Unknown Unknowns, Part 2
“So tell me, Malfoy, do you fancy Granger?” Ethan had asked.
The word No s_tuck in Draco’s throat. Draco heard boys sniggering. The girlsmade no sound and he didn’t know which bothered him more. Harry Potter loungedagainst the back wall, expression no longer unreadable. _He’s smirking, damnhim. Draco tried saying ‘No’ again, just to check.
Ethan Jugson smiled, lips pressed together. “Take all the time you need. Norush.” He dramatically interlocked his fingers and put them behind his head.Draco considered conceding and instantly discarded the idea. Conceding nowmeant failure, his preceding speech forgotten. Father had taught him In anyexperience, people remember only the most dramatic moment and the finalmoment. This was the most dramatic moment - Draco dare not make it the finalone as well.
“I don’t know. I may be infatuated,” he said.
Draco now faced another problem. Going on the offense meant admitting Ethanhad struck a nerve. So, he’d keep lobbing easy quaffles at the center ringuntil the topic changed.
“What makes you ask?” said Draco.
“Oh, Sara saw you talking to her and Potter on the train and said you seemed …distracted.”
“We were discussing… ” Draco started casually, but Ethan cut him off evenbefore Blaise snorted.
“I didn’t ask. Why do you think you may be infatuated? Seems an odd thing tonot know.” Ethan had the initiative and planned on keeping it. Draco hadplanned to lose, but that was before Ethan started winning. That’s what I getfor considering this a solitaire exercise.
“The last few times I’ve seen her she’s had this glow around her. I’m worriedI’m falling for her.”
I didn’t have enough time or information to take Ethan into account. Dracoscanned the crowd for fellow children of Death Eaters. Ethan’s eyes narrowedat Draco’s answer, but he was in a duel, that could be anything. The Jugsonsseemed calm. Earlier the Carrow sisters had hidden behind their tangled blackhair, like Bellatrix Lestrange sported during her heyday, faces hidden fromDraco’s view. They’d whispered amongst themselves all during the duel, clearlyon Zabini’s side. But now they’d brushed their hair back, leering and makingsmooching noises in Draco’s direction.
“Would you date her, Ethan. If she was older?” Draco’s kept his voice light.Just another simple question, chatting with an old friend. He projected thecalm he felt slipping away.
“Of course not. She’s a mudblood.” One question answered, thought Draco.“That doesn’t bother you, Malfoy?”
“Not as much as dating a girl who destroys Dementors,” Draco shot back,waiting for the laughter to fade as an excuse to consider his question. Hehadn’t planned on winning but now saw several options. He didn’t have time tocompare. Plots were best pursued at leisure, planned carefully, but Dracodidn’t have time. _That’s the point of dueling. _Draco chose a non-committalgambit.
“Since you disapprove, instruct me. What do you look for in a witch?” Dracosmiled - that question was a minefield. Ethan might consider it not worthanswering, just to win a duel. And if Ethan answered and pressed the point,well, he was younger. He could (truthfully) plead ignorance with no loss offace. Draco tried to remember who Ethan had dated, but couldn’t. Dracosuspected he’d never known. He paid attention to everyone but Time is aMalfoy’s most valuable commodity. Older students’ hadn’t been a priority. Hehoped the assembled witches would glance at Ethan’s girlfriend (or crush); buttheir looks didn’t form a pattern. Ethan hadn’t answered yet.
“Conceding?” Draco asked. Elsie Ambrose stood looking down at the floor, handsclasped together tightly. She had a crush on Ethan, possibly; Draco filed thataway. Pansy Parkinson stared directly at Draco, watching his eyes slowly scanthe crowd.
“Obviously looks are important, and a nice figure. And not bossy.”
Harry Potter had watched with growing interest as the duel unfolded beforehim. He didn’t have Draco’s experience, his tutelage in manner, tone andbearing. He’d been in many arguments but never formal debates. He’d never evenimagined a Slytherin duel until a few minutes ago. But Harry didn’t need anyparticular training to recognize that as a bad answer, at least as Slytherinwitches judged. They hooted ample feedback.
Harry thought Draco seemed distracted. No, not distracted. Attentive to manythings. A wide-angle lens. Harry couldn’t see Ethan’s face, wondered wherehis focus was. Harry’s hands sweated. Very lightly. He’d never faced socialanxiety, not the stereotypical nerd shyness. When ‘In the moment’ Harry didn’tfeel social pressure, possibly didn’t recognize it. And threateningsituations, social or otherwise, provoked his Dark Side which forcefullyshoved fear and self-doubt aside.
But watching Draco play Slytherin Truth-or-Truth with a fifth year left himnervous.
“So, just like your mother?” asked Ethan. Harry started to say something. Hehadn’t caught all the rules but he’d gathered duels shouldn’t dissolve intoplaying the dozens. “How does it feel, her coming back from the dead?”
“Family is off limits, Jugson.” Harry heard the edge, the threat.
“I’m not asking about her. I’m asking how you feel.” Ethan pressed the point.
“You are fishing. Too vague. I don’t have to answer.” Draco hadn’t beenleaning forward, but leaned further back.
“You didn’t complain when I asked how you felt about Granger” came the smoothreply.
“That brooked a single implication,” Draco said flatly.
Before, words had drifted out slowly, and there were pauses. Some awkward,some artful, and not all of those had belonged to Draco. Over the last minute,though, lulls and empty spaces had fallen away. The legato fireside chattransformed – accelerando - into a brisk march. Harry wondered if that wastraditional, part of the unwritten rules that so often formed a larger part ofany game than the rulebook. Perhaps this was some strategy, but Harry couldn’ttell whose. Now there were no pauses as words volleyed back and forth.Question and answer, call and response. Draco sounded the same to Harry, nochange in timbre or pitch. Ethan sounded excited; he’d found a thread worthpulling. Harry leaned forward, for once part of a crowd.
“You’re mad she’s back, Malfoy?”
“Yes. You resent your brother’s outburst after your father died, Jugson?”
“Yes. Because she abandoned you?”
“No. Because he’d been invited to join, and you hadn’t?”
“Yes. Because Lucius should have figured it out and rescued her?”
Draco stuttered slightly. “N…Not really. That’s only a minor part. You wishRobert lay dead beside your Father, don’t you Ethan?” The last came outquickly, raggedly. The exchange had only taken seconds and now time seemedlike it should slow, like it should stop.
“I withdraw the question, Jugson. I concede.”
A second later Draco stood up as the chair pushed back from the table. Gregorypreceded Lord Malfoy by several steps. To Harry Potter it seemed like they’dmoved as a single unit, he couldn’t tell if Draco pushed the chair back ashe’d stood up, or Gregory had tugged the chair and Draco, responding to themotion, stood up. Gregory had never said a word, never threatened theintegrity of the duel or interfered. But … his hand had been clasped on theback of the chair, grip tightening at each of Ethan’s last questions. Goyleand Malfoy were practically out of the common room by the time Ethan heard thewords.
Padma Patil turned to Harry Potter. “I’m beginning to think this was amistake.”
Footnote - Lucius’s rule (_In any experience, people remember the mostdramatic moment and the final moment) _is a restatement of the “Peak End Rule”
Author’s Note - The next update will be Weds.
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