Hermione hated gossip. But even so one couldn't help but hear about the latest Malfoy altercation that had manifested itself right in the middle of the entrance hall. Everyone was talking and speculating. Of course, no one knew exactly what the argument was about due to an airtight silencing charm that resisted all attempts at infiltration. But it was the third such heated exchange between father and son that had occurred within the month. Needless to say prying minds wanted to know and debate was rampant about what could have caused such a serious breach in family relations.
Despite the honest fact that she could care less about any Malfoy inner dealings, as long as it didn't directly affect her and her friends of course, Hermione found herself oddly grateful for this latest round of Hogwarts intrigue. The fact of the matter was it distracted the rabid gossip hounds from her own personal turmoil that had previously been the talk of the halls. After years of obliviousness, or perhaps shyness on Ron's part, two of the Golden three had become a couple. Apparently everyone had been waiting on tenterhooks for Ron to make his move and Hermione had been overwhelmed by all the gushiness and attention she had received from everyone. For eight weeks they had been the perfect couple, ooshy and happy.
Two weeks ago, however, the honeymoon over so to speak, the fighting began. Everything had rapidly spiraled downhill finally ending in a spectacular break-up. Everyone had thought it temporary, Hermione included, until Ron had come to breakfast with Padma Patil the very next morning. To say she was hurt would be a mammoth understatement. After five minutes of watching them grope each other at the Gryffindor table Hermione had fled to the safety of the girls' bathroom and did not come out all afternoon. Thank goodness it had been Saturday and she hadn't missed any classes.
She had remained closeted up all weekend, speaking to no one. But Monday was inevitable and she had to go to classes. Ron and Padma walked the halls twined around each other like vines. Hermione wanted to be sick. Especially when she got wind of the rumor flying the halls in her absence. It had been put around that the reason that Ron had broken up with her was because she wouldn't sleep with him, and everyone knew that Padma would. They certainly were making no effort to hide their disgusting public displays. Her lack of response over the weekend had allowed the rumor to grow unchecked and Hermione wanted to bury her head in Harry's shoulder to avoid the sympathetic pitying looks directed her way amongst whispers and shaking heads.
Harry, loyal and true, had shown up at her shoulder first thing Monday morning and had not mentioned one word about the whole thing. After three classes Hermione had gently said that she would be fine, if Harry wanted to hang with Ron for a little while. He had frowned, and gotten the wrinkle between his brows that let her know that he was going to be completely honest with her. "I don't want to be a third wheel."
"Harry don't be silly, Ron and I never thought of you that way."
"You didn't make me feel that way either…but things are different now." He had said, smiling at her and she had managed to smile back. But inside she was seething. It looked like Ron had apparently abandoned more than one friend. He continued to be distant from Harry and revoltingly touchy feely with his new girlfriend. They always seemed to be together. Hermione was more than grateful that there was something to distract the Hogwarts gossip hounds, because she didn't know how much more she could take.
Draco Malfoy swaggered down the hallways with as much fanfare as he could manage, making sure that his robes billowed as impressively as possible. This attitude effectively curtailed all hesitant overtures of company or questions. As expected other students shied away from him and did not pester him. He certainly was in no mood for it. He was still quite mad actually. Even hours after the fight with his father he was still just bursting at the seams, his body begging to do some type of violence. A candidate for Head Boy did not do damage to other students so Draco was on his way to the pitch for a little flying. Nothing managed to cool him off faster than rushing through the air on a broomstick.
His father was an idiot. Draco loosened his grip on his broomstick before he damaged it and slowed his step. No need to look like he was running. Malfoys did not run through the halls. Not only had his sorry excuse for a father completely butchered the family name with his short-sighted foolishness he also refused to admit it. He kept insisting that all the Voldemort garbage was the right way to go. Any simpleton could see that old Voldie was as loopy as a Weasley's broom and unstable to boot. Perhaps he had been an intelligent strategist once, but it was perfectly clear to anyone who took their heads out of their rears to look that the last 16 years had left him three lengths short of a broomstick.
Not to mention the fact that his whole tower of beliefs were short sighted and stupid. Eradicate all Muggle-borns and Mudbloods? Anybody with any sense knew that without peasants there would be no royalty. Likewise if everyone were pureblooded, what would be the value of it? What would make purebloods exceptional? And all the while Voldemort was raving about the superiority of the Wizard Race he was demanding that high class Pureblood Wizards grovel in the mud. If they didn't do what they were told than Voldemort killed them. Two-faced idiot. If he couldn't even adhere to his own standards then the old bat was hardly fit to be giving orders to a Malfoy.
This latest fight was just the icing on the cake. "It's time you proposed to Miss Parkinson. You have a duty to this family. As your father, I have the right to choose who to let into this family…" Blah Blah Blah. Like Lucius' track record of great decisions qualified him to make life decisions for Draco. What he really needed was to do something drastic. Something that made a political statement, set his values apart from his father, and put the slimy Git in his place.
He needed to show his father and the world that Malfoys answered to no one. He needed to distance his family's name from Voldemort. And he needed to do it quickly. The longer he let this go on the worse the damage was. He needed to make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was his own man.
His eyes narrowed as they fell on one petite curly haired girl as she left the library with a handful of books. A plan was quickly forming in his clever mind.
Hermione hurried out of the library with her head down, clutching her books comfortingly to her chest. Perhaps she would make it back to her dorm before everyone else and she could climb into bed and pretend sleep before everyone else arrived. Maybe she really would fall asleep and she would have to listen to any whispered gossip or "poor Hermione" drivel.
Focused on her destination Hermione paid no attention to her surroundings, knowing the way by heart. So it was a complete and total shock when she smashed into a stone wall and rebounded onto her bum with a thud. She looked up slowly, horror washing over her as her eyes encountered crisp black robes and then stormy grey eyes. It took a moment before her eyes focused enough to take in his entire face. Without his trademark sneer she almost didn't recognize his handsome features. The worst luck, to run into Malfoy of all people!
She scrambled hastily to her feet, brushing the dust off of her robe and apologizing before she could catch her tongue. Apologizing to Malfoy was a big no no, even if she had run into him. Surely he would blow things way out of proportion, say she ought to be apologizing for running into her betters, make some low comment about how she belonged on the ground in the dirt, or squawk about her daring to touch his person and all other manner of mean things. After all, it just came natural to him. She deliberately forced her lips together and looked up at him silently. She was surprised to see him regarding her just as silently. An inscrutable look on his face. A poker face her dad would have called it. And in that moment Hermione would have given good money to know just what he was thinking of.
When he took a step towards her Hermione had to fight the impulse to step back. She would not let this albino ferret intimidate her. "I was looking for you." He said softly, in a low voice she could barely hear. He opened the classroom door next to him and gestured inside. "After you."
From a Malfoy
To a Muggleborn.
Something was definitely up. The smart thing would be to walk away, just turn an about face and dismiss him completely. His fury would be glorious and it would keep her out of whatever trouble Malfoy was inevitably trying to land her in. That would be wise. Yet she hesitated, her curiosity rampant. What in the world could he have to discuss with her? Not to mention that it would be bad manners to just walk away. Besides, what if he needed help? Everyone knew he was fighting with his father.
She let out a snort. He would never ask for help from the likes of her. He might order her to lick his boots. But never ever would he ask for help from a lowly creature like herself. Still, without too much thought of why she was agreeing to closet herself in a deserted classroom with the enemy she whipped out her wand and walked past him inside, head held high. It was the DADA classroom and she walked to the desk, turning, to face him. "Well Malfoy? What can I do for you?"
She made no effort to hide the wand held in front of her defensively. He let out a snort similar to hers earlier.
"What can you do for me?" He gave her his patented condescending smirk, his voice more normal. Cultured drawling tones in a silky voice that made the Quidditch groupies of Hogwarts swoon. That would be everyone but her, who had no interest whatsoever in Quidditch or the Slytherin Seeker. He leaned one hip casually against the student desk behind him and crossed his arms across his chest. "The real question is: what can I do for you?"
Something in that statement was not quite right. If she didn't know better she would think it was innuendo.
But that was impossible.
This was after all Malfoy. The Draco Malfoy. But when his smirk grew and he deliberately ran his eyes from her toes to her eyes, slowly, willfully. Hermione decided she'd had enough. Who knew what went on in that sick twisted mind of his but she had too much on her plate right now for this…this….whatever this was.
"I don't have time for this." She said, making sure to use her most grating know it all voice, walking past him briskly. "Go find someone else to bother."
She jumped in her skin when he stopped her by grasping her arm lightly. She could feel the warmth of his fingers right through her robes. Had he ever touched her?
"Wait." She looked up at him inquisitively. "Don't go."
When did his eyes get so beautiful? They were a kaleidoscope of silvers and blues that shifted in the dim light like a storm brewing over the ocean. She'd never really paid attention. She never bothered to notice anything besides his condescending words, his hateful sneer that was standard around her. But he wasn't wearing it now. And his words were void of any demeaning undertone. She jerked back from his touch, way too late to appear instinctive and his lips curled into a slow smile.
"Well, spit it out already. What on earth were you searching for me for?"
He stepped away from her and paced to the window before he spoke and she hated that she didn't take the opportunity to just leave.
"It's come to my attention that you've been on the receiving end of some very nasty gossip. Your penniless beggar has stomped on your heart, publicly, and is currently parading his new girlfriend in front of your face. She is of course too dense to know it's all a ploy to make you horribly jealous. Which based on your avoidance of the whole situation I'd bet that you are."
Color suffused her face as he talked and Hermione felt fresh new waves of humiliation. If Malfoy knew the dirty details, then the gossip was even more widespread than she had thought.
"There a point to this conversation Malfoy? Because I really don't see how any of that is your business." She bit out tartly. Considering turning and walking out she waited for his reply, really quite curious about what would come out of that mouth next.
"Well I'm making it my business because I can help you."
Hermione let out another snort. He brought out all of her unladylike qualities. Her mother would be appalled. "What could you possibly do to help me?"
"The facts are these. It's pathetically obvious that you want poor boy back despite the lousy way he has treated you. The spineless carrot is enjoying all the attention and is willing to let you suffer in order to continue to receive it. The best plan to rectify the situation is to draw attention on yourself and away from him. Make yourself irresistibly attractive by dating someone else desirable and also make boy toy incredibly jealous. Give me free rein and I'll have the Weasel begging on his knees to have you back. In which case you can either have him or dismiss him, but either way your reputation and pride are salvaged."
Hermione shook her head sharply, ashamed of herself. Ashamed, because for a moment his idea had sounded as if it had promise. For a split second she had pictured the look on Ron's face as she turned tables on him and rubbed her new Beau in his face.
"That is not the Best Plan. It's the Slytherin Plan. Gryffindor's don't operate that way." She said snottily, turning to walk away.
"Oh come on Granger, don't be such a stick in the mud. Your precious Gryffindor ex isn't hesitating to string your heart out for everyone to see. He doesn't care that you are being humiliated. He doesn't care that everyone is spreading horrible rumors about you. All I'm suggesting is to give him a bit of his own back." He paused then, his voice going softer, suggestive. "I know you have it in you, I've seen you in action. Rita Skeeter, Umbridge, Me…you don't hesitate to serve it up when someone's got it coming. And he's got it coming Granger."
Just what did he know about Rita Skeeter? She had thought that was a secret. And how much did he know about the whole Umbridge situation?
Ron did have it coming. But she really didn't have the resources to pull off a plan like that.
"Don't be ridiculous Malfoy, I'm not going to go rope a boyfriend, lie to him, pretend I'm in love with him, and then dump him because I've used him all I can. That's not how I operate. I don't use people. That is what I mean by the Slytherin way."
"But what if the bloke knew you were using him?"
Hermione turned back to him, it was ridiculous to be having a conversation with her back turned. "I suppose you have a boyfriend all picked out for me then?"
"Well yes as a matter of fact I do." He looked entirely too smug standing there, leaning comfortably against the window pane. Smug Malfoys never meant good things for Gryffindors.
"Oh, I just can't wait to hear this. Who Malfoy? Who would you recommend I use shamelessly to get a cheap thrill by humiliating someone I care about? Not that it wouldn't feel good mind you." She tagged on the end before she could help herself, the benefits of this plan sneaking back up to the forefront of her mind. It would feel soooo good to get back at Ron and teach him that he couldn't go around treating women that way. She didn't even want him back; she just wanted to be able to tell him to sod off, publicly.
"Why, me of course. One Draco Malfoy at your service."