In the Long Run

Every evening after dinner at the Great Hall she runs. It isn’t as though he should care. She’s a Weasley, if anything he should be taunting her while she runs. Only he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to taunt her; he only wants to watch her.

She has excellent form. He can tell from the length of her runs that she has been doing it for years. He wonders why. He ran, of course, but only during Quidditch training. And that was only because certain people on the team—mainly Crabbe and Goyle—could stand to shed a few stones so they flew a little faster. But he didn’t know of many people who ran just to run.

He would suspect that she was obsessed with her weight if he didn’t notice her eating half the food in the Great Hall everyday. So he wonders if she gains weight easily and she needs to run to keep thin…but he knows that isn’t true. Judging by her build he can guess that she’s never experienced a “fat day” in her life.

He wants to ask her why she runs, but he doesn’t. Instead, he sits under the same oak tree every evening after dinner and watches her. For a while he doesn’t even notice, but he begins to look forward to the few hours that she unknowingly spends with him. It’s calming and he feels at peace. In the Slytherin Common Room everyone is constantly discussing the war and You-Know-Who and showing off their marks if they have received them. And they all turn to him as if he is the leader of their Junior Death Eater Organization. In truth, though, he doesn’t care. He cares only about himself and Voldemort can rot. Voldemort is the reason that his father is in Azkaban and his family’s name has been dragged through the mud. He’d sooner become a Gryffindor than a Death Eater.

He shivers; he had almost forgotten that winter had begun. His eyes narrow, he is shivering in his heavy jumper and thick robes while she is wearing only a pair of shorts and a tank top. She probably can’t afford real clothes, he muses.

Without thinking about what he is doing, he shrugs off his robe and pulls off his jumper. He places the robe atop his undershirt and buttons it before he hops up from his seat beneath the oak tree and jogs to her.

“Weasley,” he calls out. But she doesn’t turn. “Weasley!” he calls again, but she still does not acknowledge him. He is convinced that she is ignoring him, that she is making a fool out of him. So he runs faster and grabs a hold of her arm.

She gasps loudly and whirls around to face him. The shock is clear on her face. She yanks a pair of headphones off her head. He hears the music blaring from them and he does feel foolish after all.

Christ, Malfoy,” she pants, “what in the bloody hell is wrong with you?”

Suddenly, he doesn’t remember why he wanted to catch up with her so much. He doesn’t remember anything, not even that when all else fails, he could insult her and leave. Instead, he points dumbly at the white thing wrapped around her arm, “What is that?”

Her eyes narrow in confusion. She follows his gaze, though, and looks back at him in realization. “Oh, that. It’s an iPod…Muggle thing. Hermione let me borrow it. It plays music.”

He nods. “Why do you run?”

She shrugs, “Because I like it.”

He holds out his jumper to her. “It’s cold,” he states simply.

She only appears to be more confused, “Thanks but I don’t need it.” She gestures to her clothes, “Warming spell…”

“Warming spell…smart.”

She smirks, “Glad that you think so.”

“Right. Well, I’ll see you then.” He turns to go back into the castle.

“Hey, Malfoy,” she calls.

He faces her, “Yeah?”

“You should try running some night. You look like you could use it.”

He starts to comment that he is in far better shape than Potter, but she holds out her hand to silence him, “I don’t mean physically. It helps clear my head about stuff; you just look like you could use that.” She places the headphones back on, “See you around.”

He goes back into the castle. He doesn’t know why he spoke to her, but he isn’t sorry that he did.

The next evening he clothes himself in Muggle track pants and a t-shirt. He takes her idea and places a warming spell on his clothes, but then takes it off after a moment. He wants to be cold.

He slips quietly out of the Slytherin Common Room although he does not need to, no one is yet back from dinner, anyway. He walks outside and begins stretching out his muscles. He looks up and sees her bouncing down the steps of the castle.

She doesn’t look surprised. She gives him a small smile and walks over to him. She silently nods at him and begins stretching as well. After a few moments they wordlessly begin to run.

After seeing that he is effortlessly keeping up with her, she ups the pace. Not to be outdone, he goes faster, thus in control of the run.

“Hold on,” she breathes before slowing to a stop. He stops beside her, waiting for an explanation. She pulls her shoulders back and loudly cracks her back. He raises an eyebrow at her, to which she shrugs, “Bad back. We can go now.”

They begin to run again. Before he was concentrating on nothing besides the cold air penetrating his lungs; now, though, he thinks of her back. He wonders why her back gives her trouble.

“Was it a Quidditch accident?” he asks nonchalantly.

“Huh? Oh, you mean my back. No, it wasn’t a Quidditch accident.” She looks at him curiously for a moment before answering, “When you have six older brothers you don’t escape childhood unscathed.” She laughs, but he doesn’t see anything funny about the situation.

“They hurt you?”

She smiles at him, “Not as much as I hurt them. C’mon, Malfoy, surely you had some cousins or something that you horsed around with. It’s all in fun.”

He thinks of the only cousin he has. “No, we never did anything like that.”

“Weird.” She begins laughing again at her memories, “Well, the back thing came from Fred and George, actually. You see, they were wrestling in the backyard, and I went out to tell them that Mum said stop. So they teamed up on me and Fred ended up picking me and flipped me over on my back. There was a root from a tree sticking up that he didn’t see, and it hit my back in just the right way…Anyway, it gives me trouble every now and then.”

He still doesn’t see any humor. Leave it to the Weasley men to injure a little girl. He notices her staring at his bare arm.

“I don’t have one if that’s what you’re looking for, Weasley.”

He can’t tell if her face is red from embarrassment or the exercise. “Sorry,” she apologizes.

He shrugs; it isn’t as though she is the first person to think that he has the Dark Mark, nor does will she be the last."

“So why don’t you?”

“Why don’t you?” he retorts.

She looks at him as if he is insane, “Why on earth would I have…one of those?!”

“You asked me, I think it’s only fair that I ask you in return.”

She blushes again. “I didn’t mean to be rude. I told you about my back.”

But it isn’t the same thing, and they both know it. He, however, answers her question anyway, though he doesn’t know why. “I don’t want one. It has only caused trouble for my family…besides, I’m not into following…you know, Him.”

She nods. “I can understand that.”

“Can you?” he asks because he doesn’t believe her. He doesn’t need her nice words. She doesn’t know what it’s like to be him, and he doesn’t want or need her to understand him.

She stops suddenly, “It’s getting late.”

“So it is.”

“I should head back in.”

“Yeah, I guess you should.”

She looks at him thoughtfully for a moment. “So I’ll see you out here tomorrow, then?”

He looks back at her just as pensively, “Yeah, sure.”

She smiles again and gives him a small wave before making her way back to the castle. He watches her until he can no longer see her. He pulls out his wand and mutters the warming spell over himself before starting to run again.
She’s right, he thinks, running does help clear your head.

A/N—Thanks for reading and reviews are much appreciated, so please leave one! Oh, and the whole iPod thing, I know Muggle technology doesn’t work at Hogwarts. But I was writing while watching TV and that U2 commercial is just so catchy…And Hermione’s smart, I’m sure if anyone could find a way to make a muggle technology such as an MP3 player work on the grounds of Hogwarts it would be her, so let’s just pretend, all right? Laugh out loud. Next chapter will be up soon.
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