A Feeling Unknown

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Part 2: University Years: (Prequel to Part I)

Chapter 11: You look Different:

Draco tossed a small golden snitch up in the air and then he caught it. He doubted that any of the Muggles around him were paying him any mind. He was waiting for Theo to come out of the main building. He walked over to a sunny patch of grass, which was littered with students, and he stopped. He took a deep gulp of air. My god, it was her…Hermione Granger.

He hadn’t seen her in a year. Was she a student here now? Did she know that he was going here? Of course she didn’t. Why would she know anything about him? He put the snitch in his pocket and walked closer to her.

“No, Mum,” Hermione said in a mobile phone, “I haven’t gotten it yet. I did get the new towels you sent me. My flat is coming along nicely. I painted the walls yellow.” Hermione laughed at something her mother said. Draco smiled. It was nice to see her laughing, because the last time he saw her there was certainly no reason for her to laugh or smile.

“Fine, Mum, I will,” she said, responding to something her mother had said. She put the small phone in her backpack and took out a book. Draco took the snitch out of his pocket and threw it back in the air. A small part of him wanted her to notice him, and he wasn’t sure why. She started to lay books all around her. She was looking for something. She was even muttering something to herself. Draco thought it was hilarious. He spied Theo and said, “Hey, Nott!” Surely, that would make her look up. He threw the snitch toward Theo.

Theo threw it back, and Draco jumped up to get it. On the way back down, his foot slipped on one of her books and he toppled over, and ended up right on top of her.

He looked down at her, and she back up at him. He supported his weight with his hands and said, “Hi, Granger.”

Theo came over toward the pair, laughing. He held out his hand to Draco, who seemed oblivious. Theo hit his shoulder and said, “Oi, Malfoy, stop smashing Granger.” Draco sat up and then stood. Theo said, “Sorry about that Granger. Malfoy always did have horrible manners, and he’s clumsy as hell.”

She frowned and started to pick up her books. Draco kneeled before her and helped her with her book. She looked at Theo and said, “What are you two doing here?”

“Academics, just like you, Granger,” Draco said. She still looked at Theo, even as Draco took a book from her hand and stuffed it in her satchel.

She said, “You two should be careful playing with that snitch. This is a Muggle University, you know.” She brushed off her jeans and watched as Draco stood. He reached his hand out to her. She was still ignoring him, and it both irritated him and amused him.

Her questions still directed toward Theo, she asked, “What are you two doing at a Muggle University?”

“Getting a top notch education,” Draco said. This time she had to acknowledge him. He still had his hand out toward her. Would she ever take the hint? Finally, she accepted his hand and he pulled her up with ease. The unease came after she stood. He still had her hand. She did nothing to remove it, and he did nothing to release it.

Theo took her satchel from Draco and he finally let go of her hand. He looked inside and said, “You’re taking awfully hard classes from the look of your books.” He continued to rummage, uninvited, through her satchel, and he said, “Are you kidding me?”

She took her bag from him and started walking. Theo fell into step next to her, with Draco right behind. She said, “What classes are you taking?”

“Easy ones,” Theo said with a laugh. He looked back at Draco and said, “You’re taking some of the same classes as Granger.”

Hermione turned to look at him. She was quiet for a moment and asked, “What’s your major?”

“That’s a personal question,” Draco joked.

Hermione actually smiled. She said, “Mine’s education.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Draco said.

Theo took her bag from her again and then handed it to Draco. He held out his arm for her and said, “Maybe you and old Malfoy here will share some classes. Walk with us, Granger. Show us the sights. This is our first day, you know.”

She showed them the entire campus. Theo stayed by her side, Draco stayed behind. Hermione would glance back at him every once in a while, but she kept her conversation aimed toward Theo. Draco asked a few questions, and he noticed when she answered, she would look anywhere but at him.

He figured he must make her uncomfortable. He must remind her of what happened at the last battle. He must remind her of everything that was hard and painful to her all throughout school. She must not like him. Hell, she acted as if she could barely tolerate him.

Imagine his surprise when Theo said, “I have to go. My mum is expecting me for dinner. See you later, Malfoy. Hope to see you later, too, Granger.” He bowed and kissed her hand.

She giggled.

Draco frowned.

She turned to him, and to say that the silence between them was awkward would be the biggest understatement of the century. He said, “Well, I best go, too.”

“Is your mum expecting you, too?” she asked.

He gave her a crooked grin and said, “I’m not really welcome in my home any longer. My mother is paying for school, but that’s about it.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

“My father.” He hoped that would be enough of an explanation. Surely, she knew his father was in prison. He hoped she wouldn’t ask anything about him. He really thought he hated the man, so he wouldn’t be able to defend him if she said something contrite or even mean spirited about him.

She said, “I’m sorry you’re having a rough time with your parents.” That was all she said, and he was thankful for it. She reached for her books.

“I’ll carry them to your car,” he said.

“I live here on campus. In a small, one room flat. It’s tiny, on the third floor of a large old house, and the stairs leading up to it on the outside are a bit scary and rickety, but it’s mine, and I love it.”

She smiled at him and he felt his heart melt. He said, “Theo and I are on campus, too. Thank the stars it’s not a one roomer. Theo snores.”

She smiled at that. She said, “You want to see my flat?” Then she looked as if she could hardly believe she asked that.

To relieve her distress he said, “I’ll carry your books there, but then I really need to get home. Classes start tomorrow, you know.”

“I’m painfully aware. I’m very nervous,” she said with a laugh as they started to walk toward her apartment. “I haven’t been in school for a while, you know.”

“You always loved school though,” he reminded.

“True.” She cocked her head to the side. She was staring at him.

He asked, “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You look different.”

“How so?” he asked. He was curious. The truth was he found that to be a compliment. He felt different, so he should look different.

“You look more comfortable in your own skin. You look like you belong. Does that make sense?” she asked.

He felt like she was looking into his soul. That was exactly how he felt. He felt more comfortable. He felt like he was his own person for the first time in his life. He didn’t feel like he was defined by his father, or as a pureblood, or any of that shite. He felt like Draco. Just Draco, for the first time ever. He said, “You’re crazy.” Then he smiled at her and said, “No, really, I think you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head, Granger. Finally, everything feels right.”

“I’m happy for you, Malfoy,” she said.

“Really?” he asked. He swatted a fly that flew in front of her face. It made her blink. He stepped up closer to her. She looked into his eyes. For the first time in her life, she really looked Draco Malfoy in the eyes, and she liked what she saw.

He only had one thought. He wanted to kiss her. How crazy was that? He had never found her overly attractive before. She still wasn’t what he would call beautiful. She was pretty. Her eyes were gorgeous, her smile nice, her nose cute, and her hair tolerable. And what was with those freckles? Did she always have them or were they new? He wanted to kiss each freckle individually. He wanted to kiss her badly. This new Draco Malfoy must be crazy.

“Do I look different?” she asked.

If she only knew. He was contemplating that very thing. He said, “No, you look about the same, really.” He was such a liar. They stopped walking and he spied a bench across the road. He pointed. She nodded. They walked across the road and sat down.

“What are Weasel and Potter up to these days?” Draco asked.

“Auror training, mostly,” she said. “They’ve been at it for over a year now. I took a gap year. I traveled with my Mum some, and by myself some.”

“I hate being by myself,” he said. He really did.

“I don’t. I enjoy my own company,” she said wistfully. “Sometimes I think I’m the only one that can stand to be with me for any period of time.” She laughed at her own joke. He felt himself pulled by her laughter, and it tore him to pieces. It made him not only conflicted, but also aroused. He smiled as well.

“Weren’t you and Weasley dating?” he asked.

“For a bit,” she stated. She smoothed away an invisible wrinkle from her blouse. “He’s got a new girlfriend now. Do you remember Susan Bones?”

He did, but he said, “I don’t think so.” He wasn’t sure why he was lying to her so much, except that he had hoped that by feigning ignorance, she would have to keep talking to him if only to enlighten him.

“She went to Hogwarts, Malfoy. She was in our grade,” she said condescendingly.

“But she was in Hufflepuff, and I don’t acknowledge Hufflepuffs on principle,“ he said with a phony haughty air.

She laughed again. Her laughter hit his senses like a bright beam of light. It pulsated through his very soul. She was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark and dismal world. She stood up from the bench. He was forced to follow.

Finally, she said, “My flat’s this way.”

She started walking across campus and he followed, but this time he walked right beside her instead of behind her.

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