Chapter 4: The First Night
Over the next few weeks, Draco was surprisingly quiet, at least in comparison to how he used to jeer at Hermione and her friends. He never sought the chance to pick a fight with Harry, and when Ron had dumped half of his pumpkin juice down the front of himself, Draco didn’t even laugh. He just met Hermione’s gaze, then looked away. It was possibly due to his unusual activity, or rather, lack thereof, that prompted Harry to burst into a frustrated tirade one night when the three of them were alone in the Common Room.
“Why hasn’t he made a single move?”
Hermione looked up from her book. “Whom are you talking about?”
“Malfoy! He’s being sneaky about something! Why else wouldn’t he have tried something already? I mean, he didn’t even laugh at Ron when he made a mess of himself at dinner!”
Ron looked embarrassed and sputtered in his own defense. When it appeared that he was not going to get anywhere with his arguments, he puzzled over Malfoy’s behavior as well.
“What do you think he could be planning?”
Harry started pacing in front of the fire. “I don’t know, but this is Malfoy, so it has to be something really bad.”
Hermione carefully marked her page, and then quietly closed the book she’d been trying to read.
“And why must you always assume the worst about him? Perhaps he’s matured enough to know that the way you used to treat each other was silly and childish.”
Two pairs of astonished eyes goggled at her. Hermione flushed slightly under their scrutiny.
“Are you mental?” Ron asked, sounding so much like his sister that it tempter Hermione to look around the Common Room for Ginny. Harry shook his head, then resumed his pacing.
“No, you’re wrong Hermione. Malfoy is nothing worse than what I think he is! He’s proved it himself, time and time again!”
Hermione let out an exasperated sigh. “Harry, you only see the mean, arrogant side of him. You would probably believe him to be a Death Eater if he gave you the slightest inkling that it was true!”
Ron’s eyes widened, then met Harry’s bright green gaze, sick excitement written across their faces.
“That’s it. Hermione, you’re a genius!” Harry exclaimed, “Malfoy must have become a Death Eater in his father’s place. I bet he’s down there in the Slytherin dungeons planning something evil with his cronies!”
It was now Hermione’s turn to goggle, as Ron and Harry began once again to malign Draco’s character. She had hoped that her defense of Draco might have opened their minds to the possibility that he’d grown up over the summer. It would seem not, however.
Frustrated with Harry’s constant harping, and Ron ranting right along, she tossed down her book and stalked from the Common Room. Since it was late, there were few people in the corridors.
Not yet curfew. Hermione noted, looking out the window, suddenly wistful for Harry’s cloak, so she could take a walk on the moonlit grounds, consequences be damned.
She began wandering down the hallways and staircases, intending to while away a few hours in the library. She quickly diverted her path, however, when she noticed Madam Pince ushering a group of chattering first years from Hermione’s first idea of refuge.
Careening off her original course, she headed down a different corridor, then into a secret passage that would take her up a flight of stairs. When she got to the top of the passage, she heard the gong that signaled curfew. The sound was accompanied by the distant noise of shuffling feet and conversation. Hermione was not yet ready to return to the Common Room, and have to deal with Harry and Ron. She ducked down another hallway and came face to face with a statue. It was the statue that was in the fifth-floor hallway, she knew that, but as it was getting dark, Hermione couldn’t quite make it out.
She heard the soft padding of feet behind her and turned to see a light coming down the hall right towards her. She quickly slipped into the nearest room and closed the door quietly behind her. She took a deep breath and hoped that whoever had been there wouldn’t follow her into the room. She needed to think, and having lots of people wouldn’t help her mind to sort out all the thoughts currently racing through it.
She turned to find out where she’d ended up, and realized with a start that it was the Prefect’s bathroom.
“How did I get in without the password?” She mused to herself. Shrugging out of her robes, and tossing them to one of the benches along the wall, she turned on one of the taps, smiling slightly as frothy purple bubbles poured out into the water. Enjoying their fragrance, she turned on a few more, to fill the tub faster, thinking that perhaps a bath would help settle her thoughts into something she could organize properly.
After the water had filled high enough, Hermione shimmied out of her uniform, setting it neatly aside with her robes, and then slid into the warm, lavender-scented water with a sigh.
Hermione splashed around in the bubbles for a few moments before settling in one place and slowly treading water, while she thought.
Draco is being so odd lately. I wonder why he’s being so solemn. He doesn’t seem to be doing well. He always seems so sad whenever I see him. I wish I knew what was going on with him.
She waded around for a little while longer, enjoying the serenity and peace of the bathroom. Her solitary calm was intruded upon though, quite suddenly by a clatter off to one side.
A lone figure was sitting up on one of the benches. It was apparent that they had been asleep there, lying in a shadowy area, that Hermione had not seen them when she came in. Fear gripped her when she realized that the bubbles were long since dissipated and that if whoever else was in the room with her would be able to see her nude form under the water if they came close enough to the pool’s edge.
She swam slowly back to the far end of the pool, closer to her clothing. The sound of the water splashing drew the attention of the person across the room. Standing up, they came closer, and out of the shadows.