A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 13: It’s all an act:

“Tell me!” he implored, tickling her ribs.

“STOP IT! Please, stop it!” she screamed.

“I shall tickle you until you tell me who it is,” he said, still tickling her.

Just then, someone walked in the front door. “Help me, Malfoy!” she yelled. Draco walked in the flat and he felt incredibly jealous. Theo had Hermione pinned on the floor and was tickling her. His Hermione. On his floor.

“He can’t help you now, Granger,” Theo said, still torturing her.

“PLEASE!” she said. She looked up at Draco with eyes the implored him to help her. A look in which he was all too familiar. It wasn’t an act. She seemed afraid. Draco pulled on Theo’s shoulder.

“Stop it, Theo,” Draco said.

Theo didn’t stop.

Hermione was close to actual tears now. Draco pulled on his friends shoulder again, and roared, “STOP IT!” He pulled the other man off her. She rolled over to her side. “That’s cruel,” Draco said.

Hermione pushed herself up to her feet and ran to their bathroom.

“Gee, I didn’t know she would get all strange like that,” Theo said.

“Some people don’t like to be confined,” Draco scolded. He knew Hermione was one such person. She had never told him as much, but the look in her eye told him all he needed to know. Theo walked to their bathroom door, followed by Draco.

He knocked and she opened the door. She said, “Do you guys ever clean in there? It’s disgusting.” Her eyes were red, from the laughter and tears. She blew her nose on some toilet paper and said, “This is the last of the toilet paper.”

She put the snotty paper in Theo’s hand. He looked disgusted, but threw it in the trash bin.

“Why were you tickling her?” Draco asked as he plopped on the sofa and put his feet on the coffee table. He turned on the telly. He always turned on the television when he got in the flat. He hated silence.

“Granger’s got a date and won’t tell me with whom,” Theo said. Hermione took that opportunity to disappear into Draco’s bedroom.

He put his feet on the floor, looked at Theo sternly, and said, “How do you know?”

“She told me, but she won’t say who it’s with. I bet it’s that bloke she studied with the other day.”

“That wanker?” Draco asked.

Hermione came out of Draco’s bedroom and said, “He’s not a wanker. I put your book back, by the way. The one I borrowed.”

“I have to go to work,” Theo announced. He didn’t really have a job. He was dating some girl who worked at a café on campus, so when she went to work, he went. He looked at Draco and mouthed the words, “Find out who it is.”

As he left, Draco turned to look at her. She was making tea. She said, “You two are such opposites. Your bedroom is always so neat. Theo’s is a mess. When you’re home, the dishes are done. When he’s here, I can’t even find a clean spoon.”

“Who’s your date with, by the way,” he said.

“By the way? That’s not a very smooth segue. You should beat around the bush, and then trick me into telling you,” she said. She picked up her cup of tea and sat beside him on the couch.

“Cut the crap. Theo wants me to find out. I could care less,” he said. However, he turned the television down and he turned to look at her. He actually wasn’t sure he could care more.

“Well, you know David, from class, right?”

“Tall, gangly, ugly fellow?” he asked.

“Um, no,” she said deliberately. “Tall, gangly, handsome fellow.”

“When are you going out with this prat?” he asked.

“He asked me to go to the pictures with him this Saturday. I have to go to my mum’s for lunch during the day, but I might take him up on the offer, if nothing better comes along.” She took a drink of tea.

“You told me you were going to your mum’s to do your laundry on Saturday,” he reminded her.

“Lunch will probably be served,” she said.

“You are using your mum for her washer and dryer, and you are using this David bloke for who knows what reason, because you surely don’t like him.” He put his feet back on the coffee table and turned the television back up.

“I like him,” she said. She took the remote from him.

“Hand it over, Granger.”

She placed her tea on the coffee table and held the remote control above her head. He looked at her as if she was crazy and said, “I can reach it still, you know.” She stood up on the couch and held it over her head. He stood up on the floor and said, “I can still reach it.” He looked perturbed, but he was actually amused.

She jumped off the couch and put it down her jumper. Right down the front of her jumper. Now he was in a pickle. He could get it there, but after her little jaunt with Theo and the tickling, he didn’t want to cross the line, nor distress her. He walked up to her and said, “Must I call Theo to come back here and tickle you some more?”

She backed toward the wall and said, “Are you afraid to get it yourself?”

“That’s a dangerous question,” he admitted.

“It’s a dare!” she said. He jumped for her, she squealed, and ran around the table. He ran after her.

“Give it, Granger!”

“Get it, Malfoy!” she said.

He jumped over the table, she yelled again, and she ran toward his bedroom. She tried to shut the door in his face, but she didn’t make it in time. She jumped up on the bed and started to bounce. “Draco can’t get the remote!” she taunted.

He said, “Fine, keep the stupid remote. I have a wand. I can turn the channels with it.” He walked out of the room and slammed his door shut tight.

She jumped two more times and then sat on the bed. She took the remote out of her jumper and started toward the door. She opened it slowly. She figured he was out there ready to pounce. He wasn’t. He was back on the couch, turning the channels with a flick of his wand.

She pointed the remote at the screen and turned it off. He turned it back on. She turned it off. He looked at her, giving her a dirty look at that, and turned it back on. She turned it back off. He stood up and said, “Don’t make me call Theo!”

She laughed and threw him the remote. He sat back down and turned the telly back on. She started toward the door and said, “I should go anyway.”

“Hey, may I ask you a question?” he asked.

She nodded and sat back down on the sofa. He sat back beside her. He turned off the telly. “Why were you so panicked when Theo was tickling you? The look in your eye reminded me, I mean, well, you looked almost scared.”

She looked at the floor. She said, “We’ve never really discussed what happened at Hogwarts during the final battle, have we?”

“We don’t have to,” he said. He didn’t want to. He thought of it all the time, so there was no need to talk about it. It wasn’t as if he was ever going to forget. He said, “Is that why, though? You were afraid of him?”

“Not afraid, I just can’t stand it when someone has that much power over me. Physical strength, I mean. It scares me. He doesn’t scare me.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he was.

She bit her lip and then put her head back on the sofa cushions. “That’s a lie.”

“No it’s not. I am sorry,” he said quickly.

“I meant I lied,” she explained, “Sometimes I am afraid of Theo.”

He turned and said, “Why?” She didn’t answer right away. Her eyes were shut. He reached over and touched her arm. She opened her eyes. “Why does he scare you? Has he ever done anything to hurt you? Has he said anything to cause you distress?”

Draco was sure that Theo would never hurt Hermione in anyway. He knew that he genuinely liked her, maybe as much as Draco did, though probably in a different way. They had become very good friends over the last six months. He reached over again and took her hand. It was a common thing these days, touching Hermione. It started with her touching him. Sometimes she would pat his arm. Sometimes she hit him, and sometimes hard. She would brush his hair out of his eyes. She would grab his hand when she had something exciting to say.

He had seen her act the same with Potter and Weasley all their lives, so he knew it was nothing out of the way for her. She did the same with Theo. Nevertheless, until recently, he had never touched her in the same familiar way. He was afraid to, because if he touched her, it might reveal how he felt about her, and he wasn’t ready to do that.

Something changed yesterday evening, though. They were all at her flat, having pizza and studying, when Draco went to lie down on the floor. He had a headache from all the reading. He told Theo and Hermione he had a headache, and wanted to shut his eyes for a moment. He took one of her sofa pillows, put it under his head, and closed his eyes.

The next thing he knew, she was sitting by his head, massaging his temples. Then she propped up his head, to replace the pillow with her lap. She continued to rub his forehead, as she read his textbook aloud. Theo ended up lying on the sofa, saying if she was going to read it aloud, he didn’t need to read it either.

She was doing it for him, however. For Draco. Somewhere along the line, he reached up with his right hand and took her hand in his. He held it. She continued to read.

So now, he felt he could touch her. He wasn’t for sure when the schism occurred; he only knew that now he could touch her.

Like he was touching her now. “Hermione, tell me, why are you scared of Theo?” He was rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb.

It was moments like this when she wished it were only him, her, and no one else in the world. She said, “I’m not scare of him, I’m scared for him. There’s a difference. I feel like he’s a bomb that is about to implode or explode or something.”

He smiled and said, “That’s crazy. He’s one of the happiest people I know. He’s always happy-go-lucky. He always has been. He’s never sad or depressed.”

“And hence forth my assessment,” she said. “That’s not natural. Everyone has blue days, and shows anger occasionally. I think it’s an act, and that scares me. In many ways, he reminds me of my dad. I’m afraid one of these days his bottled up emotions are going to explode all over the place, and it won’t be a pretty sight.” She removed her hand from his to make an explosion gesture with her hands.

He had never heard her say anything negative about her dad before, so he wasn’t sure what she meant, but he still thought she was nuts. He said, “I wouldn’t worry about that.” He took her hand again and asked, “You do like him, don’t you?”

“Sure, what’s not to like?” she said. “I don’t want you to think I don’t like him!” She sat upright and said, “Please don’t tell him I said anything.”

“First, I wouldn’t betray your confidence, and you should know that. I’ve never told a living soul any of your secrets, if you understand my meaning,” he assured her. He said, “And what I meant was, do you have affection for him beyond friendship.”

“No,” she said quickly. “No, not at all,” she said even quicker. “Why would you ask that?”

He wasn’t sure why he asked. No, he was lying to himself. He knew why he asked. Because it would kill him inside if he found out that she liked Theo that way. If she ever liked anyone that way, it had better be him. He said, “Just pulling your leg.”

“Oh,” she said softly. She picked up the remote and turned the telly back up. She said, “May we watch this program? It’s my favourite.” She tucked her feet under her and rested her head on his shoulder. Since they were at the touching stage of their relationship, he stroked her hair. He was glad he could touch her now. It might be all he would ever have with her.

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