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By the way, Hermione and Draco are both 21, for those who don't know.
He was still smirking, gleefully regarding her lack of response.
"Enjoying the view?" he inquired confidently, remaining on his back while stretching. Absolutely horrified, Hermione realized he was not referring to the stunning view of the pitch.
The brunette attempted to give an indignant growl, but sounded more like she was choking. Clearing her throat loudly, she took three clumsy steps away from him. Upon hearing his remark, Hermione was woozy with mortification – he knew he was the focus of her admiration. And damn her deceitful complexion, which hadn't fully recovered from the previous blush elicited by her admiration! She easily hid her eyes from his, but she was convinced he could feel the heat of her blush. Hermione braced herself for his usual name-calling, but it never came.
It seemed he momentarily lost interest in making Hermione feel uncomfortable with his attractive silver eyes, focusing his attention on retrieving something from his bag.
Although Harley desperately wished to continue watching the obviously awkward exchange between Hermione and the nameless hunk, she decided to intervene (otherwise Hermione would be rendered speechless a second time in less than two minutes, and Harley knew a speechless Hermione was a rarity).
"Hi…" Harley cringed at the squeaky quality of her voice. He sent the blonde girl a brief glance of acknowledgement.
"Yes?" Standing, he lazily slipped into a dark blue robe.
"Did you happen to meet a wizard named Talon during the tryouts?" Her unenthused tone suggested she already knew the answer.
Unexpectedly, he gave a soft chuckle. "I did, actually. Talon Vanderbilt, right? We're meeting in Diagon Alley for lunch."
"Is that so? Bloody idiot can invite someone he just met to lunch, but he can't invite me?" Harley bitterly muttered to Hermione. Turning to face her beau's new friend once more, she noticed his eyes gleaming with amusement. "I'm his girlfriend, Harley Winthrop."
"Draco Malfoy." Harley shook his hand before gracefully motioning to Hermione.
"I think you know my roommate, Hermione."
"Granger," he said in greeting.
Hermione gave a sickeningly sarcastic smile in response.
Grimacing at her roommate's behavior, Harley too gave the young man a smile, although hers was sincere.
"Would it be terribly forward to invite Hermione and myself to lunch with Talon and yourself?" Harley's remark caused Draco to avert his eyes from the intense glaring match he and Hermione were engaged in.
"That would be rather forward of you," he admitted curtly, but his response held no sting, much to Hermione's surprise.
"What time are we meeting him?" Harley questioned.
He eyed her sideways, somewhat impressed. "Did you really just invite yourself?"
The blonde witch looked away timidly, nodding. "I haven't seen him in weeks!"
Harley's answer seemed to suffice. He began gathering his belongings. "12:30 this afternoon, Diagon Pantry." Then he turned to leave.
Of course, Harley's mouth was unwilling to stay shut…
(...after an hour...)
"Haven't you tired of glaring at him?" Harley asked through gritted teeth, watching Hermione send a withering glare over her shoulder. Granted, Draco had yet to say or do anything deserving of her glare – he was actually being civil. Why was he acting so bloody civil? His lack of misbehavior greatly disturbed Hermione, hence the glaring.
"I cannot believe he's touring the campus with us" was Hermione's terse reply.
For over an hour, the three students silently explored the university grounds, with occasional muttered exchanges between the girls. Harley was so grateful to Draco for allowing her and Hermione to join he and Talon for lunch, she had impulsively invited him to their tour around the campus – much to the displeasure of her roommate.
Unlike Hogwarts, the University of Advanced Witchcraft and Wizardry did not call a castle home. Rather, the campus somewhat resembled the layout of a Muggle university. Three colossal main buildings dominated the grounds, while smaller buildings and dormitories attractively surrounded the main buildings. The land unoccupied by buildings was claimed by large shade trees, which framed easy-to-navigate pathways for the students. The campus was equipped not with a lake but a pond instead, which was located next to Balthier library. The "Duck Pond" (the pond population being primarily ducks), with its uncomfortable yet sufficient benches, was a common hangout for students.
Thirty minutes later, the trio ventured away from the campus toward Diagon Alley. At 12:15 p.m., they arrived at the small café called Diagon Pantry. The eatery was a semiformal, its only attempt at formality being the little wizard at the podium near the cramped front entrance assigning seating. Otherwise it had a very casual atmosphere. The high-quality food and refined menu helped raise the level of sophistication of the café.
"Do you have a reservation?" the little wizard, who was at least 35, asked Draco.
"I believe so. Under Vanderbilt, perhaps?"
"I just seated Mr. Vanderbilt. Follow me, please."
"Wait." Draco sent a glance over his shoulder at the two witches behind him. "Could we have a table for four instead?"
Macklin Foozle, the little host wizard, eyed Draco disdainfully. "It's lunchtime, my boy. Quartets are our most popular customers. Currently, we only have tables for two."
Draco's broad shoulders stiffened at the man's tone; he took a deep, calming breath.
"Then I'd like a table for two near Vanderbilt's table."
The evident disdain on Macklin's face did not falter. "Very well. Follow me."
They followed the grumpy wizard in silence. Eventually Hermione spotted a handsome young man sitting across from an empty seat. 'He must be Talon.'
"Talon!" She heard Harley say, and just as Hermione expected, the young man she assumed to be her roommate's boyfriend was indeed Talon. He promptly rose to his feet, beaming at the sight of his girlfriend.
Talon Vanderbilt stood at an impressive 6'6", his creamy tan complexion partnered with short dark brown hair (just a shade lighter than Hermione's). She almost laughed when she realized Talon's and Harley's robes matched. It was obvious he was the more attractive half of the relationship.
The couple shared a chaste kiss before Harley shoved him off lightly, embarrassed at their public display of affection.
"Did you arrive with Malfoy?" Although Talon was grinning, he was understandably confused.
"I was looking for you at the pitch and I met Draco. Imagine my surprise when I learned he had a lunch date with you." Before the young men could violently deny her claim, Harley continued. "Love, this is my roommate, Hermione Granger." Hermione's shoulder brushed against Draco's arm as she walked past him to shake Talon's hand.
Once the pleasantries were finished, the seating arrangements were decided: Harley and Talon shared a table, as did Hermione and Draco.
The two former Hogwarts students managed to order drinks and their meals without speaking to one another. Draco took a small sip of his red wine, smacking his lips approvingly before positioning his eyes on the brunette seated across from him.
"So, how are you, Granger?" he drawled casually.
Hermione looked up from the menu she was pointlessly perusing (while silently thanking the waitress for forgetting to take the menus after placing their orders).
"Don't call me Granger," she replied tersely.
The blond grinned victoriously. "She speaks." His handsome grin faltered, watching her roll her eyes. He sat in silence for a minute, considering her request. "And what would you like me to call you? Hermione?" Draco nearly snorted at his own suggestion but uncharacteristically refrained.
She seemed deeply captivated with her fork, as if forgetting she was one half of a conversation. "How about mudblood? Have you forgotten my lineage?" Hermione loudly dropped her fork, causing Harley to send a brief look of concern at the two.
The girl was tired of his act. Why didn't he fight for a seat at the other table? And not once had he expressed displeasure with his company for lunch. The infuriatingly pleasant young man willingly initiated conversation! What bothered her the most, though, was the absence of a certain word from his vocabulary – mudblood. Actually, most of the nasty words having called Draco's mouth home (during his years at Hogwarts) had yet to roll off his tongue. Hermione was convinced she was watching a brilliant, nearly believable, performance. Her questions accumulated while her patience dwindled.
"How are you," his grip on his wineglass tightened considerably. "mudblood?"
"Not hungry." Hermione stood, insulted – although fully aware it was she who suggested that he call her that filthy name, and she was outraged by his compliance! Since when did Draco Malfoy comply with the wishes of Hermione Granger!
He only gave a slight shrug in response to her predictable departure, completely unaffected – though Talon and Harley were thoroughly confused.
Hermione nearly slammed the suite's main door. Her anger hadn't faded during her journey back to the Marluxia dormitories.
However, Hermione's anger quickly diminished and was replaced by amusement – upon entering her suite, she spotted a girl donning a hideous white and neon pink puffy jacket. The weather outside was fantastic; her suitemate (well, Hermione assumed the girl was her suitemate) was terribly overdressed!
"Aren't you hot?" Hermione rudely blurted out before she could stop herself.
"Hot?" was her indignant reply. She had a Spanish-sounding accent. To Hermione's delight, the girl produced a book, turning to a specific page before she continued, "Hot… 'used as a banal compliment by teenagers who lack substance'." She gasped disapprovingly when Hermione burst in to a fit of giggles.
"I meant hot, as in the temperature. Your coat isn't exactly appropriate for the weather we're having." The girl was a foreigner, obviously. Hermione smiled, conveying her intentions were not cruel.
"Oh," came her soft reply. "I feel cold very easily. My body is not yet, ahh… adjusted to the weather here."
Hermione gestured to the sitting room, silently requesting that she and the girl continue their conversation on the black leather sofa. The sitting room was equipped with an ornate fireplace, four deep plum armchairs, a leather sofa, and a large coffee table. Black candelabras lit the room. They both sat before the conversation continued.
"If this temperature is already cold for you, you'll definitely need a thicker coat for winter."
Hermione studied the girl – she was elegantly curvaceous with a kind, pretty face. From her tanned skin, she deduced the girl lived somewhere tropical. "I'm Hermione Granger."
The girl with curly black locks shook the brunette's extended hand. "Bernadette Lorenzana."
Bernadette, a graduate of the Philippine School of Witchcraft, was a naïve nineteen-year-old Filipino majoring in Herbology. The girl thought of herself as a comedian, but her jokes were rarely ever funny. Her manic laughter at her own jokes was what people found hilarious about her and eventually she would begin to laugh along (though she always claimed their laughter was elicited by her jokes).
Hermione and Bernadette spent nearly three hours becoming acquainted with one another. The disastrous lunch with Draco was almost forgotten… until Harley returned. The blonde entered with a Styrofoam container in one hand and her keys in the other.
"Hi!" she greeted cheerfully, immediately noticing the new suitemate. Harley placed the Styrofoam container on the large coffee table before extending a hand to Bernadette. "You're one of our suitemates, huh? I'm Harley Winthrop. Welcome!"
"Bernadette Lorenzana—" she yawned loudly. "Excuse me. I am so tired."
"Jetlag." Hermione stated simply. "You should sleep. Worry about your sleeping pattern tomorrow."
Smiling at both her suitemates, Bernadette entered her room.
Harley sat where Bernadette had been seated, eyeing Hermione expectantly.
"So what's in the—" Hermione reached for the Styrofoam container, hoping to avoid the discussion she knew Harley was determined to have. She was surprised to discover the container was warm.
"Charmed with a warming spell," Harley answered her unspoken question. "That's the meal you left at the restaurant. Draco had it packaged for you."
Hermione groaned. Her attempt to avoid the entire subject of Malfoy backfired.
"Did you pay for my tab?" Embarrassed, she met Harley's eyes while reaching for her purse, wanting to reimburse her roommate.
"No. Draco did."
Shocked, Hermione's search for her purse abruptly ceased. Not only did Draco pay for her uneaten meal, he had it packaged – for her specifically.
Harley shifted closer to her roommate. "Hermione, what happened? What did he say to make you leave like that?"
Ashamed, Hermione looked away from the witch beside her. "He called me a mudblood."
"I – I don't believe it," was Harley's only response, wrapping a consoling arm around the brunette.
"Well, believe it! He's a wretched wizard. He may have you and Talon fooled, but I know it's not genuine! Draco Malfoy only surrounds himself with purebloods – he did that before the war and he continues to do so knowing the war was won by those who don't share his beliefs! He judges people by their surname; to him, knowing a surname or not knowing it tells him what kind of blood runs through someone's veins." Hermione paused, sighing. "Look, his friendship towards you and Talon may be sincere, since you're both purebloods—"
"Hermione, the Vanderbilts are known to be the oldest half-blood family in the wizarding community. With his knowledge of bloodlines, I'm sure Draco knows Talon is a half-blood."
She the Hogwarts Head Girl and valedictorian, felt stupid.
Malfoy consciously befriended a half-blood? Is there a possibility he wasn't acting with me today?
Hermione gasped, suddenly recalling an evening in June.
He was at the White Tomb, visiting a man he attempted to murder. The visit was definitely not an act, otherwise he would have come to the tomb when dozens of people could have witnessed it. The flowers proved his sincerity that night… so his befriending of Talon is the proof of what?
"That wizard is quite a mystery," Hermione declared softly. Somehow she knew her questions concerning the enigma that was Draco Malfoy wouldn't remain unanswered for very long.
"Breakfast?" Harley asked Hermione as they exited their suite; September ninth – the start of classes. It was 10:15 a.m. and the two roommates were ready for the day, dressed in teal freshman robes. Hermione was sporting an attractive leather book bag, an improvement over the infamous overstuffed bag she was always seen with at Hogwarts.
The brunette consulted the class schedule held in her left hand before giving Harley a reply:
School of Healing
University ID (UID): 1941803
Name: Hermione J. Granger
1. History of Magic
10:30 am-11:30 am
11:45 am-1:45 pm
1:45 pm-3:45 pm
3. Magical Maladies
4:05 pm- 5:30 pm
4. Introduction to Healing
11:30 am-12:45 pm
5. Healing Charms and Potions
3:50 pm- 5:15 pm
"Sorry, Harley; I've got class in fifteen minutes. History of Magic."
"Fine then, starve for all I care." Harley grinned as they parted, the blonde on her way to the university canteen while Hermione grudgingly headed to her history class. Whatever major a witch or wizard chose, his or her classed would be focused around their major. However, since the founding of the university, History of Magic was the only required class for every student, no matter their major. Although their majors differed, all students were connected by magic; therefore, a class devoted to magic's history was (understandably) a required course.
After a three minute walk through campus, Hermione entered Building Three (one of the three main buildings), quickly finding her classroom: H107.
The circular classroom was surrounded by levels of fixed wooden seats and desks – thirty rows of twenty desks each. A small platform with a built-in podium was positioned at the center of the room where the instructor presumably stood as he lectured.
Hermione selected a seat in level thirteen. She watched students dressed in teal, royal blue, or deep purple robes continuously enter the classroom. They would study the impressive design of the seats and desks before climbing up to the unoccupied higher levels (levels 25 to 30 were rather empty).
Hermione suddenly released a disgusted gasp, causing the gentleman who just took a seat beside her to gather his belongings, clearly insulted by her rude behavior.
"No! I've got no problem with you sitting beside me!" she called after him, but he had already found a new seat in the row beneath hers.
Her gasp was not caused by the stranger who decided to sit by her; she gasped because Draco Malfoy had just entered her classroom.
He confidently swaggered into the classroom. To Hermione's displeasure, he looked absolutely amazing in his teal freshman robes. She was not the only female who noticed him; many of the females in H107 greedily eyed Draco. Either he was completely oblivious to the attention he was receiving or the prick was simply accustomed to having many eyes on him. Of all the people he could have locked eyes with, his intense silver gaze met Hermione's. She nearly looked away, but Draco ended their eye contact first. Hermione tried to nonchalantly follow his journey to a seat, expecting him to sit beside her. His ascent was deliberately slow, as if he were aware of what she expected from him (he was completely aware). But he bypassed her level, continuing on to level 29.
Draco's infuriating inner schoolboy (though he no longer identified with that persona, apparently; still, Hermione was convinced the schoolboy who loved to infuriate her still existed) would have coaxed the attractive blond to seat himself beside Hermione – not for her company but to annoy her. Draco Malfoy delighted in mercilessly annoying and teasing her at Hogwarts. He teased her at the Illyrian Stadium. He annoyed her by accepting Harley's invitation to explore the campus with them. So why didn't he annoy her by claiming the seat beside her?
Hermione smiled triumphantly.
Because their disastrous lunch had affected him somehow.
Hermione functioned mechanically for three weeks. She'd sleep, go to her classes, study, eat (sometimes), and then the cycle began again. On weekends she spent her time with Harley. If Harley was with Talon, Hermione was usually with Bernadette. Theoretically, seeing Harry and Ron seemed simple; but Hermione realized reuniting every weekend was difficult. Not only did she want to study during her weekends, Hermione also wanted to live the university life! Due to the lack of contact between herself and her two best friends, she figured the boys were also living the typical lives of college boys. In actuality, she had yet to play the role of a college student on a Saturday night. After her first Anatomy exam, though, Hermione was determined to discover the nightlife with her suitemates.
And no, she and Draco had not spoken.
On Thursday night, Hermione spent five hours at Balthier library. Three of those hours were spent sleeping on her meticulous Anatomy notes. When she finally woke, the library was nearly empty (save a few students pulling all-nighters). Quickly shoving her belongings into her leather book bag, Hermione scurried out of the colossal building.
Hermione decided to visit the Duck Pond, since she was contemplating drowning herself for foolishly falling asleep when she was supposed to be studying.
"Just eat. It's getting late, and I've got a class tomorrow at ten."
That voice reached her ears with alarming familiarity.
The brunette was absolutely certain her mouth was hanging open but she didn't care. At first, Hermione thought she had overheard a boyfriend rushing his girlfriend to devour a meal. But when her eyes perused the area surrounding the pond, Hermione found a blond young man sitting on a stone bench – alone. He was not speaking to a girlfriend or even a human. He was addressing the five white ducklings gathered near his feet.
Draco Malfoy was feeding the ducklings!
"You're spoiling them," she heard herself say.
The distinct know-it-all tone of her voice immediately revealed her identity to him.
For a long time, he did not respond (and Hermione didn't notice he had stopped feeding the ducklings). Mentally, she cursed herself for acting so impulsively. Was it really necessary to tell him he was spoiling the ducklings?
Hesitantly, Hermione ventured a few steps closer to the bench he occupied.
"By giving them food without requiring them to exert effort."
"And I suppose there's some sort of proper duckling feeding technique you'll be showing me?" Draco placed a loaf of bread on the bench beside him, challenging her.
Hermione accepted the challenge. Discarding her belongings under a tree a few feet from where Draco sat, she then grabbed the loaf of bread. Knelt down at the edge of the pond, she then tore the bread into small pieces before tossing them into the water. "This will get them used to foraging for food. Otherwise they'll expect to be hand fed… and those who have food and aren't aware of the duckling's spoiled lifestyle will be attacked by the expectant ducklings."
Draco observed the ducklings as Hermione spoke. They were watching the bread sink to the bottom of the pond. One by one, the ducklings dove into the water, in search of the pieces of bread.
Hermione placed what remained of the loaf of bread on the ground beside her.
Draco understood her invitation. Heaving a sigh he crouched down beside her, taking the loaf of bread and imitating what she had done.
"So I take it you're through sulking about our lunch?"
She gave an unattractive snort in response. "Oh, so I'm the one who's been sulking?"
The blond acquiesced with a shrug.
"You—you haven't sat by me in history!" Hermione accused without thinking. In her head, the accusation made sense. But hearing it spoken aloud, she was horrified. She sounded as if she had a schoolgirl crush on the prick! Not only had he caught her admiring him (not him, really, his body), idiotically and unintentionally she had implied she was harboring a small crush on him! Hermione vomited in her mouth a little at that thought.
Draco smirked devilishly. "I saw you banish that poor bloke from the seat beside you once you saw me. Flattering, really. Too bad I declined the offer.
They both knew their dreadful lunch had affected him somehow, but Draco was infuriatingly unwilling to admit it! Rather than divulging why he had yet to approach her during their History of Magic classes, the idiot was inflating his own ego!
"Only because I gasped in disgust at the sight of you! He thought I was disgusted by him!" She was certain her traitorous cheeks were reddening.
" 'Gasped in disgust.' Yes, you were obviously sulking. Just like before our lunch at Diagon Pantry, when we first saw each other at the stadium, you gasped in disgust at the sight of me." Draco cocked an eyebrow. "Dare I say you were actually quite pleased to see me?"
Hermione cringed; he was terrifyingly observant. "It's late. I should head to my dorm."
In silence, she gathered her belongings, hanging her bag on a shoulder. Assuming he had already departed for his dorm, Hermione didn't bother saying goodnight before she left.
But after taking ten steps, she heard footsteps behind her–
"Are you following me?" She questioned without sending him a glance.
"Shut up, Grang–" He feigned an unconvincing cough, remembering she had asked him not to call her by her surname. "Just shut up. I'm exhausted."
Hermione noticed his hesitance to call her 'Granger'. Well, she had asked him not to address her by her surname, but his compliance still amazed her. The brunette smiled suddenly. It was nearly one in the morning. A dangerous time for a young woman to be alone on campus. Was he possibly walking her to her dorm? He almost seemed to be… escorting her. How curious.
"I live in Austuria," He offered wearily, as if hearing her thoughts.
Hermione nodded, the Austuria dormitories neighbored the Marluxia dorms.
They walked, Hermione slightly ahead of him, in silence for five minutes. When Hermione finally reached the Marluxia entrance doors, she spoke.
He nearly walked past Marluxia without a glance– but he stopped when he heard her speak. "What?"
"You can call me Granger."
It was up to Draco to accept her offering of peace.
Since her back faced him, Hermione didn't see a brief grin gracing his tired face. "Save a seat for me tomorrow... Granger."
Satisfied, she opened the large entrance doors, entering the Marluxia student lounge.
Draco walked past the Marluxia dormitories a second time, ten minutes after his short conversation with Hermione. He certainly did call Austria home, Hermione just assumed he was referring to the dormitory. But a Malfoy would never settle for a substandard dormitory.
He continued to walk home… to the Austuria Luxury Apartments across the Leaky Cauldron, in Muggle London– which was the opposite direction of the Austuria and Marluxia dormitories...
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