A Time for Truth
Draco waited on the pitch for the rest of the team to show up. Slytherin usually practiced on Thursday evenings rather than Friday mornings but Montague had told him earlier in the week that they switched practice times with Ravenclaw because Gryffindor wanted another practice in before their game against Slytherin tomorrow. And, naturally, Montague wanted another practice as well. All of the captains and professors met up to ensure everyone had adequate time on the pitch and Friday morning was, rather unfortunately, the time slot that Draco's team got stuck with.
Normally Draco would not have been too bothered by the change whatsoever. The only thing was that he still had not gotten the opportunity to actually sit down and read "Lucky Jim." He had had a couple of encounters with Hermione during the week and it was more than obvious that she was getting antsy. Draco had been doing so great about getting books back within days with suave letters. Unfortunately, this week was not going to great for him and he'd only touched the book long enough to put it into hiding.
There wasn't much time to linger on the thought, though, because roughly five minutes later a scrimmage had started. For Draco this wasn't much of a challenge as it was for everyone else. They went against each other and fought as hard as possible to win the mock game. When it came to Draco, he was at war with himself to beat his last find. So far this year Draco had been improving with each practice and each match. He would find it quicker; he would follow it slyly, always getting better. And today was no exception.
Montague ran the team ragged, running them through four different scrimmages. At the end of practice everyone was drenched in sweat and trembling. They hadn't worked themselves that hard since the beginning of the year when everyone was being whipped back into shape for the season. Even Draco, who would usually practice every day during the summer, was worn out and ready to fall where he stood. Then, as luck would have it, Montague announced the best news he'd heard all week.
"I spoke to Professor Snape this morning and managed a pass for your remaining classes. Those of you who have tests, I'm talking to you sixth years, will have to take them Sunday afternoon in the library. I will hold a study session beforehand in the Great Hall for breakfast. Any questions?" Draco smiled to himself. Very frequently Slytherins were seen as maniacal and aggressive individuals but Montague always challenged the standard. He cared about his team and their grades. There was a very good reason that he was the captain. Everyone dispersed high-fives and hugs were passed around. As soon as the polite gestures were all exchanged he used what energy he had left to bolt directly to the dorms to retrieve his book. He could have to Hermione by the end of the week yet!
It was definitely not the most hygienic decision of his life, but once Draco arrived in the dorms he sealed himself in his bed until he finished reading "Lucky Jim." Sure he smelled a bit off and his clothes were now cold from the sweat that still lingered. He hadn't even taken off his guards, actually. Draco merely plopped himself down and started flipping through the pages, hungrier than he'd ever been before. Not only to enjoy a story before Granger but also because he was dying to writer her back.
The story followed a young gentleman by the name Jim Dixon. He was apparently the equivalent of a Professor Binns for Muggle's higher education system, which probably was not the most interesting job, he could imagine, in Muggle society. His boss was another gentleman by the name of Welch. As the story continues it becomes apparent that the Welch family which Jim Dixon works for is full of prudes who believe they are superior to him. Draco immediately identified his family with the Welches and became somewhat shamed by the fact that he clearly behaved erroneously to others.
In addition to comical dialogue and event sequencing, there's a bit of a romantic flub occurring between characters as well. It seems Jim Dixon has associated himself with this suicidal woman out of guilt more than any sort of true attraction. In actuality it comes to fruition that he has feelings for the Welch's girlfriend. This seems pretty spot on since Mr. Welch is being as unfaithful as any one person could manage. Draco decided to pay attention the romantic story closely since the situation really felt relevant to him presently.
Once Draco closed the book several hours later he sighed. Jim Dixon hit rock bottom with a drunken speech but managed to somehow get a better job in the same city that his new girlfriend which he nicked from the nasty Welch gentleman. Everything worked out quite nicely actually, which left Draco feeling truly satisfied with the story. The impact of the novel was different than the others since it was a much lighter of a read than the other three pieces. It was exactly what he asked for and he was not disappointed. With great care, Draco lifted himself from his bed and undid his charms, allowing him to move effortlessly to the desk provided to them.
Allow me to apologize for the delay in returning your book and responding to your letter. Reading through the first few books deprived me of sleep so much so that I nearly got put in detention for neglecting my priorities just to finish the next page. But I happened across the opportunity to finally sit down and read through your father's book.
I rather enjoyed "Lucky Jim." Now, please try to follow me as best as possible because I will be responding directly to your concern that I am not taking this bond between us seriously. There is some romance in this book. In it I feel as though I related to Jim Dixon.
And, if I may be so bold, I almost felt as though you were the character Christine Callaghan. This does not refer to personality traits by any means, for I am not even half the man that comprises Jim Dixon. I advise that you read the story if you can manage. Once you've finished you may leave another book for me to read. I will read anything you give me and I will check the library daily for the next adventure.
I meant to come up with another hint for you but I feel as though I've already given two to you in this letter. You will see it if only you know where to look. Until it is my turn to read again…
Draco was pleased. He trusted that Hermione would start analyzing the words of his letter. He revealed that his physical state was exhausted. And if anyone looked more beaten down than him in the Slytherin house then he probably needed glasses. Plus he if she was paying close enough attention she'd know that the only fifth year Slytherin missing in classes was him. She was too anxious to miss little things like that, so long as she didn't linger on the fact that he basically said that he was a bit attracted to her. That was a confession, and not just to Hermione but to himself as well.
Over the last couple of days he had the chance to really analyze how much he cared. About the books, about the letters, about making a good impression on Granger; he literally lost sleep over it. It did cross his mind how much of a disgrace he might seem to his family were they ever to find out about his interest in a Muggle-born witch but at the same time he found himself responding to such concerns with "so what" attitude. Draco Malfoy was no only smart but he was talented too. Pompous as he seemed, the boy was completely aware of what he could do as a Quidditch player. He was intelligent enough he could be an Auror if he chose. Not to mention he could even be a Professor. It all just came down to ambition. Draco was sure if his family ever disowned him for his romantic decisions then he could easily reestablish himself.
And when all of it as considered it really allowed for Draco to see that he had come to like Hermione Granger very much…
After he reminisced on the feelings from the last few days Draco managed to get himself around enough so he could stop by the owlery after a much needed shower. A small bag was packed with a change of clothes and his package for Granger. Once he was settled on his route he left the dorms.
"Draco!" Pansy whooped as she entered the common at the exact same time that he was trying to leave, "I've been meaning to talk to you, actually."
Draco felt obligated to listen. After all, he had led her on for years. He owed her some sort of kindness that was not in the form of shouting. When she came over to him, close enough that he could inspect every aspect of her expression; Draco could see very plainly that she was much happier. At least she didn't end up in another unfulfilling relationship with a stuck-up Slytherin. Draco knew everyone pretty well and understood that every single one of them would normally have taken advantage of a clingy girl like Pansy Parkinson, even worse than he might have done.
"I guess now is as good a time as ever to apologize for shouting at you in the dorm the other night." His voice was sullen and disinterested, which happened completely out of habit. Pansy had this negative effect on him that turned off his common courtesy. It wasn't her fault, though, so he made sure to place a weak smile on his lips to compensate for the natural reaction.
"I know you better than you give me credit for, Malfoy." Pansy reached out and touched his elbow politely. As soon as she did it she recoiled instantly rather than lingering as she once did. Draco shrugged at her and glanced away, signifying that he really wasn't in the mood to talk to her any further. She doesn't take the hint, though, and continues talking to Draco anyway, "I won't keep you but I did want to let you know that I'm not angry with you anymore. I was at first but people tried to telling me and I ignored them. We all learn our lessons."
"You're a good person, Pansy. Better than I ever have been…" He pretends to be a part of the conversation as he always had done with her. She noticed right away and nodded to herself.
"That is true but don't undercut yourself. There's someone out there that will give you a reality check and humble you. Be it a good friend or the love of your life, that person will change you." Pansy is always so cheery when she speaks and her optimism sometimes spilled over to those around her. Draco found that he was honestly grinning. After he waved her off Draco left the common room with Pansy's words lingering in his mind.
Draco reflected over the prospect that someone could change his entire demeanor. Someone who could make him a different person entirely; Pansy had managed that with Blaise. She was more realistic, he could tell just by one conversation with her. He began wondering what changes he would experience once Hermione realized who he actually was, which could be any day now that he was returned "Lucky Jim."
That brought some his deepest fear to surface as well. How would Hermione react once she realized that Draco Malfoy was her reader? If she did not reciprocate the attraction that he had developed he was fairly certain he would crumble. As he headed up another flight of stairs immersed in his thoughts he accidentally ran into someone who was racing down. For a second he considered just going forward but he turned around last second with the awareness that the former would be incredibly rude.
"I'm sorry." Draco mumbled as he reached down to grab some of the belongings that fell out the individual's bag. While doing so he dropped his own bag allowed for his package for Hermione to fall out. As he reached out for it the other person swiped it right from beneath his fingers.
"It's you…" The only thing that would have been worse than having Hermione find out he was her reader by accident was her best friend finding out instead. And this was the voice that Draco heard. When he finally looked up to the person he'd sent crashing down the steps he found none other than Ginny Weasley.
"You mustn't say a word, Weasley. Please…" Draco pleaded for her to keep her mouth shut on the matter. She handed the book back to him with a snarl. Before he could get another word in edgewise, the fiery young woman took off in the opposite direction once more.