As always, I would relish your thoughts and things in the form of a review.
Thanks a mil, loves
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