Hermione and Ginny sat together in Great Hall while Ron and Harry chattered about the game that morning. Every so often Ginny would get a very angry and distant grimace upon her face that alerted Hermione. She had gotten her book back last night in the tower but when she tried to address it with Ginny she claimed to have not felt very well.
"Eat some eggs. It will help if you're coming down with something, or if you just had too much ale last night." Hermione whispered so not to grab Ron's attention. Her eyes unconsciously glanced up at him to comfort herself that he was still engulfed in the Slytherin-bashing nonsense they babbled about. As soon as it was clear he wouldn't pay any attention to her she returned her attention to Ginny.
"Not that sort of sickness, 'Mione. I wish I could talk to you about it but it's the sort of thing you can't make yourself talk about. You know, like how you don't talk about liking the way Ron laughs or how adorable it is when Dad makes him tend to the grass using a Muggle's push mower." Ginny has this tiny sort of voice when something is really bothering her, and Hermione heard it perfectly in those words. Unfortunately, Hermione always took the tone as a warning that the topic she was breaching was not exactly her realm of expertise. As a result she scooted nearer to her friend and slung an arm over her shoulder.
"I won't make you say a word more but… you have to promise to not complain about my reader when I bring him up." Hermione transitioned as seamlessly as an awkward person like her could manage. Ginny shrugged her away. In fact, Hermione would have sworn that she looked even angrier once she had wriggled free. After she decided to disregard it she excused herself from the table, noting that she had a quick stop to make at the library before the game.
The night before she'd gotten the book back from her reader and it made her more curious than ever to finally know whom he actually was. A professed interest in her was obviously the most alluring part of the entire arrangement but equally so was the wicked chase he had set her on. There were clues left behind and she would have to start watching each and every fifth year Slytherin even more closely to determine which one was her actual reader. She'd have to schedule a run in with…
"Draco Malfoy… in the library… on the day of a Quidditch game? That seems very out of place, wouldn't you say?" Hermione was stunned to find him in the library rather than eating a hearty breakfast before his big match. All of the Quidditch players took the game seriously but she was positive that Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy took the game far more seriously than anyone else in the entire school by a long shot. Especially when they were playing against one another!
"It is far more ordinary than you would think, actually." He responded with an air of mystery surrounding him. There was something about his response that distracted her. She couldn't quite put her finger on it but she nearly had forgotten that speaking to Malfoy could help get her some answers. Thankfully she collected herself enough to get back on the right track in their conversation.
"Well, I don't suppose you've thought further on my inquiry. The one about my reader?" As she spoke to him she carried herself to a table where she intended on preparing the letter for her reader's next book. It was not so much a novel as it was a book of poems. Well, it wasn't even technically a book. It was a journal. She had taken up the hobby of copying poems from books and newspapers and magazines that she was very fond of, and since she felt very connected to her reader she thought it an intimate gesture to share such a personal item. Hermione also believed she could most likely trust her reader with her mostly-secret obsession with poetry.
"I have thought about it plenty, actually." Draco placed himself in the seat directly across from her. Having him there, so near, had made her very self-conscious so she left all her belongings in her bag on the chair next to her. She would not be able to write with him staring at her. Neither would she be able to sit comfortably wondering how badly he was judging her with his curious eyes. Then, with crossed arms, she leaned forward while tracing Draco's shape from his wrists to his eyes.
Firstly, she had admitted was that he was very sharp. He looked every bit as wealthy as he actually was which definitely worked in his favor. Hermione believed him to very handsome. However, being an attractive person meant if that person had a terrible personality. She found herself momentarily silent as she took in his eyes, a pure oceanic color. It reminded her of the shallowest water on the beach; a barely recognizable shade of a blue in the sunlight.
What was she thinking? This was Draco Malfoy and he was a tool - not a painting. She should not have been gawking at him; she should have been interrogating him for information.
"And what have you concluded then?" With pursed lips she watched him carefully waiting for his arrogant personality to shine through in his chiseled features. Nothing happened to his face when she spoke, at least not right away. His eyes twinkled a little bit but his cheeks did not rise, his lips did not curl, and his brows did not wrinkle. Draco just kept his gaze locked on her and did not react. He did not even move except to whisper his response.
"That you aren't looking." When he stood up with his cavalier poise he was as expressionless as ever. Hermione felt herself watch him as he left to meet with his team, no doubt. For whatever reason she smiled after the encounter, allowing the conclusion to arise that Draco must be very close to her reader.
I am giving you a collection of my favorite poems. They vary in topics and genres since they are just copied pages taped into a journal I've kept for years. It is the single more personal item I own. I've written all over the place in this book and it truly reveals who I am at heart. I am entrusting you with this item after reading your last letter. Please do not betray me.
I have not read "Lucky Jim" yet but intend to read it after the Quidditch game today. Since your house is playing mine I can hardly wish you luck, but I can hope at least that none of your teammates are very damaged at the end. May the best team win, I suppose. Keep an eye out for another letter in the library. If I finish my read before you finish yours I will surely be leaving another letter behind.
Fondly yours as well,
As soon as Hermione convinced herself to leave her beaten and worn notebook behind she had to jog just so that she wouldn't turn back around and change her mind. The closer she got to the Quidditch game the easier it had been to drown herself in the shouting and cheers for everyone's respective teams. The farther away from the library she was the easier it became to let herself relax on the "reader" complex she'd developed, even if only for a brief period of time.
"Draco, you're late." Montague growled as Draco stepped in just as the announcements for the Gryffindor team began.
"I stopped in the Library to return a book. I got sidetracked. It won't happen again." Even though Montague was irritated, and for good reason, he curtly bopped his face downward in acceptance; it gave Draco great relief. It was a completely believable excuse since Draco really did spend quite a lot of time in the Library. As the captain took his place at the front of the line, announcements began. Each team member flying out as their names were called with their positions.
In no time the balls were let loose and everyone whirred about. Draco kept his eye on Potter, waiting to see if he would move towards the Snitch. He had actually spotted it twice but this early in the game, the pesky ball would still be particularly difficult to chase. If Harry thought he could take a chance in grabbing the snitch then there was good enough reason for Draco to try to do so as well, unless a better opportunity arises sooner.
It seemed not a minute later when the Snitch whizzed past his face. Potter came flying directly at him so he forced himself to do a bit of a backflip. Seconds later he felt himself diving lower than he'd intended, swooping several feet below the Snitch. It swirled about in every which way imaginable. About the same distance above the ball as there was below it there was Potter also chasing the Snitch. Occasionally they glared at one another, definitely ordinary for them. As they came up on the tower holding the professors at Hogwarts, Draco swerved around the structure knowing that traditionally the Snitch would do one of two things; 1) it would fly under the skirting and come out just behind the seats near the ground, or 2) it would hang immediately left or right and continue weaving around.
Luckily, Draco went with his gut instinct and raced forward so that he would be waiting only inches above the ground for the Snitch to appear. As soon as there had been the faintest fluttering of the fabric his right hand flew forward. As soon as he blinked, the Snitch zoomed out directly at him but he missed with his right hand by barely an inch. Fearful that his slow reaction would lose the match he jumped sideways off of his broom in a panic just to entangle the prize in his robes. The ball could be felt moving around his uniform until finally Draco wriggled his hand up his left sleeve and activated the mechanism, which shut down the ball. When he looked above him he could see Potter cursing him for capturing the Golden Snitch to win the match in less than twenty minutes.
He couldn't resist himself even though the victory was less than ideal. Draco still had had a smug grin planted on his face as he lifted his mint-condition broom from the dirty grass and pranced back on the field with the Snitch held high above his head. Claps boomed all around as the announcer shouted about records and congratulations while Gryffindor lazily proclaimed 'good game' to their opponents. When all the on field celebrations died down, Malfoy and his team relocated to the locker rooms.
"Nice job, Malfoy!"
"That was a new best!"
"You won it for us!"
"Best Seeker in ages!"
The compliments rained down on him and each was accepted silently, or as nearly as possible. Draco had gotten lucky, when it came right down to it. What sort of proper seeker catches a snitch in the sleeves of the game robes? Sure, nobody on his team would complain; nobody in Slytherin house would complain, but it still wasn't proper. Draco knew he was better than that catch.
It took hours for Malfoy to make it back to his dorm due to the common room commotion. It seemed that when he was making his way through everyone stopped him to offer a drink or a snack. Each kindness was politely declined until he cleared the crowds. Once at his door a feel in the air alerted Draco that perhaps his dorm was not empty. And it was because Blaise was sitting on his bed waiting for Draco, it would seem, arms crossed and lips curled upward. In no time his friend complimented his performance in the Quidditch match. When he was welcomed with Malfoy's silence he switched to the true topic at hand.
"What sort of Seeker skips out on his own celebration party if not the sort that is unhappy?" Blaise asked after lifting himself from the bed. Draco tossed his bag onto the pillow as his mate came over and repositioned himself directly across from the blonde boy on the other side of his bed. A frown decorated their faces in separate unique ways. Blaise, in disappointment; Draco, in frustration at Blaise's disappointment…
"By now half the house will be feeling the effects of their butterbeer and ale. Besides, how sad can it be to do something one enjoys over losing themselves in a sea of half-conscious acquaintances?" Draco felt as though he always produced an insightful comeback. And this was the sort of statement that Blaise could relate to personally. Zabini had never been quite like other Slytherin students, always being somewhat of a recluse.
"And what of sorrow surfaced when one falls in love with a stranger?" Blaise cooed deliberately, calmly, and kindly. There it was now, dropped out into the open in a way that commanded some sort of acknowledgement. Even though both young men relaxed their shoulders their jaws tightened in response to the tension. The word 'love' had been thrown out into the open and neither could have been sure that it was appropriate.
"A woeful tale as such could be unmatched. It is hardly a pity to not know, wouldn't you agree?" After he concluded that the conversation need not go further, Draco went on the defensive. He made it clear that he did not believe himself to have been falling in love with a stranger. Even if had been, she was not technically a stranger wither. Regardless his words hissed so angrily that his friend understood that there was little more to be discussed. After rounding the trunk at the end of the bed his arm smacked Draco's back once before leaving. As soon as all was clear he placed himself in his charmed fortress.
Draco hadn't gotten the opportunity to read the letter before the game so he was experiencing the thrill of Hermione's words without distraction. Poetry. He had not necessarily expected poems but he was also a bit taken aback that she was giving him poems to read. Even more so, these were her favorite poems. Favorite poems that she was providing to someone she'd replied to with "fondly yours." Nothing could have been more weakening and strengthening in the young man's mind.
Without a lick of hesitation the first page is pulled back and the first poem revealed - a little number by a person known as J.R.R. Tolkien. Hermione noted in the corner page that she must make time to read a series written by him as well. The letters are clean and concise, as one would expect the first page of any journal or diary to be, but more than that the words are full of interest. You can see it in the way her letters curve. Draco smiles before reading the poem titled "All that is Gold does not Glitter." The title alone reminds him of his family's wealth and his frequent displeasure regardless.
Hermione made another note at the bottom about young boy she met at an opera. His name was Harold Ellsworth (the fourth is underlined several times next to it) and he'd bragged to her about his extreme wealth. He had his own guesthouse for sleepovers and parties. To top it off the boy was only eleven years old. Draco felt a bit ashamed as he identified the disgust in the boy's behavior towards Granger as having been a replica of his own dastardly attitudes growing up. Simply because one has wealth does not make them happy and worst of all, Hermione understood, these are the people who learn this lesson last.
For several pages after that there are poems of friendship, of death, of life, of aging, and of war. She had not been wrong to say that all sorts of topics were addressed. Each one had a comment or a note, even if only to remind her that it was an American poet. Sometimes she included Chinese proverbs or strips of white paper, which she stated were from "fortune cookies from the wonton truck."
An English Poet, George Eliot, scribed the next truly notable poem that Draco caught himself rereading a dozen or so times. “Count That Day Lost,” Hermione must have originally left pages following it blank intentionally. Every other line had a date on it and one sentence that followed it.
9/1/1991 – Repaired Harry Potter's glasses on the train ride to school.
10/31/91 – Took blame for letting in a troll I had nothing to do with.
6/23/92 – Did all of mum's cleaning while she gardened with Gran.
9/30/92 – This is the last time that repairing Harry's glasses counts.
12/24/92 – I had my parents buy Ginny some new clothes for the holidays, she needs them.
5/8/93 – I've just found the answer that will help save everyone at Hogwarts.
7/12/93- I volunteered at an animal shelter in France – and did not speak English once!
11/16/93 – I have not hexed Ron or Scabbers although they most certainly deserve it.
6/7/94 – I helped save Sirius and Buckbeak.
8/20/94 – I helped Mrs. Weasley with her cleaning after I arrived so she could enjoy her time off proper.
11/9/94 – I made plans to dine with Ron in Hogsmeade.
11/10/94 – I'm helping Harry with the tournament.
11/11/94 – I didn't shout at anyone for making me an owl.
12/26/94 – Snogging brings a smile to one's face. You're Welcome & Thank You, Viktor.
6/2/95 – Rita Skeeter cannot ruin peoples' lives any further!
7/3/95 – Ron doesn't notice but I have cleaned up his room at least twice this week.
8/12/95 – I helped Ron with some spells to use on the twins against my better judgment.
9/13/95 – I apologized for nearly toppling over a boy that I punched in the face two years ago.
9/14/95 – I tabbed the pages, which have the answers to the Herbology test for Harry and Ron.
9/22/95 – I managed to apologize to a cruel boy because I looked at him funny.
10/5/95 – A new Order is in place. DADA is more and should be more. We must be ready.
Draco was able to make the obvious conclusion, which was that this poem which invited the reader to be a kind person and that Hermione Granger noted times where she was able to bring a smile to someone else. It flattered Malfoy that on two occasions he was "the boy" she was speaking of, although he noted that Ron appeared even more frequently. Perhaps he had been wrong to judge that Granger and Weasley were not attracted to one another.
Just then an idea popped into Draco's head as he began reading over the poem again. He had not a single notable moment that he wanted to remember related to the good deeds that he had done. Surely he was a good person to those he knew well, those in his social class, but honestly he knew there was nothing worth remembering. So he decided in that moment he would do something that would leave an impact, something that he was hopeful would bring a smile to someone's face. Someone he had come to cherish very much.
Reading the remainder of Hermione's notebook was not a challenging task. In fact, Draco breezed through Bronte, Lewis, Browning, Rosetti, Frost, and so many more. He read through every single side note too. There were a few poems that were handwritten that were clearly Granger's originals. Though on in particular caught Draco's eye…
A simple task, a simple longing, a misfit,
A girl and a book, a person and a page;
There is no magic. There is no mage.
A home away from home I am left with,
And a culture with a different tone, I was left with –
A prejudice and no reader…
But, alas, a reader has been found,
A reader has come forth; but now an enemy is a friend,
Can he be an enemy no more?
A book has a bind and a bind I pray,
Will make my stranger stay –
Stay to read, Stay to learn, Stay because
I say – Stay, reader, Stay.
But will my fondness be okay, for a friend
For an enemy, for a friend, please stay –
A simple task, a girl and a book.
But no simple reader I have took…
Draco was hardly the appropriate person to judge good and bad and strange poetry. He knew of poetry from his own culture, from the wizarding world, all magical children did. However, Muggle literature was very different and very frivolous in comparison. This poem Granger had written was direct and indirect simultaneously. It was expressive and somehow vague. The entire piece was a contraction in and of itself. Yet the point was still made. Once the poem had been read at least five or six more times Draco only felt reaffirmed in his decision to finally, finally, reveal himself to Hermione Granger as her reader.
Pages were separated in chunks. They were pressed down in groups, meaning that they were enjoyed in intermittent increments. Draco decided to make an entry and needed a page that was a little more broken apart than the rest. Something that would definitely stand out from the rest… With an idea in mind, Draco undid his charms long enough for him to step out and get a quill. Days were counted exactly so that he had the correct date written down.
10/14/95 – Revealed.
When Draco chuckled with satisfaction, something stirred behind him. The journal was snapped shut immediately so that he could whirl around and identify the noise. That is when he realized that several hours passed by silently. Each of his roommates was passed out in their beds at awkward angles with not nearly enough clothes or blankets to cover their bodies. It was nearly impossible to gauge time from the Slytherin dorms and common room without confirming with a clock, but no doubt it was in the early morning hours. Malfoy moved around in order to check the time on a poorly placed clock, confirmed his suspicions as he did so. However, it was late enough in the morning that he could go straight to the owlery. Perhaps Hermione would have it waiting for her when she woke if he was quick enough.