Chapter 10: Dungeons and Dragons
Draco paced back and forth in front of the fire in the Slytherin Common Room. He’d messed things up with Hermione, he knew it on some level, but he still wasn’t sure what had gone wrong. Things had been going so great, and he thought that she really liked him. Now she was literally running from him, and telling him she didn’t want to have him anywhere near her.
“What went wrong?” He exclaimed to himself.
The two Slytherin third-year girls who had been watching him pensively jolted, then ran for their dormitory as Draco stormed around the Common Room. He didn’t know what to think, and this thing with Hermione was throwing him completely off. He used to be so sure of himself, confident in his every gesture, but now… now it was different. She’d changed him somehow. That was it! Something about the way she was when she was with him made him want to stop and think. It made him want to spend time getting to know her and making her smile. He had heard her laugh once, walking down the corridor in front of him, and the sound had been infectious, making him want to laugh right along with her.
She was all wrong for him, he knew that. There was plenty of evidence that she would not be warmly welcomed if he ever decided to introduce her to his parents. And her life would be in danger if the Dark Lord did rise again. She was one of the people that Draco should stay far away from. The one person who he should not be falling for.
The thought struck him like a brick to the head. Was he falling in love with Hermione? It couldn’t be. He shook his head, both in denial and in the attempt to clear the thought. He couldn’t take this anymore, he was going to drive himself mad with all this thinking to himself. He needed to talk to someone. The problem was, the person he wanted to talk to the most was also the one who didn’t want to talk to him.
An idea came to him at some point during the night. He would talk to someone. Hopefully, that someone would be understanding, and not become crazed when he told them about his thoughts and feelings for Hermione Granger. The only question now was, how to get to them?
He knelt in front of the fire grate in the Slytherin Common Room. His fellow students had gone off to breakfast, and while they were milling around the Great Hall, Draco used the opportunity to talk to the one person whom he thought he could trust to be there for him. She always had been.
He threw the Floo powder in the fire, and shouted, “Malfoy Manor!” His head felt like it was spinning, but at least this time it was because of the Floo powder, and not the thoughts that had plagued him throughout the night. When he stopped, he was looking into his mother’s sitting room. It adjoined her bedroom, and she was sitting in a chair by the little tea table, reading a letter. There was a silver tray of what was most obviously her breakfast, though it had not been touched. Draco hoped that it was simply because it had just arrived, and therefore she had not started, rather than her not eating it at all.
It took her a moment to realize that he was there. In that moment, it gave him a chance to look his mother over thoroughly. She was still thin, he’d guess thinner than when he’d been home even. He worried for her, and he felt his heart give an odd pang when she looked up from her letter and saw him there.
Her face was drawn and pale, and the shadows under her eyes seemed to have become permanent. She had the same tread-upon look that Hermione had worn yesterday morning, and he knew now why it had affected him to see it then. She had reminded him of his mother.
“Draco!” Her surprise was evident, and while she at first looked very happy to see him, it gave way almost immediately to concern. She got up from her table and came to kneel in front of his face in the fireplace.
“What’s going on? What are you doing here so early? Is something wrong?” Her instant anxiety over him triggered something in him, and he looked up into the clear blue eyes of his mother.
Before he realized what he was saying, he began telling her all about how he had fallen for “her” and he couldn’t make tops from bottoms of the whole situation. That it was all “her” fault that he couldn’t sleep last night, and how “she” had invaded his mind and left him wondering what it all meant. His mother gave him a small smile, then asked for clarification.
“What do you mean, clarification?” He responded, confused.
“Well, Draco, I’m sure that this girl is lovely. She would have to be in order to have captured your attention so completely. Yet I have no idea as to whom you might be talking about.”
“You’d love her, Mum, if you gave her a chance. She’s smart, and funny, and is an absolutely incredibly witch! And she knows how it feels to be a bit of an outcast.” Even as he said it, Draco realized that it was true. He also knew that he hadn’t helped matters over the years. His stomach roiled with guilt and vowed not to make the same mistake again. His mother smiled indulgently at him again, then said,
“She sounds wonderful dear, but who is she? Do we know her family?” Draco swallowed, not sure how to respond, and tried to brace himself for his mother’s reaction.
“You’ve never met them, but I know that you’ve heard of them. I think that if you disregard that fact though, you would just love her. She can be so charming, and she has this laugh…it just makes me want to laugh right along with her!” Now his mother laughed lightly at him, and for a second he caught a glimpse of the woman she had been before. Bright, and beautiful and cheerful at home.
“Her name Draco. Surely I can’t meet her without knowing first who she is.”
“Well, that’s the thing. I’m not sure if you’ll want to meet her. She’s – “ His mother cut him off.
“Draco! Of course, I’d want to meet her. Such a wonderful sounding young lady? And she has your heart already. There’s no question that I would delight in meeting her. Perhaps we could have her for tea this summer? Or I could come and visit you at school, and we could dine then.” The idea startled him.
Without even knowing it, he’d just invited his mother to meet Hermione in the one place that Hermione felt safe. School was sacred to her, hallowed ground as it were, and if his mother had a less than favorable feeling on his interactions with a Muggle-born, well, it would change Hermione’s view of Hogwarts drastically.
“So, come tell me what her name is, and I shall write to your teachers to let them know I will be joining you at school this Christmas for a few days. I should also get her something for the holiday, don’t you think? What sorts of things does she enjoy?”
“Mum, you don’t have to come all this way just to see her. I’m sure your meeting her could wait until the end of the term.”
“Nonsense! I would like to meet this – what did you say her name was again?”
“Hermione,” Draco mumbled, bracing for the impact of his words to hit his mother.
“I would like to meet this Hermione as soon…” she trailed off as her face drained of what little color had been there. She looked shocked, then confused. “But surely you don’t mean that Muggle girl? Granger, was it?”
Draco thought it was a very good sign that she wasn’t throwing things, and so pressed on.
“The very same. Mother, I have all these confusing feelings for her, and when I tried to tell her, she ran away. I’m not sure what I should do, and now she says that she doesn’t want me anywhere near her.” He stopped and looked at the extra-pale face of his mother, and noted that she was not working herself into a rage. It seemed almost as if she was trying to process everything that he’d said.
“I don’t know what to do.” He repeated quietly, “And I think I’m falling in love with her.” Now that he’d said the words, Draco felt them be completely true. They also had the effect of bringing his mother out of her reverie.
“You are falling in love with Hermione Granger?” She said it as if she wanted to try it out and it gave him a moment of fret when she did not say anything else right away. Was she that upset with his choice? Did he have reason to believe that his mother would still want to buy Hermione a Christmas gift? He was now even more confused than before!
“You are falling in love with Hermione Granger.” She said it again, this time with more finality to her voice.
“Yes, I believe I am.” He returned.
“And how does she feel about you? Does she- does she return your affection?” This question surprised him, as he had not expected this. Granted, if he was going to be honest with himself, Draco didn’t think that he had really known what to expect to begin with.
“I don’t know!” He burst forth, startling them both with the passion of his tone. “I thought that she did! I mean, if you had seen the way she looked at me. But then last night, she seemed to scoff at the idea that I might fancy her! And then she ran out of the closet and told me to leave her alone… She called me Malfoy again, too.”
His mother looked at him, confused by his rant.
“Why would it bother you to be called ‘Malfoy’? It’s your name.”
He colored slightly, then replied, “It’s not that she called me ‘Malfoy’, it’s that she had been calling me Draco. She has since the night in the bathroom.”
“My goodness! First the closet, now the bathroom? My dear, what sort of girl allows herself to be alone with a boy in such situations?”
“Oh no, Mum, it wasn’t like that.” He shook his head, “The other night I had been in the Prefect’s bathroom, and she didn’t know I was there when she came in. I think I might have scared her because she slipped under the water, and I had to pull her out of the bath. Once I got her out of the water, she was fine. Then, she had dragged us into the closet last night before dinner, so that she could talk to me without everyone else peering into our business.”
“I see…” His mother didn’t look very happy with his explanation though, because she pressed the issue. “What state was she in when you pulled her from the bath?”
He smiled a little at the remembrance of her that first night. She had been cold and wet and shivering. But the fragrant water had perfumed her hair, and if he closed his eyes, he could almost recall how the lavender had mixed with her own body chemistry to make something so sweetly Hermione. Her lashes had been spiked and her face was flushed with adorable modesty and embarrassment.
“She was beautiful.” The words came out as a sigh, and Narcissa raised an eyebrow at her son.
“I mean, for being half-drowned.” He tried to backpedal but his mother smiled at him indulgently again. He hadn’t expected her to smile.
“I’ll write to Dumbledore and Professor Snape this morning, and make the arrangements for me to meet you at Hogwarts for a few days during your Christmas break. Perhaps you and she will meet me in Hogsmeade one of the afternoons, and we can take her to Tea.”
If he was surprised by her smile, it was nothing in comparison to this! He had told her of his feelings for Hermione, and she was still inviting her to tea!
“Mother, are you sure though?” She looked at him then, and there was a depth of understanding in her expression.
“You love her, don’t you?”
“Then I will give her a chance. For your sake.”
“But she’s a Muggle-born.” He was afraid that it would be this factor that would keep the women he loved apart.
“Maybe so, but you love her, and I do believe that during your effusion you said that she was an incredible witch. It is enough for me now, to know that you care about her.”
“Mum…” Draco didn’t know what to say. She filled in the blank for him.
“I love you too, Draco dear. Now isn’t it time you went for breakfast?” He flashed her a grin.
“Isn’t it time you did the same?” He teased, and his mother kissed his cheek, then stood, her white dressing gown flowing around her.
“Indeed, it is. I will send that owl this afternoon. Have a good day, Draco.”
“Good day Mother. And thank you.” She smiled her response at him and drifted back to the table where she picked up a pastry. Draco pulled himself back through the fire, the last image of his mother one of her taking a distracted bite of her breakfast.
As he stood up, he wanted to go to the Great Hall suddenly. Yet he was not hungry. Not for food. He wanted to find Hermione and work things out with her. And he wanted to do it now before they were put in the uncomfortable position of being together in detention with her friends.
Draco set off, the only thought on his mind was that of finding the bushy-haired bookworm who’d captured him so completely.
He didn’t see the person extract themselves from the shadows, a thoughtful look on their face.