Chapter 7: Grey Area
It was a quarter past seven o'clock that evening, Hermione had just finished her dinner and was rushing to the Library to finish researching on the Blood-Replenishing Potion for their project before Madame Pince closed the place by eight o'clock, as she does so every night.
The corridors were dim, with only a few scattered candles alit along the walls and the moonlight from outside that seeped through the tall windows giving light to the castle. But Hermione knew her way to the Library and could probably make it there with her eyes closed. So she walked as fast as her feet could carry her without breaking into an all out run. And it wasn't a moment to soon when she arrived at her destination.
It was quite a walk to the Library on the fourth floor of the castle all the way from the Great Hall and she was feeling slightly out of breath. Letting out a deep breath, she opened the door, smiling softly at Madame Pince and continued inside. She loved the musky scent of old books with sepia-coloured pages, which instantly relaxed her thumping pulse.
With a quick scan of the area she spotted a mere handful of students still up doing last minute researches. A flash of silvery blond hair caught her eye and she found Draco Malfoy sitting alone by a table on the east side of the Library. It was as though he could feel her looking at him that made him look up and catch Hermione's gaze.
It was something in his eyes that made her breathing hitch a bit. The sparkling silver eyes seemed happy to see her. With that, Hermione quickly averted her eyes and casually strolled along the shelves in the hunt of the books she needed. When she had her arms stacked with large leather bound books, she headed towards a table on the west side of the Library, deliberately sitting far away from Malfoy.
As soon as she was tucked comfortably in her own table, surrounded by books, she proceeded to read on the Blood-Replenishing Potion. But it proved terribly difficult to do with Malfoy staring at her. She didn't need to see his piercing eyes to note that. She heaved a sigh. She was so tempted to join him at his table. But she held back. She shouldn't encourage him any more than what was necessary. She made up her mind; she wasn't going to go to him.
Hermione began taking notes on a piece of parchment and forced herself to not be aware of Malfoy. Finally falling into a pattern of reading from the books and writing down notes, she slowly forgot about her dilemma.
Minutes later, she froze in her seat as Draco Malfoy seized the chair beside her. "What are you working on, Granger?" he drawled. "So busy to even nod a greeting my way, eh?"
Hermione felt blood rush to tint her cheeks. "The Blood-Replenishing Potion project," she answered without looking up. "I'm doing research for the paper that will accompany our potion."
Draco frowned. "Then shouldn't you have asked me to help you out? This being our project after all?"
Finally looking up at him, Hermione bit her lower lip. "You looked busy, so I didn't want to bother you with this, especially since it's an easy task to do. Not to mention all the work you've already done on the potion itself. You are a better potion-maker than I am, after all," she lied with ease.
That seemed to appease Malfoy, so Hermione just smiled up at him. Now that he was there, she didn't see anything wrong with talking to him. He was the one who came up to her, and not the other way around.
"So how's the research going?" he asked peering over her shoulder to take a look at her notes.
"Great," Hermione said, falling back into the casual sensation of talking to Malfoy. She had forgotten how easy it was to be with him. For the past few days she had been uptight and guilty for being with him. But it was silly to be such, seeing as how they were just friends. Nothing more than that. Obviously.
"I'm almost done, actually," Hermione said as she began to stack the pieces of parchment in front of her.
"Yeah," she said, standing up to collect the books in an orderly pile. Then with a flick of her wand the books placed themselves neatly back on the shelves. "Besides, it's nearly eight o'clock. The Library will be closing in a bit. Best be heading out now."
Malfoy nodded. "Come on then, let me walk you to your Common Room."
Hermione shook her head. "There's no need for that."
But Malfoy was persistent. He grabbed Hermione's pile of parchment and carefully deposited them into her book bag. "I'm sure there isn't, but that's not going to stop me from still doing so. Merlin forbid I do anything just 'cause it's necessary," Malfoy said smirking at her. Then he slung her bag over his shoulder and began to walk in the direction of the Library exit.
Hermione stood rooted for a moment, internally debating with herself if this was a smart thing to do. One part of her conscience was telling her that it was an unnecessary evil and she should just stay away. But that part of her mind that was being slightly controlled by her heart told her it wasn't a big deal. So he was walking her back to the Gryffindor Common Room, since when was that a sin?
Ever since you realised you got a bloody crush on him.
But it's just walking.
At first it's just walking. Then it's his arm around your shoulder. And don't tell me you wouldn't mind him giving you a kiss on the cheek when he drops you off either.
Of course I would mind! I'd slap him good if he did. And again, you're going off the point. My point is, it's just three bleeding floors up. No point in getting bent out of shape over this. Especially since he's throwing you a strange look now. Get a move on!
So apparently that hopeful side of her scruples won. Hermione quickened her step and fell beside Malfoy. He smiled down at her and led her down the corridor, placing his hand lightly on the small of her back. Hermione was in heaven, and hell, at the same time.
"So, Hermione," Malfoy said quietly. "Do you mind my asking what happened between you and Weasley?"
"I'm sorry," Malfoy apologised and held Hermione by her arm. "I shouldn't have asked that. It's too personal. I was being nosy and I see I've made you uncomfortable."
Hermione smiled. "It's okay, I just wasn't expecting that question." She then continued to walk and she felt Malfoy's hand return to rest on her lower back.
Malfoy nodded. "Of course. And I understand if you don't want to answer it."
Hermione was silent for a moment. But then she looked up at him and smiled. "I would like to answer it, actually."
Malfoy looked at her expectantly.
"To tell you the truth, we did go out but it soon fazed out," Hermione said, a thoughtful look on her face. "I was just telling Ginny this morning, actually, that maybe Ron and I did love each other, but it was always platonic. But we'll always be – "
"Yes, friends. And we realised that's all we could ever really be."
Smiling down at her, Malfoy nodded. "Thanks for sharing that with me."
"But why did you ask, anyway?"
"Nothing in particular, really," Malfoy said. "Just out of curiosity."
Silence followed and they continued walking. Soon they found themselves slowly approaching the corridor leading them to the Gryffindor Tower.
Hermione looked shyly up at Malfoy. "Thank you."
"Okay, bye," Malfoy said smiling as they reached the Fat Lady.
"You take care now," Malfoy said with a wave.
Hermione turned to the Fat Lady and muttered the password. The portrait swung open and Hermione turned to face Malfoy. "Thanks again."
"Goodnight," Malfoy said with a soft smile.
"Okay, goodnight." Hermione stepped past the open portrait and into the Gryffindor Common Room. She looked over her shoulder and caught the sight of Malfoy still standing there in the corridor, smiling at her, before the portrait swung close, sealing the Common Room entrance.
Once the entrance was fully sealed Hermione let out a huge sigh. She didn't know what that last part was but it was especially awkward.
"If there were only a way to break them up," Hermione muttered. "But that's an impossibility, since they're not even together now."
"Er…" Harry was confused by Hermione's sudden soliloquy. "Who are you talking to Hermione?"
Harry and Hermione sat beside the hearth later that evening and the usually crowded Common Room had began to stand still. Harry was busy finishing up a Transfiguration essay he had to submit by tomorrow while Hermione was merely keeping him company. She was comfortably tucked into a huge velveteen-covered armchair, but a frown coloured her face black.
"C'mon now, you know you can talk to me, don't you?" Harry asked, putting his quill down.
"There's this guy I like."
"I should not be doing so."
Hermione let out another sigh. "He's bloody betrothed."
Harry remained silent and waited for Hermione to open up. And not a few seconds later Hermione buried her face in her hands and groaned loudly.
"I swear there is chemistry. We could talk about anything and everything and still have much to talk about. There's never a dull moment. He dresses nicely. He's smart. Talks about stuff other than himself - which some guys have a hard time doing," Hermione said with one fell swoop. "But, he is betrothed. We can work around that, right?"
Harry approached this with tender caution. "Er… What do you mean work around it?"
"Do you think there is a way for him to break off the betrothal? I mean, I wouldn't ask him to do it. But there's got to be a way…"
"Hermione," Harry said softly. "Are you hearing yourself? Are you sure it's just a crush?"
Harry smirked. "Sounds like bloody obsession to me."
Hermione scowled at him. "You don't understand."
Rubbing her face with both hands exasperatedly, Hermione stood up and began pacing around the room.
Harry sighed. "C'mon Hermione, sit down and tell me what's on your mind."
"Do you think he likes me, Harry?" she asked as she obeyed Harry and took her seat again.
"So I'm assuming you know that I know you like Malfoy?"
"As if it's not so obvious," Hermione said bitterly. "You guys know me too much. I couldn't hide something this big, even if I tried. But answer my question."
"Well, I think he does," Harry said slowly. "But I think he's not sure what he feels for you. Maybe you confuse him."
"I confuse him?!"
Harry laughed. "You probably do. Think about it, from his point of view. A few months back, he was Draco Malfoy, Death Eater's son. You used to hate him. Now he's getting used to the idea of being your friend. Maybe it's too soon for him to get used to seeing you as more than just. Plus, you say he's betrothed… You must add more to his internal battles than you realise."
"You're right," Hermione said dejectedly. "Of course, you're right. But…"
"But what?" Harry asked warily.
"Is it so bad to want to have a chance with him?" Hermione said. "Is it that wrong to want to make him know that I am an option? Maybe it is.
"I guess we'll always be stuck in this tight grey area where I'll always be his friend. His very good friend. But nothing more than that?
"But what if they weren't meant to be? What if we let this opporunity pass us by and little do we know, we missed our destiny? Would fate be that cruel to let me miss out on being happy? 'Cause so far I have had nothing but happy moments with him. I'm getting too emotional. Merlin have mercy on me. Since when was I emotional, Harry?!"
"You've always been emotional, Hermione," Harry said with a soft smile. "But I guess you really do like him. Word of advice though…"
"Watch your heart. I know your intentions are pure," Harry said as he stood up and placed a hand on Hermione shoulder. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."
"Seeing you get what you want and being happy is great," Harry said softly. "But try not to expect so much from him and blow this out of proportion, I'd hate to see your bubble popped. You'll only get hurt."
Hermione sighed. "I know."
"Goodnight Hermione, you best be going up too."
"Thanks for talking sense into me Harry," Hemrione as she stood up and followed Harry towards the staircase that led to the dormitories. "Goodnight."
Author's Notes: Jeepers! I wrote that one quite fast. Two days… Not bad, eh? Haha. Anyway, thanks for all your reviews. I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I loved writing it out. Leave more reviews! I love them. Till next time, ciao!