Hermione found herself confined to the hospital wing for the remainder of the evening at Madam Pomfrey’s insistence. She’d refused to be treated though until she’d spoken to Professor McGonagall. She simply could not allow Malfoy to be punished for something she had done. It wasn’t fair of them to assume her was the troublemaker when she’d been the one to run off. Even Hagrid had wanted to hear none of it. By the time he placed her on one of the cots in the hospital wing she was red faced and angry. Why wouldn’t anyone listen to her? She’d shouted and argued until at least Pomfrey went to fetch McGonagall.
“Ms. Granger, what is all the fuss? I am trying to attend to the Malfoy matter. You need to let Madame Pomfrey tend to your injuries.” She swept into the hall with her emerald robes swishing behind her.
“That’s what all the fuss is about. No one will listen to me!” Hermione shouted to the witch.
“Enough of the shouting,” she said coldly. “You have my attention and you may speak Ms. Granger, but you will do so in a civilized manner.”
Hermione shrank back at the hard look in her eyes. Perhaps she should tone it down before she landed herself in detention.
“Yes professor, I’m sorry, but you have to know Malfoy did not do this. I ran away. I fell and hurt myself. He only tried to help me.” She told the professor.
McGonagall stood by and listened to Hermione tell the story, and though it seemed unlikely to her that Malfoy would show such kindness, she had to admit the story had the ring of truth. It would be unusual for Hermione to lie for someone who was previously her enemy.
“Very well,” she said at the end of Hermione’s speech. “I shall question Mr. Malfoy about the events and if your stories are the same he will not be punished.”
Hermione felt that was more than fair and sighed with relief. She felt differently about Malfoy. She just couldn’t stand by idly and watch karma take its course which is what she would have done less than a year ago. After all, he’d stood by and watched her be tortured. Of course if he’d helped her he probably would have ended up on the floor right there with her.
Once McGonagall left, Madame Pomfrey set to work on mending her broken bones and sealing her flesh wounds. After that was done she gave Hermione a pain relieving potion and left her to rest. She was just wondering what she was going to do for the rest of the evening when Madame Pomfrey returned.
“You have a visitor. I’ll give you a few minutes and then you need to rest.” She swept the curtain aside and went back to her office.
To Hermione’s surprise, Malfoy was standing on the other side of the curtain. He had two books in his hand, and he sat them on her bedside table.
“What are you doing here?” She asked surprised.
“I have no idea,” he muttered and turned to go.
“Don’t leave she cried. Did you get into any trouble?” She asked him and he turned back.
“No, but McGonagall warned me about finding myself in ‘difficult situations’ which is just her way of telling me people will always assume I’m the guilty party. She told me you stood up for me and where to find you.” He blushed which was quite attractive on his snow-white skin. The faint pink made him look cheerful, as if he’d been out in the snow on Christmas Day.
“I’m sorry they feel that way.” She told him sadly.
“Don’t you feel the same way?” He asked.
“The Americans are fond of saying innocent until proven guilty. I think that’s one thing they may be right about.” She smiled encouragingly. His eyes flashed hot and she knew she’d touched a nerve. His mood was going to shift once again.
“That’s idiotic. Some people are just always going to be guilty.” He snarled at her and she sighed. His mood swings were making her sick the way they switched directions so fast.
“We’re all guilty of something.” She stated matter of factly.
“Maybe, but some of us are worse. I have to go before curfew or I’ll be in more trouble. I figured Hermione Granger would die in the hospital without a book to read.” He motioned to the two he’d sat on her table.
“Thanks,” she said thrilled to have them, and also shocked at the thoughtfulness of the gesture. “Malfoy?” She asked before he left.
“What?” He answered her.
“Maybe spiders and snakes don’t get second chances. Maybe the ones who get the second chances were never really spiders and snakes to begin with,” she smiled at him.
He pondered her words for a moment. Did she mean that he’d never been evil at all? She had absolutely no idea the things he’d done. He hoped she never would, although he wasn’t sure why it mattered really. Her opinion of him was worthless.
“Goodnight,” he said with an almost wistful look in his eyes.
“Goodnight,” she smiled back.
Malfoy nearly ran from the room after their exchange. He’d wanted so badly to touch her curls and her face again. You’re not allowed to want that. She’s a mudblood and you’re a death eater, he scolded himself. His internal admonishments, however, did not stop the dreams when he went to sleep that night.
Hermione Granger in a golden meadow standing betwixt a heard of unicorns. The golden flowers shimmered on their stems. The unicorns shown even more brightly with their iridescent fur. None of it shone as brightly as she did. Her skin exuded it’s own light. Her skin was a pale smooth creamy white. Her lips were bright and full and a delicious rose color. She was dressed in a flowing emerald colored gown with a crown of green roses on her head. She looked like a Slytherin goddess and he felt something stir within him. She motioned him closer across the field, but the closer he got, the more her light burned him. Her light glowed brighter and brighter until she burnt up before him. The unicorns turned to thestrals and the golden meadow became blackened and burned.
He woke up sweating among his satin sheets in his dormitory. His heart was beating fast and his breath came in short gasps. He assessed himself and the dim green light in the room. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. This stupid school and the mudblood were going to drive him mad.
Hermione was released first thing Saturday morning. She was stiff and still quite tired, but her ankle was almost back to normal. It only twinged a bit when she walked. She couldn’t wait to have a shower and some breakfast. She felt optimistic after her adventure with Malfoy yesterday. She’d seen new sides to him, sides that cared and held compassion. It was proof to her that her kindness project was working magic unlike that taught here at school. Perhaps she’d even ask him to join her when she went to read in the library. She’d been dying to ask him about the books he’d brought her since she’d read them. They were the most amazing texts about the heroics of Magical creatures that had saved countless wizards. She found it odd that someone who thought creatures to be lesser would own such books for they were not members of the school library’s collection.
By the time she was fresh and headed to the Great Hall for breakfast she was practically skipping. She had not been so happy since she’d been away from Harry and Ron. She caught herself mid skip when she realized that she was happy that Malfoy of all people was being friendly. Oh well, she thought. She couldn’t preach kindness and continue to judge. All of his past transgressions would have to be left in the past.
The moment she entered the Great Hall she looked over at his usual spot at the Slytherin table. He wasn’t there. She frowned for a moment before being whisked away by Ginny who was worried about her, but not thrilled about her missing their glorious quidditch party. Hermione listened with half an ear, but her full attention was on the Slytherin table. He rarely missed meals. Was he sick after their evening in the forest? She didn’t know but she intended to find out.
“And then I got naked and gave Harry a lap dance,” Ginny said and Hermione snapped her head in her direction.
“You what?” She sputtered around a mouthful of bacon on toast.
“See I knew you weren’t listing,” Ginny rolled her eyes. Hermione felt guilt wash over her. She’d really been neglecting her friends.
“I’m sorry Ginny. I’m just distracted is all. What were you saying?” She gave the red head her full attention this time.
Ginny was nervous about being quidditch captain. She’d been to Harry for advice and he’d been helpful, but he just wasn’t good for eliminating nerves. At least he wasn’t when he was miles away at the ministry. Hermione hoped he’d come to their next Hogsmeade weekend and visit. She could tell Ginny missed him terribly.
“I’ll tell you what,” she said coming up with an idea in the spot. “I’m no good at quidditch, but how about we have a sleepover in my dorm next Saturday? No quidditch talk, no studying just some good old fashioned girl fun like we used to have at the burrow?”
“That sounds like fun. I’ll bring the junk food.” Ginny grinned and Hermione laughed. Ginny has learned about charming the kitchen elves from Fred and George. She was so much like the twins at times.
“It’s a plan,” Hermione said as Ginny finished up her breakfast and rounded up her team for practice.
Hermione finished her own breakfast and headed up to the library in search of Malfoy. She didn’t find him there either. She set herself up to do some reading and studying in hopes that he would show up later, but he never did.
And so it went for rest of the weekend. She looked for him everyday in the library. She watched for him at mealtimes. She even made extra trips to the prefects bathroom hoping she’d run into him again in a not so literal capacity. It seemed he’d confined himself to the Slytherin common room or his dorm room for the weekend. Try as she might she did not see him. It was rather odd since before the first incident he’d shown up almost everywhere she went. Eventually she surmised that he had to be avoiding her on purpose. This didn’t come as a shock to her from Malfoy, really it didn’t, but her heart hurt a little bit at his absence. She’d thought they’d made more progress towards friendship than this.
It wasn’t until Monday afternoon that she saw him. He’d shown up for Care of Magical creatures which she wasn’t entirely sure he would. They were not working in pairs for this lesson so she had no time to go and speak to him. When class ended, he took off for the castle so fast she had to jog to catch up.
“Malfoy! Malfoy wait!” She called.
“What do you want Granger?” He slowed reluctantly down but he did not stop.
“I never got to say thanks,” she said awkwardly. “You know for helping me the other day. I probably would’ve died if you hadn’t ran after me.”
“You’re welcome,” he looked shocked at his own words. He went to walk away again, but Hermione grabbed him by the arm.
“Why did you com after me?” She asked him curiously.
“Because if I hadn’t they would have thought I did something to you. They thought that anyway.” He sad sadly and her face fell. Of course he hadn’t done it just to be kind. Harry had said it perfectly. Malfoy always had a hidden agenda.
“Oh well, anyways, I wanted to return your books.” She opened her bag, but he grabbed her hand. She was momentarily shocked by how warm it was. Then she was shocked that he was touching her. He met her eyes and she could see so much unsaid swimming in their pale grey depths. She wanted to know what he was thinking.
“Keep them,” he said. His voice was rough, almost breathless as they looked at one another.
“Well thank you again,” she said and he dropped her hand like it burned. He looked around to see if anyone had seen them. The other students had already went into the castle.
“It’s fine,” he said simply. He headed back up the hill and she followed him at a slower pace.
“Malfoy?” She said once more.
“What is it now?” He said clearly frustrated.
“I’ll be in the library after dinner.” She said simply.
He pondered her words for a moment as he looked back at her. He’d promised himself to stay away from her. The urge to tell her to shove off was strong within him, but there was something else stronger fighting for his attention. The snake within him that missed having friends, that missed having female company, raised its head up at the thought of time alone with Granger. No, he must stay away from her. She was trash. She was filth. She was poisoning his mind with her nice shit. Still he couldn’t bring himself to tell her no outright.
Hermione watched Malfoy. He seemed to be experiencing some kind of internal war with himself. Finally he seemed to reach a decision.
“Okay,” he said simply and with that he went into the castle leaving Hermione staring after him. When was this going to get easier? He was so difficult to read.
The rest of the day passed by agonizingly slow for Hermione. She’d never found herself so disinterested in her classes at Hogwarts before. She couldn’t wait to get to the library. She wanted so badly for Malfoy to show up that night. She kept wavering back and forth on whether she thought he would or wouldn’t. By the time dinner was over she was practically vibrating the anticipation. When had she become so excited to see Draco Malfoy?
She told herself it was just because he was a puzzle that needed solving. She told herself that it was because she wanted to see if she could help him become a better person. After all he seemed to want to at least half the time. Despite all the things she told herself, she couldn’t get rid of the warm feeling in her belly when she thought about his cool grey eyes and the way they seemed to see right through everyone. She thought about the pleasant blush that she’d so rarely seen on his pale cheeks and the fine white blonde hair that looked soft as silk. She remembered the way his hard muscles had felt beneath her when he’d helped her walk yesterday, and the broadness of his shoulders. She wondered idly how he’d look in something more form fitting than robes. She stopped herself before she could wonder anything else. This was insanity. It was more than she bargained for. Surely, surely, she could not be attracted to someone so unkind. But is he really as unkind as he seems? She asked herself. She was sure she was going mad.
Later that night, Hermione found herself sprawled in the floor back in the library stacks. She’d spread her books beside her, but finished her homework early. Now she was engrossed in one of Malfoy’s books. She had decided that he wasn’t going to come. It was nearly eight o’clock and the library closed in an hour. She tried to get rid of the disappointment she felt by reading. It was not a good distraction. She didn’t know if there was a book written that could distract her from the turmoil she was feeling these days. Merlin did she miss her friends right now. Although she was quite sure Harry and Ron would not be jumping on her “Save Malfoy” bandwagon anytime in the future, they would at least be a distraction from her thoughts. No one knew how to avoid serious topics quite like Harry and Ron. She smiled to herself about how silly they were.
“What are you smiling about?” Malfoy’s voice asked. Startled, she felt herself jerk in surprise.
“Just a thought I had,” she shrugged. He was standing awkwardly at the end of her row as if not quite sure what to do with himself. It was all she could do not to smile at him.
“You can sit,” she motioned towards the empty floor in front of where she sat. To her surprise, he sat. “I didn’t think you were coming.”
“I shouldn’t have,” he replied shifting on the floor.
“Why shouldn’t you? Everyone is allowed in the library no matter what.” She shrugged and he laughed at her. Actually laughed.
“Something funny?” She asked feeling a bit put out.
“The fact that you think this is about the library is hilarious, Granger. We both know that’s not what I meant.” He snickered at her a moment longer before his mask of cold indifference slid back into place. She braced herself for another mood swing.
“Well what’s it about then?” She ventured.
“This is about the fact that our kinds don’t mix. This is about the fact that I’m going mad at this fucking school. I shouldn’t be here with someone like you.” He glanced away and looked at the floor.
“Someone like me? To what are you referring? The fact that I’m a Gryffindor? A girl? A mudblood? Please tell me because I’m very interested to hear.” She had to fight not to shout at him. Damn he was was frustrating. If Madam Pince tossed them from the library she’d never get it out of him though.
“Don’t call yourself that.” He said angrily.
“Why not? You do it all the time.” She challenged.
“Yes but I’ve been taught to believe it. You’re only doing it to get a reaction.” He guessed correctly and she sighed.
“Maybe, but sometimes we can be taught new things.” She said knowingly and he sighed.
“What do you think people will say when they find out your spending time with one of Voldemort’s followers?” He asked.
“It doesn’t matter what people think. I can be friends with whomever I want to.” She was frustrated now and he could tell.
“Okay fine, maybe I don’t want anyone seeing me with you. My father had friends that’s aren’t in prison. They wouldn’t approve. Why are you insisting on being so polite anyway?” He pushed and she looked down.
“Why on Earth would you care what they think? You’ve made your choice and I don’t think they’ll be welcoming you with open arms anytime soon. As for why I’m being polite, it’s because everyone deserves some kindness. I don’t like to watch people suffer.” She whispered. Her cheeks flames in embarrassment at how silly she sounded. To her immense surprise he slid a bit closer.
“I don’t like to see anyone suffer either. Not since-” he trailed off and looked away.
“Not since what?” She asked looking back up at his face. He looked so sad again. Perhaps the saddest she’d ever seen him.
“Since my aunt nearly killed you at my house.” He said softly. “I wanted to do something, but I was a coward. I’m sorry.”
More than a little surprised at his revelation, she inched a bit closer to him so that their knees were touching and they were facing one another.
“If you’d done something you’d be dead.” She told him earnestly. “You did what you could when you wouldn’t give them Harry. That counts Malfoy.”
“It will never be enough.” He was angry again and she could tell whatever sort of moment they were having was going to be over soon. “I should stay away from you.”
“If that’s how you feel then why did you come here?” She inquired softly.
“Because-” he hesitated. “It’s hard to be in a place where no one wants you. I feel differently around you.” He spoke so imperceptibly that she almost didn’t hear him. It cost him to admit that. She knew it and her heart ached for him. It also swelled at the thought that she was making a difference.
“You make me feel differently too. I’ve been lonely since coming back. I like having a project to keep me busy.” She told him and he actually smiled at her.
“A project am I?” He asked.
“A bit,” she shrugged. “I believe everyone deserves to be happy.”
“I disagree, but I won’t fault you for trying. I meant what I said though. We will never be friends.” He told her angry once more.
“What are we then?” She said simply.
“You’re a fool and I’m not good. We’re not friends.” He said in a hard voice.
“Of course not.” She answered angrily.
“You should go,” he told her. “Can’t have Miss Perfect out after curfew.”
“What about you?” She asked as she began gathering her things.
“I’ll make it back. I don’t want anyone to see me leaving here with you.” He told her grumpily and she sighed again.
“At some point you’re going to have to realize that being a jerk will get you nowhere. You can see where it’s gotten you thus far,” she told him. She was losing her patience a bit at his insistence that she would never be good enough to be his friend.
“Or I’ll just keep going until someone else decides I’m not worthy. Most of them already have. That will never change.” He told her with a hard edge to his voice.
“Not if you don’t,” she said as she stood up to go.
“You think you know everything,” he said angrily grabbing her by the shoulder. “You don’t know me.”
“I don’t think anyone has ever been given the chance to know you. There’s a wall around you Malfoy, a wall of spoiled arrogance and misplaced anger. Until you let it go you are absolutely right. No one will ever see you differently.” She shrugged him off and turned to leave the library.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered to her back.
“Me too,” she sad sadly.
And with one last look over her shoulder, she left the library and Malfoy. For every breakthrough there was a setback. She wondered how many more setbacks she could handle.
Author’s note: This has been my favorite chapter to write so far. I hope it’s getting more interesting for those of you continuing to read. Please let me know what you think :)
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