A deep winter chill crept through Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy. Early December had brought heavy snows with it, blanketing the grounds in a thick white cloak that stifled out all remnants of life but for the hardiest of plants. Inside the castle, students shivered in spite of their heavy school cloaks and their thick house scarves. It was the coldest winter in more than one hundred years, and in spite of the warming charms placed upon the classrooms and the fires that crackled in every room, still they shivered in their seats.
Draco Malfoy found that he didn't mind the cold.
In fact he preferred it because it meant that his classmates were more prone to shivering, huddling in their seats and cupping their gloved hands around their chilled faces, blowing warm air against their woollen gloves in an attempt to warm their numb hands. They had no time to pay attention to his wandering gaze that kept trailing back towards one of the very few students in the classroom not sitting and shivering in her seat. Instead, she sat poised and listening, her hand clutching a quill tightly as she scrawled extensive notes while Professor Flitwick droned on and on about some charm or another that Draco had already read about in his textbook.
He suspected that unlike her classmates, the girl who kept catching his eye had performed a warming charm upon her uniform and her gloves, allowing her to maintain a comfortable body temperature, rather than shuddering and shivering. It was most notable because beside her sat a gangly red-haired youth whose teeth were chattering at such a volume that Draco could hear them from across the classroom and was finding them to be most annoying and highly distracting. Honestly, it was no secret that Weasely wasn't all that bright, but surely sometime soon she would take pity on the sod and put him out of Draco's misery.
His attention was squarely riveted on her, though he knew it ought not to be. She was, after all, everything his father disapproved of and were he to learn that Draco had been eyeing the muggle-born witch and her softly curling chestnut tresses with anything other than sneering disgust, Lucius would be most displeased with his only son and heir. But Draco found that he was entirely unable to help himself.
Ever since the beginning of the year when he'd laid eyes on her in the carriage on the Hogwarts Express where the Prefect meeting had been held, Draco had found his attention wandering to her.
She was everything he'd been taught to despise and ridicule. She was muggle-born, she was in Gryffindor, she was a know-it-all, and positively swotty about rules. All things his father had told him were beneath him. And yet his eye continued to wander to her whenever they inhabited the same space and his mind kept wandering to her when he ought to be thinking of other things, like his school work, or how best to inconvenience Potter this week.
Draco tried to drag his eyes away from her as he watched her across the classroom. She was sitting further towards the front of the class than he, her back to him, straight and stiff as though she was very aware of her posture at all times and sought to ensure it was always perfect. By comparison, his own slouching form was utterly laidback. Her black school cloak was lined with the red of her house and trimmed with the gold that matched it so well. It too was a contrast to the green and silver that adorned his own robes.
She'd worn her hair down today, no doubt to help keep her neck warm in the places her red and gold scarf missed. It had grown over the summer, and the smooth chestnut curls hung half-way down her back with a sleekness he was sure hadn't been there last year. He wondered idly if she'd begun using some kind of beauty potion to tame the wild mane he remembered from their younger years, or if it was simply that maturity was effecting her body.
He hoped for the second, and hoped that perhaps she used some kind of alluring potion or perfume too, one designed to capture the attention of men. He hoped because the brutal truth was that in spite of all the bad blood between them, Draco knew he'd developed a thing for her. A thing that often hovered around fascination and perhaps even infatuation, but at times bordered on obsession. It was only December, but already he knew the curves of the body currently ensconced away beneath the bulky robe that blocked his view of her at the present moment. He'd been unable to take his eyes off her through the entirety of the Prefect meeting at the beginning of the year back in September and now knew the swell of her breast beneath the clothes she wore almost better than the contours of his own body. He knew the exact dip of her waist, and the flare of her hips. He knew the smooth, toned curve of her long legs.
He knew too, that there was a certain stiffness to her shoulders that would occur when she felt his eyes upon her. She'd caught him staring at her in Potions last week, though she'd rolled her eyes when he could think of no other way around the situation that had stained his cheeks pink than to leer at her nastily. He knew she could feel him watching her now because that same stiffness had returned to her shoulders. He wondered idly if he made her uncomfortable, or if it was simply that she felt someone's gaze upon her and so automatically assumed that someone must be watching her with dislike glittering in their gaze and less than honourable intent in their heart.
Draco watched her as she glanced to the side, toward Weaslebee. He felt his hand, wrapped in his rabbit-fur-lined, dragon-hide gloves and tucked away inside the pocket of his robes, clench into a fist around his wand in annoyance at the sight. He knew that while he watched her, she watched the red-headed prat currently drooling beside her. And it bothered him far more than it ought to every time he saw the way she would shoot hopeful glances at the ginger-haired sod.
Weaslebee never noticed of course. His attention was instead focused on breathing warm air onto his no doubt numb hands through his chattering teeth. Draco was surprised Granger hadn't given in to her infatuation with the idiot and charmed him back to warmth. He could tell she wanted to, but also that she didn't. He'd heard rumours that Weaslebee had a thing for the Brown girl from Gryffindor. It was no surprise to Draco that while Hermione had clearly developed a crush on the gangly idiot, the ginger had no idea she was alive unless he needed help with his homework.
And that bugged Draco far more than it had any right to. He was Draco Malfoy. He wasn't supposed to care about the fact that Granger clearly fancied a git who used his friendship with her only when it was convenient, and more often than not treated her like shit because he was such a childish, bumbling thick-headed buffoon that he didn't realise the type of damage he did with simple words. Of course, Draco also reminded himself that he wasn't supposed to care one way or the other about Hermione Granger in any capacity at all. He was supposed to be paying attention in his classes in a vain attempt to best her academically, as per his father's instructions. Not that it helped to remind himself of those facts.
Instead, he sat at the back of the classroom, aware of the fact that his temper was literally burning a hole in the pocket of his robes because he was so utterly incensed by the idea of Granger fancying a tosser when there were clearly far more suitable options for her romantic interests, that his wand must be shooting sparks that were igniting with his pocket. Not that he was any better suited to being with her, Draco thought bitterly to himself as he whispered a snuffing charm for the signed fabric of his robe pocket. His father would pitch a fit at the very idea of his looking at Hermione Granger, let alone the plan that had begun to formulate in his head in regard to the brown-haired witch that had so caught his attention and robbed him of many an hour pondering vague thoughts and fantasies about her.
It would seem that the witch clearly needed someone to point out all the reasons to her that fancying Weaslebee was not in her best interests and that he was well below the standard of romantic interest she ought to be pursuing. Didn't she know that the best way to convince the idiot that she was not only alive, but also an attractive and vibrant young woman was to make him realise it by becoming romantically involved with someone else?
Someone like him, Draco thought, a small, self-deprecating smirk twitching at the corners of his mouth at the very idea.
As if Hermione Granger would ever give him the time of day to even speak to her in a manner that did not automatically result in an argument and him saying things he certainly no longer meant. He had no doubt that were he even to attempt at beginning a civil conversation with her, that she would recoil from him and stalk off the way she always did whenever she saw him coming. It was most infuriating to Draco, because it meant that thus far, he'd been intrigued by her for almost four months, and as of yet, he'd barely said two words to her. They certainly hadn't been words that in any encouraged anything other than enmity between them. In fact, the only time they'd had anything even remotely resembling a civil conversation was three weeks ago when he'd approached her in the library under the pretense of requesting the use of a book she was using for her studies when she was through with it. He'd suffered some vague, hopeful notion that perhaps she might invite him to sit down at the table with her and study beside her, but instead she'd simply eyed him suspiciously before closing the book with a snap and handing it to him. Draco had noticed too that she'd gone out of her way to ensure that she wouldn't have to touch him as he took the book from her that he actually didn't need.
When the class ended, Draco watched her quickly pack up her things, jamming her books, parchment and writing equipment back into her overstuffed bag before slinging the swollen contraption up onto her slim shoulder. He scowled in annoyance when he caught the way Weaslebee shoved his chair back, directly into her path as she was trying to pass behind, before he bumped her none too gently with his bag. Draco pondered the best way to punish the git for the infraction, though he noticed that the thick idiot had no idea that he'd inconvenienced Granger, or if he did, he simply didn't care because he made no attempt to apologise her. Instead his gaze was fixed on the way Lavender Brown's skirt rode up the back of her stockinged thighs as she walked down the row towards the door in front of him. He was so engrossed in fact, that when he reached the door and passed through it, he didn't even bother to try and hold it open for Hermione, who happened to be trailing along behind him looking disgruntled.
Draco, in spite of his seat closer to the back of the class, waited until the door was about to swing closed in her face due to Weasley's carelessness, before he jammed his foot into the door way, holding it back and preventing it from colliding with her, not really caring that they were the last two out of the room. He watched, fascinated, as she eyed him suspiciously again when he held the door open with his foot and nodded her through the doorway, holding her brown-eyed gaze when she looked at him. He felt a smirk twitch at the corners of his mouth once more when he caught the flicker of uncertainty and confusion in her eyes as she realised that someone she considered her enemy had just shown her more decency and courtesy that someone she considered her best friend and crush.
The frigid cold of the corridors as he stepped out of the classroom behind her was propelled along by the chilly draft that snatched at him, but Draco barely noticed the cold. His attention was instead on the sweet scent of her floral perfume as it drifted back to him, which he drew into himself as he took a long, deep breath through his nose, savouring the scent. It became obvious to him that she most certainly was using warming charms on herself when he was able to detect the hint of her own personal womanly scent beneath that of her perfume, not to mention that he watched her hurry down the corridor ahead of him, pulling her wand from the pocket of her robes and muttering the incantations to herself. Draco knew it was in preparation for their next class. Two hours' worth of Care of Magical Creatures, all of which was going to be spent out in the cold of the grounds in spite of the deep snow. Draco doubted that oaf would think to move the class indoors. Probably wouldn't even have noticed the cold all that much, the infuriating git.
Ahead of him, Draco watched Granger try to hurry towards the class, no doubt aware of the fact, as he was, that today they would be studying bowtruckles and Hagrid had hinted at the idea of them needing to work in pairs. He could tell she was concerned by the idea of being stuck paired with him for the class, hence the call for hurrying when it was so uncomfortably and unpleasantly cold outside that Draco found himself considering the idea of blowing off the class altogether. Just as he was pondering how best to delay her long enough to ensure she would get stuck partnering him in the class, her overstuffed bag split at the seams, spilling the contents of the frightfully full package all over the floor of the deserted corridor.
"Oh no, not again" Draco heard her moan in frustration before stooping down to attempt to clean up the mess.
She'd clearly had several ink pots inside, in addition to what looked like all of their assigned textbooks for the year and a few she'd no doubt borrowed from the library earlier that day, because ink was everywhere. It had splattered all over the many books she carried, as well as over the parchment she had for their classes. Draco also noticed a small, red leather bound book that he suspected might be a diary, and he found himself hurrying forward to assist the girl he'd been day-dreaming about for months.
"What are you doing?" She demanded as he bent beside her and waved his wand, repairing her shattered ink pots and beginning to siphon the spilled ink, which he noticed idly were in several different colours, into them.
"What does it look like?" Draco retorted before he could bite his lip at the flare of irritation he felt to have her sounding so angry at him, as though it was his fault she carried a library's worth of books around in her bag and hadn't thought to use a fortifying charm to keep it from splitting, which he suspected must happen on a regular basis.
"Did you do this?" She demanded, and Draco heard her hair crackle with fury as she glared at him, snatching up in smeared textbooks and subsequently getting herself covered in ink. "Did you jinx me to make my bag split open so that I'd be late for class?"
"Would I be helping you if it was my intent to inconvenience you?" Draco asked, waiting until she glanced away to stuff the repaired and refilled ink pots back into her bag when he handed them to her, before he slipped the small, leather-bound diary into the pocket of his robes, intending to garner her secrets from her, whether she was aware of it or not.
"I have no idea, Malfoy. As far as I can see, you're entirely capricious" She retorted, still sounding grumpy though there was less venom in her voice than there had been a minute ago.
"Capricious? I hold the door so it doesn't hit you in the face, even when your boyfriend was too busy staring at Lavender Brown's arse to bloody notice you were trailing after him like a lost puppy, and now I'm helping you clean up this mess, when I could've just walked past and left you to do it yourself, and you call me capricious?" Draco demanded, eyeing her in annoyance now.
"The definition of capricious is a sudden and unaccountable change in mood or behaviour, Malfoy," She lectured him "Thereby meaning that you are the definition of capriciousness because ordinarily you're rude and cruel to me, and yet today you held the door and are now helping me pick up my belongings."
Draco just stared at her, trying not to smirk at the mildly exasperated tone in her voice and the fact that there was once again uncertainty glittering in her dark eyes.
"Now we're both going to be late for class" Hermione grumbled as she got to her feet when all of her things were back inside her repaired bag. "Oh, and Ron's not my boyfriend!"
With that said, she stalked away from him, and Draco found himself surprised by the fact that she hadn't bothered to thank him for helping her. She probably thought that he'd split her bag on purpose, and was clearly unsettled by his attention upon her. He swaggered along behind her as she left the castle, watching her waving her wand to clear a better path towards the location of their lesson where the other students were gathered, already paired up around several tables examining the bowtruckles they would be working on.
"Hermione!" Hagrid called out when they approached, "Thought you weren't gonna make it."
Draco rolled his eyes when the half-giant glared at him as though her late arrival was in some way his fault given that he was also late.
"You'll have to work with Malfoy today, sorry Hermione" Hargid apologised when she reached the Care of Magical Creatures Professor and waited for instructions. "Got to learn to identify a Bowtruckle from trees, and the types of trees that make good wand trees were they make their homes. They're all working on a detail diagram of the Bowtruckle's defence mechanisms and body structure. One bowtruckle to a pair."
Draco made no protest as he walked over to stand beside Hermione where she moved to a vacant table. He rolled his eyes when he caught Potter and Weaslebee glaring at him, no doubt believing it was his fault she was late, despite the fact that they'd both been too busy being gits to notice she wasn't with them in the corridors in the first place. He noticed too the way she glanced surreptitiously between Weaslebee and Lavender Brown who was working at the table beside the ginger. For almost an hour, they worked in silence but for the necessary communication, and Draco found that he kind of enjoyed the way she would lean in close to study some particular characteristic of the Bowtruckle, and the way she took such care as she sketched her diagram. He kind of liked the way she kept scowling too whenever she looked up and caught Weaslebee gaping at Brown instead of doing his work, and the way she would lose the frown once more and instead watched the spiny bowtruckle almost fondly as she fed the creature wood lice.
The bleak weather didn't make things easy, and Draco found himself distracted often by the sight of soft snowflakes landing in Granger's long hair, where they melted slowly. He was amused by the way the added moisture as each flake melted was steadily making her hair turn frizzy, and had to restrain himself more than once, in order to keep from reaching out and running the rapidly frizzing curls through his fingers simply to find out if they were a silky as they looked. When he caught her scowling at Weaslebee who had begun flirting with Lavender Brown and showing off with his bowtruckle, Draco felt his hands curl into fists again. Which was most unfortunate because he did so while he happened to be holding the spiny bowtruckle in an attempt to determine the length of its legs, resulting in the little bastard biting him and poking him with its long spiny fingers.
"Oi!" Malfoy exclaimed, dropping the now angry creature onto the table and sticking his bitten finger into his mouth to sooth the sting of the bite.
"Malfoy!" Hermione snapped in annoyance at his treatment of the bowtruckle. "You can't just go around throwing bowtruckles!"
"The little fucker bit me" Draco growled at her, cranky because it was entirely her fault that he'd squeezed it and gotten himself bitten in the first place.
"You squeezed it too hard" she chided him, looking annoyed while attempting to lure the angry creature back into a state of calm even though it was hissing at him and shaking it's spiny finger menacingly as though it would like to poke his eyes out.
"How would you know?" Draco snapped losing his temper with her "You were too busy drooling over an idiot who barely knows you're alive to be paying any attention."
"Excuse me?" She gasped, though Draco knew she'd not only heard him but knew exactly what he was getting at.
"I said that you and everyone else in the bloody castle have something in common," he growled at her, unable to contain his frustration, his finger still stinging painfully.
"And what's that?" she hissed, stepping in closer, her brown eyes like liquid fury as she glared up at him hatefully.
"You're all yearning over something, but unlike everyone else as they yearn for the end of winter, you're yearning for Weaslebee to notice that you're in love with him, when he's more interested in trying to put his hand up Brown's skirt. So it looks like everyone else will get their wish come the spring, but you, you're going to keep on mooning about after an idiot who is so thick he hasn't actually noticed your female, let alone that you bloody fancy him."
"How is this any of your business?" she snarled at him, stepping closer and then stomping viciously on his foot.
"If you'd been paying attention, I wouldn't have a bitten finger" Draco retorted crankily, hopping now in addition to still sucking his wounded finger.
"How is it my fault that you squeezed the bowtruckle too hard?" She demanded of him, looking positively furious now.
"You're all but dripping your pathetic love for that git everywhere. It's annoying listening to you heave those sighs of frustration as though you think that if you sigh loud enough he's going to get the hint that you're in love with him. He's not even paying attention to you Granger. As far as he's concerned the only useful thing you can offer him is help with his homework because he's too stupid to work out how to do it on his own." Draco growled at her without thinking, realising even as he said it that this most certainly was not to way to go about convincing her that he was a decent bloke, rather than the tosser she believed him to be.
She stared at him like he'd slapped her and Draco was annoyed with himself for feeling his insides shrivel with regret. He could see he'd just undone any effect he'd had at changing her opinion of him by helping her earlier. In fact, she looked like she might cry, and Draco saw the way she turned away from him, blinking rapidly as she fought not to cry, and he could see the way she bit her lip hard enough that she'd broken the skin, a little trail of blood smeared across her lips a tell-tale giveaway.
She ignored him for the rest of the lesson, and Draco was entirely unfamiliar with apologies and so had no idea what to say to her. Besides, he wasn't sorry he'd said it. She'd needed to know she was wasting her affection on a stupid sod, and now she did know. He'd told her in no uncertain terms in fact. She had less chance of getting together with Weaslebee than Draco did at ever getting together with her. Admittedly he could have perhaps mentioned it to her in a way that would be less cruel, and less likely to make her cry, which he suspected she intended to do as she hauled her bag back onto her shoulder when the lesson ended and hurried away through the flurry of snowflakes that had begun to fall heavily. She didn't even bother waiting for Potty or Weaslebee. She just rushed off without looking back, leaving Draco standing there with a now swollen finger where the bowtruckle had bitten him, an aching left foot, and an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach to know he was the one who'd made her miserable, even if it was technically Wealsey's fault for not fancying her in the first place.
Draco walked away slowly, wondering if she would be going to lunch, before realising he was entirely too wrapped up in Hermione Granger's feelings and her comings and goings to be considered in any way healthy. Shrugging to himself, Draco went to lunch, ignoring Crabbe and Goyle's disgusting eating habits as they scarfed down food, and shoving Pansy away none too gently when she attempted to sidle up to him on the bench at the Slytherin table to steal some of his body heat by pressing herself close. He could tell that more than warmth she wanted his attention, which he refused to give her, and wanted to know what he was reading, which he under no circumstances would allow her to see. Because he'd pulled Granger's stolen diary out of his pocket and was perusing through it leisurely.
Mostly, it was dull reading about classes, and he found himself wondering why she bothered to even keep a diary. It was filled with notes about when she had assignments due and little topics addressed to herself about research she needed to do about the most random topics. However, mixed in with assignment and class notes were strange little notes that seemed entirely random to him.
In several places she had initialled the letters D.A. as though it meant something important. He suspected it had to do with whatever meetings she and Potter and the rest of those Gryffindor tossers were always having. The ones Umbridge had been going barmy about and had sent the Inquisitorial Squad after so often. Draco knew that the old version of himself, the one that wasn't utterly infatuated with Hermione bloody Granger, would've used the information to rat them all out and put a stop to whatever their meetings were. Instead, Draco was just curious. He found other things as well, and was disturbed when he found a note about himself. It simply said.
Why is Malfoy staring at me?
It was dated from several weeks ago, and was slipped in amongst notes about assignments that were due for Transfiguration. Draco felt a smirk curl across his face at the idea that despite her disaffected behaviour, she was clearly more aware of him than she let on, and that he'd obviously been getting inside her head. Further on he found another one that said:
Is Malfoy trying to work out when/what DA is by staring at me all the time?
He also found a page with a scribbled out patch in one corner and when he squinted at it, Draco scowled to realise it was her initials and Weasley's drawn inside a small love heart with a plus sign in the middle. There was another one beside it with what he suspected were Potter's initials along with those of the Weaselette. He glanced up across the hall wondering if Granger had come to lunch, and spotted her rummaging around in her bag. He suspected he knew what she might be looking for, but chose to return to his reading to see what else he might be able to glean from the little diary before she realised he had it and demanded it back.
He flipped through a page of extensive notes from their more recent classes, noticing as he did that she'd made notes of the topics she needed to work on first, and the books she would need to look into finding to complete the essays and things they'd been given. It was no wonder she always beat him in their classes, Draco mused irritably, she was far more dedicated to everything than he was. He still got good grades of course, but he could tell that she put far more effort and research into every task she was given than he ever would. She also had a number of extra assignments and tasks written down that he suspected she must do for extra credit or something. The more he read, the more Draco began to realise that he was behind on several assignments, and that he was nowhere near prepared for the O.W.L.s the way she was. She had an entire study plan laid out for every subject.
He smirked when he found another note about him that said:
I caught Malfoy watching me in Potions again today. What is he up to? Why is he watching me? He leered at me like a git, so it can't be for anything good, and I doubt he's suddenly decided to stop being such a sod the way he has in the past.
Another one expressed her dislike for Lavender Brown and the bint's interaction with Ron Weasley. Draco chuckled to himself, suddenly realising why it was that she had so many pots of different coloured ink. One page of the diary was taken up entirely by a comic strip of drawings in which Brown swooned over Weaslebee. Granger had drawn the girl with an unfortunately proportioned nose and grossly exaggerated assets, indicating to Draco that she clearly thought Brown was a little tart. The next depicted a dog with a remarkable likeness to Weaslebee, lapping up the attention from Brown, whose appearance was getting more and more distorted as the comic continued. She drawn herself in it too, and Draco found himself bothered by the way she'd drawn herself so plain. It was clear that she'd done it as an indication of the way she felt like a wallflower compared to Brown, something that was obvious when she drew a flower with her face and hair looking on from the background of a scene with Weaslebee and Brown in it.
He found himself amused to notice that as the year progressed, in spite of her rigid study plan, she was clearly much more easily distracted than she had been at the beginning of the year. He enjoyed himself thoroughly as he flipped through the diary and found more drawings. She wasn't overly artistically skilled, but she did have an eye for drawing comics. He found one that showed Umbridge looking like a bloated toad while a figure that could only be Potter shouted at her. She'd drawn speech bubbles and everything, and Draco couldn't keep from chuckling to himself. There were more comics too, and he didn't find it quite so funny when he came across one that showed him, Crabbe and Goyle. She'd drawn Crabbe and Goyle looking like the knuckle dragging Neanderthals they were, and had drawn him in a less than favourable light. He was always between his cronies, and always looked pointed and pinched. He noticed that she had managed to capture his smirk very well, however. Though he didn't feel much like smirking when he found what must be a comic drawn from memory of the time the previous year when he'd been turned into a ferret.
When he flipped forward a few more pages, Draco found a random page of scribbled words that were written so messily that for a moment he was unsure she'd actually written them. It was a paragraph-long short story that depicted Brown being boiled in oil before being tossed off the Astronomy Tower. There was something so Slytherin about the delightful way she described the way the other girl's skin would slough off, that Draco simply had to glance up at Granger, feeling rather proud of her for the little story. When he came to the most recent entry, it was a page of notes about homework from their Charms lesson that very morning, and Draco realised she must write in the diary all the time, even during class.
Meaning she was going to notice fairly quickly that it was missing.
Draco quickly stowed the diary in his pocket and returned to his lunch, and he made sure to avoid her for the rest of the day. At least as much as was possible, which he did by choosing a seat as far from her as he could, and hurrying out of their classes before she could corner him. He could tell by fifth period that she suspected he'd stolen the diary. She kept turning in her seat to glare at him evilly, and when he hurried away down the corridor at the end of the class she called after him angrily. He'd been forced to slip into a broom cupboard until she went by when she ran after him, and Draco chose to skip dinner in the Great Hall that night to avoid her.
All afternoon he found himself pondering the way she'd drawn herself in the comic strips she'd done in the little book, and the more he pondered it, the more it began to bother Draco that Weaslebee's obliviousness was clearly depleting Hermione's self-esteem. When he climbed into his bed that evening, Draco found himself with his old sketching pencils he used to use when he'd been younger and had been more interested in such things as creating art by hand. He'd long since put aside the childhood hobby, but often his mother would ask him for drawings and she had always encouraged his interest, even if he had been forced to keep it from his father, who would've been less than approving.
He didn't miss the symmetry between his hobby and his current infatuation with the muggle-born witch, and as he found himself sketching a comic within the pages of Hermione Granger's diary, Draco smirked crookedly at the irony to know that if his father found out about either interest he'd probably be disowned.
Draco didn't know how long he sat up that night, carefully crafting an entire page of comic strips in the notebook. He took great delight in portraying Hermione's features, knowing them by heart after so many months spent studying her obsessively. It had begun of course as an obsession to discover what it was about her that had so caught his attention, but Draco knew that it had bloomed into a secret fascination and infatuation. Dare he say that he suspected he was more than passingly interested in the girl? Dare he consider the fact that his thing for her had blossomed into a rather profound attraction? Did Draco Malfoy dare to acknowledge that he fancied the witch?
As he carefully depicted the scenes of the comic, lovingly stroking his pencils against the parchment to perfectly capture the curve of her neck and the pertness of her nose, Draco knew he was pouring his feelings for the girl into the drawings in a way he'd not done with a drawing since he'd been just a boy. Slowly he constructed a strip of images, knowing that when she saw them, she would likely be baffled to begin with, and then might just work out that he was interested in her. Draco's mouth twisted self-deprecatingly as he drew her as the glowing forefront of each image. In the background there were many things, some of which showed her interest in Weasley, and his own feelings of being less than a blip on her radar. He drew her the way he so often envisioned her in class, making sure to capture the way she positively lit up at the concept of learning something new.
He drew her as glaringly beautiful, portraying the way that to him at least, she was the bright, vibrant subject in each scene whilst everything in the background seemed drab and plain in comparison. Before he could stop himself, he even found himself drawing the scene from the library when he'd asked to use the book she was using, and rather than depicting the scene as it had played out, he drew her instead asking him to sit with her at the table. Carefully, Draco drew the expression of veiled hope on his own face at the idea. When he was finished drawing the comic, Draco felt his cheeks turn pink. Sitting there in his four-post bed with the curtains drawn around him, he could see that his obsession with her was glaringly obvious not just in the scenes, but in the amount of detail he'd poured into each image.
Knowing he ought not to fill her book with drawing; knowing she would likely still despise him just as much as she always had, no matter what he might draw or write or say to her, Draco found himself turning to a new page once more where he began a careful sketch of her. It began simply by depicting a full-page image of her, but as the image took shape, Draco found himself carefully drawing the snowflakes landing in her chestnut curls. He found himself drawing huge, feathered wings protruding from between her shoulder blades, and before he could consciously consider what he had done, he realised he'd drawn her looking like an angel of the light, depicted in the middle of a snowy winter, much the way she had looked that very day during Care of Magical Creatures. On her face was the soft expression she'd worn as she fed those bowtruckles the woodlice, but this time, rather than looking at a spiny bowtruckle, she was looking at him wearing that same expression.
Draco almost tore the page out when he realised what he'd done, but he couldn't quite bring himself to do it. Some twisted, masochistic part of him wanted her to know that he fancied her. He wanted her to know that this was how he saw her. Not as some dull wallflower, always watching on from the background and going all but unnoticed, but as the breath-takingly beautiful witch who had somehow wormed her way into his psyche and maybe even into his cold heart.
Below the comic strip he'd created, Draco left her a short note.
I'm sorry for what I've done to hurt you. You are like a soft snowfall, enchanting and utterly mesmerising. Just because one git doesn't notice, does not mean the rest of us haven't. ~D.
Draco hesitated several long moments before he slowly closed the diary and slipped it under his pillow beside his wand.
When he woke the next morning, Draco chose not to even look at what he had done the night before. He knew that if he did, he would chicken out and tear the pages from the diary before returning it to her.
Instead he dressed himself and made his way to the Great Hall for breakfast.
He was almost finished eating when he spotted her stomping in through the door. She looked like an avenging angel to him, her hair frizzier than he'd seen it in a while, indicating that she was clearly worked up. There were dark circles under her eyes, and Draco knew she'd had a sleepless night, no doubt obsessing over the idea of him reading her diary and learning every secret she'd had hidden within those pages.
The little red book felt heavy in his pocket as he watched her narrowed brown eyes dart to where he sat before a thunderstruck expression crossed her face. She wanted to storm over and demand the return of her property, he knew, but Umbridge was sitting at the staff table, and even whilst furious Granger knew better than to pick a fight with the leader of the Inquisitorial Squad in front of the old toad. Instead she stomped to her seat where she proceeded to glare at him from across the hall. She even went so far as to slowly drag the nail of her thumb across her own throat menacingly whilst eyeing him meaningfully. Draco got the message loud and clear that the minute she could get her hands on him, she was going to throttle him.
Rather than feeling concerned however, Draco felt himself beginning to grow nervous. When he got up from his seat with the intention of heading for his first lesson, he watched her get up as well. She paced her stomping stride to his perfectly so that she reached the doors to the Hall at the same time as him, and she never took those calculating dark eyes off him.
"Give it back" she demanded without preamble, stomping her foot for emphasis.
"Give what back?" Draco played dumb, forcing her to walk along next to him as he headed up the stairs towards his class, knowing she was going to stick to his side and badger him until he returned the book.
"My notebook. You stole it yesterday under the ruse of helping me" She growled at him "I want it back Malfoy, or I'm going to report you."
"What makes you think I have it?" Draco asked, enjoying the interaction with her and unable to take his eyes off her as he turned in the hallway when he found one that was deserted to stare down at her, propping his shoulder against the cold stone wall and watching her. He wondered if the yearning he felt to reach out and trail the tips of his fingers down her soft cheek was glittering in his eyes.
"No one else could have taken it" She told him, tapping her foot impatiently, oblivious as usual of his feelings for her. "And when I tried to confront you about it yesterday, you ran away."
"I didn't run" Draco countered, smirking at her mildly "My legs are just longer than yours and you're less skilled at hide-and-seek."
"Just give it back!" she snarled at him, stomping her foot and bringing her hands up to shove them against his chest in her fury. Draco snatched up her wrists before she could pull away from him and she began to look nervous when he didn't let her go. Her stomp had dislodged an unruly curl and it hung across her face in such a way that before he could help himself, Draco reached out and tucked it behind her ear gently.
She flinched at the touch and tried to pull her hands out of his grip where he held both of her wrists in one hand while toying with her curl with the other.
"I have to admit Granger, I was less than pleased with some of the things you'd drawn in this book of yours" he told her, pulling his hand away before he could do something stupid like sliding it into her messy hair and using the grip to tug her forwards so he could snog those pouting lips of hers that he so often found himself imagining.
"You read it!" She gasped, feebly trying to tug her hands free whilst looking outraged and horrified at the same time. Had she somehow forgotten who he was and the type person he was that she doubted he'd have read her diary? Did she delude herself into believing he'd have cared about invading her privacy when he could use the information to his benefit? Was she so unaware of his interest in her?
"Of course I read it" Draco replied, amused by her reaction "This is me we're discussing."
"So you do have it!" she growled furiously, looking very much like she'd like to pull out her wand and hex him into next week. He deftly dodged the swift kick she aimed at his shins when she was unable to get her hands free to hex him.
"You never doubted that" Draco murmured to her softly as he slipped his hand into his pocket and withdrew the red leather book. Gently, he placed it in her upturned hands where they were still held in his grip, before he let her go and stepped back a bit.
Now that he'd returned it, Draco wanted to scramble away from her before she could open it and see what he had done. He wasn't sure he would be able to graciously and stoically accept her annoyance and rejection when he'd poured so much of himself and his feelings into the drawings he'd done and the words he'd written. He turned away from her hurriedly and began to stalk away down the hall, his heart pounding in his chest with the fear of trusting her with his secret and the fear of rejection.
He was almost at the end of the corridor when he heard her call his name. Ordinarily he would have ignored her, but rather than his last name, she'd softly called out his first name and the sound of it on her tongue stopped Draco in his tracks. He could hear her footsteps approaching as she walked uncertainly down the hall, and Draco turned slowly to look at her, dreading her reaction and what she might say to him.
Outside the castle and along the windowsills of the corridor, the snow was piled heavily, glittering white in a rare morning of winter sunshine. Inside, the corridors were chilled enough that Draco hoped she would think it was the cold that was making him tremble. She moved towards him slowly, her fingers holding open the double-page spread that he'd drawn on. Her face wore an expression of confusion and surprise, with just a hint of a question in the way her mouth was slightly open. Her long hair cascaded around her face, and Draco held his breath at the sight of her. He wondered if he had ever seen anything so beautiful.
As she came closer, her golden brown eyes met his cool grey pair and Draco could see the silent question she asked. Why? But Draco didn't have an answer that would satisfy the beautiful witch he'd gone and fallen in love with like a total fool.
So rather than an answer, Draco simply watched her for a moment, letting his usual smirking, sneering expression fall away to reveal his own confusion at how it could be that he'd fallen for her. He let her see his vulnerability for just a moment before quirking his mouth up in a lop-sided half-smile and giving her a shrug.
She opened her mouth as though she meant to speak, but before she could, Draco turned the corner and walked away from everything he wanted and could never have.
A/N: A little bittersweet story written for Midnight Spark's Seasons & Genres Challenge at HPFF. My challenge prompts were to write a Winter Romance one-shot. Let me know what you thought of Draco's unrequited love for Hermione. Don't forget to leave me a review if you liked it, otherwise how will I know to keep writing you stories? Much love my cherubs! XX-Kitten.