As soon as Hermione was out of earshot and the door closed behind him he chuckled. In all their years at Hogwarts he'd only casually interacted with Hermione twice. When they were in their first year they'd had been paired off in Transfiguration with members of another house. Since they did not have an established hatred for one another yet they made casual talk about their classes and schedules. The second time they ran into each other had been last year when they were both waiting in line at the Three Broomsticks. Draco had clumsily knocked his elbow into her chest when he reached for his payment. That conversation only consisted of fumbled apologies. Obviously, there had been other confrontations but those were a different classification of social interaction.
A smile plastered on his face as the irony of their exchange. She did not know that he was coming to retrieve the book she had obviously left behind. The trip was quick. He picked it up and then followed in her footsteps to their conjoined Charms class. Draco would probably be a few minutes late but there was nothing to worry about because he could almost guarantee that Potter and Weasley would wander in even later.
As he'd suspected, Potter and Weasley came into just five minutes after he did. Flitwick didn't start anything until they'd arrived. In that time Draco had sneakily read through Granger's letter. It brought a new type of joy to his life to have something to actually look forward to; he hadn't really ever been challenged by his studies at Hogwarts. Each class the most difficult thing to complete had always been the writing assignments, and that was only because he found it tedious to write page after page of stuff he could more easily recite back to the teacher instead. Or even demonstrate!
And while he was thinking about demonstrations, he remembered that Flitwick would be demonstrating the spells the students would be working on from the next chapter of their book. Most of these were spells he worked on at home leisurely so his focus was compromised from the beginning of the lesson. As a result of this, Draco occasionally glanced over at Hermione Granger who was also only paying attention halfheartedly. When she wasn't watching Flitwick her eyes were scanning the pages that correlated with each spell specifically. Occasionally she would absently scribble something in the margins. Draco knew that she was taking notes on Flitwick's recommendations and tips for proper spell casting. He knew because he too took those notes. Everyone should be but when he saw that half of the class was either quietly opening chocolate frogs or was snoring he knew that saying something like that as a matter-of-fact was basically pointless.
At the end of class Draco lingered with the intent of re-read Granger's letter, but some others were slow to leave as well. Settled with the fact that he couldn't enjoy her words again, he simply replaced inside of the book and made his way into the corridor. When he got outside of the classroom he stopped for a second to ponder the best time for him to start his reading challenge for "Moby Dick." As he toyed with the possible options he overheard Weasley say his name, which automatically commanded him to eavesdrop.
"Malfoy kept looking at you during class today. That's weird, innit?"
"Oh, I stopped by the library to return a book this morning and nearly knocked him over with the door. We chatted, kind of. He was probably a bit put off by it." Her response was airy and dismissive. He had to refuse himself the chance to smirk since he was so near to the Gryffindors.
"Chatted? With Malfoy?" Harry questioned his friend, obviously shocked by the statement. Draco even caught the three of them glancing over at him. Instinctively, he pretended to wave at someone before pulling a piece of paper from his bag, reading over the ingredients for a potion he'd included in his research paper.
"Well, wouldn't you say something if you nearly knocked someone over? I was being polite. I was polite at first, at least. I may have made a reference to the hippogriff incident." At that point she laughed openly with her friends before finally going to their next class. Slytherin students had this next block open. Most students used it to sleep or finish homework they'd neglected before, which almost the correct way to use the allotted time. That detail considered this meant that Draco had about ninety minutes before he needed to be at his Potions class. Then there was lunch afterwards, which was another sixty minutes.
Fifth year Slytherin students were lucky in their class placement. It was actually even distributed. This afternoon, for example, was his busiest part of the day with two classes back-to-back. Those classes didn't start until late afternoon, though. If only he could have that block designated to Potions he might be able to read a very large portion of the book. Draco thought about how Professor Snape was very close to his family, especially since Voldemort's return. He made haste to the lower part of the castle to his next scheduled class. When he arrived at Snape's desk a wicked grin crossed his face as the professor looked up angrily from his texts.
"Malfoy?" Furrowed brows indicated that Snape was both irritated and confused. Draco covered his mouth and made the fakest cough sound into his palm.
"I'm not feeling well this morning. May I turn in my assignment now so that I can get some rest? I would hate to have to miss all my classes for the day." Draco said all of this while he presented his work to Snape. A simple nod was all it took to confirm that Draco could get a healthy start on reading the book Hermione had left behind. Once he was out of Snape's office and good distance away from the room he bolted straight to the dorms and didn't even bother kicking his shoes off when he crawled into bed with "Moby Dick" cracked open.
Draco found himself enthralled deeply within the tale Ishmael was telling. There was something addicting and familiar about the character Ahab. Of course, he knew exactly what the similarity was. He was a part of a people pursuing the vengeful quest of a madman. The Malfoys were a family of Death Eaters devoted to Voldemort. Harry Potter, in a sense, was their equivalent to Moby Dick. Draco frowned as the hours passed. There was no way he was going to be able to finish the book before his next classes.
Finally, about twenty-five minutes before he needed to leave Draco broke down and put the book inside his bag. He needed to eat something before he went to class so he scurried down to the Great Hall to see if there were any late lunch snacks left out.
Just as Draco was entering the Great Hall he found himself searching for Granger. He found her sitting with Ginny. He could have sworn that she had a class right now but he didn't know for sure since, until recently, he'd never had an interest in her life. A frown replaced his relaxed expression so as to maintain his character in her presence. Within moments he was seated at the Slytherin table with some of the older Quidditch members who were still lingering.
"Afternoon, Mister Malfoy." The team captain, Graham Montague, spoke to him kindly. Draco sneered with a tiny wave of his hand, not because he was on bad terms with the team captain but because he was peeved about the interruption. Suddenly Draco catches Pansy placing herself directly next to Montague, whispering frantically that he had been feeling unwell that morning and missed Potions. Draco knew he couldn't contradict the precedence so he rubbed his nose and faked a sniffle.
"Are you going to be in the rest of classes today, Draco?" Her suave voice which others might have found soothing he found irritating. And what was worse was that she made a point to call him Draco, not Malfoy. Not even his closest friends, Crabbe and Goyle, called him by his first name. Pansy was the only one and he hated it quite desperately. Naturally, or unnaturally depending on who you asked, he didn't dare reject her. He was fearful of her wrath. She was a frantic and unpredictable woman now while she was infatuated. He was not keen on finding out just how much worse she got if she was obsessively angry with him. So he just smiled lightly at her and engaged himself in the unwanted conversation.
"I am." Good, that was a good response. It was short and clear. Perhaps, even, suggestive that he was in no mood to talk to her. He was supposedly sick, after all.
"Do you want me to carry your bag? Or bring soup to the dorms for you?" She tried so hard to be nice. Draco did at least respect that about her. Pansy always did something pleasant for him without being asked, and she didn't really do it excessively. He was levelheaded enough to hope that someday someone would return her feelings. After dropping his chin deep into his chest Draco pulled a bread roll basket to his face so that he can put something in his mouth for nourishment, and an obligation to manners. Manners, which will render him silent, mind you.
"Oh, I know how you get. Fine, then. If you need anything you know I'm never too far away. But honestly, you should take me up on the soup offer. There's nothing better than soup in a comfy chair by the fire." Pansy reaches across the table and places her hand delicately on Draco's chin. She pulls his face up swiftly and winks at him. For a moment Draco nearly forgets that he detests this relationship she's created between them. He thinks maybe if she had asked him instead of obsessing over him to the point where everyone associates the two of them together as a couple he might not have felt such a strong aversion to the idea. But things cannot be changed, not after years of the same routine.
The remainder of his day passed by without joy and each time he had a free moment his eyes wandered to his bag where "Moby Dick" is hidden precisely at the bottom beneath his texts. He ensured to take deliberate actions to never reveal it when pulling homework out, putting homework away, pulled out parchment for notes, and all that. He had a close call when Pansy came over and tried to sneak a pumpkin pasty into his bag. But Draco took it directly and shoved it into his mouth quicker than one could manage to blink. Her dramatic laughter filled the room that drew so much attention, even Hermione Granger's head jilted upwards to identify the raucous.
Draco looked directly at her by accident. He shifted is eyes as quickly as possible so that it looked like he was just scanning the other side of the room but he could tell by the way she jerked her face back down into the book on her desk that she had noticed. Things were going to be absurdly and increasingly awkward between them. She obviously doesn't know that he is the reader she writer to but imagine if she did? What would things be like then?
At the end of the day Draco pulls Pansy aside in the hallway and leans into her. "I'll take you up on your offer, Parkinson." As he expected, she is just tickled that he has accepted. She plants a wet kiss on his cheek and runs away to fetch the soup she'd probably already had prepared for him. He moves swiftly through the crowd and goes to wait in the common room.
While waiting for Pansy to show up he threw together a short letter to Hermione. One of the standard owls had delivered a small package to Blaise so he simply held it behind spur of the moment. On his way back to the dorms he had decided that he should start alluding to Granger who he was, just to see if she could piece it together.
I am still reading the book but I wanted to send a short letter for you.
Even though this is only the second letter I am sending you I cannot resist the urge to tell you who I am. It is probably stupid to do this so soon but if I only leave little hints as to who I am then perhaps it will take some time for you to piece it together. So far you've guessed that I am a boy, or a man, whichever you prefer. I already told you that my girlfriend is not really my girlfriend. You'll get your next hint when I turn the book back over to you.
Until then, Hermione.
Draco shoved it in an envelope and sent the owl on its way before he could change his mind. No words could really explain what had come over him but he had been very compelled to make some sort of contact with the Gryffindor. And it felt irresistibly adventurous to have sent Granger a letter without actually have finished the book. As soon as the owl was out of side he shoved his hands in his pockets and accepted that whatever comes of his actions moving forward that it is his own fault.
Only a few minutes later he made his way back to the common room meet up Pansy came in with fresh soup. He entered the room just as she was sitting down in front of the fireplace. Before he'd left, though, he'd shrunk "Moby Dick" and kept it in his pocket. Leaving without it left him feeling naked somehow. Soon enough was sitting down next to Pansy pulling the bowl of potato soup nearer to him. Just as he was getting comfortable Pansy shifted her body to face him.
Pansy made an effort to feet him but Draco rejected her attempts. She began pouting while he ate but there was no reason to let it deter him. After about ten minutes Draco realized that the common room was empty and quiet. He looked around nervously and then looked at Pansy.
"Draco, can I ask you a question?" Pansy was batting her eyes nervously and messing with the hem of her skirt. Draco Malfoy was oftentimes closed-minded but never daft. As soon as she lifted her gaze to him he choked on his soup and nearly dropped the bowl on the floor as he placed it back on the table. He stood up and started walking away.
"Please don't, Parkinson." He was headed towards the stairs when she tried to attack him. Well, not really attack. She tried to petrify him so that he would stay and listen. Draco blocked the spell effortlessly and scowled at the young girl.
"Why don't you like me?" Pansy dropped her arms helplessly to her sides and asked started to cry. Draco didn't know how to handle it and remained completely quiet. "Just tell me why you like her so I at least know what I wasn't giving you."
Draco felt sick, legitimately sick, now. Shaking his head hastily was the only thing that prevented him from doubling over and puking in the common room. The young Slytherin was a seeker for a reason, and wasn't just because he was quick on a broom. He made it to the bathroom and started vomiting in the nearest sink immediately. It had to have been twenty minutes later before he got his wits about him, even if it was just himself slumped against the sink breathing heavily.
There was absolutely no way he was going back to the Slytherin common room. So he decided that he needed, and wanted, to relocate to somewhere more comfortable in order to finish reading the book. It wouldn't be impossible to stay up all night. There was Quidditch practice tomorrow but he could manage. If necessary, Draco would put together a small energy potion if he needed. Strictly speaking, the students weren't supposed to use energy potions but almost everyone did during finals each years.
Especially fifth years around the time they take their OWLs. Anyway, he got onto his feet and headed towards the Prefect's bathroom for something more relaxing and comfortable.
When he finally reached the fifth floor bathroom entrance he mumbled the password. It didn't respond at first so he repeated it louder, assuming that he was originally unintelligible. "Bathroom is occupied," the statue informed him boldly. Draco frowned momentarily but then sat himself on a nearby bench. There was no harm in waiting.
After several minutes the Prefect's bathroom opened. If Draco hadn't been having a strangle couple of days he would not have believed that Hermione Granger was the person occupying the bathroom previously. He snapped the book shut quickly and sat it in his lap. Granger didn't see him sitting there so he snuck inside before the entrance closed.
"Oi, is it morning already?" Draco stood up with the finished book in hand. He must have fallen asleep shortly after reading the last page. The boy was so groggy and tired that he couldn't remember where the clock was in the bathroom so he just started on his way back to the common room.
Along the way he noticed that the halls were unusually empty. Once he passed a very full Great Hall Draco was able to gauge where they were in the morning process. People were eating breakfast right now, which meant that he could still make Quidditch Practice if he hurried. As soon as he got into his dorm room he grabbed his school uniform before bolting off to the pitch.