Dear Reader

Never According to Plan

As soon as Draco was finished with his team's scrimmage before the big match, he grabbed all his stuff and went immediately to the Prefect's bathroom. Going through the crowds as they rushed out to the pitch was a nightmare but he'd suffer through it if it meant finishing his book on time. And of course, he was referring to his shenanigans with Granger and Hogsmeade. He'd sent her six galleons and a letter telling her to get a drink at the Three Broomsticks.

His ultimate plan was to go in before she did and leave her book with Madame Rosmerta, telling her that he had found it on the steps outside. Hermione would eventually piece things together when nobody showed up to meet because she is a very smart woman. So she'd ask at the counter if anyone had seen a young man reading a book titled "Man in the Iron Mask." Rosemerta would pull it out saying a blonde lad turned it over. And that would be her next hint. Draco was so very, very proud of himself.

But this all depended on his ability to finish the book on time

Sure, he had all night and all the following morning to finish it up.

Unfortunately, he was very tired too. He was neglecting sleep to read books all week and it was finally catching up with him. There was only so far he could push himself to complete this particular task.

In the Prefect's Bathroom he loaded up a bubble bath. He first got into clean up but then he felt revitalized and energized so he grabbed his wand from the side of the tub and summoned the book to him. He started reading for a little while to pass the time and found it very comforting. It seemed like such a girly thing to do, when he thought on it, but if it felt so nice then why bother shaming himself. Nobody else had to know anyway.

Eventually Draco had to leave the bathroom and return to the dorms. When he'd arrived there were only a handful of the younger students huddled around the fireplace. In his first year he never missed a game. It was, and still is, the height of excitement at Hogwarts. In fact, he had never missed a game until this year. This was the very first Quidditch match he opted out of watching. It's funny how little things can change your loyalties. Of course, this was hardly a little change.

His developing a slight fondness of Hermione Granger was next to unimaginable. If he could go back and time and tell himself when he was eleven that he would find himself fawning over Muggle literature and Granger's handwritten letters – surely he'd have fallen down to his knees laughing. Yet here he was marching straight to the dormitories with every intention of closing the curtains and hexing them not to open for anything.

After each necessary measure was taken, Malfoy immersed himself in the book. Everything melted around him until all that existed was the dim light of his wand and the soft lull of drunken singing floating in from the common room. He didn't even know when, or if, his mates ever showed up for bed. Page, after page, after page, Draco's eyes absorbed ever word. He was reading as though he was dehydrated and the only cure was to complete the book.

Draco woke to giggling noises. Female giggling noises, actually. He bolted upright in his bed and found that he'd passed out about three-quarters of the way through the novel. He sat it face down beneath his pillow before breaking the enchantment and peering through the curtains surrounding his bed. Outside he saw Blaise pulled on his slacks and a dark-haired girl wrapped in his blanket. He couldn't resist a smile as he pieced together that Blaise had clearly enjoyed the company of a female last night, if he were trying to put it delicately.

Just as Draco was about to duck back into his bed when the girl sat up. Just before the cloth blocked his vision he was able to see the girl's face. He was able to see none other than Pansy Parkinson half dressed in he friend's bed. This caused him to bolt out of his hiding place and point accusingly at her.

"What are you doing?" He hissed as soon as Blaise was out of the room. The two of them hadn't really spoken to one another since Tuesday night's confrontation. Now each of them sat staring wide-eyed with unspoken feelings. Draco made a fist and shook it at her before he turned around a few times in his place.

"You made it clear enough that we aren't dating, Draco Lucious Malfoy! What business is it of yours to ask me what I am doing?" She got up with the blanket still wrapped around her and started piling her clothes up on the bed. Of course, she was waiting for one Mr. Draco Lucious Malfoy to give her a response. And even though she was right and he should have dutifully placed himself right back in his bed - he opened his blasted mouth anyway.

"As if you hadn't degraded yourself enough already!" Instantly he regretted saying it out loud. As soon as the words left his mouth she was in front of him, hand slamming across his cheek. But there wasn't a single tear in her eyes. Draco's vision was temporarily blackened because his cheek ached with the fire of her slap so finally he bent himself over. All the while she was mumbling at him.

"The only degrading thing I ever did was follow you around like a lost owl thinking that someday you would love me back. Then after a week I seem to hit it off with Blaise that's when you come in fists shaking and fingers pointed thinking I have to listen to you. Not anymore! You never wanted anything to do with me. I am not about to sit here and think that you care in the slightest. I am sorry but absolutely not!" Draco reached around to grab her by the arm but missed and slipped. Fortunately, Blaise had already returned and caught him. Once he was back on his feet he spoke very loudly, nearly shouted actually.

"You are a good woman and deserve someone who will actually care. If Blaise will do that, fine! But don't continue selling yourself short, you frantic mess!" Blaise got his wand and healed the bruising that was sure to develop along Draco's cheek. Neither one of them addressed what had just happened, although Blaise certainly tried. He kept asking what he'd said to provoke her. Then he attempted to backtrack to Draco saying that he really had always fancied Pansy. None of it registered for long, though. Instead Draco simply waved it all off and lay back in bed. At least he was sure of one thing: Pansy Parkinson would no longer be his problem.

Finishing the book after that dramatic scene was too easy. Draco had all but closed himself off to everyone around him. He only responded to someone long enough to tell them to 'shove off.' The only times he left the dorms was to dine and shower. When bedtime rolled around Draco lay down and mulled over the letter he would be leaving inside the book. The book didn't leave as much of an impact as the others, partially because of the distraction of impressing Hermione and the personal drama. Either way, he decided to allow himself some rest and prepare for the big day.

Wouldn't it be Draco's luck? Would it not just be his bloody luck to have slept over? He woke up only by chance when he heard Crabbe and Goyle arm wrestling. As soon as it registered that it was morning he had to dash around just to get his belongings together and get the book stowed away. This was by far going to be one of the most agonizing mornings of his life because if he was unable to secure a carriage that departed before Granger then he'd have to revise his plan.

Naturally, revising his plan at this point would be risky because there'd damn near be no way to get the book to granger without revealing himself far earlier than he'd ever expected. Frustration pulsed through his veins quicker than blood as he raced through the halls and out the school hoping that he hadn't messed everything up. When he arrives he notices that the crowd waiting to leave is very small. Draco walks over to McGonagall dreading the answer to his question.

"Tell me, Professor, am I really early or really late?" He attempted to hide his panting but it was nearly impossible.

"Technically speaking, Mr. Malfoy, you are really late. However, there seems to have been a miscommunication with the stables. Our carriages are running behind. You may join any of the carriages waiting if you wish, once full they will depart." Professor McGonagall was always very precise when she spoke but never once sounded angry, which was surprising. As long as she'd been at Hogwarts and as many terrors she's seen pass, Draco would have guessed her just the tiniest bit bitter. Each person was different, he supposed. Seconds later, much to his dismay, he was sliding in beside some third year girls from Ravenclaw who, until he arrived, had been chatting about their classes.

There was no such thing as 'soon enough' in Draco's mind. The ride to Hogsmeade was horrendously long and quiet. As soon as they arrived he swiftly made his way to the Three Broomsticks. He cautiously peered through the windows to ensure that Hermione wasn't there yet. Good, good, Draco thought to himself. Very slyly he went inside and ensured that Madame Rosmerta hadn't seen him. After all, since Draco overslept he hadn't gotten the chance to write his letter.

Draco knew there would be some stray tables upstairs near the rooms so he started off in that direction. Just as he began ascending the stairs, however, his plan was yet again burnt up in flames when he heard a familiar voice enter the shop.

"Do you really think he meant for you to come right away?" That was Ginny Weasley speaking, which could only mean that Hermione Granger was accompanying her. Not to mention the statement made was obviously in direct correlation to his letter sent the night before. He had suspected that Hermione would be sharing her "Dear Reader" exploits with her best friend. All of that aside, though, he stopped where he was at on the steps and waited to hear Granger's response.

"I don't know what he meant. Don't you think I might be able to catch him if I sit here all day, though? If we sit right by the front door there'll be no way for my reader to evade us. I wouldn't have to play this game to find out who it is." Hermione Granger. She never would be one to fully relinquish control, would she? Draco should have known better. A frown perched itself on his lips as he continued to listen.

"Oh, ‘Mione, you're being a bad sport about this. We can grab a quick drink now to help your madness, then we can double back later in the day to see what mystery man has done for you." Draco smiles and hopes that Granger sees the logic in the Weasley girl's words. He would be most grateful if it worked. It would allow him to get his letter written after all.

"I am not mad." Granger was hardly the unpredictable type. She was self-righteous to a degree, being unnaturally intelligent does that to a person, and it was showing quite well in that moment in time. Draco's teeth ground together nervously as he continued waiting.

"If you are going to sit here all day waiting for your reader to pop up then you'll spend most of the day alone. Besides, they're having a sale at Tomes and Scrolls. It's just your type of shopping trip, yeah?" Draco finds himself puckering his lips and nodding all in a matter-of-factly fashion. It did sound like the sort of thing that would actually lure Hermione Granger away. He is so confident in it that he actually started walking up the stairway again. Once he makes it to the second level he hears the last half of Granger's response.

"…I'll stay here for just a little bit and if he doesn't turn up then I'll head out."

Well, nothing else was going his way so far that morning. Draco panicked since he had to do something now to return the book to her. She wouldn't be getting the hint he promised in the subtext of last night's letter now. After looking around a bit he found a pillar to hide behind and then took out "Man in the Iron Mask."

As soon as he felt sure that the book was directly above Granger in her seat with Weasley he cut off the spell. Draco flinched before her loud cry of shock echoed through the Three Broomsticks. It provided affirmation that his depth perception did not betray him but it also assured that Granger received the book as it was intended, the book which had no letter inside.

"I suppose that's one way to break it off, innit?" Ginny mumbled angrily as she helped Granger out of her seat. Of course, Granger was shrugging her shoulders with disinterest. She did not agree with her friend, apparently.

"Or perhaps that was his idea of a joke. That's probably why I was supposed to keep a sharp eye…" Then they were gone as quickly as the book dropped from the sky. Now that Draco felt completely deflated and worthless he exited the Three Broomsticks and went back to wait with the carriages – wondering if there was any way he could redeem himself of this mistake?


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