Draco had Quidditch practice most of the day Sunday. Nobody else had booked the pitch that afternoon so the Slytherin team just kept going. Drills, scrimmages, drills, scrimmages. It was very tedious and exhausting, so much so that when all was said and done Draco forgot to check the Restricted Section of the Library while he was doing homework in the Library. In fact, he hadn't even thought about checking for Hermione's next novel until it was bedtime and he was curled under his covers.
He had homework to do still so he would just have to grab it the next day. He didn't have classes and because practice was so long today there was no need for a practice tomorrow. Besides, he believed that Gryffindor had the pitch booked anyway. Draco was satisfied and tired, so soon after he cleared up his thoughts he was out like a light.
The following morning Draco dressed more casually than he has in the past. He sported khaki pants and his house sweater as he went about his business for the day. Breakfast with Crabbe and Goyle, Snape invited him to assist with some troublesome first years during his free hour, it was his day to repair broken equipment for the Quidditch team, then lunch with Blaise (who had been trying to talk to him fervently about the Pansy nonsense). Finally after his very awkward lunch he was able to go to the library.
Draco stopped in the dorms to get everything he would need for the afternoon before taking his usual place in the Restricted Section. He sat everything down quickly before doubling back to the row where he would surely find a Muggle piece of literature waiting for him. Just as he was getting ready to turn down the aisle he caught sight of Granger sitting at a table where she could see the bookshelf. His eyes widened and his heart raced at the fear that she would find out who he was earlier rather than later, and later was sort of the plan.
Stepping very quietly he went over to where the book was located and kept his vision angled so he could see Granger the entire time. Luckily, she was buried in the book she brought with her. Just to be sure that she didn't suspect him of taking the book he grabbed the small one and knocked one several books beyond it onto the floor. Quickly shoving Granger's book into the back of his pants he bent down muttering half-hearted apologies. When he was back on his feet he noticed that Granger was staring at him.
"Dropped it." He lifted the book in the air with a shake. She snarled at him and went back to her work. The poor girl was so focused not paying attention to him that Draco was able to put the book back and relocate her book so that he could return to his seat. It was a very close call but he listened carefully. She didn't suspect him it would seem because he didn't hear any footsteps since getting out of sight. Granger must believe her reader couldn't possibly be him. This brought a smile to his face as he pulled out her letter and began reading it, that same smile fading with each passing sentence.
Two days had passed since Draco read Hermione Granger's letter in the library. He had not so much as opened the book beyond taking that letter out. Reading it had made him feel guilty and confused. She was “very fond” of him. What did that even mean? Did it mean she considered him a friend? Did it mean she was “very fond” of him the way Pansy had been “very fond” of him?
Obviously Draco had made several jokes outwardly before that he was quite the catch but in the face of Hermione Granger that meant nothing in the way it would to others. She was not the type of girl to be consumed by vanity and materialism. Every minute of every day the Slytherin pureblood struggled to grasp why he was so afflicted by Granger's fondness.
During Transfiguration that Wednesday there was a demonstration quiz, so each student was being called up one-by-one to exhibit whether or not they had been practicing any of the spells they'd read about the week prior. She went in reverse order and students were not allowed to leave until everyone was finished. So the students waiting to be quizzed sat on one side and the ones who had finished were on the other.
Draco, naturally, was able to do the spell with no effort whatsoever so he sat himself as far away from everyone as possible. He pulled out the book Hermione had left this time, "Lucky Jim." She described it as funny book about a man who has a job he hates and a terrible boss. Sometimes Draco felt like that, honestly. The status his family held oftentimes felt burdensome and his family was a curse in most respects these days. He loved them all but with the Dark Lord on the loose there was little reason to be pleased with his position in the brewing war. Perhaps he would relate to this story despite how irrelevant it seems now.
Just as he was tucking the book back into his bag he hears someone sit behind him. Before he gets the chance to turn around a hand is on his shoulder. He instinctively leans to see who is touching him; Draco finds instead a warm breath hits his cheek. A quick shudder blasts his nervous system as he pieces together who it is.
"I was rude to you in the library the other day. I know you hate me but I thought it proper to apologize. The last couple of days have grated my nerves but I shouldn't take it out on others. Not even a low life like you, Malfoy." Hermione's apology is unexpected, to say the least. However, she used to be very socially awkward. She still hasn't got very many friends. So she finds herself trying to please everyone around her hoping that it is what is considered socially appropriate.
"I hardly noticed. I just thought it was your face, honestly. Didn't realize it makes any other expression besides pissed off…" Draco asked himself immediately why he said that out loud. This was the woman he was sharing anonymous letters with; he was her "reader." Then he says something like that? Inside he shouted at himself for being such a dunce.
"I guess I wouldn't when you're around, would I?" Hermione's voice lowered as she accepted that the conversation was undoubtedly over. Draco really had not meant to be so rude but it sort of fell out. Almost a habit when she was around, wasn't it? For years they were enemies, technically, so having a hostile reaction hardly seemed out of place. Yet he still felt as though owed something to her.
"Ought to change that then, don't you think?" His voice was shaky and his body was numb. This was probably the riskiest thing he had ever done in his life. Just two days ago he was worried about Granger finding him out too soon, and here was thinking about telling her in the middle of class. He twisted around silently and looked at her, her eyebrows raised with curiosity and her lips in a straight line. Draco could see in her face that she was spending every free moment of her time drowning in her schoolwork trying not to find out who her reader is too soon. And she really could, if she dedicated herself. She would have been able to find out in the library if she'd just checked the shelves. She could guess right now if she just focused.
Draco's mouth hung open while one of his free hands touched "Lucky Jim's spine. He could pull it out right now and leave it in her lap. She'd sit with her heart stopped and eyes locked right on him for the remainder of the class period. Or… he could get a grip and stick to the plan. This whole reveal was planned around a slow building guessing game. He couldn't tell her just yet.
So, after composing himself he poked his hand out. At first Hermione wasn't sure how to respond but she shook his hand after a few moments filled with tension. Feeling her skin on his sent fire through his veins and when they locked eyes everything seemed to stop around them. Draco pulled away first but as soon as he started moving so did Hermione. The casual encounter was strange. Surely someone had seen them and thought it an odd sight. Regardless of that they went on their way for the remainder of the class period.
Blaise Zabini stopped Draco on his way back to the Slytherin common room. He said he wanted to talk to Draco about a few things. As much as he wanted to push his friend away and assure him that Pansy was all his Draco obliged his request and detoured with him down an unused corridor.
"Blaise, I don't care that you're seeing Pansy. Really! I'm glad to be rid of her." Draco spat it out before the other boy could so much as start a sentence. There had never been any concern about Pansy not puttering behind him. It was great to see her with someone else who actually paid attention to her.
"I know. Actually, I saw you shaking hands with Granger. Only a couple of insignificant people noticed since most everyone was pretty well falling asleep. I just wanted to make sure you know exactly what you're getting yourself into…" Blaise had a twinkle in his eye that worried Draco. It brought back the concern he had about Hermione Granger being fond of him and whether it was an attracted-to-him sort of fondness. Draco's own feelings towards her were confusing enough without Blaise making it any more complicated with his questions.
"It's not like that. She had been particularly rude to me in the library the other day. Poor sod came over to beg my forgiveness. I simply accepted by allowing her to shake my hand." Draco chose his words and used his tone intentionally. By cockily responding with a dark grin he assumed that Blaise wouldn't look into the matter further. He still didn't look convinced, though. So Draco laid it on just a tiny bit thicker, "It is quite the honor for someone of her status to be granted permission to shake my hand. Wouldn't you agree?"
"Draco, you might be able to fool everyone around you but you cannot stand there and trick me. When you are ready to talk about it just remember you have an ally in me." Blaise grabbed his forearm and squeezed very tightly before turning away. He led the way back to the common room. Only a few steps behind him, Draco considered further what his friend was suggesting: a relationship forming between him and Hermione Granger. She didn't even know what was happening, not really. She didn't know that it was happening with him.
But Draco wanted her to know, now more than ever.