I admit nothing of the kind. It was one thing when she stayed out of the press and I never even had to read about her, but now I can hardly turn a corner without her stepping on my cloak.
And being forced to work with her to improve my public image… Agony.
Granger may be less of a tit that Potter and Weasley, but when those two see a train careening out of control, they at least have the the decency to get out of the bloody way.
I’m reading a book called The Illusion of Authority: The Spell Cast by Pure-blood Society Over the Nineteenth Century by an American author called Forrester Lynch right now. It’s about—as I’m sure you’ve guessed—Purebloods and how awful we all are. Americans are the most contrary people in the world. They have no respect for tradition.
Still, it’s interesting. Even if it was on my required reading list from Bliswick. I told him as long as there aren’t any Muggle books on the list, I gave my word to be a good boy and do my homework.
I’ll just read these books in a locked and windowless room so that no one can see me and hide them from Mother at all costs because, Merlin, this is more than a little humiliating.
Hermione could almost see her mouth falling in his cool grey eyes. She composed herself, slightly glad he hadn’t heard Ginny’s adjective for him and muttered under her breath, “I should have guessed.”
Hermione was going to explain what it was she had to do when she was interrupted by the commentators on their loudspeaker announcing the arrival of each player and their position, she just decided to remain silent, hoping that he would guess as they were heading towards the centre of the pitch. The captains appeared from their respective changing rooms to a jubilant crowd.
From Hermione’s experience, they would shake hands and then zoom up into the air. From the corner of her eye, she could see Ginny, who looked so surprised she may have fallen off her broom without warning. Maybe she was not so cynical of Hermione’s usage of the word, ‘friend’ now.
The referee strode on, and spoke with the captains who nodded. Hermione turned back to Draco who was staring at something transfixed in the air. Hermione turned back to the captains who shook hands briefly and then took to their brooms. Just as they were to take off, Hermione noticed the referee say something else and looked over in her direction. The captains looked at her, turned back to the referee and nodded. The captain for the Ballycastle Bats winked at her before taking his place in the air. One of the coaches (who she assumed was the opposing teams’) looked at the Bludgers and released them. Hermione shuddered. She had seen what an aimed Bludger could do. Then the Golden Snitch was released. She watched it glimmer, hoping to see watch it for the entirety of the game, but it was gone and out of sight as soon as it could be.
“… and levitating the Quaffle into play is Miss Hermione Granger, famous for her…”
Hermione forced herself not to listen. Famous for her involvement in the Second Wizarding War. Had she not been on the ‘winning’ side, would she be worshipped like a deity? She hated her ‘accolades’. So she had been involved with the Second Wizarding War, she’d rather it have never happened. In fact, her accolades would be more worthy if she had saved a life or prevented people dying. Being the ‘nation’s sweetheart’ wasn’t going to bring Fred back.
Hermione shook her head to get away from her thoughts, and walked over towards the coaches, and hoping Malfoy would be following her or something. Her shoes sank a little into the ground as she did so. She smiled as she pointed her wand at the Quaffle and said clearly, “Wingardium Leviosa”
It rose into the air, slowly, and perfectly, like the feather in that first-year Charms class. It stopped at chest-height for the Chasers, ready for the referee’s whistle. Hermione kept her wand pointed at the Quaffle. A whistle rang out. A fumble. A grab.
The game had started.
Draco smiled with the exuberance of a child and watched the dangling feet and billowing robes of Finbar Quigley from the field of the pitch. He wasright there, flying almost directly above him. If Draco had shouted, Quigley would still be able to hear him over the din of the crowded stadium.
And then in really sank in. He was standing on the field of B. H. Griffiths Stadium in front of thousands of people. He suddenly felt as though a million eyes were boring into his skin, digging into his pores like parasites, burrowing deep. He stared up into the stands, and a thousand thousand faces glared back down at him, their cheeks red with cold or else painted with the colors of their team.
He was on trial here, in the chair with hulking chains rattling against stone as they wrapped tight around his arms, holding him there in the presence of so many glaring enemies.
All of these people hated him. They all wanted him to go to Azkaban for the rest of his life. Every cheer became a shout of anger. Every laugh became a taunt.
What had he been thinking?
Draco’s eyes found the back of Granger’s head. He took stock of the referee and the captains speaking a little ways off.
He backed away a few paces then turned and ran back through the portal that had lead them to the field. Down the dim passage Draco went. He stepped over the velvet rope, and started toward the box seats.
Though he’d only been in B. H. Griffiths Stadium once before, Draco’s feet seemed to know their way up staircases and down deserted halls full of the echoed noise of so many excited voices. As if from everywhere at once, Draco heard the speech praising “Miss Hermione Granger”, heroine, national darling, etc. etc.. Then there was the whistle and roar of the crowd that signaled the beginning of the game. He kept walking.
The top box, which held over fifty prime seats, was deserted went he entered. He crossed to the very front row, to the seat farthest from the door, and sat down with his arms on the railing. He leaned his head against the partition on his right and tried to focus on the gameplay happening directly in front of him, but he couldn’t.
"…Quaffle into play is Miss Hermione Granger, famous for her involvement in the Second Wizarding War…"
Of course that was true. “Miss Hermione Granger” was famous for her role alongside Weaseldee and Potterdum in the Second Wizarding War. That’s why he’d wanted her help in the first place, wanted to stand in her shadow and let the press take pictures of them smiling together, wanted to restore some good will to the name of Malfoy in the days before his trial. That was the whole point of being at the Quidditch game where he now sat staring blindly at the players as they zoomed left and right through the air before his eyes.
And he’d been an idiot and run away because the ideas of so many people looking down on him and thinking thoughts about him at once was just… unbearable. He couldn’t let himself feel that vulnerable. He wasn’t ready to be a willing spectacle of the Wizarding world.
Besides, for Draco, trying to make nice to theProphetwas like watching a troll do ballet. It wasn’t going to be graceful, and more than likely someone was going to get seriously injured. Draco Malfoy didn’t “make nice”. It wasn’t his style.
It was like the commentator said, “Miss Granger is a valiant victor of several key battles during the War and played a decisive role in the defeat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his Death Eaters.”
Granger was a “victor”, one who preside over Draco’s “defeat”. Using her fame to buy the favor of the public was hypocrisy on a grand scale. It was a wonder she’d agreed to do it in the first place.
There had to be some other way.
Someone scored, and the deafening boos and cheers filled the stadium, rousing Draco from his thoughts. He glanced at the scoreboard. Already twenty to naught with the Harpies in the lead.
Griffiths, the Chaser for the Harpies who’d just scored, was smiling as her teammates raced around her. As soon as someone threw her the Quaffle, however, and almost too fast for Draco to see, she’d been knocked clean off her broom by a Buldger. Griffiths plummeted down toward the field to the screams and gasps from the crowd, and she was only just caught by Gwenog Jones before they toppled together off of Jones’ broom and into the cold, hard earth.
Draco had forgotten Jones would be playing. She had to be the sexiest woman on the planet, standing up a little shakily even as Griffiths lay in a huddled heap behind her, mud and grass stains streaking her uniform. She wiped blood from her nose with the back of her hand and made a beeline for the referee who’d just landed a few yards away. It couldn’t have been hotter if it’d been in slow motion.
He tore his gaze away from Jones and looked around for the Bats player he knew to be the culprit. He found Quigley hovering on his broom near the Bats goalposts, knocking bats with Joey Jenkins, a new transfer from the Chudley Cannons. Jenkins had severely injured the Bats’ Chaser Ebberhoff during a playoff game back in 1999, and though Draco had often heard it reported that no one on the team got on with Jenkins, he and Quigley seemed like brothers in arms. They both had that manic gleam in their eyes and a penchant for ruthlessly creative destruction. Draco hadn’t seen them play together before, but it was clear that they were a terrifying combination.
They were only minutes in. This was going to be a good game.
Draco smiled in spite of himself and watched as a replacement Chaser for Griffiths took her place in the air. Gameplay resumed, and he was completely absorbed, pushing aside any thoughts that didn’t involve the Quidditch game in front of him.
Hermione stammered her way through her words, trying to form a coherent sentence. Finally, something compelled her to show the tickets in her hand.
“We-er… my friend almost couldn’t get these tickets,” Hermione said, “Some arrogant millionaire bought out all the seats in the box.”
She couldn’t read his expression as she carried on steadily directing them to the security guard who was checking the tickets. Unfortunately, the man was gawping at her as if she was a zoo animal. She couldn’t wait to have their tickets scrutinised and hurry along.
“Oh, and er… Malfoy, I owe my friend a favour, and I hope you don’t mind considering it’s rather… erm, public.”
"Public is good," Draco said as Granger steered him past the stairs to the box seats and along a narrow corridor marked:
AUTHORIZED WIZARDS ONLY
BEYOND THIS POINT
The security wizard at the entrance of the corridor unclipped a velvet rope to let them by, both smiling at Granger and scowling at Draco as they passed, which was, to Draco’s mind, pretty impressive.
It was true that Draco had endeavored to stay out of the limelight for a year and a half. It was natural for him to be a little nervous. He stuffed his hands into his trousers pockets and tried to stare straight forward to the arch at the other end of the passageway, a bright spot of green fast approaching.
Their strategy hadn’t even been tested yet. Draco didn’t know if it would even work. What if they got out onto the field and everyone saw him with Granger and they booed?
Calm down. Everything is going to go smoothly. This is a good plan. Draco nearly cringed at admitting yet again that Granger’s plan might be a good one. But he was here, wasn’t he? That was confession enough.
And he was glad to see that Granger was taking this whole publicity thing seriously, even if they appeared to be heading straight for the Quidditch field. He decided not to ask what business Granger could possibly have where they were going. Whatever she was doing for her “friend” had nothing to do with him. He was here for the photo op and Finbar Quigley.
Maybe he would be on the pitch already!
No, that’s ridiculous. He’d be in the changing rooms with the rest of the team. Still, the prospect of seeing Quigley up close, maybe even speaking to him, lifted Draco’s spirits considerably. He almost forgave Granger for making him wait so long.
Draco leaned toward her as they passed through the portal at the other side, their feet sinking pleasantly into the grass. “And that ‘arrogant millionaire’ you were on about? That was me.”
Hermione felt rather odd standing in the middle of a small corridor, dodging out of people’s way, answering questions as to why she was there and just the general question of whether or not she was Hermione Granger.
“No, I’m not,” she said firmly to the startled witch, “Sorry.”
She disliked it when people recognised her out of the street, stopped to say hello, and get an autograph with. She wasn’t Gilderoy Lockhart, obsessively hunting for fame and publicity shots, despite what everyone, up to and including Malfoy, thought. The woman scurried away, off to do some important job for the game. Hermione looked around and saw the odd curtain open slightly and a head pop out. Every time it happened, she lurched a little in that direction in vain hope that it was Ginny who was coming out of the room.
She didn’t know what was taking her friend so long, either, Ginny had told her to wait in the corridor after meeting her by the entrance for the players and taking her inside and she was taking her merry time retrieving the tickets. She fidgeted, biting her thumbnail. She could only imagine the wrath she was going to face for keeping a Malfoy waiting.
Finally, her friend was jogging down the corridor and stopped just in front of her. Her face was flushed, and she ran a shaky hand through her hair. With her other hand she was holding onto two tickets.
“Sorry about that, some tosser went and bought every seat in the box, near enough,” Ginny said, slightly out of breath. “I could barely get my hands on these two, and Harry and Ron are fuming that they’re missing the game.”
“Who would buy every seat in the box?” Hermione asked incredulously.
“I don’t know who it was, but I bet they’re some bellend millionaire that substitutes handing out misery for… -” Ginny stopped mid-sentence at the sight of Hermione’s expression. “Anyway, any clues for this male companion you’re bringing?”
Ginny’s eyes were lit up, in anticipation for the gossip that she had been expecting the moment Hermione asked for the tickets.
“We’re friends, so none of that,” Hermione said sharply, but then felt guilty at the harshness of her tone. After all, Ginny didn’t have to give her the tickets. “But, thank you. For the tickets.”
She made to turn away but then Ginny called for her.
“There’s another thing…” Ginny looked at the floor, “Our coach wants you to release a Ball into the game.”
“As in… Bludgers?”
“Oh no,” Ginny answered immediately, “No. Bludgers are for the opposing coach to release - it’s a ‘making sure we’ve not tampered with anything’ procedure - you’d only be levitating the Quaffle into play.”
“Oh,” Hermione said, “I-er…”
She did owe Ginny a favour, even if she didn’t want to draw attention to herself.
“Fine.” Good luck explaining that to Malfoy. “Look, I have to go… can’t keep my friend, waiting.”
Ginny grinned, an unbelieving smile, then she stopped. “Oh! There’s going to be an after party right here with all the players. You should come. With your friend.” Ginny was now mocking her of her labelling.
‘Friend’ was being kind to Malfoy. If anything, he was… a client for whom she was trying to win a case. After that, it was a simple going back to ignoring the other existed. Realising she was keeping Malfoy waiting for a rather long time, she offered her good luck to Ginny and ran out of the tent to meet Malfoy right next to the ticket office.
Draco stood off to the side of the steady stream of people flowing through the entrance to B. H. Griffiths Stadium, home of the Holyhead Harpies. He tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, leaning against a pillar, staring off away from the crowd toward the shiny white peak of Snowdon mountain, which reflected the crisp sunlight still shining from the horizon. Evening had just begun to fall, and the day was turning colder. Draco rolled his shoulders forward and crossed his arms, huddling in for warmth.
He could cast a warming charm, of course, but he didn’t want to call any attention to himself. He’d been all but ignored for the thirty minutes he’d been impatiently waiting for Granger to show up with the tickets. Only one very plain girl had approached him to try and get a look at his sour face.
"You’re Draco Malfoy," she’d said. Her bright purple robes annoyed him. He glowered at her. "Hello? I’m talking to you!"
Draco had continued to stare in the opposite direction. Eventually she’d left, muttering insults under her breath.
It was always a singularly disappointing occurrence for the girls who so inexplicably admired him to actually meet him. He tried not to encourage their enthusiasm which was, after all, totally misplaced. Most of the time, whether in fan mail or in person, Draco did not take advantage of his unusual notoriety. It felt wrong, somehow, though Draco wasn’t sure where he got that idea. Support was support, and he shouldn’t alienate those sympathetic to his cause.
It’s just that they were so creepy.
“‘Scuse me,” said a gravelly voice. Draco blinked and turned to face a man in security robes. “May I help you find your— Blimey! You’re Draco Malfoy!”
"Yes," said Draco. "I know." The hand folded closest to his body groped as subtly as it could for his wand. If this guard decided to take out his dislike of the Malfoy name of Draco—and it wouldn’t be the first time if he did—Draco want to be able to at least defend himself.
But the security wizard seemed calm enough, though perhaps a bit off-put by Draco’s reply. “You’ll be wanting to find your seat the, Mr. Malfoy,” said the wizard with a sniff. His bright red nose clashed with his orange hair, reminding Draco of the Weasleys.
He sneered. “‘Sir’ will do, if you please, and I can’t ‘find my seat’ at present. I am waiting for someone.”
"Well, sir,” said the guard, the pitch of his voice rising as his patience plummeted, “You’ll have to wait somewhere else. We can’t have people loiterin’ about the ticket booth. Safety precautions and all that.”
"I see." Draco uncrossed his arms, his wand hidden up his sleeve. He didn’t want to fight and he didn’t want to move. He played the highest card he could think of, feeling sick at what he’d been reduced to. "That is unfortunate," he said with an air of resignation, "because I’m meeting Hermione Granger to watch the match, and we agreed we’d find each other here in front of the ticket booth."
The man looked as thought Draco had struck him with a tire iron. “Hermione Granger?!”
"That is correct."
Draco sighed. “Yes, my thoughts exactly, but there you are.”
"Well," the security wizard stuttered. "Well—”
"Would you consent, then, to allow me to wait here for her?"
"You—I—Oh, alright! But I’ll be right over there,” said the guard, jabbing his gloved finger across the entrance way to the security kiosk.
"I feel safer already," said Draco flatly.
"Right," said the man, eying Draco as though he didn’t believe a word of it, but he walked away just the same. Draco folded his arms again, but he didn’t slip his wand back into his robes.
A little while later, giggles erupted nearby Draco and he turned, startled, to see three school age girls, fourth-years maybe, stealing glances at him from under the watchful eye of a very disapproving-looking woman.
Don’t worry, lady, Draco thought. Your girls are totally safe from me. It’s the other way ‘round that is usually the problem.
He didn’t speak; he just looked away again.
The sun was setting through the mountains and the line of spectators had thinned to a mere trickle of stragglers before Granger deigned to show up.
Draco couldn’t help himself. He looked over at the security kiosk and raised his eyebrows ever-so-slightly at the guard now ogling them in utter disbelief.
Maybe having Granger around wouldn’t be such a pain in the arse after all, he thought, then he remembered that he’d been standing outside of the stadium for so long that his joints felt numb with cold.
"Where have you been?” he said, his expression stiff with the effort of not shouting at her. “I’ve been waiting out here for nearly an hour!”