Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling, who I am in no way affiliated with. I am not profiting off of this work in any way. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 3, Sense of Direction
Hermione would normally have sat with Harry, but today Ron had gotten to him first, effectively claiming Harry for the duration of Herbology. This left Hermione to work with Neville who, as it happened, was rather brilliant at Herbology. She could easily have done the work herself, but seeing Neville glow as he was... She let him repay her for doing his work in Potions all those times.
The downside of this was that now she had a lot of idle time to spend glaring at Won-won and his insufferable girlfriend, Lav. Hermione knew it was petty, but after noticing the parallel of nicknames between "Lavender" and "lavatory," she thought of the girl only as Lav. To be fair, the alternate definition would've been easier to stomach.
When watching them together became unbearable, Hermione tried to watch Neville instead. He was too happy, though. She was still in a rotten mood from last night, and all signs of happiness in other people left a poor taste in her mouth. Quickly, she located the person who looked the least happy of anyone. She would have done so even faster, had she not taken a moment to adjust to the fact that it was, in fact, Draco Malfoy.
After what could only be considered a victory on his part the evening prior, she expected him to be glowing with smugness, but instead he looked rather down. Gloomy, even. If it was anyone else, she would have felt a pang of empathy, identifying immediately with their sorrow. Instead, she was suspicious. Clearly something big must have happened, to keep him from taunting her now.
As the class ticked by, she kept stealing looks at him, to make sure he was still gloomy. He was.
Harry strode by Ron's side as everyone made their way back to the castle, and without thinking about it, Hermione let herself fall to the back of the group. Now that the class was over, she'd managed to forget Malfoy's forlorn expression, but it seemed he'd taken that opportunity to remember her.
"Fancy that, finding Granger all alone again." Malfoy's cronies were walking a safe distance behind them, possibly to prevent any escape attempt on her part. After glancing back, she chose to keep pace with him, but said nothing in response.
"Just like old times, eh, Granger? Just like first year?" She glared at him suddenly then, and he looked almost frightened. Somehow, what he'd said seemed lower than his usual comments. Probably because it was true.
"I don't remember you being such an arse back in first year, Malfoy. But then, I guess ferrets evolve." He laughed as if he were amused at this, she did not.
"No need to be so mean, Granger, I'm only trying to keep you company. Potter seems to have lost interest, can't I have a go at being your best mate? The standards are clearly set very low." He sneered as he said this and it was all she could do not to roll her eyes.
"What do you want from me, Malfoy?"
"I want to know why," he answered immediately, all traces of amusement gone from his face.
Still keeping pace, she turned to him. "Why what?" She considered giving a few sarcastic suggestions, but as per usual, curiosity won out over any other instinct, and she waited for his answer. She didn't have to wait long.
"I want to know why you like him, Weasely. Why him." His voice was low enough so that not even Crabbe and Goyle, now trailing along at a more casual distance behind them, could hear.
Now it was Hermione's turn to laugh. "No you don't."
He looked her unwaveringly in the eyes. "I do."
It was stupid. She should say nothing, should admit nothing, should offer him no more fuel to burn away at her with. By exposing herself to him, she could only become more vulnerable, and he had made it clear the night before that he would leap at any semblance of vulnerability. And yet... Something about the way he looked at her, as tacky as it sounded, compelled her to trust him.
"It's everything about him," she stated matter-of-factly. "He's completely lacking in self-awareness, but he has this... this ability to be so kind, so caring. He doesn't even realize it, but he's so sweet sometimes. So good. So sincere. He can't hide anything, he feels every emotion so fiercely... He's stubborn, he's a git, but, there's something about him. Something loyal, noble. He get's confused with himself, but his intentions, they're always good."
Malfoy scoffed at this. "Loyal. He doesn't look loyal to me Granger."
Her fists clenched. "You asked, Malfoy. It's not my fault you're not in love with Ron."
"You're not in love with him," he corrected with a frown.
She matched it with her own. "I am."
"No, you're not."
"I am," she answered evenly again, refusing to let him prod her into raising her voice.
"Real love is suffering."
"I am suffering." Hermione hadn't noticed, somehow, that they had entered the school. Now they were walking down a hallway she wasn't entirely familiar with, just her, Draco, and his bodyguards. It was an entirely dangerous position to be in and she hated herself for only realizing it now.
"You don't even know the meaning of it," he hissed. "Love isn't pining after someone who's always counted you as a friend, who'll inevitably return to you after their stupid fling. Love is deeper than wanting, it's its own feeling, this deep pull that comes from inside your ribs, drawing you forward but not moving you at all, knowing that whatever, whomever you reach for will never be low enough for you to get to them."
Hermione laughed. "You're a terrible poet, Malfoy, and an even worse liar. I don't know what you're playing at, but I don't be ambushed today." With that, she quickly turned away from him and maneuvered past Crabbe and Goyle, taking a sharp turn and disappearing down another winding corridor.
"Should we go after her?" Crabbe asked, cracking his knuckles against his hand.
Draco shook his head, the absolute idiocy of the entire conversation rushing towards him all at once.
What was I even doing?
Note: Thanks to those who read, and to those who review. I know it's been... What, 1.5 years since I last updated? But I'm a firm believer in the notion that unfinished stories are tragic, and so now that I've got the time, I thought I'd put another chapter down. It's not that I'm callous, I'm just busy