This is fanfiction for the wonderful already-alternate universe, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It doesn’t really fit with the ending of that story, however, so imagine it extrapolating from the events of, oh, chapter 77 (the end of the “Self Actualization” arc).
Who would be sending her a Slytherin system letter, she wondered. Pretty much everyone knew that any Ravenclaw worth their salt could figure out the sender anyway, not to mention the variety of ways a letter could be read and resealed…
But when she went to open the envelope, a spark jumped from the seal and arced across her thumb before neatly releasing the wax from the paper. Only then did an imprint appear on the surface, the head of an elegantly poised venomous snake. And she caught her breath.
To the lovely and talented Hermione, the first Granger—
It could be a trick, a plot from one of the other girls or even a prank orchestrated by Mr. Malfoy himself. But somehow she didn’t think so.
She remembered reading about the identity detection charm laid on the seal; one of its names was the Sweetheart Charm.
The letter crinkled in her hands as she read, her mind whirling with joy and expectation. It wasn’t just a one-sided feeling, then. He had noticed her, noticed with respect and attraction and what was an astonishing amount of candor from Draco Malfoy. The thoughts she had tried to dismiss as foolish and nonsense burst back, as if they had been there all along, and she imagined again his straight bearing, his chiseled features, the clasp of a handshake and then more—
She took a breath. Against all of this, a voice at the back of her mind was screaming, screaming, the voice of a first-year girl who first heard of a promise to commit an unspeakable act, an unspeakable act done to her. And she remembered saying then—
“Nobody has to tell you that hurting people is wrong, it’s not something you don’t do because the teacher says it’s not allowed, it’s something you don’t do because - because you can see when people are hurting, don’t you know that, Harry?” Her voice was shaking now. “That’s not - that’s not a rule people follow like the rules for algebra! If you can’t see it, if you can’t feel it here,” her hand slapped down over the center of her chest, not quite where her heart was located, but that didn’t matter because it was all really in the brain anyway, “then you just don’t have it!”
—something like that, anyway. And two years later, the first-year girl was shaking and terrified at the thought of being alone, really alone, with someone who would do that, or at least could say they would.
Someone like that would be capable of anything.
And really, that was that. She could feel her mind resolving itself at that, a kind of relief at knowing she was making the right decision. The attraction would pass, eventually—she’d seen enough of the other Ravenclaw girls to know how it usually went, and Lavender over in Gryffindor seemed to be going through boys like a professor through bad exams—and she could deal with it in the meantime.
Do I really think Draco could do that? she asked herself.
He had changed a lot since they first met, almost three years ago now. She did believe he was trying to be a better person, shocking though it had seemed at first. He really was trying to build a new and greater Slytherin House—“one that Padma Patil would be proud to join”, he had once said to her and Harry, in a surprising turn of phrase—and while he maintained his air of superiority, it was now placing him first among peers, not a lord above peasants.
But a part of her couldn’t be sure, would probably never be sure. And that was that.
Draco stared at the letter in his hand. Granger—Hermione—might not own any fancy parchment, but she had put effort into an ornate hand instead of her usual neat print.
It had all been for nothing, then. That was that.
He tried to think what he might have done to offend her, any major incidents or missteps…beyond the obvious, that is, his misguided belief in Blood Purity, which he had repented of, recanted, and formally apologized for in their second year, even if not publicly…
But nothing came to mind. Nothing of consequence.
I guess it was inevitable. RIP indulgent ship.
(Oh, and the paragraph Hermione’s remembering is actually from chapter 87, but it’s still the right sentiment, and it actually is about Draco. So we’ll assume it comes up after the point-of-divergence in this universe as well.)