Nobody ever asked my birthday

Chapter 169

It was a rare thing for Ron and Harry to arrive in the library without Hermione basically dragging them there. And so the look on Hermione's face was sheer surprise, followed shortly by delight. "There you are! You really should get started on your-" Hermione started in, her eyes alight with passion.

Harry smothered a grin as he sat down; Ron sat down with more of a thump, his face stormy in a way that presaged war. Harry didn't move for any books, and just waited until Ron started to speak.

When he did, it was like a firehose - rough and fast.

"What is up with Malfoy?" Ron hissed, his bright eyes nearly slits in his face.

"What, you mean...?" Hermione asked, and Harry thought back to what he'd seen earlier. Surely Malfoy hadn't taunted Ron about Hermione's lack of fashion sense...?

"He seemed like he actually cared." Ron said, half laughing brokenly, like some sort of mangled doll, "That's a crock, right?"

Harry Potter shrugged languidly, saying softly, "Maybe he does care."

Both Gryffindors trained shocked eyes on him, and Hermione said with venom, "But he's such an arrogant, prejudiced prat!"

"Maybe," Harry said softly, and he could see Hermione's brain starting to whirl. "He doesn't go out of his way to pick on anyone but us, you know that, right?"

"What's that got to do with anything?" Ron asked, his anger half hooded in confusion.

"Caring." Harry said, letting the word drop. "He cares what we think about him, because he tries to influence it. Goes out of his way to."

"Goes out of his way to make us hate him?" Hermione asked calmly, her eyes wide. It was clear that Hermione had never even dreamed of someone that twisted. Not in her entire life, or all the books she'd read.

"So, he cares." Harry said, his mouth quirking into a smile that came out more like a smirk. "Now the question is - what lies inside that caring?"

"Hate?" "Snobbishness?" "Arrogance?" Both his friends answered at once, their answers overlapping as they poured them out.

"It might be hate," Harry said, knitting his fingers together under the table. "It might not. But whatever it is, it relates to us, in particular." And Harry was not going to mention Malfoy kissing Granger. He could see some vestige of that knowledge on the edge of Hermione's face; most of her was still thinking about hate, though. Which was fine with him, he wasn't about to try to solve the riddle that was Draco Malfoy. Acknowledging that there was a riddle was quite enough for him, thank you very much.

[a/n: Harry really can't help trying to solve riddles. That's just the type of person he is. What he's actually restraining himself from doing is... either asking Draco directly, or sneaking around to figure it out.

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