Draco struggled where he watched, and it was a hard struggle. Two parts of him, both ingrained and taught since childhood, were at odds.
And one Mr. Blaise Zabini had pointed out his own hypocrisy: "A gentleman will be always polite, in the parlor, dining-room, and in the street… especially including courtesy towards ladies, no matter what may be their age or position. A man who will annoy or insult a woman in the street, lowers himself to a brute, no matter whether he offends by look, word, or gesture."
A true gentleman would always help a lady in need.
And that same Mr. Blaise Zabini had repeatedly pointed out just how much a lady one Miss Hermione Granger was. Despite her muggle upbringing she displayed many of the classy manners they observed in their own mothers: the prim conduct that elevated them above the bullies and brutes around them.
Draco's face pinched sourly before he closed his eyes and his posture loosened in defeat.
"Here, let me:" he said shortly, carefully taking the heaviest books from the struggling female.
She was left with only two small tomes, ones she could quite easily manage with one hand.
"Well, thank you," she said quietly, unsure, a little shock showing on her face.
"My pleasure to be of service," he managed to choke out, his face still feeling pinched.
Her expression clouded over coldly at his tone. "Of course," she finished and then let him escort her to a table.
Draco, slightly discombobulated, set the stack of three books down and cleared his throat. Hermione Granger's cool dark eyes looked at him, her own two hardbacks set gently on the table, and she waited.
He closed his eyes briefly before nodding.
"If you'll excuse me," he managed before abruptly turning on his heel and leaving the stacks.
He didn't look back.
Instead he sneered at the Weaselette as he left the quiet library, heading straight to the dungeons to take out his bewildered frustration on Crabbe and Goyle.
Hermione, slightly bewildered, followed her arm as Ginny pulled her to a corner of the stacks. The redhead had marched right up to her table and grabbed her upper arm without so much as a greeting.
"What are you thinking?" Ginny hissed furiously, her dark brown eyes flashing as she flicked her fiery red hair over her shoulder.
Hermione blinked, "I was trying to finish my essay for Arithmacy, I have to clear my schedule to—"
Ginny scoffed and rolled her eyes—"I mean about Malfoy!"
Hermione blinked again. "Excuse me?"
Ginny scowled. "Malfoy was carrying your books for you," she said ever so slowly, as if Hermione was dull.
The brunette drew back, slightly offended. "Yes, he offered." And that had only happened minutes ago…
Ginny practically threw up her hands! "It's Malfoy!" she stressed. "And you don't need anyone, least of all him, to carry your books for you!"
"He offered! It would have been rude of me to refuse!"
"Well it would have," Hermione firmly repeated.
The redhead rolled her eyes. "Hermione, you aren't dating him and don't owe him anything. Letting him think you are weak won't help you. Now everyone's talking about it," she gestured around the library.
"Wait, you think allowing myself to be treated with chivalry means I'm weak?" Hermione questioned incredulously.
Ginny colored furiously and folded her arms across her athletic chest. "Hermione, you can't tell me that you needed help with that stack, it's not even as towering as usual." She added forcefully, "Strong women don't need to be coddled like that."
"Being treated with chivalry has nothing to do with being a weaker sex!"
Ginny raised her eyebrows, her expression unimpressed.
"Chivalry is how a true gentleman displays his respect for a lady. A truly skilled gentleman knows there is a time to remain aside, to offer, or to insist. Draco offered because, though it was a smaller stack than usual, I was still struggling with my books. Since," here Hermione raised her voice to cut off Ginny's ensuing comment, "he offered and displayed such courtesy; it was my pleasure to accept out of reciprocal courtesy."
Ginny stood up straight and stared at her as if she was looking at one of Luna's fanciful creatures come to life.
Hermione, her lips pursed and eyebrows angled sharply, sniffed and tilted her chin up. "If he keeps on demonstrating such gentlemanly conduct, I just might come to respect him too," she added as a dig, incensed that she had to defend herself.
Ginny's entire face and ears went up in color, and she sputtered quite nicely (if Hermione let herself think so). The redhead finally threw up her hands, visibly fed up with the conversation, before she spun with a swirl of her brilliant hair and stormed out of the library.
Hermione blinked in consternation, and, with a huff, spun on her heel to return to her table and the innocent books. She paused mid turn though, as several of the other students in the library, and even Madame Pince, quickly averted their gazes.
It was a little disconcerting.
Drawing up her shoulders, and tilting up her chin, Hermione primly sat in her chair and cracked open the spine of the first heavy tome.
Draco, astounded, sat stiffly on the leather chaise as Blaise smiled smugly. They were in their commons and despite the distance from the incident, and the fact that it had barely been an hour since, the story of the subsequent clash of the two female lions had reached the den.
It had been quite a struggle for the Zabini to get his point across earlier, and he was particularly proud that he was seeing proof and had managed in the mess to bewilder the Malfoy heir (the blond aristocrat was so reticent to display that emotion).
Blaise also felt proud of Miss Granger. Not only had she demonstrated her manners and morality with her prim conduct and speech, but she'd also defended Draco for his gentlemanly endeavors.
It was admirable, especially for a muggleborn Gryffindor of the younger generation.
Draco cleared his throat and turned silver eyes to him, silent and searching.
Blaise carefully feigned quiet interest instead of predatory amusement.
"Miss Granger," the Malfoy managed to word out respectfully, "is quite the lady."
White teeth flashed against dark skin as Blaise grinned at the concession.
Blaise's remonstration of Draco comes almost directly from The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness by Cecil B. Hartley (1860). And I don't own anything you recognize about the Harry Potter universe.
I'm thinking this might turn into a series of loosely related one shots…