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Scars by Lorr05

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 21
Word Count: 124,207
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, Lucius/Narcissa

First Published: 01/22/2012
Last Chapter: 08/07/2014
Last Updated: 08/07/2014

Summary:






 

Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy- lifelong enemies or two people who are more alike than they realise? Returning to Hogwarts to complete their final year, everyone has their demons that they are trying to put behind them.  When Hermione and Draco end up serving detention together, they may just discover than the only person who can help them to heal, is the last person in the world they would have ever suspected.
 


Chapter 1: Alone
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Tick… Tick… Tick…  The sound was drumming its way deeper inside my head.  Every ticking of the damned clock sent a shiver of irritation down my spine and I felt my entire body wince in frustration.  I tried desperately to drown out the sound.  I tried to clear my mind and focus on something else, anything else, but instead the noise seemed to be getting louder.  Ten minutes ago, when I had first lain down on my bed, I had barely registered the sound, but now I was oh so acutely aware of it. Now it felt like someone was whacking my skull with a tiny little hammer, sending the sound echoing throughout my brain.

  As the noise continued, my patience was slowly slipping away. Tick… My brow furrowed deeply. Tick… My jaw clenched tightly. Tick… My fists scrunched into tight balls by my side.  Tick… My nails dug deep into my palms.

  But the sound continued, completely oblivious to the fact that it was driving me slowly and utterly mad.  I could feel the sound drilling further and deeper inside my body and the more I was trying to drown it out, the louder and more obvious it seemed to become.  It seemed as if the sound was increasing in pace.  I held my breath and waited, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t hear that sound again.  But of course I inevitably did.

 As the piercing ticks kept on coming, I felt my breaths become shaky and uneven. I pushed my nails deeper into my already painful hand, putting all my focus and frustration into that action. But as the ticks continued, the pain in my hand was becoming unbearable.  I could feel the tears beginning to form in my eyes and I snapped. I reached my boiling point. I couldn’t take it anymore. I heard myself let out an angry and frustrated cry.  I felt my hand fly away from my side and grab hold of the small and cold object from close beside me and then I threw it with all my strength across the room, causing a loud thud as it hit the wall and then fell to the floor.

  I felt my body instantly relax.  I closed my eyes and listened.  Nothing.  Not a single sound.  A small smile formed on my lips and I let myself breathe out a sigh of relief as I savoured the silence.  Peace at last.  I opened my eyes slowly and pushed myself off the bed, but winced suddenly as a sharp pain shot through my hands.

  I quickly flipped my hands over so that I could examine them and frowned as I noticed the deep moon shaped crevices that were now deeply embedded in my skin; glowing a deep purple against my hand.

  I felt the tears rise in my eyes again.  Not because the pain in my hand was that bad, but because of the guilt and shame that I felt swarm my body.  How stupid was I to get so worked up over a bloody clock?  I was nearly nineteen for goodness sake and I was behaving like a child.

  I rubbed my now bright red palms and tried to erase the evidence of my temper tantrum, but of course it wasn’t working. I gave a guilty glance over at the poor mangled clock that lay destroyed on my bedroom floor.  I felt the remorse and guilt intensify and I felt sorry for the clock that had stood proudly on my bedside table for the last twelve years of my life. My gran had given it to me for my birthday when I was younger.  I was six or seven I think.  I had just learned how to tell the time, at a very early age of course and she had bought it as a reward.  I was so proud of that clock.  I could tell the time before all of my friends and I would show it to everyone who came over, delighting in the fact that I knew something that they didn’t.

  Even as I had grown up, I still liked to look at it.  It had a big teddy bear on the front, which was for some bizarre reason holding some balloons and of course it was way too childish for me now, but I had never been able to throw it away.  So many times I had put it in the bag to be donated to charity, only to fish it out a few hours later.  Now one fit of stupid anger and it was destroyed. I could have fixed it easily.  One flick of my wand and it would be back to normal, but somehow it didn’t seem right.  Some things couldn’t be fixed that easily. Whenever I looked at it I would always see it smashed and broken.

 I leant down and picked up the damaged little clock and did my best to pick up the smashed pieces of glass on the floor, putting them carefully into the bin that sat in the corner of my room.  I paused briefly as I caught a glimpse of the old newspaper that lay at the bottom of the bin.  I pulled the paper out to look at the picture of myself on the front of the paper.  It was taken just a few months ago.  I looked relieved and happy then.  The worst had been over. How utterly stupid I had been.  I threw the paper angrily back in the bin. The brightest witch of the age they called me, the brains of the golden trio, the cool, calm and collected witch who had used her intellect to help and defeat the darkest wizard to have ever lived.

If only they could see me now I thought bitterly. What would they say about the mighty cool, calm and oh so smart Hermione Granger now?  What would they say if they could see the so called brains of the golden trio sitting sobbing on the floor surrounded by pieces of a smashed teddy bear clock?  What would they say if they knew that the Gryffindor princess had spent the entire summer in her bedroom all alone? What would they say if they knew that I cried myself to sleep most nights and woke up in the middle of the night screaming from nightmares and memories that I couldn’t forget?

  I moved over to the window and rested my head against the glass, enjoying the soothing feeling of the cool glass against my forehead.  When my tears had subsided, I opened my eyes and watched as my neighbours enjoyed the last few days of summer.  The weather was unusually hot and people were making the most of it.  Woman were sunbathing; men were washing cars and mowing lawns;  barbeques were on the go; children were running around playing and laughing and having water fights.  Life had moved on.   

Everyone was happy and carefree and having fun and it annoyed me.  Didn’t they realise what had happened just a few months ago?  How close we had come to losing it all? Didn’t they realise how much people were suffering?

  I sighed again.  Another frustrated sigh.  Of course they didn’t.  They didn’t have a clue.  To them the world was the same as it had been before.  They had never been aware of the immediate danger that they were in.  Yes the last year had been tough in the muggle world, strange and dismal weather, unexplained disappearances, gruesome deaths and an unusual amount of natural disasters. Even the muggles had noticed the looming black cloud that had seemed to hang over Britain.  The whole country was on edge; even if they didn’t know why.  However at the start of June the sun had eventually come out and had continued to shine brilliantly for the rest of the summer, brightening everyone’s mood. Life had inevitably returned to normal.

Yet for those of us in wizarding world, we knew what the danger had been. We all knew how close we had come to losing.  Only three months ago, I had stood alongside the people I cared about most of all in the world and we had fought for our lives.  We had fought against the most dangerous wizard to have ever lived and we had been so very close to losing.  At so many times in the last year I thought that my time was up, that I was going to die, but somehow I made it through.  I survived.  I was one of the lucky ones and every day I couldn’t help but think about all the ones that weren’t so lucky.  Every time I let my mind wander too far, I would see their faces.  They would flash through my mind like a slide show, over and over again.  Tonks, Fred, Remus, Moody were just some of the ones that I could actually name.  There were dozens more faces that I saw every night in my sleep that I couldn't name.  People crying out in help, people that I couldn't save.  

  Yes the images still haunted me when I closed my eyes. I was still grieving and trying to come to terms with everything that happened.  At times it seemed like a dream; like it had all happened to someone else.  I was trying to move on. I was trying to live a normal life.  I was back at home trying to live a normal life, where I could wake up in a bed; not fearing what the day would bring, was something that I was still adjusting to.  I’d lost count of the times that I had woken up in the middle of the night, hearing a scream and reaching for my wand to protect myself from whatever the danger was, only to realise that I was safe in my bed, that the scream had come from my lips and that the danger was long past, just resurfacing itself in a dream.

  I picked up my wand from the edge of the desk where I had placed it earlier and started to twirl it through my fingers.  I felt the comfort wash through me; the familiar feeling of safety and power flow through my veins. The truth was I envied the people who could carry on with their lives.  My life had been so up and down lately that I didn’t know how to be normal.  How do you go from fearing for your life every minute of every day and knowing that if you lose, hundreds of people will die, to worrying about what’s for dinner or what the weather is going to be like?

I pulled myself away from the window and the tranquil scene that lay outside it and began pacing up and down the room as I desperately tried to think of something to do; anything that would help to take me out of my current state of complete and utter depression.  Something to distract me and take my mind off of things.

  Walking around my room, my eyes fell onto the large brown trunk that lay in the corner of my room.  I sighed as I moved towards it, bending down to open the large heavy lid and rest it against the wall behind.  I examined all the things that I would need for the following year.  I knew perfectly well by now that I had already packed everything that I needed and the reason that I knew this was because I had already packed and re- packed my trunk eight different times already. 

  I don’t know why, but every time I packed my trunk, I never seemed quite satisfied with the way it was packed.  It looked wrong and it felt wrong. I tried repositioning everything many times, but it was never right.  Part of me felt like I was developing OCD, but of course the more logical me screamed out from somewhere in the back of my mind the real and more obvious answer why I was never satisfied with my packing.  I was scared. I was scared of going back there.

  Three months ago had been the worst night of my life and the images were scarred into my brain.  A destroyed building, fires, deatheaters, death and bodies piled up everywhere.  The place I had once been so safe and secure had now become the place of my nightmares and in just two days I would have to back and live there like nothing had ever happened. I was terrified at the prospect.  Terrified of my memories, terrified of breaking down, terrified of a threat that no longer existed.

 In two days’ time, I was going back to Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and I, along with many others missed out our seventh year of school and even though we were the golden trio and defeated one of the most powerful wizards to have ever lived, in the real world, you had to have NEWTS to get anywhere in the wizarding world.  In truth I didn’t know what my future held anymore.  I hadn’t been able to think about my future for some time, when I hadn’t even been sure that I had a future.  But I knew that I needed my NEWTS for whatever career I would eventually choose and so I had no choice but to go back. Harry and Ron hadn't been keen to go back either.  Hogwarts now held too many bad memories for all of us, but we had all decided that we needed to go back. 

  Tomorrow however, I would be going to The Burrow to spend the last day of the holidays before we all went to Kings Cross together.  It had been a tradition for years and usually I would have gone to The Burrow much earlier in the holidays, but with everything that happened it hadn’t felt right. 

  The last time I had seen the Weasley’s was at Fred’s funeral.  I felt the familiar tightening in my stomach and throat as I thought of that day.  I could barely remember that week.  It had been filled with interviews at the Ministry of Magic, wanting to know what had happened before the final battle and then when they had finally gotten every little detail from us, we then had to endure an endless string of funerals.  Out of all of them Fred’s had been the worst one. It had been just utterly one of the worst days of my life. The family that I was used to seeing so happy and carefree were suddenly depressed and sombre.  It was like they would never be happy again. The sounds of Mrs Weasley’s pained cries still hurt me to think about.

  When it was over, me Harry and Ron had all gone our separate ways and I hadn’t seen either of them since.  I was so nervous about tomorrow and I felt sick with dread thinking about it.  What on earth would I say to them?

  It felt so weird to be dreading seeing the people that had become like a second family to me. I had spent so much time there with them and yet now I was scared to go.  I was so scared that I was going to do or say the wrong thing and make things worse.

  I was ashamed to admit to admit that Fred wasn’t my only reason for dreading going back The Burrow.  The other reason was Ron. 

  We hadn’t exactly ended in a great way.  Everything between us had been left hanging and for the last three months, I had been left wondering what was going on. 

  I had liked Ron since about fourth year and had always waited for him to do or say something, but he never did.  Not until we thought we were about to die and we finally kissed.  That moment was so magical to me. I had waited for it to happen for years and when it finally did, it hadn’t disappointed.  I don’t even know who started the kiss.  I just remember one minute running for our lives and the next his lips were pressed firmly against mine, his hands around my waist pulling me closer.  I had been breathless and I thought that I could face whatever was about to happen because Ron was mine and he was beside me. We would face whatever happened together.

  But of course it didn’t happen quite the way I imagined.  After the kiss, we were back to fighting for our lives and then the war was over and Fred was dead and we never really did get a chance to talk about what had happened or what that meant for us and so when everything was over, we just went in our own opposite directions, leaving so much uncertainty between us. I knew that he needed time with his family and I felt so sorry for him.  I just wanted to be there for him and to comfort him, but he pushed me away. 

I wrote to him so many times, asking how he was and how everyone was coping, but I never got any reply.  Ron was rubbish at writing back, I knew that, but after what we’d been through I figured he would have been able to spare a few minutes to write a few short words. But nothing ever came.

  I got letter from Harry nearly every week, sometimes two or three letters a week and I even got letters from Ginny, but never one from Ron.

At first I had been upset, God I had even cried when after two weeks I hadn’t had any word.  After another week I was beginning to get annoyed.  I mean if he didn’t want to be with me in that way, we were at least friends.  After all we had been through I figured he could have spent just five minutes of his busy life to write me a quick note.  By the fourth week I was furious, cursing him and calling him every name under the sun.  I’d even written him a three foot long letter, venting all my anger at him, but luckily my rage subsided for long enough to realise that sending him that just a month after his brother had died would have made me look like the biggest and most selfish bitch alive.

  Now, I have no idea how I feel about him.  Part of me loves him and wants him to just man up and tell me and kiss me again and the other part can’t help but feel annoyed at him for being such a selfish prick. He knows how I feel about him and I’m just waiting in limbo for him to tell me how he feels.  We’ve been dancing around each other for years now, wondering how the other feels and then we finally kiss and nothing. Four years of a bloody build up and all for nothing.  Talk about your anti- climax.

    I made my feelings towards him pretty clear to no avail and during our time apart I had decided in the end that there was no way that I was going to be the one to put myself on the line again, only to get hurt.  We’ve been through this too many times before and if he wants anything to happen, then he’s going to have to make the move.  Tomorrow will be the first time that I see him and I guess then I’ll get my answer.

  I was still deep in my thoughts when a soft tapping noise interrupted them. I looked around my room confused as to where the noise was coming from.  After a minute of confused searching and following the noise, I realised that an owl was perched on my windowsill, occasionally tapping on the glass. I hurried over and grabbed the letter attached to the owl’s foot.  I immediately recognised the untidy scrawl on the parchment envelope.  Harry had written to me so many times during the summer that I had come to rely on his letters.  They were one of the only things that connected me to the outside world.  They had stopped me from going mad and convincing myself that the last year hadn’t just been a really bad dream. I quickly tore open the envelope and devoured the words on the page.

Dear Hermione,

                              How is everything? It’s just a quick note to let you know that I arrived at The Burrow today. Everything’s fine.  They’re coping. It was so hard to say bye to Andromeda and Teddy this morning.  I swear Teddy has gotten so big.  You won’t recognise him the next time you see him.  He’s even started to crawl. I’m kind of gutted to be leaving because of all the things that I’ll miss.  I just really want to be there for him you know.

 Anyway I can’t believe that summer’s nearly over.  Only two days until we go back.  It will be so weird. I can’t imagine being back there. 

  But anyway I’ll see you tomorrow.  Mrs Weasley’s already got a huge lunch and dinner planned, so make sure you’re here early. Everyone’s really looking forward to seeing you again and you know that I’m included in that too don’t you.  I’ve missed you so much.  Anyway I’d better go, Ron wants to go flying and you know how stroppy he gets when he’s kept waiting.

See you soon.

 Love Harry

 

I smiled as I read through the letter.  I knew how he felt and as much as I wished he was fine, I took comfort in the fact that he was feeling the same as me.   It made me feel considerably less alone.  I hadn’t gone so long without speaking to him since we had first met and I couldn’t wait to see how he actually was, how he was really coping and to just be able to say all of the things that you just can’t say in a letter. At least he had been to The Burrow and everything was fine with the Weasley’s. It helped to take away some of the nerves. Despite that I did wish that Harry and I could have gone together though.  It would have made it slightly less awkward and daunting.

I started to read the letter for a second time, savouring his words, when a light tapping interrupted my thoughts for a second time.  This time I looked immediately to the window and was confused to see nothing there.  However, I heard the door behind me slowly start to open and as I swung round to face the source of the noise, I saw my mum’s head poking around the door.

  She hovered by the door, not quite crossing the threshold into my room. I watched as her eyes trailed around my room and I winced slightly as they lingered on the broken clock in my bin.  Her gaze then shifted to my wand which lay just a few inched away from my leg and I watched as her eyes took on a look of horror and fear, as they shifted back and forth from the clock to my wand. I didn’t need an explanation to her behaviour.  I was used to it by now.  She had no doubt thought that I had cursed the clock into its current shattered state. Judging by her reaction she no doubt wondered if I would turn my wand on her too if she made me angry enough.

   After a few moments of silence, which were becoming increasingly more awkward as I was waiting for her to talk, I quickly realised that she was too occupied shooting fearful glances at my wand and so I figured I had better try to break the tension.  I cleared my throat and tried to sound as cheerful as I could.

  ‘Did you want something, mum?’ My attempt at cheerful, failed miserably as my voice was way too high pitched, making me sound like I was guilty of something, which she probably thought I was.

She hesitated for a moment, her mouth twisting slightly as if contemplating what to say.  She still hadn’t even looked properly at me.  Still looking between the wand and the mangled clock, I guess she was wondering what had caused my temper and contemplating if I was still in a bad mood.

‘Emm, I just wanted to check if you were packed.’

I looked at my case that had been sitting evidently packed for the last three weeks ever since I had gone to Diagon Alley and gave a slight nod, not quite able to meet my mum’s eyes.  She had known very well that my case was packed and it irritated me that she was even asking.

 She glanced briefly and somewhat awkwardly in my direction and returned my nod.  ‘Dinner’s in five minutes by the way.  Don’t be too long.’

She didn’t even wait for my answer before turning around, closing the door behind her. I felt myself release a slow and shaky breath that I wasn’t even aware that I had been holding.  I felt the same stab of disappointment and grief build up inside me that I had felt for the last three months, but I did my best to push the feelings deeper down. I would not cry again.  Not today.

  After Dumbledore died, I knew that things were going to worse and so I made the decision to protect my parents.  I was public enemy number two and I knew the danger that put my parents in.  I modified their memories.  I erased myself from their lives and sent them of to Australia with new memories and new lives where they didn’t have a daughter.  It was the hardest moment of my life, watching my whole life be erased and I had only been able to walk away from it all and help Harry because I knew that they were safe. I knew deep down that it had to be done and that it was for the best.    

After the war had ended and the last of the funerals had been, I had immediately gone to Australia to get my parents back.  I had been so excited.  I had been through so much and I just wanted a hug from my mum and my dad. 

  I found them in Australia, living their happy care free lives and I was so happy to see them happy.  I knew then that I had kept them safe and kept them from a year of worrying about me.  They looked so tanned and satisfied with their lives, but I couldn’t wait to get them back home.  To get things back to how they used to be.  I stunned them and brought them back home before I removed their memory charms.

  I remember sitting on the couch across from them, feeling the butterflies in my stomach and feeling so excited and happy.  Just like the feeling that you get on Christmas morning. I watched as their memories returned and waited for them to open their eyes, smile at me and pull me into a hug, glad to see me again. 

  However the happy reunion wasn’t quite as I imagined it would be.  When they had finally opened their eyes, they looked so confused and scared, slowly looking around the room and taking in their surroundings.  I did my best to explain to them what had happened and why they now had two conflicting sets of memories in their heads. I explained who they really were and who I was.  I had tried so desperately to explain to them why I had done what I did, but I grew increasingly desperate and worried, when instead of smiling at me, they looked at me with blank faces, like they didn’t know who I was. 

  I had reached out to touch my mums hand and she had pulled it away so quickly as if my touch had burned her.  I was so shocked and hurt, but I tried to tell myself that they were just confused and just needed time to adjust to being back in their old lives, but that was three months ago and things were still very far off being normal.

  I had tried to give them time and space; I had tried talking to them to explain again, but they didn’t want to hear my explanations.  They looked so angry with me; like I had betrayed them.  I just couldn’t understand their anger.  I was trying to protect them, but when I tried to explain that to them they just turned their backs and walked away from me. Each time they blanked me felt like a slap in the face.  Like someone was chipping a piece away from inside my very soul. I had thought that with time things might improve, but they hadn’t.  I guess a part of me thought that I had erased myself from their minds.  I erased all memories, all recognition, all thoughts and now I was beginning to think that I erased their love of me as well. They had their memories back, but I guess their love hadn’t.  It killed me every time to see them look at me with such coldness in their eyes.

  I picked up my wand from beside my leg and began to twirl it around my fingers.  I tended to do this when I was thinking or needed a distraction. It was comforting. My mum’s reaction earlier to my wand wasn’t an isolated event either.  Whenever I had my wand, or left my wand lying about, they would look at it fearfully.  They looked at me fearfully. They had finally realised what I was capable of.   Of what my magic could do.

  I couldn’t take the fearful glances or the accusing stared whenever anyone mentioned something that had happened in the last nine months that they could no longer remember. The guilt was so unbearable, that I had pretty much exiled myself to my room after the first month when it became apparent that things were not going to change and so I had spent the summer in virtual isolation, becoming increasingly bored and frustrated as the time went on.

  However, I would never regret what I did to them.  I know I saved them from torture and death.  They might not realise that now but I sincerely hoped that one day they would come to see that I was not aiming to hurt them. I had done what I thought was best and I was only trying to protect them.

  I strongly suspected that they couldn’t wait for me to go back to Hogwarts, so that they could resume their normal lives, free from the fear that their daughter would turn them into toads in their sleep. All I could do now was hope that soon they would see that I had done what I thought was the right thing.

  With a groan, I stood up slowly, stretching my legs slightly, feeling the tingling sensation run down my legs and into my toes.  I guess I had been sitting on the floor for longer than I realised.  I put my wand down on my bed.  Better to leave it up here, where my mum and dad couldn’t see it. 

  Putting a calm expression on my face, trying my best to smile I placed my hand firmly on the door handle, ready to join them for dinner. I knew how this would go.  I would make small talk, getting minimal answers, maybe a nod, a change of facial expression, at the very best a one word answer.  I would then give up and return to eating in an awkward silence before I would go back to bed and cry myself to sleep, muffling my sobs in my pillow.




A/N- Thank you so much to everyone for reading.  This is my first ever fan fic and was so nervous about posting this.   I really hope you like it and would love if it you left a review.  It really helps to know people are liking it.  Thanks again. 
 
14/10/12- I made a few minor changes to this chapter but probably nothing too noticable, I just tweaked a few parts.  Once again thanks so much for reading and I would really love a review in that little box below. x
 

 
 
 


Chapter 2: Reunions
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 Suddenly the whirring and rushing in my ears stopped and I felt my feet firmly hit the ground. I waited for a moment feeling of dizziness and nausea to disappear; it had been a while since I had apparated after all and it took me a few moments to get used to the feeling again.  When my head cleared, I opened my eyes and I allowed myself a smile when I saw the familiar scene in front of me.  I was standing in the middle of a field that stretched for nearly as far as the eye could see, with only a few hills in the distance.  It was the middle of summer and the field was full of green crops that were growing well past my waist. In front of me, I could see the building where I had spent so many happy times.  Of course it looked a bit different to how I had remembered. The building had suffered a lot of damage in the last few years with various death eater attacks.  I hadn’t seen the building since Bill and Fluer’s wedding the previous year.  They had such a beautiful wedding and everyone was having a brilliant time. That was until the death eaters showed up and damaged large parts of the house.  The Weasley’s had been repairing it ever since.

  The building that I had known had been several layers high, with many rooms magically added on. The building had always seemed slightly off balance and crooked, but to me that had never been a bad thing. It just suited the Weasley’s.  The building that now stood in front of me was taller, wider and straighter. I guess when they were repairing the building they had seen it as an opportunity to fix up the house.

   I wasn’t sure that I liked it though.  It just didn’t seem like The Burrow anymore. It looked similar and yes to some it maybe looked better, but it just was not the same. The unfamiliar sight was doing nothing to ease my nerves. I charmed my case again to float just behind me when I started walking towards the building that seemed so foreign to me.  It wasn’t long until the door was flung open and I could see two figures running towards me; one with jet black hair and the other with flame red hair going down to her waist.

  In no time at all, Harry and Ginny reached me. Harry immediately pulled me into a tight hug, his arms firmly around my shoulders.  I felt at home in those arms, safe and comforted. It was the first physical contact I’d had in weeks or maybe even months. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been hugged.

   I couldn’t help but smile, feeling instantly relieved, like all my worries were over. We parted slightly, his arms still around my shoulders.  He was beaming at me.  He looked just the same as he had the last time I saw him.  His hair was still messy, but it was slightly shorter.  It looked good on him.  It made him look slightly older. But I was mostly glad to see that he looked so much happier than I had seen him in a long time. I guess a stress free summer had worked wonders on him.

  After Ginny and I had greeted each other, we made our way back to the house, easily falling back into our old routine and easy conversations.  It felt so good to finally speak to people again.  Talking and laughing came so naturally after spending a summer being a virtual mute.

  My laughter and good mood instantly dissipated as we approached the door to the house.  My stomach tightened as I felt the familiar feeling of nerves wash through me.  I knew that Mrs Weasley would welcome me with open arms.  She was like a second mother to me after all.  I wasn’t afraid of her, but I was afraid of myself.  I was afraid of making this worse, be too happy and they will think of me as completely insensitive, but go in too sombre and serious and bring up old memories for them.  And then Ron.  Who knew how that would go? 

Harry turned to give me a small smile, before we entered into the house.  I guess he knew how I was feeling.  He would have probably gone through the same dilemma only a few days before when he arrived.

  I walked into the empty kitchen and inhaled deeply, as the delicious smells of the food in the oven filled my nose.  My stomach immediately gave a rather loud and embarrassing growl. I winced slightly and gave a small embarrassed smile to Harry and Ginny who had both turned to look at me with slightly amused looks on their faces.

‘I guess I must be hungrier than I thought’, I offered by way of an apology.  ‘I forgot to have breakfast this morning.  This definitely smells amazing though.’

‘Well, we’ll soon fix that dear’.

I whipped around at the familiar voice behind me and was immediately pulled into another warm hug.  A pair of arms tightly wrapped around me, one hand reaching up to my head, gently stroking the back of my head.  ‘Mrs Weasley’ I cried with surprise, ‘It’s so good to see you again’.  Feeling so safe and secure and loved, by this woman, reminded me of my own mother.  I couldn’t remember the last time that she had embraced me as warmly as this.

When she finally released me, she looked me up and down, smiling softly as she did so.  ‘Hermione dear, you look so grown up.  All of you do’.  I smiled awkwardly at this.  I was never sure what people wanted you to say in reply to that, but luckily Mrs Weasley had moved onto to offering us tea and cakes, which we all gladly accepted.

We all sat around the kitchen table and couldn’t help my dive into the cakes that were put in front of me.   I practically rammed the first cake down my throat, my body welcoming the feeling of food as it hot my empty stomach. I managed to savour the second cake, almost moaning at delicious it tasted.  Mrs Weasley was definitely a genius when it came to cooking. 

  After my stomach was satisfied, I took the opportunity to look around at the people at the table.  Mrs Weasley looked so different from the last time I saw her.  She looked paler, older and thinner than I had ever seen her.  She looked tired, with dark purple bags rimming her eyes.  Although she was smiling and joining in with the conversation, the smile never quite met her eyes.  I noticed that her eyes kept darting to the clock that was on the wall, her eyes scanning around its face, checking on the status of her family.  For one moment panic entered her eyes as she realised that there was a missing hand, before realisation seemed to dawn and then her eyes would slip out of focus as she would stare into the distance.  It didn’t take a genius to work out who she was thinking about. My heart ached for the woman in front of me.  She was the person who usually kept her family together and she would have done anything to protect her family.  It must be killing her to have lost one of them.

  I saw how Ginny eyes followed her mum carefully, offering her more food and watching to make sure that she actually ate.  Ginny kept the conversation flowing, chatting about Quidditch, summer, dinner that night; anything to try and keep her mum occupied.  Whenever she saw her mum’s attention waver, Ginny would throw a question at her to pull her back.  I couldn’t help but admire how strong she was.  How she kept her own emotions firmly pushed down, to be strong and be a support for her mother.

  When there was a slight lull in the conversation, I took the opportunity to ask the question that I had been wanting to ask ever since I set foot in the house.

 ‘So where is everyone else? Where’s Ron?  I thought he would be here,’ I asked trying to sound as casual as possible, although I couldn’t quite meet anyone’s eyes as I said it and even more annoyingly I could feel my cheeks becoming hotter, turning that tell-tale pink that would always give me away. Perfect timing as always.

‘Oh he’s at George’s store.  He’s been working there over the summer, helping George out a bit,’ Ginny answered.  ‘It keeps him busy.’

‘Oh right,’ I said simply, hearing the hurt in my voice seep through. ‘I didn’t know.’

‘Oh did I not tell you in my letters,’ Harry said innocently. ‘I thought I did.  I guess I forgot.’

‘No you didn’t,’ I said somewhat accusingly.  I couldn’t help but feel annoyed, not so much at Harry, but more so at Ron.  It was his job to tell me what was going on in his life.  Best friends and I hadn’t heard from him in three whole months. I guess I would hear what his excuse was later.  There was a slight awkward silence and I felt immediately guilty,

  When we had all finished, Ginny helped her mum to tidy up, whilst Harry helped me to take my trunk upstairs. Ginny’s room was at the top of the house, so we had to climb up five flights of stairs before we got there. Harry put my trunk in the corner of the room and as I turned around to look at him, I realised that this was the first time that we had been alone since the war had ended. We stood side by side in silence, before either of us could think of a way to actually begin the conversation that was so inevitable.  Harry found the right words first, pulling me down onto the bed so that I was sitting beside him.

‘So how are things?  I feel like it was a bit mad downstairs.  We didn’t really get a chance to talk.’

I thought of how I was. My parents, Ron, being here, going back to school and then I thought of Mrs Weasley downstairs who had lost her child.  My problems were really nothing compared to other people. ‘I’m fine’, I answered, in a voice that was way too high pitched, instantly giving me away.

Harry shot me a look, with one eyebrow raised. ‘Seriously Hermione, this is me you’re talking to. How are you really?’

I let out a long slow breath, trying to think of the words to answer him properly.  Where did I begin?

‘Things are fine. Honestly’, I replied again, not wanting to burden him with my problems. I was sure he had enough of his own.  A look of frustration passed his face and he reached out and grabbed my hand.

‘Hermione, I am not stupid.  I can see that’s something’s bothering you.  Come on, just tell me about it,’ he practically pleaded.

I looked into his bright green eyes for a minute, thinking about what I could say to him.  I couldn’t tell him about Ron, he had never found out about it and I wasn’t going to make things awkward by being the one to bring it up and I really didn’t want to bring up the thing with my parents.  I really didn’t think I could take the pity and sympathy, so I went with my last remaining option, which was really cowardly, as I knew he wouldn’t ask me too many questions about it.

‘I guess I’m just nervous about tomorrow.  About going back I mean.’

A knowing look passed his face and he began slowly nodding.  I could see his eyes go slightly unfocused as he stared down at the floor and I knew what images he was thinking about. Every time I thought about Hogwarts, I could see the faces of all the people that were lost, all lined up on the floor of the Great Hall, with many grieving family and friends surrounding them.

‘Yeah I know what you mean’, Harry finally replied. ‘It will be so weird having to be there, after everything that’s happened.  Having to have breakfast in the great hall and go to classes and live normal lives and just pretend that it didn’t happen.’

I felt so guilty about bringing the subject up, after seeing the pain that was now so evident in his eyes.  I removed my hand from under his and placed mine on top instead. I squeezed it tightly, trying to convey my empathy through one squeeze.

‘We’ll get through it together though’ I eventually whispered to him. I pulled my arms around him and felt his arms move to around my waist. Even though it was hard to talk about these things, it felt good to be talking about them with Harry.  If anyone understood, he did. He was my best friend and I needed him.

  We stayed like that for what seemed like forever, but it was probably only a few minutes. We broke apart when we heard footsteps on the stairs and looked to the door as Ginny came in.

  As she closed the door behind her, her entire body instantly relaxed and a pained look appeared on her face. Harry beckoned her to him and she sat down beside him, placing her head on his shoulder.

‘How is she?’ Harry asked, gently stroking Ginny’s hair.

‘Not good.  She’s trying to be strong for us all, but she won’t ever stop.  She’s always cleaning or cooking and she’s not eating or sleeping properly.  I don’t know how she’ll cope when we all leave tomorrow.  I’m so worried that she’ll just break down.’

  Ginny started sobbing quietly into Harry’s shoulder and I could think of nothing to say to comfort her.  All I could do was to sit quietly and watch as Harry held her close. Although I wasn't jealous of Ginny, I was jealous of what they both had with each other.  I wanted somebody like that who would always be there and comfort me, but was Ron that person. 

    We stayed upstairs for about another hour, until Mrs Weasley’s voice shouted up the stairs to ask for our help with dinner. Harry and I helped to set the table, whilst Ginny helped her mum with the finishing touches to dinner.

  We were nearly finished, when a crackling noise behind told us that someone was coming through the Floo network.  My heart started beating so loudly and my mouth went so dry in anticipation.  This was the moment when I would finally see him; when I would finally get my answer. 

  I straightened out my top and made sure my hair was sitting as flat as it possibly could, before rushing over to the fireplace with the others to see who was coming.  One after the other, two tall red heads stepped out of the fire and I felt my whole body tense and stiffen as my eyes found the one that I had been waiting for all summer.

 I hovered slightly at the table, not wanting to seem too eager and then pushed my stupid pride away and walked over to him smiling a little more shyly than I intended.

  He stopped when he saw me and immediately lowered his eyes and ran his hand through his hair. Ok, that wasn’t good.  He always did that when he was uncomfortable.  Since when did I make him uncomfortable?  We stood awkwardly in front of each other, before I hesitantly put my arms out for a hug.  We awkwardly put our arms around each other, but I couldn’t fail to notice how he kept a very firm distance from me, patting me on the back with the very tips of his fingers, like you would do to a dog that you were afraid of.

 I pulled back, trying to keep the look of hurt and confusion out of my eyes.  I couldn’t help but feel disappointment rush through my body. I don’t know what I had expected, an awkward reunion, a declaration of feelings. But whatever I had expected, it wasn’t this.  I hadn’t expected it to be awkward.  It felt like we had rewound the past year and gone straight back to how we had been before the war.

  I was glad when I was given the distraction of saying hi to George and I was finally able to turn away from Ron. Almost straight away Mrs Weasley called us all to the dinner table and so immediately we all filed into the kitchen. We sat down at the table and I was both glad and slightly nervous when I ended up sitting beside from Ron.  At least I might finally be able to get to talk to him and try to get things back to normal.  

  I immediately tried to talk to him, asking him how his summer had been, but he just mumbled ‘yeah, fine,’ through a mouthful of bread roll that he charmingly sprayed in my direction, before he turned his back on me in order to speak to Harry on his other side.

  ‘Yeah mine was fine too, thanks for asking,’ I muttered quietly under my breath while wiping a saliva soaked crumb off my cheek. Nice.

   I spent the rest of the starter trying to catch Ron’s eye, to join in with his conversation, but he had his back firmly to me. I tried to lean around and listen to what they were saying and attempt to join in their conversation, but Ron was acting like I was completely invisible. With each failed attempt, my temper flared and I had to remind myself to stay calm, seeing as I was not alone. I reigned in my temper and decided to have one more go at getting his attention.

‘Ron,’ I said lightly while hitting his back gently. He turned around and looked at me with a slightly annoyed look in his eyes that I didn’t understand and I recoiled slightly and immediately lost my nerve.

‘Can you pass me the salt please?’ I asked in a quiet voice.

He reached over and passed me the salt without saying a word. I was stung and could feel the tears beginning to form in my eyes again, but I fought them back. It was like being ignored by parents all over again.  At least over the summer I had been able to make excuses for him; pretend that he hadn’t contacted me because of he was too upset.  But here he was looking absolutely fine. I could no longer pretend.  He just didn’t want me anymore. It didn’t even seem like he wanted to be friends anymore. I blinked back the tears that were blurring my vision, I would not let Ron Weasley see me cry.  I would not let Ron Weasley make me cry.

  I sat in silence for the rest if the dinner, my tears were gone.  Now I wasbecoming more and more incredibly pissed off with the boy sitting beside me.

How dare he ignore me.  I was the one who had every right to be annoyed with him.  He was the one who had ignored me all summer and he had the nerve to be the one to ignore me.  The anger continued to boil in my stomach as I thought about how all the little looks and touches of the hand over the last year and then the kiss and now, what nothing.  How dare he lead me on.  If he had changed his mind then he should have said something, instead of leaving me wondering for three months.

  I listened to him and watched him throughout the rest of dinner and became more and more repulsed by him. I winced every time he hit me in the side, as he cut into his dinner, his elbow sticking up practically in my face, so I had to shuffle my chair to the side to avoid him.  We were having spaghetti for Merlin’s sake.  How hard was it to eat spaghetti? And why the hell was he using a knife. Who eats spaghetti with a knife anyway? He told stupid immature jokes that were in no way funny, and then let out the loudest and most irritating laugh that pierced it was into my skull, causing my eyes to roll in annoyance at his stupidity.

However when he turned to look at me after finishing his main course I held my breath thinking that this might finally be the moment when he was going to stop ignoring me.  Oh how wrong could a person be.

  Instead of a heartfelt apology and a deep and meaningful conversation, he opened his mouth widely and let out the most disgusting and loud belch in my direction.  I felt the hot, air hit my face, my hair moved slightly around my face and then the smell of the Bolognese  that he had just been eating filled my nostrils, causing me to gag slightly and put my hand up to my face to cover my nose.

That was it.  I couldn’t stand him anymore and before I could stop myself, I opened my mouth to start shouting at him.

‘Ronald Weasley,’ Oh never a good sign when I used his full name. ‘You are the most foul, disgusting and obnoxious person I have ever met.  God have you never even heard of manners.’

He turned to look at me wide eyed and slightly shocked, but his sarcastic answer did nothing to dispel my annoyance of him.

‘Ooh, touchy. God lighten up Hermione. What’s got your wand in a knot?’

It was all I could do to shoot him a murderous glare and grit my teeth, before turning away to look down the other end of the table.  Was he actually freaking kidding me?  ‘What’s got my wand in a knot?’ How bloody dense and stupid and self- obsessed was that boy?  God what an idiot!

After dinner, we moved through to the living room and I made sure that I was as far away from Ron as I could possibly be.  I did my best to try and ignore Ron after that.  If I listened to him anymore or even looked at him, then I would probably say something that I would regret and I couldn’t do that.  Not here and not now.  Not in front of Mrs Weasley.

  

  My gaze fell onto Harry and Ginny, who were currently sitting on the couch opposite me.  Harry had his arm around Ginny’s shoulder and was running his thumb back and forth along her skin in a comforting gesture.  They were such a perfect match for each other.  Sub consciously they would both always lean towards one another.  If Ginny was walking around the room, Harry’s eyes would follow her.  Harry would occasionally take Ginny’s hand in his and she would place her head on his shoulder. They were so in- sync with each other.  I felt a longing inside of me to have someone beside me, to have someone look at me with that longing in their eyes.

  I then glanced at Ron, who was currently explaining his idea for a farting pill to sell in George’s shop.  Yeah I was after mature and serious relationship, Ron was aiming to achieve the perfect fart.

  It was like someone lit a light bulb in my head, as I had a moment of realisation hit me.  Or I guess it was actually more the light bulb was put out.  Ron and I were like chalk and cheese.  Total and complete opposites. Ron and I together would never work.  We just couldn’t be the perfect match that Harry and Ginny were.  I guess I wanted him to be something that he’s not.  He’s easy going and does what he feels like doing, where I constantly analyse every detail. I want someone who will take my hand, be sweet and do all the little romantic things that show they really care.  Ron could never be that person.

   I guess a summer of wondering about Ron and I finally had my answer.  I should have been smart enough to figure out sooner that Ron and I were polar opposites and although the common saying went that opposites attract, I couldn’t help but feel that me and Ron were just too different to ever be together. 

  He had clearly made his decision and in that moment I made mine.  He had moved on and gone back to being just friends and that was fine with me.  I certainly wasn’t going to spend the next year moping about after Ron and wait for him to share his feelings. We had finally kissed and nothing had happened.  We had our shot and now it was time to move on. I was not going to spend the next year, moping about like a twelve year old wondering if he liked me and analysing every little move that he made.  In a few weeks, I would be nineteen.  It was time to grow up and I was not going to mope around after a boy who still laughed hysterically at burping.  This year was going to be different.  It was going to be about me and I was going to have fun.

We spent the rest of the night just talking and catching up.  It felt good to be surrounded by people again and I was more than happy to just watch and listen to everyone. It felt just like old times. Mr Weasley was busy talking to Harry about his job at the ministry and all the latest muggle inventions that he’d discovered.   

 ‘It’s quite amazing really. Look at what it does.’ He pressed one of the buttons on the toy and watched in amazement as it lit up and made a buzzing sound.  ‘I mean we wizards give muggles far too little credit.’

  Harry and I exchanged a short glance and both moved to hide our small smiles.  Mr Weasley had never changed.  After the war, the Ministry had offered him many promotions, but he had been more than happy to stay in his current position, where he could play with muggle objects all day. He continued on for a good ten minutes more, about the amazing toys, powered with little cylinders that contained power.

  I noticed that George was sitting at the edge of the living room, just watching everyone as I was. It was odd to see him so quiet.  He was usually the life and soul of the party, but I guess he was missing his partner in crime.

  I shuffled over so that I was sitting beside him and asked him how he was.  He shrugged his shoulders in reply and looked away from me.  I knew what he must be thinking and I could have kicked myself for asking such a stupid question.  Of course he wasn’t okay. He had lost his twin brother, the other part of himself.

‘Oh George, I’m so sorry.  That was a really stupid question,’ I said quietly to him, hoping that the others wouldn’t hear our conversation.

‘Don’t worry about it Hermione,’ he said turning back towards me, although his eyes turned towards his mother. He continued to sit in silence and I thought that our conversation had finished, until he sighed deeply and continued.

‘You know sometimes she can’t even look at me,’ he said in a voice so full of pain that it broke my heart to hear it. ‘It’s like every time she sees me it’s just a reminder of Fred,’ he continued, never taking his eyes off of his mother. ‘A reminder of what happened. I don’t even know what to say to her and I don’t think she knows what to say to me. Sometimes she goes to talk to me and I swear she was going to call me Fred. Some days I don’t even want to come home. I just stay at the shop for as long as I can. I miss him so much. I can’t believe that I’ll never speak to him again. I’m going to make our business a success for him. I’m going to make sure that I don’t let him down.’  He continued to stare off into the distance, but sighed deeply as if in relief. I wondered if he had been desperate to get those things off of his chest.  He had obviously been thinking about them.

 I put my hand gently on his arm, trying to comfort him and let him know that I was there for him. ‘You’ve let nobody down George, least of all Fred. You’re doing amazingly well and as for your mum it will just take time. You’re both grieving. Please don’t shut yourself out of the family. You’ll only feel worse,’ I said, speaking from personal experience.  I knew very well how much a person needed their family to be around them.

 ‘Yeah I know. It’s just hard.’

‘I know but it will get easier, or so I’m told.’

We sat in silence for a while, I was half listening to the conversations going on around me, but I could tell that George was deep in thought.

Eventually I asked him how his business was going, trying to distract him from wherever his thoughts were taking him. He smiled when I asked the question and he launched into a big explanation of how Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes was a huge success.  He talked so animatedly and passionately about his work that for the first time, he sounded like the George that I used to know.  Soon he began talking about how he was branching out from joke products and was going to be launching a new range of beauty products for witches soon, which he was pretty excited about.

‘Yeah they’re pretty good I think and should be a good money maker. Vanish spots, clear skin, instant tan, minty fresh breath, long lasting nails, straighten hair and stuff like that. Hey I could give you some of it.’

  I faked mock horror and hit him in the arm. ‘Gee thanks George.  Nice to know that you think I need to be using beauty products.  You had better to be talking about the hair stuff and not the zit cream or I swear I’ll hit you right now,’ I laughed, only mildly offended. 

  His eyes had briefly looked panicked at insulting me, but upon seeing my smile, answered, ‘of course not Hermione, your skin is fine, I mean great, but if my hair serum can make even yours straight then I’ll know that I’ve cracked it. ’

I pondered this briefly, wondering how soon I should let him off the hook. ‘Oh well when you put it like that’, I answered with my voice dripping with sarcasm and rolling my eyes.  ‘Just so you know, for that little comment, I am expecting a large amount of products to try, on the house of course.’

'Deal', he said before settled back into an easy silence, listening to the conversations of those around us. 

 

  When Ginny fell asleep against Harry’s shoulder, we all realised what time it was and slowly made our way upstairs to bed.  Five flights of stairs were bad enough at the best of times, but when you’re tired, they were never ending. By the time I finally reached my bed, I had barely changed into my pyjamas, before I flopped into my bed, totally exhausted. As I felt my eyes become increasingly heavy, I couldn’t help but think about how content I felt.  Today I had felt like part of a family again.  I had been talking and laughing and I had been with my best friends.  Tomorrow couldn’t possibly be that bad.  As long as we were together, I knew that we would be fine. 

 







A/N- Hope you're enjoying it so far. This chapter is not my favourite and it took forever and a lot of editing to  get it haf way decent.  I know it's not perfect but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Hogwarts is coming up soon, so things will get a lot more interesting, plus Draco might make an apperance soon.  Please leave a review to let me know what you think.  I'm still unsure as to how it'll all end, so your reviews will help me so much.  Tell me what you think will happen or what you want to happen. 

6/11/12-  So I have edited this chapter slightly.  Again still not a favourite, but it is longer than before, so a little more detail added into it.  Please let me know what you think and thanks for still reading. x
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 3: Goodbyes
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9/10/12- I've made a few edits to the chapter and added in quite a big section.  I've never been happy with this chapter, but hopefully if you're re- reading this you'll find it better than it was before. Once again thanks for sticking with me and please leave a review to let me know what you think of the changes. 

 




 I woke with a start the following morning, not surprised to find my sheets twisted around my legs and my hair sweaty and plastered to my head.  My heart was beating loudly in my chest, the sound thumping in my ears.  I sighed as I rolled over onto my back and stared up at the ceiling, breathing deeply in and then back out again.  I watched as the light danced across my ceiling, catching and twinkling off of my crystal light shade. They danced and darted across my ceiling and my eyes followed them as they did, making me feel calm once again as they distracted me.

  Suddenly the lights disappeared making my room dull and darken once more, as I guess a cloud covered over the sun.  My breathing and heart rate had returned to normal and so I pushed myself up into a sitting position on the bed.  I ran my hands through my tangled, damp hair, pushing back the sweaty tendrils of hair that had clamped themselves to my forehead. Looking down at the twisted sheets around my legs and the cushions from my bed splayed all across my bedroom, I tried to think about what it had been this time; what had haunted me again while I slept.  Images and faces flashed through my head in quick succession as parts of the nightmare came back to me. It was always the same sort of thing, the same dangers, the same threats, the same outcome.

  I forced myself to push the pictures out of my mind and focused instead on untangling the sheets from around my legs.  A noise from downstairs made me still in my movements and I felt my stomach twist into an uneasy knot. In a rush, even more overwhelming than the memories of a nightmare, I suddenly remembered the reason why I was feeling so uneasy.  Today was the day- the day that I been both anticipating and dreading for the whole of the summer. Today was the day I left my home and went to The Burrow. Today I would see everyone again. I would get to see Harry.  I would get to see Ron.

    Another small bang from below told me that my parents were awake.  It sounded like they were making breakfast, the bang most likely being a cupboard door closing.  They would be working today seeing as it was a Friday.  I glanced at the clock. In around twenty minutes, they would both be leaving for work.  They had managed to find work as dentists again, claiming their ten month absence was due to a career break.  They had told people that they had gone travelling around the world. I felt guilty again that they had had to develop lies about their lives, but pushed it out of my mind.  I wasn’t about to go there again.  Today was going to be hard enough.

  I lay in my bed for a while after that, listening to the sounds that came from below.  I listened to the muted voices of my parents and the occasional clatter or bang as they moved their way around the kitchen.  Listening to them go about their daily routine, so at ease and comfortable, while I sat alone in my bedroom, made me feel even more isolated and alone.  My parents had settled back into life in their home and I was glad that they had, it was what I had hoped would happen. But they had settled back into a life that I didn’t feel a part of anymore and I didn’t know what I could do to change that.

It wasn’t until I heard footsteps climbing the stairs that I once again sat up in my bed.  This was it.  One of the many moments that I had been dreading; the time to say goodbye to them. In a few hours I would be leaving my family home for another year.  All summer I had felt trapped here.  Like I was being kept inside a prison. There had been so many times when I had been desperate to leave and yet now that the moment was here I wasn’t sure what I wanted.  I wanted to get out of this room and be in a place where I actually felt wanted. Yet now that I knew that the moment was here, I couldn’t help but wish it hadn’t. I couldn’t help but fear that if I walked out of the house, then I would never be welcomed back.  Every day I had hoped that things would return to normal and every day that they hadn’t I had thought it was fine because I had more time.  But now the time had run out and I was still left in limbo wondering what would happen.

  As I listened to the footsteps approach the top of the stairs I knew that this was the moment that would either make or break us.  The nerves and tension flooded through me as I wondered if I would finally be forgiven, if my parents would finally speak to me, would  hug me and say goodbye to me properly?  Give me a hug and wish me a good year at Hogwarts, like most other parents would be doing with their children.

  I looked up as the door to my bedroom opened slightly.  My mum and dad stood at the door, but once again they didn’t enter.  They just hovered in the door frame, looking slightly awkward as if they would rather be anywhere than here.

 I smiled up at them awkwardly, with hopeful eyes.  I willed them to speak.  To just move inside the room and hug me.  I waited with almost baited breath.  Waited for someone to say something.  To do anything.

  It was my mum who spoke first.

‘So that’s us both leaving now for work.  I take it you’ve got everything organised.’

 It was just about all I could do to nod my head.  I understood their anger towards me, but I could still never get used to them being so cold and distant towards me.

 ‘Darling we’re going to be late if we don’t leave now’, my dad said to my mum.  I turned to face my dad, trying to control the hurt that I felt from making its way to my face. He turned in my direction and gave his goodbye speech.

‘Well have a nice time today, Hermione and enjoy school.  Remember to work hard as always.  I guess we’ll see you soon,’ he said crossing the room in three quick strides and placing the swiftest of kisses on my cheek before hastily retreating to the other side of the room.  My mum followed his lead and repeated his actions, mumbling a quick goodbye as she did. For that brief moment I felt my heart soar.  It was the most contact and affection that they had shown me in months and even though it was the briefest of touches, it gave me the slightest hope that they were beginning to thaw in their anger and begin to forgive me.

  Feeling more confident with them and feeling that we may actually be able to move forward, I made a move to get out of bed, wanting to go over to them both and hug them and give my goodbye to them, but before my foot had even landed on the floor, they both gave a quick wave and turned out of the room, half closing the door as they did.

  I sat stunned where I was, still halfway through the movement of getting out of bed, one foot on the floor and my body pushed forward. That couldn’t be it.  That couldn’t be all that they were going to say to me.  They didn’t even let me say goodbye. I was leaving for nearly a year.  Didn’t they care? I knew what I did was wrong, but I am still their daughter. I held my breath, listening carefully as they made their way back downstairs.  I heard the distinct tinkling of the car keys being lifted out of the bowl.  One after the other they both shouted ‘bye’ and before I could even take in a breath to say my goodbye, the front door slammed shut. 

  I winced as I heard the sound, my mouth closing, stopping the ‘goodbye’ that had eventually formed on my lips, moments too late.  I turned my head towards the window as I head the two cars one after the other reverse over the gravel in the driveway and accelerate down the street.

  I sat in my halted movement for a moment longer, before suddenly jerking out of my trance- like state and moving towards the window.  I don’t know what I expected to see.  I guess I hoped that the cars would still be there, that they hadn’t actually left yet.  Or that maybe they would come back, realising that they wanted to say more, realising that I had wanted them to say more.  

  But my hope was short lived.  The drive way was empty, just like deep down I knew that it would be. I don’t know what I felt in that moment.  Sunned, shocked, upset.  If I was honest, I just felt numb. Yes the summer had been hard, but I had honestly believed that they would come around and that me leaving for an entire year, might just be enough for them to overcome their anger towards me and that we could have a happy goodbye and I would be able to go off to Hogwarts feeling relieved and knowing that my parents loved me.

  A car door slamming somewhere nearby was enough to jolt me out of my trance like state.  I couldn’t stand here all day wallowing in self- pity.  I had to be at The Burrow in just over two hours and I had a lot to do.

  I went to the bathroom, and immediately turned on the shower, stepping in before the water had a chance to heat up fully.  The initial shock of the cold sent a shiver over my body and I immediately felt the goose bumps rise on my arms and legs. I stood perfectly still, letting the water wash over my body and run down my face and back. I was grateful when the water finally heated up and I felt able to move. I washed my hair and ran a handful of conditioner through it in a pointless attempt to tame it.  I forced my mind to focus on my actions, not allowing my mind to waver for even a second.

  However when I was finished, all my emotions came flooding back all at once with such force that I felt my knees buckle beneath me and I slid down the wall of the shower and collapsed in a heap on the floor. I hugged my knees tightly, my whole body rocking back and forth with the strangled sobs that were escaping from my lips. I could feel the water streaming down my face, mixing with the many tears that were falling.

  I don’t know how long I stayed in that position for. My tears had eased some time before, but I still focused on the feeling of the water pouring over my body.  The sound of water rushing in my ears kept my mind occupied, as I listened to the dripping water and watched as it snaked its way around my body and down the drain, taking away all my worries and woes with it. 

    It wasn’t until my fingers were so wrinkled that they actually hurt, that I pushed myself up off of the floor and turned the shower off. Wrapping myself in a towel I made my way back to my bedroom and sat on the bed, shivering slightly, allowing my body to adjust to the much cooler temperature of my bedroom.

  Eventually I moved from my position, finding that my body was actually dry already, I moved to my wardrobe, selecting a light green t- shirt and a pair of three quarter length jeans.  I moved towards the mirror and examined my appearance while I combed my hair. I had developed a few curves since the start of the summer; I guess that was the result of eating three full meals a day and not living in fear of your life.  It didn’t really bother me as much as I thought it would though.  It made me look healthier and somehow more grown up.  I wasn’t the little girl that I had been a year ago.  I had had no choice but to grow up fast. I examined the rest of my appearance; my hazel brown eyes looked exactly the same, if not slightly red and puffy at the moment. I moved my hands to my hair.  Still the same as always, a frizzy curled mess. It was longer now than it used to be.  My hair had remained firmly at shoulder length for as long as I could remember, but being on the run had meant that it had grown quite a bit, a hair- cut being the least of my priorities in the last year.  It now sat three quarters of the way down my back, although the length had done nothing to decrease the volume. 

  My hair bothered me and it was the part of my appearance that I hated most about myself. I wasn’t a vain person, but occasionally I had found myself looking at Ginny’s glossy, sleek and straight hair and found myself wishing that I had hair like that.  But my hair was pretty untameable. The best I could do was pull my hair around to the back and wind it round into  a messy bun at the back.  At least that way I could control the volume a bit.

  However as much as my hair bothered me, it wasn’t the part of my appearance that I hated the most.  As I twisted a bobble around the end of my plait, my eyes were drawn to the inside of my left arm, as it was reflected in the mirror. I pulled my arm around so that it was in front of me and I could see the mark that had caught my attention. With the thumb of my right hand, I traced slowly over the raised skin, feeling the familiar churning of my stomach and tightening of my throat as I did.  It wasn’t often that it was exposed for all to see.  I usually took such care to hide it; even in the confines of my bedroom where there was no one to see it, but I guess I had been distracted and pulled the first top out of my drawer. As I read the word on my arm, all the shame, anger and pain returned. I had tried everything, all the healing potions and spells that I knew, but there it still shone out in bright red against my pale skin.  That one word that had followed me throughout the last seven years. Mudblood.  I hated it with every fibre of my being and I wanted so much for it to be gone. 

  Every time that I looked at it, it took me straight back to that day.  I could see her twisted face, revelling in my pain, I could hear her manic laughter ring throughout my ears combined with my own screams and I felt the excruciating pain course throughout my veins.  I shuddered slightly at the memory as I always did. I forced my mind away from the memory, moving away from the mirror and towards my wardrobe, pulling out a light cardigan and immediately putting it on.  I felt the instant relief at knowing that it was hidden.

    I had quickly gone to eat breakfast and brushed my teeth.  The moment had come.  As much as I was still nervous of going to The Burrow, I really couldn’t wait to be out of this house. I had felt like a prisoner for months and after this morning I had finally realised that they were not likely to forgive me any time soon and I really needed to be away from them before they could reject me again.

 I closed my case for the final time, this time locking it firmly.  I gave a quick glance around my room, spotless as always. There really was nothing else to do.  I was packed, I was dressed and I had nothing left to stay here for.  I put a charm on my case, using magic for the first time in weeks, making it float gently beside me as I walked quickly out of the room that had felt so much like a prison.

  I sat my case down in the living room and couldn’t resist having a quick look around, absorbing in all the details. I had spent so long in my bedroom, only coming out for mealtimes that I hadn’t actually spent much time in this room since I got back. I could feel the tension and awkwardness that settled in the room when I walked into it and so I had done my best to avoid it, only entering the room if I desperately had to and never staying for longer than I needed to.

  Finally I had the room all to myself and I couldn’t help but feel like I was trespassing in someone else’s house.  The walls were still the same colours, the furnishings were still the same, the pictures that hung on the walls were still the same and yet the room didn’t feel familiar at all.  It all felt like it belonged to someone else, except that it didn’t.  It was me who had helped to paint those walls, it was me who helped to pick out the furniture and it was my school certificates that hung on the wall.  I walked over to the fireplace and looked over the pictures that stood on top of the fireplace.  Pictures of my mum, dad and me all together and all happy. Pictures of us camping in the Forest of Dean, on holiday in France, at a family wedding, just all smiling and happy.  I reached out and picked up one of my favourite pictures, a picture of me with my mum and dad on my first day at Hogwarts.  I was already dressed in my robes and full school uniform before I had even left the house.  I was just a tad excited that day. I lifted my fingers and traced the smiles of my mum and dad feeling warmth spread through me at how proud and happy they looked. When I first received my letter, they had both been in total shock and we all hadn’t believed it at first.  I mean how could we? It went against everything that we all believed, but when the man from the ministry had turned up at the house and explained everything to us with a demonstration that left us all speechless, my parents had looked on at me with pride and wonder. I was a witch and they were so proud. 

 I knew that deep down was dad was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t be following in the footsteps of both my parents.  They had both been Oxford graduates, in fact they had met at Oxford and had eventually gone on to own their own dentist practice, something that they had both hoped I would inherit. As a child I had been desperate to go to Oxford.  I had grown up listening to my parents stories of their time there and they made it sound amazing and magical. But one thing that I had never told either of them was that I had intention of being a dentist. Teeth held absolutely no interest for me, but I was still determined that I would work so hard to get to Oxford and make my parents proud.

  However once I had heard about Hogwarts and all of the amazing things that I could do there I knew that I had to go. Anyone could get into Oxford if they worked hard enough, but this was something that I had been chosen for and it made me feel so special. I immediately told my parents that I wanted to go and even though they were both apprehensive about sending me away to a school in a world that they knew nothing about, they both agreed. I wasn’t a spoiled child, but I was very determined and my parents would not deny me anything.

  My eyes fell on the young girl that stood in between my parents.  She looked so happy and enthusiastic and so excited at what was to come. I couldn’t help but think at how innocent she looked and how determined she had been to prove herself.  I couldn’t help but smile wistfully at the person I used to be and how so very prim and proper I had been.  No wonder I had earned the title book worm. My smile slowly faded as I thought of all the things that the girl in the picture still had to go through, all the horrific things that were still to come. Would she still be that enthusiastic and desperate to go if she knew what path lay before her? Would she have chosen to go if she knew what evil she would have to face and what choices she would have to make?

  I sadly placed the picture frame carefully back on the fireplace making sure that I placed it in the exact space that I had picked it up from. Whatever I had wished I had known back then or may have wished for now, it wouldn’t happen.  Everything had happened and I couldn’t change that now. I had made my choices and I was living with the consequences.

  I looked around the rest of the room and couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever come back here. I had one year left at Hogwarts and then I would be able to go out into the world. My parents had made it perfectly clear that our relationship had changed and if it stayed that way then there really was no reason to come back here. They may not even want me to come back here.

  As the sorrow and guilt once again began to bubble up inside me, threatening to spill over I mentally shook myself, telling myself to get a grip.  Today would be hard enough and there was no point in wondering about what might happen.  I had done all that I could and if my parents wanted me back here then I would be there like a shot and if they didn’t, well I would deal with that when and if it came to it. I lifted my trunk once more and moved into the centre of the room.

  I closed my eyes and forced myself to clear my mind.  Feeling that familiar pull in my middle, I felt my body constrict and twist, a rushing sound filling my ears, as I left my family for possibly the final time.



 





A/N- Thank you so much for reading and  to the people who have reviewed.  I love hearing about what you think of the story.   This chapter is a little bit of a filler and I know it seems just like two chapters of Hermione moaning so far, but I really just want to set the scene of how rubbish things are for her just now. Trust me, it gets better over the next few chapters.  Leave a review and let me know what you think. 
 
 

 
 


Chapter 4: Returning
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The next morning went by in a complete and total blur.  Even though we had been sure to get up early enough, we were still running late.  Everyone was running about like mad trying to get ready and make sure that they had everything. Ron had spent too long in bed and hadn’t even packed his trunk yet and was running around with only one sock trying to find all of his belongings. Ron was really not a morning person and he was snapping at everybody who got in his way, so I figured that it would be better to stay out of his way.

 

  Harry was nearly as bad as Ron. Despite having only stayed here for two nights, he had already managed to misplace his watch. He spent about forty minutes searching for it, before I reminded him that he was a wizard and he was more than able to so a summoning spell. The look on his face was comical as he pondered what I had said and let out a ‘oh yeah’. He whipped out his wand and muttered ‘accio watch’, turning to the stairs, watching as his watch came whizzing into his hand. ‘Thanks Hermione’, he said happily as he reached over and kissed my forehead. I chuckled softly, as I thought about how dense Harry could be in the mornings.

 


  Mrs Weasley was busy making breakfast, making enough food to feed an army and trying to force people to eat another piece of toast or another rasher of bacon, when all people really wanted to do was just get ready. I was still stuffed from the night before, but did my best to try and force something into my mouth, trying my best not to seem impolite.

 

 



 After an extremely busy and stressful morning we finally apparated to Kings Cross station. We used to have to drive to Kings Cross, but now that we were all old enough to apprate, it made the whole process a lot easier.

  The ministry had set up an apparating point where witches and wizards could arrive at the station without attracting the attention of the muggles. We arrived in what appeared to be an old disused cloak room and were quickly hurried out by a ministry official so that we were out of the way before another family arrived. It didn’t matter though as we were running late anyway. It was already quarter to nine. I wondered how we could still be so late despite apparating here. Personally I blamed Ron. He was pretty much useless in the mornings.

  We hurried to find trollies to put our trunks on and then, without even checking to see if anyone was watching, ran through the barrier between platform 9 and 10. When we emerged onto Platform 9 3/4, we were met with the familiar sight of the red steam engine that we had travelled on so many times before. A feeling of nostalgia washed over me, remembering all the good times that we had spent on board.

  As Harry and the rest of the Weasley’s emerged onto the platform, I was drawn out of my thoughts and we hurried towards the train to find an empty compartment. We walked along the length of the train finding all the compartments occupied. By the time we reached the third full carriage, we were getting pretty desperate, as we only had three minutes left before until the train was departing. As we rushed by the people on the platform, I barely had time to register the fact that people were watching us a little too closely. I turned my head back slightly to look at a couple, who had pointed when we ran past, but tripped slightly on my case and had to turn back around to focus on where I was actually going.

  At last we reached an empty compartment at the far end of the train and managed to bundle ourselves onto the train with mere seconds to spare. We leant out of the open door and quickly said our thanks and goodbyes to Mr and Mrs Weasley, before we heard a distant whistle and the train began to move. Mrs Weasley was giving Ron and Ginny a last minute lecture about making sure that they wrote to her, got to bed on time, ate properly and above all stayed out of trouble. Harry and I shot a quick amused at one another. We were sure that Mrs Weasley’s lectures were probably aimed at us as well. We had always joked about we never went looking for trouble, but trouble always seemed to find us. I seriously hoped that this year, we would just have a normal year with no drama. 

   We settled down in the carriage and I sat down on the chair beside Ginny, opposite from Harry and Ron and groaned slightly when I realised that I was going backwards. I was never a good traveller. I’d lost count of the times when my dad had to pull the car over to let me throw up at the side of the road. It always made our family holidays to France pretty fun, when we had to stop every half an hour to let me throw up. It made a six hour journey inevitably longer, yet for some reason we kept going back.
 
 Unfortunately for me going back on the train was just one of the things that made my stomach turn. I groaned as I realised that I wouldn’t even be able to read on the train as that would only make things worse. Perfect. This journey was going to seem a whole lot longer.  I couldn’t help but notice how Ron and Harry had nabbed the best seats. ‘And they say chivalry is dead’ I thought sarcastically.

  I stared out of the window, watching as the familiar sights of the city soon turned into the suburbs and eventually the green of the countryside. I had tuned out of the conversation a while ago, when the others had started on the quidditch talk. Harry was still the Gryffindor quidditch captain and Ginny and Ron had been on the team before the war and had pretty much decided that they would still be on the team, Ginny had every reason to assume that she would make the team as she was brilliant but for Ron, that was a pretty big assumption. They were discussing who they thought would be best for the team and who they thought would be on the other house’s team, when the compartment door slid open, causing all of us to turn our heads in that direction.

  A group of girls, who were maybe second or third year stood at the door, eagerly peering inside, looking at the four of us. After a few moments of awkward silence I eventually spoke.

  ‘Can we help you?’ I asked, leaning forward in my chair, wondering what it was they wanted.

  The girls all exchanged nervous glances and I noticed how they prodded the girl in the front, pushing her forward slightly and muttering to her to ‘go on’ and ‘do it’. The girl who stood in front, turned bright red and let out a little squeal, before she turned quickly around and slid the compartment door closed, before the girls ran away, giggling as they went.

  I raised my eyebrows at the others and turned to face their equally bemused expressions. ‘What was that about?’ Harry eventually exclaimed. We each in turned shrugged and shook our heads slightly, unable to offer a reasonable explanation for the girl’s quite frankly weird behaviour.

  We returned to our conversation, but soon stopped when we realised that there was a face peering in through the compartment window. As we all turned around to look, we heard a short squeal, before the face quickly disappeared from sight. 

  The same thing happened again and again and after about another half an hour of faces appearing at the door, my patience was wearing pretty thin, getting annoyed at everyone’s weird and quite frankly rude behaviour. It was when we heard another knock at the door that I stood up and practically snarled ‘What?’ as I slid the door open to see myself face to face with Neville Longbottom’s startled face. My angry face immediately disappeared and was replaced by a huge grin. I immediately wrapped my arms around his neck for a hug and pulled him into the compartment, realising that Luna Lovegood was standing behind him. Of course, you rarely saw one without the other these days.

  Neville and Luna came into join us, when Neville turned to me with a slightly confused expression.

‘So what was with the greeting Hermione? Not exactly your usual friendly welcome.’

 ‘Oh, I’m sorry Neville. ‘, I offered apologetically. ‘We’ve had a pretty weird morning. People keep on looking through the window and staring at us. It’s been pretty annoying. I guess you just came at the wrong time’.

‘Oh right. Yeah I’ve been getting a bit if that too, but I guess it’s worse for you guys.’

 At this we all looked questioningly at Neville, but it was Harry who spoke first. ‘What do you mean, Neville?’

 However it wasn’t Neville who answered, it was Luna. She had been previously standing looking out the window, as if she hadn’t even been listening to our conversation.

 ‘I suppose Neville means because you’re famous now. After you all defeated He Who Must Not Be Named, so now you’ve become celebrities. People just want to look at you. Their curious wanting to know what you’re like I suppose.’

We all sat for a minute in stunned silence. What Luna was saying seemed to be so ridiculous and yet it made perfect sense. Famous! It just seemed so stupid. How could people really think of us like that? We had been through hell and people honestly thought that it was something special to meet us. Like we would just magically become best friends because they were staring through a window. I almost laughed at how stupid it seemed.

 I gave a sceptical look to Harry and he too seemed to be a bit uncomfortable upon hearing the news, but then he had been famous pretty much his entire life. I then turned my attention to Ron, who looked as if he were trying to keep a smile off his lips.

Neville seemed to look slightly uncomfortable at the sudden shift in the room that he had created and immediately changed the subject onto what he had done over the summer and the quidditch matches that he had been to see. We sat and made small chit chat for another thirty minutes or so, laughing and joking just like we had before. 
 

 With the extra bodies in the room, the compartment began to get hotter and I could feel a warm flush appearing on my cheeks. I closed my eyes and rested my head against the soft chair behind me, closing my eyes, feeling the sway of the train rock my body from side to side and that familiar feeling rise in the pit of my stomach. I made a great effort to control my breathing, in… and out… A small thumping started to build in my head, making it difficult for me to concentrate on anything else. 

 ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ Ron asked for what seemed like the twentieth time. His whiny voice sent a sharp pain throughout my head. Honestly that boy had absolutely no patience. ‘I mean couldn’t we just apparate to Hogwarts instead? It would be so much easier and we are fully legal wizards now.’

  ‘Honestly Ronald’. Uh oh, always a bad sign when I used his full name. ‘Haven’t you learned anything? YOU CAN’T APPARATE INSIDE HOGWARTS!’ I was surprised at how loud my voice was and also how patronising I sounded. I hadn’t actually meant to shout. I hadn’t even realised that I was shouting until I saw his body recoil slightly from mine.

‘Ok, chill Hermione’, Ron muttered, pulling a face. 'Just becasue we're not all book worms like you?’

 ‘Oh, just grow up’ I snapped, standing up quite abruptly. My hands were bunched up into fists and I had no idea why. I looked at everyone’s stunned faces and felt immediately embarrassed at my over- reaction, but since apologies aren’t really my thing, I made my way towards the door. ‘I’m going to get some air. It’s kind of stuffy in here’.
 

   I slid out of the compartment and leaned against the wall, running my hands through my hair. I immediately enjoyed the cool air rush over my face. I made my way down the carriage, deciding that I would try and find the sweet trolley and buy some pumpkin juice. As I passed people in the corridor, I watched as their eyes widened when they saw me; how their conversations abruptly stopped. I heard their whispers of ‘Look, that’s Hermione Granger’. I felt my breaths increase and my cheeks flush. I looked down at the floor, determined not to make eye contact. The awkwardness followed me down the entire length of the train. After the fourth carriage, I nearly gave up and ran back to the safety of the compartment, but my pride stopped me. I wasn’t going to be seen as a coward. I could take a little staring.

  After what seemed like an age, I finally saw the sweet cart and let out a relieved sigh. How typical was it that she would be in virtually the last compartment, prolonging my hell. 

  I waited patiently in the queue, ignoring the girls behind me elbowing one another and whispering behind their hands. I was just at the front of the queue, ordering my pumpkin juice, when the compartment door beside me slid open. I briefly glanced towards the door upon hearing the noise and was just drawing my eyes back to the witch standing in front of me, when a flash of blonde hair caused my eyes to dart back to the door. I watched as the face of the wizard in the doorway instantly took on a look of shock and then changed into what looked like guilt, but that couldn’t possibly be what it was. Malfoy never looked guilty. Smug arrogant little prick, yes, but guilty, never. I watched with utter confusion as Malfoy instantly recoiled and abruptly shut the compartment door.

  I stood for an instant, bewildered as to what had just happened. I had been expecting the barrage of abuse that I was used to. A few choice words and a smirk at my expense and yet he had pretty much just fled at the sight of me. It felt kind of good. I felt an instant satisfaction and smirked at the recollection of his face.

 I made my way back to the compartment, this time too wrapped up in my thoughts to notice the staring. I walked back into the compartment, noticing that Harry and Ron were alone.

 ‘Where is everyone?’ I asked, pointing around the empty compartment.

 ‘Ginny’s gone to see her friends and Neville and Luna went back to their own compartment, to get changed’ Harry answered. ‘Where have you been anyway? You were gone a while.’

 ‘Just getting a pumpkin juice’ I answered, raising my bottle as if I was presenting my evidence. ‘It was weird out there. Everyone was staring and whispering’ I offered quietly. 

 Harry moved beside me, putting his arm around my shoulders. ‘It will get better. I promise. It will just take a while to die down.’

 I looked up at him and gave a soft smile and a sigh. ‘I hope so. I can’t put up with that forever. Anyway, guess who else is back at school.’

I waited a moment, but Harry and Ron merely stared at me, waiting for my answer.

 ‘Malfoy’ I spoke, with quite a lot of bitterness in my voice. He may have returned to the good side before the end of the war, but he and his family had done that for their own self- preservation and one good act was not enough to make me think kindly towards him.

 Harry and Ron’s faces had completely identical reactions. Both their eyebrows shot up, their jaws dropped down leaving their mouths gaping open, before finally mustering up a ‘what?’ It was actually quite comical and I felt a small smile at the corner of my lips as my eyes darted between the two of them.

 ‘What the hell do they think they’re doing letting him back here? He’s a death eater for Merlin’s sake’, Ron practically spat.

‘I suppose they have to let him back though. I mean his family did help out in the end. I would be dead if it wasn’t for his mum’, Harry mused.

‘So what now you’re defending him?’ Ron yelled.

‘No I’m not defending him,' Harry answered back more calmly than I would have if Ron had yelled at me. 'He’ll probably always be a jerk, but I don’t think that he was ever a true death eater. Not by choice anyway. Voldemort can be pretty forceful and I’m sure he did what he did for his family.’

 I thought over Harry’s words, wondering how he could be so forgiving, after everything Malfoy had done to him in the past. Harry was truly a good person. He always saw the best in people. 

 Ron however was not quite so understanding. ‘Oh yeah, I bet he loved every single minute of it, strutting around like the stuck up git that he’s always been.’

 We sat in silence for a while after that. I looked out of the train, watching as the sun set, behind the mountains. We were nearly there. I found myself thinking about our final destination. About Hogwarts. My stomach twisted uneasily. Last time we were there, it was filled with death. So many people died and I could still picture each and every one of their faces. I was so scared to go back. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle all the bad memories. I didn’t know if I was strong enough to face it.

 

  We quickly changed into our robes. I looked at Harry and Ron in theirs, thinking that they looked strange. It had been over a year since we had last been in our school robes. At one time, I had never thought we would see Hogwarts again, never mind be going back to school there.

  We stepped off the train, pushing our way through the crowds, watching as the new first year students looked around fearfully, unsure of where they should be going. We followed the crowds to the end of the platform and into the clearing at the edge of the wood. I gasped at the sight before me. 

 Where there were usually horseless carriages, there now stood large black, scaly horse- like creatures. I knew immediately what they were. I had ridden one before, but I had never been able to see it.  Thestrals only became visible to you if you had seen death. I had never been able to see them before, but now, after the last year, I could see them clear as day. I stood before the creature, and the pictures of all the people I had seen die, immediately popped into my head, bringing tears to my eyes. I glanced to my left trying desperately to blink back my tears, when Malfoy caught my attention for the second time that day.

  I watched as he was looking fearfully into the eyes of the thestral that stood in front of him at the next carriage. Fear. That was another new emotion for Malfoy.   Who knew he now had such an emotional range? I felt a tiny bit of pity though as I realised that he, like so many others had seen death for the first time in the last year. However, he turned around just in time to see me staring and I wasn’t quick enough to avert my gaze. His eyes immediately narrowed and he sent me his usual sneer before turning his back on me and storming off into the carriage. Looked like Ron was right, same old Malfoy.

 I pulled myself up into the carriage, joining the others. No one spoke much, I guess everyone was feeling the same nervousness at being back. It wasn’t long before the carriage pulled to a stop and we all stepped out, finding ourselves at the main entrance to the castle. I looked up at the magnificent building that seemed to be glowing under the light of the torches and the moonlight. We all walked in silence, taking in our surroundings. The entrance looked perfect. Just as I remembered it looking before the war. They’d done a good job in restoring the building. 

  As we approached the great hall, I felt myself falter slightly. I didn’t want to go in there. I didn’t want to see that place. I looked over at Ron and saw that his face was drained of all colour. I reached down and gave his hand a small squeeze. However I was feeling this must be so much harder for him. We walked over to the Gryffindor table, me and Harry sitting on one side of the table and Ron, Ginny and Neville on the other.

 As we made our way to the Gryffindor table, I couldn’t help but notice that the great hall looked exactly the same as it had, when we had first walked through those doors, eight years ago to the day. Looking at it now, you would never have been able to tell that just four months ago, it had been a make shift hospital, with dead bodies lining the length of the hall and the sound of anguished sobs echoing throughout the stone hall. I shivered at the memories. I tried not to think about it, but with each step I took, I couldn’t help but think about who’s body had lain where my feet now stepped. I felt my breaths become unsteady and the familiar burn in my eyes, but I swallowed deeply and tried to focus my mind on concentrating on where I walking.

  When we finally found seats at the far end of the table, I looked around at the other people in the hall. All of the older students seemed to be having the same thoughts. Well, all except the Slytherins. Most other students had stayed at Hogwarts for the final battle, costing many their lives. I imagined everyone was thinking about someone that they knew that hadn’t made it through.
 

  A hush throughout the hall brought my attention to the front of the hall where Professor McGonagall now stood. She had been made the head mistress after Professor Snape was killed last year. The doors at the back of the hall flew opened and everyone’s heads turned to face the source of the noise, to see the new first years walking in, looking around nervously. I couldn’t help but note how young and innocent they looked. I reminisced back this day eight years ago, thinking of my own thoughts at that time. I was so nervous. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be good enough. But so much had changed since that day.

  We watched and applauded as they were sorted into their houses, one by one. When the last child had taken their seat at the Hufflepuff table, Professor McGonagall stood up and raised her hand to indicate silence. We all knew that she was about to give her speech and that it was going to be emotional. I focused my eyes on the table in front of me, tracing over the contours of the wood. I focused every inch of my body on not crying. I would not cry. Not here. I felt my hands reach down and grip the edges of the bench that I was sitting on. I could feel my hands become stiff as they squeezed the hard wood beneath my fingers. I tried to tune out the voice that was now ringing around the great hall, but it was the only sound in the room and I had no choice but to hear what she was saying.

  ‘Good evening and welcome to a new year at Hogwarts. This year marks the start of a new era for Hogwarts. We have many new students this year,' she said indicating the pupils sitting in front of her, 'as well as many returning students, who have returned to complete their exams. Although we are all looking forward to a new chapter beginning at Hogwarts, we must however remember the past. I know for many of you that the last few months have been difficult. We have all been through a traumatic time. As a school we faced our darkest day. We were broken and damaged. I was so proud to stand along and fight with many of you, watching as you fought for justice and what was right. However that came at a cost and we all lost people that we loved very dearly. You have lost friends and relatives far too soon and I know that being back here will be difficult for all of you. This building is filled with many bad memories for all of you and I have no doubt that there will be some tough times ahead, as we try and pick ourselves back up. But throughout the year, I expect us to all work together to help support each other through these difficult times, so that we can help to rebuild our school and move forward towards a brighter future.’

 At this she gave a small pause and looked down at her feet. I imagined that this was hard for her as well and she seemed to need a moment to compose herself. I could hear soft sobs coming from throughout the hall, as Professor McGonagall’s words brought back painful memories for many people. I felt my eyes brimming with tears. At the Professor’s words, the familiar images came flashing through my mind, but I had clenched my jaw tight and dug my nails deeply into my palms. The physical pain providing a good distraction from my emotional pain. I looked over at the other side of the table and saw that Ginny was one of those who were letting the tears flow freely. Harry had pulled her into a hug, with her head resting on his shoulder, her tears falling onto his robes.

 Professor McGonagall continued with her speech, seeming to have recovered, ‘Our school has been divided for far too long. This is a year for change and a year for unity. The divisions that we have previously had no longer matter and I look forward to fresh beginnings and fresh attitudes from all of you. The founders of this school worked in harmony together to build this great castle and establish Hogwarts. They were all close friends who set aside their differences in order to work together for the greater good, using each of their talents to make our school stronger. Hufflepuffs are among the most loyal and dedicated people you will find, Ravenclaws are the most intelligent and wise, Gryffindors are the bravest and the most courageous and Slytherins are the most cunning and ambitious. All of these traits are unique to your houses, but that does not make any house better than the other. You are all brilliant in your own way, but by working together and learning from each other is when you can become great.’
 
She paused looking around at all of us. Giving a glance to each and every table throughout the hall. ‘Now I think that I have taken up enough of your time. I look forward to seeing each and every one of you succeed this year.’

With that she sat down, leaving the hall in a deathly silence. I looked up and down the Gryffindor table and glanced over at the Slytherins. Each table were clearly giving the other a look that said ‘don’t expect us to be working with you any time soon’. Despite everything that had happened, some things unfortunately would just never change.

My thoughts were interrupted, as the plates in front of us were suddenly filled with food. My stomach rumbled rather embarrassingly. When was the last time that I had eaten something? Probably breakfast, when Mrs Weasley had been force feeding us bacon. I immediately filled my plate with chicken, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings and began to eat, enjoying the feeling as the food hit my stomach. I looked across the table and rolled my eyes, as I looked across the table as Ron piled food into his mouth, barely even swallowing before shovelling more food in.

  ‘Pass the potatoes Hermione’ Ron managed to say, despite the large quantity of food rolling around in his mouth. I couldn’t keep the look of disgust off of my face, as I reached over and passed him the large bowl.
 
‘Fanks’ he said through a mouthful of potatoes. I winced back as a speck of potato flew out of his mouth and landed on my plate. ‘Lovely’ I thought sarcastically, putting down my cutlery. Nothing like a flying potato spit to put you off your food. I watched Ron eat and was completely repulsed. I wondered briefly how I could have ever thought that he was cute. I watched his mouth opening widely as he rammed his mouth full of more food, his tongue swirling the food around and around like a washing machine and felt slightly sick as I and thought about that same mouth kissing mine.

 I put my hand over mouth, trying to keep my own meal down where it belonged and looked away, desperate to see anything else than the mashed up food, currently on display in his mouth. I looked up at the ceiling, admiring the stars. They shone brightly tonight against the clear night sky. I found my gaze, look around the hall and watched slightly horrified, as I realised that half the people in the hall were staring over at us.
 
I whipped back around in my seat hurriedly and put my hand up at the side of my head, trying to obscure my face from view. Harry looked over at my sudden movement, sensing my discomfort. 
 
‘Everything all right Hermione’ he asked, looking concerned at my sudden change in attitude.
 
I slid my eyes to the side, meeting his emerald green ones. ‘Everyone is staring at us,' I whispered, keeping my voice low.   His eyebrows knotted, before he gave a quick glance over his shoulder. He lowered his head down to mine before he whispered in my ear ‘just ignore it. Trust me. It will all go away in a week or so.
 
 I looked at him doubtingly, but pulled my hand back to my side, watching as the food cleared from the table and the deserts appeared.

 
 After dinner, we made our way back to the common room. I watched as the prefects herded the first years up the common room, feeling slightly nostalgic as their eyes widened, taking in the glory of their surroundings. I had been a prefect before, but I had opted not to continue the role this year. I just wanted to get through the year and focus on my studies.
 
 We made our way up to the common room. I smiled as I stepped through the portrait, looking around at the familiar surroundings. I walked with Ginny up to our dorm. We would now be sharing as we were both seventh years. I had never been overly close to Lavender or Parvati, so it felt good to be sharing with someone that I was friends with. I thought about how much easier it would make this year, to have someone that I could constantly talk to.

 I got into my bed, thinking about how long it had been since I had lain in this bed. It was just the same. It had the same feel, the same smell. I listened as the other girls slowly drifted to sleep, their breathing becoming more slow and heavy and as I listened to their rhythmic breathing, I felt myself begin to drift off to sleep, thinking about how good it felt to be home.

 







A/N- Thank you so much for reading.  I know it's been a little slow so far, but now that they're back at Hogwarts the story is really going to start, plus there was some Draco in this chapter.  Please leave a review for me to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions. Hope you enjoyed.
 
 
 
 


Chapter 5: Partners
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 Yes the previous day had been tough and I imagined that there would be many more tough days to come, like Fred’s birthday and the one year anniversary, but the worst bit was over. Coming back had been hard, but we had to move on now and just enjoy the second chance that we’d been given.


 The journey down to the great hall was pretty much like my journey down the Hogwarts Express the day before, only ten times worse. Nearly everyone stopped and stared, people whispered behind their hands and some people just openly whispered and shouted things at us as we walked together to the great hall. I felt my face immediately flush scarlet as I could feel all the eyes boring into my back as we went down the stairs. I dropped my eyes again, trying desperately to avoid all the faces peering in my direction. When did I become such a wimp?


  Unlike me, Ginny did her best to ignore it and kept her head held high, even trying to hold a conversation as we went. I guess she sensed my discomfort, as she linked arms with me, dragging me alongside her as I desperately tried to ignore the peering faces and concentrate on what she was saying. Easier said than done.

 

 Breakfast was worse if that was possible. In fact I think that it may have been the most embarrassing moment of my entire life. Just as we were having our timetables handed out for the following year, a blinding flash filled my entire eyes, causing me to go blind for a few seconds, with flashing stars filling my vision. After a few moments of rapid blinking, I finally regained my sight enough to see a small boy standing in front of Harry, Ron and me, holding a rather large camera.

 ‘Oh my god’, he squeaked. ‘I can’t believe it’s the golden trio. Can I have a picture with all of you? Can I have your autographs please?’ 

   I immediately flushed red again. Hmm, that seemed to be becoming a bit of a habit. I knew this boy was just young and innocent and I could sort of understand his interest, but I couldn’t stand here in the great hall in front of everyone and have my picture taken picture with this boy and I definitely couldn’t sign autographs. That would just be plain stupid. I was not that sort of person. Everybody was already staring and I could just imagine the stares if we started giving out autographs.

  I felt my breathing increase and my whole body flush and my hands begin to sweat as half the hall turned to stare in our direction. I felt immediately trapped. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had to get out of there.

   Gathering up my things I muttered, ‘I’m sorry but I need to get to class,’ despite knowing that I still had twenty five minutes before class started. Harry and Ginny stood up beside me muttering their apologies as well, but as we turned to Ron, he had a smile plastered on his face, ready for his photograph and a quill ready in his hand for his autograph. I guess he had no problem with being centre of attention.

  I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Ron’s behaviour. He had always been jealous of Harry’s attention and I guess I could understand that he was happy to have a bit of attention himself.   Harry, Ginny and I hurried our way out of the great hall, avoiding the many glances that came our way. We had almost made it to the door, when we heard a voice behind us.

 ‘Hey guys wait up. Why’d you run off?’

  When he was met with nothing but raised eyebrows and silence he continued rambling on about how weird it was to be asked for an autograph and how he hoped that the kid could read his writing. While Ron continued rambling, I took the opportunity to check my timetable. ‘Oh that's new,’ I exclaimed, cutting Ron off mid-sentence.

 ‘We're having mixed classes this year.  All four houses together, instead of just paired up.' 

 ‘I guess it’s McGonagall’s way of trying to get the houses to mingle a bit more. School spirit and all that,’ Ginny offered. ‘At least we’ll be together. How bad can it be?’

  Well of course Ginny just had to ask, because it was bad. Just about as bad as it could get. When we had first arrived in class, we had taken seats together at the back of the class, with me and Ginny on one side and Ron and Harry on the other. It wasn’t long before our new potions professor arrived. Professor Slughorn had gone back into retirement at the end of the previous year and so this year we would have two new teachers, one for transfiguration and one for potions. The teacher, who arrived, was a woman in her mid- thirties, with her black hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head. I couldn’t help but think of how she looked like a younger version of Professor McGonagall.

 ‘Welcome to your NEWT level potion class. My name is Professor Haven. I have worked as a potion maker at St Mungo’s for the last six years and I am looking forward to the coming year and teaching you all the vital skills that you will need to get through your NEWTS. I’m not going to lie to you. This year will be challenging. You will be learning how to make some of the most complex potions around and you will need patience and skills in order to succeed this year.’

 ‘However, before we start I would like to make a few small changes to the seating arrangements.’

 At this, everyone nervously glanced around the classroom. It seemed that old habits dies hard as everyone seemed to have sat with people from their own house.   At Professor Haven’s word, we all grimaced slightly, knowing what was to come.

 ‘You will be sitting in alphabetical order. The seats that I put you in will be your seats for the rest of the year. The partner that you are assigned will also be your partner for the remainder of the year. You will have to work closely with them this year, if you wish to gain a high mark in your NEWTS.’

 Professor Haven started to read through the register and assign seats to everyone. I quickly did the maths in my head let out a small groan as I realised who my partner would be. I barely had time to adjust to the idea when Professor Haven called out my name and pointed to a seat near to the front of the classroom. I began to gather my books together when she said my partner’s name.

‘Draco Malfoy’

 I closed my eyes and heard Ron give a loud scoff. I turned around to shoot a glare at him, before walking over to my new seat.  I didn’t miss the fact that he gave me a thumbs up with a look of smug happiness on his face. I was sorely tempted to make a gesture with my hand, but unfortunately my hands were both full. It was probably just as well, as Professor Haven was standing a mere few feet away from me. Probably not the first impression I should be making.

 While I had been busy scowling at Ron, Malfoy had been quicker at gathering his things together, as he was already sitting at the seat nearest the wall, the better seat of course; his arm casually resting on the table, his eyes firmly fixed on the front of the class.

I threw my bag down on the table, making it bang a little louder than I had meant to and winced slightly, when I saw Malfoy’s eyes flicker briefly in my direction and a small sneer appear on his face.

 I sat myself down on my seat and turned my back to him, determined not to look at him. I really didn’t need to look at that sneer for longer than necessary. I turned to glance behind me, to realise that Harry was sitting at the table behind me with Pansy Parkinson and across from him was Ginny and a Ravenclaw girl from her year. I searched the class to find Ron and gave a small chuckle when I saw him sitting next to Blaise Zabini; a look of complete and utter disgust on his face. I guess I wasn’t the only one who would be having a completely miserable year. I caught his eye as he looked up at me and I repeated his previous gesture to me, by subtly putting my thumbs up to my face and giving him a smirk. He however, had both hands free and was able to stick a certain finger up in my direction, giving me a scowl along with it. I couldn’t help but laugh at his face and I caught Harry’s eye when turned around and realised that he was laughing too. I caught Malfoy’s look of disdain as I settled back into my seat, refusing to let him kill my buzz. I would not show him that he intimidated me.

  I lay my books and parchment across the table in my usual routine and pulled attention back to Professor Haven, who had directed us to turn to page seventy two of our books. I quickly flipped through the book and I couldn’t help but smile at the words that met my gaze. Polyjuice Potion. I gave a quick glance over my shoulder to look at Harry, who was grinning widely at me.

 ‘Polyjuice Potion is an extremely delicate and complex potion. It will take us at least one month to brew and I will be amazed if any of you manage to brew it correctly.’

  The smile that I had been trying to supress quickly came back to my lips. I had currently made Polyjuice Potion twice so far. Once in second year, when we were trying to get information out of Malfoy and once last year, when we had to break into the Ministry of Magic. 

   After answering most of Professor Haven’s questions about Polyjuice Potion (I let Harry and Ron answer some too) and earning ten points for Gryffindor, we finally had to start making the potion. I quickly scanned the ingredients and when it became clear that Malfoy wasn’t moving, I gave an annoyed sigh and jumped out of my seat.

  ‘I’ll get the ingredients then shall I. Don’t you bother moving yourself,’ I spat bitterly. I didn’t even wait for Malfoy’s reply before I stormed off to the supply cupboard where I met Harry.

 ‘This year is going to be so much fun,’ I muttered bitterly.

 ‘I know. I think you got the worse end of the deal though Hermione. At least this lesson should be easy for you. You had this potion perfected in second year’

 I gave him a modest little nod and a smile, before returning to my table. I noticed that Malfoy had actually managed to move himself and had filled the cauldron with water and had lit the fire to boil it.

  I laid out all of the ingredients and made a move to roll up my sleeves, which was part of my usual preparation before making a potion. I rolled up the right sleeve first so that it sat just above my elbow and was halfway through the process on my left sleeve, before I realised that I had just exposed my scar. I gave a small intake of breath, causing Malfoy to glance in my direction. How could I be so stupid? I quickly rolled my sleeve back down, so that it sat midway between my wrist and my elbow, hiding my offensive mark.

  I sighed with relief when it was safely hidden, but caught Malfoy’s gaze lingering on my arm. ‘What’ I snapped, causing him to glance up at me. Oh my god. What had he seen? Had he seen my scar? I didn’t think I could take it, if he had seen it. I really didn’t need to give him of all people more ammunition to use against me.

   I was surprised however when he didn’t even bother to answer me. He merely shrugged and looked away beginning to look through the ingredients that I had brought over. I watched him curiously, still waiting for him to mention my scar, when I noticed that his sleeves were identical to mine. The right one rolled all the way up past the elbow and the one on the left only going just above the wrist. I watched as he placed his right hand on his left forearm and rubbed it gently. It took me a moment to realise what he was doing. What he was thinking about. What was hidden underneath that sleeve. His dark mark. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through his mind. Was he as ashamed of his scar as I was of mine and that was why he was hiding it, or was he merely thinking about the good old days with Voldemort? No doubt it was the latter I thought bitterly; no doubt reminiscing about the glory days.

 We worked in silence for the next half an hour. I was surprised at how we quickly fell into a routine of working together. I would do one step of the potion and he would do the next. It pretty much meant that we didn’t need to speak to other, so it worked perfectly. It was all going rather well until I noticed that instead of shredding the Boomslang Skin as he was supposed to be doing, he was rather neatly slicing it into perfectly equal portions.

  ‘You’re doing that wrong,’ I said, wincing slightly as he immediately stopped and turned around to glare at me.

‘Is that so,’ he said quietly, his voice like ice, dripping with disdain.

 I narrowed my eyes at him and stood up straighter in an attempt to show him that I wasn’t intimidated.

 ‘As a matter of fact yes, you are. You are supposed to be shredding the Boomslang Skin, not slicing it into perfectly equal portions.’

 ‘Well I’m sure it will be fine,’ he quickly retorted, returning to carefully slicing the skin in front of him.

‘No it won’t be fine Malfoy. It says shredded, so funnily enough, it has to be shredded,’ I said sarcastically and also slightly louder than I had intended. I turned around to check over my shoulder to see if I had caught Professor Haven’s attention, but luckily she was distracted by Ron and Zabini, who seemed to have made a mess of their potion, judging by the orange froth that was seeping out of their cauldron.

 ‘Oh, give it a rest Granger. Stop trying to be such a know it all. It’s not like you’re such an expert in Polyjuice Potion, so stop trying to tell me what to do,’ he spat in my direction. I noticed that his body was tense. I was seriously getting on his nerves and I had to say I was enjoying the thrill of having an argument again, especially since I was right. It seemed just like old times. 

 ‘For your information Malfoy,’ I spat, saying his name as bitterly as I could manage, ‘I have made Polyjuice Potion twice before, the first time being when I was twelve. It looks like I was more skilled at twelve than you are now,’ I retorted, satisfied at seeing his brows furrow with annoyance.

  ‘Yeah right, Granger. What would you have needed Polyjuice Potion for in second year?’

 I took complete satisfaction in the confused and intrigued look on his face. I put a completely innocent look on my face before raising one eyebrow and saying, ‘wouldn’tyou just love to know,’ before I whipped out my wand and made his sliced Boomslang skin vanish, much to his annoyance.

 
‘And what is that supposed to mean?’ he retorted, clearly frustrated by my implication.

 I simply raised my eyebrows back at him with a small smile formed on my lips, before I turned around and waltzed over to the supply cupboard, leaving him with a look of surprise and confusion on his face.


 The end of the day wasn’t nearly as bad as the beginning of the day, although I did delight in the satisfaction of seeing Malfoy scowling in my direction a few times during the day. It made me feel good to know that I gotten under his skin. I would bet that he was still trying to figure out what I had meant with my comment.

  It wasn’t until dinner that night that the others started to notice his glaring.   I had just taken another glance over my shoulder to see if he was still scowling in my direction, as he had been doing all day. I would bet that by now he had realised that we had tricked him at some point and was trying to work out when we had done it, or else he probably thought that I was just lying to wind him up. He probably thought that he was way too smart to have ever been tricked by us. Either way, I was enjoying watching him squirm.

‘Why do you keep looking over at Malfoy, Hermione? And why is he shooting daggers at you?’ Harry asked, glancing over at Malfoy. ‘I mean if looks could kill.’

 I gave a small chuckle before I answered ‘oh he’s just trying to figure out at what point in second year we tricked him with Polyjuice Potion. He was really bugging me, so I couldn’t help winding him up just a little bit.

Harry and Ron gave out a loud laugh. ‘Yeah, he totally fell for it.   Took us right inside the Slytherin common room and he didn’t suspect a thing. Even when my hair started to turn back to red, he still didn’t twig, the idiot,’ Ron mused, recounting his experience of being Crabbe.

  I gave another quick glance over my shoulder to see Malfoy looking over furiously at us, his face full of rage, while Blaise Zabini talked beside him. I guess he had realised that we were having a laugh at his expense. It was only then I noticed how far apart they sat from everyone else at the Slytherin table. Usually Malfoy was surrounded by a large crowd, all hanging onto his every word, but he and Zabini were sat at the end of the table with no one sitting near them. I guess the rest of the Slytherins had a problem with him turning over to the good side and helping defeat Voldemort. I was pretty sure that more than a few of the Slytherins parents had been put in Azkaban after he had been defeated.

 ‘I wonder why he came back anyway. I mean after everything that happened, why would be even want to?’ I wondered aloud. ‘Why would any of the Slytherins come back for that matter? I mean Hogwarts doesn’t exactly hold the same values as they do. I’m surprised more of them didn’t go to Durmstrang instead.’

 ‘They all have to be seen to have changed. Going to Durmstrang would get the Ministry’s attention and they would have been watched like hawks for any slip ups with dark magic.’ Harry answered. ‘Most of their parents are either in Azkaban or avoided it by the skins or their teeth, they have to be seen to try and fit in again.’

‘Yeah like any of us actually believe they’ve changed,’ Ron scoffed through a mouthful of food. ‘We all know they’re just waiting for the next dark wizard that they can follow.’

  I was pondering what the boys had said, when somebody brushed past my back, pushing me slightly forward as they past. I was in the process of turning around to say something rather rude to them when I saw them slide into the seat beside me.

 It took only moments for my fists to ball up with frustration as I heard the words that had plagued me throughout most of sixth year.

 ‘Hi, Won Won,’ Lavender Brown said, while stroking Ron’s arm.

  I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at her stupid name. Harry burst out laughing, but managed to not overly discreetly turn it into a cough. Ron on the other hand, was watching her with awe as she tossed her hair to the side and batted her eyelashes at him. He immediately sat up straighter and leaned towards her with those stupid puppy dog eyes that he had worn throughout most of sixth year. I sighed with annoyance and pulled a book out of my bag to give myself a distraction, however it didn’t work nearly as well as I’d hoped it would.

   Every time Lavender let out a high pitched laugh, which was rather often, I couldn’t help but slide my eyes to the left to catch a glimpse of with her hands on his knee, or touching his hand. It was pretty obvious what she was trying to achieve and Ron was lapping up the attention.

   I felt my jaw tighten and my breaths become harder. My stomach was clenching and I couldn’t control the hate that was now burning through my eyes. My head was screaming ‘I hate her,’ and I was smart enough to know why. I was jealous. Completely and utterly jealous.
 
  I didn’t really want to be with Ron in that way, but it had been only two days since I had realised this. I knew that we weren’t right for each other, but I still had feelings for him and I couldn’t help but be completely annoyed at seeing him flirt with another girl right in front of me. He was such a stupid, inconsiderate jerk. I realised that I wasn’t simply annoyed. That was no way near strong enough. My blood was boiling and I was absolutely seething.
 
 How dare he kiss me and then ignore me and then flirt with her of all people right in front of me. It was almost as if he was deliberately trying to hurt me. I stood up and excused myself, catching a glimpse of Ginny’s pitying eyes before I left and I felt slightly embarrassed that she probably knew how I was feeling and had probably seen the anger etched onto my face.
 
 I went to the library where I could be in peace and immerse myself in the books and not have to think about anyone, least of all him and her. At least that was my plan. 
 






A/N= Thank you so much to everyone who is reading.  I really appreciate it.  Hope you enjoyed a bit of Draco in that chapter, he'll be in it a lot more from now on.


 


Chapter 6: Rage
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It didn’t take very long for us all to be completely swamped with homework. Every subject that we had brought another 5 foot long essay to be completed for the following week. Our NEWT year was going to be tough.   We quickly fell back into our old routines and with each day, it actually got a little easier being back. It felt just like old times and the more time I spent in the castle, the less I was seeing the faces of the dead and the more I could remember of the happier times that we had spent here.

   Although as the days went on and the first few weeks passed, it felt like we spent less and less time with each other. Quidditch try- outs had been held in the first week, as Harry (who had been re- appointed Quidditch captain) was desperate to get training started and get his team back into shape. Ron and Ginny were of course picked to be on the team, playing their old roles of Keeper and Chaser; Harry was too loyal not to pick them. The three of them spent two nights every week training as well as a few hours at the weekend. For the first few training sessions, I had gone down to watch them, but I could only feign interest for so long and got pretty bored sitting by myself watching them practice the same manoeuvres over and over again, so after the first week I made my excuses and went to the library to read or study instead.

 
 The rest of our evenings were mostly spent completing the mammoth amount of homework that we were recieving. We had a few moments together at meal times and very rarely an evening together, but Harry and Ginny generally made excuses to be alone and going for a ‘walk’ around the castle or so they said. I had a rather sneaky suspicion that a few dark and empty corridors were gaining a few regular occupants. That left me and Ron alone together; however instead of making us closer, it seemed to push us further apart. We sat in an awkward silence most of the time, unsure of what to say to each other. A few times he would start to speak, beginning with ‘Hermione…’, but then after a few moments of silence, would follow it with a ‘never mind’, causing me to go back to my book, feeling annoyed at his lack of back bone.

   It also didn’t help that Lavender Brown started to crop up like a bad penny. She appeared at meal times, in the library, walking to and from classes and in the common room. I even saw her go down to watch quidditch practice. I knew for a fact that Lavender hated quidditch and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that she wasn’t spending hours sitting in the cold for her love of the game.

 I know it was stupid and completely irrational of me, but I couldn’t bear to watch her all over Ron and see him staring at her with his tongue practically hanging out. I knew that he wasn’t mine and I had no right to be jealous, but I just felt hurt that he had kissed me and then moved on so quickly. 

 So as things were becoming pretty uncomfortable and unbearable, I ate my meals as quickly as I could and then went to the library to get some peace and be away from all the endless flirting that caused me to feel completely irrational anger. The library was my solace and it immediately made me feel at peace. It was generally quiet in the evenings and it gave me the time to be alone with my thoughts. Although the more that I was alone with my thoughts, the more I realised that I was in fact just alone. Coming back to Hogwarts was meant to be a return to normality, to friends and yet I felt that even if it was unintentional, I was being pushed away again. 

  I was quickly becoming a regular at the library, even more so than before, along with some Ravenclaws who were pretty dedicated to their studies. I had even noticed Draco Malfoy in the library most evenings, which was completely uncharacteristic for him. In six years, I don’t think I had ever seen him in the library once. The library was my safe haven and it annoyed me that he was in here in my private zone, which I know is stupid because it’s the school library and not solely for my purpose, but I just felt slightly on edge, again waiting for the moment when the abuse and name calling would begin.

 But I didn’t need to worry he kept himself to himself and didn’t bother me. I guess he wasn’t so tough when he was by himself, although I was actually pretty sure that he could give me a run for my money one on one. However the amount of work that I had to do and the current Ron situation taking up so many of my thoughts which meant that Malfoy’s weird behaviour didn’t occupy my thoughts for long.

 

 At the start of the third week back however, I was given something else to focus my mind on, when Ginny plonked herself down beside me at the Gryffindor table.

 ‘Hermione’, Ginny said all too sweetly, in a tone that I knew for a fact meant that she was just about to ask me for some kind of favour.

 ‘Yes,’ I answered very hesitantly. Ginny’s favours could be anything and she had a way of making me agree to do anything, despite, my better judgement. The time when she had convinced me to join her in taking one of George’s new line of love potions had to be the worst. I shuddered at the memory of the way I acted that day. Unfortunately for me, the first boy I had seen that day was Neville. I don’t think he’s ever quite gotten over it.

  ‘Well, you see I’ve been thinking,’ always a bad sign I thought nervously, ‘you see, it’s your birthday this week and it’s your eighteenth after all and well we kind of missed Harry’s eighteenth, what with everything that happened over the summer and since we haven’t really seen that much of each other since we got back, I was kind of thinking that we could have a joint birthday party on Friday night for both of you,’ she rushed out, keen to get it out quickly. She must have seen my panicked face, as she quickly added, ‘nothing big of course, just a few friends. I was thinking the Room of Requirement.’

  I groaned a little as I pondered what she had said, but thinking about it, it actually seemed like a good idea. Had I not said that this year was going to be about me, and having a party seemed like a good way to start it. Besides it was a joint party, so some of the focus would be on Harry too.

  I decided to let Ginny stew for a moment, but on seeing her hopeful expression, turn slightly nervous at my reaction, I couldn’t keep it up for too long.

 ‘Ginny, I think that’s a great idea. As long as it’s small. Ooh you’ll need to help me decide what to wear.’

 I giggled as she squealed and clapped her hands together, before launching into a very detailed plan of what she was going to wear and what we would have to ask the room of requirement to provide for us. We were in the middle of our plans when the boys came down and joined us at the table..

 ‘Oh brilliant. Me and Harry can go down the passage way to Hogsmeade and buy in some Butterbeer and Firewhisky. Make it a real party,’ Ron interjected enthusiastically.

 At this, I became slightly nervous. I was not a party animal and I certainly didn’t break the rules, well not unless there was a very good reason, like someone’s life being in danger, but getting drunk at Hogwarts just seemed a little too risky for a normally perfect student like me.

‘Oh chill Hermione,’ Ron said on seeing the look of what must have either been horror or nerves on my face, ‘it’s only a couple of drinks and you don’t even have to have any. Don’t be such a worry wart.’

  I pulled a face at him, but couldn’t help to feel slightly nervous but excited at the same time.  It was stupid, but the image of Ron seeing me look amazing at the party flashed through my mind. He would see me looking drop dead gorgeous and maybe then he would finally admit how he felt about me. No wait, I did not like Ron anymore. I did not want him to want me like that anymore. We were friends and nothing more. But then maybe that could change.

 The next few days were spent talking about and planning for the party. We kept it pretty quiet, making sure that no one knew about it who wasn’t invited. All of the Gryffindor seventh years were invited, along with Luna and a few of the Hufflepuff seventh years. Our ‘small’ party now had around twenty five people going and I couldn’t help but feel that things were going to disastrously wrong, however I kept my worries to myself. 

 

 The day of my birthday came all too soon and with it the day of the party. I spent breakfast that morning opening my birthday presents. I got a gorgeous new quill from Harry, made from a phoenix feather, a beautiful gold necklace from Ginny that had a star pendent at the bottom, a book from Ron (how imaginative), the usual box of sweets from Mrs Weasley and the promised box of beauty products from George. Ginny was so excited, saying how we would get to sample some of them tonight.

  The last present that I opened came from my parents. I nervously opened the present, slightly apprehensive at what they would have got me for my eighteenth birthday. As I peeled back the pink paper, I realised that the present was a book and as I caught the name of the title, I had to work extra hard to control the disappointment from etching on my face. I already had this book. It was one of my favourite books, 'Jane Eyre' in a leather bound edition. My parents had actually been the ones to give it to me three years before. How could they not know that I had it? I was pretty sure I had talked non stop about it for a week, going on about how much I had loved it. I opened the card next and paused, watching as a pile of twenty pound notes fluttered down onto the table. My heart immediately sank. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I couldn’t help but remember how my parents had always said that giving money as a present was a huge cop- out and it basically just meant that you didn’t know the person well enough to buy them anything personal. 

 I turned my attention back to the card and realised that my mum had written a short note on the inside.

 Dear Hermione
 
 Happy Birthday. We’re sure you’ll have a good day. We hope you like the present and buy something nice with it. We hope you’re having a good time at school. Everything’s fine here. Everything returning to normal. We’ve even booked up a holiday for over Christmas. We’ve decided to go back to Australia for a month to see the place where we stayed, since we can’t really remember it, so we trust that as usual you’ll have other arrangements for Christmas anyway. Have a good day.

From Mum and Dad


  I read the letter over three times, each time going more slowly than the time before. I felt the beginning of tears begin to form and my breath was becoming increasingly ragged. My friends immediately noticed my distress.

 'Hermione, is everything ok? Is that from your parents? Has something happened?’ Harry asked questioningly with a look of worry on his face.

 I quickly folded up the letter and out it away, forcing a smile on my face. ‘Yes it’s from my parents. Everything’s fine. I guess I just miss them that’s all,’ I lied quickly.

 Harry nodded understandingly, seeming to accept my answer and returning to his breakfast. I excused myself from the table, saying that I had to get a book from the library before class and that I would meet them in charms. In truth, I just needed some time alone. As soon as I was out of the great hall, I let out a deep breath and allowed the tears to begin to fill my eyes. My sobbing didn’t start until I made my way hastily to a dis- used classroom.

 My parents didn’t care about me and they would never forgive me. They gave me a present which said they don’t care, they were leaving me alone for Christmas, and they hadn’t even signed the letter with love. It was from mum and dad. Even in a letter they couldn’t bear to say that they loved me. I allowed myself to sob for five full minutes, before I realised that I had to get to class. I wiped my face and tried to make it look like I hadn’t been crying, before quickly making my way to class. 

  The rest of the day was a complete disaster. I couldn’t focus on anything. I didn’t put my hand up to answer a question all day and when Professor Flitwick picked me to answer one, I got the answer wrong. I could see his eyes widen in surprise and I immediately lowered my eyes, trying to hide the flush that had appeared on my cheeks. Transfiguration wasn’t much better. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t clear my mind. All I could think was ‘they don’t love me,’ and my work suffered because of it. I wasn’t the first in the class to change the cushion into a rabbit.  That honour went to Malfoy, who earned ten house points for Slytherin and I didn’t miss the smug smirk that he shot in my direction, just to rub it in that he had beaten me.

 I couldn’t wait for lunch to come, so that my humiliation could end, but that was only worse. I was just approaching the Gryffindor table, when I heard the two words that caused me fists to clench in anger.

‘Oh Won Won,’ I heard Lavender squeal, as she wrapped her arms around his neck and planted her lips firmly on his. I stopped dead in my tracks and felt my jaw drop. He was dating her. He was actually dating her. He had forgotten all about me. He had moved on. And here I had been thinking that tonight would be the night when he might finally admit how he felt about me. What an idiot. I felt the familiar prickling as the tears fill my eyes for the second time that day however this time I would not let them fall. I would not let Ron Weasley make me cry.  
 
 How could be such an insensitive arsehole? He knew how I had felt about him and here he was clearly moving on and rubbing it in my face and on my birthday as well. My hunger quickly faded, as I stormed out of the great hall and back to the library, feeling my anger build with every step that I took.

As I made my way to the last class of the day, double potions, perfect, I was still filled with rage. I could tell that my eyes were hard and tutted rather rudely when anyone got in my way and even barged past a few people who didn’t get out of my way quick enough. I stormed into the classroom, realising Harry and Ron were already there. Harry tried to catch my eye and send me a wave, but when I glimpsed the dreamy look on Ron’s face, I felt my blood boil further and I just stormed past them both and slammed my bag down on the table, causing half of the ingredients already neatly lain out on the table to jump up and fall over.

 Malfoy, who was already sitting at his seat, turned around to glare at me snarling ‘do you mind?’

I shot him an equally hate filled glare before hissing back ‘Not particularly, no.’

 I spent the next twenty minutes of the lesson, ignoring Professor Haven who was wittering away at the front of the class. Today we were making a healing potion for boils as our Polyjuice Potion now had to brew for the next week, before we could complete the next step. I had only two thoughts in my head and they kept swirling round and round. Ron, my parents, Ron kissing Lavender, my parents hate me, Ron with his tongue down her throat, my parents abandoning me for Christmas, Ron bloody dating her. My body was completely tense and I could feel the anger seeping out of my pores. My jaw was clenched tightly, my hands were balled up into tight fists and they were practically shaking with the rage flowing through my body. 

 I still wasn’t over my fury by the time we had to start to make our potion, which actually turned out to be quite beneficial as I had to grind the porcupine quills with the pestle and mortar. I felt a huge amount of satisfaction as I twisted the pestle and heard the crunching of the porcupine quills as my anger and frustration ground them into dust. I imagined Ron’s face at the bottom of the bowl as I crushed the little quills into virtual oblivion. However much it felt good, it wasn’t enough to make my rage disappear entirely. It was still very much evident boiling underneath the surface.

  We only had thirty minutes to go in the lesson, when unfortunately, I happened to glance in Malfoy’s direction and saw that he was about to screw up our second potion in a row.

 ‘Malfoy, what the fuck are you doing?’ I hissed in his direction, satisfied when he looked at me in surprise. ‘Are you a complete and utter idiot? It stated quite clearly that you add the dittany after the foxglove, not before, you moron,’ I spat bitterly in his direction. It felt good to finally be releasing some of my pent up anger.

  ‘What is your problem, Granger? You still jealous that I beat your sorry ass for once. The mighty Granger didn’t come top of a class.’ He said giving me a satisfied sneer.

  I recoiled slightly at his arrogance, but it didn’t take me long to find a comeback.

 ‘Oh get over yourself Malfoy. My problem is that you are completely and utterly incapable.’

‘Is that so, I could manage perfectly well, without you. Believe it or not Granger, you’re not the only one who can actually do things. But then again, maybe it’s not me your mad at, maybe you’re mad cos Weasleby’s got himself a new girlfriend. I guess even he’s not into the frizzy haired know it all.’

  At this I finally snapped. It was as if a red mist settled over my brain. I wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. The monster inside of me that had been hinting at appearing finally broke free and before I knew it, I grabbed my wand from my pocket, pointed it directly at him and said the spell in my head, causing him to be thrown back hard against the wall, before his perfectly pale skin erupted with large orange boils.  

  ‘What the …’, he yelled, looking at the huge pussy boils on his hand. He stood in complete shock for a moment, before finding his wand and casting a hex at me, however I was ready for him and I managed to deflect the spell, before quickly firing the Bat Bogey Hex at him. I wasn’t as good at the curse as Ginny, but I was pleased when saw rather large grotesque, green bogies streaming down his nose and a huge pair of wings, sprouting out of his back. I this I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. He looked so furious, but that only made the whole situation seem funnier.

  However he took advantage of my momentary lack of concentration and took the opportunity to fire a curse at me. I recoiled slightly at the force of the spell he hit and waited for a moment, trying to figure out what he had done. When he burst out laughing, I knew that he had done something, but couldn’t quite work what it was. That was until my vision was gradually obscured until I couldn’t see anything at all. I put my hand up to my face and realised that it was completely covered by hair, which seemed to still be rapidly growing in length, as I could now feel it reach the backs of my legs.

 ‘You little bastard,’ I screamed at him. I pushed my hair out of my eyes, before firing another hex at him, which this time he actually managed to deflect. We continued firing hexes at each other, but both managing to deflect them easily. My brain barely even registered the sound of a commotion behind me, but I was distracted enough to partially turn my head in the direction of the noise.  I was half way between turning around when I heard ‘Immobula’ and I was frozen still in my movements. No matter how hard I tried, the only part of my body that I could move was my eyes.

  It was then that the red mist that had descended began to clear and I immediately realised what I’d done. Oh My God. What the hell had I done? I was going to be in so much trouble. Malfoy was standing in front of me, covered in bogies and huge orange boils with bat wings coming out of his back, apparently paralysed like I was. Usually I would have laughed at this sight, but I was still in too much shock. Even if I had wanted to laugh, I still wasn’t in control of my mouth. In fact I was pretty certain, it was still hanging open, ready to fire the next curse at Malfoy, before I had been immobilised. I could only imagine what I looked like, with my already frizzy hair, now having reached the floor and billowing out like the train of a dress behind me.

  Professor Haven then came into view and I felt my stomach squirm. It didn't take a genius to work out that she was not happy. She waved her wand again and I felt my hair retract to its usual length and watched as Malfoy’s appearance too returned to normal. I was kind of disappointed. He suited having bat wings. She then muttered a spell which allowed us to move again. I glanced around the class room and my jaw dropped in horror.

   Only a minute before, it had just been me and Malfoy. I hadn’t been able to see or hear anything else. All I had known was that I was angry and I wanted to hurt him. As I gazed around the classroom, I gazed at a scene of complete and utter destruction. Our deflected hexes had clearly found targets elsewhere. Jars that sat on the shelves around the classroom lay shattered; their contents splattered against the wall and on the floor. I realised that half the occupants of the room were cowering behind their desks and the other half that hadn’t quite made it to cover, were covered in red angry boils. I looked around confused as to why they were covered in boils, when my gaze fell onto a cauldron that currently lay in a mangled mess. I guess it had exploded, sending potion flying across the classroom. I wondered which one of us had hit that. I prayed with all my magic that it hadn’t been me.

 My eyes eventually landed on the angry witch that stood before us. I winced as realised that half of her face was covered in angry red boils. Her eyes contained such rage that I couldn’t bear to look at them and so I did the cowardly thing and looked at my feet.

  ‘Never have I seen anything so shameful in my life and from seventh years. Both of you gather your things together and go and see Professor McGonagall. She can deal with both of you.’
 

  Malfoy stormed out of the class ahead of me and I caught the look of pure rage on his face. I practically ran from the class, barely registering the looks of horror on Ron and Harry’s faces.

   I made my way to Professor McGonagall’s office in a complete daze. What the hell had gotten into me? It was only Malfoy. I could handle Malfoy. He had pissed me off nearly every day in life and I had never before reacted that way. I tried to go as quickly as I could manage. Part of me wished that I could delay it by walking as slowly as possible, yet Malfoy had left before me and I really didn’t want to turn up too much later after him. I didn’t need to get into trouble for wasting time as well.

  When I finally reached the head mistresses office, I nervously knocked on the door and winced when I heard a sharp voice say ‘Come in.’

 I walked into the office, quickly glancing at Professor McGonagall’s furious face, before lowering my eyes again. 

   ‘Sit down Miss Granger,’ McGonagall said with that sharp edge to her voice that made most pupils completely fear her. I was experiencing first hand just how very true that was.

 As I sat down next to Malfoy, I noticed how cool and calm he seemed. Only the slight flush of his cheeks and the hard set of his jaw and his eyes gave any clue as to his emotions. I on the other hand was scarlet, my breath was shaky and uneven and my palms were so sweaty and my leg was bouncing up and down with the nervous twitch that I always got when I was scared or nervous. Professor McGonagall began to speak and I kept my eyes firmly on my lap, determined not to look at her. 

   ‘I have already had a note from Professor Haven explaining the events that occurred today in your potions class, so an explanation of events will not be necessary.’

I glanced up briefly at her eyes and immediately regretted it. Her steely eyes displayed such anger that it made me flinch. However it was the disappointment that I saw reflected in those blue eyes that threatened to bring the tears to my own.
 
 ‘Both of you have caused a considerable amount of damage to your classroom and many of your fellow students and Professor Haven have had to go to the hospital wing to be treated for the effects of the potion that they were hit with. I think that it goes without saying that I am very disappointed in both if you. Both of you have previously been prefects at this school and as such I expect you to continue to act in a manner befitting of that position.’
 
 She paused slightly and looked at the two of us, but this time I kept my eyes firmly on my lap. She sighed again as she began.
 
‘I am aware that you two have had difficulties in the past, but I had expected that after the past years events that both of you could have been mature enough to have put these petty rivalries behind you.’

  At that my head snapped up. Rivalries? Since when were me and Draco rivals? He was a big jerk that insisted on making my life hell. I was in no way in competition with him. I had nothing to prove to him. I despised and hated him, but I was in no way his rival.
 
‘I believe that I made it clear in the start of term speech that I expected members of different houses to work together. I warn both of you that a lengthy punishment is in order, after the severity of your actions.’

 I felt my stomach drop at her words. I was a complete and utter idiot. What had gotten into me? Professor McGonagall pondered the options for a minute, before finally settling on our punishment.
 
  ‘Hmm, well let me see. The library needs to be re- catalogued, so I think that this is the perfect assignment for your detention.’
 
I actually thought that this could be a lot worse, but then I remembered how many books there were in the library and before I could stop myself blurted out, ‘but Professor McGonagall, that could take weeks!’
 
Draco looked equally horrified at the prospect and I could see him shoot me a glare out of the corner of his eye, as if he was blaming me for the fact the punishment was so potentially long.
 
‘Yes I believe that it will take quite a while, but the good news for both of you is that you will be completing your detention together, so it will give you the perfect opportunity to work together. You will have detention every week until the Christmas break. Ample time to complete the task I should think.’

 At this I closed my eyes and let out a quiet groan. How wrong I had been when I thought that things couldn’t get any worse. Here was me thinking that detention surrounded by my greatest passion wouldn’t actually be too bad. But then throw my biggest hate into the mix and it was pretty much my personal hell. Malfoy was apparently just as horrified at this prospect as I was, as his cool exterior seemed to have shattered. His eyes were wide and his eyebrows were so high that they nearly met his hairline, his jaw hanging open in disbelief.

However, whereas I had accidentally and only slightly questioned Professor McGonagall, Malfoy apparently had no issues in voicing his disgust to our head teacher.
 
 ‘Months of detention for one tiny little incident that wasn’t even my fault! That’s insane and besides the day Granger and I work together is the day that the Chudley Cannons win the Quidditch cup. I cannot even bear to be in her company for longer than a minute without wanting to hex her. This is going to be completely unbearable’. At this he folded his arms and shot me a look of contempt just to make it clear to me that he had no intentions of working together.

 This however brought back the red mist that had settled in potions class and I quickly forgot my fear at being in the head teacher’s office. I lifted my head to meet his angry eyes, filling my own with as much hate as I could muster. I struggled to keep my voice calm, but failed miserably as I shot back ‘oh don’t worry, Malfoy,’ I spat out with much more venom that I had intended, ‘the feeling is entirely mutual.’
 
  We continued to glare at each other, shooting the other looks of utter revulsion, completely forgetting that we were actually sitting in front of the head teacher. Professor McGonagall simply sat at her desk, her gaze lingering on the two of us, watching our exchange with interest.

‘Well in that case’ she began, as both pairs of eyes darted hopefully to her, ‘Since you Mr Malfoy don’t think that you can work sufficiently well together, I suggest that we make the detentions twice a week, just to ensure that you get the task done to a high standard.’

  As I absorbed the information that I was hearing, I felt my eyes widen and my jaw drop. I turned to glare at Malfoy and realised that his expression was the exact mirror image of mine. Then just as I cried out ‘but that’s not fair!’ I heard Malfoy say the exact same thing at the exact same time. I turned to give him one furious glare, hoping that I was conveying the message, ‘this is your fault’, when I noticed that he too had turned to give me similar look. I turned my head away from him in disgust, stewing at the situation that I found myself in. I knew it was completely my own fault that we were in this situation, but he had just gone and doubled our punishment with his stupid big mouth.

  Professor McGonagall stood up and raised her hand out in front of her, to stop us from arguing with her further. I wanted to say more to her, about how this would interfere with our studies, but couldn’t muster up enough courage to argue further with her. I guess I had used up all of my bottle for the day. 
 
  ‘Now Miss Granger, Mr Malfoy, I should warn you both that any more incidents of this nature from either or you will result in more punishments and the removal of certain privileges such as Quidditch, Hogsmeades visits and may even result in letters home to your parents.’
 
  I heard Malfoy gasp slightly as this. I was pretty sure he was more worried about losing quidditch privileges rather than the prospect of a letter home. I bet his parents would probably be quite proud that their son had been fighting, especially with their least favourite little mudblood. I however was terrified at this prospect. My parents already feared me enough. They really didn’t need to hear about how I was going around attacking people.

‘You will have detentions every Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evenings, beginning tomorrow. Mr Malfoy, you may return to class, Miss Granger, if you could wait here for a moment.’ Malfoy certainly didn’t need telling twice and practically ran out of the door, slamming it rather loudly behind him. I determinedly watched him leave, wanting to prolong the moment where I would have to look back at McGonagall and receive another telling off. However, when I did eventually look back at her face, I was surprised to see that her eyes weren’t full of anger or even disappointment, they were full of concern.

 ‘Miss Granger, is everything alright? I know it must be tough being back after what you’ve been through, and I know that you and Mr Malfoy have never got on that well, but I am concerned at your behaviour today.’
 
 In truth I thought, I was far from alright. My parents hated me, Ron had moved on and I was feeling more and more alone. However I really didn’t want to mention that to anyone, least of all the head teacher, so I went with the easy answer.

‘I’m fine Professor,’ I answered, trying to give her a smile. ‘Honestly. I guess I’m just a little tired and a little stressed. I’m really sorry for what happened today. I don’t know what happened.’
 
 McGonagall looked doubtingly at me, but tried to give me a comforting smile. ‘Are you sure Miss Granger? Mr Malfoy hasn’t done or said anything?’ 

 She looked completely uncomfortable at having to ask the question and for a split second I actually felt kind of sorry for Malfoy since he technically had only been defending himself from my crazed attack.

 ‘No professor, it’s nothing to do with him.’ I hesitated slightly. ‘Can I go now Professor?’ I asked hesitantly. I really didn’t want to be rude, but neither did I want to sit here answering awkward questions.

Professor McGonagall sighed slightly at my response, but then said, ‘yes of course Miss Granger. Please remember that I am always here if you need to talk.’

 I gave her a small smile, but inside I could honestly not think of anything I would rather not do. I practically ran to the door, afraid that she would call me back and let out a heavy sigh when I was finally safe on the other side of the door. It looked like my year was about to get a lot worse.

 
 







A/N- Thank you all so much for reading.  This is my longest chapter so far and I hope you like where the story's going.  Things are starting to pick up now and will get a lot more interesting in the next few chapters.  Thanks so much to the people who've reviewed or added it to your favourites.  It really gives me such a buzz to know that people are actually taking the time to read it, so please review if you can.  
 


Chapter 7: Partying
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   I left McGonagall’s office completely furious, wondering what the hell had just happened. I stormed down the corridors on the way back to the Gryffindor common room and I was clearly giving off an air of don’t even look at me and don’t even try to speak to me.  Everyone in the corridors parted like the red sea as I walked through which was just as well. I swear if just one person had gotten in my way, I would probably have cursed them into oblivion. I half wanted one of them to do it. Just to give me a reason. 



 How dare McGonagall be so bloody patronising. And what was with the detention twice a week? And with fucking Malfoy of all people. How many times in the past seven years had we fired spells at each other and nothing had ever happened and yet now all of a sudden we get detention. Yes we had kind of destroyed a class room and yes we had kind of ever so slightly given half of our class large pussy boils, which just so happened to include our professor, but still, detention twice a week just seemed a little harsh and with Malfoy; that was just plain cruel.

  I must have been walking pretty quickly, as I was soon facing the portrait hole. As I walked into the common room, I immediately came face to face with Harry, Ron and Ginny who came rushing over to meet me. I could tell that I looked simply furious as the three of them exchanged nervous glances, wondering which one would speak first.

 ‘Em, so what happened Hermione? I mean with McGonagall,’ Harry asked nervously.

 ‘Detention, twice a week until December,’ I spat furiously, watching their eyes widen in slight shock and trying their best to look sympathetic. It really was doing nothing to help though. In fact their pathetic sympathetic looks only set me more on edge, making me grit my teeth in annoyance.

 ‘Oh but that’s not even the worst part,’ I continued, my arms flying about dramatically. 

 ‘What’s the worst part?’ Ginny asked tentatively, as the other two eyes me warily. 

 ‘Oh not only do I have detention twice a week, I have detention twice a week with fucking Malfoy of all people.’

  Harry and Ginny had the good grace to at least attempt to looked horrified, but Ron just laughed out loud, ‘oh that I have to see. You and Malfoy together twice a week, so what’s the bet then? How long before she kills him?’

  I simply threw my rather heavy bag at him, feeling slightly satisfied as he grunted when the bag made impact with his stomach and causing him to double over in pain. I knew there was a good reason for carrying that many books around at the one time. Serves him right. Stupid jerk.  

  I walked passed him, not even bothering to hide the smirk on my lips and stalked over to the best seat in the common room, throwing myself down on the couch rather dramatically.

  ‘So when do you have to start the detention?’ Harry asked, sitting down beside me.

  ‘Every Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evenings, starting tomorrow,' I said blinking back the first threat of tears.  Why did I always have to cry when I was angry.

  'I swear this bloody day keeps better and better,' I said, turning my face away from the others, hiding the shining tears that were threatening to spill from my eyes.

  I stared into the fire, watching the flames flicker and crack. I wasn’t so much angry at McGonagall, as I was angry at myself. I mean I was so stupid. I brought this all on myself. And yet, it just seemed easier to blame McGonagall and Malfoy. Definitely Malfoy. At least I could focus all my anger on him. That wouldn't be too hard. 

  ‘So are you gona tell us what happened? I mean what did Malfoy do?’ Harry asked somewhat nervously, clearly wondering if now was the time to be asking the questions.

  ‘Oh, you know nothing much. Just being the usual arrogant, obnoxious Malfoy.’

  ‘Right,’ Harry said slowly, ‘it’s just I don’t think I’ve ever really seen you that mad before. I figured he must have done something pretty bad to make you do that to him and in class of all places.’

 I looked up at him not really sure how to answer. Even Harry thought that I had over reacted.  Great! Yet deep down I knew myself that I had been out of order, it had been my fault.  Deep down I knew that it hadn't been Malfoy to upset me.  Not really.  He had just fueled the flames.  My parents were the real reason that I was upset and I had let my emotions get the better of me. I just didn't want to tell them that.  I didn't want to feel their sympathy or their pitying glances. So I lied. Well not outright, but I didn't tell them truth either.  I simply avoided the subject and let them think the worst of Draco Malfoy again. 

   ‘You know what, I don’t really want to talk about it. I’d just rather forget that the whole thing happened. Some birthday this had turned out to be.’

  ‘Oh Hermione,’ Harry started sympathetically, ‘everything will be fine, you’ll see.’ 

 
 
  We sat in silence for the next few minutes, with me wallowing in my own self-pity. So it was my big eighteenth birthday and so far it been one big disaster after another. I don’t know why I had actually expected anything else.

Ginny clearly decided that the wallowing had gone on for far too long and stood up, pulling me up with her. I looked at her confused, when she put both her hands on my shoulders, looking straight at me.

  ‘Right, this is your birthday and even though you have had a sucky day, you are going to have the most amazing night.’

  ‘Oh Ginny, look I’m sorry but I am just really not in the mood for a party I think would rather just sta-‘

  ‘Oh no you don’t,’ she interrupted, putting her hand in front of face of my face to shut me up. ‘We have spent the last week planning this party and you are going to look amazing and have a brilliant time and forget all about your shitty day. And if you even think for a minute about not going, or walk about with your face tripping you, then believe me, Hermione Granger, I will make the next year of your life a very long and very miserable one. Understood?’

  ‘Okay,’ I replied slowly and albeit slightly terrified. I’m sure this wasn’t the time to tell Ginny, but she looked and sounded just like her mother and just like with Mrs Weasley, I certainly wasn’t going to argue with her.

 

 Ginny dragged me up our dormitory and literally pushed me into the shower. When I got out, she sat me down and started looking through her make- up case. Neither of us usually wore too much make- up, but I guess this was a special occasion so I could make a bit more of an effort. I sat for the next hour, while Ginny put cream after cream on my skin, poked my face and eyes with various brushes. 

  She eventually moved onto tackling the mess that was my hair. It was quite funny watching her standing behind me with a brush in one hand and a handful of my hair in the other, trying desperately to get the brush through my wild, tangled hair. At least it would have been funny if it hadn’t started to be extremely sore.

 ‘Sit still, Hermione,’ Ginny commanded, ‘you’re making this ten times harder with all your wriggling about.’

 ‘Well you try sitting still when someone is yanking your hair quite literally out of your head. I swear to Merlin I will no hair left after tonight, if you keep pulling big chunks of it out with that bloody hairbrush,’ I complained loudly, folding my arms across my chest just to emphasise my annoyance.

 ‘Well I can’t help it if the damn hairbrush won’t go through your hair. Seriously Hermione, your hair is seriously thick,’ Ginny said helplessly, waving the brush above my head again, looking as though she had no idea which bit of my hair to tackle next.

 ‘Try telling me something I don’t know. Why do you think I never bother with my hair?’

 ‘Well I have tried every spell that I know and nothing is working. I swear to all things magic that there is nothing in this world that can help to tame your hair, unless…’ she said, her eyes widening with realisation.

  I watched in confusion as Ginny disappeared into the bathroom, wondering what on earth she was doing. She eventually reappeared, holding up a small purple jar that I hadn’t seen before.

 ‘If this doesn’t work,’ she said, beginning to open the jar and scooping out some of the cream, ‘then nothing will. Right here goes.’

 

  There was a reason why I didn’t spend too much time with hair and make- up and this was exactly it. Ginny continued to pull and poke at my head for the next thirty minutes and I was beginning to get impatient and a little bit bored. I had been staring at the same piece of blank wall for well over an hour and my bum had gone completely numb.  Except every time that I had moved slightly or even tried to talk to Ginny, I had been told to hush and keep still and been jerked back into what Ginny deemed to be the correct sitting position. In the end I had given up and tried desperately not to think about the stinging sensation in my bum, by instead staring at the wall.

   When she was finally finished, she looked back at me and smiled, admiring her handiwork. She was looking me up and down like an artist examining their masterpiece. I was however doing my best not to shoot daggers at her. She ignored my deathly stares and pulled me up out of the chair and pushed me towards the mirror at the other side of the room.



 The girl that stood in front of me was beautiful. It took me a moment to realise that she was in fact me. My eyes were lined with black and my eyelids were all gold and shiny, complimenting my eye colour perfectly making my eyes look bright and huge. My skin looked so clear and smooth. My lips were soft looking and a nice cherry pinkish colour. But the thing that caused the biggest transformation, was my hair. It was no longer large and frizzy and basically bush like. Instead it was smooth and shiny and fell in soft flowing waves down my back. Now that it was smooth, it fell to my waist, rippling softly as I shook and turned my head. I tentatively put my hand up to my hair and fingered the ends, afraid that if I touched it too much, it would suddenly frizz up too much.

  I turned to Ginny, who was looking at me with a huge grin on her face. 

 ‘Ginny, I…’ I didn’t know what to say. ‘It’s amazing, thank you,’ I said pulling her into a tight hug. ‘How did you?’ I asked pointing to my hair. 

 ‘George,’ she said, holding out a jar for me to look at. ‘That boy is a genius. His cosmetics range is going to be huge. Remind to write to him tomorrow cause he had better be planning on sending me some of this stuff.  You look amazing by the way. Now all you need is to change. What you planning to wear?’

 ‘Um, I don’t know, I was thinking maybe jeans and a top.’

 ‘Jeans!' Ginny said in a tone of complete and utter horror.  I may as well as just have told her that I was planning to wear my pyjamas. 'There is no way you are wearing jeans to your eighteenth birthday party. Hold on a sec,' she said disappearing behind me to rake through her trunk.  I watched (and dived out of the way) as she started to throw clothes all across until the room, until she clearly found what she was looking for. 

  Finally Ginny stopped what she doing and turned around facing me holding out a bright red dress. ‘I bought this last year. Don’t know what I was thinking. Me and red will never get on. Not with my hair. You have to wear this. You’ll look amazing in it.’

 I took the dress, unsure, it was so totally not me, but I as I glanced in the mirror and caught a glimpse of the girl standing in front of me, looking better than she had ever done in her life, I figured why the hell not.  

 ‘Wow Hermione,’ Ginny breathed when I finally came out of the bathroom. ‘You look so hot. That dress was made for you.’

 ‘Oh Ginny I don’t know. Isn’t it a bit… revealing?’

 The dress had thin red straps that went into a v cut neck at the front and went half way my back at the back of the dress. It want very tightly all the way down my body and then flared out at my waist, stopping mid-way between my calf and my thigh, showing way more leg than I had ever done before. 

 ‘Hermione stop being a prude. You only get to be eighteen once and besides you look amazing and I forbid you from changing.’

  I looked at my reflection in the mirror and for the first time in my life, I had to admit that I looked good. That was until my eyes fell onto my arm and whatever happy feelings I had immediately disappeared. 

 ‘Ginny, I can’t wear this.’

 ‘And why not?’ she said exasperated.. 

 ‘Because of this,’ I said quietly, holding my arm out and showing Ginny the scar on my arm that I usually took such pains to hide. ‘I just can’t. I don’t want people to see it.’

 ‘Sweetie, you can’t hide it forever,' Ginny said giving me a small smile.  'Look, why don’t you put this bracelet on,' she said picking up one of her large solid gold bangles, 'push it up your arm and that should hide it and if you really have to, put that cardigan on.’

  I took the bracelet gratefully and pushed it up my arm, so that it covered most of the word written on my arm. You could only  I grabbed the black cardigan that Ginny had thrown to me and put it on, feeling myself relax instantly at knowing that it was hidden and that I wasn’t showing nearly as much flesh as before.

 I took one last look in the mirror and gave myself a small smile.   I would show Ron exactly what he was missing. 

 

 The walk to the room of requirement seemed to take an age and even though the halls were pretty quiet, we still attracted a lot of attention. Every head that we passed turned and stared. Probably more so at Ginny that at me. I had looked the best that I had in my life and yet I still was nowhere near the same league as Ginny. She looked drop dead gorgeous. She had opted for a dark blue dress that made her pale skin seem almost translucent. Her red hair was curled into gorgeous curls that cascaded down her back and her lips were painted a brilliant shade of red. I really couldn’t wait to see Harry’s face when he saw her.

  As people continued to stare, I grew increasingly nervous. I started to feel like I was exposing way too much flesh. I pulled my cardigan further around me and did up a few of the buttons at the front to hide my cleavage, ignoring Ginny’s sighs and disapproving stares.

As we reached the room of the requirement, I felt my pulse racing. This was so unlike me. A party, breaking the rules, the hair, the outfit. A small part of me couldn’t help but feel excited by it though. I couldn’t help but wonder what Ron would think of my new look. I knew I was supposed to be forgetting him, but a very small part of me that I pretty much refused to acknowledge still hoped for a big reaction from him. I wanted him to want me. 

  Taking a deep breath, we entered the room of requirement. My jaw dropped as I looked around the room. The room had been transformed into what was a very classy looking night club. The room was dark with lights flashing on the dance floor; cushion chairs were dotted around tables at the edge of the room. I couldn’t wait to have a go in one of those later. At the end of the room there stood a bar that Dean Thomas had taken over, playing the role of bartender. The room was already filled with loud pulsing music that made the whole room shake and people were already filling the dance floor, laughing and dancing away. There were way more people here than I had thought.

 ‘I thought you said that it was a small party, with just the Gryffindor’s,’ I said turning to Ginny, my voice slightly more hysterically than I intended. I did not need even more witnesses to my revealing dress and awful dancing.  

 ‘Yeah well, word might have spread a bit. We just invited the sixth and seventh year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs. Look chill Hermione. You’re not a prefect anymore, so relax. It’s your party. Enjoy it,’ she said pulling me by the arm through the crowd.

 I followed Ginny through the crowd feeling like I was completely out of my comfort zone. The music was loud and the lights were flashing and I couldn’t help but feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I realised that we were heading to the bar and again I began to panic. I really couldn’t and shouldn’t be drinking. I may be of age, but I still couldn’t bring myself to let go and so I ordered a butter beer and could see Ginny roll her eyes as she ordered a fire whisky, which she downed in one. I stared at her with wide eyes. Since when had she been such a party animal.

  Ginny then pulled me into my personal hell quite literally, as she pulled me right into the middle of the dance floor. Ginny immediately put her arms in the air and started to shake her hips in time to the music, while I stood rather pathetically in front of her, shuffling my feet from side to side, completely aware of how awkward and out of place I looked.

   I was even more embarrassed when Neville came over and told me how amazing I looked and asked me danced. I went bright red and just shook my head. I was even more mortified when a Ravenclaw sixth year that I had never even met before came over and did the same. Except when he asked me, his gaze never seemed to leave my cleavage. I was definitely going to kill Ginny later for putting me in this dress.

  I was just hoping that ground was going to swallow me up, when Parvati and Lavender came over to us and started to talk.

  ‘Hey guys, this party is so amazing,’ Parvati shouted to us over the insanely loud music.

 ‘Thanks, I know. We did a good job even if I do say so myself,’ Ginny answered, leaning in to shout over over the music. 

 ‘I can’t believe you guys managed to pull this off and there are so many gorgeous guys here,’ Parvati gushed, scanning the far end of the room where most of the guys stood, at the furthest point possible from the girls.  We may have looked like we were in a nightclub, but this was definitely still a high school party.

 ‘And most of them seem to be after Hermione,’ Ginny said grinning in my direction.

 I just rolled my eyes at her, knowing full well that she was just flattering me. 

 ‘Oh come on Hermione,’ Ginny said exasperatedly, ‘you must have noticed how every guy in the room is staring at you.’

 I of course had not noticed this little fact, but on scanning the room, I did notice that most people were staring in our general direction, but then Ginny looked amazing. Nobody would be looking at me, when she was beside me.

 ‘No they’re not. They’re staring at you. Aren’t they?’ I asked questioningly, seeming even more unsure.

 ‘Oh come on Hermione. Everyone here knows that I’m taken and besides I’m not the one who everyone had been asking to dance.’

 ‘Yeah Hermione,’ Pavati joined in ‘I mean that Ravenclaw guy with the blue shirt on is gorgeous. You’re single, make the most of it.’

 ‘Yes well some of us are already taken and already have gorgeous boyfriends,’ Lavender said a little louder than was necessary, whilst shooting a meaningful glance in my direction.

  It was all I could do not to snort in her face right there and then. Yes I had liked Ron, but in no way could he have ever been described as gorgeous. Cute in a goofy sort of way, but gorgeous, no in a million years. And as for her little glance, she was clearly trying to tell me to steer clear of her guy and a part of me wanted to smack her right in the mouth for it, but I guess I had already gotten into enough trouble for that today.

 I just smiled innocently at her whilst saying, ‘so where is darling Won- Won then? I thought he would be with you.’

 Her eyes narrowed darkly at my little comment, clearly trying to work out if I was making fun of her. 

 ‘He’s actually with Harry in Hogsmeade getting more supplies. He’s such a rebel. It’s such a turn on. Don’t you think?’

 It was my turn to narrow my eyes at her, my jaw clenching in frustration. She knew how me and Ron had felt about each other before the war and was clearly trying to rub my nose in the fact that he was with her. That he had chosen her.

 ‘No actually. I think the whole bad boy thing is totally over rated. And anyway, Ron is not a bad boy by any means.’

 ‘Oh, really,’ she replied with a smirk on her face, ‘I’ve found that he can be a very, very bad boy,’ she said in a slow and suggestive voice.

 I could tell that my expression had completely frozen and my forced smile had now completely dropped, leaving a slightly stunned expression on my face, that no matter how hard I tried to get rid of, it wouldn’t budge.

 ‘Ew, that’s my brother you’re talking about Lavender. I really don’t need to hear all the gory details of his love life. I definitely need another drink now.’

Ginny pulled me towards the bar but my mind was still with what Lavender had just said. What the hell did she mean? Had he slept with her? He kissed me and didn’t speak to me all summer and yet he slept with her within two weeks of coming back to school.

  ‘Hermione, do you want another butter beer?’ Ginny asked, breaking my trance.

 ‘What?’

 ‘Do you want another butter beer?’ Ginny said slowly, clearly annoyed at having to repeat herself.

 ‘Em yeah. No wait. Give me a fire whiskey this time.’ Butter beer was definitely not strong enough. I had never drunk before, but if ever there was a time to start, I had a feeling that this could be it.

 Ginny looked at me half with shock and half with pride as I downed the drink in one and quickly ordered another, enjoying the feeling of the smooth liquid burning its way down my throat and heating up my insides.

 Just as I downed my second drink, Harry appeared behind Ginny, snaking his arms around her waist and turning her around to face him. I watched as his eyes widened as they lingered over her full red lips and her revealing dress. He gulped as he leaned in to kiss her and I couldn’t help but giggle slightly, when they broke apart and he had bright red lipstick smeared across his face, matching his very flushed cheeks.

 ‘Em so, em, hi, em, Hermione. Having a good time?’ he said breathlessly.

 ‘Yeah thanks. Thanks for organising it for me.’

 ‘No probs. You look great by the way. You not dancing?’ he asked, nodding towards the now very full dance floor. 

 ‘Oh not just now. Maybe later. I think I’ll just stay here and have another drink.’

 He nodded slightly, before looking at Ginny again.

 ‘You em, mind if we dance?’

 ‘No don’t be silly. I’ll be fine.’

 
 
I watched as Harry pulled Ginny onto the dance floor and began to twirl her around the dance floor. They looked so happy together, so at ease with one another. Harry then pulled Ginny into him and wrapped his arms around her waist, while she put hers around his neck. They continued to stay like that for a while, looking each other in the eyes, occasionally leaning forward to whisper in each other’s ears. I was so happy for them both. Especially Harry. Seeing him so at ease and so happy. He truly deserved it, although I couldn’t help but feel a stab of jealousy that they had each other and were so perfect for each other when I had no one.


  I wallowed in my self- pity for a while longer, until another red head on the dance floor caught my attention. This time however, I did not get the happy feeling watching him with his partner. Lavender seemed to be gyrating her hips against Ron and dancing around him in a way that reminded me very much of a stripper. Ron had a completely stupid expression on his face and may as well have had his tongue hanging out.



 Lavender then spun around him and pressed herself up against him, throwing her arms around his neck. Her eyes found mine from across the room and I swear I saw her smirk before she pulled her gaze back to her partner and brought her lips crashing down onto his.

 My throat seemed to constrict tightly making it hard for me to breathe and my hands instinctively balled into fists by my side. I didn’t know what I was more angry about; the fact that Ron had so evidently moved on and forgotten about me or the fact that Lavender had turned it into some stupid little competition that I was evidently losing.

 So much for him noticing me. He hadn’t even given me a second glance all evening, never mind speaking to me.I knew it was petty because I didn’t want to be with him, but a bit of recognition would have been nice. But then again I really didn’t know what I had expected. Ron was always a selfish idiot. Ron would always do what Ron wanted to do and to hell with everyone else. Well he could have her. She was entirely welcome to him.

  I forced myself to turn away from the couple, as they were currently quite literally eating each other’s faces and it was only making me even more furious. So I did the least logical thing that I could do and I ordered another drink. And then another drink. And then another.

  My brain was feeling nice and warm and fuzzy as the alcohol coursed its way around my body. My body was feeling completely relaxed as I pushed the thought of a certain someone out of my head. I was singing along with the music, when I became aware of a presence sitting beside me.

  I glanced to the side to the side to see a familiar face sitting beside me, smiling at me, his eyes running over my body appreciatively.

 ‘Hey, Hermione. You look amazing. You want to dance?’

 Cormac McGlaggen held his hand out in front of me and a part of me told me to walk away. We had briefly had a thing in sixth year when we had made out so I could get back at Ron and then I hadn’t been able to get rid of him. However my brain wasn’t quite working properly and had kind of stopped at the whole ‘get back at Ron’ part. It had worked before, why not now.

 I took Cormac’s hand and let him lead me over the dance floor. My shyness and fear of dancing was evidently gone, replaced by a new found alcohol induced confidence as I immediately moved my hips in time to the music, pressing myself up against him, far closer than I would ever normally allow myself to be. I would show Ron that I was over him and I would show Lavender that I was over him too. He placed his hands on my back and then started to slide them further and further down, until his left hand was resting on my bum. I immediately stiffened, and looked quickly to his hand, ready to push it away. However it was then that I caught Ron’s eye and saw his furious expression, as his eyes rested on the hand currently squeezing my bum and so I decided to push Ron even further. I would show Ron that he wasn’t the only one who had moved on.

  I lifted my head up, bringing my lips close to Cormac’s. He licked his lips and his eyes looked hungry as he looked at me and slowly started to bring his mouth towards mine, but he was being far too slow for my liking and so I stood on the tips of my toes and pushed my mouth up to meet his.

 He responded immediately, pushing his tongue into my mouth and swirling it about inside mine.'Oh yeah,' my brain reminded me, 'this is why I had hid from him the last time.' The sloppy and slobbery kisses. 

 I pulled away from him, trying to get some air and wiped the saliva from around my mouth when a brief moment of sanity returned.  Shit. What the hell was I doing? Why the hell was I kissing Cormac? This had to be the most stupid ridiculous plan ever.

 However, I really didn’t have much time to think of an escape plan, as Cormac’s open mouth was advancing towards mine again. 

 Although as it turned out, an escape plan wasn’t necessary. As his mouth engulfed mine for the second time, I felt my stomach start to squirm in a really uncomfortable way and I was pretty sure it was more than just his kissing that was making my stomach heave.

 I just about managed to push him off of me; which was pretty difficult considering how hard he’d latched himself onto me, before I turned and ran, desperate to find a bathroom. However I didn’t even make it out of the door of the room of requirement, before three things happened in succession; first my stomach lurched as I threw up all over the floor; secondly my knees buckled and I slid to the ground and thirdly, I passed out on the hard, stone cold floor. 








A/N- I am so sorry this update has taken a little longer than usual.  Things have just been really hectic just now, but it's finally here and I hope you enjoy it. I know there isn't any Draco in this chapter, but the next chapter hopefully makes up for it. 

Also thanks so much to the everyone reading and reviewing.  It seriously makes me so happy watching the number of reads and number of reviews go up.  It makes me want to write even more and make this story so much better, so please leave a short review if you're enjoying it so far. 

 


Chapter 8: Hiding
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I groaned loudly as I woke up  the next day. My head was pounding. It felt like there was a little man inside my head, repeatedly banging a tiny hammer off of my skull. I tried to turn my head, but the throbbing pain I felt, made me immediately turn it back. It took a few moments for me to even build up the effort to attempt to open my eyes.  When I eventually slowly opened one eye, I immediately regretted it, the bright light that hit my face practically burning away the retina in my right eye. 

 I went for a second attempt at opening my eyes and immediately jerked my head up when I caught a glimpse of my bra peeking out from a rather low cut red dress that I didn’t recognise. Then it all came flooding back. Oh my God!

   The dress! The party! Ron! Cormac!  I sat bolt up straight when I remembered the last bit, instantly regretting it as my head swam with dizziness and my stomach heaved. Cormac. Oh my god, I kissed him. Oh for the love of god, what have I done? What was I thinking? The last time I kissed him, it took me three weeks of him following me around to finally get rid of him. I thought Ron was going to punch him in the end. Oh god, Ron. How the hell was I going to face Ron? What the hell would he think? But then again, why was I feeling guilty? Why on earth was I worried about what he thought? He had absolutely no problem in kissing Lavender in front of me. But then again to hell with Ron, what would everyone else think? Oh god, today was going to be embarrassing.

 I flopped back down on my pillow and wallowed in self- pity at the previous day’s events;   all in all not one of my best birthdays. My head was still pounding and so I closed my eyes and tried to get back to sleep. I could definitely do with some more sleep. If I was sleeping, then I wouldn’t need to think about any of it. In fact, maybe I would wake up and it would all have been some horrible dream. However, my sleep and my delusion were rudely interrupted by the dorm door flying open, banging off the wall, causing me to wince in pain as the noise resounded around the room. God my head hurt. I was never drinking again.
 
  ‘Morning Hermione. Great night last night,’ said Ginny, practically skipping into the room, far too happy for my liking.

 ‘God you look like hell’, she said, stopping as she saw my head peeking out from under the covers.

 'Cheers,' I relied not even bothering to move, 'Just what everyone wants to hear,’ I said sarcastically. Ginny’s good mood was really doing nothing to help and improve mine.  ‘Why are you so chipper this morning anyway? You drank way more than I did.’

‘I guess I’m just one of these very talented people can just hold their drink,' she gloated, flopping down onto my bed making the bed bounce and making me feel like I was about the throw up again. 'Or maybe it could be because I didn’t actually drink that much, unlike you. You were firing them back like there was no tomorrow towards the end. I however was perfectly in control of what I was doing. Unlike some, so a little birdie tells me,’ Ginny said a little too gloatingly.

 ‘Oh god,’ I groaned, ‘what did you hear? I asked, wishing that I didn’t actually have to hear the answer. 

 ‘Just that you had a lot to drink and were tearing up the dance floor. Oh and that you totally made out with Cormac.’

 I groaned as Ginny was practically grinning like a Cheshire cat. She was just loving watching me squirm.

 ‘Who the hell told you?’

 ‘Oh just Parvati,’ she answered.

 Ok not so bad then. Perhaps everyone else was too busy in the party to notice my little floor show. If only Parvati knew then I could maybe keep this quiet.

 ‘And Lavender and Ron and Neville and Luna and Padma and Dean and Seamus and oh just about everybody I spoke to this morning. You’re big news this morning.’

 ‘What…’ I sputtered, ‘but I didn’t do anything. I mean not really.’

    ‘Hermione, you were practically shagging him on the dance floor. That’s not nothing,’ Ginny said with an all too smug expression on her face. 

 ‘What,’ I shouted. Finding my voice this time. ‘I was not nearly shagging him. We kissed, well he kissed me and that is definitely all that happened.’

  ‘Well that’s not what it looked like and that’s not what people are saying.’

 ‘Oh great, so people have nothing better to gossip about than the fact that I kissed Cormac.’ I said shuddering slightly at the memory of his wet and sloppy kiss.

 ‘Well yeah, but that along with the little fact that you threw up and then passed out afterwards makes it pretty big news. It’s just so unlike you.’ Ok, she was definitely smirking now. She was enjoying this way too much.

 ‘I passed out,’ I almost shrieked at her. This just kept getting better and better. I did not remember that part of the night. Well obviously I didn’t, since I had clearly passed out. I tried to think of what the last thing that I could remember was, but all I could come up with was Cormac kissing me

 ‘Well how the hell did I get back into my bed then?’ I seriously had to know the details. What if I had done something else that I couldn’t remember?

‘Neville found you outside the room of requirement and carried you back.’

 ‘Oh my god, I am never leaving this bed again for as long as I live,’ I whined, pulling the covers over my head. I was going to officially die of embarrassment. Maybe I could just stay in this bed forever and then I wouldn’t have to face anyone for like, ever. It seemed like a good plan.

 ‘Well actually that’s why I came up to find you. Doesn’t your detention start today?’

 ‘Holy shit, I totally forgot. Why the hell didn’t you tell me before?’ I shouted at her, pulling the covers down from my face.

 ‘I dunno, I forgot.  You side tracked me with all the gossip. You’d better go though. It’s twenty to one and your detention starts at one.’

  ‘Oh my god Ginny, McGonagall’s going to kill me if I’m late,’ I yelled, knocking her off the bed as I jumped out of it. I ran to the mirror in the bathroom to check my appearance. Big mistake. Grey, sallow looking skin, huge bags underneath my eyes and mascara smeared over my face. My hair however, which should have been resembling a birds nest at this point, actually still looked pretty perfect; a little wavier than the previous night, but still perfectly smooth and shiny. I was going to have to seriously thank George when I next saw him. The man was a genius.

  I didn’t have time for a shower, so I splashed my face with cold water, which instantly made me feel more awake. I still looked bloody awful though and I was not going to be the talk of the school looking totally hung over. I grabbed some more of George’s products, praying that they were as good as the hair ones he had given me.

  After another ten minutes of trying to make myself resemble a human being, I finally ran out of the dorm room, looking somewhat better than I had before. My skin had regained some colour and George’s cream had vanished the dark circles under my eyes. However, although I may have looked better I certainly did not feel better. My head was pounding and I could feel my stomach protesting with every move that I made.

  I ran down the stairs, ignoring the swirling in my stomach and ran through the common room, aware that there were many pairs of eyes on me. I was vaguely aware of someone calling my name, but I ignored them and kept running. I was seriously late as it was. 

    I ran the whole way to the library on the second floor, avoiding the stares and cat calls that followed me. My face was already flushed pink with running, but flushed a deep red, when a sixth year Hufflepuff boy yelled a rather crude comment at me, as I passed. Something about him having a free period if I was free he could show me a pretty good time. Usually I would have turned around and hexed him, but I was late for a detention and more fights in the corridors would probably not go down too well.

  I ran all the way into the library skidding to halt when I saw Madame Pince standing with Malfoy. I glanced at the clock on the wall behind her, 1: 03, damn I was late.

 ‘I am … so… sorry… I’m late,’ I managed to say through breathlessness.

I had to bend over; feeling very light headed and rested my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath and keep myself from falling over in a heap at the librarians feet. I lifted my head slightly, to see Madam Pince looking at me in slight shock. Malfoy on the other hand, who was leaning against the librarians desk, gave me a quick once over with his swift gaze and gave me a look that was unmistakably of pure disgust. 

  I did my best to glare back at him. Yes I was perfectly aware that I looked like crap. I was breathless, my face was flushed, I was sweating and I was very close to throwing up again. Not to mention the fact that I was dressed in muggle clothes. Something that Malfoy would most definitely not approve of. Well tough shit Malfoy.

 ‘Well don’t make a habit of it, Miss Granger or I will have to report it to Professor McGonagall. Please ensure that you make the time up at the other end.’

  ‘Oh don’t worry, I will,’ I said a little too haughtily. I was only three minutes late for goodness sake.   She continued to witter on about what we had to do, but I was barely listening, focusing more on trying to keep the contents of my stomach firmly where they belonged.

When Madame Pince finally stopped talking, I realised that I didn’t actually have a clue what I was supposed to be doing. I followed Malfoy over to the bookcase at the back wall of the library and hovered slightly, as I watched him lay some parchments down on a nearby table. He then moved over the bookcase and started to look through the books. I tried to watch him to work out what he was doing, but I was still totally clueless.

 ‘Are you going to stand there all day, or all you actually going to do something?’ Malfoy said, not even bothering to turn around to look at me.

 I jumped slightly as he spoke and made a move over to the bookcase, still totally at a loss of what we were to do.

 After another moment of me hovering like an idiot, he sighed and turned around.

  ‘We have to check all the books on that list and write down the reference numbers, making sure that they are all put back on the shelf in the correct order and record any that are missing. Merlin Granger, it’s not hard.’

  I just glared at him, determined not to let him annoy me. My silence could also have been something to do with the slight fact that if I opened my mouth, I was sure that I would vomit. Although, actually throwing up over Malfoy could be quite fun. I giggled slightly at the mental image of him standing covered in sick with a look of repulsion on his face, but stopped when I saw his glacial stare.

 After that, we worked in silence. Just like in potions class, we developed a way of working together that required neither of us to actually speak to one another. I would look for the books and pass to them him to mark down. It was surprising how well we worked. I had been expecting his usual name calling and the occasional hex as payback for him being here. It was my fault that he was here after all. Not that I would ever admit that to him. 

 We worked that way for the next hour or so and I was quite happily fantasising about what I would have for dinner that night, since I had missed breakfast and lunch, when a familiar loud voice nearby snapped me out of my daydream.


  ‘Excuse me Madame Pince, could you please inform me where Hermione Granger is. I believe she is currently carrying out a detention here.’

   I jumped up and peeked through the gaps in the shelves to look over to the reception desk and groaned internally when my worst fears were confirmed.  Cormac was in the library and asking where I was. Of course it was Cormac. Who else could actually sound so pompous and arrogant? Present company excluded.  But then how the hell did he know I was here? I was pretty sure that I had not mentioned it the night before, but then since I could only remember parts of it, it seemed plausible that I had.

 Madame Pince raised her hand and pointed in the direction where I was currently hiding. As Cormac turned his head to look in my direction, I ducked down to make sure that he wouldn’t see me. I really couldn’t deal with him just now. I was still feeling completely awful and I couldn’t be bothered  having that conversation with him again.

 I pressed myself flat against the bookcase, my breath coming more quickly now. What the hell was I going to do? I could hear his loud footsteps coming closer and closer. I now had about ten seconds before he would find me practically sitting on the floor. 

 I stood up, still hunched over and ran to the end of the aisle, pushing past Malfoy as I did and hid behind the bookcase in the next row. I crouched down, determined not to be seen. I pushed one of the books on the lower shelf to the side, so I could see what was happening. I was currently looking at Malfoy’s ankles. He was still standing in the same spot where I had nearly knocked him off his feet. I looked up at his face to see his eyebrows furrowed and a look of complete confusion on his face.   He had just turned around in the direction that I had ran and made a move forward when a noise to the left caused us both to turn and look in that direction.

‘Oh, Malfoy. What are you doing here?’

I couldn’t see Malfoy’s face anymore since he had moved out of my eyeline, so I watched Cormac instead, praying that he wouldn’t see me.

  ‘What exactly does it look like? Detention.’ Malfoy said, his voice dripping with disdain.

'Oh. I thought Hermione was doing her detention here. Is she here?’ Cormac asked, seeming to be completely unaware of the hate vibes pouring out of Malfoy. Cormac continued to look around the aisle, trying to see if I was hiding somewhere. If only he knew.  

 I waited with baited breath. This was the moment where Malfoy would rat me out and I was going to have to deal with Cormac.

   ‘Obviously not,' Malfoy said through gritted teeth. 

My breath caught in my throat and my mouth dropped open. Malfoy had just lied for me. He had just helped me. Seriously, what was going on today?

   ‘Oh really, because Madam Pince told me that she was over here.’

‘Well Madam Pince must have been mistaken.’

‘Merlin that girl is hard to track down. She’s like Cinderella. A kiss at midnight and then she disappears and you can’t find her again. I won’t let her get away so easily this time.’

Oh for the love of all things magic. That boy was seriously deluded. We had a drunken kiss and his warped imagination; it turns into a flipping fairy-tale with him in the role of Prince Charming. At that mental image, I couldn’t help but let out a snort, forgetting briefly that I was supposed to be hiding. I saw Malfoy’s leg tense and Cormac’s head turned immediately in my direction.

‘What was that?’ Cormac asked, peering over to where I was hiding. I crouched even closer to the floor, determined to stay hidden.

 ‘What was what?’ Malfoy said, sounding bored.

‘That noise.’

‘I didn’t hear anything. Now if you don’t mind McLaggen, as fascinating as all this is, I actually do have work to do,’ he said in a clearly dismissive tone.

‘Right, well if you see her can you tell her that I’m looking for her.’

‘Oh, I’m sure she knows already,’ Malfoy said, a hint of amusement creeping into his voice.

I heard footsteps moving away, hoping that it was Cormac finally going away. I stayed in my crouched position on the floor, not wanting to move in case he came back. I could have hit myself. What the hell was I thinking, kissing Cormac? This was exactly the way things had gone before. We had one kiss, which I had only done to make Ron jealous and then he trails me around the castle, trying to pounce on me at every available opportunity. Damn alcohol. Clearly nothing good can ever come from it. A voice suddenly interrupted my mental chastising.

‘He’s gone. You can stop hiding now. Or do you intend to leave me to all the work alone?’

    I crept back round to the other side of the bookcase, feeling distinctly awkward. Of all the people I would have wanted to witness that, Malfoy would have definitely been on the bottom of the list. Yet he had helped me to hide.  Why would be have done that?  He would never willingly help me. Whatever his reasons, I was actually surprisingly grateful to him. Who would have thought I would ever actually be grateful to him. I knew I had to say something, however hard it might be.

‘Em, thanks, for, you know, not telling him,’ I said as steadily as I could, trying desperately not to look at him and feeling my face turning bright red.

He merely nodded, barely even glancing in my direction. We quickly went back to working in silence, although I was now totally distracted by other thoughts swimming around my head. What had come over Malfoy and how the hell was I going to avoid Cormac?  I knew I would probably have to face him sooner or later, but right now, I was hoping for later.

We only managed another ten minutes of work, before my stomach gave a rather embarrassing rumble. My feeling of nausea had long since passed and I had been trying to ignore the rising feeling of hunger in my stomach. I felt my body stiffen slightly, but tried to act normally and ignore the gurgling in my stomach. I gave a quick glance at Malfoy and saw that he had given a quick glance in my direction, an unmistakable smirk forming on his lips. God I wanted to smack it right off of his face.

  I tried to focus on what I was doing, hoping that I could forget about the growing hunger in my belly. I tried to remember the last time that I had eaten. It must have been dinner last night. About twenty hours ago. No wonder my stomach was rumbling. I tried to hold my stomach in, hoping that would stop the rumbling, but unfortunately for me, my stomach let out an even more loud and unmistakable growl.

I winced, hoping that he hadn’t heard. It wouldn’t be long before he made some stupid sarcastic remark.  I heard a rustling behind me where Malfoy was standing and gave a quick glance to see what he was doing, briefly wondering if he was going to hex me. However, nothing could have prepared me for what he was about to produce from his robe pocket.

  He pulled out a chocolate frog and held it out to me. I merely stared at him, well aware that my eyebrows were so high up my forehead that they were probably meeting my hairline.

‘Well, do you want it or not?’ he asked, still holding the frog out to me.

 My mouth opened in shock again. He was giving me a chocolate frog. He was actually offering to give me a chocolate frog. I still hadn’t moved when he spoke again.

‘It’s not poisoned you know,’ he said clearly getting annoyed by my unresponsiveness.

That thought hadn’t actually even entered my head. I was too much in shock to actually think anything. But what he said jolted me back to reality. Of course I couldn’t take his chocolate. It no doubt was poisoned, seeing as it was Malfoy. 

‘No thanks,’ I said shaking my head. ‘I’m fine.’

 He just mumbled ‘whatever,’ and made a move to put the chocolate frog back into his pocket when my stomach gave an almighty rumble, even louder than the ones before.

 I rolled my eyes at my body’s perfect timing and looked back to Malfoy, to see him looking at me with one eyebrow raised. He pulled the frog back out of his pocket and held it out to me once more his eyebrow still raised, daring me to take it.

Never one to back down from a challenge I reached out and took the frog, muttering my thanks.  He just nodded and went to back to cataloguing the books. I couldn’t believe that I had just accepted food from Draco Malfoy. It’s amazing what being hungry could make you overlook.

 I tore the paper off the chocolate frog as quickly as I could manage and only hesitated slightly, before ramming the whole thing into my mouth. I chewed quickly, before swallowing, enjoying the feeling of the creamy chocolate sliding down my throat, sending a warmth through my entire body. God that tasted good. Totally normal chocolate. No tastes of any potions and poisons. Just plain, delicious chocolate.

 We fell into silence again for the rest of our detention; however the silence was at least on my part, slightly awkward. 

  I couldn’t help but wonder at Malfoy’s actions. He had helped me out twice today, I mean I know it was only a piece of chocolate, but it was actually something nice. Malfoy had done something nice and to me. I had never seen him do anything like that before, not to anyone, least of all to me. I mean he hated me more than he hated most people. I eyed him uneasily for the remainder of the detention, half expecting him to turn around and yell ‘surprise, got you’ or have him hex me, having lulled me into a false sense of security. But my worries were totally unfounded. He barely even looked at me for the rest of the detention. I just couldn’t figure him out and it annoyed me.

When four o’ clock finally came, Madame Pince came over and told Malfoy that he could go, since he had arrived on time for his detention. However she made me stay for the full three minutes extra, watching me work alone, until I too could stop working. I started to tidy up all of the pieces of parchment that we had been using, placing them back into order. I tried my best not to glare at Madam Pince as I gave her the parchment back. I usually got on fairly well with her, but her pettiness today annoyed me. Due to her quibble over three lousy minutes, I was left to tidy up alone, meaning that it was quarter past four before I could actually leave. 

 
 I figured I would wait in the library until dinner, as it wasn’t served until five and it would take me at least ten minutes to get back to the common room and then another ten to get back down and it hardly seemed worth it. I selected one of my favourite books and chose a quiet table away from everyone else.



 Just before five, I made my way down to the great hall. Malfoy’s chocolate had kept me going, but my rumbling stomach was coming back. I hesitated slightly at the entrance of the great hall. What if Cormac was in there? I still wasn’t ready to deal with him yet. However I snapped myself out if it. I was a Gryffindor for Merlin’s sake. I was supposed to be brave and yet I was scared of facing a boy. I had faced far worse in this school and faced far worse people. I would handle Cormac if he was in there. 

  I walked into the great hall, ignoring the many people staring my way. No doubt no longer interested in the fact that I was part of the Golden Trio, but more likely because of my escapades the night before. I kept my eyes firmly ahead of me and kept my head held high. I was a proud Gryffindor and even though the petty gossip did bother me, there was no way that I would show it.
 
I sat myself down at the quiet Gryffindor table and dived straight into the food, instantly feeling revitalised as it filled my body. Every time the door opened and someone else entered the great hall, my eyes snapped to the side to see who it was, giving a sigh of relief when I saw that it wasn’t Cormac.


 I was glad when Harry, Ginny and Ron finally came to join me at the dinner table. Ginny was still smirking at me, Harry looked slightly uncomfortable and Ron just looked angry, with his jaw tight. I could tell that they were waiting to see who was going to bring up the night before first, but I as damned sure that it wouldn’t be me. I wasn’t going to make it that easy for them.

 ‘So Hermione, how was detention then?’ Ginny asked, trying to keep the smirk off of her face. It was beginning to get really annoying. 

 ‘Just fine thank you,’ I replied keeping my tone light.

‘How was Malfoy? He didn’t give you a hard time did he?’ Harry asked seeming concerned.

It was quite sweet of him to be so protective, but then again it was quite insulting that he didn’t think that I could handle myself.

‘No he was fine actually. Not an insult or anything.’

‘So em, it was completely uneventful. You didn’t have any visitors then?’ Ginny asked, straining to keep the excitement out of her voice.

 I narrowed my eyes to look at Ginny. How the hell did she know? I groaned as I realised. Of course she must have told Cormac where I was. How else would he have known that I had detention in the library?

‘Ginny, you didn’t. Tell me that you had nothing to do with him turning up there,’ I pleaded with her, although I already knew the answer.
 
‘Well, he might have asked me and I may have let it slip where you would be.’ Ginny said trying to keep her expression innocent.

I glared at her as she continued. ‘Oh come on Hermione, he’s so cute and he’s so into you and you need to let your hair down every once in a while.’

‘Ginny, I will say this once and once only. I do not like Cormac and I never have. I was drunk and it was one kiss. That does not mean that I like him or want anything more with him and it certainly does not give you the right to interfere.’ I said, my voice getting louder as I spoke. I could see Harry and Ron sitting wide eyed, determined to avoid the conversation, although I would swear that Ron had a slight smirk on his lips.

 ‘Look Hermione, I’m sorry I was only trying to help. So what did you say to him? Did you let him down gently?’ Ginny asked, trying to get more gossip.

‘I haven’t actually spoken to him yet.’ I admitted.

 ‘But he went to the library looking for you and you said you saw him in the library.’ Ginny asked questioningly.

I sighed, trying to think of a way to avoid saying what had actually happened, but nothing was coming to me. Lying was not a strong point.

 ‘Well, I may have seen him coming and then I might have ever so slightly hid from him.’


Ginny’s mouth dropped open, but Harry and Ron just burst out laughing, only stopping when I shot a deathly glare their way.

 ‘Oh Hermione, why didn’t you just talk to him. He’s completely head over heels for you and you can’t keep him hanging on.’


‘I’m perfectly aware of that Ginny, but I will speak to him when I’m ready to speak to him. You know I’m not good at this sort of thing and I really didn’t need to be doing it in front of Malfoy of all people.’ I said, my voice getting louder again.

 ‘So how did you hide from him Hermione, especially if Malfoy was there?’ Harry asked, trying very hard to keep the grin from his face.

‘It may have involved hiding behind a bookcase and practically lying on the floor.’ I said grinning in spite of myself at the ridiculousness of the memory.

 ‘But didn’t Malfoy tell him where you were?’

‘Nope. Believe me I was just as surprised as you,’ I said in response to Harry’s furrowed brow.  ‘But then he was probably just trying to annoy Cormac. He was being a right prat as usual.’

 ‘So Hermione,’ Ginny started, re-joining the conversation, ‘you are going to speak to Cormac, aren’t you?’


‘I suppose so. Eventually,’ I added as an afterthought. ‘I suppose I did really have to talk to him at some point, but I was secretly hoping that he would get the hint if I just avoided him for long enough. After all it had worked the last time.

 ‘Good, well now’s your chance. He’s just walked in.’ Ginny was looking at me with a rather pointed expression on her face, practically daring me to do it.


 My head flew round to see Cormac strutting into the hall with his group of friends and I noticed that he had people staring at him as well, although where I had been mortified, he seemed to be enjoying it.

  ‘Oh shit.’ I whispered. He was walking up the side of the table where I was sitting. I so did not want to see him, especially in the great hall, in front of half the population of Hogwarts. I really didn’t need an audience to my personal dramas again.  So I really had only one option left. Make a run for it. Again.  Yes an extreme reaction, but I really couldn’t deal with Cormac. I ducked under the table, ignoring Harry’s yelp of surprise as I gripped his thigh and quite literally pushed him to the side. I crawled up and slid up beside him on the opposite side of the table. I swung my legs over the side of the bench and stood up, brushing off the crumbs that were sticking to my knees.  Gross!  Turning around, I scurried toward the great hall door.  When I was about to pass Cormac, I let my hair fall over my face and I turned my head to the side to avoid him seeing me.  Once I was past him, I all but ran out of the great hall, faltering only once when I caught the amused glance of a certain blonde wizard watching me the entire way. 

 






A/N- So a huge thank you to everyone who is reading and reviewing.  It seriously means a lot.

So back to the chapter, Draco was in it as promised and being uncharacteristically nice.  I like bits of this chapter but I'm still not 100% happy with it, but the next chapter is pretty awesome in my opinion so this one will just have to do. So please review and let me know what you think of Draco, Ron, Cormac, etc. Reviews seriously mean so much, so I would be so grateful if you could take just a moment to leave a quick comment. I will always reply so leave any questions you have. Please keep reading and I will update soon.  The next chapter is a good one. 

 

 



 


Chapter 9: Rescues
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The next few days were tough for quite a few reasons.  Firsty, rumours of the party had  spread like wildfire and not just in the Gryffindor common room, as all of the other houses seemed to know all about it as well.   I was completely and utterly mortified that most of the rumours revolved around me and Cormac. Every time I walked down a corridor or entered the great hall, I was subject to a lot of quite unsubtle stares and whispers,but as the days went on I was getting better at ignoring them. I wasn’t a Gryffindor for nothing. I kept my head up and kept a smile on my face, determined not to show them that they were getting to me. Although if anyone had looked closely, they would have seen that my jaw was tight, my palms were sweating and completely tense, waiting for the next comment to come.

 I was also continually being interrogated by the other girls in the dorm who wanted to know all the gossip. Lavender and Parvati were particularly keen to hear all the details. They pounced on me at the first available opportunity, which happened to be the moment I stepped out of the shower on the Sunday morning.

‘Oh my God, Hermione, tell us everything. What happened between you and Cormac?’ Parvati asked excitedly.

‘Em, nothing much,’ I muttered, really wishing that I could escape, but seeing as I was dripping wet and wearing nothing but a towel, it really wasn’t a viable option.

Parvati just rolled her eyes at my evasiveness, but Lavender narrowed hers in my direction.

‘Don’t lie Hermione,’ Lavender said, a little too harshly, ‘we all saw you two making out.’

‘Well if you saw, then why are you even bothering to ask what happened?’ I questioned, desperate to be left alone.

‘Oh come on, we just wanted all the juicy details. What was he like, are you two dating, is he a good kisser?’ Parvati asked eagerly, her eyes nearly popping out of her head.

‘Em, drunk, no and I’ve had better,' I replied as I began rooting through my trunk to find clothes to wear. 

‘Really? Was he that bad?’

‘He was drunk, I was definitely drunk and no it wasn’t bad, just not great.’ I said flushing not really sure why I was bothering to answer her questions.

‘Who was better then?’ Lavender asked, her eyes narrowed at me. Clearly she was thinking that I was comparing Cormac to Ron, which in actual fact I was, but there was no way in this world that I would let her know that. She was already shooting me daggers at every available opportunity and making a show of how Ron was hers. Imagine what she would be like, if she knew that I had actually kissed him.

‘No one was better,’ I said turning away from them and making a move towards the bathroom, hoping to escape the questioning. However what I was not expecting her to follow me.

‘But you just said that you’d had a better kiss,' Lavender presses, 'You must have had someone in mind,’ she said, an eyebrow raised questioningly. Clearly she thought she was about to uncover a dark, juicy secret.

I pushed passed her into the bathroom. ‘It’s just a figure of speech Lavender and if you must know, Victor was a better kisser than Cormac,’ I lied quickly, saying anything to get her off of my back.  Although in truth, Victor had been better than Cormac, but Ron’s kiss was still the best kiss I had ever had. I would just never admit that to her.  Or anyone else. 

‘Oh right. I forgot about him. I was thinking you might have meant someone else,’ she said with her questioning look again.  I swear Lavender was aiming to be an amateur detective with the way she was looking at me.  As if I would just crack and tell her everything because she was giving me a hard stare. 

‘Nope, just the two of them. Now if you’re finished with your interrogation, then I would actually like to get changed,’ I said, closing the door in her face, glad to be finally escaping the endless questioning.  


 

At least that was what I had thought. Everyone that I met or passed in the corridors seemed to ask questions or make comments about the party and I was getting pretty fed up of people making jokes about me getting pissed and passing out and also people making comments about me and Cormac, with many people assuming that Cormac and I were together.


  As a result, I was spending less and less time in the common room and the great hall, which actually worked out pretty well for me, for two reasons. Firstly it meant I was able to fully concentrate on my homework; which was good as there was lots of it. Every class we had, meant more reading and more ten foot long essays, due in only a few days later. I had to say that I was actually enjoying the work. I know, ever the bookworm. It gave me a challenge and gave me something to think about. It kept me busy and focused and for that I was grateful. 

  The second reason that I was glad to be avoiding the great hall was a more awkward one. If I had hoped that Cormac would give up after one day, I was sorely mistaken. It had now been five days since the party and he was getting even more persistent in his attempts to talk to me. It was beginning to feel like everywhere I went, there he would be. He was always in the common room, the library, the great hall, the corridors and outside my classes.

  I was still desperately clinging onto the hope that he would eventually give up. Any day now, he would see that I wasn’t interested. Ginny however was hoping for an entirely different outcome. She was on at me daily to give Cormac a chance and how he wasn’t really that bad and what harm would it do to just go on a few dates. She was beginning to really get on my nerves. I had never thought that Ginny would be one of those really irritating people that felt that just because they had a boyfriend, they automatically had to try and fix up all their friends up as well. 

 And so my days were spent trying to fend off not only Cormac’s completely unwelcome advances, but also Ginny’s persistent nagging. As a result, I spent my days rushing through the corridors in case I saw him, scoffing my meals so I didn’t need to be in the great hall for longer than necessary and spending more and more time in my dorm, instead of the common room.  However unfortunately for me I shared some classes with Cormac, but at least it was just charms and ancient runes. I made sure that I arrived for class at the very last moment and then hurried out of the class the very second the class was over, ignoring the looks that he was giving me throughout lessons.

I'll admit,  it was a totally cowardly tactic, but I really was not good at relationship talk.  Especially one where you have to say, yes I know we kissed, but I was drunk and I only did it to make another guy jealous, so no I really don’t want to go out with you. I really didn’t think there was a nice way to say that and so I went for the avoid and hope they go away tactic instead.

And so it was the Wednesday after the party and we had just finished another busy day of double transfiguration, doing tricky spells turning objects into animals, herbology and defence against the dark arts. I was completely shattered and had so much homework to do, but once again I had my Wednesday night detention to contend with. 

 I bolted down my dinner yet again, feeling sick as I rammed the food quickly down my throat. I was really getting fed up with hiding and was completely blaming Cormac for it. Yes, I should have spoken to him by now, but if he would stop being such a full on stalker then I really wouldn’t have to hide.

  My bad mood was not helped by the fact that Harry and Ron found the whole situation hilarious. Ron had acted a bit weird at first when he had first found out that I had kissed Cormac and I briefly wondered if he was jealous, but now that it was absolutely clear that I was not interested in him, he went back to mocking me as usual.

 ‘So Hermione, no crawling under tables tonight,’ Ron asked a little gleefully, as he sat down at the table opposite me during dinner. The joke was getting really old. He had made it at least three times every day and I was beginning to get more than a little hacked off by him.

‘Nope, not tonight,’ I managed to say with a light tone, although my fists were clenching underneath the table. Ignore him; ignore him I said over and over in my head.

‘And so what’s in your pumpkin juice tonight then; bit of firewhiskey? We all know how much you like your alcohol these days,’ he said grinning.

 ‘Yep Ronald, firewhiskey today. I figured I need something strong to get through another dinner with you,’ I said in a matter of fact tone. Ron however was not getting the hint that I was in fact desperate for him to shut up. He kept on wittering away until his eyes suddenly widened and his body tensed.

‘Look, Hermione, Cormac!’ Ron said loudly, pointing over to the door. This unfortunately was another of the jokes that Ron found absolutely hysterical. The first time he had done, it, I had instinctively ducked in an attempt to hide, knocking over my pumpkin juice and spilling it all over myself, only to realise that he was joking when he was practically rolling around the floor with laughter. And so I kept my eyes steadily on him, determined not to move them more than a millimetre from his face. I was getting fed up of being the butt if his jokes and I would not let him laugh at me one more time. 

Although in truth part of me did panick that Cormac was actually there, that Ron would actually tell the truth one of these times and I wouldn't believe him.  Like the boy who cried wolf. However, my pride wouldn’t let me look. I was pretty sure that he was lying by the sound of his voice and I was proved right when a moment later he burst out laughing again, banging the table as he did as if it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

‘Oh, come on Hermione, you got to admit, it is funny,’ Ron laughed.

I glared at him in response. ‘No Ronald, I really don’t think that I do,' I replied through clenched teeth. 

‘Come on mate, give it a rest now,’ Harry said, throwing me a pitying look. He had made a few jokes at first, but Harry had seen how much it had been bothering me and knew to stop, unlike the prat of a wizard sitting opposite me.

‘What and miss out on all the fun. Not likely. You do realise that this may never happen again. I’m taking my opportunity whilst it’s here.’

What the hell was that supposed to mean. Did he think that I was so incapable of getting a boyfriend; that no one would ever want to kiss me.

‘And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?’ I practically spat at him.

Harry looked incredibly uncomfortable at my swearing. I only swore when I was really angry and he knew only too well what I was capable of doing when I was angry.

‘Well, come on Hermione. It’s not every day that you get drunk and go around kissing random guys, throwing up and passing out. Got to admit, it’s good to know you’re just like the rest of us.’

‘I am nothing like you Ronald. It took me having a lot to drink to make a fool of myself; you on the other hand seem to manage that just fine every day in life without the influence of alcohol,’ I yelled at him, watching as his eyebrows shot up in surprise as seeing me losing the rag.  ‘And for your information,’ I continued, ‘I do not go around kissing random guys and when I do kiss someone it actually means something, unlike some people I could mention.’

Ron furrowed his brows at my last statement, seeming confused by my anger and the way that the conversation had gone. I realised that I had been shouting and had stood up somewhere in the middle of my rant. I noticed that a few people around me had gone quiet and turned to stare, hoping that they would get to see another Hermione Granger floor show.

Feeling mortified, I grabbed my bag and practically fled from the hall, leaving a very confused Harry and Ron behind. I really hadn’t meant to bring up the kiss with Ron. In truth I was over him; I really didn’t want to be with him, but it still hurt that he had moved on so quickly and thought so little of it. Of me. I really needed to work on controlling my anger. I was having far too many angry outbursts these days. Speaking of which, I had my next detention in about twenty minute’s time.


 

 I made my way to the library, arriving early this time, which made a change after arriving a shocking three minutes late the time before. I was pretty sure however that Madame Pince wouldn’t let me away early, but I decided to start the detention anyway. There was no point hanging around and waiting for Malfoy to show up and I really needed to be doing something to help and take my mind of the whole Ron/ Cormac saga.


 I had been busy working for around fifteen minutes, when the sound of footsteps made me turn around and see Malfoy standing at the end of the aisle. He took one glance at my appearance when the smirk that I was so familiar with, appeared on his lips. It didn’t take a genius to work what he was smirking at. 

 Unfortunately in the fifteen minutes that I had been working, I had so far managed to make a complete mess, due the fact that I had dropped all the pieces of parchment that had been in alphabetical order. Malfoy had just happened to walk in at the exact moment that I was crawling about the floor, quill in my mouth, trying to pick up the pieces of parchment and put them in the right order. 

Once again I waited for the sarcastic and scathing comment that was sure to come, but instead he just lifted his wand and gave it a quick swish. I closed my eyes and waited with baited breath for the curse or hex that I was sure he had just fired at me, but after a minute with my eyes closed and nothing happening, I slowly opened them to find that the pile of parchments were now stacked neatly in front of me.

 I turned around to face Malfoy, who had gone over to the nearby table and put his bag down.

'Do you mind. I was doing that,' I spat out as I stood up and placed the parchments on the table. 

'No not really. I would actually like to get this over with.  I wasn't prepared to wait all night while you crawl about on your hands and knees like a common muggle,' he said, withe his familiar sneer, curving his lips. 

And there it was, the usual Malfoy charm. Although to be fair I really should have thought of using a spell sooner.

‘And what exactly is wrong the muggle way?’ I said, folding my arms across my chest. ‘Although I don’t know why I’m bothering to ask you that. We all know what your opinion is of muggles,’ I said with hate filling my voice.

At this his expression darkened, before he took one menacing step towards me. ‘You know nothing about me,’ he spat out. ‘Now if you don’t mind, I would rather get this over with. I don’t want to spend any more time here than I absolutely have to,’ he said, going back to his usual cold tone.

 After that, we worked in silence. Despite his completely cold and arrogant attitude, I was actually kind of glad he was there. It was a hard job to do by yourself, as I had so spectacularly proved earlier. Again we fell into our usual routine of silence and we quickly worked our way through that evening’s list of books to catalogue.

When we finished the final book on the list we were working on, I stood up slowly, stretching out my legs and arms. It felt good to finally stand up, after having to sit on the floor of the library for so long, which I’d had to do as the last books on the list were on the bottom shelf.

 I made a move to start tidying up, when Malfoy surprised stopped me in my tracks. 

‘Go,’ he said. I’ll do it.’

I looked at him with wide, questioning eyes. Since when did Malfoy ever do anything to help and since when did he ever actually volunteer to do work?

‘You did it last time, Granger. Don’t get used to it though. This is a onetime offer. ’

I lingered for a moment and thought about staying to help, but then again if Malfoy was actually volunteering to do work, who was I to stop him?

‘Ok then, well thanks,’ I said picking up my bag and walking away. Seriously I was going to have to stop thanking Malfoy. It was becoming a bit of a bad habit these days.


 I was seriously tired and so glad that detention was finally over. It was only nine o’ clock. But after a hard day’s classes and three hours of both mental and physical work, I was shattered. All I really wanted was to go for a nice hot bath and read a good book. It had been a least a week since I’d actually had time to read a book for pleasure and not for school work. But since I had completed all my homework for the following day, I was going to indulge myself. At least that was my plan.

 I was making my way back to the Gryffindor common room, completely lost in my thoughts about which book I was going to read, when I noticed a figure standing at the end of the corridor. I looked up and my heart immediately jumped up into my throat and my whole body immediately stiffened as I realised who it was that was coming towards me - Cormac.

 I ran through the options in my head, turn and go back to the library, I was only one corridor away and hope to lose him in there, or just keep walking and act naturally and tell him the truth. I guessed that I really had to talk to him. The whole running away thing had been going on for far too long.

 I gripped my bag tightly and tried to walk steadily towards him, although my legs felt like lead, feeling heavier with every step that I took. It seemed to take forever to finally reach him and when I spoke, I tried to keep my voice light and natural sounding.

‘Em, hi Cormac. How have you been?’ I asked shakily, sounding anything but the natural voice I was aiming for.

I gave a quick glance to Cormac, trying not to look him in the eye. Cormac was looking down at me with a weird expression on his face. He was smiling, but his eyes had an odd look in them that I couldn’t quite place. Whatever it was, it was making me feel very uncomfortable and I was suddenly aware of how very alone we were.

‘I’m fine. Better now that you’re here,’ he said closing the distance between us. However it was far too close for me and I immediately took a step back, widening the space between us.

I gave him a weak smile, trying not to show him how much his words were unnerving me. I knew that I needed to talk to him and tell him the truth, but even though I had been avoiding it, when I hadn’t imagined having to do it in a completely empty corridor with no one around.

‘So Hermione,’ Cormac continued, clearly not sensing my how uncomfortable I was feeling, ‘I was thinking that you and me should do something. How about the next Hogsmeade trip. I’m thinking you and me in Madame Pudifoots,’ he said smiling and once again closing the proximity between us.

I swallowed hard and tried to keep my eyes from widening too much in complete disgust at the idea. Madame Pudifoots is the notorious lovers haunt in Hogsmeade, with lots of pink and frills and love hearts. So not my scene. The idea of going to Pudifoots was nauseating enough on its own, never mind the thought of going there with Cormac.

Although I at least had a valid excuse for not going. For the first time, I was completely grateful that I had been given detentions every Saturday, meaning that I would not be able to go to Hogsmeade.

‘Oh I’m really sorry Cormac,’ I said, trying at least to hide somewhat sympathetic, but finding it hard to keep the small traces of a smile off of my face, ‘I have detention that day, so I won’t be able to go.

‘Oh that’s a shame,’ he said, looking actually quite crestfallen.

‘Mmm,’ I replied not quite agreeing, ‘so I’ll just be going then,’ I managed to say, sensing my opportunity to leave and trying to move past him to get to the door, unfortunately he shifted in front of me once more, forcing me to look at him again.

‘Well if Saturday’s no good, then how about next Sunday? I’m sure we can find something to keep us entertained in the castle for a whole day,’ he said, raising his eyebrows in a suggestive way.

I had a feeling I wasn’t doing quite as well at keeping my face straight anymore. The horror at that prospect must have been clearly evident on my face.

‘Em… I don’t think I can, I have to, um, study that day,’ I stuttered trying to find an excuse. ‘I’ll have loads of work to do that day since I’m missing the whole day on Saturday,’ I said trying to back up my story and make it sound a little more believable and not just the pathetic excuse that I knew it really was. ‘In fact, I should probably be going now,’ I said, trying once again to get passed him, but once again having little success.

  I had barely taken a step past him when his hand caught my wrist and pulled me back so that I was once again facing him. 

‘Hermione, stop walking away from me,’ he said, a hint of desperation edging into his voice.

 As I looked at him I felt genuinely sorry for him. I knew that I had used him, and now I had to come clean. Now I had to tell him the truth. I sighed as I prepared myself for the moment that I had been desperately avoiding.

‘Look Cormac, You’re a really nice guy and I am so sorry but I really just don’t feel that way about you,’ I said not quite looking him in the eye.

‘Hermione, I know how you feel about me,’ he said, once again stepping forward and backing me in against the wall, ‘That kiss meant something, I know it did. Now stop trying to run away from me. I’m sick of playing these games.’

 ‘Look Cormac, please, you have to listen to me,’ I said feeling exasperated at his complete lack of understanding. ‘I’m really sorry for what happened and I like you as a friend, but nothing more. I’m sorry I was drunk when I kissed you and it was a mistake. I just don’t feel that way about you.’ 

‘You’re lying. I know you care about me. I heard what you said earlier.’

Now I was totally confused. ‘What? What did I say?’

‘In the great hall, at dinner. You said to Weasley that when you kiss someone, it means something.’

I groaned at the memory. How the hell had he heard that? I hadn’t even been thinking about Cormac when I said that. I was talking about Ron.

‘I’ve got to admit Hermione; I was so relieved to hear you say that. I was beginning to think that you’d changed your mind about me, but when I heard you say that, I knew that I had to say something to you - that I was in with a shot.’

‘I wasn’t talking about you when I said that,’ I said, the annoyance starting to creep into my voice. ‘I was talking about… someone else,’ I finished pathetically, not quite wanting to reveal that it was actually Ron that I had been thinking about.

As my words registered in his head, he finally took a step away from me, allowing me to breathe slightly more freely, as I wasn’t feeling so trapped. However when his eyes finally snapped up and met mine, all the relief I felt was instantly erased and replaced with fear at the cold, hard, rage that was now so evidently displayed in his narrowed eyes.

‘You’ve been seeing someone behind my back,’ he said in a low and menacing voice that did nothing to erase the fear that I was feeling.

‘How could I be seeing someone behind your back when we aren’t even going out?’ I said a little too fiercely and instantly regretting it. Now was really not the time to be making him even more mad.

‘Oh so you were seeing someone else. You were just using me.’

‘No,’ I said weakly, thinking that yes, I had been using him and feeling instantly ashamed. ‘I wasn’t seeing anyone else.’

‘But you were using me?’

‘No, I mean, I didn’t mean to use you,’ I stuttered pathetically.

‘So what, you just fancied a bit of cheering up then, trying to make yourself feel better, trying to make some other guy jealous?

I immediately looked to the floor, unable to meet his eyes. But apparently that was all the answer that he needed.

‘You were using me to make some other guy jealous,’ he asked in a slow tone, as if working things out. ‘Who?’

 Once again I refused to answer, which only seemed to flare his anger even more.

‘Tell me who,’ he demanded again, stepping dangerously close to me once again. ‘Potter, Finnigan, Thomas, Weasley.’

My eyes flitted to his face as he said Ron’s name before I could think, before I could stop them.

‘Weasley?’ Cormac asked again, in a disbelieving voice. ‘You would choose Weasley over me?’

I watched as Cormac stepped away from me and pulled his hands up to his head in frustration, messing up his usually perfect hair, which added with the angry eyes, only made him look even more crazed. I sensed an opportunity to escape, as he started to pace up and down, muttering to himself and so I slowly started to edge towards the door. I had barely got a metre closer to the door before Cormac spotted me moving away, when he whipped out his wand and before I could even register what was happening I was being slammed into the wall behind me, my head whipping against the cold, hard stone behind me.

 Everything in front of me was spinning wildly and before I could stop myself, my knees were buckling and I was sliding to the ground. I always wondered about people who had said that they had seen stars. But now I knes.  For right in front of my eyes, all I could see were bright twinkling little lights, darting about in front of me. Part of me knew that they weren’t real, but that didn’t stop me from trying to reach out and grab them. But as soon as I reached out my hands, they were seized and gripped tight.

 The hands around my wrists, pulled me to my feet and pushed me against the wall. I forced my eyes to see straight, blinking rapidly, trying to steady my vision.

When my eyesight finally settled and the twinkly lights had finally disappeared, I saw that Cormac had both of my wrists in a tight grip, my hands held up level in my had. Cormac was peering straight at me, uncomfortably close. The anger and fury was still in his eyes.

I squirmed against his hold, the fear immediately returning as I suddenly realised the situation I was in. I was completely powerless. I could feel my wand digging rather painfully into my back, as it was sticking out of my back pocket, but I had no hope of getting it. No matter how much I wriggled or fought Cormac’s grip, he was bigger and stronger than me and I had no hope of getting free. Every bit of me, every instinct I had told me to fight and claw and scratch at him, until he let me go, but looking at the rage in his eyes, I knew that it wasn’t going to help. The only thing that it would succeed in doing is making him even more furious. If that was even possible. My only hope now would be to try and convince him.

‘Cormac, please let me go. You’re hurting me,’ I said, looking him straight in the eye, the hurt and pleading filling my voice. I really hoped that it might be enough to bring him back to his senses.

‘What and let you go running back to Weasley? You have made me a complete laughing stock. You have humiliated me. Nobody gets to use me and then walk away,’ he said as he tightened his grip around my wrists, causing me to whimper again in pain. ‘You are not leaving me. You care about me Hermione. I know it.  I just have to make you see it.’

I barely had time to register what he had he had said, before he closed the minute space between us, pressing his body up against mine as he began to lower his lips to mine.

  ‘No Cormac don’t. Please,’ I begged, turning my head away, wincing as a pain that I had been previously unaware of, shot pierced the back of my skull.

 For a brief moment, I thought that he was actually listening to me, as I felt him move suddenly away from me, although it took only a moment longer to realise that he hadn’t moved away from me at all, he was pulled away.

 With Cormac no longer pressed up against me, holding me up, I sank down to the floor, my legs buckling beneath me unable to support my weight.

A sudden cry of pain quickly alerted me to the fact that there was a fight going on right in front of my eyes. Cormac was currently on the floor, crying out in pain as a foot was thrust into his chest. I looked up at my rescuer and let out a gasp of shock and surprise when I realised that it was none other than Draco Malfoy.

 I watched in shock and terror as Malfoy to be quite frank, beat the shit out of Cormac. He was really quite terrifying. I knew he wasn’t someone to be messed with, but the venom and spite currently etched onto his face, made him look even more terrifying.

 I was completely frozen, although not with fear. I knew that the worst had passed. Cormac couldn’t hurt me anymore, which was a weird thought. Was I actually more afraid of Cormac than I was of Malfoy?

I turned my attention back to the fight happening before my eyes, although that was actually a bit if an over exaggeration. Malfoy was the only one actually fighting; Cormac seemed completely incapable of hitting Malfoy with any sort of curse or spell. I watched Malfoy relentlessly cursing and hitting Cormac and I realised that he had no intention of stopping anytime soon. I wasn’t feeling pity for Cormac, part of me was glad that he got what he deserved, but at the same time, I wasn’t the sort of person who could just sit back and watch someone be beaten to a pulp. 

 I shakily stood up, struggling to get to my feet and pulled my wand out from my back pocket and cast a barrier between the two, so that they could no longer touch each other or cast any more spells.

‘Malfoy, stop, that’s enough,’ I yelled, my voice stronger than I thought it would be.

He gave me a look that clearly said, you have to be kidding me. ‘Are you kidding Granger? That bastard got what he deserved.’

‘That may be true, but he’s down and I think you’ve more than made your point,’ I said, letting down my shield.

Cormac seemed to have recovered slightly as he started to moan on the floor.

‘What the fuck Malfoy. What the hell was that for?’ Cormac questioned, whilst shooting daggers at Malfoy.

‘Oh I don’t know McLaggen, maybe for trying to force yourself onto a girl who clearly wasn’t interested.’

‘I wasn’t doing anything that she didn’t ask for. She’s been asking for it all week,’ he said, slowly pulling himself up from the floor.

At that I totally lost my temper and I found myself flying towards Cormac, my hand outstretched. The sound of my hand striking across his face echoed throughout the hall and I took an immense amount of pleasure in seeing his head fly to the side as he once again fell to the ground with a bright red handprint appearing on his face.

‘Don’t you bloody dare! I’ve been trying to avoid you all week you arrogant arsehole. I was just trying to be nice; I was trying to let you down gently. I was trying not to hurt your feelings,’ I screamed, my angry tears beginning to make their way down my face again.

By this time Cormac had managed to get himself to his feet. He looked a mess. He had a huge black eye and blood pouring out of his nose and mouth. Malfoy had certainly given him one hell of a beating. He looked at me furiously and took a step towards me, his hand outstretched.

‘Yeah well that worked out well,’ he spat, pointing to the blood pouring down his face. ‘You know what; you’re not even worth it. No shag is worth this amount of agro.’

His words echoed in the silence of the hall and as they sank into my brain, I felt my entire body tense up with complete and utter fury. I gripped my wand tightly and was just about to raise it to make sure that McLaggen would never be able to have kids again, when a sudden movement made me look to my left.

 I watched in amazement as Malfoy, swung his fist into Cormac’s head, sending him flying against the wall. He slumped down the wall in quite a comical way that would have made me laugh if my mouth hadn’t been hanging wide open in shock.

 Malfoy took a step forward, grabbed him by the collar to drag him up and pushed him towards the door in front of us.

‘Get out of here now,’ he almost growled, ‘before I really lose my temper.’

Cormac eyed Malfoy, but seemed to sense that there was no way that he could win and so started to retreat.

‘Oh and McLaggen, if you ever touch her, hurt her or so much as even look in her direction again, you can be damned sure that I will make it impossible for you to touch another woman again for as long as you live. Even if they do happen to be willing. Now, you have to the count of three to get your sorry arse out of here. One,’ he said raising his wand threateningly. 

 It turned out that it only took to the count of one, before Cormac turned and fled out of the corridor.

 Malfoy stood in front of me still completely tense, keeping his eyes on the door that Cormac had just left by. His shoulders were rapidly rising and falling and I found that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him as my legs buckled beneath me for the second time and I fell to floor. 

 The sound of me sliding to the floor obviously shook Malfoy out of whatever trance he was in. He turned around and eyed me warily. He bent slowly down to face me and I held my breath with the shock of his closeness. After what Cormac had just done, I was wary. He reached out his hand and put it to the back of my head and touched it very gently. I was completely frozen; I wasn’t even sure that I was breathing anymore.

 He pulled his hand back and let out a low throaty growl as he examined his fingers. I realised that they had blood on them. My blood. I was suddenly very aware of a deep throbbing in the back of my head. Probably from when Cormac had thrown me up against the wall.

Malfoy pulled out his wand and I flinched away from him, suddenly very afraid.

The stony look on his face slipped for only a split second before quickly reappearing, making me wonder if I had actually imagined it.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ he said gently, ‘I’m just going to heal this cut. It’s quite nasty.’

As he spoke, I looked up at him and found myself staring into his eyes, taking a sharp gasp of breath as I did. His eyes were beautiful. His eyes had always seemed so cold and unfeeling, a steely grey. But now up close I realised just how wrong I had been. They were a mixture of grey and the deepest blue, looking a bit like the colour of the black lake on a calm day. Not quite grey, but not quite blue. I was surprised that there were also flecks of green in those eyes. How could one pair of eyes contain so many colours?

 I realised that I was staring at him and felt myself flush pink. I gave him a quick nod and turned my head around so that the back of my head was facing him. I closed my eyes as I felt a warmth spread through the back of my head and the pain subsided. I turned around to look at Malfoy to see that he had stood up straight again, towering over me. I felt so small sitting curled up on the floor at his feet.

He opened his mouth to speak, but a noise behind us made us both jump and turn in the direction of the noise. I thought for one horrible moment that Cormac had come back, but I let out a sigh of relief when I noticed that it was only Harry. However my relief was short lived when he raised his wand and in a flash of red light, Malfoy was thrown backward and slammed into the wall opposite from me. He groaned in pain and looked around confusedly for his wand. When he realised that Harry now had it, he stood up quickly, swaying ever so slightly and took not even half a step towards Harry, before he was thrown back again to the ground with another flash of light. This time his eyes remained shut and he stopped moving.

Satisfied that Malfoy wasn’t going to move, Harry finally rushed over to me, crouching down beside me, a worried look on his face. ‘Hermione, what the hell happened? Did Malfoy do this?’ he asked, pointing to the blood that was still in my hair.

‘No Harry it wasn’t him. Honestly Harry, it wasn’t Malfoy,’ I said more forcefully when he gave me a doubting look.

‘Then what the hell happened? And don’t tell me it’s nothing Hermione,’ he said, seeing me open my mouth, ‘Why are you crying; why is your head bleeding and why was Malfoy standing over you holding his wand?’

Yes ok I had to admit, it probably did look bad, but for some reason I was desperate for Harry to know that it wasn’t Malfoy.

‘Look Harry, promise me you won’t freak out,’ I asked, looking him in the eye, worried that he would go on the rampage and curse McLaggen into oblivion.

‘Fine, now tell me.’

‘No Harry, promise me.’

‘Fine, I promise,’ he said resignedly, ‘now tell me, what happened?’

‘Ok,’ I said sighing. I focused on the wall opposite, determined not to look Harry in the eye. I really didn’t need to see his pity. ‘Ok, well I left detention and I was walking back and well, you know how Cormac’s been trying to find me all week, well he found me.’ I paused, hearing Harry take a sharp intake of breath.

‘Well, he was waiting here for me and he, well, he…’

‘He tried it on with you,’ Harry said, through gritted teeth.

I could only nod my head, not wanting to say the words. Harry put his arms tightly around me and stroked my hair, as I sobbed into his shoulder.

After a moment, Harry suddenly lifted his head. ‘So where does he come into all of this,’ he said nodding towards Malfoy, who was beginning to come around.

‘He…’ I hesitated, finding myself unable to say the words.

‘He what,’ said Harry more forcefully, looking me straight in the eyes.

‘He helped me,’ I said eventually.

‘He helped you,’ Harry said slowly, clearly not believing me, ‘how?’

‘He pulled Cormac off of me and then quite spectacularly beat the crap out of him.'

‘Are you serious?’ Harry said in a disbelieving voice. ‘Well at least that saves me from doing it.’

Malfoy started to groan again and began to move. ‘Look Harry, I’m honestly fine. You should go back to the common room.’

‘No way Hermione, I’m not leaving you here,’ Harry said forcefully, standing up.

‘No please, Harry, you promised to do what I asked. Besides neither of us can afford to get into any more trouble, least of all me. Please just let me smooth everything over with Malfoy and I’ll meet you back in the common room soon.’

Harry seemed to think over my words, but seemed to agree with me that it made sense and so he pulled me to my feet, before he reluctantly left.

‘You have five minutes Hermione, before I come back,’ Harry said before handing me back Malfoy’s wand and disappearing through the door.

 I stood for a minute, completely unsure what to do. Part of me wanted to run away and never come back to this corridor again, but the other part knew that I couldn’t leave Malfoy alone and hurt in the corridor, especially after he had just saved me. And besides, I was sick of running away.

 I moved over to the stirring body on the floor and gently shook his shoulder, jumping back when he opened his eyes and sat up. 

‘Are you ok?’ I asked, regretting the question as soon as it was out of my lips. Obviously he wasn’t alright. His nose was bleeding and he had blood on the back of his head similar to mine.

He seemed to agree with me that the question was stupid, as he gave me a pointed look before saying, ‘what does it look like Granger? Thought you were meant to be smart.’

I shot daggers at him and readied my response before I remembered that I was actually incredibly grateful to the beat up wizard sitting in front of me. We sat in silence for another moment, sitting side my side against the cool stone wall.

‘Thank you, by the way. For, you know,’ I said quickly, avoiding his look.

 ‘No problem.’

‘I seem to be saying that to you a lot these days,’ I said awkwardly. 

 He just gave a small nod and raised his one eyebrow, his frown never leaving his face.

‘Who would have thought it eh? Me saying thank you to you and you saving me.’

‘Yeah I would never have believed it either,’ he said, a strange look passing over his face as we fell into another awkward silence. I did my best not to look at him, feeling very uncomfortable all of a sudden, but couldn’t help it when my gaze shifted slightly in his direction and caught sight of his bloodied hand. Bloodied from beating Cormac no doubt.

‘Oh you’re bleeding,’ I exclaimed, again wincing at my obvious comment. ‘Do you want me to heal it?’ I asked unsure if he would want me to help him.

He just shrugged his shoulders and held out his hand, his gaze following my wand moving across his hand, face and head as it healed all of his wounds.

‘Thanks,’ he said, examining the back of his, no doubt checking I hadn’t left any scars.

‘No, problem,’ I said lightly, feeling slightly glad that he was the one thanking me for once. ‘But you know you wouldn’t have got those cuts on your hand and face if you had used your wand. I thought you were against the muggle way of doing things,’ I asked, remembering his comment to me earlier in the library.

‘Yeah well, sometimes the muggle way is better,’ he said deadly serious.

‘Oh my god, I said slowly. ‘Did the ‘oh so wonderful’ pure- blood Draco Malfoy, just admit that the muggle way is better than the wizards way?’ I asked half teasingly, half astonished at the words that had just came out of his mouth.

‘I said sometimes, Granger. Don’t go reading too much into it.’

‘Yeah but still,’ I said, not quite ready to let the moment pass, ‘I never thought I’d see the day.’

‘Yeah well, like I said earlier, you really don’t know me Granger,’ he said finally turning to look me straight in the eye, unleashing the full power of his stare.

I swallowed deeply, suddenly finding it difficult to breath, unable to tear my gaze away. ‘No I don’t suppose that I do,’ I said almost in a whisper.

His gaze stayed firmly on my face, flicking between my eyes and my lips. His brows knitted together as if he was debating something, before he very slowly leaned in closer to my face. 

If I had thought that I couldn’t breathe before, it was nothing to how I was feeling now. I was completely frozen solid, the only part of me moving, being my chest which was moving rapidly up and down, as my breaths were becoming more frequent and ragged. What was he doing? Was he going to kiss me? Part of me wanted to pull away, this was Malfoy for Merlin’s sake; but the other part of me was trapped by his gaze, curious as to what would happen, desperate for his lips to me on mine. What? I wanted him to kiss me. God I must have hit my head harder than I thought.

 When his face was a mere centimetre from mine, close enough for me to feel his warm breath against my skin, I suddenly came to my senses. This was Malfoy for Merlin’s sake. What the hell was I doing? I abruptly pulled back from him and pushed myself to my feet, before I span round and practically ran through the door.

  I had just pulled the door open, when a loud noise behind me made me turn around just in time to see Malfoy punch the stone wall, his cry of pain echoing throughout the long corridor. I quickly closed the door behind me and practically ran the entire way back to the common room, barely aware of where I was going as many confusing thoughts and a pair of intense blue, grey eyes swam around my head.






A/N- Thanks to everyone that has been reading and reviewing.  It seriously means a lot.  Sorry that this update took a little longer than I said  it would when I was answering reviews.  It got rejected the first time so I had to change a lot of the chapter.  I don't think it's as good as it was before, but it'll just have to do as certain things need to happen for later chapters, they just aren't able to happen the way I had orignally planned.

  So I really hope you enjoy it anyway (in it's altered state). It's the longest chapter so far and took me ages to write, so I hope the results are worth it.  As you can tell, things are really starting to happen and theres a lot more Draco and Hermione. So please leave me a review and let me know what you think.  It seriously makes me very happy.
 
 
 

 


Chapter 10: Thank You
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‘Hermione!’ A voice in the distance cried out and registered slightly in my head, pulling me out of the depth of my confusing thoughts. I looked up and stopped dead in my tracks, suddenly realising that I was back in the Gryffindor common room. How the hell had I got here so quickly?  I didn’t even remember going up the staircase to get here. Hell I didn’t even remember giving the fat lady the password or going through the portrait hole.

‘Hermione, are you ok?’ Harry asked, coming towards me, his green eyes filled with deep concern.

‘Em…  I… well, em…’ I stuttered, unable to form a coherent sentence. No I wasn’t fine. I was so confused and I was freaking out.  Malfoy had nearly kissed me.  Malfoy!

‘Hermione! Look at me,’ Harry demanded, pulling me out of my thoughts again and forcing me to look in his direction.

I lifted my head to look at him, my eyes not quite able to meet his and tried to give him a smile to show him that I was fine, but apparently I didn’t quite manage to pull it off as effectively as I would have liked, as Harry’s eyebrows crossed again in concern before he gently took my hand and led me over to the comfy seats in front of the fire, sitting me down and watching me carefully.

  He continued to watch me for a minute or so, staying silent but the concern never leaving his face.

  I stared in the fire to avoid looking at Harry’s worried face, completely aware that he was watching my every move. I tried to act naturally and like I was fine, but the longer he was silent the more my thoughts began to wander back to the library corridor.  Malfoy looking deep into my eyes.  Sitting unbelievably close to me.  Moving his head closer to mine, our lips nearly touching.  A small shiver shot through my body just remembering the closeness of his body to mine, causing me to take a small intake of breath.

 Harry immediately moved closer to me and took my hand. ‘Hermione its ok, I’m right here.’

Guilt and fear flooded through me.

 Guilt because here was Harry, my best friend, being so sweet and concerned about me because he thought I was reliving a horrible memory from Cormac’s attack and here I was actually thinking about nearly kissing a boy.  Not to mention the fact that said boy is in fact my best friend’s enemy.

But the main emotion that coursed through my veins was fear.  Fear because I knew that for the briefest moment, I had wanted Draco Malfoy to kiss me and for that brief moment, I had wanted to kiss him back. That same boy who had tortured me and teased me for half my life and made the last seven years of my life completely miserable and here I was actually diappointed because he hadn't kissed me.  I must be going insane.  I must literally be losing my mind.  Logical and rational Hermione Granger was going mad.  Perhaps it was post- traumatic stress.  That would have been the only thing that would have explained my momentary lack of judgement. Yep that must be it.  It was the only logical explanation.

‘Hermione,’ Harry said, once again pulling me out of my trance, ‘look do you want to go to the hospital wing or do you want to talk about it?’

‘No, look Harry I’m fine, honestly,’ I said wincing slightly at how high and squeaky my voice was. Why could I not just act normally?  Why did I have to make it so completely obvious that I was having a complete mental breakdown?  Harry just gave me another of his disbelieving looks.

‘Hermione, look I know how strong a person you are, but it’s ok not to be ok. What that bastard tried to do to you was totally unforgivable and I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I’m just so sorry that I didn’t get there sooner.’

I looked up at Harry and upon seeing the concern filling his eyes, images started to flash through my head, Cormac’s angry face;  Cormac pushing me against the wall;  trapping me against the wall.  The fear I felt, the pain, feeling so trapped; feeling so scared and so utterly helpless all came rushing back into my mind, completely overwhelming me. To be honest, I had put it to the back of my mind, Malfoy being the sole occupant of my brain.  I guess shock does weird things to people.  But as the images and fear that I had felt rushed through my mind, tears started to fill my eyes.  How could he do that to me?  What would have happened if Malfoy hadn’t been there? I didn’t even want to think about it.

 I tried desperately to blink back the tears that were threatening to spill out of my eyes.  I looked up at the ceiling, trying to breathe deeply.  I would not cry.  I would not cry.

  I lowered my eyes and found myself looking straight into the eyes that I had been trying to avoid and felt the control that I had been so desperately clinging to, slide away and before I knew it, my resolve vanished and I completely broke down in front of Harry, opening my heart to him and spilling all the emotions that I had been trying to keep hidden.

‘I guess I just felt so powerless.  I couldn’t get to my wand and there was nothing I could do and I just feel so stupid and ashamed,’ I choked, as to my horror the tears began falling down my cheeks.  I hated showing weakness and I tried desperately to hold back my tears, but the more I tried to hold the tears back, the more steadily they began to fall.  I let my barriers down and I couldn’t find the will to put them back up.

‘Hermione, you are a brilliant witch and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  This was not your fault.’

 I had been doing reasonably well at trying to hold back the tears, but at Harry’s words, I broke down completely my tears becoming full on choking sobs.  Harry pulled me closer to him, pulling me into a hug and rocking me back and forth, holding me tightly, allowing me to cry my heart out on his shoulder until I eventually fell asleep in his arms. 

 

It took all of four seconds after waking up the following morning before I remembered the events of the previous night.  I was immediately dreading the day that was to come.  Not only was I going to have to deal with Cormac, but I also had double potions with Malfoy and I was not sure that I was ready to face him just yet.

 I lay in bed for a few minutes wondering if I could just stay there for the entire day.  Harry had woken me up from the couch in the common room just before midnight and I had at stumbled my way up to my bed. I had been so exhausted that I had fallen asleep straight away; too tired to even change out of my clothes.

  Right now I regretted that decision.  The buttons on the front of my skirt were digging uncomfortably into my side, but in spite of that I still couldn’t find the will to actually want to move. My whole body was aching and I just felt so exhausted. My eyes felt dry and sore and my head was aching in the way it usually does after you’ve been crying. I didn’t even want to go near a mirror today.  I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a very pretty picture.  Another very good reason to just stay in my bed all day.  If only that damned button could stop poking me.

  I had pretty much convinced myself that I was going to stay in bed, despite my uncooperative skirt, when Ginny breezed into the room, fully dressed and looking fantastic as per usual.  Why was I even friends with this girl?  I swear my ego took a hit every time that she walked into the same room. 

‘Morning, Hermione,’ Ginny said coming towards me, ‘Merlin you look awful,’ she said upon seeing my face.  Wow, what a great way to start to the day. And here was me thinking that friends were supposed to be all supportive.

‘Thanks Ginny, just say what you think now, don’t even try to spare my feelings,’ I said sarcastically, giving her a pointed look.

‘Well you know me.  No point in trying to hide the truth. So what’s up with you anyway?’ she asked plonking herself down on the edge of my bed, sitting on and crushing my feet.

I was about to tell her to move, when her words registered in my head. I looked at up at her.  She didn’t know.  I thought Harry would have told her. God, I did not deserve a friend like Harry.  He really was so loyal and thoughtful.  I was so glad he hadn’t told anyone.  I really didn’t want anyone to know.  I was already getting stared at and talked about in school; I really didn’t need to be everyone’s source of gossip again.

‘Just feeling a bit sick and I have a headache, you know. I think I might just stay in bed,’ I lied quickly, ‘I’m not really up for classes today,’

‘Is this about Cormac?’ Ginny asked looking at me.

‘What?’ I said in a panicked voice. ‘What do you mean?’ Ok so thanks Harry. I guess he had told her after all.

‘Look Hermione, you can’t keep avoiding him forever. If you don’t want to go out with him then just tell the poor guy, but to be quite frank I really don’t see what the problem is.  He’s a nice enough guy.

Oops, sorry Harry and seriously Ginny, Cormac a nice guy, if only she knew I thought.

‘It’s nothing to do with Cormac,’ I lied again, ‘I just don’t feel very well,’ I said trying to look just a little bit pathetic to try and support my story.

‘Well tough you have to come to class today.  We’re learning animal transfiguration today and you know you can’t miss that. I’ll meet you downstairs in ten minutes.’

I groaned loudly.  I had forgotten about that and Ginny was right.  There was no way that I could miss it.  Animal transfiguration always came up in NEWT exams. Oh well I guess I would just have to grin and bear it.

  I forced myself up and went to the bathroom, groaning as I looked at my reflection in the mirror.  Why did it have to be so big anyway? Yes I know I look bloody awful.  I really don’t need to see every inch of just how bad.

   My skin was a deathly grey and my eyes looked small, puffy and red.  It was perfectly obvious that I had been crying.  My hair was dull and tangled; a far cry from how it had looked in the last week.  George’s potions were still working miracles in taming my frizzy hair and so I figured it could be time to try out a few of his other products.  If I ever needed help in looking better, today was definitely that day. I pulled out all the little bottles and jars from my cupboard in the bathroom and a mere ten minutes later I emerged into the common room completely transformed and looking actually quite decent in comparison to the state I had been before. With one last look in the mirror, I figured that this was pretty much as good as I was going to get.  With a deep sigh I turned to the bathroom door, deciding that I had better get this day over with.

 

  When I emerged from the dorm room, I was relieved to see Harry was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, giving me a bright but still concerned smile as I walked up to meet him.

‘Hey, how are you this morning?’ he asked, looking deep into my eyes.

‘Oh you know, been better,’ I said shrugging my shoulders, not even to bothering to lie to him anymore.  What was the point? The boy knew me too well.

‘Yeah I figured as much.  Well I figured you could use some moral support for this morning.’

‘Thanks, I guess I’m going to need it,’ I said trying and failing to give him a small smile, ‘So where’s Ginny?’

‘She said she would meet us in the great hall, she had a book to get out of the library or something.’

‘Good because I kind of wanted to talk to you alone.  Harry thank you for last night.  You know how much it meant to me, but I really need you not to tell anyone about last night.’

‘What do you mean?  Hermione, you have to tell someone about he did to you.  You can’t let him get away with it,’ Harry said, his voicing rising with anger as he realised what I was saying.

 I moved towards Harry, taking hold of his hand in a desperate attempt to try and calm him down. He was looking really angry and his loud voice was starting to attract more than a few unwelcome stares.

‘Look Harry this is my decision and I really don’t want everyone knowing.  It’s bad enough being talked about as it is, Besides I've been in enough trouble this year and so has Malfoy.  If McGonogall found out what he'd done he could get expelled and I really don't want that on my conscience.'

‘But Hermione…’ Harry began, before I raised one hand and cut him off.

‘Please Harry,’ I said desperately, ‘this is hard enough as it is and besides Cormac got what he deserved last night, thanks to Draco.’ 

At that Harry gave me a look that clearly said he disagreed with me.

‘And I really don’t need you to make this worse.  I’m dealing with it.’

Harry gave a loud sigh and gritted his teeth as he answered, ‘Fine.  But I’m not happy about it.  I really think you should tell someone.’

‘I know, but I just need you to do it for me. Please, promise me,’ I said stopping him and forcing him to look me in the eye.’

‘I promise you Hermione, I will not tell anyone…’

‘Not even Ginny,’ I interrupted him.

‘I will not tell anyone, not even Ginny, but Hermione, you need to promise me that if he so much as looks at you in the wrong way then you will tell someone about what happened.’

‘I promise,’ I said, feeling relieved that no one else would have to know about this and even more relieved that I wouldn't get Draco into trouble for simply trying to help me. 

 

  We walked down to the great hall together, Harry staying right by my side the whole way.  It was really quite sweet how protective he was.  He was the big brother that I never had. As we walked into the great hall, I could feel that familiar feeling of dread building up deep within my chest.  I clocked Cormac straight away at the Gryffindor table.  He wasn’t hard to miss.  He was still covered in cuts and bruises from Malfoy’s punches.  He looked bad.  Good. He deserved it I couldn’t help but think bitterly.  He clearly hadn’t been to the hospital wing; I guess not wanting to answer any awkward questions about how he had got them.

  My whole body stiffened when I saw him and I felt the bile rising in my throat.  Harry must have sensed the change in my demeanour as he took a step closer to me and put his hand protectively around my shoulder, steering me towards a seat as far away from Cormac as possible.

Harry sat beside me, his whole body tense.  I watched as he kept on shooting murderous glances in Cormac’s direction. It was quite unnerving to see him so angry.  Harry was usually very calm and composed and he was not one to get irrationally angry. 

‘I should go over there and curse that guys bits off.’

‘Harry,’ I said in a warning voice, ‘you promised me, remember.’

He finally tore his gaze away from Cormac and looked at me, the anger in his eyes slowly ebbing away, until he gave a defeated look and let out a long sigh.

‘Fine.’

When Ginny finally joined us ten minutes later, the atmosphere was still tense.  Harry was still shooting the occasional glance over at Cormac.  I tried desperately to try and keep the conversation going and keep Ginny from noticing and eventually questioning Harry’s weird behaviour.  I could see Ginny knitting her eyebrows together and shooting me questioning looks that I tried to ignore, finding the food on my plate completely fascinating as I pushed it around the plate.

  When we finally stood up to go to class, Ginny finally asked the question that she had been so evidently desperate to ask for the last twenty minutes.

‘So do you want to tell me what’s going on?’ Ginny said giving a questioning look to both me and Harry.

I could feel my eyes widen slightly and my body tense. If Ginny knew something was wrong, there was no way she would let it go. I knew Ginny.  She was like a dog with a bone.  Once she got her teeth into something, she would not drop it until she had worked it out.

  I shot Harry a nervous glance.  Would he tell her?

‘Nothing’s the matter Ginny.  Just a bit of a disagreement, that’s all,’ Harry said, lying smoothly.

‘About?’ Ginny asked questioningly, clearly not happy with that response.

‘Nothing important. Look we really need to go or we’ll be late.’

‘Right,’ Ginny said slowly, following Harry, her face full with questions and doubt.

I let out a relieved sigh and followed them.  Harry had kept his promise.  He had kept his promise for now.  I could only hope that Ginny would forget about it the whole thing and not question me or Harry again.  Harry may have promised me, but if Ginny was suspicious, then it was only a matter of time before she brought up the subject again and there was only so long that I could lie to her for.

 

  The rest if the day passed in a bit of a blur. However potions class was at the end of the day, so I spent the entire day worrying about having to see Malfoy.  I don’t know what I was nervous about.  I mean of course he hadn’t wanted to kiss me and of course I didn’t want to kiss him. I mean we had both suffered head injuries.  We were both concussed.  People did strange things when they were concussed. It really didn’t mean anything.

   Althoug even with that thought in my mind, I couldn't help but be nervous.  Walking to potions class seemed like I was heading for my doom.  My legs felt heavy and the butterflies in my stomach were making it incredibly hard for me to breathe.  More than once I thought about going back to the common room, but then running away hadn’t exactly been working for me lately and besides I didn’t want him to think that I was avoiding him.  Not that he would think that I was avoiding him.  I mean I’m sure that I hadn’t entered his head once.  I mean why would it?  Why would he even have been thinking of me at all? He hates me.  Pure and simple.  There is no way that he would have been worrying about seeing me.

But that didn't help me to know what should I do when I saw him.  Act like we usually did and ignore each other, or acknowledge the fact that he had saved me yesterday, but then that would mean acknowledging the fact that we had nearly kissed and I really didn’t want to bring it up.  Right, if he spoke to me, then I would speak to him, but if he ignored me then we would just go back to how things normally were. Sorted.

  With my new resolution in mind, I had been hoping that I would be in the class before him, so that it would be up to him if he said hello to me.  But when I stepped through the door, I stopped dead, upon seeing a blonde head sitting at our table. Ok so now what did I do?  Try and be calm I told myself.  Just be calm and go and sit down. It was not a big deal.

  I walked over to my seat, determined to try and act naturally, hoping to slip into my seat quietly without drawing too much attention to myself, but of course I seemed to be having the worst luck in the world and so since a quiet, cool, calm and collected entrance was what I was aiming for, it was of course the last thing that I was able to achieve.

  I pulled my seat out, banging it against my leg as I did so, causing me to give a small squeak of pain. Of course that couldn’t jbe the end of my misery because then I proceeded to drop my bag on the floor and of course half of the contents just had to go and spill out, scattering everywhere.  Bloody brilliant. I gave a deep breath and closed my eyes momentarily, wondering why the hell today was the day when I had to be at my most clumsy.

  I dropped to the floor, making sure my back was to Malfoy, trying to hide the fact that my face had turned a rather unattractive beetroot shade.  When I had finally put everything back inside my bag, I slinked into my chair, glad that my moment of tortured embarrassment was finally over. I kept my eyes firmly to the front of the class, determined to look anywhere but to my right where the rather composed blonde wizard sat beside me. This was not going how I planned.

  Feeling completely and utterly embarrassed, I now tried even harder to act naturally, like I hadn’t nearly kissed the boy sitting beside me and that I hadn’t just acted like a complete and utter fool.  But the more naturally I tried to act, the more aware I became of every move that I was making.  I put my hair behind my ear at least five times before realising that it showed off more of my face, so I quickly flicked it back round so that my face was hidden.  I shifted between having my legs crossed and uncrossed, my hand on the table or on my lap, my hand up at my face or holding my quill.  I had never felt so uncomfortable in all my life. 

  All the time however, I was desperately trying not to look at Malfoy, which was actually just about the only thing that I was actually managing to achieve so far.  It had been working whilst we were listening to Professor Haven and I was able to focus my attention on her, but when she stopped talking and announced that we were now ready to start making our potions, I had nowhere else to hide.  I would have to look and talk to him, sooner or later, but right now, I was opting for later.  I only had the next hour to get through without speaking to him.  It shouldn’t be too hard right.

I opted to go and get the potion ingredients, desperate to be away from the tension for a moment, when I met Harry inside the potions cupboard.

‘So what’s going on with Malfoy?’

‘What do you mean?’ I said a little too quickly, wincing as I noticed the panicked tone that had crept into my voice.  Oh my god, Harry had noticed how awkward it was between us.  Did he know something?   Had he seen something? Oh my God I would actually die if Harry knew.

‘I mean after last night.’ Shit he did know. ‘I mean he stopped McLaggen.’  Ah thank god, he was talking about that.  ‘I mean is he going to say anything to anyone. He hasn’t given you a hard time about it, has he?’

‘No he hasn’t said anything.  I doubt he will anyway.  Why would he?’

‘I guess not.  He must have done a pretty big number on McLaggen, judging by the state of his hand.’

‘What do you mean?  What’s up with his hand?’

‘Dunno, but it’s all bandaged up.  He must have hit McLaggen pretty hard.  Never thought I’d be jealous of Malfoy.  Wish you’d let me do that.  The guy deserves it.’

‘That may be,’ I said rolling my eyes, ‘but like you said, Malfoy did more than enough.’

 

  When I got back to the table, I finally let myself look to my right and noticed that Malfoy’s right hand was like Harry said bandaged up.  For a moment I was confused.  How had he hurt his hand? I had healed all his wounds before I left.  Then realisation hit me. After we had nearly…, well after what had happened, he had punched the wall. He must have hurt his hand pretty badly. I still didn’t understand why he had done that.  I mean why would he be that angry? I could understand him being angry with me, seeing how he hates me. The only other logical explanation for his actions would be that he was angry with himself for the fact that he had almost kissed me.  I’m just a filthy mudblood in his eyes.  God he must have been so disgusted; to have actually been so repulsed that he had punched a wall.

  I worked in silence, preparing all the ingredients, suddenly feeling hurt and upset about Malfoy’s reaction. Why I was feeling upset was totally beyond me.  I hate him and everything that he stands for, so why on earth would I be upset that he doesn’t want to kiss me.

I worked quietly, lost in my thoughts until I heard a soft clatter beside me.  I turned around just in time to see Malfoy dropping his knife.  I saw the look of annoyance that flashed through his eyes, which turned quickly to anger when he saw that I had noticed.  I looked down at what he was attempting to cut and saw that he was failing miserably, no doubt due to his hand. 

  Going against my better judgement, I moved beside him and picked up his knife from the floor.

‘Here let me do it,’ I said making a move to start cutting up his mandrake roots.

‘It’s fine, I can do it,’ he snapped, trying to grab the knife back with his bandaged hand.

Typical Malfoy pride.  First rule of being a Malfoy, be an arrogant arse, second rule of being a Malfoy, don’t show weakness.  At that moment he was succeeding brilliantly at both.

‘Evidently, you can’t.  Look I’m just trying to help you.  Stop being such a proud jerk,’ I hissed, turning around to face him.  Big mistake. I had intended to show him how angry I was and how he wasn’t intimidating me. 

Instead I turned around and looked up, to find him looming over me.  Was he always that tall? The anger that I was sure was in my eyes instantly vanished the second that they met his magical grey ones. Standing this close I once again found myself searching again for the shades of blue and green that I had seen the day before.

  I realised quickly that I was staring and broke the eye contact, feeling the familiar flush creep its way onto my cheeks. I started to back away and once again walked straight into the stool behind me, hissing in pain as I hit my ankle off of the wooden bar at the bottom it. Great.  That’ll be another bruise to add to the collection.

  I looked up to find that Malfoy was once again watching me, clearly amused at my clumsiness. His expression was doing absolutely nothing to improve my mood.

‘What,’ I snapped, annoyed that nothing about this day was going right.

  ‘Nothing,’ he said simply, folding his arms and sitting down, a small smirk forming at the corner of his mouth. ‘Go ahead.’

‘What?’ I asked confused as to what on earth he was talking about.

‘The potion,’ he said slowly, pointing towards the knife in my hand. 

Oops I had forgotten I was meant to be doing that.  Once again I had proved what a complete an utter idiot I was.  What was the current score, cool, calm and collected Hermione, zero, clumsy idiot four.

‘Oh, right, sure,’ I said turning my back on him and starting where he had left off.  I could feel his eyes on me as I worked and once again, when I was trying to be as natural as possible, I felt I was being anything but.

 I was completely over analysing every move that I was making.  Every move was so deliberate and so controlled.  I could feel his eyes on me, watching my every momvement and I was determined that I would do it perfectly.  I was not going to slip up and allow him to criticise me. Every muscle in my body was so tense.  I was gripping that knife as if my life was depending on it.  I swear my knuckles were turning white with the pressure and my hand was beginning to shake I was so tense. 

 ‘There, done,’ I said, silently breathing a sigh of relief when I was finally finished and was able to add the ingredients to the potion.

‘Thank you,’ came a quiet voice from beside me.

My eyes flashed up to meet his face.  I must have imagined that.  Malfoy could not just have said thank you.  Malfoy never says thank you.  Malfoy is never nice to anyone, least of all me.  In the whole seven years that I had known him, I had never heard him utter those words.

 ‘What?’ I said in confusion.  My brain refused to believe that he had just said those words.  He was going to have to say them again if I was going to believe that he had just said that.

‘I said thank you, for you know, helping me out,’ Malfoy said, pointing to the knife and board that I had used for chopping and running his hand through his blonde hair. I would swear that he looked a little uncomfortable.  I would bet that he could count on one hand the number of times that he had ever thanked someone.

‘Oh, well you’re welcome,’ I said smiling slightly back at him.  It was kind of cute seeing him so out of his comfort zone. Wait no, scratch that, not cute.  Definitely not cute. He was however definitely avoiding my eyes and I would swear that there was a slight pinkish tinge appearing on his cheeks. He made a move to continue with the rest of the potion and as I stood watching him, I couldn’t help the words that came tumbling out of my mouth.

‘By the way, thank you for, well, you know, last night. Thank you for helping me,’ I said watching Malfoy carefully, analysing his reaction.  His whole body stiffened and he stopped mid movement where his hand was putting the next ingredient into the cauldron, but his eyes stayed firmly on the cauldron, never looking at me.

‘I’m so glad that you came, well I don’t mean that I’m glad that it was you that came, I’m just glad that somebody came and found me and it just happened to be you, but I’m still glad that you were there,’ I rambled pathetically.  Why was I acting like an utter fool around him today? ‘I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t been there and I guess I just really wanted to say thank you.  You didn’t have to help me and you did, even though you hate me so much, so I really mean it, thank you.’

I immediately cursed myself for opening my big mouth. I’m pretty sure a simple thank you would have been sufficient.  Instead I once again acted like a complete idiot around Malfoy.  He had stayed completely frozen throughout my little speech, only giving me one quick sideways glance.  My face was flushing red again and just as I turned around getting ready to hide in the potions cupboard, a hand caught my wrist, pulling me abruptly back around.

  I spun around in a gasp, finding that Malfoy was no longer staring at the cauldron, but had turned around to look straight at me, his deep grey eyes piercing directly into mine. 

  As our eyes locked, he immediately dropped my wrist and lowered his gaze, looking somewhat awkward.  The first time I had seen him look even remotely uncomfortable.  He slowly lifted his gaze back to mine and in a low steady voice, said ‘you’re welcome.’

In that moment, my heart momentarily stopped beating and as he abruptly walked away from me, leaving me feeling utterly confused.  Why was Malfoy acting so strange and why was he suddenly being so nice?  But what confused me the most and what I spent the rest of the day contemplating, was the way my heart had been beating so quickly when he had looked at me, the way my skin had tingled as it touched mine and the fact that I could not stop thinking about the grey eyes that had looked so deeply into my eyes, it felt as if he had seen into my soul. 

 






A/N- I really need to aplogise for taking so long with this chapter.  Life has been pretty hectic this last month and I haven't had the time to make the chapter the way I wanted it.  However things have calmed down now and I have the next 2 chapters ready so expect some more updates soon.  As ever thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read and a big thanks to everyone reviewing.  I seriously love you guys so much.  Gives me a huge smile every time I get another review, so please can everyone leave just a little review to let me know if you are enjoying it. I really love knowing what you all think.  


Chapter 11: Revelations
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  I woke on the Friday morning feeling exhausted.  I had slept very little the night before, finding it hard to get to sleep, as the events of the week were plaguing my thoughts.  I tossed and turned most of the night, willing myself to get to sleep, trying everything to clear my mind, yet failing miserably.  It was one of those occasions where the more I tried to make my mind blank, the more the stupid thoughts kept on popping into them.  For some strange reason, I found myself going over the 12 different uses of dragon blood, the potion for a cheering solution and naming the different stars in the solar system.  All vital work for 3am or so my brain thought. The more I tried to clear my mind, the more stupid thoughts kept popping up.  I ended up groaning in frustration as my brain refused to switch itself off.   

  When I had finally fallen asleep in the early hours of Friday morning, it hadn’t been the easy dreamless sleep that I had been hoping for.  Instead I found myself plagued by ridiculous and quite frankly confusing dreams.

  My dreams for the last few months had all been the same- always taking me back to that day.  Sometimes the dreams were like memories, replaying over and over in my head and at other times I would be in the castle but I would be in the middle of events that I knew didn’t happen.  Sometime I dreamt that we had lost, or that Harry had died, or that I had stood by helplessly whilst Fred or Remus had died. 

 Unfortunately my restless dreams the previous night had been of the latter kind.  I had been in the castle in the midst of the battle, being chased through the many corridors by a masked death eater.  I could feel the panic rising throughout my body as I ran and fired spells at my pursuer. I could feel them gaining on me as I entered a lonely and deserted corridor and as I tried to run faster, I tripped and felt myself lurch forward, the pain crashing through my body as I hit the floor.

  The death eater slowly approached me and I found myself face to face with the hideous death eater mask, only the slits of the eyes revealing the true identity of the person behind. I had looked up into the pair of cold, hard eyes that were mere inches from mine.  They seemed oddly familiar.  I reached up to the mask and with both my hands as I pulled it off of the person in front of me. I gasped when I saw the face that was peering towards me.  It was Malfoy.  In my dream I was shocked.  Shocked that he was a death eater.  Shocked that he was capable of such evil.  As he pulled his wand out and pointed it towards me, I screamed in fear, before waking up with a start, finding my sheets twisted and tangled around me and the sweat dripping from my body, relieved to find that it was all just a dream.

  I lay in bed, panting as my heart hammered inside my chest.  I lay back against my pillows and tried to go back to sleep, but I found myself afraid to close my eyes, fearful of where my dreams might once again take me. Eventually the darkness surrounding the room lifted, as a pale glow started to fill the room, bringing with it the sound of birds singing.  Eventually I slide out my bed and quickly dress, trying not to wake up anyone else.

     The corridors are completely deserted and I can’t help but think back to my dream and the fear that I felt running through these corridors. But now completely deserted, still and silent I feel strangely comforted by them.  I wander the corridors for a while, ending at the top of the clock tower where I watch the sun slowly rising above the mountains, the light shimmering off of the glassy water of the lake, enjoying the calming feeling that settles over me.  Eventually I tear myself away from the beautiful scene in front of me and slowly make my way back to the castle, feeling the peace and calm slip away from me with every step I take inside the castle.

   I enter the Great Hall, which is unsurprisingly virtually empty with only a few Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff sitting at the tables.  I placed a book in front of me, opening it at a random page and staring at the words, not even making an attempt to read it. I had only put the book there so that if anyone looked over at me, they would think that I was busy reading.  Another good reason to like books, they were a brilliant tool to stop people talking to you.  If you were busy reading then obviously you didn’t want to talk to people.

  As I stared at the page, my mind wandered back to the previous night’s dream.  Malfoy the death eater, hardly surprising.  Yet in my dream I had been surprised. I had been shocked to see him underneath that mask. That was strange.  I mean I knew he was a death eater.  I knew only too well what he was capable of.

But yet what I found even stranger was the fact that I had been dreaming about him at all.  I mean what was all that about?  How on earth had he entered my sub- conscious enough to enter into my dreams?  Although I suppose with the events of the past few days I probably had been thinking about him more than usual. Him grabbing my wrist, thanking me, looking in my eyes and his lips leaning towards mine.

I mentally shook myself and forced myself to stop. I knew I was thinking about it way too much and reading way too much into it, but I had to understand. I had to know if he had really changed and why he had changed.  There was nothing I hated more than an unfinished puzzle and his recent behaviour was enough to have me going crazy.  At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.

  I was surprised though that when I dreamt of him, it hadn’t been of one of our recent encounters.  Considering the amount of time I had spent pretending not to think about it, I would have thought that if he had entered into my dreams in any way it would have been for that.  Dreaming about him as a death eater was strange though.  Feeling that scared and helpless certainly unsettled me.  Perhaps it was my sub consciousness’s way of subtly reminding me that he was a death eater and he was dangerous and whatever I was thinking about him having changed, he had been and probably still was a death eater.

  Why was I even thinking about him in the first place though?  He helped me out once and then I start to think that he’s changed.  Unlikely. It annoyed me that I was spending so much time thinking about him and his weird behaviour and so I decided to stop.  What did it really matter to me if he had changed or not? He wasn’t even anything to me. I had to stop now. 

 

 I was still deep in thought when a hand on my shoulder made me jump, bringing me abruptly out of my musings.

‘Hermione?’ a voice said behind me.

‘Hmm,’ I said still feeling dazed. Looking up I noticed that the great hall was now packed. When did that happen?  Turning around to the source of the voice, I noticed Harry, Ron and Ginny behind me, moving into the seats beside me.

‘You alright Hermione?’ Harry asked, looking at me with concern once again.  As much as I loved Harry, it was getting slightly annoying being asked if you were alright ten times a day.  Just how fragile did he think I was?

‘Yep, I’m fine,’ I said shortly, knowing I was being rude, but being too tired to try and apologise.

‘Right, it’s just you looked like you were away with the fairies there. I said your name three times before you answered.’

Oops.  Guess I was deeper in thought than I realised. ‘Well I didn’t hear you. I guess I’m just tired,’ I offered as way of an explanation.

‘Okay, so did you not sleep well then?’ Harry asked again.

‘Why do I look that bad?’

‘No, not at all, that’s not what I meant. I mean you look fine,’ Harry said backtracking. Great, I guess that meant did look awful then.

‘What Harry is trying to say,’ Ginny said, coming to her boyfriend’s rescue, ‘is that you left the common room pretty early this morning.  Unusually early. It’s not like you to be the first one up and out.’

I watched as Harry sent Ginny a grateful look, glad to be out of my firing zone.  I was always grumpy when I didn’t sleep well and seeing Harry’s panicked face, made me feel more than a little guilty.

I sighed deeply before answering. ‘Oh Harry I’m sorry,’ I said shooting him a small apologetic smile, ‘you’re right; I didn’t sleep well last night.  Just bad dreams again. Sorry for taking it out on you.’

‘No problem.  Happens to us all,’ Harry said, with sadness filling his eyes.

 Ginny lent across and took his hand gently, stroking the back of his hand gently, trying to comfort him. Great.  The day hadn’t even properly started yet and I had succeeded in upsetting everyone.  Well everyone except Ron, who seemed completely oblivious to the complete shift in atmosphere as he kept piling food onto his plate, shovelling it in to his chomping mouth quite happily.  I actually envied him his complete denseness sometimes.  How great it must be to be completely oblivious to everyone else’s feelings and to just do what you wanted without worrying about other people all the time.

 I decided to keep quiet after that, afraid of my bad mood dragging everyone else down even more.  I only half listened as the other three talked about their upcoming quidditch match with Hufflepuff; the first match of the season which was to take place the following day.

As the others laughed about something hysterical that had happened at quidditch practice the previous day, I couldn’t help but feel a tiny twinge of annoyance at the fact that I hadn’t been there.  I was beginning to feel like a bit of an outsider in my own group of friends.  I just hardly ever saw them anymore. If they weren’t playing quidditch, then Harry and Ginny were together and Ron was with Lavender and then if they were in the common room, I was at my detention. I just couldn’t help but feel like I was being left out. 

  It wasn’t until Lavender came bounding into the Great Hall and came over to our group and sat down next to Ron that my level of annoyance reached boiling point.  Lavender was pretty much sitting on Ron’s lap and almost straight away swooped in and latched herself to his mouth, making it look like she was eating his face and making rather disgusting slurping noises that made my entire body tense up with annoyance and disgust. It wasn’t that I still liked Ron, but their very public floor show angered me and I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would end up saying something that I regretted. 

  I stood up and muttered my excuses about needing to go to the library; my fail safe excuse. Not one of them even batted an eyelid as I walked away, not even bothering to ask why I was supposedly going to the library. I guess it was just a given that Hermione had to go to the library to get a book, Hermione had to cram in some last minute studying before classes. I don’t know why it annoyed me, but it did.  Me and sleep deprivation are apparently not a very good combination. I made my way to the first class of the day, praying that it would be an easy day and that I wouldn’t have to think too much.

Luckily for me I got my wish.  Professor Flitwick merely lectured us on the ins and outs of certain charms, giving us all the theory, meaning I could just stare blankly at the board without having to think much.

 Double Arithmancy was easy as well, with Professor Vectra teaching us something I had mastered in OWL classes.  Another two hours of sitting pretty much staring into space, occasionally looking at my piece of parchment, pretending to take notes.

However as the day was so boring, it of course dragged by.  Time actually seemed to be standing still at some points.  I found myself staring at my watch more and more frequently, getting more and more frustrated at how slowly the time was passing. I ended up tapping my quill off of my desk, earning myself some rather annoyed looks from my Ravenclaw partner.  Well tough to her.

  By the time the final class of the day, potions, actually came about, I was not feeling my best. My head seemed to be refusing to work properly and I was operating on a pretty short fuse.  I had pretty much blown the head off of a second year who had bumped into me the corridor because they weren’t looking where they were going.  Of course I don’t mean that literally blew their head off, but I think I may have actually made them cry, which I’m sure I would feel a little guilty about later, but right now I didn’t have the time or the energy available to focus on it.

  I stopped briefly before going into my potions class, trying to regain at least a little bit of focus for my class. I had to at least try and stay sharp for this class as had a feeling that Professor Haven would not give me such an easy time as my last two Professors.  I had a sneaky suspicion that she really didn’t like me very much, which I had to say wasn’t entirely surprising after recent events. She had developed a tendency to watch me and Malfoy like a hawk and would throw most of the questions that she asked in our directions, probably hoping to catch us out and embarrass one of us.  Unluckily for her neither of us had missed a question so far, which I could tell was annoying her. Every time she failed at catching one of us out, her eyes would harden slightly and her lips would purse together, which I’m sure was meant to be intimidating but actually just made her look rather comical. 

Usually it bothered me slightly when she would glare at me, but as I entered the class and settled into my seat, I found that I really didn’t have the energy to care. I started to doodle on the edge of my parchment as I waited for class to begin; trying to keep my mind occupied and keep myself from falling asleep. I was barely even aware of the fact that Malfoy was pulling out his chair beside me. 

 Still feeling confused about my dream from the night before, all I could think was ‘death eater, death eater’, and so I tossed my hair over my right shoulder to block him from my view and continued with my doodles until Professor Haven stood up at the front of the class to drone on about our potion for the day.

 Half an hour later, we were half way through making our potion. Malfoy’s hand seemed to have healed and so he was able to do his own cutting this week which I was very grateful for, as it really wouldn’t have helped my resolution in not thinking about or speaking to him. 

 I managed pretty well as not even looking at Malfoy, keeping my back to him at all times and since we had perfected the art of working together without speaking, I didn’t need to worry about that either.  My plan had been going well until near the end of the lesson when we were just beginning to tidy up and Ginny came over to our table, carrying some ingredients that she was going to put back into the cupboard.

‘So Hermione, are you in a better mood yet?’ Ginny asked in a mocking voice.

Of course, seeing as I wasn’t in a better mood, the mocking didn’t go down overly well and only caused me to glare at her darkly though furrowed eyebrows.

‘Okay, so shall I take that as a no then?’

Cue another dark look from me. 

‘Not meaning to be rude Ginny, but did you actually want something or did you just come all the way over here to bug the hell out of me?’ I asked in a voice that I knew was far too snarky, but somehow I just couldn’t help it.

‘Well,’ Ginny said ominously, clearly not taking the hint that I wanted her to leave as she continued, ‘I couldn’t help but notice your bad mood lately and I wondered if it had anything to do with Cormac?’

At that comment, my head snapped up and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Malfoy freeze mid movement.  What did she know? If Harry had told her, I would kill him with my bare hands.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked, trying to sound as natural as possible.

‘Oh come on Hermione, I know you like him and after what happened at the party and everything I was so sure that you two would get together. You really should talk to him and just give him a chance. I mean come on he is cute and he is a nice guy.  I really don’t see what the problem is.’

 A slight scoff from beside me, reminded me to the fact that Malfoy was standing beside me.  Luckily Ginny didn’t seem to be paying him any attention and hadn’t heard him.

I looked at Ginny in disbelief, trying to work out how many wrong statements she had just made.  How wrong could a girl be?  Ginny however just stood across from me with her arms folded in front of her and a smug expression on her face like she had just made a fool proof argument that I couldn’t possibly disagree with. Again, she was so wrong.

 I took a step towards her and tried to keep my voice low to stop Malfoy from hearing. ‘Okay Ginny let me get this straight once and for all.  First of all I do not like, have never liked and will never like Cormac. Secondly, he is not cute and totally not my type and thirdly, he is a smug arrogant little prick that I can’t actually bare to spend more than ten seconds of my time with.  So I’m sorry if you don’t see the problem, but to me there is a pretty big problem. Now if you don’t mind, I would appreciate if you could stop trying to set me up with complete and utter creeps and in fact just stay out of my love life altogether.  I do not need or want a boyfriend and if I did, Cormac would be the very last person on earth that I would choose.  If you like him so much, then I suggest that you date him.’

As I finished my little speech, which I had not quite managed to deliver as quietly as I had hoped, with my voice rising to quite a high level, I grabbed the spare potions ingredients from the table and made my way quickly to the cupboard, acutely aware that I was leaving a shocked Ginny behind, watching me bewildered as I went to the cupboard. Unfortunately, I was very much aware of another pair of eyes following me across the room and of course it was the last person in the world that I wanted to be watching me.

 

When I awoke the next morning, any hope that I had that my mood would have improved, quickly vanished.  It didn’t take long for me to remember the previous day’s arguments.  The end of the day had gone as well as the start had, with Ron once again bugging me to help him to finish his homework.  I ended up yelling at him to ask his girlfriend before storming up to bed for the rest of the night. It wasn’t long before Ginny entered the room from the bathroom, wearing her quidditch robes. That was all it took to remind me that all my friends would be having a great day together and that I would be missing out yet again. I was angry and I blamed them and yet I knew that it was my own fault.  I could hardly blame them for me getting detentions for half of the year.  Yet what really annoyed me was the fact that none of them seemed to care that I was missing out.  That I was becoming an outsider in the group.

  I tried to swallow my pride and be the bigger person and so I put my irritation to one side and tried to join in with the enthusiasm that was engulfing every Gryffindor, but it’s pretty hard to get excited about something when you’re not a part of it. But I did my best and cheered along with everyone else when the team appeared in the common room and tried my best to be supportive to the others as we ate our breakfast.

  Harry and Ginny were perfectly calm as usual, if a little quitter than usual, but Ron had retreated to his past habits of going deathly quiet and eating nothing, which was always a sign with Ron that he wasn’t feeling himself. Ron always got a bad case of the nerves before playing quidditch and I guessed that not playing in over a year hadn’t really done much to improve his confidence.

  Breakfast was pretty quiet, with Ron sitting in stony silence, looking as though he was trying not to vomit and Harry and Ginny sitting with concentrated looks on their faces, trying to run through their strategy I imagined. The only time any of us spoke was when people came over to wish the other three luck in the game, at which point Harry and Ginny would give a quick thanks and Ron would turn even more of a strange green colour.

  When Harry finally stood up, that was the signal that it was time to go. I watched enviously as everyone else followed the team to the door, trying to get to the quidditch stands as early as possible in order to get the best seats. I couldn’t help but feel jealous as I watched their excitement as they filed out of the hall. I turned to Harry to try and offer my good luck wishes, but he was immediately swarmed by a crowd of fans.

‘Good luck Harry,’ I called over the crowds, trying to make my voice heard.

‘Thanks Hermione. See you later,’ he replied before turning and walking away.  The others didn’t even bother to say bye to me, just following Harry out of the hall.  I watched as they all left, not even bothering to turn around and say goodbye.  I stood there until the great hall was completely empty, before gathering together my belongings and making my way up to the library for yet another detention.

  As I walked through the empty corridors, I was struck by how quiet it was.  Apart from my feet, the only other noises were the occasional shouts and cheers coming from the crowds making their way to the quidditch stands.  I wasn’t a particularly huge quidditch fan, but being alone inside a deserted castle when everyone else was out having fun did nothing to improve my mood.

   I entered the deserted library to find that Mafoy wasn’t there yet.  Something which angered me again.  If he missed detention to go and watch the quidditch match I would kill him dead.

 Ten minutes later he appeared, not even bothering to offer an explanation as to why he was late.

‘Nice of you to show up,’ I muttered sarcastically, allowing my anger to be perfectly clear in my voice.

He didn’t even bother to respond, although I knew that he’d heard me from the swift dark look that he shot in my direction.  Why wasn’t he arguing back? I wanted him to argue back.  I wanted him to fight with me.  I wanted to vent out all the frustration and anger that I had been feeling on someone without feeling guilty about it afterwards and Malfoy was the perfect person for doing that with and yet he wasn’t taking the bait.

  We worked in an awkward and frustrated silence, not looking at each other and not speaking.  The longer the silence went on, the more I wanted to break it.

 When a loud cheer from the quidditch stands broke the silence, I watched as Malfoy’s eyes lifted up the window nearby and he let out a frustrated sigh.

‘Problem,’ I said sarcastically.  I knew exactly why he was annoyed.  He loved quidditch and yet he had to spend the match stuck in the library with me.  He was probably as annoyed as I was.

‘Yes actually,’ he replied turning around to face me, ‘it’s the first quidditch match of the season and instead of being out there eyeing up the competition, I’m stuck in here with you when you’re being even more of a complete bitch than usual.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ I exclaimed in shock. ‘How exactly do you expect me to be? It’s hardly my ideal situation either being stuck here all day with you.  And I am not a bitch,’ I added for good measure.

‘Yeah I’m so sorry that I’m keeping you from drooling all over Weasley for a morning,’ he retorted, ‘must be such a hardship to be stuck with me instead.’

‘What on earth are you talking about?’ I replied feeling annoyed, ‘I do not like Ron, not that it’s any of your business.’

‘Oh yeah right,’ he said, ‘you’ve been drooling over Weasley for years now. How does it feel to have lost out to Lavender Brown of all people,’ he smirked.

Whether it was his words or his irritating smirk that bothered me more, I wasn’t sure, but either way he had said just the right thing.  The thing that would hurt me the most. The smile that I been able to maintain quickly vanished and my brain seemed to stop working. 

‘Just shut up Malfoy.  You don’t have a clue what you are talking about.  And even if it was true, what should it matter to you anyway? Why should you care?’

‘I don’t care,’ he said, the arrogant look disappearing from his face for a brief moment. ‘Why would I care about what happens and what goes on in your life?  Merlin, you’re just the same annoying little mu-’

My heart stopped at the exact same moment his mouth froze in mid movement.  His eyes seemed to widen in shock for a brief moment before his brow knitted again in frustration.  For some reason he didn’t seem to be able to say the word.  The word he had used so many times before and more often than not, directed at me. That only caused my frustration to build up even more.  He had not changed at all.  He could try and convince himself if he wanted, but he would not convince me.

‘The same what exactly?’ I spat bitterly, ‘Oh come on Malfoy, don’t stop now.  Let’s hear exactly what you’ve got to say. The same jumped up little mudblood. That was it wasn’t it.  You are such a bloody hypocrite,’ I screamed, ‘You spout off all this I’ve changed crap, but you are just exactly the same as you’ve always been.  The same nasty, bullying death eater that you always were.’

I felt a thrill in watching as he flinched as I said the words death eater, like he had forgotten that he had used to be one of them and I had just reminded him of the fact.

‘Shut up Granger,’ Malfoy said furiously, his face showing complete and utter rage and his eyes flashing darkly.

‘Why? Are you too afraid to hear the truth? I thought you would have taken it as a compliment.  I mean you have been trying to perfect the ‘I’m a complete shit’ act for the last seven years.  I was just letting you know you have succeeded marvellously. I mean no wonder you were in Voldemort’s evil little circle. You must have loved every minute of it.  I mean getting to torture muggles day in, day out- you must have been in heaven.’

‘Just shut your fucking mouth Granger,’ Malfoy said stepping dangerously close to me, his wand pulled out, ‘you don’t have a clue what the hell you’re talking about.’

His rather tall frame was looming over me and I felt a small pang of fear, knowing only too well what he was capable of, but I was determined to stand my ground.  I would not show him that he intimidated me and so I lifted my head and raised my eyes to meet his dark, angry ones.

‘Go on then Malfoy. Do it. Make me shut up,’ I dared him, looking pointedly at his outstretched wand. ‘I’m sure it’ll make your racist family so proud. I bet they’ll be thrilled to know that you haven’t given up the old torturing muggle ways. It’ll be just like old times. Something to go home and brag about’

‘You know fuck all about what me and my family went through,’ his Malfoy said, his voice suddenly low and unsteady. ‘You think we liked having that psychopath living in our house, watching our every move, having to do exactly what he said, fearing every minute of every day that if we made one wrong move then it would all be over. That he would destroy each and every one of us if we so much as looked at him in the wrong way. You have no idea what it did to us,’ he finished, his face losing its angry edge and his eyes suddenly filled with a sadness that I had never before.  It confused and intrigued me for all of a moment before my anger swiftly returned.

‘What, you actually want sympathy,’ I cried incredulously, raising my eyebrows in disbelief at how stupid he was.  ‘You don’t think I know what it was like to fear for your life every minute of every day?  We spent months living in a bloody tent having to steal scraps of food for fear of being seen, running from death eaters, trying to complete a task that we had no idea how to complete, knowing that every minute that we hadn’t done it, more people were dying. Yes I can imagine the whole thing must have been very traumatic for the lot of you. Living in your big fancy mansion doing whatever the hell he wanted.  You never had the guts to stand up to him once,’ I finished angrily feeling my emotions growing as I recounted the worst period in my life.

‘You don’t stand up to him and live to see another day. But in the end we did.  If it hadn’t been for my mother then-‘

‘Your mother did what she did for her own good,’ I interrupted, not wanting to hear his pathetic excuses, ‘don’t try and tell me that it was to help anyone else.’

‘So what if she did? My family have lost everything in the war. My father went to Azkaban, we lost every little bit of respect that we that we had in the wizarding community.’

‘Are you freaking kidding me?  You actually have the audacity to stand there and say that you lost everything. You lost a bit of respect.  So what? Get a bit of bloody perspective Malfoy. Some people actually lost everything.  Some people lost their homes, their friends, their families. You still have your family.  Your family came out of it unhurt.  You have no idea how much we are all suffering and you actually stand there moaning about your precious reputation.’

‘My family was not unhurt.  My family is falling apart. My father hasn’t been the same since he came out of Azkaban and my mother is trying to keep everything together. You don’t have a bloody clue. I mean what exactly have you lost? How exactly have you suffered? You the little Gryffindor princess, heroine of the wizarding community.  What did you lose? Last time I checked you still have your family, your friends and last time I checked no one was hating your guts.’

I stood in shock for a moment as I digested his words. I didn’t even register the words that he had spoken about himself. I didn’t care about him or his little sob story, but I couldn’t believe that he had the nerve to say that I hadn’t lost anything.  I had lost everything and the words that he had spoken, ignited my anger to such a point that I exploded, every last bit of control that I had been able to muster dissipating.

‘You idiotic little prick. How can you even ask me that? I have lost a lot.  I have suffered. Yes I was lucky compared to some, but I’m still hurting,’ I screamed with emotion filling my voice and tears filling my eyes. ‘I lost some of the people I cared most about in the world.  I have to live with the fact that it’s partly my fault that they died. If I had been quicker in figuring things out then I could have saved them.  I have to see their faces every night in my sleep and wake up every day feeling the same guilt, that I should have been better and that I should have done more. I have parents who absolutely despise me and won’t even speak to me and I have never felt so alone in my entire life.’

 As I uttered the last words, I could feel my strength and my resolve fading.  I had never said any of that to anyone before.  I had never spoken out loud that my family hated me. No one knew and now Malfoy of all people was the one that I had let it slip to.  I let myself slide down the bookcase behind me and buried my face in my hands, allowing all the grief and frustration that had built up inside me explode out in full on choking sobs.

 




 AN- So I know the chapter ends kind of suddenly. but the next chapter picks up exactly where this one ends. It was too long to keep it all together and it just works better having them split.  The next chapter will be up soon I hope as it's already written, so I promise not to keep you waiting, cause it's a good one.

  So I hope you like this chapter and as ever, please review.  Even if it's just a few words, it really means a lot. So thank you to everyone who's reading and especially to those who are reviewing.  I can't believe all the amazing feedback I've gotten, so please leave a wee comment in the box below. ; ) x

 

 
 


Chapter 12: Revelations- Part 2
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 My tears were flowing faster as the sobs that were escaping rocked through my entire body. All the emotions that I had been bottling up over the last week were finally getting out. Feelings of anger, failure and loneliness that had been slowly bubbling away and getting stronger and stronger finally just burst out and now that the defences that I had so carefully put up were down, I wasn’t sure that I could close them again.

 A small noise to me left brought my attention back to the person who was person standing beside me and so I quickly lifted my hands to my face to hide my tear- stained cheeks. Of all the people I would want to see me have a breakdown, Malfoy was the very last.  He was the one person who would never let me forget it and he was the one person that I was sure would use my moment of weakness against me.  I had completely exposed myself to him.  I had let him know what was going on inside my head- shown him exactly how I was feeling and let him know my biggest secret and it scared me that he knew the truth.

 I continued to sob quietly into my hands, only stopping briefly when I felt a person sitting down beside me.  Not close enough to touch, but close enough so that I was very aware that they were there.  I waited, sitting perfectly still, to see what he would do.  To see what was coming, but when after a moment, he neither moved nor spoke, my tears began to flow freely again.

 I don’t know how long we sat there for, completely unmoving.  The only sounds breaking the eerie quiet of the library being my muffled sobs.  When my tears had finally dried, I slowly slid my hands down from face, resting them on my bent knees in front of me.  I could still feel his presence beside me; something which both calmed and unsettled me.  It took all of the effort that I possessed to not look at him.  If I turned around and saw that sneering face then it could quite possibly be enough to send me over the edge again. However despite my best intentions, my eyes were inevitably drawn to my left.  He was so quiet that I wasn’t even completely sure that he was still there and curiosity got the better of me and I decided that I could probably take a quick glance just to make sure.

  I took a deep breath and turned my head slowly to the left, my eyes sliding to side, trying to remain unnoticed. However what I didn’t count on was the fact that he was looking right at me, watching me very closely and that instead of the look of complete disdain that his face usually displayed, it showed one of such concern that I couldn’t look away.  I hadn’t ever seen his face so sad and full of such emotion before. It was so unusual that my eyes traced over every inch of it, by brain finding it hard to compute that it was Malfoy beside me who seemed genuinely concerned for my well- being.  But what I found even harder to understand were the words that came out of his mouth when he started speaking to me.

‘Are you okay?’ Malfoy asked uncertainly, his eyes never leaving my face.

I don’t know why but his concern annoyed me.  I knew he couldn’t actually be sincere in his sympathy and I was not going to fall for his tricks and so I responded in the only way that I could. The only way that I knew how.  The way that I had been speaking to him for years- with complete and utter loathing.

‘What the hell does it look like Malfoy? Just because you’re an emotionless prick, doesn’t mean that everyone else is.’  His face recoiled in slight shock and I immediately felt a little bit guilty and mean that I was being so horrible when he seemed to be genuinely concerned, but I had started now and I couldn’t stop.

‘I’ve told you before Granger, you know absolutely nothing about me, so stop making assumptions and pretending that you know what I’m like,’ Malfoy retorted, trying to keep calm, but unable to stop the anger and annoyance creeping back into his voice.

‘You forget Malfoy,’ I spat, ‘I do know you.  I’ve been on the receiving end of half of the cruel jibes you’ve ever made, so excuse me if I’m not buying the whole concerned act that you’ve got going on.  I know you don’t give a damn, so stop pretending.’

I watched as a number of emotions flitted across Malfoy’s face in a matter of seconds.  First anger, then guilt, then finally confusion as if he was debating what he should say next.  It took a few moments for him to finally formulate his response and answer me.

‘Maybe I’m not pretending, Granger,’ he said in a slow and steady voice, not quite meeting my eye as he spoke.

‘Oh so you’re expecting me to believe that you care about me,’ I scoffed, not believing a single word that he was saying.

‘No I don’t expect you to believe it,’ he said, pausing slightly, ‘but that doesn’t mean that it’s not true.’

  Raising my eyebrow in disbelief was the only action that I was able to perform.  My brain seemed to be temporarily stunned, leaving me completely unable to come up with a comeback.  I had absolutely nothing that I could say back to him.  I knew he couldn’t be telling the truth.  Of course he wasn’t telling the truth. And yet something about the way that he shuffled from side to side as if he was nervous and the way that he couldn’t meet my eyes, as well as the slight pinkish tinge that had appeared on his pale cheeks made me question myself.  Made me doubt my instincts and think that he may, possibly actually be telling the truth.

 My silence seemed to indicate to him that it was okay for him to continue, as when I didn’t respond he lifted his gaze to my face as if to assess my reaction, only this time he didn’t look away.  Taking a deep breath and holding my gaze he continued.

‘Look I don’t know why, but I do care about what happens to you.  I’ve known you for eight years now and I know that something’s wrong, that something’s not right with you.’

‘You know nothing about me,’ I said determinedly back at him, turning away from him, not wanting to hear any more.  I didn’t want to listen to any more of his lies.

‘I know lot’s about you,’ he retorted quickly, moving around so that he was crouching in front of me and looking me straight in the eyes.  ‘I know that you hate being back here.  I know that you’re feeling lonely and that you’re scared of being left alone while all your friends move on.  I know that you’re having problems with your parents and that they have barely written to you all year, that you hardly pay any attention in classes, that you just stare at books, pretending to read them, hoping that no one will come up and speak to you, I know that you still have that scar on your arm that you’re ashamed of and you want no one to see and I know that you are so close to breaking point that you’re on edge all the time, scared that you’re about to crack.’

All the while he was speaking, he leaned in slowly towards me, looking deep into my eyes the entire time, stopping when he was mere inches away from me.  ‘Don’t think that I know nothing about you Granger, because I do.  Right now I’m probably the person that knows you the best.  I would bet that even Potter and Weasley don’t know any of that.’

As I looked up at him, unable to breathe, I examined his face and saw not a trace of amusement or mocking in his features or in his eyes. He looked so genuine and the words that he spoke were so accurate that it was if he was reading my mind.  I couldn’t help but wonder that when he looked into my eyes, he had read the contents of my soul and found out exactly how I was feeling.  I couldn’t help but wonder how he knew all of that.  I mean yes I had told him some of it, but how had he known the rest.  How did he know about the books and the scar?  I was pretty sure I hadn’t told him any of that.  And most if all, how did he know exactly how was I feeling? How was it that he knew me so well?

‘How do you know all of that?’ I asked quietly, ‘How do you know so much about me?’ I added lifting my eyes to meet his.

‘Because I’ve been watching you.  I’ve noticed these things,’ he answered in a matter of fact voice; not a hint of shame or embarrassment.

‘Is there any particular reason that you’ve been watching me?’ I asked questioningly, trying not to sound too accusing and creeped out. I wanted answers and I was pretty sure that shouting or calling him a weirdo wasn’t going to help me out any.

‘I was curious,’ he said shrugging slightly, ‘you just seemed different this year and then after the potions incident, I couldn’t help but watch you.  And then there’s also the fact that you seem to be feeling pretty much the same things that I am.’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked surprised at his response.

At this he sighed and moved back away from me, so he was resting against the bookcase opposite from me. He was biting his lip slightly, as if assessing what he should say next. ‘Look, it’s not just you that finds it difficult to be back here.  I saw things I’d rather forget too,’ he said simply as a dark look crossed his face.  A look that I was only too familiar with.  The same look that crossed Harry’s face and Ron’s face as they talked about the war.

‘Oh, right,’ I muttered, unable to think of any other response and feeling stupid that I had only just realised that he had been through a lot in the war as well.

‘You know the war wasn’t easy on us either,’ he continued, ‘I know you think that I was on some sort of killing spree with him, but it really wasn’t like that. I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be doing those things.’

‘Then why didn’t you leave, stand up against him.’

‘You don’t understand. I didn’t have a choice,’ he said breaking his gaze and running his fingers through his hair, ‘none of us did. When I was younger, yeah I wanted to be a death eater, but I didn’t have a clue what it actually meant.  I just thought that it would mean a few harmless pranks, nothing serious, but having the respect and some sort of power.’

I found that as much as I wanted to tear myself away, I couldn’t. I was engrossed in his words.  I couldn’t take my eyes from his pale face, watching as his eyes darkened as he gazed off into the distance, looking once again out of the window.

‘I had no idea what it actually meant. My parents didn’t want me to do it either. They didn’t want to be a part of it themselves; they had too much to lose. But you just don’t say no to him and live. You can’t walk away or say no and if you don’t do what he asks, well then he punishes you.  He finds the way to hurt you the most and he uses it.

‘And what did he do to you then?’ I asked unthinkingly, completely drawn in by his story, unable to stop listening.

Malfoy’s expression darkened as he turned to look at me as anger once again filled his eyes.

‘Sorry,’ I said quickly, ‘I didn’t mean to pry that was rude.  I shouldn’t have asked that.’

‘No it’s fine, I don’t mind. I’m not mad at you,’ he said as the anger slipped from his face, being replaced by a look of sadness and pain, that immediately made me feel sorry for Malfoy, something which made me feel extremely disconcerted.

‘For some it was their money or just plain good old fashioned torture, but for most of us, for me, it was my family. When my father failed in the Department of Mysteries, he hurt him through me. He set me an impossible mission.  He set me up to fail, so they could all watch as I crumbled to pieces. He wanted to break me completely and then destroy me for failing. I was so stupid and so naïve not to see it.  At first I thought it was because I was special, because I was being trusted. I was an idiot not to see that it was all just a way of making my father pay for his failure.’ A bitter look crossed his face as continued, ‘After that I realised what he could do and what he would do. If any of us failed him in any way, it would be our families that paid.  That’s why we couldn’t just walk away and say no. No matter how much we wanted to. That’s why what my mum did was brave. She risked everything and I know you think she was being selfish, but she took a major risk.’

I was silent for a moment, all my anger at him having disappeared.  I sat silently digesting his words, thinking through what it must have been like. What it must have felt like to have your family held ransom.  Every day we worried about what would happen to our families, but as least we didn’t have to torture people in order to keep them safe.  In that moment, I knew that he was being sincere.  That he was speaking from his heart. I knew that he had let his barriers down, just like I had let mine down and that I was getting a rare glimpse at the real Draco Malfoy.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said weakly, unable to think of anything better. ‘I’m sorry for what I said. I guess I just, I didn’t realise what you had been through.  You just always seemed so together and like nothing ever bothered you and well I know I’ve been, well like you said a bitch to you and I am sorry. I guess you do know me better than I know you,’ I said with a small smile.

 ‘Well Granger, I’m pretty sure I’ve told you before that I am smarter,’ he said jokingly, his all too familiar smirk appearing on his lips. ‘Now I guess we really should get back to work’, he said standing up in one swift movement. ‘If Madame Pince finds us skiving, she’ll have our heads.’

 As he finished talking, he stood up, stretching out his long limbs before turning around to face me once again, holding out one of his hand for me to take.  I surveyed his hand for a moment, wondering whether or not to take it, but seeing his face and eyes so sincere, I found that I couldn’t help but trust him and so I slowly put my hand into his.  As his large hand gripped my small one, I couldn’t help but feel surprised at how warm his hands were. As the warmth from his hand spread to mine, he tightened his grip around my hand and pulled me to my feet in one swift movement, bringing us mere inches apart.

  I watched with wary eyes as Malfoy made a small move forward, slowly closing the distance between us and I held my breath in anticipation wondering what he was about to do, when the sound of laughter filled the library, breaking the silence.  We both immediately jumped back a step and I let out a shaky breath, feeling both relieved and disappointed at the interruption.

In that split second, it seemed that the moment had ended, as an awkwardness descended between us, as we looked at each other, embarrassed at how much we had revealed to each other.

 ‘I guess the match must have ended,’ I said, stating the complete obvious.

In that moment, Malfoy’s face changed completely.  The openness and sincerity that his face had displayed a mere moment ago had been replaced with the usual stony, hard mask that I was so used to seeing.

 ‘We should probably get back to work,’ he said turning away from me and resuming his task.

 My eyes lingered on him for a moment longer wondering if I had just seen a rare glimpse at the real Malfoy, or if the honesty was all just an act.  Some cruel way of luring me in.  Whatever he was doing and whatever he was doing it for, it was working.  I reluctantly turned away from him and back to the large pile of books that were waiting, trying to keep my eyes from frequently sliding in his direction and trying not to relive the feel of his warm hands gripping mine.

 

  When the detention had ended, I quickly gathered together my belongings and rushed out of the library, briefly giving Malfoy a small and awkward smile as I rushed passed, something which I immediately regretted. He was probably regretting the whole thing and would want to forget about it.

 I rushed through the corridors, as quickly as I could, manoeuvring through the crowds of people who were still making their way back from the quidditch pitch.  I was desperate to be back in the safety of the common room, desperate to be away from the library, where I wouldn’t have to be near him. However my journey was hindered by the crowds who seemed to be making it their mission to get in my way.  I lost count of the number of people that I bumped into, which could have been because I was in such a hurry, but could also have been because my head was somewhat pre- occupied.

  As much as I tried not to think about the events of the last few hours, I found that my head wouldn’t let me think of anything else. When I eventually reached the safety of the common room, the door swung open to reveal what seemed to be a very large party. The common room was full of people laughing and cheering.  Someone had put posters and banners up around the walls and there was even gold and red confetti falling from the ceiling. I had just a sneaking suspicion that Gryffindor had one their match.

I looked around for Harry and the others, which didn’t take me too long, as they were the ones who were surrounded by the largest crowd. I pushed my way through, getting out my rather pointy elbows to nudge a few people out of the way, before eventually reaching the three people that I was searching for.

‘Hermione,’ Harry called over a few heads, when he eventually saw me, making his way through the last few people.

‘Hey, I guess I should be congratulating you. I take it from all the banners that you won,’ I said moving in for a hug, although regretting it immediately when I saw that he hadn’t changed out of his quidditch robes and they were filthy.

‘Yep, we did.  It was a good game,’ Harry replied, whilst I gave a quick congratulations to Ron and Ginny.

‘So what was the score?’ I asked, trying to at least pretend that I was knowledgeable about the game, although as soon as the question was out of my lips, I couldn’t help but feel that I had asked precisely the wrong question. Harry and Ginny immediately shot Ron a quick look, before looking at each other, with concerned expressions. 

‘Em, I think it was about 190- 70,’ Harry replied awkwardly, once again shooting Ron a quick look.

I was feeling a bit confused about the weird expressions and little glances, but just as I was about to reply that they had done well, Ron scoffed rather loudly before storming away.

‘What’s his problem?’ I asked totally confused as to what was going on.

‘The score was actually 190- 90. Harry was just trying to spare Ron’s feelings,’ Ginny explained, although I was still a little slow on the uptake. 

‘Well that’s not too bad, is it?  I mean you still won, although… oh.’ I said, the penny finally dropping. Although Gryffindor had won, they had only managed to score four goals, whereas Hufflepuff had scored nine.  That meant that if Harry hadn’t caught the snitch, we would have lost.  That meant that Ron, had let in nine goals. No wonder he didn’t look happy. In fact now that I looked more closely, that was a bit of an understatement. He had a face like thunder.  He was standing slightly apart from everyone else and was glaring at them with hard eyes, as if he hated them for daring to have such a good time.

‘Ron let in nine goals,’ I said as Harry and Ginny both winced.  ‘So what happened?’

‘I dunno, he just seemed to crumble completely,’ Harry shrugged. ‘He just seemed to completely lose it. If it hadn’t been for Ginny, we would have been in real trouble,’ he said, looking down at her with pride. ‘She was amazing.’

Ginny turned to face him and immediately leaned in to kiss him.  Although the quick kiss soon turned into something more and I felt decidedly more awkward standing in front of them.

‘So, I’m em, just going to…’ I trailed off awkwardly, as it became increasingly apparent that neither of them was even aware that I was there never mind listening to what I was saying.  I wandered away from the kissing couple, looking around the common room, my eyes falling on Ron once again. He was standing over at the other side of the common room talking with Lavender, although neither of them looked happy. I couldn’t hear what they were saying over the loud music, but if the angry faces and the arm waving was anything to go by, they were having an argument.  Ron eventually turned and walked out of the common room, grabbing a bottle of firewhiskey off the table on his way.  Lavender watched him leave with a dark look on her face, before she turned and stormed off in the opposite direction.

 Despite the fact that we had grown apart in the last few months, he really looked so miserable that I couldn’t help but follow him out of the common room.

 I exited the common room, to find the corridor empty.  I had no idea which way he had gone and so had to make a decision. I chose left, hoping that I had chosen correctly. It wasn’t long before I knew that my gamble had paid off and I had picked the right one.

  I walked up behind Ron, who was sitting at the top of the staircase, bottle of firewhiskey still in his hand. I sat down beside him, saying ‘hey’ as I did, but he barely even acknowledged my presence. The only indication that he had heard me was the clenching of his jaw and a very slight, nearly imperceptible nod of the head. I knew immediately that this would probably not go well, but it was too late to back out now. Ron had always had a temper and it was always ignited further when he had been humiliated.  If there was anything Ron hated more than anything in the world it was people laughing at him.

‘So…’ I began, unsure of what to say next. Unsure of how I should play the conversation.  Ignore the match completely; try and make a joke out of it, although that probably wasn’t the best plan as he would no doubt think that I was laughing at him. ‘How are things?’ I ended lamely.

 Ron was silent for a moment, before he lifted the bottle in his hand to his lips and downed over half the contents of the bottle in one large swig. He sighed dramatically as he swallowed. Brilliant! Not only an angry Ron, but an increasingly drunk Ron.  I had really walked head first into that one.

‘Well, Hermione, let me see.  I have just made a complete and utter fool of myself in front of the entire school, had a huge fight with Lavender, my sister is all loved up with my best friend, my brothers dead and I am pretty much failing every class that I have this year, so I would say that things are just peachy,’ he said sarcastically, sulking even more.

‘Oh come on Ron, things can’t be that bad,’ I said taking his hand, trying to comfort in the only small way that I could. ‘You want to talk about it? I mean school can’t be that bad,’ I said, choosing the easiest topic, not quite wanting to go into the quidditch match or Fred issue.

‘Don’t want to talk about it,’ he muttered and we both fell into silence again. Okay so that didn’t go so well. Time for plan B and I knew that this topic wouldn’t be as easy to talk about.

‘Well, what about you and Lavender?  What happened?’ I asked really not wanting to know the answer, but feeling strangely curious at the same time.

 It only took a few moments of silence for Ron to start speaking. ‘Apparently I embarrassed her today with my, now what did she say ‘idiotic and brainless quidditch playing’. Apparently, I’m good enough for her when I’m Harry’s friend and part of the bloody ‘golden trio’ but when I screw up a quidditch match, she doesn’t want to know,’ Ron said, trying to keep his tone light, but failing towards the end when the hurt crept into his voice.

What did he want me to say? That yes Lavender is shallow and always has been and he is a complete idiot for going out with her again when he knew what she was like or basically lie to him and tell him how wonderful she is? Hmm, what a dilemma.

‘Well, I’m sure she didn’t mean it Ron,’ I said unable to quite believe the words that were coming out of my mouth.

‘Yes, she did Hermione.  I could tell she meant every word,’ Ron replied in a hurt tone.

Hearing the hurt in his voice, made me suddenly realise how much he cared about her.  How much he seemed to need her.  It hurt me slightly to realise that he had never seemed to need me like that; that he had never cared that much about me, but at the same time I was glad that he did have someone in his life that he cared for and that most of the time, seemed to care for him and make him happy.  He needed and deserved someone like that in his life. Even if it did have to be Lavender Brown.

I took in a deep breath, unable to quite believe the words that I was about to say. 

‘Look Ron, people say stupid things in arguments all the time.  I’m sure you said things that you regret now and I’m sure that she regrets saying the things that she said too.  If you really care about her and want to be with her…’

‘I do.  I really do,’ Ron interrupted. Yep that definitely stung- like being punched in the gut.

‘Well then what does a stupid argument matter? Just go back in and find her.’

‘Thanks Hermione.  How come you always know what to say?’ Ron said leaning over to give me a hug.

‘Well I have been called the brightest witch of my age, just the once or twice,’ I said jokingly, moving back slightly to look him the face.

As we sat hugging, a movement out of the corner of my eye drew my attention to the bottom of the staircase.  I started slightly when I realised that at the bottom of the staircase, staring at us with a look of surprise and shock was Draco Malfoy.  His gaze drifted briefly from me to Ron and then back to me.  Something about his gaze made me feel incredibly uncomfortable.  It almost looked as if was hurt and angry, but then I was sure that I must have imagined it, for his face quickly returned to his usual blank, stony expression and he walked quickly on.

  I sat perfectly still watching him go, my eyes still lingering on the place where he just disappeared out of sight, trying not to think about what his piercing look had meant.

‘Nice to see some things never change,’ Ron said beside me, pulling my gaze back to him.

‘Meaning what?’ I asked confused as to what he was talking about.

‘Malfoy.’

‘What about him?’ I asked, unable to stop myself.

‘Well apart from being a git, he’s still strutting about the castle like he owns it, looking down at everyone else like they’re beneath him. I mean did you see the look he gave us; like we we’re total scum. Maybe someone should tell him that his side actually lost in the war. Fucking arsehole!’ Ron practically yelled, before downing the rest of the firewhiskey.

I can’t help but look back for one last glance at where Draco was standing.  Was Ron really right, I wondered. Was Malfoy looking down his nose at us, thinking that we’re nothing but dirt on his shoe? A pain shot through me at the thought that he might think that about me.  That he might still hate me, but before I even had the time to wonder why, Ron stood up rather abruptly beside me. 

‘Right, let’s get back to this party then,’ Ron said swaying slightly and reaching his hand out to me to help me up, which is a bit rich considering he’s the one who’s swaying kind of dangerously at the top of the stairs. I reluctantly let him pull me to my feet, hoping that he didn’t topple and take me with him. 

‘We’ve got some celebrating to do,’ Ron says, pulling me back towards the common room with a new found enthusiasm.  I couldn’t help but smile as he started dancing his way back into the common room, quickly re-joining the party. I caught Harry’s eye as we entered back through the portrait hole and he gave me a thumbs up, mouthing ‘thank you’. I gave him a quick nod back and as I make my through the crowds, I push Ron’s words about Malfoy out of my head, put a smile on my face and got ready to enjoy the party. 

 




A/N- So once again a major thank you to everyone that is reading and an even bigger thanks to everyone who is reviewing.  I can't believe I have nearly 50 reviews and what I can't believe even more is that people are actually really liking this story.  It's a major confidence boost for when I'm writing to know that people are actually reading it and liking it.

  So just a quick warning.  I really hope this chapter gets uploaded before the summer cut off date, but if not then I won't be updating for a while as I am lucky enough to be going on two wonderful summer holidays.  So please whilst I'm sunning myself in Cyprus or visiting Hogwarts in Florida please leave me a review.  It will be an amazing present to come back to and might just give me the motivation to upload the next chapter when I am severely jet- lagged.  So please enjoy this chapter and hopefully you won't have to wait too much longer before things finally start to happen.

 
 


Chapter 13: Apologies
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The next few days passed by pretty quickly and for a few short days life seemed like it was pretty much back to normal.  All the Gryffindors were on a post- win high and everyone seemed to be in a good mood, which was only heightened by some good weather, which given that it was October was extremely unusual.  It wasn’t unheard of to have snow here in October so the fact that it was in all probabilities the last nice day that we would have until about next April, everyone was making the most of it.

  As for me, it was the happiest that I had been in a while.  Things seemed like they were back to normal in many ways. For the first time in weeks I was finally able to spend time with my friends.  After a very late breakfast, which should probably have been classified as lunch instead given it was well after 12 before any of us woke after the partying from the night before, Harry, Ginny, Ron and I went outdoors to take a walk by the lake. It felt good to be spending time with them again after so many weeks of feeling slightly left out.  Ron was for once Lavender free, although where she was, nobody knew.  Believe me we asked.  It was so unusual to see Ron without Lavender hanging off of him somewhere, but he just mumbled some excuse about her being busy and swiftly changed the subject, so none of us brought it up again.  Whatever the reason was, the selfish part of me was glad that she wasn’t with us so that things could be more like normal and so I wouldn’t have to watch two couples being all loved up whilst feeling incredibly more and more like a spare part.

  As it was it felt just like old times- sitting in the sunshine, chatting and laughing like we used to do so often.  Everyone in the castle seemed to be outside today, just enjoying the sunshine. Looking around at the smiling, laughing faces, all basking in the shade of the towering castle, you would never have suspected that anything horrific had happened just a few months prior.  In actual fact the castle had never looked better; looking almost golden in the glittering sunlight, all evidence of a battle long since repaired.

  Life certainly felt like it was back to normal.  We found a nice quiet spot by the lake, near to the Whomping Willow where not many other people dared to go, so we were sure to have some peace since Harry was still attracting quite a lot of stares and after the previous days Quidditch match so were both Ron and Ginny, although each attracting attention for entirely different reasons.   There seemed to be a shared understanding among us that we should not mention the match.  Even the party the night before was a sore point for Ron and so we did all we could to steer the topic in a different direction.  We covered everything from school work; Neville and Luna’s blossoming relationship and George’s new plans for his shop. When the conversation turned around to me and Harry asked me how my detentions were going, my mind went quickly back to the previous day; revealing so much to Malfoy and what had nearly happened afterwards, I felt myself immediately colour and it was my turn to swiftly change the topic to a less dangerous subject.

  Of course now that it was in my mind, I couldn’t get it out. I simply replayed over and over what I had said to him, what he had said to me and then afterwards when he had held his hand out to me and helped me up, pulling me up so quickly that I had nearly stumbled into his chest. For the briefest of moments I had been sure that he had been going to kiss me and even more confusingly for me, I wasn’t entirely repulsed by the idea.

  I was still deep in thought; remembering a pair of grey eyes piercing into mine when a quick movement from Ron brought my attention most annoyingly back to the present.

   ‘Alright ferret,’ Ron shouted loudly to someone over my shoulder.  I didn’t need to turn around to see who would be there. Regardless I gave a quick glance over my shoulder just to check.  Sure enough Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini were walking along the shore and by the looks of it, had been minding their own business, but Ron’s idiotic outburst had now brought them heading in our direction.  My stomach immediately dropped, plummeting to the ground and I immediately felt on edge, unsure of whether or not I wanted to see him.  Part of me wanted him to turn and walk away in any other direction than where I was – that was the part of me that was filled with mortification and embarrassment at what I had said to him and about the thoughts that had been going through my head not two minutes before. Yet there was a another part of me, a very small part that I was trying very hard not to acknowledge that for some unexplained reason actually wanted to see him, to see how he would react after yesterday. As I tried to battle internally with my conflicting emotions, my stomach was fluttered uncontrollably as he came sauntering casually in our direction, calm and composed as always.

 ‘Weasle,’ Draco replied, his trademark scowl darkening his features, as he looked down at the four of us.

Ron scrambled quickly to his feet, clearly not liking the height advantage that Malfoy currently had. ‘What do you want Malfoy?’ Ron hissed back.

‘Well Weasley, I knew you were a bit slow, but I didn’t think you were quite so idiotic.  You called on me not thirty seconds ago and so I thought I would do the decent thing and just come over and congratulate you,’ Malfoy said sounding so sincere that all of us, including Zabini looked at him confusedly.

‘Congratulate me? For what?’ Ron asked, sounding completely bewildered.

‘I thought I would congratulate you for what I hear was quite a spectacularly stunning display of Quidditch skills,’ Malfoy said smirking, as Zabini scoffed loudly at the obvious sarcasm. Ron’s entire body visibly stiffened and his hand moved fractionally closer to the wand that was sticking out of his pocket. Harry seemed to sense the danger in the situation and slowly got to his feet beside Ron, exchanging a worried glance with me and Ginny as he did.  We all knew where this would end.  Making fun of Ron because of his Quidditch skills had only one sure ending and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

‘Go to hell Malfoy,’ Ron spat, his colour rising rapidly with his anger.  ‘Besides in case you’ve forgotten, Gryffindor actually won.’

‘Yeah no thanks to you and your complete inability to fly a broomstick or catch a ball, or throw a ball. Or basically any skill that is actually required to be a decent Quidditch player.’

‘What the hell would you know about it Malfoy. You weren’t even at the match. You were far too busy doing your little detention, missing out on all the action and being bored out of your little mind in the library,’ Ron said with a smirk that could rival Malfoy’s.

‘Oh it was far from boring Weasley, I assure you,’ Malfoy drawled, his voice full of such arrogance that it immediately set me on edge, wondering where he was going with this. ‘And besides I wouldn’t say that I missed out all of the action. You’d be amazed at the things that happen in a library, when there’s no one else about.’ 

In that moment I would swear that my heart stopped as I gasped audibly in shock. He was going to tell everyone what had happened, what I had said to him and worse he knew that I had thought about him kissing me and he had clearly found the whole thing laughable.

I looked worriedly about to see everyone’s reactions to see if they had understood that Malfoy’s comments were about me, but luckliy Ron just looked at Malfoy with confusion, sheer bewilderment etched onto his face, wondering if Malfoy was somehow insulting him again.  Malfoy just looked on with a satisfied smirk, enjoying the fact that Ron didn’t understand his little joke. As he shook his head in amusement, his gaze settled on me and for the briefest second our eyes locked.

  I knew that my eyes were betraying all the hurt and anger that I felt and through my eyes I almost begged him not to say anymore.  Not to reveal my secrets. 

    He furrowed his brows as if in confusion and with a slight shake of the head, broke my gaze to turn back to Ron, eyeing him with a steely glare. With his eyes no longer on me, I felt my breath return. Anger and shame bubbled up in my chest at the fact that I was at the mercy of Draco Malfoy.  That he knew things about me that no one else knew. One moment of weakness and he wasn’t going to let me forget it. I tried to keep calm and I looked around nervously to see if anyone had noticed our brief encounter, but everyone’s eyes were still on the two boys squaring up to each other.

 ‘And anyway Weasley,’ Malfoy continued, ‘you forget that I have seen you play Quidditch before, although I’m quite sure I will have the pleasure of seeing you make a fool of yourself at the next game. That is unless of course Potter finally does the decent thing and kicks your pathetic arse off of the team.’

 I felt my breath return.  I was apparently safe for now. However I had just relaxed, when at Malfoy’s words, Ron yanked his wand out and pointed it directly as Malfoy’s chest, causing all the tension to immediately return. ‘Right that’s it Malfoy, you asked for it,’ Ron yelled raising his wand, ready to strike. Harry immediately stepped closer to Ron, wand at the ready as always, placing a hand on his arm in restraint.

‘Ooh careful Weasley,’ Malfoy said, withdrawing his wand lazily, almost as if he couldn’t be bothered. ‘Don’t forget what happened the last time you tried to curse me,’ Malfoy said smirking at the memory.

Ron coloured even more, turning a rather interesting shade of puce that clashed horrendously with his hair. Ron pushed Harry off him, causing him to stumble backwards, tripping over Ginny who was still crouched on the ground, giving Ron a chance to raise his wand arm, opening his mouth ready to cast his curse.

  Before I knew what I was doing and without even thinking, I jumped to my feet and stood directly in front of Ron, blocking his view of Malfoy.

‘Hermione, what the hell do you think you’re doing?’ Ron yelled, trying to push past me, but I stood my ground and put both of my hands on his chest to keep him firmly back.

 ‘I’m trying to stop you from making a stupid mistake,’ I yelled back at him. ‘Be the bigger man for once and just walk away.’

‘I can’t Hermione,’ Ron said through gritted teeth, trying to push past me once more. 

‘For god’s sake Ronald, grow up.  Get over your stupid pride.’

‘Yes, Ronald,’ Malfoy sneered in a mocking tone, ‘why don’t you be a good little boy and do as she says.’

‘Oh why don’t you just do us all a favour and piss off Malfoy,’ I practically hissed at him, even angrier than before, not appreciating the mocking in his voice.

Malfoy turned his head slowly in my direction, one eyebrow perfectly arched as his cool eyes met mine. I stared back at him, determined not to be the one to look away first; determined not to be the intimidated by him.

‘Yeah Malfoy, you heard her, piss off,’ Ron said with a smirk on his face, standing beside me and putting his hand firmly around my waist, something that did not go unnoticed by the others. Malfoy tore his eyes from mine, his expression turning dark and his eyes once again menacingly cold, as his gaze lingered on Ron’s hand.

 ‘Fine, let’s go Blaise,’ he said eventually, much to everyone’s surprise, ‘but be careful Weasley, next time your little girlfriend won’t be around to stand up for you.’

  With a final dark look at Ron’s hand on my waist, he turned away from us and headed back towards the lake.

‘Well thank Merlin that the ferrets gone.  I don’t know why you both stopped me from cursing him.  I still say he deserved it,’ Ron said smiling, as always trying to make a joke out everything. But my good mood had vanished.

‘Oh for goodness sake Ron,’ I snarled, pushing his hand away from my waist, ‘you are pathetic,’ I said as Ron recoiled in shock from me.  ‘I meant it before when I said that you need to grow up.  You can’t go around picking fights with people just because you feel like.  Did the war teach you nothing?’

‘Oh, come on Hermione.  It’s Malfoy.  He hardly counts as people,’ Ron said, still with a hint of humour in his voice.

‘Yeah you’re right, he is an arsehole,’ I said, watching as Ron’s grin started to reappear on his face, ‘but you now what? You’re just as bad.’  With that his grin slowly vanished to be replaced by confusion and hurt.

‘Now if you don’t mind, I’ve had enough and besides I’ve got homework to do,’ I said picking up my bag and stalking angrily passed a visibly hurt Ron and a shocked Harry and Ginny.

 I stormed all the way back to the castle feeling more angry with myself than anyone else.  Angry that I had let my emotions get the better of me the day before and revealed so much to the one person who would most likely use it against me. And then not only that, I had now gone and alienated myself from my friends once again.  Just another perfect day I thought bitterly and I only had myself to blame. And Malfoy.  Yeah I could blame him too. I should be blaming him too I realised. If he hadn’t shown up acting like a arse, then I wouldn’t have had to step in and then end up annoyed with Ron and if hadn’t made me angry yesterday then I wouldn’t have broken down and revealed so much during detention, in fact if he hadn’t pissed me off so much in potions class in the first place, then I wouldn’t even have ended up in detention and everything would have been normal.  Everything would have been as it should.  So basically everything was Malfoy’s fault, of that much I was definitely sure.

  I walked into the library and settled down at my usual spot near the back of the library, next to the window with the view overlooking the lake.  As I unpacked my bag, spreading my books and parchment across the table, I felt the familiar feeling of calm wash over me. Everything became clearer when I was in the library.  It was like a cloud being lifted from my brain, leaving all of my thoughts perfectly clear. Yes I was still angry with Ron, but that anger was diminishing, being replaced by an even stronger emotion; an even stronger and more potent anger mixed with 8 years of dislike and hate was brewing up inside me and it was all directed at Draco bloody Malfoy. For the briefest of moments during detention I had thought I had seen a glimmer of a different person from the one that I used to know, someone that I could have even possibly if not liked, then tolerated. But no, ever the master of deceit, he had no doubt been lying about it all, saying that he cared about me, that he didn’t want to be a death eater.  Whatever game he had been playing, it had worked.  He had gotten what he wanted. He knew everything about me. He had seen that I had been changing my opinion of him and worse he knew that I would have kissed him.  And now he had even more ammunition to hurt me with.  He knew exactly how to break me if he wanted to and once again I found myself fearful of Draco Malfoy.

I sat engrossed in my transfiguration homework, concentrating so intensely on the words before me that there was no room for any other thoughts in my head. I was completely oblivious to everything around me so that the only noise registering in my head was the constant scratching on the quill against the large piece of parchment in front of me. I was coming to the end of my fourteen foot essay (it was only supposed to be ten, but I got a little carried away) when a single voice found its way into my subconscious. My hand immediately stilled causing a large blot of ink to mark the parchment, but I couldn’t be annoyed about that just now. I was too busy feeling all the anger surge through my veins as I heard his voice, the voice I never again wanted to hear.  The library was my place; my place of peace and my place of solitude and him being here now was only ruining that for me. The calm and peace that I had felt was long gone, leaving me tense and on edge.  I had to leave.  I had to get out of this place- away from him.

  I quickly gathered together my things, stuffing the books and parchment back into my bag, before rushing out of the library, head down determined not to be seen, determined to get as far away from him as I possibly could.  I was close to the exit, only a few short steps away, when a tall blonde figure stepped out in front of me, blocking my way.  I didn’t stop as his eyes flashed in recognition or when he opened his mouth to speak.  I simply pushed my way past him, not even making eye contact before rushing out of the library to the safety of the common room.  I had a feeling I would be spending a lot more time there in the future, determined to avoid him at all costs, determined not to give him another opportunity to break me.

 

     Waking up on Monday morning, the first thought that entered my head was Malfoy, with the second thought being that we both had double potions class first thing that morning.  My plan to avoid him was clearly not going to be easy.  My initial instinct was to skip class, but of course I quickly dismissed that idea.  What good would it do?  I would only be further behind in my school work and I would only have to see him again the next day.  After all we had classes together every day and detention together twice a week. And besides, I would not give him the satisfaction of thinking that I was avoiding him, of thinking that he had somehow won. So no, avoiding him was not going to be an option. I was just going to have to grin and bear it and not let him get to me.  I would ignore him completely.  Blank him, let him know that I didn’t care about him at all and then try to let things get back to how they used to be.

  Although in order for that to happen, I had to make amends with Ron.  I joined both Ron and Harry at the breakfast table in the great hall, Ron stopping mid chew of his mouthful of bacon to watch me sit down with apprehensive eyes, clearly fearing that I was about to launch into another attack and start yelling at him again. I merely smiled and said ‘good morning’ in my cheeriest voice and did my best to pretend to try and not see Ron and Harry exchange questioning glances at each other over my apparent mood change. But after 8 years of knowing each other, Ron knew better than to question my apparent forgiveness and to just accept it, which suited me just fine.  I was really not in the mood for apologies this morning.  Ron clearly sensing his forgiveness, chatted away quite happily, keeping the conversation going between the three of us and being overly polite to me in particular, offering to pass me pretty much any plate from the table and even going to fetch extra toast from the Ravenclaw table when we had run out, something which Ginny found all too funny when she finally came down to join us for breakfast.

  However as much as I was enjoying watching Ron and his over eagerness to please, the time passed too quickly and before I knew it, it was time to head to class. The feelings were all too familiar.  Dreading going to class, wondering what he would do and what he would say, but with one major difference.  Instead of wondering how to act around him like the last time and ending up making a fool of myself by turning into a major clutz, I would ignore him completely.  I wouldn’t look at him, I wouldn’t speak to him and I sure as hell would not take any more crap from him.  I would leave him in no doubt as to how I felt about him.

  Entering into potions class, I was glad that I was the first one to arrive. I pulled out my books and parchment and angled my body away from Malfoy’s seat, so that I wouldn’t have to even look at him. When he eventually arrived, I felt my body stiffen in anticipation, but still I refused to even look at him, keeping my eyes firmly on the board at the front of the class or on the parchment in front of me, but never to the left where he was sitting.

  Everything was going absolutely perfectly until Professor Haven asked us to work with our partners to make the potion that we were studying in today’s class- a complex sleeping draught. Before I even gave Malfoy the chance to open his mouth, I jumped out of my seat and headed to the store cupboard, where I was soon met by Ron.

‘What’s up with Malfoy today?’ he asked searching through the shelves for the unicorn horn that was right in front of his nose.

‘Don’t know and don’t particularly care,’ I answered, taking the jar off of the shelf and handing it to him.

‘Oh right.  It’s just he keeps looking over at you and he does not look happy.  I figured the two of you must have had another bust up.’

‘Nope, I guess he just still doesn’t like me.’

‘Okay, well just as long as you don’t end up getting into trouble because of him again. I feel like we don’t see enough of you anymore.’

‘Don’t worry, it will take a lot more than Malfoy to get to me,’ I said lightly, wishing above all things that what I was saying was true. I continued trying to change the subject, ‘besides, you can’t be missing me that much.  You’ve got Quidditch and Lavender to keep you more than busy,’ I answered, moving out of the way to let other people into the shelf.

Ron waited until everyone had left before closing the gap between us and continuing. ‘Yeah well I’m not sure that I’ll be playing Quidditch for much longer after Saturday.  It was awful Hermione. Malfoy was right, Harry should kick me off the team.’

‘I’m sure it wasn’t that bad and besides, Harry would never do that to you.  You earned your place on that team. You’re probably just a bit rusty.  A few extra practices and I’m sure you’ll be great. I just hope Lavender doesn’t mind you being at practices more often.’

‘I really don’t think she’d care either way,’ Ron said looking away from me, ‘she dumped me.’

‘Oh Ron I’m so sorry,’ I said placing my hand on his shoulder. ‘What happened? I thought you were going to find at her at the party?’

‘Yeah I was and I did,’ he said with a bitter edge to his voice. ‘I found her with her tongue down that idiot McLaggen’s throat.’

‘Oh,’ was all that I could manage to say, as certain unwelcome memories flashed through my mind. ‘Ron I’m so sorry.’

‘It’s alright,’ he said with a small smile appearing on his lips again. ‘Besides it gives me more time to spend with you.  And Harry and Ginny of course.’

‘Yeah that will be good, I’ve missed spending time with you all,’ I replied smiling back at him. After a moment of silence in which Ron continued to look me, I took a step back feeling a little uncomfortable. Clearing my throat I finally spoke, ‘anyway, we had better get back, we have a potion to make.’

‘Yeah I suppose.  Here let me take them for you,’ Ron said, taking some of the many jars out of my overflowing hands.

As we emerged from the store cupboard, I was immediately met with daggers from Malfoy, who was sitting rigidly at his desk, his fists clenched tight and a thunderous look on his face.  I guess he really didn’t like to be kept waiting.

His cold stare followed us the entire way back to our table until Ron stopped to put some of the ingredients on my table. He then turned to me and with a small smile and said ‘thanks Hermione, so I’ll see you later then,’ before walking back to his own table.

  A bang to my left made me turn to see Malfoy angrily banging the ingredients about and throwing some of them into the steaming cauldron, with a look of complete fury in his dark eyes. After that we worked in complete silence, a tense atmosphere hanging in the air between us, neither of us so much as glancing at the other.

 

  The rest of the week passed in pretty much the same way, with both of us sitting in stony silence. Malfoy had soon given up in even trying to speak to me after his initial request for me to pass him ingredients was met with silence. Although luckily for us, all potions classes for the rest of the week had been either theory based or simple enough that we were to complete them individually and so we weren’t actually required to speak to each other. I was still angry with him and I could tell that he was becoming increasingly frustrated by my silence. His steely glare was matched only by mine and it felt for a moment as if the tables had turned.  A few times during the week I was sure that I saw him looking in my direction, only to quickly look away.

  It was our mid- week detention that I was particularly dreading, as it would be the first time that we would be completely alone. However as I entered the library, I was determined that nothing would change. Although my resolve was tested sooner than I had anticipated. Malfoy came into the library a short time after me, but I didn’t even lift my head and kept on working.

‘Hello,’ came a pointed voice from me, although I kept my head firmly down.

‘So I take it by your silence that you are not speaking to me.’ Before I could stop myself, my head darted in his direction and I found him looking directly at me. I gave him my best glare before turning away from him again. 

‘I’ll take that as a yes then. And what exactly have I done?’

‘Are you seriously asking me that?’ I snapped at him, my anger finally getting the best of me.  ‘You know full bloody well what you’ve done.’

‘No I don’t actually,’ he replied slowly, trying hard to keep his voice calm and steady, ‘You’ll have to enlighten me.’

‘After all the stupid little remarks you’ve been making about me and about Ron and then going and picking a fight with him.’

‘Oh and what little remarks would those be?’

‘Are you kidding me?’ I asked incredulously, ‘being a complete arse to him about the Quidditch match for starters.’

‘Oh I’m sorry, did I upset your little boyfriend?’ he asked the sides of his lips curling up into his trademark sneer.

‘Excuse me?’ I asked in shock. What was with all the boyfriend comments? Where on earth had he gotten that idea? ‘Ron is not my boyfriend.’

‘Well it doesn’t look that way to me,’ he scoffed, folding his arms and leaning back against the bookcase.

‘Well then maybe you need to get your eyes checked,’ I retorted quickly. ‘And what the hell does it have to do with you anyway, Malfoy?’ I added feeling even more confused and frustrated as the conversation went on. 

My question seemed to throw him slightly and he stood silent for a moment, as if thinking of what he should reply. ‘It has nothing at all to do with me,’ he eventually said in a quiet voice, his arms dropping to his side.

‘Well I’m glad we’re finally agreed on something,’ I replied sarcastically.

‘Well you know it was bound to happen at some point,’ he said with a small smile forming on the edge of his lips- one of the first genuine, non- smirking, smiles that I had ever seen him give. He took a deep sigh and for a brief moment, his calm exterior slipped and he looked slightly uncomfortable.

‘Look Granger, I’m sorry for what I said.  You’re right, it is none of my business and I had I had no right to say anything to you.’

‘You’re right, it is none of your business and while we’re on that subject you had no right to say anything to me or anything to anyone else about me.’

Malfoy stepped back, confusion appearing on his face once again. ‘And when did I say anything about you?’

‘You know what you said,’ I yelled in frustration, ‘What you said to Ron about me in the library about it not being boring and about you getting some ‘action’.  I didn’t mean to say all those things and believe me when I say that you are the last person in the world that I would want to know all my private business, so if you’re going to tell people then I suggest you just go ahead and do it, instead of making all the little snide comments, because quite frankly I’ve had enough.’

  Draco blinked in shock a couple of times, before furrowing his brow, seemingly trying to work out how to answer me.

With a deep sigh he began, ‘look Granger, I am sorry about what I said to Weasley.  Really sorry.  It was stupid. I was just angry at him, he was winding me up and well after…,’ he trailed off and I wondered what he had been about to say. ‘Anyway as for telling people about what happened- about what you said, I’m not going to tell anyone.  I would never tell anyone,’ he finished eventually.

 ‘Oh yeah right, like I’m going to believe you.’

‘I wish you would,’ he said earnestly, stepping slightly closer to me again, looking directly at me, ‘because I mean it.  I won’t tell anyone.’

‘Oh yeah right.  And why should I believe you. What possible reason do I have to believe a single word that you say?’

‘I don’t know.  I know I haven’t exactly given you reason to, but believe me, I will never tell anyone.  Remember I told you things as well. Things no one else knows. You’re not the only one who put themselves on the line. I guess we need to trust each other.’

  It was all I could do to stare at him. He was right.  He had told me things as well.  Pretty intimate and private things that I was pretty sure not many other people knew. And once again I felt my opinion of him change.  That was the second time that he had apologised to me and instead of being something that made me feel better it was actually quite unnerving.  I was beginning to wonder if he hadn’t had some sort of personality transplant.

‘Are you actually apologising?’ I finally managed to say to which he simply rolled his eyes.

‘Yes Granger I am apologising. Although don’t get used to it. I just figure that we are going to be spending a lot of time together in the next few months and I am fed up of us arguing all the time.  So am I forgiven then?’ he asked with no hint of sarcasm in his face or voice and holding his hand out towards me.

I looked at his outstretched hand warily, not sure of what I should do. He seemed to be sincere and what he was saying certainly made sense and yet I couldn’t help but feel unsure.  This was Draco Malfoy after all.  I looked up his eyes and he was watching me with an almost hopeful expression.

Slowly I extended my hand to meet his and immediately felt the warmth spread through my fingertips, as his firm hand grasped mine. I lifted my eyes to meet his and was jolted by the intensity in his gaze.  I pulled my hand away from his and quickly stepped back, feeling suddenly incredibly uncomfortable and awkward.  I had no idea what to do or say next.  The whole thing just seemed incredibly surreal and I was having a hard time believing that Draco Malfoy actually wanted to call a truce between us.

  I risked a quick glance up at him and was thrown even more, to see him standing perfectly calm and composed, looking at me with amusement and just a hint of uncertainty in his deep grey eyes.

‘So what is all this? I asked eventually, breaking the silence, unable to keep my doubts to myself. ‘I mean, what does this all mean?’

He however seemed as unfazed as ever, although he pondered his answer for a moment, before replying, ‘I don’t know, but I have to say it is a lot nicer being civil instead of having to argue all of the time.’

‘So what are you saying; that we should be friends?’ I asked questioningly, not sure if being friends with Malfoy was something that I could handle.

‘I wouldn’t go that far Granger,’ Malfoy smirking slightly, ‘I’m not saying that we go walking each other to classes or go for trips to Hogsmeade together. Let’s just try being civil to each other during class and detention. It’s getting a bit boring working in complete silence all the time.’

‘Okay,’ I said slowly, ‘I guess we could try. Although I’m not promising anything.  I happen to actually quite like arguing with you,’ I said jokingly.

‘Really I would never have guessed,’ he answered sarcastically, making me roll my eyes back him, making him give me a cheeky smirk before turning back to the pile of books that he was working on.

 

  We worked in silence for a while, the atmosphere no longer hostile, but relatively relaxed and calm. After a while, he eventually broke the silence. ‘So you and Weasley then?’ he asked in a quiet voice. He sounded weird, like he was trying to sound normal, yet there was a distinct strangeness to his tone. I turned around to face him, but his back was to me and I couldn’t help but wonder if the move was deliberate so that I couldn’t see his face.  He stood unmoving and for a moment I almost thought that I imagined him saying it.  It just seemed like such an odd thing for him to ask. 

‘Me and Ron, what?’ I asked uncertainly, not sure what he was actually asking.

‘You’re together?’ he said, glancing slightly in my direction briefly before diverting his eyes again.

‘I thought we just agreed that it was nothing to do with you,’ I said sounding harsher that I had intended.

‘We did, I was just making conversation,’ he said shrugging his shoulders.

‘Well then, no.’

‘No, what?’ he said finally turning around to face me, his eyes questioning.

‘No we’re not together.  We’re just friends.  Besides he’s going out with Lavender Brown, or he was anyway.’

‘Hmm, well that makes more sense.’

‘Meaning what exactly?’

‘Just that Weasley and Lavender are better suited to each other than you and him.’

‘In what way?’

‘Well they’re both complete idiots.  You’re far too smart to go with a twat like Ron Weasley.  Although you did go out with McLaggen so I got to say you don’t seem to have the best taste.’

‘Well I have never actually gone out with Ron and for the record I did not go out with McLaggen either, although getting him to understand that was easier said than done.  As you well know,’ I snapped. I immediately regretted my words though, as his face immediately hardened with anger at the memory.  

‘Yes well,’ he said after a moment of silence, his face impassive once more, ‘maybe next time you’ll need to aim a little higher,’ he said, his eyes displaying just a trace of humour.

‘Oh really,’ I asked out of curiosity, unsure of what game he was playing, ‘and who would you suggest.’

I was prepared for him to ignore me; for an off- hand comment at least.  I was even prepared for him to insult me, as was so normal for him. What I wasn’t prepared for, was for his eyes, bright with confusion and uncertainty, to pierce directly into mine once more. He held my gaze for a moment, looking as if he was contemplating saying something, but in the end tore his gaze away and with a slight shrug said in a quiet voice, ‘I don’t know.’

 




So first of all a huge thank you to everyone who is reading and reviewing.  I now have 60 reviews which is like so amazing.  Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to review.  You have no idea how much it means and how big a smile it gives me. I swear people must think I'm a bit mad when I check on my phone and then my face breaks out in a huge grin.

 So anyway I hope you like chapter 13 and the direction it's going.  As you can see we are hopefully very close to what we we all want to happen.

But anyway as you can tell I am home from Cyprus and have spent all this week getting this chapter before I go to Florida.  However it is the last chapter I have written. I've usually written two or three chapters ahead so I can tweak and alter if I need to, but the last few months have been manic and so I have nothing else written just now and on Saturday I am away on holiday for 2 weeks so it will probably be about a month before my next update.  Please don't kill me because I know the chapter ends in a pretty sucky place and you will all be wanting the next chapter, so please bear with me and I promise I will have it written as soon as I can.

Once again please keep reading and I really hope you review so I can grin like an idiot even more. :  )
 


Chapter 14: Intuition
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Instinct.  Intuition, gut- feelings or a sixth sense.  However you would choose to define it, it was something that I had never believed in.  Divination, fortune telling and predicting the future, were all absolute nonsense in my opinion.  Every day I made decisions.  I made my own decisions and they were not pre- determined by anyone or anything.  Destiny and fate just did not exist.  Instinct was the exact same.  How could someone predict danger?  How could someone ‘just know’ that something was about to happen.  Perhaps they had wished for it and thought about it happening and so when it did actually happen, they could claim it was all down to fate or a sixth sense that they had.

  In the last seven years, I had broadened my mind more than I could ever have imagined. I had come to accept that magic was real- it was now part of my everyday life that witches existed, that broomsticks could fly and that people could pretty much do anything that they wanted so long as they had a wand in their hand. But for some reason, instinct was just a step too far for me to accept. Harry would often say that he ‘just knew’.  It was a phrase that I had heard so often, so many times before.  He just knew that Dumbledore wanted him to complete a task; he just knew that Snape was evil and more often than not, he just knew that Malfoy was up to something.  I had heard these phrases so many times in the past seven years that I had just come to take them with a pinch of salt. I would just nod along in agreement with Harry and let him vent his theories while all the time, I was secretly rolling my eyes and thinking that he was talking a whole load of rubbish.  Although rather annoyingly Harry’s little feelings usually turned out to be spot on, but I just put that down to his unfaltering luck, not to mention his extreme nosiness.

Facts.  Cold hard facts were what I believed in. Which was why it was so completely unnerving that I was getting that uneasy feeling in the very pit of my stomach, that some would quite aptly call ‘gut- feelings’.  That feeling that every sense in your entire body is on alert. You can feel each individual hair rise on your arm; you are so completely aware of your own breathing that it almost feels like you have just run up an entire flight of stairs; your legs feel like jelly, ready collapse under you at any given moment, making you so completely aware of every single movement that you make.  I knew very precisely what I was feeling and for a person who prided themselves on being sensible, it was something that was not sitting well with me. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I was feeling that the world was going to end or that a great disaster was going to befall us all.  It was nothing quite as major as that, but there was a definite atmosphere and I just knew deep down that something was going to happen. 

  These feelings that I had been experiencing, this so called intuition, had started very suddenly and I could pinpoint the exact moment that I had started to feel this way.  It had happened a week and half ago at my last detention.  The moment that Draco Malfoy had turned away from me after uttering three simple words that had left me completely confused and utterly bewildered.

  The whole conversation that we had was quite frankly bizarre and I could not fathom why he had started it or why he was interested at all. And as for the way that he had ended it, the way that he had looked me in the eye and said… well, what he said, just left me feeling like something was not right. Either he said what he said because he had some wicked ulterior motive and was just trying to get information out of me to wind me up, or he was being genuinely sincere.  I didn’t know which I found to be the most alarming.  I knew that Malfoy couldn’t have possibly been sincere as that would have implied something that I just could not believe and so that led me with the only logical conclusion which was that he was plotting something. 

  Yet something about his manner, something about the way he said he didn’t know who should be my boyfriend and the way he looked at me and everything about the whole situation just screamed to me that he was implying that he knew exactly who should be my boyfriend. If the words had come out of any mouth other than his, then there would be only one conclusion that I would have drawn from those words. But it was Malfoy who had said them and so I knew that there was no way that he could have meant that, which was why my instincts were immediately awakened.  I remember every bizarre detail of that conversation, from the way I went as still as a statue, frozen in complete confusion, to the way Malfoy clammed up, seeming to have sensed that he had said too much or said something wrong and in that one split moment, a wall went up between us. 

  In the days that followed anyone looking at us during potions class or even during detention would have thought that absolutely nothing was wrong.  There was absolutely nothing unusual at all about the way we behaved towards each other.  There wasn’t even a hint of animosity.  We were just two students who spoke only to each other when we absolutely had to and turned so polite to each other, putting in extra pleases, thank you’s and after you’s.  To anyone observing, we were model students.  However all you had to do was look closer and read between the lines. If anyone had bothered to pay any attention to us at all, which people in potions class rarely did as people were still a little pissed off and quite probably a little scared of us after the whole blowing apart the classroom incident, they would have noticed that we never so much as looked at each other, we never made eye contact at all.  Well, I may have snuck in the odd glance, but I always made sure he never saw.  Both of us sat up perfectly straight with perfect posture and perfectly controlled movements, as if we were thinking about each of our actions so carefully, like we were trying not to draw attention to ourselves and we never stayed together for a second longer than necessary and after all the sharing at the previous week’s detention, we never spoke unless it was strictly about potions or detention, nothing personal at all. 

  The atmosphere between us growing every day, until it was feeling almost unbearable.  Like there was a tension in the air.  I was amazed that all the other people around us couldn’t sense it.  It was something that I was completely aware of the entire time. I was completely aware of him the entire time.  I felt like a hunter stalking its prey, or perhaps I was the prey, being completely aware of the hunter.  He was always on my radar.  I was aware of every move that he made in class, tensed up in every detention when he brushed past me in the narrow aisles of the library.  I was always on the lookout in the corridors so that whenever I saw a flash of blonde hair, I would take a different route just to avoid walking past him.  I would spend the majority of my meal times, glancing at the doors and the Slytherin table to see if he was there yet, just so that when I knew he was there, I could spend the next half an hour determinedly avoiding looking over at him.  Without even trying and without me even fully realising, Draco Malfoy had come to occupy the majority of my thoughts. The amount of daydreaming that I now did in a day was becoming ridiculous.  Going back and analysing that last conversation and trying to decipher what he could possibly have meant.

  Harry and Ron were getting more than just a little annoyed at me. Ron in particular. Ever since he had broken up with Lavender, he had been back spending time with us.  Harry and Ginny usually wanted some time alone, which meant me and Ron were spending more time together.  Alone. Which was awkward to say the least.  All throughout the summer, I would have given anything to have just had an hour alone with Ron, just to talk to him and spend time with him, yet now that it was a reality and he was by my side every spare minute of every day, I wanted nothing more than for him to go away and give me a little bit of peace.

  I know I may have sounded a little harsh, but he was constantly there.  He was always by my side, always asking for help with homework, always trying to talk to me when I was reading and always sitting just that little bit too close to make me feel uncomfortable.

  Like I said, Ron was getting more than a little annoyed with me and my vacantness. Ron was the sort of person who could easily have one- sided conversation; he would just talk and talk and as long as you gave the occasional ‘yep’ and ‘uh- huh’, he was perfectly happy to just keep on talking.  But over the last week I had been caught out more than once, when Ron had realised that I hadn’t been listening to a word he was saying. 

 

‘So what do you think then?’

Crap.  Once again I was not listening to a word that Ron was saying.  Mainly due the fact that I had once again just gotten distracted by a flash of blonde hair entering into the great hall.  My eyes had followed him all the way to the Slytherin table.  He was alone again.  Something that I was noticing more and more. He walked, head bent down, halfway down the table and sat down in an empty seat, before helping himself to some chicken pie.

‘Hmm, what?’ I said, my eyes flashing back to Ron’s eager face, as he sat opposite from me, aware that he seemed to be waiting for some kind of response.

‘I said, what do you think?’ he replied, with what seemed like slightly hopeful eyes.

O.K so he had asked a question.  Great.  Now I had a dilemma. There were two responses, yes or no.  One would undoubtedly be the correct answer and one incorrect.  But which one to choose? Admitting that I hadn’t been listening was not an option; I had a feeling that it would not go down overly well and so I made my decision, keeping everything crossed that it was the correct one.  

‘Em, sure,’ I said slowly, waiting nervously for his response. Luckily for me he seemed to sigh in relief and his eyes visibly brightened.

‘Great, so how about Pudifoots then? We can do a bit of shopping first if you like?’

Oh. Shit. That’s what he was talking about. The next day was the first Hosmeade trip of the year and by the sounds of it, Ron had just invited me to spend the day with him, in Pudifoots no less.  The pink, fluffy, hearts on the wall, couples make- out zone café in Hogsmeade.  You only ever went there if you were dating or if you were trying to date the other person and here I was having apparently just agreed to go with Ron.

  I immediately went into panic mode. How was I going to get out of this one? I could say I was ill, but no because Ginny would check and she would know I was lying. I could say I had to study for a test. Yet Ron was in most of the same classes as me, so if I had a test then he would have had one too. I glanced around the great hall, looking desperately for inspiration. My eyes landed on the spot that they had flickered to so often in the last week, landing on their usual target and I was hit with my answer. Something so obvious that it was stupid that I hadn’t thought of it before and I wouldn’t even have to lie.

‘Oh my god Ron, I’m so sorry, I just remembered, I have my detention tomorrow, I can’t go to Hogsmeade,’ I said, trying my best to sound genuinely upset, although feeling increasingly guilty as Ron’s face fell.

‘What? But surely you can still go to Hogsmeade. I mean I’m sure if you asked McGonagall, she would let you go.  Couldn’t you ask her?’ Ron asked hopefully.

 ‘Ron I really don’t think she would let me go.  It’s a detention.  She’s hardly going to let me out of it.’

‘But you could at least ask though,’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

‘But…’

‘Ron, I said no,’ I snapped, my temper once again getting the better of me.

‘Fine, don’t bother then.  Enjoy you detention.  Clearly you’d rather be there than with me,’ he spat, as he stood up and walked away from me.  My eyes followed him as he stalked out of the great hall, leaving me wondering what on earth was going on.  I mean Pudifoots for goodness sake. Did that mean that he was interested in me again?  Well the whole thing was just too little too late. And besides I didn’t even like Pudifoots. I gathered my things together and followed him out of the great hall, my eyes drawn to the flash of blonde hair like a magnet. Only this time, they met a pair of steely grey eyes staring straight back. I continued to walk towards the exit, my gaze being broken when I had to swerve to avoid walking straight into a first year who barely came above my waist.  I was determined not to look back, even though I was aware of a pair of eyes following me out of the hall.

 

  The following day, everyone in the dormitory was up early, desperate to make the most of their first day in Hogsmeade of the year.  Hogsmeade like so many other wizarding communities had been virtually destroyed in the past year by death eaters, Hogsmeade perhaps even more so because it was so close to Hogwarts. Over half of the shops had closed down, leaving the towns empty and deserted, but since the fall of Voldemort, the shops had re- opened, the customers had returned and the towns had come back to life.  I was almost sorry to miss seeing the place again, but if not going meant that I didn’t have to go to Pudifoots with Ron then it was a trade I was more than happy to make. 

  I stayed in my bed longer than I normally would have; waiting till all the madness had died down.  All the girls had spent an age making sure that their hair, make- up and outfits were perfect so the bathroom was needless to say in use for the majority of the morning. It was actually quite pleasant to have the common room virtually to myself when I eventually surfaced. There were one or two first or second years floating around, but I had the feeling they wanted to be off exploring the castle without any sixths and seventh years telling them to go away.  They had the whole castle to themselves for most of the day and they were certainly going to be making the most of it.

  As for me, I made the most having the place to myself for a while. Hogwarts is the sort of place where you are never alone. You are always surrounded by people and even if you want to be alone, there just aren’t that many people that you can be truly by yourself. I wouldn’t say that I was a solitary person, but I did like peace and quiet and sometimes I just felt the need to be alone. That’s why I liked the library so much, I mean yes it did have so many books which just added to its appeal, but it was more than that.  It was peaceful and quiet and there were so many alcoves that it almost felt like you were in your own little world. So while I had the place to myself, I certainly made the most of it.  To most people, it would probably have been a very boring day, but I quite enjoyed just sitting in front of the fire in the common room, enjoying the complete silence.

    When the time came for my detention, I reluctantly put my book down and made my way down to the library, ready to face another two hours of total and utter awkwardness. Malfoy was already there when I arrived.  He was facing away from me, already laying out the sheets of paper on the table. He hadn’t seen me or heard me yet, but when I put my bag down on the table, his head whipped around and he looked directly at me, giving me just a very slight nod of the head.  I wanted so much to say something to him, to try and ease the tension, but what were you meant to say? How did I even know that he was even feeling the same things I was? In the end I chose silence.  When it came to pride or bravery, hell I was going my pride.

A simple nod of the head turned out to be the most interaction we had for the entire two hours. We didn’t say a word to each other or even so much as look at each other. We simply continued with our work in the eerie quiet of the library.  It was even more silent than usual, with everyone away at Hogsmeade. I don’t know if it was because the tension between us had been boiling away and increasing all week, or whether it was because I knew that we were for the very first time truly alone, but the atmosphere between us seemed even more charged than usual.  I was so aware of him; aware of every move he made; aware of everything that he was doing. I completely tensed when whenever he came within a foot of me, the charge between us tingling even more.

 It was almost a relief when Madame Pince finally came and told us that we could leave.  I didn’t even stay to help properly tidy up.  I just stuffed my things back in any space I could find, grabbed my bag and got as far away from the library as I could possibly go.  I needed to think, I needed to breathe, I needed to go somewhere where there was air.  Outside was where I needed to go. I made my way through the empty corridors, walking as fast as I could and gave a huge sigh of relief when I finally burst through the doors and into the courtyard. I found a bench at the farthest end of the courtyard and settled down in the seat.  I pulled out the book that I was currently reading, hoping that it would help to take my mind of the weirdness of the last two hours.

I don’t know how long I sat there, completely lost in a book about the Hogwarts founders, when I was suddenly aware that I was not alone.

‘Do you mind if I join you?’

I looked up, startled, to find Malfoy standing at the opposite end of the bench from me, looking a little uncomfortable. I looked around the courtyard.  Yep there was not a soul in the place, meaning that every other bench in the place was empty.  Curiosity got the better of me and I gave him a quick nod, wondering what he wanted.

He sat down beside me and I waited for him to say something. When he continued to sit in silence, I gave up and went back to reading my book.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see that his right leg was bouncing up and down and he was tapping his fingers on the bench which more than just a little bit distracting.  I soon realised that I had read the same paragraph at least ten times with still no clue what it was about and so I decided that enough was enough.

 ‘Did you want something?’ I asked laying my book down on the bench beside me.

He turned around to face me, looking almost startled that I had spoken to him. ‘Em, well, no, it’s just that, actually, I was wondering, thinking that maybe, possibly you might want to do something?’

‘Excuse me,’ I said eventually, knowing for sure that I must have mis- heard him.  

‘Never mind, it was a silly idea,’ he said in a rush, ‘it’s just that well, since you and I are virtually the only two left in the castle, I thought that you might not want to be alone and you might want to do something, a walk maybe,’ he said almost hopefully.

‘You want to go for a walk, with me?’ I said trying hard to keep the disbelief out of my voice.

‘No, well yes. I mean, I don’t know.’

‘Well I’m glad you clarified that.  If you ever actually make up your mind what it is you’re trying to say to me, I’ll be in the common room,’ I said, gathering up my things and making a move to stand up. I didn’t really know what sort of game he was trying to play, but I was more than a little confused and fed up in trying to work out his apparent personality transplant.

‘No wait,’ he begged, reaching out and grabbing my arm just as I had begun to walk away.  I pulled my hand away from his grasp like it had been burned.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, taking a step away from me again, holding his hands up in front of him. ‘Look, I just I don’t know. Can we sit down again?’

I eyed him warily and weighed up my options. I either ran away like a coward and never find out what on earth was going on or I stayed to see if I could finally get some answers.  As always I was a slave to my curiosity.  I always had to know.  I had to solve the problem.  It was a part of my chemical make- up. Slowly and reluctantly I sat back down on the bench.  He seemed almost relieved that I had chosen to stay and I could almost make out the very slight trace of a smile on his lips.

‘Look, we’ve spent a lot of time together these last two months and I know that things have never been exactly great between us, mainly due to me being a prat,  but lately I’ve been thinking, feeling that maybe, oh I don’t know how to say it.  Do you think that we could maybe try to put some of that behind us? To try and maybe be… friends, possibly.’

‘Friends?’ I said in disbelief, wondering if I had stepped into some other parallel universe. ‘And why would you want to be friends with me?  What do we even have in common?’

‘Well I don’t know, but I know things about you that no one else knows and you know things about me that no one else knows so I would say that’s a start.’

On one hand every instinct I had told me to run away and not look back, but some other feeling, deep down in my stomach, told me that I desperately wanted to go.  I kept telling myself that I just wanted to go to solve the mystery, to find out why he had suddenly changed, or appear to have changed, yet the other part of me, a part that I couldn’t explain, knew that the mystery had nothing to do with it.

‘Okay then,’ I said eventually and I would swear that he actually looked relieved, ‘but not for a walk.  I’m kind of cold,’ I lied.  Yes it was a bit cold but nothing that I couldn’t handle. The reality was that I didn’t want to be anywhere that public with him.  How would I explain that to Harry and Ron if we bumped into them on the way back from Hogsmeade.  I could just imagine their faces. Not something I wanted to experience.

‘Okay, so not a walk.  That’s fine.  What do you want to do?’

Right somewhere private, somewhere where we wouldn’t be seen. ‘How about the library?’

‘Seriously?’ he said with a look of sheer disbelief on his face.

‘What? What’s wrong with the library?’

‘Well apart from the fact that we have just spent the last two hours in the place for a detention, it’s not exactly the most thrilling place is it? I mean they use it as a punishment.  Why would we voluntarily want to spend more time there?’

‘Fine then, so not the library,’ I said feeling more than a little hurt.  What was wrong with the library? I went there all the time. ‘So what do you suggest then?’

‘Well, what about the quidditch pitch or getting something to eat?’

 ‘You want to eat? Where?’ I said skipping past the quidditch pitch suggestion.

‘Well the Owlery of course, it has a great selection of bird feed I hear.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Oh for goodness sake Granger.  Where does one usually go to find something to eat in Hogwarts? The great hall of course. Unless you can suggest anywhere better,’ he said with his trademark smirk.

 If it had been Ron or even Harry who had given me that answer I would have probably laughed, but the words had not come from them, they had come from Malfoy and he did not make jokes unless they were at someone else’s expense, which meant that he was making fun of me which needless to say I did not appreciate it.

‘I know this may be hard for you, but stop being such a prat,’ I said, regretting the words I was saying as his smirk visibly wilted. Okay so maybe he was just joking.  Draco Malfoy had a sense of humour. Who knew? ‘And I do know of a better place as a matter of fact.  Somewhere much better than the great hall,’ I said smiling at him, trying to lighten the mood.’

 ‘Oh yeah, really? I’m intrigued.’

 

We walked in complete silence as I led the way, with him following only a slight step behind me.  It didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about the fact that my back was turned on him.  Wasn’t it a well-known fact never to turn your back on your enemy? But then was he even my enemy anymore?  I didn’t really have time to contemplate why I was suddenly trusting Malfoy as I eventually reached my destination, stopping directly in front of the painting with the pears that I had been through many times before. I turned to look at Malfoy giving him a quick indication that we were here.

Raising a quizzical eyebrow, he gave a quick look around before turning back to me, with a look of complete bewilderment.

‘So this is your ‘way better’ place.  An empty corridor,’ he said slowly nodding his head and pursing his lips.  ‘Now not that this isn’t lovely, but are you going to magically produce some food from inside your robes or are we just here to admire the view?’

‘Just wait and see,’ I ordered, tiring of his sarcasm.

I leaned forward to touch the pear trying to find the right spot to touch, well aware that Malfoy was peering over my shoulder with a look that bordered on disturbed.  I was pretty sure that at this point he thought I was insane.

‘What are we going to eat the paintings now? To be honest I think I would have preferred the owlery.’

‘Well you feel free to go and eat some bird food if you prefer, but I think I’ll just stay here and perhaps have some of that delicious sticky toffee pudding that they served last night, or perhaps some hot- chocolate.  Or then again I might just have both,’ I said, smiling in a very smug and satisfied way that I couldn’t have stopped even if I had wanted to, as Malfoy’s eyes changed from confused to as wide as saucers as the portrait finally swung open.

‘After you,’ I said holding out my arm for him to lead the way, laughing at the look of complete and utter bewilderment on his face as he passed by me.

‘I never even knew these were here,’ Malfoy said, as he stood just inside the entrance of the portrait hole, looking around in wonder at the house elves who were scuttling around the large stone kitchen, clearly busy preparing that night’s dinner.

‘Well where exactly did you think the food comes from,’ I asked, unable to keep the condescension out of my voice.

‘I dunno I suppose,’ he shrugged, ‘I never really thought about it.’

‘Of course you didn’t,’ I mumbled, thinking he wouldn’t be able to hear me, although something about the way that he narrowed his eyes told me that he had.

 I quickly moved over to the table nearest us and catching a passing house elf, I quickly asked if it would be okay if we sat at the table and thanked him when he said that it would be fine. I didn’t miss the look that crossed Malfoy’s face as he witnessed our interaction.

  We sat in silence for a moment, me sitting perfectly at ease, Malfoy considerable less so, as his eyes darted about, watching the house elves at work. 

‘Miss Granger,’ a high pitched voice to my left said. I turned around to come face to face with an older looking house elf, that looked somewhat familiar to me. ‘You has come back again. You has not been here in quite some while.’

‘No, no I haven’t,’ I replied, watching as the house elves large eyes fell onto Malfoy who was sitting opposite me. ‘Em, this is Draco, um, Draco Malfoy,’ I said trying to keep my voice steady as the house already saucer plate eyeballs widened even further, something that not only I noticed.

‘You is most welcome,’ the house elf said eventually, giving in to their nature and being polite at all times. ‘And what can I get for you miss?’

  After I had asked for some hot- chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows which was my personal favourite, especially on cold days like today and Draco had asked for the same; which I think had a sneaky suspicion he had only asked for because he was too afraid to ask for anything different, we finally turned to each other and I felt a brief moment of panic. What exactly was I supposed to say to him?  What did one say to the person that they had considered to be their enemy for seven years?  I was beginning to regret even coming here in the first place.  What was I even hoping to achieve? I was about one second away from leaving when Draco eventually spoke first, breaking the tension.

 

 

‘So how come you know how to get into the kitchen?’

‘Oh we used to come here all the time.  Harry used to like visiting Dobby,’ I answered feeling the familiar stab of pain deep in my chest.

‘Dobby, why was he here? I thought he was set free.’

‘He was.  Dumbledore hired him and paid him to work here,’ I answered smiling as the memory of Dobby pottering about in his tea cosy hat and mis- matched clothes, so happy to finally to be free.

‘He paid him?’ Draco asked in disbelief.

‘Yes Draco, he paid him.  He was a free elf and he deserved to be paid for his work.  He wasn’t some sort of slave.  In fact none of them are.  They all deserve to be treated better,’ I answered, my voice rising in anger.  Typical Draco Malfoy to not even think about others.

‘That’s not what I meant,’ Draco said quickly with a look that was whether of anger or panic.  ‘It’s just not heard of though.  It’s so unusual to have a house elf that gets paid.  I’m glad he was happy though.  My Father was so pissed off when Potter conned him into setting Dobby free.’

‘Well he deserved it. He was so happy when that happened,’ I said smiling fondly at the memory.

‘You keep talking about him in the past tense.  Did he… I mean did Bella…’

‘Yes.  She did,’ was all I could manage to say. I really didn’t want to think about that woman.

‘I wasn’t sure what happened.  I knew Bella had thrown the knife but I always hoped she had missed. I should have known she had hit her target. She never missed.’

‘He got hit in the chest.  Right above his heart. He died almost straight away. He died in Harry’s arms, right by the sea. He was happy I think. Harry was so distraught.  Probably just as much as he was when he lost Dumbledore or Sirius. He buried him. He dug a grave all by himself.  He didn’t even use magic.  It just seemed important to him after all Dobby did for us.’

‘Of course he did,’ Draco mumbled under his breath, but loudly enough that I still caught it.

‘What did you just say,’ I asked, my voice rising more than a few octaves.

‘What, em, nothing,’ Draco said panic creeping into his features.

‘Yes you did I heard you. And don’t you dare start having a go at Harry for doing something good. He is one of the most genuine and the most decent people that you will ever meet, unlike...’ I said trailing off when Draco’s eyes snapped up to meet mine.

‘Unlike me, you mean,’ he stated simply.

I didn’t deny it and I couldn’t deny it. It had been exactly what I was going to say and we both knew it. Instead I simply turned my head away leaving him in no doubt what I thought. How dare he of all people start having a go at Harry! He had absolutely no right.

‘Look I’m sorry,’ he said after a moment of silence, ‘it’s just that Potter always does the right thing.  Everyone always goes on about how wonderful and how good he is and no please let me finish,’ he said stopping me from interrupting as I had just been about to.

‘Look when I was younger I was brought up to believe that I was the best. I was a pureblood and not just any pureblood, I was half Malfoy and half Black. I was the product of two of the greatest wizarding families there have ever been. When I was younger everyone would look up to our family, everyone wanted to be our family and to know our family and when I got to Hogwarts I thought it would be the same.

But then Potter showed up and all everyone could talk about was him and I’ll admit I was jealous.  He got all the attention that I should have had. I even tried to make friends with him and he shot me down completely.  I was totally humiliated. He chose a Weasley over someone from the greatest wizarding family. It kind of hurt my pride.’

‘And you think that gives you the right to behave however you want?  To hurt anybody that you want?’

‘No of course not, but I was young. I did things that I’m not proud of and I am trying to become a better person.’

He paused for a moment again, looking deep in thought as he watched the house elves hurry and rush about the kitchen.  He was silent for a long time before he eventually spoke again.

‘Do you think that people can change?  Can someone bad, someone… evil, become good again,’ he asked, looking at me hopefully.

 I knew what my answer was straight away.  I had read enough fairy tales when I was younger to have a pretty solid perception of good and evil and as I had gotten older those beliefs had only intensified.  I had seen pure evil.  I had looked it right in the eye.  I had witnessed first-hand what evil could do and what it was capable of and just how destructive it could be.

  I opened my mouth to speak the answer that I so firmly believed in, but as I glanced up and looked at Draco’s expectant face, I faltered.  I suddenly realised why he asked me the question.  Too late I had realised what he wanted from me.  What he wanted me to say.

 He seemed to sense my hesitation and his hopeful expression turned immediately anxious.  He continued to survey my face, waiting for my answer.

I waivered under his scrutiny and felt uncomfortable under the weight of his expectant stare. Could I really tell him the truth, what I really thought? In the end I turned my gaze away.

‘What?’ he asked eventually when I continued to say nothing, ‘please tell me.’

When I continued to stay silent he shuffled forwards in his seat, perching right on the very end, leaning in closer towards me, limiting my escape, giving me nowhere else to look but directly into his eyes.

‘Please tell me.  Just be honest with me.  I want to know.’

‘But why does it even matter?  Why does it matter what I think? Why do you care?’

‘I just have to know. Please,’ he said sounding so desperate that I knew he wasn’t going to give in.

‘Fine,’ I said eventually, ‘no.’

‘No,’ he repeated sounding unsure.

‘No I don’t think that an evil person can become good again.  I think that evil becomes so deep rooted within people that it becomes a part of who they are.  They can’t escape from it even if they want to.  It’s works its way into their soul and it affects the way that they think and the way that they act.  I think that there are some things that a person can’t come back from.  Actions so cruel and evil that they change who you are.  Change your way of thinking and once you’ve made that change there’s no way back.  Once the evil’s inside you it just festers away and becomes so deep rooted that you can’t escape from it.  It just spreads and spreads until there isn’t a trace of humanity or conscience left and you end up like Voldemort or Bellatrix where taking people’s lives comes so easily that you don’t feel even the slightest bit of remorse or guilt and the only joy you are able to feel is when you take someone else’s life.  So no, I don’t think a person like that could ever become good again.’

When I finished I took a deep breath and worked up the courage to look at Draco’s face to see his reaction to my words and was cautious when I was met with his emotionless face.  For an eternity all I could do was look at him while he remained silent and still as a statue.

 Eventually he lowered his eyes and in a voice no more than a whisper finally said, ‘so there’s no hope for me then.’

He slumped forward in his chair and rested his elbows on his knees, bringing his hands up to his face and started to run his fingers through his hair before pulling back, covering his face with his hands, still pulling on the ends of his hair.

  He looked so desolate and so defeated that despite my best intentions I couldn’t help but feel more than a little sorry for him.  The strong self-assured man with the steely grey eyes and an exterior to match, who never betrayed even an ounce of emotion had crumpled completely in-front of me. He looked so much like a lost little boy who had just found out that his world was ending and my heart went out to him.  All I wanted to do was take away the pain that I had caused.

‘Look I’m sorry, I didn’t mean...’

‘No,’ he said suddenly, cutting me off and pulling his hands away from his face to reveal the despair etched onto his face, ‘don’t try and change it now.  You were honest with me and that’s what I asked for.’

‘Yes but you didn’t let me finish.  I truly believe that someone evil, someone truly evil can never become good again.  But I don’t think that that applies to you.  I don’t think you are a bad person.  I don’t think that you’re evil.’

‘You don’t,’ he said, looking up at me warily.

‘No, I don’t,’ I replied truthfully.

In the blink of an eye he became distressed once more, standing up so suddenly his chair toppled over behind him, crashing against the hard stone floor.  More than a few of the house elves eyed him warily and shuffled quickly out of sight.  Clearly they were aware of the rumours surrounding the Malfoy’s and were not going to stick around to witness it first-hand. I tried my best to give them a reassuring smile, as they backed away from Draco, but he didn’t even seem to notice.  His eyes remained firmly locked onto me.

‘Stop lying to me,’ he shouted, clearing the last of the house elves from the room. ‘You know exactly who I am and what I’ve done and you of all people should know just how bad I am. You said that some things are too bad to come back from and I have done bad things, so many horrific things and I don’t know how to come back from them.’

‘Yes but good and evil isn’t quite as straightforward as that.  It’s not that black and white.  You can be a good person and still do stupid things, bad things, but as long as you know that it’s wrong and you feel remorse and guilt then that’s what stops you from becoming evil.  You said so yourself before that you didn’t want to do those things.  That you were forced into it out of fear.’

‘But I’ve still hurt people.  I’m a killer.  It’s my fault Dumbledore’s dead and I nearly killed Katie Bell and Weasley and there are others. So many more, you can’t even imagine.’

I winced at the pain of the memories that immediately flashed into my mind and had to quickly dispel the anger and hate that I had felt about him in the past for his part in all of that, even though deep down I knew that it wasn’t wholly his fault and he had merely been a part of a bigger plan. One of Voldemorts numerous pawns.

  In that moment, for some reason that I could not explain, I needed him to know that he could be good again.  The proud Draco Malfoy had crumbled before me, slowly unravelling and I knew that I had been the cause of it. I was terrified that what I had said was going to send him over the edge, send him back to the dark side for good and I knew that I had to bring him back.  I had to be the one to make him see that he could be good again, that he was a good person. I had to tell him the truth that no one had probably told him before.

‘Look just calm down and sit down.  If I truly believed you were the epitome of evil do you honestly think that I would be here with you now?’ I said with a slight smile, trying to lighten the mood slightly. He just stood perfectly still, ignoring my request for him to sit down, but I watched his face carefully, watched a series of emotions cross his features and when he finally seemed to have calm down slightly, I felt safe enough to continue.

 

 ‘Ok so Yes Katie and Ron were your fault,' he looked up startled at that, ‘but Dumbledore’s death was far bigger than just you.  He knew what Voldemort wanted you to do and he wanted you to do it. He had it all planned out, he arranged with Professor Snape that if you couldn’t do it, then he should.’

‘And why would he do that?’ he asked sceptically, barely even meeting my eyes as he spoke.

‘Because he was trying to protect you.  Despite what you may have thought he was not a silly old fool.  He was a genius.  He knew that he was going to die and so he did an honourable thing and tried to protect you.  He made sure that he didn’t die in vain. He didn’t want you to suffer.’

Draco stopped for a moment and thought through what I was just said, but as quickly as he considered my words, he just as quickly dismissed them.  He shook his head in frustration and started to pace the room once more.

‘But I tried to kill him. I’m still responsible.’

‘Draco will you listen to me,’ I said standing up and placing my hands on the table.  ‘You were part of a bigger plan, but in the end you didn’t go through with it.  You lowered your wand.  You did nothing wrong. And I think that Dumbledore knew that you wouldn’t do it. I think that’s why he arranged with Professor Snape that he should do it if you couldn’t. He knew that you weren’t a bad person. He knew that you weren’t a killer.’

‘You don’t get this without being a bad person,’ he yelled, rolling up the sleeve on his left arm.  Even from the distance across the table I could make out the hideous mark scarring his skin.  Against the pale white of his skin, the twisting black snake and skull stood out even more, highlighting every inch of the dark mark that I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

‘You don’t get this without seeing terrible things, without doing terrible things.  You have no idea of the things that I’ve done. You can’t even begin to imagine.’

But of course I could imagine and that thought made me sick to my very stomach.  The thought of all the evil atrocities that he would have been a part of made me want to walk out of that room and never look at his face again. But as I drew my eyes away from his arm and up to face I realised that the look of disgust that was etched onto my face was mirrored on his as he gazed down at the hideous mark disfiguring his otherwise perfect skin.

  ‘You know in our sixth year, Harry was so convinced that you had become a death eater,’ I said moving out from behind the table and walking slowly toward him. ‘

He was so sure that you were one of them.  He was quite obsessed with trying to find out what you were up to. It was quite annoying actually.  But I didn’t think that you were.  I don’t know why but I didn’t think that you had it in you to become a death eater and I mean that in the best way possible.  All that year, we could see that you were ill; you just looked so run down all the time. Anyone could see that you were scared and now we know why.  You didn’t want to do what he told you do and you were suffering because of it. And that Draco is what makes the difference.  It what makes you different from rest of them,’ I said coming a stop, directly in front of him.

‘Because you didn’t want to do it and in the end you didn’t and you may not think that it’s enough, but I do. This mark may be on your arm, but you don’t have to let it define you.  It’s doesn’t have to be who you are. You get to choose that.’

‘I don’t understand why you’re trying to defend me?  Why are you even bothering? You hate me.  Why should you even care?’

‘Believe me, I am asking myself that very question. I just, ugh, I guess I’ve seen a different side to you in the past couple of weeks.  And after what I said, I didn’t want you to think that I meant that you were a bad person.  I really and truly don’t believe that.’

Draco took a moment to think and eventually rolled his sleeve back down, covering his mark and in that moment I knew that he was back and that the panic was over.

‘Well thank you,’ he said once he had buttoned his sleeve back up, ‘After what I’ve done, you really didn’t have to say any of that.’

‘You’re welcome,’ I answered, wondering what exactly I was supposed to do now. I was pretty sure there wasn’t a set etiquette on how to deal with a situation like this and so I made the only decision that I could, I decided to leave.   ‘Well I suppose I had better be going,’ I said moving away from him and edging closer to the door.

‘No wait,’ Draco said, stepping in front of me and blocking my exit. ‘Please just stay for another moment.  We didn’t even get our drinks. We could still get something.’

‘Well that might be difficult since you’ve scared away every single house elf in the entire kitchen,’ I said half serious, half-jokingly.

At that point, he looked away from me and looked around the kitchen with a look of shock on his face.

‘But I didn’t mean to, I just… and you still think that I am a good person. Take a look around, how can you possibly think that,’ he said, starting to look desolate again.

‘Oh would you just sit down,’ I snapped, startling him out of his little panic. ‘I have just spent the last ten minutes telling you why I don’t think you are Satan’s spawn and I am certainly not going to go through it all again. Now you asked me if I wanted something and thanks to you I’m still waiting, so are you planning to sit down or do I have to sit here alone?’

Draco just looked at me, blinking a few times in complete shock, before moving across the room to sit down opposite me. ‘Sorry,’ he muttered.

‘It’s fine.’

I managed to call a house elf back over, which wasn’t easy as the majority of them seemed to have scarpered and asked them to bring us our hot chocolates when they had a free moment.

‘You know you’re pretty scary when you’re angry,’ Malfoy said with his trademark smirk.  He was back. I never thought I would be glad to see him smirk, but I was so relieved to see him back to normal that I couldn’t help but supress a grin of my own.

‘Yes so I’ve heard. So you’d better not piss me off again Malfoy. Who knows what I’d do next time.’

‘Well you’ve already blown apart a class room and given half a class boils, so I’m not entirely what you could do to top that.’

‘Excuse me, if I remember correctly I was not the only one who was responsible for blowing apart a classroom.’

‘Oh believe me, I remember. How could I forget when we’re still serving the longest punishment ever given to Hogwarts students?’

  I was still smiling, when the house elves brought us two large steaming mugs of hot chocolate.  The smell wafted through the air, making my mouth salivate before I had even tasted a drop. I held the mug in my hands, waiting for it to cool down slightly, before I drank. Malfoy, didn’t wait, he jumped straight in and started gulping his down like there was no tomorrow.  I burst out laughing when he put his mug down and face was covered in cream.

‘What?’ he asked bemused when I kept on giggling.

‘You’ve got a little, em,’ I hesitated, pointing toward my face.

‘What? Oh,’ he said wiping away the cream from his mouth with the back of his hand.  ‘You know I still can’t believe that I didn’t know about this place and you did. You know you are turning into quite the mystery Granger.’

‘Meaning what exactly?’

‘Well first of all you know secret places around the castle, you blow apart a classroom and then there’s still that thing about polyjuice potion,’ he asked almost questioningly.

I just smiled back at him as innocently as possible, determined to give nothing away.

‘So you’re really not going to tell me about it then?’

‘Nope.’

‘But you really made polyjuice potion in second year for something to do with me?’ he asked with a raised eyebrow.

‘Perhaps.’

‘I will figure it out one of these days you know,’ he said suddenly serious.

‘Oh I’m sure you will.’

I stopped and took a drink of my hot chocolate, enjoying the feeling of the warm delicious drink sliding down my throat, sending warmth spread throughout my veins. I set my mug down on the table in front of me and glanced back up to find Malfoy staring intently at me. He reached out with one hand, hesitantly reaching out towards my face.  Gently he extended one finger and very softly wiped a trace of cream away from the side of mouth. A shot of heat spread throughout my body, although this time it had nothing to do with the hot chocolate.

‘You know you are nothing like I thought you were,’ he said, still staring at me seriously.

‘Is that a compliment?’

‘Yes it is. For a start I didn’t know you could be such a rebel. I like it,’ he said smirking once more.

‘Well for the record, you’re not so bad yourself. You’re not quite as much of an arrogant arse as you used to be.’

‘Gee thanks. Don’t go too overboard on the compliments there.’

‘Well I wouldn’t want it to inflame your ego anymore now would I?’

He rolled his eyes in response, but I could tell that he was smiling and I couldn’t help but smiling back.  As I looked at him, it was like a cloud was lifted and I suddenly realised who it was that was sitting across the table from me and it was like waking up from a daydream. Suddenly I felt a little uncomfortable once more.

‘Look we should probably get going; it looks like they want us out,’ I said gesturing to the house elves that were cautiously making their way back into the kitchen.  ‘They probably need to get the dinner ready.  We wouldn’t want to be the reason hundreds of students go hungry now would we.’

We stood up and I thanked the house elves that instantly came rushing over to clear the table and we made our way back out of the kitchen and back into the reality of the castle.

‘Thanks Granger, it was… well I would say fun, but I’m not entirely sure that parts of it were.  Sorry for freaking out on you.’

‘It’s fine, seriously, just…’ I stopped, seeing people walk past the end of the corridor and pushed Draco into an alcove where a statue stood.

‘What are you doing?’ Draco asked shocked, looking at down at the hands that were still placed firmly on his chest, raising his eyebrow in that quizzical way that made me sure that his trademark smirk wasn’t far behind.  

‘Sorry,’ I said dropping my hands instantly to my sides, feeling the embarrassment creep up inside me, being sure to look anywhere but at him, ‘it’s just that people are starting to come back from Hogsmeade,’ I finished rather pathetically.

‘So I see. And you don’t want to be seen with me?’ he questioned in a tone that despite my best intentions, made me look up into eyes that looked more than a little disappointed.

‘It’s not that, it’s just I don’t want to have to explain and I really don’t think Harry and Ron, especially Ron, would understand.  Hell I don’t even understand myself. And besides I’m sure the Slytherin’s wouldn’t take it too well if you were seen with me,’ I said in defence.

‘I really don’t care what they think,’ he exclaimed, ‘but I see your point. Why make a fuss over nothing, eh? Well I guess I’ll go first then, save you from being seen with me.  I wouldn’t want to ruin your reputation.  See you on Monday.’

And with that he was gone, walking away from me, without looking back.  For some strange reason I had the feeling like I had done the wrong thing and I felt almost disappointed at how it had ended.

I didn’t have time to dwell on why, as I heard someone behind me calling my name.

‘Hermione, hey what are you doing down here,’ came the voice of Harry.  I turned around to find Harry, Ron and Ginny walking towards me, laden with shopping bags.  I gave a quick glance behind me just to make sure that Malfoy was gone and breathed a sigh of relief when there was nothing down the corridor but statues.

‘Oh nothing.’

‘Really, then why do you look guilty.’

‘I’m not, I was just…’

‘Sneaking into the kitchens again. Disgraceful Hermione,’ Harry teased.

 ‘Well not all of us have had the chance to stuff out faces at The Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes.  So how was it?’ I asked, trying to divert the tension away from me.

‘Yeah it was good to be out of the place, instead of being cooped up, no offense.’

‘None taken.’

‘The place is just how it used to be.  A couple of shops are still empty and Gladrag’s still hasn’t opened back up, but there’s a new quidditch shop, which is amazing.’

‘Great. Just what we need,’ I said rolling my eyes.

‘So how was your day? Anything interesting happen?’ Ginny asked.

Oh I just sat and drank hot chocolate of all things with your life- long enemy, persuaded him that he wasn’t evil, agreed to be friends with him and actually had a pretty good time talking with him.  Hmm I’m not sure that would go down well, although it would be almost worth it to see the reactions.

‘Nope nothing,’ I lied, ‘nothing interesting at all.’

 If only you knew the truth, I thought to myself.

 

 






A/N- First off I am so, so sorry for how long it has taken me to write this chapter. I had a little break over the summer and then I kind of couldn't really think what to write when I came back to it, so I went back to the start and edited some of the earlier chapters that I really wasn't happy with and I'll be updating those soon.

  So I hope that this chapter makes up for the wait you've had.  It's my longest chapter so far and as you can see things are starting to get interesting.
So now that I've rambled enough, please, please, please let me know what you think.  I had an amazing response to the last chapter and so many reviews, so please write me a quick review for this one. Thanks again for reading this story and sticking with me. x

2/10/12- Did a few minor edits to fix the spelling and other stupid mistakes. Sorry x
 
 
 


Chapter 16: Confessions
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AN- Sorry that this is the second version of this chapter posted within a week but I just felt the first edit was missing something.  I made the mistake of reading The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire and Draco is such a jerk that when I was writing, I forgot that he is actually supposed to be a good guy. Anyway sorry for changing it so soon, but I do like this version better.

 




If I had thought that the day couldn’t get any weirder, I was most assuredly proved wrong.  Harry and Ginny were busy filling me in about what had happened at Hogsmeade and all the local gossip from the landlady at The Three Broomsticks. They had also made a visit to The Hogs Head to see Aberforth Dumbledore, who was apparently reluctantly basking in the glory of his new found fame, with an increasingly busy pub, something that Madame Rosmerta was none too pleased about. To be honest I wasn’t overly interested in hearing about the latest kind of quills to be sold or the new cauldrons available, but today I listened intently.  Normally hearing about they had been up to whilst I had been stuck in detention would have brought out my jealous side, but today I listened aptly, asking as many questions as I could possibly think of, just to keep the conversation going.

  I was well aware that they were already slightly suspicious that I was hiding something. Every time I thought about Draco leaning in and brushing the side of my mouth, I felt a blush creep across my cheeks, something that Ginny was all too quick to pick up on.  Then whenever anyone of them mentioned anything detention, I found myself stiffen and get all paranoid and jumpy that they knew what had been going on.  So I was doing my very best to distract not only them, but also myself. At all costs, I had to stop my mind from wandering too far back to earlier in the day.  I had to stop thinking about him.

However if I was being unusually chatty, then Ron was being unusually quiet and I couldn’t help but get the feeling that he was still annoyed with me for blowing him off the day before. He sat just about as far away from me as he possibly could and sat staring moodily into the fire. I noticed Harry and Ginny exchange meaningful glances once or twice that I tried to pretend not to notice. I really didn’t even want to think about what the glances meant.  For a brief moment, I started to panic that they had seen me with Draco earlier that day, but I quickly dismissed it.  Draco had been long gone before they had appeared which meant that either they were completely oblivious to the reason behind Ron’s mood, or even more worrying they knew exactly what was going on, which made the whole thing horribly more awkward.  So I did the only thing I could and chose to completely ignore it and try to act like normal, if slightly hyper, which given the frequent awkward silences, was easier said than done.

  Once we had exhausted all possible topics of conversation; believe me I had racked my brains trying to think of something to talk about but I was coming up with nothing, we eventually eased into a gentle silence.  Ron stayed in his current position of sitting by the fire, whilst Harry and Ginny played a game of exploding snap.  I for want of anything else better to do, pulled out my book again, beginning where I was interrupted earlier in the day by Malfoy.  Once again I found myself reading over the same words again and again, my mind reeling back to the events of the day.  As I stared at the words on the page, I kept replaying the day’s events in my head.  He had been so sweet and I had actually enjoyed being with him.  He had told me some of his deepest secrets; he had laid himself bare for me.  I had a feeling that I had seen a side of him that no one else had, something which I felt slightly weird about and yet a strange happy feeling at the same time.

Although all of that, all of those feelings were soon squashed by a feeling of guilt that dropped like a lead weight in the pit of my stomach as I remembered the disappointed look in his eyes as he realised that I didn’t want to be seen with him, that I was embarrassed by him. It was just an instinct reaction.  What would people say if they had seen us together? If they had known that we were becoming friends. I was so confused, I just didn’t know if I had done the right thing, or whether I was just being stupid. I had told him earlier that day that I thought he had changed; but did I truly believe that? Did I honestly think that he was no longer the cruel bully who had so often before taunted not only me but anyone that he had felt to be inferior to him, which let’s be honest was just about everyone.   On the one hand he was being incredibly honest and nice to me and I told him things that I hadn’t been able to tell anyone else, even my closest friends and yet clearly deep down I still didn’t trust him.  My actions earlier in the day had shown that very clearly.

I continued my debate in my head, going round and round in circles, never really fully reaching an answer, before I asked the question that was running though my head, out loud, before I could stop myself.

‘Has Malfoy change?’ I blurted out, wincing as I glanced nervously over at the three people beside me whose heads had immediately popped up, with confusion displayed in each of their eyes.

‘What? Why are you asking?’ Harry asked slowly, clearly confused as to why we were talking about Malfoy.

‘I don’t know,’ I said immediately regretting the words that had just come out of my mouth. But I figured that a conversation about Draco Malfoy was never going to go overly well anyway and now was really as good a time as any.   ‘But do you?’ I urged again, not wanting him to try and change the subject.  Now that I had started, I was damn well sure I was going to get an answer.

‘Well I certainly don’t,’ came Ron’s scoffing voice from by the fire, ‘once a slimy git, always a slimy git.’

I looked over at Ron, fighting the urge to roll my eyes at his obvious reaction. Draco and Ron were two people who were designed to always hate each other, regardless of what happened between them.  Draco could literally sprout angel wings and Ron would still think he was the devil in disguise.

‘Harry?’ I asked, looking to the one person whose opinion I truly wanted.

‘I don’t know Hermione,’ Harry said awkwardly, clearly not wanting to say anymore, but when I held his gaze, clearly indicating that I wanted an answer, he reluctantly continued. ‘I guess that he doesn’t seem as bad as he used to.  I mean he hasn’t called anyone a… well, you know, in a while.  And then he seemed to change before the war ended so I don’t know maybe he has changed. Why do you ask?’ he said looking at me with a questioning gaze.

‘Hermione,’ Harry said firmly when it looked like I wouldn’t answer.

‘I don’t know I just wanted to know what you thought,’ I said in a voice that I knew immediately sounded too false and so when Harry raised an eyebrow at me, I knew I had to continue to try and explain myself. ‘Look, remember I’ve had to spend detentions with him and I don’t know, he just doesn’t seem to be as bad as he used to.  I just wondered what you thought.  Whether you thought he had actually changed,’ I added when Harry’s other eyebrow joined his other one, halfway up his forehead and Ron’s head whipped around in my direction.  The first time he had actually looked at me all day.

‘Not as bad as he used to be.  Are you actually serious,’ Ron asked in a scathing voice, turning fully round to face me completely, his eyes a mixture of anger and disbelief.   ‘Are you forgetting all the things he’s said to you and done to you in the past? Are you forgetting the small fact that just a couple of weeks ago he attacked you in potions class, hence the reason you are even in detention with him in the first place?’

‘He didn’t attack me Ron; I was just as much to blame as he was.  In fact I’m probably more to blame,’ I answered, ignoring of the curious looks I was getting.  I had never actually told the others what had happened in that potions class.  They had just assumed that Draco had started it and I conveniently had never quite gotten around to correcting them.

‘Yeah well,’ Ron continued, clearly determined not to let it go, ‘he still has that look on his face, like he’s looking down his nose at everyone.  Like he’s better than everyone else.’

‘Well that is probably because of the way everyone else is looking at him. If people glare at you, then you are going to glare back,’ I retorted once more, wondering why I was still defending Draco Malfoy to Ron Weasley.  I would say stranger things had happened and yet I really couldn’t think of an example.

‘I can’t believe that we are actually having this conversation.  I can’t believe that you’re taking Malfoy’s side,’ Ron said standing up to stand fully in front me. 

‘I’m not taking his side,’ I replied, standing up to join Ron in his elevated state. Ron was tall enough as it was; he already loomed over me enough without me being at a lower elevated state.  Standing up to face him helped to make me feel at least a little like I wasn’t a five year old being given into trouble. ‘Look Ron I was just asking the question and besides I think you’re being a little biased don’t you think.’

‘No I don’t and besides I’m not having this conversation anymore. Hearing you singing Draco Malfoy’s praises is hardly how I want to spend the night.  I’m off to bed where I don’t need to listen to this crap.’

I stood and watched as Ron stomped up the staircase, waiting until he had gone past the balcony at the top of the stairs before I turned around to face Harry and Ginny, who were both wearing faces that clearly said ‘what the hell was that all about?’

Ignoring their questioning glances, I slumped back onto the large red sofa behind me, pretending that I couldn’t see Harry and Ginny sharing little looks. We sat in silence for at least another five minutes, although there was a definite tension in the air.  Ginny eventually stood up, giving Harry a quick kiss and declaring that she was off to bed. She also not so discreetly gave a Harry a meaningful look before nodding at me.  Great, just I wanted.  The meaningful but ever so awkward chat. Harry stood and watched Ginny walking up the stairs, waiting until she was fully out of view, before turning to me with a look that clearly said I don’t want to do this, before sitting down beside me.  

‘Sooo, he began awkwardly, ‘what was that all about?’

‘What?’ I said as innocently as I possibly could.

‘That! With the Draco Malfoy thing! Since when have you ever stuck up for him?’

‘I wasn’t sticking up for him, I just… I just don’t know if he’s the same person anymore.  I was just curious about what you thought,’ I said as nonchalantly as I possibly could.

‘Yeah well curiosity killed the cat you know.’

‘You, Mr. Potter are one to talk.’  It was after all a bit rich for him to lecture me on being curious when he was one of the nosiest people that I had ever met.

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Harry said brushing off my comments.  ‘Just don’t go trusting Malfoy too much ok.  I know you’ve spent time with him and I will admit he does he seem better than before.  I mean just think about that night,’ I winced at the memory, not exactly wanting to think about that night, ‘I mean I won’t lie I was surprised that he helped you and  the way that he acted, with McLaggen, it was like he cared for you or something.’ My head shot up at that comment and my heart literally stopped.  ‘I mean he did what I would have done,’ Harry continued, seemingly unaware of my mild heart attack, ‘but it’s still Malfoy. Just be careful.’

‘Harry I’m not stupid.  I know it’s Malfoy and I’m hardly going to go and become his best friend or anything, it’s just that we have to work together this year in potions and detention and he’s at least being civil to me, so I just wanted to know what you thought of it.  After all, you’re the one who’s usually on the lookout for strange behaviour from Malfoy.’

‘Yeah not anymore though.  I’m a retired interferer,’ he said unable to keep the smile off of his face as he stood up.  ‘Look I’m off to bed too. Just remember what I said and be careful. Oh and don’t mind Ron, he’ll be fine tomorrow.’

 

  As it turned out, Harry was right and Ron was back to his usual self the following day.  He was back being friendly and actually taking part in the conversation, not to mention he was actually looking at me again.  No one brought up the Malfoy conversation again, although I could see Harry’s eyes flicker in my direction as said blonde walked into the great hall. Of course I had seen him come in, but I could also see that Harry was watching me just a little too closely, so I made sure to act as uninterested as I possibly could, beginning up a completely random conversation with Luna Lovegood who was sitting at the opposite side of the table from me, about the latest edition of The Quibbler and her father’s latest wild theories.

 Sunday as usual passed all too quickly and it was all too soon Monday morning again.  Ron was once again unusually quiet, barely saying a word to anyone during the whole of breakfast.  At least I knew it wasn’t me who had done something wrong this time.  After spending a little too long chatting at breakfast, we were running slightly late as we made our way down to the dungeons, Ron trailing a few paces behind. Harry, Ginny and I were in the middle of talking about the letter that Ginny had received from George that morning, talking about how his business was going, when we were interrupted by a voice from behind us.

‘Em, Hermione, could I maybe talk to you please?’ Ron said, stopping dead in the corridor.

  I turned to look back at him, confused as to why he was asking to talk to me.  I had kind of thought that was what we were already doing. I gave him a quick nod of agreement, but with my eyebrows raised, in obvious confusion.  We were going to be late for class at this rate and as I turned to face him, I really wished that he would just hurry up and get on with it. However my confusion deepened when I saw Ron give a quick nod to Harry who seemed to take this as some sort of signal.  Giving me a look that I couldn’t interpret, Harry and Ginny both walked passed me, heading towards the dungeons.

‘Ron,’ I asked hesitantly, feeling very much like I was missing something, ‘what is going…’

‘Hermione I need to say this and I need to say this now,’ Ron interrupted suddenly, stepping towards me with an intensity in his eyes that I had never seen before. ‘It’s something that I should have said ages ago, but I don’t know I was scared before, but I’m not anymore.’

‘Ron, what is going on?’ I said, feeling very concerned at Ron’s strange behaviour. It was not like him to be so open about his feelings.  Usually he tried to make a joke and change the subject, so I knew that whatever it was he was trying to tell me must be important.

‘I think I like you,’ he blurted out. ‘I’ve always liked you.  I just didn’t know how to say it before.’

 In that moment it seemed as if the world had stopped moving. Ron’s cheeks flushed pink and he seemed unable to look at me.  I wanted so much to look anywhere else but in Ron’s eyes, but I seemed unable to tear my gaze away.

‘You like me,’ I repeated slowly after a long silence from both of us, not quite able to believe the words that I was saying.

‘Yes.  I… I think I might love you,’ he said awkwardly.

 This whole moment just seemed so surreal.  How long had I waited to hear those words? Two years, three years, four years even. Hell I would have been happy if I he had uttered those words only two months ago.

‘I think I’ve always loved you, I just didn’t realise it until last year,’ Ron said, finally looking back at me.

 ‘You’ve loved me since last year?’  I asked, trying to keep my voice steady as I digested his words.  In all the times that I had imagined hearing Ron say those words, in all the times that I had fantasized about this moment, and there had been many, I had never once responded in the way that I was about to.

 ‘So then why were you going out with Lavender until just a couple of weeks ago?  If you loved me since last year, then why were you ignoring me all summer?’ I said, failing miserably at keeping the anger and frustration from my voice.

Ron flinched slightly at my outburst, but composed himself quickly.  He must have expected me to say that.  After all he must have known how I felt about Lavender.

‘Like I said I was scared. I was scared that you wouldn’t feel the same and so I don’t  know, I guess I tried to prove to myself that I didn’t need you and then I met up with Lavender again and she was  pretty messed up after what happened with Greyback and she needed me and I guess I needed someone too.  I needed to forget about the summer and with her it was just easy I guess.’

‘She needed you and you were there.  What a hero.’ I said, unable to keep the condescension out of my voice. 

Ron looked at me startled, the conversation clearly not going the way he had hoped.

‘What about me?’ I asked, finally letting go of the feelings that I had been harbouring since the summer. ‘I needed you and you ignored me.  You didn’t talk to me all summer.  You made me feel like I was to blame.  You made me think that you didn’t care.’

‘Of course I care Hermione.  I love you.  I want to be with you,’ he said again earnestly, closing the gap between us once more.

I stepped back from him, not quite knowing what to say.  What are so supposed to say when one of your best friends tells you that they love you.

‘Say something.  I mean I’m telling you I love you here,’ Ron said sounding exasperated.

‘Look Ron, I love you too, but only as a friend,’ I added quickly after seeing his eyes light up, only for that light to quickly vanish.  ‘I did love you once, but a lot has changed since then.’

‘Is there someone else?’ Ron questioned, searching into my eyes as if hoping to find the answer.

‘No of course not,’ I answered quickly, although a certain person did pop into my mind, but I quickly pushed those thoughts away, ‘I just think that we’ve both changed.  I think we just missed our chance.’

‘So you don’t love me then.  You don’t want to be with me,’ Ron said with a trace of anger infiltrating into his voice. ‘I’ve just put my heart on my sleeve for you and it’s still not good enough for you.’

‘Excuse me,’ I said getting more and more angry with Ron by the second.  I could understand that he was hurt, but there was no way he was going to put this on me.  ‘Actually Ronald what you’ve actually told me is that you liked me, that you might love me, that you’ve tried not to love me and that you went out with Lavender so you could prove that you didn’t need to be with me, like she was the better option. That you would rather have her help you though things than me.’

Ron looked back at me stunned, clearly not believing quite how the conversation had gone so wrong.  ‘So you’re saying you don’t love me.  You don’t want to be with me,’ Ron said with an expression on his face that broke my heart.  It would be so easy to turn around and say that I loved him too, but I knew that I couldn’t.  I knew that I would be lying if I did that.

 ‘Ron, I do, but as a friend.  Ron please don’t make this harder than it needs to be.  I just want us to be friends like we used to be.  I need you as my friend,’ I pleaded.

Ron stayed silent for a moment, looking deep in thought, hurt etched on each and every one of his features.  Eventually he seemed to compose himself, taking a deep breath and standing up straighter to face me.

‘Hermione you will always be my friend.  I know I’ve hurt you, but I know that you still love me and some day you will realise that.  Some day we will be together,’ he said looking deep into my eyes, before turning and walking away from me down the potions corridor.

As I watched him walk down the corridor, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made the right choice.  If I had made a mistake. How long had I wanted this? How long had I wanted to hear those words?  I closed my eyes and tried to imagine being with Ron, loving Ron.  It would be comfortable.  It was be easy.  He would annoy me at times by being immature but then would be sweet and apologise. It would be safe. Was that what I wanted? Quick answer.  No. It might be cheesy, but I had spent my life reading books with epic romance stories- yes I enjoyed a cheesy predictable chick flick every now and then and I wanted that.  I wanted fireworks, I wanted butterflies in my stomach.  I wanted to feel special.  Ron was the safe choice and at 19 I was not prepared to resign myself to become Mrs Weasley the second.   I knew that I had made the right choice.  Realising that I still had class to get to, I picked my bag off the floor and hurried down the corridor, feeling like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  I had finally let Ron go.

 

 I was the last person to walk into the potions class and Professor Haven was already standing at the front of the class ready to start.  Her narrowed eyes followed me the entire way to my seat and stayed on me as I sat down in my stool.  She continued to watch with her steely gaze as I pulled my things out of my bag. But of course it was one of those situations where you know you’re being watched and you know you have to hurry and so you end up fumbling about and taking even longer. Even once I had fetched by books, parchment and quill from my bag, she continued to watch me for a moment longer, disapproval and annoyance written on each and every one of her features, before she tore her gaze from me to face the rest of the class, putting a smile on her face as she began the lesson. 

‘So now that we are all here,’ she said giving a pointed look in my direction, ‘can anyone tell me the main ingredients in a dreamless sleep potion?’

I of course knew the answer and put my hand immediately into the air, thinking that perhaps answering a question might help to get me back into her good books. However I saw quite clearly that her eyes flicked in my direction, clearly seeing my raised hand, before scanning around the rest of the class, her smile fading as she realised no one else was going to answer.  Seemingly reluctant, she turned towards me, all pretence of a smile now gone. The phrase ‘if looks could kill’ sprung to mind and I withered under her stare, my hand dropping a good foot from its place in the air.

‘Well Granger?’ she said clearly irritated.

‘Em,’ I managed to say, my mind going completely blank.  Yes I was fractionally late, but then so were other people and you didn’t see her giving them the death stare.   Why was everyone against me today?

‘Does somebody who actually knows the answer want to hazard a guess?’ she said looking around the class, as everyone else lowered their eyes and ducked their heads even further.

‘It is very similar to a sleeping draught, containing lavender, flobberworm mucus  and valerian sprigs, but it also contains Lethe River Water and crushed mistletoe berries,’ came a voice from directly beside me.

I couldn’t help but to give a quick glance to the side, trying not to look too annoyed that Malfoy had just stolen my answer.  I met his eye but he just gave an almost imperceptible shrug before looking back to the front of the class.

‘Excellent Mr Malfoy. 10 house points for Slytherin,’ she said giving him an approving nod and dare I say it, nearly a smile. Apparently her hatred was reserved purely for me.

‘Now I suggest that the rest of you get your books out and read over the potion.  You have 45 minutes to make the potion, which you will be doing individually. You may begin.’

The sound of chairs scraping backwards immediately filled the room as people began to get their ingredients.  Apparently they weren’t going to read over the instructions as she had asked.  No doubt if I did that, then that would be another black mark against my name, so reluctantly I opened my book to the correct page, even though I knew very well what I was meant to be doing.

‘Doesn’t seem like she likes you much, does it?’ a familiar voice to my right said.  I reluctantly turned to face him, arching my eyebrows at the amusement written on his features.

‘Doesn’t it,’ I said in my most sarcastic voice, ‘What on earth made you think that?’  Draco simply chuckled as he started on his potion, igniting the fire underneath his cauldron with a flick of his wand.

‘Look don’t take it personally.  She really doesn’t like me much either.’

‘Yeah it really looked like she despises you.  But then I’m sure those house points she gave you will help to ease your hurt.’ I said as I turned back to reading my textbook, hoping to leave the conversation there, but when he just continued to laugh, I couldn’t help but continue.  ‘I just don’t get it. I mean we both blew up her classroom, not just me.’

‘True, although technically you did start it,’ Malfoy said, earning himself, a glare of his own, ‘and I also didn’t turn up late to class,’ he added with a smirk.

‘I was hardly late.  Maybe like a minute, but it’s not like I was the only one and you don’t see her scowling at any of them.’

‘Yes Weasley was late too, but then since he looked like he was about to cry when he walked in, she probably decided to go easy on him.’

‘He was crying?’ I asked in concern, turning around to try and find Ron in the classroom, but he was facing away from me, so I couldn’t tell if what Malfoy had said was true.

‘What trouble in paradise?’ he scoffed, as he followed my gaze.

‘Oh shut up,’ I snapped back.  Had Ron really been crying? He had seemed okay when he had left me.

‘You know it may just be me, but you’re not really supposed to make your boyfriend cry, although it doesn’t surprise me that he would act like the girl in your relationship.’

‘How many times do I have to tell you that he is not my boyfriend?’ I said, saying the last words slowly, in pure annoyance.  Today was so not the day to bring that up again.

‘Well you might want to tell him that,’ he replied, the usual smirk in place.

I slammed my textbook closed in frustration and was about to go and get the ingredients for making my own potion, when Professor Haven came and stood beside me, effectively blocking my way out.

‘Very good Mr Malfoy, that is exactly the perfect shade of lilac.  Have another 10 points for Slytherin.  You clearly have a knack for potions.’

‘Thank you professor.  I’ve had some good teachers.’

It was all I could do to stop myself from rolling in my eyes.  Damn suck up.

‘As for you Miss Granger,’ she said addressing me, as I turned around to face her, trying to keep my face as straight as possible.  I really hoped she hadn’t seen me rolling my eyes at Draco, ‘are you actually planning on beginning your potion sometime today?  You only have 55 minutes left and I must say you have some stiff competition,’ she said looking admiringly back into Draco’s cauldron.

I watched her walk away with a look on my face that could only be described as being thunderous. It was only when I heard a chuckling beside me that was becoming all too familiar that I turned back to my potion, ignoring looking at the blonde wizard beside me. ‘Didn’t have you down as a suck up, especially not to her.’

‘It never hurts to have people on your side Granger and besides, I don’t need to suck up to her. I am the best in the class at potion after all.’

‘Excuse me,’ I spluttered.  I didn’t mean to be big headed and I certainly wasn’t one for blowing my own trumpet, well not since first year anyway, but it had been quite evident in the past that I was the best in the class at potions.

‘What?  Did you think you were the best?’ Malfoy replied with an amused look on his face.

‘No,’ I said, turning around to face him directly, ‘I know that I’m the best.’

‘Hah, sorry to burst your bubble,’ he smirked as he crossed his arms firmly across his chest, leaning casually back against the table, ‘but I have beat you in every potions exam and assignment that we have ever sat together.’

‘Oh really,’ I said trying to calm.  He had beaten me?  I tried to think back.  ‘Not in first year  or sixth year you didn’t’ I said triumphantly.

‘Okay fine, I’ll give you first year and I didn’t actually sit exams in sixth year, but since then I’ve been on top,’ he said smugly.

I tried to think if he really had been any good at potions.  How could I not have noticed that he ahd beaten me. All I could think about what Snape praising him for everything.  He was the teacher’s pet after all. ‘Well that’s only because you were Snape’s favourite,’ I replied, well aware that I was sounding petty and looking pretty desperate.

‘Yeah, yeah, keep telling yourself that,’ he said laughing. ‘Do you really think that he could have gotten away with boosting my grade for five years straight?  Besides someone always cross- examines. Especially for OWL’s and NEWT’s.’

 ‘You are not better at potions that me, ’I replied crossly, ‘and I will prove it.’

‘Oh yeah, how?’ he asked, leaning forward, curiosity evident in his face.

‘Fine, today, here and now,’ I challenged. ‘We’ll see who makes the best potion,’ I said feeling immensely confident.  Today had been a weird day and I just had to do something to take my mind off things.  I had to get something to go my way.

‘If you’re sure,’ he said lightly, with his eyebrow raised, clearly enjoying the challenge, ‘just remember, I’ve got a head start. Game on.’

 

  I had to win.  I was determined to win.  As much as I loved a challenge anyway, this time I had my pride at stake.  I would prove that I was the best at potions.  Harry may have stolen my crown the year before; something which I still held a slight grudge about (he was cheating after all) but I would be damned if I would let Malfoy take it from me this year.  I couldn’t help but eye up the competition, taking a few sneaky glances inside his cauldron.  Professor Haven hadn’t been exaggerating when she said that his potion was perfect.  It was the absolute perfect colour, like the exact colour of lavender but with a shimmery quality on the surface.  The smell that wafted over in my direction was intoxicating and as the soft smell of lavender hit my nostrils, I felt the soothing waves of drowsiness wash over me.  Instantly I snapped myself out of, forcing myself to concentrate. Damn that boy was good, but I was going to be better.

  I looked back at my own potion, spurred on with a determination to be just as good.  My potion was just changing from midnight blue colour to deep purple, when instead of continuing to lighten to the current colour of Malfoy’s, it went in the opposite direction and started to get darker. I continued to stir and stir desperately but all that happened was that the potion kept getting darker and darker.  Frantically I checked my textbook again to see if I had made a mistake.  Add 3 sprigs of lavender to the cauldron and stir turn three times to the left, check. Add 5 crushed valerian sprigs and turn up the heat.  Yep I had done that.  Add the crushed mistletoe berries and stir ten and a half time to the right. Yes I had done all that, so what the hell was the problem. As I looked frantically around for inspiration, I stopped mid movement noticing Malfoy working innocently on his potion.  Too innocently.  In normal circumstances he would have been the first to comment that my potion had gone wrong, but in the current situation it should have been a certainty.  The fact that he had said nothing was just too suspicious.

‘What did you do?’ I asked him in warily, barely keeping my anger in check.

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ he said with a completely innocent expression that I would have bought if for one I hadn’t known that it was Malfoy and two he hadn’t given himself away with an almost imperceptible smirk as he turned away from me.

I turned back to my potion and almost groaned in frustration as I noticed that the flame beneath my cauldron had gone out.  Or been put out.  Fine, if that’s the way he wanted to play it, two could play at that game.

Fixing my potion and finally reaching the place lilac colour I had been aiming for, inspiration struck and I knew what I had to do.  Now all I had to do was wait for my opportunity.  Thank god I was good at multi- tasking.

  As I was stirring my potion, my moment finally came.  Trying not to be noticed, I collected a few sprigs of nightshade from my supplies and ground them into a fine dust.  Then Draco turned around briefly, for little more than a split second to fetch his knife and so I reached over and added some night shade into the pestle that he was using to crush his remaining lavender sprigs.

  I returned to my own potion, trying to look as innocent as possible, but I could barely contain the grin that was forcing its way from my lips as I watched him from the corner of my eye adding the finely ground powder into his cauldron turning the whole mixture jet black. 

‘What the…’Malfoy exclaimed as soon as he saw his potion, looking immediately both panic stricken and confused.

 ‘Oh dear,’ I said leaning over his shoulder to get a better look into the cauldron, trying my hardest to feign concern and not let my delight show too much.  ‘It looks like you’re not so great at potions after all.’

‘This was you wasn’t it,’ he asked whipping around, suspicion and fury evident in his face.

‘I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I said mimicking his tone from earlier, not even bothering to try and mask the smirk that appeared on my lips.

Malfoy however did not waste any time in exacting his revenge, nor did he even try to be subtle about it.  Apparently we were passed that.

‘Oops,’ he said, as he accidently, but oh so on purpose, bumped into me at the exact point I was adding the flobberworm mucus.  The entire contents of the jar hit the liquid with a giant splash, bobbing about at the top for a moment before sinking slowly to the bottom.  I turned to him my face full of fury, as my potion turned a sickly yellow colour and started bubbling.  Malfoy just gave me his usual smug expression and shrugged shoulders before turning back to his own potion, that he had somehow managed return to purple.

  Quickly fixing my own potion with vast amounts of lavender, so that if not quite the perfect shade of lilac, it was at least an acceptable one, I came up with my plan.  Was it childish? Yes.  Was it stupid? Yes, and yet I was still going for it.  Malfoy would not beat me. Scooping up a handful of crushed lavender, I turned to face Malfoy and called his name.  Just as he turned around to face me, I let out an almighty, completely fake sneeze, sending the lavender blowing all over his face. 

  He just blinked a couple of time, as the dust settled onto his hair and his robes, covering him in a lilac dust.  ‘Oh sorry,’ I said, watching as his eyelids started to droop and he struggled to stay focused, shaking his head repeatedly to the side to keep himself awake .  Barely even paying attention to me, he turned back to his potion swaying slightly, as he did, grabbing onto the bench for support.  I couldn’t help but giggle, when he let out a huge yawn that had over the half class turn and stare in his direction.  I don’t think any of them had ever seen a Malfoy behaving in any way that was less than perfect.

  We continued to work for the last ten minutes, me trying to fix my flobberworm mess and Draco fighting to stay awake.  It was quite funny seeing his head bobbing about as he tried to stay awake. Once or twice he had even stopped mid movement as his head lolled to the side only to jerk back up and continue with what he had been doing.

  When Professor Haven eventually called on us to stop and sit in our seats, Draco seemed to have finally woken up somewhat as he sat and stared at me grumpily.

‘Was that really necessary?’ Draco asked me under his breath, through clenched teeth.

‘Was what really necessary?’ I replied, barely even turning around to look at him, watching as Professor Haven walked around the class, checking everybody’s potions individually.

‘Sending me to sleep in the middle of class?’ he hissed in reply.

‘Oh don’t start getting judgemental.  You were the one that started to play dirty so you can’t complain when someone does it back to you.’

Draco seemed ready to retort, opening his mouth to reply, but closing it promptly once Professor Haven came to our table, the last one in the class.

‘Well it seems that most of you have managed to make a successful dreamless sleep potion,’ Professor Haven announced, ‘but I must say that one stood out from the rest.

I sat up straighter, eager to hear who it was, aware that Draco was mimicking my actions.

‘Well done…,’ she began, before pausing dramatically as I leaned forward in my chair in anticipation, ‘…Mr Boot.  Twenty house points to Ravenclaw.’

I slumped back in my seat and looked to Draco shocked that neither of us had won and saw that his face mirrored mine. At the exact same moment we burst into laughter.  I guess after all our sabotage, neither had really had stood a chance.

‘Call it a draw?’ Draco said holding out his hand.

‘A draw,’ I agreed, taking his hand and shaking it.  I could live with that.  ‘And I am sorry for sending you to sleep in class,’ I said, genuinely meaning my apology.

‘Yeah I’m sorry too, for starting it I mean.’

As I looked at Draco and saw him smiling back at me, not trace of the usual Malfoy pride or attitude I thought back to my conversation with Harry.  If Malfoy could make an effort to change then so could I.  Maybe I could do what he had asked.  Maybe we could be friends. And maybe I was just speaking too soon.

‘Hey Draco, you coming?’ came a voice from behind me.  I turned around to find myself face to face with Pansy Parkkinson. ‘Do you mind mudblood, I’m trying to talk to Draco.’

I met Draco’s eyes for the briefest moment and found them as hard as stone, the corners of his mouth turned up into that smirk that I had seen so many times before.  He was laughing.  He was laughing at what Pansy had said. He was laughing at me.  I tried to control my facial features, but I clearly didn’t do a very good job as I’m sure my face showed the hurt I was feeling.

‘Oh did you think he actually liked you? That you were friends?’ she said in her most mocking voice. Her voice then turned as cold as ice as she continued, leaning closer to me so that I could hear every word loud and clear. ‘No pureblood could ever like somebody like you.  No Malfoy could ever like a vile, disgusting mudblood like you.’

 I stood there rooted to the spot, unable to move, her words ringing throughout my ears. I had vowed to myself a long time ago that I would never let them make me cry. Or at least never let them see it, but today, despite my best intentions, I couldn’t help it, my eyes brimmed with tears.  All I could see was Pansy’s smug face as her words rang through my ears, but what surprised me the most, was that it wasn’t Pansy or her words that hurt the most.  It was Draco’s smirk.  It was the fact that he was laughing at me, that he was agreeing with her, that he still thought I was a disgusting mudblood.  After everything he had made me think about him, thinking that he had changed, thinking that he actually liked me, that hurt me the most, piercing through my chest like a cold, hard knife.

  I barged past Pansy, ignoring her cries of ‘don’t touch me mudblood’ as I virtually ran out of the classroom, not even caring that it hadn’t officially ended yet.  Professor Haven hated me anyway and quite frankly the day really couldn’t get much worse.  




 

 





AN- Okay once again sorry for the wait once again.  This chapter has been ridiculously hard to write.  I knew what I wanted to happen, but I just couldn't decide which order things should happen in, but I'm pretty happy with the way it's turned out.  It's turned into another long chapter, but I didn't plan for half of it to happen, it just sort of came when I was writing. But the good news is that I actually have part of the next chapter written so hopefully it won't take too long to get that one up.

  So once again thanks to all the amazing people who are reviewing.  I can't believe how many I have now.  So please review this chapter too. What does everyone think of Ron and Draco?  Please, please review and thanks so much for still reading. x

 
 
 
 


Chapter 16: Changed
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I was hiding.  There was no other way to describe it. It was at times like these I wondered why the sorting hat had put me into Gryffindor.  I was being a coward and I didn’t even care.  He had made a complete and utter fool of me.  Only last night I had been trying to convince the others that he had changed.  God, I had prattled on and on about I had seen a different side to him; how he had been nice to me.  Now, not even twelve hours later I had been proved completely and utterly wrong.  Okay he hadn’t called me a mudblood himself, but he had stood and laughed when someone else had. And they had all seen it. 

  I should have known better than to trust a Malfoy.  I should have known better than to think that he would want to be friends with me.  I should have known better than to have even thought of trying to convince Ron and Harry that he had changed.  I was supposed to be the smart one and yet I was the one who had been made a fool of.

  At least I wasn’t crying anymore.  No the tears had stopped a while ago.  When I had left the dungeons all those hours ago, I had fought so hard to keep the tears at bay, practically running past the few people who were in the corridors when classes were still on.  I ran without really knowing where I was going.  All I knew was that I wanted to be far away from him.  Far away from everyone. I didn’t care that I was missing classes. I couldn’t sit in a class and pretend that everything was fine.

   I only allowed the tears to come when I reached my destination.  I hadn’t really been aiming to come here, but now that I was here, it occurred to me that it really was the only place that I could have gone.  I found myself in one of the top floors of the castle, in a sort of curved alcove, with windows all around.  It was a place I had been many times before throughout the years.  My own special place where I came to think.  I had found it during third year when Harry and Ron had fallen out with me and I had continued to come here when things got tough.  I was here nearly once a week when Ron and Lavender had been going out. I sat in my usual spot, on a window ledge at the left hand side, with the view that overlooked the lake.  I loved sitting here and watching life below.  People rushing about below heading to classes; Hagrid pottering about at the edge of the forest, the first years having their flying lessons; that had been funny to watch.

  Yes my tears had stopped, leaving me feeling nothing but complete and utter mortification and shame, wondering how on earth I was ever going to face the others again.  Then came the anger which was shortly followed by complete and utter fury.  How dare he behave like that?  He was the one who had been trying to convince me that he had changed.  He was the one who had said he wanted to be friends. Well he had a funny way of showing it. I had given him a chance again, against my better judgement and he had betrayed me. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

  I don’t know how long I sat there for, with my head resting against the cool glass, staring at the world below, but I was certainly in no hurry to move, perfectly happy sitting here, hiding from everyone.  I groaned in annoyance when suddenly I heard footsteps coming from along the corridor.  I was not ready to see anyone yet.  No doubt it would be Harry.  He would have probably gone to get the map as soon as classes had ended and found me using that. Why couldn’t people understand that sometimes you just wanted to be alone?  Reluctantly I lifted my head, expecting to come face to face with familiar green eyes and a concerned expression, but was immediately taken aback when I was met with the face of the last person in the world that I wanted to see.

‘So this is where you’re hiding,’ he said in his familiar drawl, leaning casually against the wall at the entrance to the alcove, his arms folded in front of his chest. His arrogant stance and the fact that he was herein my personal space, acting like nothing had happened made me see red. 

‘What is making fun of me in class not enough for you now?  You actually have to some and seek me to taunt? Come on let’s hear it then,’ I said, spinning around in my seat to put my feet on the floor, facing him fully, my eyes hard.

‘What are you talking about?’ he asked in confusion, his casual stance becoming more rigid.

‘Well I assume that there is a reason why you’re here. It’s not like you were taking a leisurely stroll down dead ends of the top floor of the castle.’

  His furrowed his brow, narrowing his eyes, but remained silent. ‘You know what fine, screw this,’ I said standing up, it just didn’t feel right to be sitting down when I was so angry, ‘ I am not going to play your games anymore.  I have had enough of you and your bullshit.’

 I picked up my bag and made a move to get past him, but he held out an arm to block my exit.

‘Get out of my way,’ I said slowly, fury emanating out of every syllable I uttered.

‘Not until you tell me what is going on,’ he said trying to stay calm, but I could see the anger beginning to build up behind his grey eyes.

I made a move to get past him again, but he was not only quicker than me, but also considerably stronger and he didn’t even move an inch when I tried to push past him.

‘Get out of my way,’ I screeched at him again, trying to push past him once more, but failing miserably as he barely moved an inch.

‘Not until you tell me what you’re problem is,’ he hissed back at me through clenched teeth, his voice low.  He leaned forward as he spoke, looking furiously at me and it was only then that I realised how close he was to me.  Or how close I was to him.  There were mere centimetres between us and the thought made me very uncomfortable.

‘You are my problem,’ I retorted, taking a step away from him before turning around and stomping back to the window, trying to put as much distance between us as possible. ‘You and all your crap and your lies and your little mind tricks. I’ve had enough of them all,’ I snapped, throwing my bag on the floor in frustration and throwing myself back onto the window seat like a petulant child.

‘Again, what are you talking about? What lies have I told?’ he said questioningly, taking his arm down away from the wall.  My escape route was clear and I considered making a run for it for all of two seconds but quickly dismissed the idea.  He may have bought his way onto the quidditch team, but he was still a half decent seeker with pretty quick reflexes.  So since running away was out of the equation, I was left with the option of staying and fighting.

‘Oh, I’ve changed, I’m not the person I was, I want to be your friend,’ I answered using my most sarcastic voice and rolling my eyes as I mimicked him.

‘I wasn’t lying when I said all of that,’ he replied with narrowed eyes, ‘I have changed. I thought you believed that,’ he said suddenly serious, sounding almost annoyed.

‘You know I actually did believe it.  I thought that you had changed.  I actually tried to convince the others that you were so different now.  Well more bloody fool me,’ I trailed off quietly.

‘You told them I had changed? Potter and Weasley?’ he questioned, looking at me once again with a questioning gaze.

‘I don’t know why I even bothered,’ I muttered, looking away from him, not wanting him to see the hurt that was in my eyes.

‘But you… you stood up for me?’ he said slowly, disbelief etched into his voice.  

‘Yes and now I’m the one who is made to look like a complete idiot yet again.’

‘Don’t say that,’ he responded quickly, taking a step closer towards me, but stopping as I recoiled away, ‘I have changed. You know I have.’

‘No I thought you had, but now I know for sure that you’re the same old Malfoy that you’ve always been.’

‘You know that that’s not true.’

‘Really and how exactly would I know that? One minute you’re all ‘let’s be friends’ and the next you’re calling me a mudblood.’ He closed his eyes suddenly as I uttered that word, as if it pained him to hear it. All it did was anger me even more. 

‘I never called you that,’ he said, looking thoroughly confused.

‘No you just stood by and laughed while Pansy did,’ I replied, my voice cracking with emotion and hurt at the memory.

‘What? I wasn’t laughing,’ he said adamantly.

‘Smirking, laughing, it’s the same damn thing.  Whatever you did, or didn’t do you clearly agreed with her.’

‘No, I didn’t.’

‘Well you were hardly disagreeing with her,’ I said rather stubbornly not willing to back down, even though I could feel that I was losing some of my anger. He was partly right, he hadn’t been the one to call me a mudblood, but he had laughed about it.

‘And what exactly did you want me to do,’ he asked exasperated, running a hand through his hair, making it stick up slightly as he did. ‘You were the one that didn’t want to be seen anywhere near me.  You’re the one who was oh so concerned about how everyone would react to us being friends. Make up you bloody mind. If you want me to defend you then I will gladly do it, but I thought you wouldn’t want me defending you,’ he said looking at the floor, rather despondently.

‘When did I say that I didn’t want to be seen anywhere near you?’ I asked bewildered, curiosity replacing my anger.  

‘Oh, come off it Hermione.  I am not idiot.  I saw the way you looked the other day when you thought that people were coming, when they nearly saw us together.’

Oh, I had hoped he hadn’t seen that.  Even now I could see the hurt that was in his face, even if he was trying hard to show that it wasn’t bothering him.

‘I… that’s not… that’s beside the point and as it turns out, I was right not to want you anywhere near me.’

‘Why, what have I done wrong?’ he demanded, ‘Tell me one thing that I have done to make you not trust me since we came back to Hogwarts?’ he said sounding more confident.

‘Well there was… when you…’ I trailed off again, as his eyebrows raised in victory.  Why could I not think of anything?  Surely he must have done something, but my mind was blank and he knew it.

‘So if I haven’t done anything wrong, then what is the problem?’ He clearly sensed weakness in my hesitation and took a step towards me.

 I had nothing.  I had no reply.  He was right.  He hadn’t done anything to me since we had come back to Hogwarts.  If anything, he had been there for me more than some of the others had been.  He had certainly been there for me more than Ron had and that thought unsettled me. Yes, he may have changed, but I still didn’t understand why and I still certainly didn’t understand why he was singling me out as someone that he wanted to be friends with.  All of the conversations that we had, the looks, the glances, I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand him.

‘There isn’t a problem,’ I sighed in reply, yet not quite able to meet his eyes.

‘And yet something tells me that’s not quite true,’ he muttered.

I took a quick glance up at him, to find that he was staring straight at me, as if he could try and read my mind and work out what I was thinking, but when I tore my gaze away to look back at the floor, he cried out again in frustration, ‘Just tell me.’

‘I just don’t understand.  I don’t understand why you’re here,’ I cried out, my emotions getting the better of me.

‘I came to see if you were alright,’ he said, still sounding confused, not understanding what I was meaning.

‘Exactly!  That’s what I don’t understand.  You’ve never liked me and then all of a sudden you’re actually wanting to have conversations with me and saying all of these things and making me think that you…’ I stopped abruptly, stopping myself just in time, ‘I just don’t get it,’ I finished lamely.

‘Making you think that I what?’ he questioned, stepping closer to me again.  Of course he would have picked up on that part. There really was no hiding anything from him.

‘Nothing,’ I said raising my head determinedly, my mouth set in a hard line. There was no way that I was going to tell him what I had been about to say.

‘Okay, well do you want me to stop, talking to you I mean.  Because I will if that’s what you want.’

I looked up into his face that was, at the moment looking decidedly like a little puppy that had just been given into trouble.  If he’d had floppy ears, I swear they would have just drooped.  I thought about what he had said.  Did I want him to stop talking to me? For things to be like they had been before. For us just to ignore each other and pretend like we didn’t know all of these things about each other.  My stomach shifted uncomfortably at the thought. 

‘No.’ I answered simply.  I didn’t want things to go back to how they had been.  I wasn’t sure if we would ever be able to go back to how things had been before and I wasn’t really sure that I wanted them to.

He looked up, looking almost disbelieving, almost hopeful. ‘You don’t want me to stop talking to you.’

‘No I don’t,’ I said quietly looking back at him.

For a moment, I wondered if he had heard what I said, but when he nodded his head slowly I knew that he had and I could swear that there was almost a trace of a smile in his lips.  He visibly relaxed and closed the distance between us, resting against the wall beside me seat. 

‘So why did you run away then?  I mean it was only Pansy,’ he shrugged, looking down at me once more.

‘And that makes it better then, it was only Pansy so of course I should let her call me a mudblood.’ I gritted my teeth again in annoyance.  Just when I thought we were getting somewhere.

‘No, that’s not what I meant,’ he answered in frustration once more, ‘I mean usually if she, or even if I called you any name you would just look at us like we were so beneath you, like our words meant absolutely nothing, or else you would come up with some absolutely scathing retort before walking away without even blinking.  It used to drive me crazy.’

‘I don’t give a damn about what Pansy said,’ I said, spitting her name, ‘I don’t care about what she thinks about me.’

‘So then why run away?’ he challenged.

‘I wasn’t running from her,’ I cried out, without thinking. 

‘Well then who were you…’

‘You, I was running from you,’ I blurted out in exasperation.

‘Why…’ he shook his head confused.

‘Because you told me that you’d changed and I believed that you’d changed and then you... it seemed like you agreed with her and I just…’ I trailed off as images flashed through my mind, threatening to overpower me; thoughts of Draco’s expression, Pansy’s words, Professor Haven’s glares, Ron’s hurt expression.  I closed my eyes quickly, realising in horror that my eyes were prickling with frustrated and humiliated tears.  Never let them see you cry I reminded myself angrily.  Never show them that they’ve hurt you.

  I was aware that he was standing right in front of me and when I heard his slow movements; I opened my eyes to see that he had he crouched down, so that he was resting on the tips of his toes, one hand still resting on the stone wall beside us for support.  Now I was forced to look down at him, regardless of whether I wanted to or not.

‘Hermione, I have changed.  I don’t ever want to hurt you or anyone else again. I promise you that I will never call you a… that word again.  That is not how I think of you anymore.  I haven’t thought about you that way for quite a while.’

‘You used to,’ I said quietly, ‘you used to go out of your way to try and be mean to me.

‘No actually I didn’t.  Well, I mean I did sometimes.  You were infuriatingly perfect all of the time, but it was much more fun to wind up Potter and Weasley.  They would always flip, but you would just walk away.  I think I only really got to you once or twice.’

‘Yeah that would be the time when I slapped you,’ I said smiling widely at the memory.

‘You don’t need to look quite so happy about it,’ he grumbled, looking a bit put out.

‘Well you deserved it.’

‘Hmm, you didn’t need to hit quite that hard though.’

‘Aw did I hurt you,’ I asked in a teasing voice.

‘I had a hand print on my face for hours after,’ he said incredulously, ‘it was even sore the next day.’

‘Seriously,’ I said thinking of how proud Ron and Harry would be. ‘I would say that I’m sorry, but I’m afraid that would be a lie.’

‘Yeah I know and you’re right I did deserve it,’ he conceded, smiling shyly at me. ‘So why was your day so bad? What happened? Something to do with Weasley?’

‘Hmm,’ I answered reluctantly, my mood plummeting.

‘Want to talk about it?’ he offered gently.

‘Not really,’ I mumbled, ‘and definitely not with you.’

‘Come on, budge up, I’m a good listener.’ He stood up looking at me expectantly.  I was looking at him wide eyed and mouth hanging open in shock.  Never an overly good look.  

‘Not when it comes to Ron you’re not,’ I said, reluctantly sliding up to the furthest end of the window ledge.  It was wide enough for two people, but only just and as he sat down, I became very aware of just how close he was to me.  His arm brushed by mine as he sat down and I felt a thrill shoot through me.  I immediately scolded myself for it, reminding myself that it was Draco Malfoy that was sitting beside me.

‘So it is about him then,’ he asked.  I had absolutely no intention of answering him.  I wouldn’t even have this conversation with Harry or Ginny and they were my best friends.  Having this conversation with Malfoy of all people would just be plain weird.  But as I turned around to give a him ‘don’t push your luck’ glare, I found that my resolve weakened.  He was so close to me and looking at me so intently and so eagerly, like he was actually genuinely interested in what I had to say that for some reason I gave in.  It’s not like I had anyone else to talk to.

‘Fine, he asked me out.  He told me he loved me,’ I said trying to keep my voice as casual as I could, like it was no big deal; like being told that someone loved me was an everyday occurrence.  I could practically see him stiffen beside me.  It was like someone had just run an electric current throughout his entire body, making him go poker straight. It was a weird reaction even for Malfoy.

‘So what did you say?’ he said stiffly, although I could see that he was trying not to let it show, but there was still a tightness in his shoulders and a definite urgency in his eyes, an urgency that I couldn’t understand.  

‘I told him that I didn’t love him.’

‘You did?  I thought that you and he, kind of had a thing?’ he said casually, almost like he wasn’t interested.

‘We did, for a while, but then, well nothing.’

‘But then what?’ he urged.  Every time I tried to evade his questions, to look away, he would continue to look at me deeply so that I was drawn back to him and I found myself answering all of his questions. It was like he had slipped me veritaserum.  I was spilling secrets that I would never have said to anyone else. I had come this far though and I wasn’t going to stop.  It felt good to get it all out.

‘Well, then he ignored me all summer, went out with Lavender and basically told me that he might like me and only went out with Lavender to prove to himself that he didn’t need me,’ I said spilling it all out, before I could have the time to regret saying it out loud.

‘Ouch.’

‘Yes well, even though it was quite probably the least romantic offer of all time, I wouldn’t have said yes to him anyway.  I don’t love him and I haven’t for a while. So anyway enough about me, what about you and Pansy?  Are you together?’ I asked desperately trying to divert attention away from me.

‘Pansy.  And me.  No way,’ he snorted as if the thought was simply ridiculous.  ‘That ship sailed a very long time ago.  She’s still the same person that she’s always been, unfortunately.  Most people have changed since the war, but she’s just the same spoiled little girl that she’s always been.’

‘Yeah I guess,’ I agreed.

 Draco was right, she hadn’t changed.  Most of the Slytherins hadn’t.  Not of all them had come back to Hogwarts and the ones who had, had most likely returned because they had to. They had to look like they had changed, but on the inside they still had the same pureblood ideals. However much they tried to hide it, there was still that divide between them and everyone else.  Draco however did seem to have genuinely changed.  He would never have even spoken to me before in a normal conversation, never mind openly seeking me out for one and willingly sitting beside me.  Ron and Harry still doubted him though and that thought niggled away in the back of my mind.  Was he genuine or was I being a fool in believing him.

‘What are you thinking?’ Draco asked, after I had lapsed into a silence.  I looked at him, deciding whether or not to answer him truthfully.  I didn’t want to doubt him, strangely I didn’t want to hurt him, but I did want an answer. I had to know.  As Harry had said, I was curious and if I didn’t ask, I would sit wondering about it until I got a definite answer.

‘Draco why have you changed?’

His head shot back away from me and his eyes flashed with an emotion that I couldn’t determine.  Was it anger, annoyance, disappointment, regret even?

‘Never mind, you don’t have to tell me,’ I added quickly. It was a rather personal question after all.

‘No, it’s fine.  I think I want to.  I want you to understand.’  His eyes had softened and I let out the breath that I had been holding.  He stayed silent and for a moment I wondered if he was actually going to tell me, was he making up a story to tell me or editing the truth into something that sounded better.  Eventually he took a deep breath as if to prepare himself and then continued, ‘I guess in the end I just realised that we’re all the same. Purebloods or muggleborns; what’s the difference?

I nodded back him, trying not to let my disappointment show.  I had thought he was actually going to tell me the truth, not some spun out line that he felt he had to say.  That’s why I was surprised when he continued.

 ‘Do you remember Professor Burbage?’

I nodded in reply, slightly confused as to how why he would bring her up now.  She had taught me in third year; when I had felt the insane need to take every single subject that Hogwarts had to offer.  I hadn’t seen much of her since then, after dropping the subject, but I knew that she had been one of the many to disappear during the war without a trace.  I didn’t even know that Draco had even been aware of who she was.

‘Well, he killed her, right of front of me.’  I took in a shocked gasp, that I knew he must have heard, as he glanced quickly in my direction before he subtly shifted as far away from me as he could, pressing himself further into the stone wall. He continued to look at his hands as he continued, ‘By then I already knew I was on the wrong side. I mean I couldn’t kill Dumbledore and what they did, bringing Greyback into the school where he could have attacked anyone and seeing Bella just going crazy, destroying everything, destroying the great hall, I already knew that I was in over my head. That I wasn’t one of them.  That I couldn’t be one of them.’

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, watching every emotion on his face.  I watched so carefully to see if there was any hint of falseness in his story, but all I could hear was the truth.  I would have been satisfied with that answer, but there seemed to be more as he continued to wring his hands together and I listened patiently for him to continue.

‘Anyway it was during the summer and all of the death eaters were staying at our house.  Our punishment for failing him. So one day he called a meeting and… he tortured Professor Burbage and then he had her suspended over the table.  We all had to sit around and just watch her hanging there like she was some sort of amusement, some sort of plaything.  She was as close to me as you are now.  She couldn’t move.  Her hands were tied behind her back and it was like she was screaming in pain, but no sound came out.  I’ll never forget the look she had in her eyes. She was begging for help, but what could we do.  What could anyone do?’

 He closed his eyes briefly, as a deadened look appeared in them and then pulled his hand through his hair again.  My eyes were brimming with tears, horrified at what I was hearing.  I wanted to reach out and comfort him, but I couldn’t move. I felt sick. I didn’t want to hear anymore.  I didn’t want to know what happened next. I could imagine it well enough, but I couldn’t stop him.  I could only sit and listen.

  ‘She was begging Snape to help her, pleading with him, but he couldn’t do anything.  He just had to sit there and watch. Then he killed her, just like that and she fell down onto the table, right in front of me.  He said all this crap about dangerous she was and how she threatened our very existence, yet all I could see was an innocent woman, completely harmless.  She was a teacher.  She just wanted to help people and he killed her like she was nothing. Then he called Nagini and made us all sit there, as…’ he trailed off unable to say the words, looking very much like he was going to throw up.

 I gripped the edge of the window ledge tightly, closing my eyes in a futile attempt at blocking out his words, practically begging him not to continue.  I could imagine very well what that monstrous snake had done. If Malfoy was sickened by it, then I was pretty sure that it was an image that I did not need in my head.  I had had my own personal encounter with that snake and I did not need any reminders.  As my eyes blinked close, the tears I had been trying to keep at bay fell down my cheeks. I may not have known Professor  Burbage well, but I wasn’t crying just for her, I was crying for of all the innocent people who would have died just as needlessly and cruelly as she had; I was also crying for the broken boy beside me who seemed unable to forgive himself for something that he had no control over.

‘That’s the moment I changed,’ he said finally looking up at me, not even looking surprised at my tears, perhaps not even registering them, ‘That’s the moment that I realised that I wanted nothing more to do with the lot of them.  That I couldn’t do what they asked me to do.  That I couldn’t hurt and kill muggles just because he told me to. Seeing the look on her eyes, I never want to see that look again.  I never want anyone to look that way because of me.’

 He looked at me, straight into my eyes and as I looked at him, it was if an unspoken message was being passed between us. I was trying, despite my tears to let him know that it was okay, that I didn’t blame him and that I knew he had changed.  A strange expression appeared on his face as he looked into my eyes and he broke away suddenly, taking a deep breath and sitting up straighter, recovering himself.   I mirrored his actions, leaning further away from him and taking the opportunity to wipe the tears from my face.

  ‘I thought about you nearly every day that year,’ he whispered, turning to look at me once more.  ‘You, Potter and unfortunately Weasley.  I kept thinking about what you were doing and what you were up to and just hoping that you had found something to destroy him.  Then you turned up the manor.  It was one of the scariest moments that I’ve ever had. I was so sure that you were all going to die and there was nothing that I could do to stop it.’

‘But you did stop it.  You could have said the moment that we walked in who we were.  You knew it was us.  You knew that it was Ron and I and so you knew that it was Harry who was right in front of you and yet you said nothing.  You wouldn’t even look at us. If you had told them then we would have died.  We owe you everything.’

‘Don’t try to make me the hero,’ he cried, half in anger and half in anguish, before turning away from me and hiding his face once more.  I sat and stared at him stunned.  He really couldn’t see that what he had done was good; he really couldn’t see that about himself and the thought depressed me.

‘What you did was brave.’  I watched as his jaw tightened and even though I couldn’t see his facial expression, I could tell that my words were upsetting him. I just wanted him to realise what he had done, I wanted to see his face, I wanted him to turn around and look at me. Slowly I reached out and gently touched one of his hands, brushing my fingers over his the back of his hand. He immediately tensed and whipped his head around in shock when he felt my touch, but he stayed firmly in place, his hand underneath mine.  His gaze lingered on our hands for a moment, swallowing hard before looking back up at me, with a wary look in his eyes. ‘You saved me that night.  I owe you my life. And so do Harry and Ron.’

He looked hard into my eyes, his face devoid of all emotion as he processed my words.  For another long moment he said nothing, sitting as still as a statue before a wry smile appeared on his lips, causing me to let out a breath of relief. ‘I bet Weasley and Potter don’t see it that way, but I have to say I like the idea of Weasley owing me.’

‘Well regardless, he does, but you’re right I wouldn’t go saying that to him just yet,’ I said smiling at the thought of Draco telling Ron that he owed him. It would not be pretty.

‘It doesn’t matter anyway, you saved me in the room of the requirement and again later that night, so actually I’m still in your debt,’ he said, a trace of amusement in his eyes.

‘Hmm, interesting,’ I said, pretending to mull over this new information.  I was so glad that he was back to being in a good mood.  His mood swings were pretty hard to keep up with; he would go from being sweet, to aloof, to so completely and utterly despondent. Part of me could understand.  My own emotions had been so up and down lately too.

‘And how do you plan to repay me?’ I said turning around to face him, planning on teasing him some more, only to find that he had leaned forward; his face much closer to me than I had realised. I was so close that I could see every fleck of green and blue in his grey eyes.  I was so close that our noses were only a few centimetres apart. He was so close that I could feel his warm breath on my face.

‘I’m sure I’ll find a way,’ he said in a soft voice, his eyes were gentle, yet intense tracing over each and every feature of my face once more. I felt like I couldn’t move as I watched him.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like every breath was a lifeline, keeping me alive. I was sure I was breathing so loudly that he must be able to hear it.  He must know how much his proximity was affecting me.  How my blood was racing; how my heart was pounding in my chest; how my stomach was twisted with knots; how my brain was completely hazed, filled with only one thought, that I wanted him to kiss me.

  As if he could read my thoughts, he leaned in slightly, so that his forehead rested against mine, before his gaze flicked back to mine, as if assessing my reaction, checking that I wasn’t going to run away.  Then ever so slowly, he tilted his head to the side and continued his decent towards my lips.  That moment felt like an eternity and my breathing hitched as his lips brushed lightly over mine.

 In that moment, it seemed like the world had stopped.  I couldn’t breathe.  I closed my eyes for the briefest second, losing myself completely in his touch.  All I could think of was how much I wanted this.  How much I wanted him.  It was a feeling that I had never felt before and the intensity of it overwhelmed me.  No sooner had I allowed myself to respond, parting my lips only a fraction, when he pulled quickly away from me and my eyes flashed open in surprise

  ‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,’ he said, turning away from and before I could even comprehend what was happening, standing up and moving across the room, as far away from me as he possibly could.

I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t think of anything to say back to him.  I was still trying to catch my breath. Draco Malfoy had just kissed me and I had actually wanted him to.  Everything just seemed so confusing.  It was like the world was spinning around me and yet the only thought that I could cling onto was Draco’s lips on mine.

‘Please don’t hate me,’ Draco said turning around to face me, a look of desperation on his face.  ‘I shouldn’t have done that.  I’m sorry, I’m just as bad as McLaggen, doing that to you when you were upset. I’m so sorry, I swear it won’t happen again.  Please just forget that it happened,’ he said, turning around to look at me, almost hopeful, almost pleading.

‘But what if I can’t?’ I whispered back, clinging onto the seat for support. ‘What if I don’t want to?'


AN-  I hope you all like the new chapter and once again thanks to everyone who took the time to review.  I can't believe that I have over 100 reviews.  Seriously means so much.  I never thought I would get that many reviews, so please let me know what you think of this chapter and thanks again for reading and please REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW!!!!
 
 
 
 
 

 


Chapter 17: Coward
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  ‘But what if I can’t?’ I whispered back, gripping the seat even more tightly than I had been before. ‘What if I don’t want to?’

I don’t know what made me say it.  It was like my mouth was operating independently from my brain.  My brain it seemed had completely shut down.  The only thing I seemed able to focus on was the fluttering in my stomach that wouldn't go away.  Was it excitement, fear or something else entirely? All I knew was that it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Kissing Victor had been… nice and with Ron it had just seemed completely surreal, a quick and blissful moment in the middle of a battle field.  Yet this was unlike anything I had ever felt before. This was so much more.  And he had only brushed my lips with his.  He had barely touched me and I was gone; completely hypnotised by him.  Sensible, over analysing every detail Hermione was gone, to be replaced by an impulsive person that I really didn't recognise.

 And all too soon that feeling of bliss was replaced by an overwhelming sense of fear and regret and panic.  I could almost feel my eyes widening with the realisation of what I had just done.  I had just kissed Draco Malfoy! 

  Reluctantly I brought my eyes up to meet Draco's face, dreading but kind of already knowing what his reaction would be.  His face was as still as stone, his features showing a look of complete and utter confusion. If it wasn't for the fact that his eyes were darting about, looking anywhere and everywhere except at me, then I would have said with certainty that he had been petrified- something that I has personal experience with. I wasn't quite sure whether or not to be insulted that my kiss seemed to create the same effect as a giant basilisk. 

   While I was pondering this dilemma, Draco was clearly pulling himself together as his darting eyes eventually settled onto mine, locking onto my eyes and keeping me in place. All I could do was to wait with baited breath for him to speak, although what I wanted him to say I had no idea. What could he possibly say to make this whole situation better? 

 ‘Did you…’ he faltered, seeming unsure of what he was about to say. ‘Did you just say what I thought you said?’

  Yep I was right, he couldn't make the situation any better.  Although it seemed like Draco's words were the key to the spell that had me glued to my seat, for as soon as he spoke I abruptly stood up, ignoring the startled expression on his face that was becoming quite a common sight to me these days. 

'Please,' I said reluctantly turning around to face him again so I could pick my bag up from its place on the floor, 'forget I said anything.' And slinging my bag over my shoulder, I made my escape avoiding looking at him as I all but ran from the room.  All I wanted was to be as far away from him and that room as I possibly could.  I bolted down the corridor, only faltering slightly when I thought for one brief moment when I thought I heard my name being called behind me. I gave a quick glance over my shoulder, relieved to see that the corridor behind me was empty, before picking up my pace and making my way through the castle, back to the Gryffindor Common room.

Eventually I reached the portrait of the fat lady and gave her the password, wishing she would hurry up and open the portrait so that I could climb through to safety.  I climbed through and breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the portrait door close behind me.

  Leaning against the cold stone wall, I let my bag drop to the floor, letting my heart rate go back to normal. As I stood there against the wall, I was hit with the overpowering realisation of what had just happened.  I clasped my hand over my mouth in horror at what I had just done.  I had just kissed Draco Malfoy and then I had told him that I had wanted it to happen.  What the hell was I thinking! I had just told Draco Malfoy, Slytherin and not to mention one of the biggest purebloods around, who had also made it his personal mission to torment and tease me for the last seven years that I wanted to kiss him. I think it was safe to say that I had officially lost my mind.  I had gone completely and utterly certifiably insane.  

  As I processed what had happened, running over the events in my mind, a slow grin spread across my face and before I knew it I was trying to stifle an overwhelming fit of giggles. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous. I composed myself as quickly as I could when a pair of first or second years wandered past giving me a look that clearly said that they thought I was deranged.  Sadly I really couldn't agree with their assessment. 

  After pulling myself together and making sure that I didn't have scary wide eyes or a stupid grin, I made my way into the common room, walking straight into a rather tall person, whose hands shot out to steady me. 

‘Where the hell have you been?,' Harry said, dropping only one of hands from my arms, keeping the other one on my shoulder.  'I was just about to come searching for you,’ he said exasperatedly, showing me the Mauraders Map in his hand.  He ran his free  hand through his hair, messing it up even more that it was already, looking at me as he sighed deeply. ‘You seem happier anyway.  What’s with the grin?’ he asked finally dropping his hand. 

Hmm, I guess I hadn't manage to rearrange my features as well as I though.

 'Oh, nothing.  Just something stupid.  You had to be there,’ I said, really not wanting to elaborate.  I could just imagine Harry’s face if I told him what I was really laughing at.  The mere thought nearly set me off again into hysterical laughter.  Harry was looking at me like I had completely lost the plot.  I did my best to try and straighten my face, although I could feel the sides of my mouth twitching.

‘Okay, so you want to tell me what happened?’ he said, guiding me over to the comfortable chairs in front of the fire.  The common room was unusually quiet which meant that it was probably dinner time.

‘Nothing, I’m fine.’ I said trying to keep my voice as neutral as possible. 

‘So you left class before it had ended, in tears no less and skipped classes all day for absolutely no reason at all?’ Harry asked with one eyebrow raised. 

I simply shrugged at him in reply.

‘And the fact that Ron’s face has been completely tripping him all day, snapping at anything that so much as breathes in his vicinity has absolutely nothing to do with you either I suppose?’

I shifted my eyes to the side to see him looking at me expectantly.

‘I don’t suppose you would believe me if I said no,’ I asked hopefully, trying again for an innocent expression.

‘No Hermione, I would not believe you,' he said, looking less than impressed. 

‘Well what do you want me to say?’ I asked exasperatedly.  He must know already what had happened between Ron and me.  Why on earth did he need to hear me say it?

‘The truth would be nice,’ Harry snapped, making me whip my head around to glare at him. ‘Sorry, look I’m just concerned about you. You’re my friend and I just know that something’s going on.  I just want you to be honest with me.’

 Harry always seemed to have the knack of making me feel guilty and want to spill my guts to him.  But however good Harry was, he wasn’t good enough for me to tell him that.  What I had just done would be a secret that would go to the grave with me.  Even the strongest veritaserum could not make me tell Harry Potter that I had just kissed Draco Malfoy. However Harry was like a dog with bone and at the moment he smelled blood.  He knew something was up and he would not drop the subject until he had answers.  And I was going to give him the answers.  Just not all of them. It wasn't lying really, it was more selective truth. As uncomfortable as I was telling Harry about Ron’s confession it was undoubtedly the lesser of two very big evils.

 

 ‘Look before I tell you, please don’t tell Ron that I told you.’  I was pretty sure Ron would not be impressed if he found out that I had blabbed about his confession to his best friend.  Ron's pride no doubt wouldn't be able to handle it. He wouldn't speak to us for at least a month if he found out. 

Harry considered this for a moment.  Harry didn't like keeping secrets, especially from his friends. Probably because he wasn't very good at it. ‘Right fine, I won’t tell Ron,’ he promised eventually.

‘Or Ginny,’ I quickly added.  There was no way that she would be able to keep her mouth shut if she ever found out.

He rolled his eyes, but agreed none the less. Even Harry had curiosity. ‘Fine, or Ginny,’ he agreed.

‘Okay so this morning on the way to potions, Ron sort of told me something. He said that well...' Okay this wasn't as easy I thought it would be.  

'What? What did he say Hermione?' Harry said, now perching on the edge of his seat in anticipation. 

I took a deep breath and told myself just to say it.  'Ron told me that he loved me,' I blurted out as Harry's eyebrows disappeared above his overly long fringe.  That boy really needed to get a haircut.  'But I don’t feel the same,’ I quickly added when his eyes lit up and he opened his mouth to speak.

‘You don’t love him?' Harry said, sounding almost disappointed.  'Well that would certainly explain his foul mood,’ Harry let out a deep sigh and after a  few moments pause leaned forward in his chair and continued.  ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but why did you turn him down?  I kind of got the impression that you liked him.’

‘And what makes you think that?’ I asked shocked.  I had always thought that I had been fairly discreet about my feelings.

‘Hermione, come on.  I’ve known you both for years and I lived with you both for nearly a year.  I’m not stupid, nor am I blind.’

‘Was I that obvious?’ I said reluctantly admitting it. Like I said a dog with a bone, who could always smell blood. 

 

‘Yes and so was Ron.  I thought it was only a matter of time before you two got together.'

Pushing that statement to the back of my mind where I was sure I would obsess over it later I tried to deflect Harry from his train of thought. 

‘Harry as much as I love you, this is not a conversation that I want to have with you.  All you need to know is that I don’t like Ron in that way.  I used to, but since the summer and the whole Lavender thing, well I don’t anymore.’

Harry gave me a searching look, clearly trying to decide whether or not to believe me.  I just stared back at him impassively. ‘Okay,' he said eventually, 'I won’t pretend to understand, but okay.  Hermione?’

‘Yes.’

‘There’s not someone else is there?’

‘What, no,' I just about managed to choke out, which was quite impressive considering the fact that my heart and stomach had both just leaped into my throat.  'Of course there isn’t,' I said, not even believing myself as a pair of startlingly grey eyes popped into my mind. 

‘Okay, I just thought I’d ask. Anyway it’s time for dinner and I don’t know about you, but I am starving.  You coming?’

‘No thanks. I’m not hungry.  I’ll just stay here and catch up on what I’ve missed,' and get my heart rate back to normal I mentally added.  'You mind if I look through your notes?’

‘Sure go ahead.  See you later.'  Harry picked up his bag and headed toward the portrait hole before he hesitated and turned around. ‘You know, I know this a bit out of line, but I think he really does care about you Hermione. I know he’s been a bit of an idiot, but if he says that he loves you, then I’m sure he means it.  Just think about it okay.  He’s been miserable all day.’

I nodded in agreement and gave Harry a slight smile as he headed out through the portrait. Sure, just one of the many other things to think about. And so staring into the fire, I tried to process everything that had happened that day, tried to make sense of it, but even clever and logical Hermione Granger was having trouble with this one. 

 









 

Running away and hiding were something that I wasn't overly good at.  Usually I would face confrontation head on.  I would stand up and speak my mind in any situation. When things were tough it would be hard and yes I would be scared and want to walk away but I never did. I was confident in my abilities and I was always sure in what I was doing. Which is why for the first time I was running away and I was hiding, because I didn't have the slightest clue what I was doing. I didn't know what had made me act the way I had, I didn't know what I feeling and I didn't know how to make the situation better. And not knowing things was not something that I had a huge amount of experience in. 

  And that was why I could be found in the middle of a school day, hiding under the bed covers like the brave little Gryffindor that I was.  Ginny had of course tried to wake me up but like the coward that I was, I played the ill card.  Either I was turning into a really great actress or I really did look awful. Given the fact that I had spent the entire night tossing and could clearly see that my hair was resembling something like a very large birds nest, I was guessing that it was unfortunately the latter. 

 I had spent the afternoon at least attempting to do school work so that I wouldn't be too far behind when I did eventually decide to grow a backbone and face the world again, but after writing an essay on the benefits and drawback of amortentia which, with no offense to Ron, was like something that he would have written in about twenty minutes flat, I had given up.  It was clear that I was not going to get anything productive done today. However I was not one for sitting around doing nothing.  I cleaned my quills, polished my wand, reorganised my trunk and was in the middle of organising my books into categories,  first into muggle and wizard, school and personal and then in alphabetical order based on authors name, no one could say I wasn't thorough, when the door behind me opened. Fully expecting Ginny or one of the others, I didn't even bother to turn around to see who it was. 

'Miss Granger,' said a voice from directly behind me.  Instantly I froze and spun around to face the headmistress, knocking over my neatly organised piles of books as I did so.  I stared at her looking at her with eyes as wide as a rabbit caught in the headlights, a mouth gaping like a goldfish and hair that was a birds nest.  I must have been quite the sight as peering over the top of her glasses, her eyes raked over me, a look of complete disapproval on her features. 

'Can you please explain to me why you have not only missed two days’ worth of classes, but you have also decided not to attend your detention this evening.'

 

'I, em...' Not that I would have actually gone to my detention had I remembered about it, but until that moment I really had totally forgotten about it.   

'Both Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley have mentioned that you were unwell,' Professor McGonagall continued, her eyes never me. All I could do was stare back at her and trying not to focus on the fact that one of my bra's was hanging up on a hook just behind Professor McGonagall. And not just any of my bra's, the red lacy one. Perfect. 

With my attention clearly distracted, wondering how I could discreetly hide my underwear from my headmistress, I clearly wasn't responding quickly for McGonagall, as she repeated the question with a 'well?'

'Yes, I'm not feeling well,' I finally managed to say, focusing again on the conversation. 

'And have you visited the hospital wing?'

'Em, no.'

'Miss Granger, allow me to be frank. You are clearly not unwell,' she said waving her hand over me and the quite frankly enormous pile of books that were surrounding me, 'and yet you are choosing to miss your classes and not attend your detention. This is not like you. Is there anything that you would like to tell me?  Anything that is troubling you?' she said giving me one of those concerned looks that made me feel like she already knew. 

'Professor Haven mentioned an incident yesterday in potions.'  Not a question. Clearly she already knew everything that happened.

 'Has something happened between you and Mr. Malfoy?'

'What?' I said, hauling myself up from the floor so that I was standing.  This was not a conversation for sitting on the floor. 

'You and Mr. Malfoy?' she repeated, giving me that direct gaze that made me feel like there was no point in even trying to lie because she already knew the truth. My silence whilst contemplating this and how I could get out of it seemed to only confirm to her that something indeed had happened, as she sighed before continuing. 'I had hoped that pairing the two of you together would have helped to ease the tensions between the two of you, yet I appear to have been wrong.'

 

'No, he hasn't done anything wrong.' It was technically true. If anything I was the one who had something wrong.  He was the one with the reason for avoiding me. 

'Miss Granger...' McGonagall began, ready to contradict me before I cut her off again.

'No really he hasn't done anything.  At all,' I said trying to sound as earnest as possible. 

'Regardless, after yesterday’s incident I feel that continuing with the current system would be a mistake.  I think that it's time to create some distance between the two of you.  I shall speak to Professor Haven and speak to her about changing your potions seats and partners and for the time being at least, separate detentions too.' 

'No Professor you don't need to do that,` I exclaimed almost desperately.  As much as I knew that I was being a coward, I really didn`t need Malfoy to know that.  He would think that I had gone to McGonagall in order to get away from him and that would just make things worse. `Things are fine, really,` I added, feebly, knowing full well that I was convincing no one with my continued denials.

`No I am decided.  I think some time apart would do the both of you good. This is a very important year Miss Granger.  You have the ability to become a very talented witch.  Do not allow any distractions prevent you from reaching your potential. I expect you back in classes tomorrow as usual.'

With one last look she turned and walked out of the room, closing the door silently behind her, leaving me to sink slowly back to the floor, panicking even more than I had been before and dreading the day that was to follow. 







 

A/N- Okay so I know I that this chapter has been an extremely long time coming but I I've explained in previous authors notes and review replies I have had a pretty tough year so far and writing has just not been possible.  I also started this chapter earlier this year and when I did come back to it I really didn't like it anymore and so it's taken a while to get the chapter to a level I'm happy with.  Also I know this chapter is pretty short but don't worry it's just an intro to the next chapter which is much longer and about 95% complete so I will update again in the next week. 

  If you're still with me then thank you so much for still reading and thanks to all the lovely and supportive reviews that people have given me.  It's really given me the motivation to continue this story.  So thank you and the next chapter (which I think is pretty good) will be with you really soon. x



Chapter 18: Tired of Pretending
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The following morning, things were definitely looking up.  After Professor McGonogall’s visit I now didn’t need to worry about seeing Malfoy.  I didn’t need to have the awkward confrontation where I would have to explain what had happened the day before.  Whatever that had been anyway?  Some space from him was definitely going to be a good thing. Things could go back normal.  Normal being where I absolutely hate Malfoy and he hates me. Just the way that they should be.

With that in mind, I was actually feeling quite positive.  I practically bounded down the stairs that morning and when I gave Harry and Ginny a particularly cheerful ‘good morning’ they exchanged a not so subtle glance that I imagined meant ‘what’s got into her’.  Yes I had been a bit of a miserable cow recently, but today was a fresh start. Things were going to get back to how they should be and that meant getting things back to normal with Ron.

When he finally appeared at breakfast I did my best to act completely naturally, like nothing had happened the day before. I could see the uncertainty pass over his features as I cheerfully greeted him, something that I hadn't managed to do in a while, before he eventually slotted into his seat beside me at the table and carried piling sausages, bacon and eggs onto his plate like he didn’t have a care in the world. Nobody could say that Ron held a grudge. Things felt exactly like they used to and for the first time in ages, I almost felt something like a happy glow inside me, I was back where I belonged and everything was going to be just fine. If I could only stop my eyes from looking over at the Slytherin table and my brain from thinking about a certain blonde.  Yep everything would be just fine.

Breakfast was interrupted by the sound of loud hooting and the flapping of wings which suddenly filled the great hall, making nearly every person in the hall look up in unison.  Those who didn’t usually get mail or weren’t expecting anything returned to their breakfasts while everyone else scanned the area above them, hoping to the see the flutter of a letter or the drop of a parcel in front of them.  I of course was one of the people who had, after a quick glance skywards returned to my breakfast. I hadn’t received any mail since that letter from my parents on my birthday which was why I was particularly surprised when a yellow parchment envelope fluttered gently down in front of me, landing on top of my buttery toast. Wiping my fingers on the napkin and brushing the crumbs and melted butter off of the back of the envelope, I opened the letter as discreetly as I could, angling it away from Ron who had shuffled just a little bit closer to me, his head angled in my direction, peering non too discreetly over my shoulder.



Miss Granger,

                             As was discussed yesterday, your detention will now take place in my office at the usual time.  Please report to my office tonight to complete last night’s missed detention. I have also taken the liberty of informing Professor Haven of our discussion.  Your new potions partner as of today will be Terry Boot.

 Professor M McGonogall

Headmistress of Hogwarts



 P.S. The password is barley sugar





'What's that,' Ron asked, all pretence at being subtle gone, as his shoulder was pretty much now resting on mine.  I sighed and passed it over to him (he had pretty much seen the whole thing anyway so I really didn’t see the point of hiding it) and continued to eat my breakfast trying to avoid any more awkward questions.   Part of me was feeling incredibly relieved and yet for some strange reason, I was feeling more than just a little disappointed.

 

'Why is your detention changing and why are you getting a new potions partner?' Ron asked the second he finished reading my letter, looking at me intently.

 ‘Might as well get straight to the point Ron, don’t beat about the bush now!’ I thought.

'What!' Harry and Ginny both exclaimed, their heads popping up at the exact same moment, as Ginny leaned over and grabbed the letter from Ron's hand.

'Oh please be my guest,' I said sarcastically, although in truth I didn’t really mind. They would find out eventually.

'What's all this about? Why are you changing partners?' Harry asked his brows furrowed in confusion.

'Is this about yesterday?'

'Did Malfoy do something?'

‘Did you do something?’

‘Something else?’

‘Did you kill Malfoy? Or at least seriously injure him?’

‘Don’t be silly Ron, he’s over there and Hermione wouldn’t do that.’

‘Hmm, pity.’

'Is it something to do with why you skipped class?'

'And why you pretended to be ill yesterday?'

'Okay,' I said slowly, taking in the three expectant faces all staring aptly at me.  'One at a time, please. No Malfoy did not do anything and no Ronald, I didn’t do anything to him either,' I said giving a quick glance over my shoulder to see that Draco was sitting at the Slytherin, which made my heart involuntary skip a beat. 'It's no big deal really, it’s just McGonagall wants me to focus on my work and she feels that working with Malfoy was a... ‘distraction’.' I said, putting quotes around McGonagall’s words.

'A distraction?' Ginny asked sceptically.

'Well it's hardly a secret that we don't get on,' I said, hoping that I was somehow managing to keep the guilt that I was feeling from appearing on my face, 'and I guess that after yesterday she doesn't want any more mishaps.'

'Oh come on Hermione,' Ron scoffed, 'I don't think that anyone could call what happened in potions class a 'mishap'. Disaster, mayhem, carnage, all-out war, might be a more accurate description,'

'Anyway,' I said, cutting across him, ‘it isn’t a big deal and besides speaking of potions class, isn't it time that we actually went there,' I said standing up and slinging my bag over my shoulder. ‘I hear we’re making a Volubilis potion which should be really interesting and Professor Haven even hinted that it’ll come up in the final NEWTS exam.’

  'And she's back ladies and gentlemen,' Ron said as he stood up to follow me out.  Even though I gave him an icy glare over my shoulder, when I turned around I couldn’t help the small smile that had formed on my lips because Ron was right, I did feel like I was getting back to my normal self. Things were finally looking up.



   But as ever things didn't stay up for very long. Stupidly it hadn’t even occurred to me that potions class would be awkward.  I knew that I was feeling glad to be away from Malfoy, so I just assumed that he would be feeling glad to be away from me.  At the very least I was expecting him to be somewhat smug about the fact that he had driven me away, that he had won.  What I wasn’t expecting was for some very frosty glares in my direction, which was what I was faced with pretty much the second that I entered the class with the others.



  We were some of the last in the class to arrive, despite leaving the great hall twenty minutes before and well before half the other people in the class. That was of course because Ron and Ginny decided to have a rather loud argument in the middle of the corridor, which they continued all the way into class.  Everyone in the class turned around as we entered the class due to Ron’s loud yelp as Ginny whacked him across the back of the head before she stalked off to her seat.  I gave Ron a sympathetic pat on the back as I walked past him, even though it had been mostly his fault.  He really should know better by now than to get into arguments with Ginny.  He never won.   As I looked up I instinctively looked towards my old seat and my eyes instantly locked with the pair of steely grey eyes that were boring straight back into mine. All trace of humour instantly vanished and I took a sharp gasp of breath as if all the air had been sucked out of my lungs. I felt frozen to the spot, unable to move until Harry nudged me from behind, pushing me slightly forward so that he could get past me.  Feeling on edge I made my way to my new seat at the opposite side of the classroom, completely aware that a single pair of eyes had followed me the entire way.

  I sat down beside Terry who eyed me warily before giving me a curt nod before he turned his back on me and went back to avidly reading over his potions textbook which was already open at today’s page. I guess he had already been told about the seat change, not that he seemed overly thrilled about it.   Turning around, I saw that Mandy Brocklehurst had got the message too.  She had arrived even later that I had and she made her way to her seat looking like she was on her way to the gallows. It would have been quite funny to watch if she hadn’t looked so utterly terrified. She hesitated at the side of Draco’s seat for a moment, unable to get passed him but clearly not wanting to ask him to move. Without even acknowledging her or apologizing for blocking her, he shuffled his seat forward a mere inch before resolutely ignoring her again, his eyes fixed firmly on the board at the front of the classroom. Mandy squeezed past him, determined not to touch him even slightly. She was acting like he was a bomb that was just waiting to go off if she made even the slightest noise or movement.  She continued to take her things out of her bags and every time she made so much as a sound she would still and shoot a fearful glance at Draco. I would say she was being a tad overdramatic and that Draco wasn’t really that bad but even from the other side of the classroom I could feel the frostiness that he was emanating. I could see, even from this distance, the clenching of his jaw, the hard set of his eyes and the tight clenching of the quill in his hand.  If he held onto it any tighter, it was going to snap clean in two.  No wonder Mandy was pulling her seat to the furthest edge of the table, angling herself so that she was as far away from him as was physically possible.  Something that I now realised that I had done myself on the very first day of potions class. Part of me felt bad for her to be stuck with him for the rest of the year, but a very small part of me also felt sorry for him.  He really wasn’t as bad as people thought. Not that he did much to help change people’s opinions of him. He was clearly not a happy camper today.

 Just as I realised that I was staring at them and had been for long enough for it to be called just a little bit creepy, he seemed to sense my gaze and whipped his head around in my direction and once again his eyes instantly locked with mine.  In that one moment, a million different emotions flashed through his eyes, one after the other. Anger, disappointment, betrayal and confusion to name just a few.  As for me my cheeks instantly flushed pink with the embarrassment of being caught and I quickly diverted my gaze to the front of the class where Professor Haven was signalling the start of the lesson.  I really didn’t understand him at all.  Anyone would think that he was actually annoyed with me for moving seats.  I didn’t have time to dwell on it though as I focused on what Professor Haven was saying.

  She began by explaining that we would be making the Volubilis potion, just like I had predicted, so when she asked the class if anyone knew what the potion did, of course I had the correct answer.

‘A Volubilis potion allows the user to alter his or her voice.  It is mostly used by people for trickery or impersonation, but it also has another purpose. It also has the ability to return the voice to a person who has been put under a silencing charm,’ I said, rhyming off the description in the potions textbook.

‘Correct Miss Granger,’ said Professor Haven, giving me a slight nod of approval, ‘Now if you all turn to page 193 to look at the instructions.’

For the next hour Terry seemed to be like a man on a mission.  I’d never really worked with him before so I didn’t know if it was normal behaviour but he worked like a man possessed, not speaking or noticing anything around him.  He didn’t even look up when I was trying to be polite and asked him if he wanted me to fetch him some mint from the store cupboard. In the end I gave up on trying to ease the tension and tried to concentrate on my potion, ignoring Terry beside me who was occasionally muttering to himself and also trying desperately not to look over to my old seat.  I had already been caught staring once.  I was just adding very small amount of Syrup of Hellbore to my potion smiling in satisfaction as it turned from a bright orange to a soft blue, when a loud bang a shriek from the opposite side of the classroom made me along with everyone else in the classroom look to the very place I had been avoiding in unison. Instead of the gentle sparks that the potion was meant to give off when it was finished, Mandy’s potion had erupted in a giant flame that very nearly reached the ceiling with huge sparks flying out the cauldron in all directions. Cool as ever Draco simply glanced at the flames with one arched eyebrow before whipping out his wand and shooting a jet of water into the cauldron. With a look of mild interest he peered into the cauldron before he picked up a handful of ingredients out of his own stock pile and threw them into the cauldron, before returning to his own potion. Mandy simply stood gaping, her gaze moving between him and her cauldron.  Her jaw literally hit the floor when a moment later her potion started giving off soft gold sparks.

 

Determined not to be caught staring again and quickly hiding the smile that had appeared on my lips, I turned back to my own potion and I carefully increased the flame, stirring constantly as the colour changed from a bright red to a sunshine yellow colour. The potion said a ‘pleasant yellow’ so I thought mine was looking pretty good.  All I had to do was to wait for the gold sparks.  When they finally shot out of my cauldron, Terry let out a groan of annoyance.  Looking discreetly into his cauldron his was somewhere between the colour of mustards and snot.  Not exactly pleasant. I was going to offer to help him but the look of pure venom that he shot me made me think otherwise.

 When everyone had finished their potions and poured a small amount into a glass vial, Professor Haven came around to examine our potions and asked us to demonstrate the effects. Everyone laughed as one by one people demonstrated the effects of the potions. Harry sounded like an old woman, Ginny like an Australian and Draco sounded like a little girl which everyone, including him laughed at.  Most people’s potions worked, even Mandy Brocklehurst after Draco’s help.  However Ron’s potion was not quite as successful, he simply sounded like a little bit of a sore throat. He flushed red as Professor Haven gave a small shrug and a look of disappointment before she started avidly scribbling notes on her parchment.  Ron was only one whose potion didn’t work too well either, as Terry had only a mild Irish accent that kept on slipping  back into English, something which he seemed to somehow blame on me if the dirty looks he kept throwing me were anything to go by. Of course that could have been because my potion was in Professor Haven’s words ‘the best in the class’ and I even earned ten extra house points for my work and even more surprising she actually gave me a rare smile of approval, which I had to say made a nice change from the looks of disapproval that I usually received.

As soon as class ended I joined the others who were still enjoying the effects of the potion. 

‘Well that was fun. Anyway I’ve got Astronomy so I’ll see you guys later,’ Ginny said still sounding Australian.

‘Sure thing, see you at lunch,’ I said, giving her a wave, still laughing at her accent. 

 Harry, Ron and I, turned together to go to Defence Against the Dark Arts, with me in the middle, just like old times.  I couldn't help but notice the look on Ron's face and it was clear that something was bothering him.  

'So that was kind of fun, wasn't it?' I asked, trying to make some conversation.

'Yeah being made a total fool of and failing in another class, yet again.  Yes Hermione, that was probably about the best fun I've had all week.' 

'Ron I'm sorry.  I'm sure everything will be fine.  Everyone has had a rough week,' I said leaning over to gently stroke his arm, trying to comfort him.

'Oh yeah and when was the last time that you had a rough week Hermione?' he said, shrugging me off, 'Was it the last time that you didn't get patted on the head for being a good little girl and given extra house points for just being wonderful?'

I felt my face drop as I tried to hide the hurt in my face. 'Hey mate, that's enough,' Harry warned, although he looked at Ron with a concerned look. 

'Is it really? When was the last time that she had anything real to worry about,' he said pointing at me. 'But as long you’re having fun Hermione, don't let us little people hold you back,' he said before storming off down the corridor, leaving me and Harry speechless as we watched him go.

'What was that all about? Why is he so mad at me?' I asked Harry, stunned by Ron's outburst. What did I have to deal with? He really had no idea how much I had been struggling, what with my parents not wanting to see me and being back in the castle after the war.  He honestly didn't have a clue.  How was it that Draco Malfoy could tell that there was something wrong with me when my best friends didn't even notice? 

'I have no idea, but hey don't take it personally,' Harry said, seeing my hurt expression, 'he's just having a hard time and he's taking it out on everyone else.  It's what he always does,' Harry shrugged, as if his behaviour was totally fine. 'I'm sure he'll be fine later.  Come on, let’s get to class.' 



 Harry had been right about Ron and he had been fine later. Almost back to normal, but I felt like I was a little on my guard around him, scared that I might say the wrong thing again.  I watched him a little more closely though, trying to see if I could work out what had caused his outburst and his anger.  It didn't take long to see that something was troubling him. It was almost like he was there and yet he wasn't.  At times he would be the regular Ron that I used to know and then he would almost slip away with a glazed expression on his face.  In classes he looked utterly lost and the more I watched him the more I noticed how much he was struggling. How could it be that we hadn't noticed that the other one was struggling?  How could we not see that we each needed help? I tried to offer him help in the only way that I knew how, by helping him with his class work.   I tried subtly to offer him some help with his studying and with his homework which before was something that I always said I would never do. How else would he learn? And yet I was worried for him.  Sometimes he would accept my help and other times he would more or less tell me to go away, which I admit hurt more that I would have thought.

I guess the only real positive to have come out of the last few days was that I had managed to avoid seeing Draco.  I was so spending time with the others, or at my detentions that I was almost never alone and that meant that I didn't have the time to think about what had happened between us.  I could almost convince myself that the whole thing was some sick thing that I had imagined. Or at least I would have been able to had I not felt like I was being constantly watched.  It was almost like I could sense when he was there. In the great hall, in the corridors and in potions class, I would often feel the weight of his stare only to look up and find that he was looking at something else. 

 

That was why when I was walking back from my detention late one night that I knew he was there.  The castle was dark and the corridors were quiet.  Every one of my footsteps echoed loudly in the hallways and the candles made the shadows flicker all around me.  The castle was eerie and even though it was quiet, it reminded me so much of the terrible battle that had taken place.  The atmosphere scared me and I was almost afraid of what was hiding in the shadows.  Sometimes I almost asked Harry to come and meet me and walk me back to the common room, but I was too proud to admit that I was afraid of the castle that I had lived in for eight years. 

My senses were already in edge as I walked down the corridor, when a voice interrupted the sounds of my footsteps. 

‘It’s funny, I never had you down as a coward,’ a voice behind me said.  I knew that voice.  How could I not? It was the voice that I dreaded hearing and yet even as I heard it, it sent a shockwave through my entire body. It was the voice that had been appearing in my dreams for the last few weeks. I whipped around scanning along the corridor and the dark shadows behind the pillars.  Even though I couldn’t see anyone, I knew I wasn’t alone.  My heart was hammering in my chest and the hairs on the backs of my arm were prickling.  I couldn’t see him but every sense in my body told me that he was here.  

 I continued to scan the dimly lit corridor, waiting for him to appear.  For just a brief second I started to think that I had imagined hearing his voice, when at last I caught a movement out the corner of my eye. Out of the shadows the familiar outline appeared.  He stopped a small distance from me, half in shadow and half in the dim orange glow from the torchlight, bringing the strange image of half an angel and half a demon to my mind.  Even in the darkness, I could tell that both his eyes were gleaming with anger and for the first time in a long time, I felt a little afraid to be near him.

‘I’m sorry, what?’ I asked, trying to regain some of my composure by keeping my voice from shaking.

‘I said I never figured that you were a coward,’ he said, keeping his voice low.

‘Oh really? And how exactly am I a coward?’ I said folding my arms, hoping that I appeared a lot bolder than I felt.

‘I would have thought that was fairly obvious,’ he scoffed, mimicking my gesture by folding his arms and leaning against the large stone pillar, throwing more of his features into the torchlight.  I couldn’t help but stare at the effect.  His usually white blonde hair shimmered like gold and the flickering flames from the torches danced in his eyes, ‘since you are very clearly trying to avoid me.’

‘Oh please, don’t flatter yourself,’ I said trying my best not to stare at him.

‘Am I wrong? Are you telling me that you didn’t go to McGonagall and get your potions seat and your detention changed all so that you could avoid me?’

‘As a matter of fact you are wrong. It wasn’t me that asked to be moved, it was McGonagall’s idea,’ I said triumphantly. I couldn’t help but give a quite spectacular smirk of my own as the arrogant expression on his face slipped, his eyes filling with a degree of doubt.

'Apparently you're a bad influence and I need some space from you so I can focus on my grades.'  I said smugly, watching a shadow of doubt appear in his features. 

‘Fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are avoiding me,’ he said closing the space between us.

‘And why would I do that? Why would I want to avoid you?’ I managed to struggle out.

‘You know why.  After what happened.  After we… after you kissed me.’

I kissed him. Not that he kissed me. Or that we kissed each other.  I kissed him.  Something about the phrasing got my blood boiling and my defences up. I was determined not to let him see that he had got to me.

‘Yes Draco I kissed you,’ I said, trying my best to sound nonchalant as his eyes widened slightly at my admittance. ‘I was upset and you were there. It’s not a big deal and I am certainly not avoiding you because of it.’

I hadn’t even noticed Draco’s expression throughout my little rant.  If I thought I had stripped him of his arrogance then I was totally wrong, for it had found its way back into each and every one of his features.

‘What?’ I asked annoyed, after he continued to smirk at me, staying silent.

‘Oh nothing, I’m just wondering who you think you’re trying to kid with that little speech, because you’re certainly not fooling me.’

‘Well you can think what you like, but that… kiss meant absolutely nothing.’

‘And you wonder why I’m calling you a coward?’ he asked, with a look of disgust on his face that I knew pretty well.

All I could do was to furrow my brows in question.

‘You are a coward because you can’t admit to yourself your true feelings. You’re lying to yourself and you’re lying to me.’

‘I’m, I’m not, I…’

‘You know as well as I do that there is something between us,' he said, cutting me off,  'I don’t know what it is, but it’s like there’s some sort of pull, some sort of attraction between us that I can’t explain, but I’m tired of pretending that it doesn’t exist.  I’m tired of being a coward.  Are you?’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I said weakly, my voice unsteady.

‘Stop pretending Hermione,’ he said stepping even closer to me, so close I could almost feel the heat radiating off of him. I wanted to step back, but my legs felt like lead, gluing me to the ground, freezing me in place. ‘Stop pretending that you can’t feel it.  Feel this,’ he said, pointing between the two of us.  ‘I know I’m not the only one. I know you feel it too.’

‘I… don’t,’ I struggled to say, taking a small step back, only for him to close the distance again with a small step of his own.

‘Yes you do,’ he said stepping up so close to me that there was barely an inch between us.  He leaned in close to me, so close that I could feel his warm breath on my face.  ‘I hear it in your voice,’ he said leaning forward and whispering in my ear, causing me body to betray me by giving a slight tremble.

 ‘I see it in the way that you react to me,’ he said running his hand slowly down my arm, causing a line of goose bumps to appear.  I noticed the hint of a smile that appeared on his lips as he noticed my reaction.

‘I can see it in your eyes,’ he said bringing his face up so close to mine, resting his forehead against mine giving me no option but to look up into his steely grey eyes.

‘And I can see it in your lips,’ he said, swallowing deeply and moving his lips down to touch mine, ‘that you want to kiss me.’

This should have been the point where I pulled away, where I pushed him away.  Where I set him straight and marched off to the Gryffindor common room, giving him a scathing comment on my way past him about how I couldn’t care less about him and he would be the last guy in the world that I would ever dream of kissing.

That’s what I should have done. Should. But in the case of head verses heart, it seemed that my head had temporarily left the building leaving my heart in charge, free to do whatever the hell it felt like. Before I could even think of why, my eyes fluttered closed and my mouth started to move slowly against his. As if he had been assessing my reaction and finally realised that I wasn’t going to push him away and slap him around the head, his arm snaked it's way around my back. Feeling emboldened, I brought my hand up to the back of his neck, pulling him even closer to me, closing the last remaining space between us.  In that moment he seemed to deepen the kiss, pressing me even closer to him.  His lips were soft and firm, but his kisses were unrelenting. I gently lifted my hand up to his hair, running my fingers through his long blonde hair, wondering how on earth it was so soft.  I was dangerously close to losing myself completely when I was brought back to reality by the familiar creaking and grinding of the moving staircases- someone was coming.

Panicking I pulled away from Draco, dragging him into the shadows, hiding behind a pillar. ‘Hermione, what are you…’

‘Shh,’ I said, cutting him off, holding my hand out to stop him. We stood in the darkness, waiting as a two girls walked past, deep in conversation about which boys they liked from their year. As the voices got closer, I felt myself press even closer to Draco desperately trying not to be seen.  Standing this close I could feel the steady rise and fall of his chest and his warm breath on my cheek.  Turning to face him I realised how close we were standing, my body pressed against his.  He could probably hear just how loudly my heart was beating. He began to lift his hand up towards me when the door at the opposite end of the corridor closed and I took a quick step backwards out of his reach.

 I saw his hand quickly drop to his side, trying to hide the movement of his hand, although he couldn’t quite hide the small flash of hurt that appeared in his eyes.

That had been too close. Far too close. What if those girls had seen us? What if they had come just one minute earlier? How on earth would I have explained kissing Draco Malfoy in a corridor?

‘So anyway I need to go.  It’s getting late,’ I said, unable to meet his eyes.

‘Okay,’ he said uncertainly, ‘well I can walk with you some of the way.’

‘No thanks, I’m fine,’ I replied, beginning to walk away.

‘What about tomorrow? Can we meet?’ he asked, looking so hopeful that I almost caved. I had to be strong.  I had to walk away.

‘I can’t, I’m busy,’ I said deliberately avoiding looking at him.

‘Hermione, what’s the matter?’ he said, trying to reach and out and touch my shoulder before I stepped away out of his reach.  A brief flash of hurt crossed his face as I pulled away from him, ‘Look I’m sorry if I was too forward, I just got carried away.’

‘Please talk to me,’ he urged again, when I still didn’t say anything.  ‘What’s wrong?’

‘This,’ I said gesturing between the two of us, ‘we can’t do this.’

‘Why? Why not. Who says we can’t do it?’

‘Everyone will say it. You and me.  We can’t be together. It’s just wrong.’

A look of understanding seemed to cross his face along with a dark look that immediately made me shrink back and further away from him, ‘because I’m a death eater, right?  No matter what I do that’s what you’ll always think of me.’

‘No that’s not it at all,’ I said quickly, ‘I know you’re not a death eater.  It’s just that I..’

‘You don’t trust me,’ he hissed back.

‘No, I..’

‘You don’t,’ he stated, matter of factly, not a trace of doubt in his voice.

‘Can you blame me?,’  I said eventually, ‘ever since I’ve known you, for the last seven years, you have made it your personal mission to make my life a living hell. You think I’m a mudblood and so very far beneath you. You can’t blame me for having doubts that all of a sudden you want to… whatever it is you want.’

As I spoke, the anger disappeared from his eyes and even after I had finished speaking he stayed silent, just watching me.  ‘No I can’t blame you. I know it’s my fault that you feel that way, but I promise you that I have changed and I don’t think that way about you anymore and I promise you that I will prove myself to you. I will make you trust me.’

‘I don’t know Draco.  None of this makes any sense.’

‘Not everything in the world has to have a reason Hermione.  Just take a chance. Take a chance on me. Please. I promise you I won’t let you down. I really like you Hermione.’

‘But why?’

‘Why do I like you?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows in question.

‘Yes?’ I answered, suddenly feeling very embarrassed and yet I had come this far and I really wanted to know the answer, so I looked him straight in the eye and waited for him to answer.

‘Seriously, you want me explain why I like you,’ he asked looking more than a little annoyed, ‘Fine’, he said, closing his eyes and clenching his jaw, like he was psyching himself up, then with a quick shake of his head he began, looking me directly in the eye the entire time, ‘I like how you stand up to me. You’re not afraid to tell me exactly what you think of me. Nobody else had ever done that. Not one person.  I like how brave you are and how you’ll tackle any situation head on.  I love how passionate you are and how you will stand up for what’s right no matter what.  I love the look that you get when you’re reading, like you are somewhere completely different to the rest of us. Like you’ve blocked everything else out.  You just look so happy. I love the sound of your laugh and how you crinkle your noes when you smile.  And I love how you make me feel. You make me feel like it’s possible to change, to be a better person.  You make me feel like I can be anyone I want to be.   Is that okay? Is that enough?’ he said after a short pause, suddenly looking a little embarrassed.

Despite myself I could feel my eyes watering and I was finding it incredibly difficult to breathe. No one had ever spoken to me like that before. It’s the way a girl always dreams that a man will speak to her. The way that I had always dreamed when I had read countless books and romance stories. Granted in all my dreams I had never imagined that it would be Draco Malfoy who would be speaking those words to me and yet in that moment I couldn’t imagine anyone else in his place. And just like the way I had always dreamed, I pushed myself up onto my tiptoes and kissed him.

‘Is that a yes?’ he asked, leaning back to look into my eyes again, ‘does that mean we can give this a try?’

‘Shut up and kiss me,’ I said, reaching up behind his neck and pulling him closer to me again.

 

‘That I can do.’



A/N: Once again I am so sorry that I haven't updated in so long.  Work has been very busy and then my laptop broke so I lost everything I had from this chapter so I've had to start from scratch, plus I was never really happy with the start or middle of a chapter, so I've been editing it for ages.

  So anyway here it is.  Hope you all enjoy.  Please leave me a wee review so I know what you think of the ending to the chapter.  I haven't given up on this story and I have lots of ideas so let me know what you think might happen or what you want to happen.
 

Also as it has been ages since I've actually written I was going back and reading over previous chapters and I noticed a few mistakes, so I'm going to be going back and editing some previous chapters, but I have 3000 words of the new chapter written and you know reviews really help to motivate a girl to write. ; ) x
 
 


Chapter 19: Friends
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I walked into the great hall with the others and my eyes immediately found him, easily recognisable by his shining blonde hair. As if he sensed that I was looking at him, he lifted his eyes to meet mine and almost immediately his face lit up with a slow and genuine smile that just about took my breath away.  He mouthed the word ‘hi’, to me and I couldn’t help but smile back at him.  I desperately wanted to be alone with him, but all it took was Ron nudging me, waiting for an answer to a question that I hadn’t even heard, for me to be bumped back to reality. I couldn’t help but flick my eyes over to him every so often and each time that I did, I found his eyes firmly fixed on me, his smile becoming more and more of a smirk each time he caught me looking at him. I found that even though it was December and incredibly cold outside, I was feeling a strange heat begin to creep over me and I was pretty sure that I was blushing. I realised that I was finding it increasingly hard to keep track of what was going on around me.  I was barely listening to what the others were saying, although I don’t think that they really even noticed that I wasn’t paying attention.  From what I could gather they were busy talking quidditch strategy – the next match against Ravenclaw would take place shortly after the Christmas holidays and so Harry had upped the team’s practices to give them as much preparation before the holidays as they could.   I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be asking me for my opinion on anything anyway, so I was free to stare openly for a little while longer. 



  The fleeting glances between the two of us continued all throughout the day and the more that I saw of him, the more I had the intense feeling that I wanted to kiss him again. For the rest of the day I could feel whenever he was nearby, the heat of his stare making me very aware that I was being watched.  My stomach flipped a little more each time that I saw him and when he brushed past me in the corridor, he very deliberately pushed his arms out slightly causing his fingers to gently brush against my hand making my whole body tense and goosebumps immediately appear all over my arm. He was driving me crazy and from the glint in his eyes, he knew it.

 

It was however in our potions class, which was the last class of the day, when he decided to strike.  Potions class was absolutely freezing and so we were all extremely grateful for the fact that the fires were lit which meant that today we would be making a potion.  I tried my best to listen to Professor Haven when she was giving the instructions; I was determined that I was going to make a good potion today. We were learning how to make a cure for a cold, which would be useful since half of the castle had a bright red and runny nose caused by the freezing winds that were blowing about the highland mountains.  However I couldn’t help but sneak glances over to my old table, now Draco’s table, every so often.  He was concentrating on chopping his mandrake roots, his brow furrowed in concentration, as his long, elegant fingers checked that each of his roots were perfectly even in size. I spent so long watching what Draco was doing that I wasn’t paying attention to what I was supposed to doing. It was only when Professor Haven told us that we had thirty minutes left that I panicked and realised that I really had to start concentrating or I was never going to get my own potion finished and I had a reputation to maintain. It was only when I looked at the stock pile that Terry and I were to share, that I realised that there was no Wormwood left and I finally stopped working.

‘Did you use all of the Wormwood?’ I asked Terry, trying not to sound too snappy.

‘Dunno,’ he answered bluntly, not even bothering to take his eyes off of his cauldron.

‘Well there isn’t any here and there should have been enough for both of us,’ I said, my voice rising with irritation.

‘Well then I guess I must have,’ Terry said with a shrug.

‘And you wouldn’t have thought to maybe get some more since you used the whole supply?’

‘Well you know what they say, if you’re slow, you’re last,’ he said, giving me an almost Draco worthy smirk.

‘Well maybe if you had managed to not to screw up yours in the first place, then you wouldn’t have had to steal mine,’ I said through gritted teeth. ‘But you know what Terry, don’t worry about it, you clearly need it more than I do,’ I said scathingly, before turning around and walking to the supply cupboard, totally enjoying the complete look of fury on Terry’s face.

 

  I had just about calmed down by the time that I found the jar that contained the Wormwood when I felt a presence in the cupboard behind me. I whipped around and nearly dropped what I was holding when I saw that Draco was leaning against the door frame watching me.

‘Hi,’ I said, rather breathlessly, my heart pumping wildly in my chest from the fright.

‘Hey,’ he said simply, giving me a trademark Malfoy smirk. Terry Boot had nothing on him.

After a moment of awkward silence I finally spoke, ‘did you, um, need some of the Wormwood?’ I asked.

He looked down at the jar in my hand before bringing his gaze back to my face. ‘No.  Thanks.’

He continued to look at me questioningly without saying anything and because he was blocking the door, I had no choice but stay where I was.

‘Um, so is there a reason that you came to the potions cupboard?’ I asked, ‘or are you just here to admire the view,’ I asked, trying to break the tension.

‘Something like that,’ he said, his eyes flicking down over my body before returning to my face, which of course caused me to blush furiously and rendered me pretty much speechless.

‘So you don’t hate me then?’ he asked suddenly.

‘What!’ I said surprised at the turn in the conversation, ‘why would I hate you?’

‘I just thought that maybe, you might regret what happened last night, between us.  And I’ve been wanting to speak to all day and there just wasn’t a moment when you’ve been alone and so I saw you come in here and I just had to speak to you. I had to know.’

‘Draco, I really think that we should get back to class.  We can talk later,’ I said, trying to get past him at the door. I really didn’t fancy having a discussion about the two of us in the middle of potions class where anyone could hear.

‘No please,’ he said, stepping further inside and closing the door to the cupboard behind him.  ‘Hermione I am going crazy here.  You kissed me back last night, but you never really told me what you wanted.  Was it just a kiss?’ he asked sounding nervous, ‘or is there a chance that you might want something more.  With me.’

‘Draco, I really need to get back to class,’ I said firmly, avoiding his gaze, ‘we both do.’

‘Meet me tonight,’ he blurted out suddenly, pressing himself against the door so that I had no way of leaving.

‘Draco,’ I said warningly, almost pleadingly.

‘Hermione, please.  Just meet me tonight. Please.  We can talk.’

 ‘Why?’

‘So you can get to know me better,’ he smirked.

‘I don’t know Draco, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get away from the others,’ I said, willing myself to just agree to meet him. The others would easily believe that I had gone to library again. 

‘Well you should know that I am not moving from this door until you agree,’ he said, widening his stance to completely block the door and raising one perfectly arched eyebrow in challenge.

I met his gaze in challenge for a full minute before I caved. ‘Fine,’ I agreed reluctantly sensing that this was one battle I would not win, ‘not that you’re leaving me much choice.’

‘Excellent, shall we say the kitchens again.  About 8?’

‘Sure,’ I agreed, unable to stop the slow smile that was threatening to appear. ‘So, um, can you actually let me past, I said walking forward to get past him and out of the door.  However, he didn’t budge.  He stood firm in front of the door despite the fact that our bodies were incredibly close. I looked up at him to see what he was doing to find that he was staring at me intently. As soon as my eyes met his, he swooped down and caught my lips in the briefest of kisses.  As soon as my eyes closed, he pulled away and turned and walked out of the door, leaving me standing completely breathless and definitely wanting more.

 

  The rest of potions class definitely wasn’t easy.  No one seemed to have noticed the fact that I had been in the store cupboard for at least five minutes and emerged completely flushed, which was a huge relief, but I was more preoccupied by the fact that I definitely had feelings for Draco Malfoy and I was pretty sure that he genuinely liked me too.  I didn’t even care that my potion was definitely just average.  I didn’t care that Terry Boot had beaten me.  I didn’t even care that he was continuing to gloat about the fact that he’d beaten me.  All I cared about was that I was going to be with Draco tonight and we would be completely alone.

 

That night at dinner at dinner, I found that I barely eat anything.  My stomach was too busy fluttering with nervous anticipation. Every part of me tingled with nerves and my foot was tapping up and down underneath the table, much to Ginny’s annoyance.  The others were still wrapped up in quidditch strategy but even they noticed that I hadn’t eaten anything.  I kept on glancing at my watch seeing how long it was before I would have to leave.  Seeing how long I had left to come to my senses and not go.

‘Why do you keep looking at your watch,’ Ginny asked with a raised eyebrow.  ‘Have you got a hot date or something?’ she joked. My heart literally stopped beating. 

Ha, yeah right,’ I answered weakly, ‘I’m just looking at the time.’ If only she knew, I thought guiltily.

‘Uh, huh and you’ve barely touched your dinner,’ she added as if this was further proof that something wasn’t right.

‘I’m just not hungry,’ I answered as we all stood up from our places at the table.

‘Right,’ she said with a distinct air of suspicion in her voice, ‘well Harry and I are going to take a walk if that’s ok,’ Ginny said, while Harry hovered awkwardly behind her, desperately trying not to look at Ron.

‘Sure, see you later,’ I said giving them a wave as they skipped out of the great hall hand in hand.  Okay.  Two down, one to go.

‘So, what are we going to do then?’ Ron said awkwardly.

‘Em, well I was actually going to catch up on some homework.’

‘Cool, well you can help me with transfiguration,’ he said, stepping in to walk beside me, ‘I don’t understand it at all.’

‘Actually I was going to do arithmancy tonight,’ I lied, picking the subject that Ron didn’t take.

‘Okay, well maybe we can go to the library together.’

By this point I was getting pretty desperate.  And frustrated. If four months ago Ron had wanted to spend the evening alone with me I would have jumped at the chance but now when all I wanted was a night to myself, he wouldn’t leave me alone.

‘Oh, you know what, I actually need to go and ask Professor Vector something about the assignment she gave us and then my book is back in the dorms, so you can go to the library if you want, but I’ll probably be a while.’

‘I could come with you if you like?’ he asked hopefully.

‘No, thanks. I’ll see you later,’ I said feeling guilty as I turned and walked away, not even giving him the chance to reply.  However that guilt soon passed when I looked at my watch and realised that I had fifteen minutes to get to the kitchens.

 

I was about ten minutes late by the time I reached the kitchens and I guessed that he would already be inside.  I tried to steady my breathing from having to run most of the way here and checked that my hair was still reasonably flat.  It was of course, George’s hair serum really was a miracle cure.   When I was sure I looked decent, I turned to face the portrait hole and reached out my hand to tickle the pear.  My hand paused, suspended in mid-air as I had one last flash of doubt.  Once I stepped inside the room there would be no going back. I could easily turn around now and go back to the way my life had been before.  Lonely and miserable. Or I could be the brave Gryffindor and take a chance on something that could make me happy. 

  When I walked into the room, Draco was pacing back and forth, a deep frown etched onto his features.  As if sensing that he was no longer alone, he suddenly stopped and whipped around to face me, standing in the doorway. The kitchen was pretty quiet.  I had thought that the house elves would still be busy clearing up after dinner but there were only a couple still pottering about wiping down tables and putting some things away.  I stayed standing in the doorway, my knees were not moving and I was stuck where I was.

‘I wasn’t sure that you were going to show,’ he said, giving me a nervous smile.

‘I said I would be here,’ I replied quickly and instantly regretted how snappy I sounded.  My nerves were really getting the better of me.

  After that there was an awkward silence and although I knew it was probably my fault I didn’t know how to break it.  I had nothing to say.  My mind had gone blank.

  The silence went on until it had become pretty unbearable and I had just about made up my mind to cut my losses and leave when he finally broke the silence.

‘Are you hungry?’ he asked.

I wasn’t really.  I was too nervous to be hungry, but looking at his hopeful face I nodded warily at him, but stayed exactly where I was.

‘You know I don’t know about you but I prefer to sit at the table to eat, but you know, standing in the doorway, I guess that works too.’

Feeling incredibly stupid, I finally moved from the doorway and actually entered the room, making my way to the table in the centre of the room. Draco watched me the whole way with a definite look of amusement in his eyes.

When I finally reached the table, he held out a chair for me to sit on and it became my turn to smile at him.

‘Wow, what a gentleman,’ I said, mocking him slightly.  He just shrugged his shoulders, but couldn’t keep the grin off of his face as he moved around to the other side of the table and sat opposite me.

‘Are you sure it’s ok for us to be here.  They look kind of busy,’ I said eyeing the few visible house elves were scurrying about with pots and plates from tonight’s dinner.

‘Are you kidding,’ he laughed, ‘they love to help.’  He must have seen the frown that crossed my face because then he added, ‘don’t worry Granger, I did ask them and they’re honestly happy to help.’  I gave him a small shrug to let him know that it was ok, although I was actually surprised that he had bothered to actually ask them.

‘So you must be hungry.  You didn’t eat much at dinner,’ he said, leaning casually back in his chair with a definite glint in his eye.

‘And how on earth would you know that I didn’t each much for dinner?’

‘It’s a gift.  I know everything,’ he said, his voice laced with fake arrogance.

‘Or you were just being a stalker and couldn’t keep your eyes off of me,’ I teased back, batting my eyelashes at him, before bursting out laughing.

He looked me square in the eyes for a moment, before grinning and sliding his eyes to side. ‘And why couldn’t you eat your dinner I wonder,’ he said returning his gaze to look me square in the eye, ’Was it because you were just too nervous because you knew you would be seeing me later,’ he said, smirking at the blush that was appearing on my cheeks, giving him all the answers he needed.

‘So what are we having to eat then?  Since you deprived me of my dinner,’ I asked him trying to change the subject and avoid the eyes that kept boring into mine.

‘How about desert? Apple pie?’

‘Apple pie are you serious?’ I asked in mock horror.

‘What?’ he asked with confusion.

‘Apple pie?  How could anyone choose apple pie for desert when chocolate is an option?  And here was me thinking that we were getting along.’

‘Hey, if you are dissing apple pie, then you and me are going to have a serious falling out.’

An elf called Binky came and asked us what we both wanted, Draco asking for a cold apple pie with cream and me asking for a hot chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. I waited until the elf had left the table before I turned back to Draco.

‘And to think that I actually like someone who’s a fan of cold deserts and apple pie no less.  Such poor tastes.’

I watched as the smile slid off of his face to be replaced by a look of bewildered shock.

‘What?  What is it?’ I asked, wondering why he looked so stricken.

‘You like me?’ he struggled to say, his voice quiet.

I opened my mouth to answer him and then closed it again quickly. I hadn’t even realised what I had said, but thinking about it I realised that it was true.  He was the person in the day that I most looked forward to seeing and he was the only person who I had actually told things to.  Things the others still didn’t know.  And although I would never admit it to him, he was the person that appeared in my dreams; he was the person that I wanted to kiss. Looking at his face I wasn’t sure which answer he actually wanted to hear, but I decided to go with the honest answer.

‘Of course I like you Draco.  We’re… friends aren’t we?’ I said, really wishing that I could find a better word than friends to describe us.  It didn’t seem enough. He was definitely more than a friend to me.

‘Friends?’ he repeated, as I nodded in agreement, wishing that I could say more.  Draco looked back at me with what I thought was sadness or maybe disappointment in his eyes, before he looked away from me again and stared at the wall. He stayed silent for a while and I watched as the muscles in his jaw worked furiously and he repeatedly clenched and unclenched his fist.  I sat in silence wondering what I had said that was wrong.

‘Hermione I don’t just want to be friends with you,’ he said eventually, meeting my gaze for the briefest second before it flicked away again, ‘I want to be more than that.’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I said warily, although secretly I hoped that I did know what he meant.  I just didn’t want to be the one to say it first.

Draco let out a groan of exasperation.  ‘Damn it Hermione, you know exactly what I mean.  I like you.  I want to spend time with you.  I want to be with you.’

‘What like boyfriend and girlfriend,’ I said jokingly.  Nerves were really getting the better of me.

‘If you want to put a label on it, then yes,’ he said simply and with such honesty that it startled me.

I had been wrong before when I was debating whether or not to come into the kitchen and meet Draco.  This was the point of no return.  This was the moment where I would make the decision that would change everything. Should I listen to my head, or listen to my heart. 

A million different thoughts entered into my head.  A million different scenarios where I played over what the outcome of us together would be.  But in the end I could never know how it would end up. No amount of logic or rationalising would help me to solve the problem.  I had to decide whether or not to take a chance.  I looked up into his eyes and with what I saw there, all of my doubts disappeared.  Even if I wasn’t sure, Draco’s eyes held absolutely no trace of doubt. ‘Okay then,’ I answered, sounding more sure than I felt.

‘Really,’ he whispered, looking stunned. ‘So are we really going to do this?  You and me.  We’re going to give this a go?

‘Yeah, I mean, if you want to,’

‘Seriously? Of course I do,’ he said leaning forward in his seat and closing the distance between us.

‘Okay then,’ I said smiling at him, as my heart quite literally hammered inside of my chest both with fear at what I’ve just said and with the thrill of it.  Just at that moment Binky reappeared with our deserts, forcing us to break eye contact.  When she finally moved away I nervously met his eyes before tucking into my desert.  As the first spoonful of warm, delicious chocolate passed my lips I let out an involuntary moan of approval, which made Draco chuckle from the other side of the table.

I finished my desert first.  I guess I had been hungrier than I had realised.  Once I placed my spoon back down on my plate, I couldn’t help but watch Draco as he was eating.  Noticing how relaxed he seemed.  There was almost a small smile at the edge of his mouth and for nearly the first time in eight years I couldn’t help but think that he looked almost happy.  He looked different this way.  The contrast to his usual features was startling and I wished that everyone could get to see this Draco.  Could get the chance to know him. But thinking of Harry and Ron I knew that it would never happen.  They would never even give him the chance to show them that he had changed. And they certainly wouldn’t like me with him.

I had taken a chance on choosing to be with Draco but I wasn’t sure I was willing to take that chance with Ron and Harry.  Not yet anyway.  I didn’t want them to turn their backs on me. I didn’t want to be alone.

‘Erm, Draco, about this, about us,’ I say gesturing between the two of us,’ can I ask you something?’

‘Sure,’ he answered, eyeing me warily.

‘Can we just keep this between us, for now?  I mean just for a little while.’

Draco’s eyes immediately hardened and he crossed his arms across his chest. 

‘I mean I just don’t think that people will understand and they’ll be judging us and interfering and I just want it to be us for a little while before everyone else comes in and ruin things.’

‘Hermione I don’t give a damn what people think.  I want to be with you and if you want to be with me, then that’s all that should matter,’ he said, fire sparking in his eyes.

‘Then why can’t we be together?’ I say desperately, ‘Why can’t we just spend some time together and see what happens, instead of complicating things with other people?’

‘Hermione, I…’ he begins before I cut him off.

‘Please.  Please,’ I said, pleading with him.

I could tell that he was thinking about it as he sighed deeply, closing his eyes as his jaw clenched furiously, before he opened them and reluctantly said, ‘Fine.  We’ll do it your way.  For now.’

‘Thank you,’ I said feeling relieved.  ‘I should go,’ I say reluctantly, ‘it’s getting late.’

‘Fine,’ he said deliberately not looking at me as I walked to the door. I was about to leave, but I didn’t want to leave as awkward, so I turned around and said, ‘Draco, please don’t be mad at me.  It’s only for a little while I promise.’

‘I’m not mad,’ he answered, lifting his head to look me straight in the eye,  ‘I’m just… disappointed.’ Ouch I think that hurt even more.

 




 

 A.N- AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Welcome to what must be about draft 20 of this chapter.  There have been so many different versions and none of them have felt right at all.  I have realised that I write angst and drama way better than romance (not sure what that says about me) so this chapter has been incredibly hard to write.  Not to mention the fact that I haven’t started a new chapter in so long that I realised that I actually couldn’t remember what happened in my own story (slightly embarrassing) so I have had to go back and read it again and I noticed a few mistakes which I have been editing, hence all the updates.  Anyway, this is chapter 19 and it’s time that Draco and Hermione were actually together and they need to be together for what I have planned in the rest of the story.  I could keep going on for chapters and chapters of Hermione not allowing herself to be with Draco but that would be boring and yet in previous versions of this chapter Hermione was still pulling away from Draco or it was the other extreme they were just too lovey dovey which is not how I want them to be, it's just not believable.  Hopefully there is enough romance, but you can still see a hint of arrogant Draco and Hermione still not really trusting him, but wanting to.  I hope you like this chapter.  Let me know what you think of it, cause as you can see this chapter has been slowly driving me mad.

 

 


Chapter 20: Dates
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The castle was filled with its customary twenty foot Christmas trees and there was a sense of excitement in the air.  There hadn’t been any snow yet, which wasn’t unusual.  The snow usually came to the Highland mountains at the end of January or February, sometimes even as late as March or April.  Yet in its place, there was a bitter, cutting wind that blew through nearly every corridor in the draughty castle. Many of the first years were walking around with bright red noses and Madame Pomfrey had been inundated with many of them complaining of colds. The potion that we had made in potions class was definitely being put to good use.  Those of us who had been at the castle longer knew all the tricks of the trade of avoiding such colds and many people were seen performing spells here and there to keep themselves continually warm and dry.  Yet none of that seemed to dampen the Christmas mood.  The sound of constant laughter and excitement filled the air.  It was almost infectious, but I found that I really couldn’t bring myself to care about Christmas at all.



  Everyone was busy talking about their plans for the Christmas holidays.  Usually I would do whatever Harry and Ron were doing.  Whether at the castle or at the Weasley’s we had always spent the holidays together. This year was different.  At the beginning of December Ginny had started dropping subtle hints about having a quiet Christmas and Christmas being a time for family.  It took me a while to cotton on to what she was actually saying though.  The Weasley’s wanted to be alone this Christmas, just family, no one else.  Even Harry, who Mrs Weasley looked on as a son had decided that this year he would let them be alone. He had been invited to stay with Andromeda and Teddy and after a lot of thought he had decided to accept.

That just left me to decide what to do, although in truth I didn’t really have very many options. My parents were going to Australia but I could still go home or I could stay at the castle. Either way I would be spending Christmas alone.  Harry had said that I was more than welcome to stay at Andromeda’s but I knew he was only being polite in asking.  He didn’t actually expect me to accept.  All the others thought that I would be going home.  That I would be spending Christmas with my family.  I didn’t correct them.  I didn’t want to tell them that at the moment I had no family and I didn’t want to intrude on theirs. Whenever they brought up the topic of Christmas I smiled politely back at them and tried to be as enthusiastic as they were, but the closer we came to the actual holidays, the harder it became. On more than one occasion I had to excuse myself from the table and go to the girl’s toilets just so they couldn’t see the tears that were stinging my eyes.  I had never felt so lonely in my life.

 

 However Christmas wasn’t the only reason that I was feeling low.  It had been over a week since I had been with Draco in the kitchen and we had barely spoken since.  I would occasionally meet his eye in the corridor or in class but all he would do was give me a quick smile that disappeared almost as soon as it had appeared, leaving me to wonder if I had imagined that it was even there in the first place.  Every moment that I had spent with Draco seemed to be more and more surreal.  When I was with him, I believed every word that he said to me and yet as soon as we were apart, all those niggling doubts started coming back into my mind. Doubts that were ever increasing due to the fact that I hadn’t spoken to him in such a long time.  We had agreed to try and make a go of things and then he becomes the invisible man.

  Not that I was exactly rushing over to him.   I mean I did have an excuse.  I still had my detentions twice a week, I had all my homework and assignments to complete and they were being piled on with more and more being added every day.  Plus I was still trying to help Ron as much as he would actually let me. And besides Draco hadn’t exactly made an effort to speak to me either.  Maybe he had changed his mind about being with me.  Maybe he had seen sense.  After the awkward way that we had ended things, I couldn’t blame him if he had.

 

It was the week before Christmas and my second last ever detention so I should have been feeling more cheerful than I actually was.  I had just left the Headmistresses office and I was walking slowly back to the common room, actually quite enjoying the gloomy shadows of the corridors -they suited my mood, when I finally came face to face with Draco. He was leaning casually against a pillar, his arms folded in front of him.  He had the top buttons of his shirt undone and his tie was loosened casually. It was so unlike the prim and proper Draco that I was used to that I couldn’t help but gasp slightly at the contrast.

  It took a moment for him to realise that I was there and when he did, he looked up at me from behind the messed up tendrils of hair that had fallen in front of his eyes.  He had never looked more gorgeous and my stomach knotted with a desperate longing for him to walk towards me and kiss me.  Although that thought was followed by the crushing realism that it was unlikely after what I had said to him.

  He watched me warily and something that he saw in my face made him furrow his brow slightly.  Uncrossing his arms, he pushed himself forward off the pillar and turned around to face me.

‘How was your detention?’ he asked lightly, although his voice sounded deafening in the silence of the corridor.

‘Fine,’ I said simply, not trusting myself to say anymore. I didn’t move towards him.  I stayed at one end of the corridor with him standing at the other.  As much as I wanted to go to him, something was holding me back.

‘Okay’ he said slowly, looking at me thoughtfully, clearly unsure what he was to say next.

‘What are you doing here?’ I finally asked, unable to bear the silence for much longer.

 ‘Well as cheesy as this is going to sound,’ he said looking up at me again from under his lashes, ‘I wanted to see you and so I wanted to know if you would like me to walk you back to your common room?’

I couldn’t help but look up at him in total surprise.  He wanted to see me.  He didn’t hate me.

‘Wow, what a gentleman,’ I said softly, a note of teasing in my voice.  

‘Hmm, but you see I do have an ulterior motive,’ he said walking slowly towards me.  Swaggering toward me, might have been a better description.

‘Oh and what would that be?’ I asked raising my eyebrow in question.

‘Well actually I have two ulterior motives.  The first is this,’ he said stopping in front of me and swooping down to give me the briefest of kisses, his lips barely touching mine.  ‘And the second is that I would like to ask you out on a date.’

‘Excuse me,’ I asked in total surprise.

‘You heard me the first time,’ he said warningly, ‘don’t make me say it again.’

I guess he was embarrassed.  Even in the dim light of the corridor, I could still see the slight tinge of pink had appeared on his pale cheeks.

‘I thought you didn’t want to see me?’ I asked him, unable to keep the slight note of hurt out of my voice.

‘And what made you think that?’ he asked as a look of bewilderment settled on his features.

‘You haven’t spoken to me all week,’ I answered in a small voice, avoiding his eyes.   

‘Hermione that was your decision,’ he said clearly frustrated, ‘you said that you didn’t want everyone to know about us and you wanted to keep it quiet.’

I simply pouted in reply.

‘And so with that in mind I could hardly come up to the Gryffindor table at breakfast and ask you how you slept, or hold your hand in the corridor, or send you hearts and flowers or recite poetry to you as we…’

‘Okay I get it,’ I interrupted wanting to laugh at him and shout at him at the same time. ‘I know what I said I wanted and I know it was my decision, but I just didn’t think that you would ignore me.’

‘Like I said, I haven’t really had the opportunity to speak to you.  I’ve been just as busy as you have.  Anyway I’m here now and you never answered my question.  Date?’ he said raising his eyebrows suggestively.

‘And just what would this date entail?’

‘Well obviously nothing public,’ he said giving me a pointed look that made me feel a little guilty. ‘So I was thinking that since Saturday is the day of the Hogsmeade trip, the castle will be quiet and since we have our last detention that morning, we could use it as an excuse to celebrate.  The room of requirement would give us some privacy.’

‘That sounds perfect.’

‘Do you know how to get to the room of requirement?’ he asked quite seriously.

‘Puh- lease,’ I said rolling me eyes.  I mean come on, how many times had I been inside there.

‘Oh yeah I forgot, you were a wild child who knows all of the castle’s secrets,’ he said sarcastically.

‘Well I wouldn’t say I know all of them,’ I answered, ‘but I definitely know more than you do.’

‘Okay then Miss Know it All,’ he said grabbing my hand so that I was walking beside him, ‘you’ll just have to start sharing some of your secrets.’

 

 The next few days were more bearable now that I had something to look forward to.  When Saturday came, I was so excited that even the others noticed.  I just put it down to the fact that my detentions were finally finishing. The others set off for Hogsmeade whilst I set off to the Headmistresses office for the final time. The work was pretty boring but I didn’t even mind.  Professor McGonogall wanted me to write and address her Christmas cards for all of the other wizarding schools.  I was sure that most of my handwriting wasn’t even legible because my hand was shaking so much with nervous anticipation.  

Professor McGonogall gave me the expected ‘I hope I’d learned my lesson’ speech although I think with the Christmas spirit she cut it a little shorter than usual.  I nodded throughout and did my best to look contrite all the time just hoping she would hurry up and finish so I could go and meet Draco.

When I finally left her office, I made my way through the maze of empty corridors.  Most people were at Hogsmeade buying their last minute Christmas presents- all of mine had been bought from catalogues this year, and the few people that remained were sensibly in their common rooms, keeping out of the cold and draughty corridors.

When I finally reached the room of requirement, I realised that for the second time I was late and Draco was already inside.  At least I hoped it was Draco and I wasn’t about to wander in on a stranger.  Again I paused briefly before I went into the room.  I checked over the outfit that I was wearing.  I had put extra thought into what I was going to wear today.  Although with the castle being freezing, I didn’t have many options.  Warm clothing wasn’t exactly flattering.  In the end I had picked out a pair of jeans with warm boots and a red woolly jumper.  Muggle clothes.

When I finally entered the room of requirement I breathed a small sigh of relief when I saw that it was indeed Draco who was inside.  I stepped inside the room and a slow smile spread across my lips.  The room of requirement apparently had given us what we needed for a first date, although I wasn’t really sure myself what that was. Nervously I scanned around the room taking in the single couch in front of the cosy fire. The only lights in the room were coming from the fire and a few candles that were scattered around the room.  The whole thing seemed very intimate and romantic and as much as I loved the whole thing, I had never been in a situation like this before and I really didn’t know how to act.

 The only comforting thing was that I was pretty sure that Draco was feeling the same way.  Once again it looked as if he had pacing the room before I had entered and he gave me a slow smile that made my heart skip a beat when he saw me walk into the room.

‘Hey, how was your detention?’ I asked him, wandering over to sit on the couch, leaning forward slightly to warm myself on the fire.

‘Ugh, total waste of time. Clean all of the potions cauldrons by hand.  I mean what do these people think we have magic for?’

I giggled slightly at his look of his outrage, which brought his glare to me.

‘And what were you doing?’ he asked, coming to sit down beside me, although staying at the opposite end of the couch.

‘Writing Professor McGonogall’s Christmas cards,’ I admitted with a sheepish grin.

‘Oh, of course you were.  Of course you’d get the easy job.  You are the favourite you know. You can do no wrong,’ he said trying to keep his voice light, although I could sense the bitterness that lay underneath.

‘If that were true, I wouldn’t have gotten detention in the first place would I?’ I said pointedly.

‘Yeah, but you bloody well deserved one.’

‘I know,’ I said, putting my hands up in agreement.  ‘Draco I am sorry you know. I’m sorry that we ended up in this situation. I know it was my fault.  I was having a shockingly bad day and you just so happened to tip me over the edge.’

‘Well I’m not sorry,’ he said, avoiding my questioning gaze. ‘I’m not sorry because if you hadn’t cursed me and given me bat wings, then I wouldn’t have been able to spend all of that time with you and we wouldn’t be here now.  You do however owe me for the cauldrons though.’

‘Deal.  I’ll buy you a brilliant Christmas present to make up for it.’

 ‘Are you hungry?’ he asked.

I just nodded in agreement.

‘Okay, because I brought some food,’ he said, reaching behind him and pulling out a picnic basket. ‘I went to the kitchens before I came here and got some supplies.’

‘Those house elves are going to hate me for showing you that place.’

‘How many times Hermione,’ he said with a roll of the eyes, ‘they are happy to help.  Oh and Binky says hi by the way.’

I watched in wonder as he started to pull an endless supply of food out of the basket.  He had sandwiches, cakes, biscuits, crisps and all sorts of other delicious treats.  He had enough food to feed at least ten people. Finally he pulled out some bottles of butterbeer.

‘I thought we should make this a proper celebration,’ he said as he poured the butterbeer into two glasses and passed me one. ‘Here’s to freedom,’ he said raising his glass in toast.  I clinked my glass against his and took a sip of the frothy drink, enjoying as the sweet liquid slid down my throat and warmed my insides. He settled back against the couch, resting his head the headrest.

‘So, do you do this often?’ I asked, as he turned his head and gave me a questioning look. ‘All of this,’ I said, holding up my glass and gesturing around the room, ‘do you do this for all of your first dates?’  I don’t know why I was asking him.  I really didn’t want to know the answer.

‘Oh yeah,’ he said straight away, ‘every single one.  There were at least three a week for a while there. It was hard juggling it all what with the war and being a death eater and all.  I don’t know how I found the time.’

I knew he was joking but I couldn’t help but sit straight up in my chair and lean slightly away from him.

‘Oh come on, he said, mimicking my action and sitting up, ‘you know I’m joking.’

I did know it, but it didn’t stop me from giving him a reproachful look.

He simply huffed. ‘You are the only girl I have ever brought here.  First date or otherwise.  And while we’re at it, I’ve never actually had a first date before.’

‘Really,’ I asked, finally looking at him.

‘Really,’ he said.  I leaned back in the couch and edged ever so slightly closer to him, secretly happy with his answer. ‘Right, well you said that I was to come today so that I could get to know you better,’ I said, leaning forward to take a tuna sandwich, ‘what did you have in mind?’

‘Okay so let’s ask each other questions,’ he said, joining me in eating.  ‘And please can we stay clear of the serious stuff.’

‘Deal. I’ll go first.  So what’s your favourite book?’

‘Oh, no! I should have known you would ask me that first.’

‘What? What’s the problem?’

‘Okay but please don’t judge me.  I don’t have a favourite book.’

He paused to judge my reaction and I couldn’t help but let out an involuntary gasp as my eyes went wide in horror.

‘No, way.  How can you not have a favourite book?  I mean how?’ I asked genuinely shocked.

‘I guess I just don’t read,’ he said, laughing at my expression.  ‘Never really had the time.  It’s only school books and quidditch stuff that I’ve read.’

‘No way,’ I said in genuine shock.  ‘Hmm well this might be a deal breaker.’

‘Right so dare I even ask what your favourite book is?’

‘Beauty and the Beast,’ I said without hesitation.

‘Never heard of it,’ he said shrugging, ‘what’s it about?’

‘Well it’s a muggle book so I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard of it.  It’s about a prince who is really cruel and selfish and so gets cursed so that he is turned into a beast and he is given a magical rose and told that he has until the last petal falls to find someone who truly loves him, as he is.  And then this guy comes and takes a rose from the beasts garden for his daughter and the beast catches him and imprisons him and tells him to bring his daughter to the castle in his place or he’ll keep him there forever.’  I stop suddenly realising that I have been talking non- stop and when I look up I see him watching me intently.

‘I know it’s silly, but it’s a kid’s story and I don’t know, it’s always been one of my favourites,’ I said, trying to justify my choice.  I know he’ll think it’s a stupid muggle story about magic.

‘So how does it end?’

I look him sceptically, wondering if he’s just humouring me, or if he’s actually interested, but he seemed to be genuinely interested in what I was saying, so I kept going.

‘Well the girl goes to the castle and she hates the beast at the start, but over time they get to know each other and they become friends.  He falls in love with her and asks her to marry him, but she keeps saying no. Then her dad gets sick and because the beast loves her, he lets her go and tells her that she is not his prisoner any more.  But she goes back to the castle and finds the beast dying and just before the last petal falls, she tells the beast that she loves him and he turns back into a human.’

‘It’s just a fairytale, but I always liked it,’ I tell him, feeling the need to justify myself.  ‘What?’ I ask eventually when he still didn’t stay anything and continues to stare at me.

‘Nothing,’ he says slowly, but I can tell from the way that he’s looking at me that there is something on his mind and I immediately feel a little awkward.

‘Your turn,’ I say, breaking the silence.

‘Hmm,’ he says, not understanding what I mean.

‘To ask a question.’

‘Oh right. Okay so, em, favourite subject at school?’

‘Seriously? That’s what you’re going with.’

‘Okay, okay, em, ooh I’ve got a good one.  Did we say that the other had to promise to give an answer?’

‘No,’ I say, feeling suddenly very ominous.

‘But will you promise to give me an answer to this question,’ he inquires, giving me a such a hopeful grin that I can’t help thinking that I would promise to tell him anything. ‘It depends,’ I say warily, wondering what is on his mind.

’ Okay. Why did you need to make Polyjuice Potion in second year and how did involve me?’

‘Oh, no,’ I say, putting my head in my hands, feeling shame and dread pour over me.

‘Come on, please.’

‘Well that’s actually two questions,’ I point out, stalling for time, which earns me a raised eyebrow in reply.

‘Okay, but please don’t get mad. It was a long time ago.’

This makes him look even more questioningly at me and although he still seems curious, he now seems wary of the answer that he might get.

‘So it was second year and you remember all of that stuff was going on with the chamber of secrets,’ I ask as he nods silently in agreement, ‘well everyone was blaming Harry and he wanted to prove that it wasn’t him and the person that he thought it was, was…’

‘Me,’ he finishes for me, when I falter to finish the sentence.

‘Just to clarify, I didn’t think it was you.  I actually didn’t think you had the brains to pull it off.’

‘Oh that makes me feel so much better.  They thought I was out to kill people and you thought I was thick.  Great! So where does Polyjuice potion come into it?’

‘Well like I said, Harry wanted to prove that it was you and so he wanted to get a confession out of you.  He knew you would never admit it to us, but he thought you might admit it to Crabbe and Goyle.’

I wait as his eyes widen with realisation.  ‘You became Crabbe and Goyle. To try and trick me into admitting that I was murdering people. When?’ he thunders, his eyes flashing with rage.

‘Christmas Day.’

He falls back against the couch, running his hands through his hair, clearly thinking back.  ‘Well that makes a lot of sense. No wonder they were acting bizarre.’

‘And where did you come into all of this?’ he says suddenly, whirling round to face me.

‘Hmm,’ I ask, trying to sound as innocent as possible.

‘I presume that it was Potter and Weasley who became Crabbe and Goyle, so where did you come into all?’

‘I made the potion,’ I answered, deliberately missing out the part where I had turned into a cat. ‘I stole some of Professor Snape’s supplies from the cupboard and we made it in the girl’s toilet, you know moaning Myrtle’s one.  That way no one would disturb us.’

‘Fuck sake.  I’m half torn with being impressed and bloody furious.’

‘It was a long time ago Draco.  We were young and we were stupid.  The risks we took and the things that we got ourselves involved in were ridiculous. Please don’t be mad at me.’

‘I’m not mad.  At least not too mad,’ he amended, ‘besides revenge is sweet and I can bide me time,’ he said giving me an evil smirk that would have me running for the door if it wasn’t for the mischievous glint in his eye.

‘So what are you doing for Christmas?’ he asked me, as he filled up my glass with more butterbeer.  He was clearly trying to change the topic of conversation.  Bring back the light conversation we had had before. Only he didn’t know that he had just picked the one topic of conversation that could not do that. The warmth that had previously settled over me instantly vanished as I was reminded that I really didn’t know the answer to that question.

‘Dunno,’ I shrugged, hoping to avoid answering the question.

‘Don’t you usually go to the Weasley’s,’ he asked, taking a swig of his own butterbeer.

‘Yep,’ I answered, ignoring the pang of pain in my chest.

‘But you’re not going this year?’ he pressed, clearly oblivious to my distress.

‘No.’

‘So are you going to stay at the castle?  With Potter?’ he said, looking at me expectantly.

‘No, Harry’s actually going to stay with your aunt Andromeda, so he can be with Teddy, his godson.’

After a momentary pause where he looked at me appraisingly, he finally asked, ‘so who are you spending Christmas with?’

I didn’t answer him. I couldn’t.  I could already feel the threatening tingle start to prickle my eyes and so I turned my face away from him. I didn’t want him to see me cry.  I didn’t want his pity.

‘Hermione, who are you spending Christmas with?’ he asked gently, peering around to try and see my face more clearly.

‘No one. I don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with.  My family don’t want to see me at Christmas and my friends all have other plans,’ I said my voice cracking with emotion, as the first tears spilled from my eyes.

‘Do they know?’

‘No.’

‘Hermione I’m sure that they would be more than happy to let you spend Christmas with them if you just said to them.’

‘I don’t want them to let me,’ I burst out, ‘I don’t want a pity invite.  I want to spend Christmas with people who actually want to spend Christmas with me.’

He sat in silence for a moment, thinking over my answer, when suddenly he blurted out, ‘I’ll spend Christmas with you.’

I couldn’t help but shoot him a look of venom, thinking he was only offering out of pity.

‘Seriously, I’ll spend Christmas with you.’

‘Draco don’t be ridiculous.  You’ve got your family to go home to.’ 

‘Yes but I would rather spend Christmas with you.’

‘Draco I don’t want your pity.’

‘It’s not pity.  I’m actually being very selfish.  Being here means that I get to spend two weeks completely alone with you.  And anyway I’ve decided, I’m staying here and if you don’t stay at the castle it means that I will be here completely alone and you can’t do that to me.’

‘Draco,’ I started, ready to tell him how ridiculous he was being.

‘Hermione,’ he interrupted. ‘Just say yes.  Stop trying to be a martyr.’

Looking at him, seeing him so sincere, there was only really one thing that I could possible say in reply.

‘Okay then, yes.’

‘Brilliant,’ he said looking genuinely happy. ‘Now remember, you have to buy me an extra special Christmas present and I have very high standards.’

 





A/N- Right I need help.  What on earth can Hermione give Draco for Christmas?  I know what Draco is giving Hermione and let’s just say I want it and it is very sweet (there is also a clue in the chapter) but I have no idea what she can give him.  It needs to be pretty special and I’m drawing a total blank.  That chapter is nearly finished apart from ‘Draco opens his ?????’.

So thoughts please.  They would be very much appreciated. As soon as I get an awesome idea for a present the next chapter will be up.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me.  I really feel like I'm on a roll wth this story and I'm  getting to write all the parts of this story that I've been imagining for 2 and a half years.  Finally!!  I've actually written up to chapter 25 and let's just say the story is getting very interesting. I'm very excited about the next few chapters. So thanks again for reading and for all the reviews that I've had so far.  They really help to motivate me and keep me writing and post quicker.  (hint hint!)

 





 


Chapter 21: Holidays
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Harry, Ron and Ginny left for the Christmas holidays on the 23rd December. They left early in the morning, walking to Hogsmeade and apparating from there. Watching them, and just about everyone else in the castle leave wasn’t easy, but the burning feeling of a secret deep in my stomach helped to ease the sadness of them leaving me. I had lied to them, straight to their faces. I told them all that I was going home for Christmas but that I was leaving on Christmas Eve. I made some excuse about my parents not being home until Christmas Eve and me having a load of work to do, which they all rolled their eyes at.

It wasn’t a complete lie. I did actually spend most of that day and Christmas Eve in the library. I did every bit of work that I had to complete for after the holidays so I was completely free for whatever the next two weeks would bring.

Draco joined me at one point, sitting across from me, but he seemed in no mood to do his school work and quickly got bored and left me alone again, opting to go and make the most of a completely empty quidditch pitch.

It wasn’t until dinner that I saw him properly. Once again we had chosen to eat in the kitchens.

‘You didn’t have to stay with me you know. You could still go home,’ I said, voicing what I had been thinking for the entire meal.

He ignored me completely, instead asking what I’d done that day. I knew he’d heard me though from the slight rolling of his eyes.

‘You could you know,’ I pressed again, ignoring his question, ‘there’s still time you know. I won’t hold it against you.’

‘Hermione, I’m staying here. We’ve been over this.’

‘But surely your parents can’t be happy about it.’

At that he betrayed his first signal of unease as his jaw twitched to the side. ‘They’ll survive.’

‘Draco, maybe you should go home if your parents aren’t happy about it.’

‘Hermione, I’ve made my choice. I’m staying here,’ he said firmly, raising his voice, causing me to flinch slightly.

‘I’m just saying that you don’t have to stay with me,’ I said in a small voice, wondering why I kept pushing this. Why did I keep trying to push him away?

He studied me carefully for a moment and I could see the thoughts going round his head. ‘Hermione if you don’t want me to stay here then just say so. If you’ve got other plans, then just say.’

‘No, no I don’t,’ I quickly said, ‘I just didn’t want you to feel that you have to stay with me.’

‘Hermione, I want to.’ Draco sighed deeply. ‘We went through all of this yesterday.’

‘Okay,’ I conceded, ‘I just wanted to make sure.’

‘Okay then,’ Draco said, leaning forward and changing the topic, ‘So what shall we do over the holidays? What do you want to do?’

‘Em I don’t know.’ I paused for moment and had a think before I suggested, ‘How about we spend Christmas in the room of requirement and then take it from there.’

‘Sounds like a plan,’ Draco agreed and I smiled at the thought of spending the whole day with him.


I woke up on Christmas morning feeling a mixture of emotions. For the first time in my life I had woken up alone on Christmas morning. Draco and I had only seen each other briefly on Christmas Eve. He had been flying again and said he had to get his Christmas presents sorted. Like a typical boy leaving it till the last minute. I still had a sense of excitement that I would be seeing him today and yet it was tinged with nervousness that I would be alone with him for the whole day.

Talking of presents, I sat up in my bed and saw a small pile of presents at the foot of my bed. With a small smile I reached forward and opened them, feeling the throbbing loneliness in my chest dull slightly at the knowledge that I still did have people around me who cared for me.

The Weasley’s had sent me the traditional jumper and toffee; this year I got an emerald green jumper that sat slightly off my shoulders. The irony of the colour was not lost on me. Harry gave me a beautiful twisted metal photo frame with a picture of us at Bill and Fleur’s wedding, taken before all the madness of the last year had happened. Ron’s present, however was the biggest surprise of all. His was the last present that I opened. I picked up the small red box with gold ribbon wrapped around it. It was so beautiful that I almost didn’t want to open it. Once I had peeled back the long gold ribbon and opened the red box, I gasped when I saw what was inside. Laying on top of red silk, lay a thin solid gold bracelet with a heart charm dangling gently from the middle. My fingers skimmed over the bracelet before I gently put it on my left wrist. It was beautiful. It was probably the most beautiful piece of jewellery that I had ever owned. It must have cost Ron a fortune. I took a glance at the clock, realising that I had to meet Draco in just over an hour and I still had to get ready. Tracing my fingers over the golden charm once more I unclasped the bracelet from my wrist and placed it back in the box. It didn’t feel right to wear it when I was going to spend the day with Draco. I did not have time to work out what Ron was trying to say. What message he was trying to give me. That would need to wait for another day.


Draco and I had arranged to meet at twelve o clock in the castle kitchens. Few people had decided to stay at the castle this Christmas so it was pretty quiet. Most families wanted their children home with them. There were only a handful that had chosen to stay, mainly muggle borns and some first years whose families weren’t fully aware of what had happened the previous year. As a result, Draco and I decided to have our meal alone. Even first years had heard the rumours. Even they wouldn’t be oblivious to the significance of Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger having Christmas dinner together.

I walked down the corridor to the kitchen and for once I was first. I sat myself down at the table and waited for Draco to arrive. After sitting with my foot tapping up and down, checking my hair numerous times and drumming my fingers nervously against the table, I suddenly realised how he must have felt waiting for me to come on the days that I was late. The uncertainty, the nervousness, the anticipation. It was exhausting. I was vowing again to never be late.
He eventually came strolling into the kitchen and my heart lifted slightly, just glad to see him. Although in truth there was more than a little relief that he had come at all. I was trying so hard not to doubt him, but it was still there no matter how deep down I tried to push it.

He walked towards me with a small smile on his face and said, ‘Merry Christmas,’ stopping in front of me and leaning in to give me an awkward hug. He lingered slightly but eventually took a step back, deciding against whatever was running through his mind.

‘Merry Christmas,’ I reply a little bemused as we sit down in our usual spots.

‘That colour looks good on you,’ he said as he sat across from me and I could see the twinkle in his eye, ‘it’s a pity you don’t wear it more often.’

‘Oh I don’t know, maybe I will. It’s kind of growing on me.’


After our Christmas dinner, both of us were so stuffed that it took forever to actually stagger our way to the room of requirement. Even though we had both eaten way more than we actually should have, the house elves insisted that we take away some butterbeer and mince pies in case we got hungry later on, although I seriously doubted that would happen. Just the mere thought of more food made me feel nauseous.

The room of requirement was exactly the same as it had been before, with the couch in front of the fire. Although this time it was beautifully decorated for Christmas. In the corner of the room stood a stunning Christmas tree that nearly touched the ceiling. It was decorated with a mixture of red and gold much to Draco’s annoyance. On top of the fireplace and all around the room were garlands and candles that gave the room a warm and cosy glow.

When we sat down in front of the fire, Draco challenged me to a game of wizard’s chess and fulfilling his needs, a marble chess set appeared on the table in front of us. I almost groaned out loud. Chess was something that I could not do. I had tried once with Ron and he had been so insufferable when he beat me that I never bothered to try it again.

‘Draco, I can’t play chess,’ I said and he immediately lifted his head in question, ‘I don’t know how.’

I watched as his eyes narrowed in thought and then a slow smile appeared on his lips. ‘Say that again. You don’t know how to do something?’

‘Alright Malfoy,’ I said as his eyebrows pricked up at the use of his surname, ‘you don’t have to go on about it.’

‘Ah come on,’ he said leaning back and holding his hands out. He was clearly enjoying this. ‘This may never happen again and I would like to make the most of it.’

‘Well don’t get used to it. Black or white?’ I asked holding up two of the chess pieces although don’t ask me what they were.

‘Oh I am definitely black,’ he said with a smirk. ‘I’m going to enjoy this.’


We played three games of chess, none of them lasting particularly long. Chess was a game of logic and skill and it should have been something that I was good at, but for some reason I just couldn’t get my head around it. Draco was a surprisingly good teacher, better than Ron at any rate. He explained the rules to me and patiently waited for me to make my moves. On more than once occasion he would give a small cough and shake his head as I was about to make a stupid move. He won each game of course, but even I could tell that he was going easy on me.

After my third straight defeat I’d had enough. ‘No more Draco. Have mercy. I concede defeat.’

‘Sorry, what was that? I didn’t quite catch it,’ he said, feigning innocence.
I couldn’t help but glare at him. ‘Don’t push your luck. I really can’t play this game.’

‘Well we have two weeks to practise.’

‘Great, I can’t wait,’ I said
sarcastically, thinking I would rather do anything else than spend two weeks being beaten by Draco. I look around the room, taking in the glittering decorations when I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t given him his present yet.

I reached inside my bag and pulled out the carefully wrapped present. It might have been a bit cheesy, but I went for silver paper with a green ribbon. I least I knew he liked the colours and they were technically Christmassy. I don’t think he would have appreciated red or gold.

‘Sorry, I forgot to give you this earlier. Merry Christmas,’ I said, passing it over to him. I could see the excitement in his eyes and he gave me a look as if trying to work out what I’d given him just by looking at me. In truth I had had no idea what to buy him. When we had joked about me buying him an amazing present, I honestly hadn’t thought it would be that hard. But as I tried to think about what to buy Draco I realised that I actually didn’t know what he liked and then again he probably had everything he wanted anyway. His parents very rarely said no to him. It was when I was watching Harry mucking about a few days before Christmas that inspiration finally struck.

Draco peeled back the green ribbon, his long fingers slowly working out the knot. It was so frustrating. I wanted to grab the paper and tear it off just so I could see his reaction.
He was being so slow, being so careful not to rip any of the paper. I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from reaching out and opening it myself. When he finally pulled away the paper, he looked at the small black case in his hand in confusion. I could see the slight look of worry as he began to open the lid. It was understandable. It did look a bit like a jewellery box. I could just imagine his face if I’d gotten him jewellery. It might have been worth it just to see his reaction.

He was so careful to keep his facial features even, I imagine he was preparing himself to act as if he liked the present, but there was no way that he faking the reaction that he gave. His eyes widened, his jaw dropped opened, the faint hint of a smile appearing at the edge of his lips.

‘Hermione, how did you even get this?’ he said, with definite wonder in his voice. I couldn’t help but smile at his reaction. I knew he would love it.

After days of worrying about what to buy I had eventually realised that the only thing I knew that he really liked was quidditch. It was when Harry was playing about with his snitch one day in the common room that I realised what to buy. Although instead of the traditional gold snitch that was customary, I had given Draco a silver snitch.

‘Now that would be telling,’ I said, although I desperately wanted to. It certainly hadn’t been easy. I’d had to write to Bowman Wright, the company which makes snitches and beg them for one. They usually only sold snitches to actual quidditch teams. I could have bought a regular one that normal people used for practising but they were often poor quality (apparently) and weren’t very fast. I was pretty sure Draco would have had one of those anyway, so I wanted to get him a proper one. I wasn’t proud of it, but I had kind of name dropped Harry to the manager of the company, but it had worked and they had agreed to give me the snitch. I had to get a normal golden snitch, but I had transfigured it so that it was silver.

‘It’s brand new. No one else has touched it, so the flesh memory will register it as yours.

‘It’s incredible,’ Draco breathed, as he reached out and carefully caressed the smooth silver, running his finger over the engraving of a Dragon, his namesake, that I had put on the front with his name underneath. His picked up the snitch, holding it tightly in his hand, before a dark look passed over his face and he put it back in the box and closed the lid.

‘Hermione, I can’t accept this. It’s too much,’ Draco said, attempting to hand it back to me.

‘Well you’re just going to have to,’ I responded, pushing his hand away and refusing to take the box. ‘I can hardly return it seeing as it has your name on the front. How many other Draco’s do you know?’ He smiled slightly, but something still seemed to be troubling him. ‘Besides, there might be a reason that you want to keep it. Apart from the fact that it is my gift to you and I will be incredibly hurt if you don’t keep it.’

He raised his eyebrow to me in question, but I wasn’t going to make it easy for him.

‘Did you know that snitches are hollow and you can actually open then if you wanted to.’ He nodded in agreement, but his eyes were wary, wondering where I was going.

‘Well did you also know that you can place something inside a snitch if you wanted?’

He snatched back the black box and opened the lid, grabbing the snitch out, turning it over in his hands.

‘There’s something inside this. What is it?’

‘Well I don’t know if I want to tell you now. I was going to show you how to open it, but you might just have to figure that one out on your own now.’

‘And how do I do that?’

‘You’re smart. I’m sure you’ll figure it out,’ I teased.

‘Can I have a clue?’

‘Well inside is something you want and it’s almost like a password to open. You just have to say the word and it will open.’

‘And how will I guess the word?’

‘Logic, Draco. Simple logic.’

He puzzled over that for a moment and lapsed into silence. I thought that he was thinking about how to open up the snitch. I hadn’t meant to make it a challenge, but it had just sort of happened. Instead of the puzzled look I had expected, he looked nervous.

‘Draco, what’s wrong,’ I say wondering what’s caused his current change of mood. Wondering if I’d done something wrong.

‘Hermione your present is so amazing. No one has ever got me something like that before. It’s just that I got you a present too. I’m sorry, it’s just something small.’
He looked nervous as he reached behind him and presented me with a box. As I take the box out of his hands, I can’t help but think of the box that I opened this morning, but I quickly put Ron out of my mind.

Draco was looking at me expectantly, in nervous anticipation. Gently I peeled back the silver ribbon from the black box and nervously lift the lid. I was rendered utterly speechless when I looked inside.

‘I know it’s not much,’ he said defending himself, confusing my silence as dislike. ‘It’s from that story you told me about. I’m sorry, it’s stupid. I just thought you might like it,’ he said as his hand twitches as if he’s thinking of reaching over and taking it back.

‘Draco,’ I breathe, reaching down and running my finger over the smooth petal of the most exquisite red rose I have ever seen. ‘It’s beautiful.’

He looks up at me and he looks embarrassed, as if he doesn’t believe that I like it. ‘It’s enchanted. The petals will never fall as long as… well, they won’t fall.’

Tears appear in my eyes as I continue to caress the velvety softness, running my fingers down and over the firm green stem, feeling the sharp edges of the thorns. I’m stunned by the thoughtfulness of his gift. Stunned by how well he knows me.

I shift closer to him and kiss him gently on the cheek. Brushing away the stray tear that is running down my cheek I lean back to look at him.

‘No one has ever given me anything so amazing in my whole life. Draco this is amazing. I love it.’

‘Really,’ he says hopefully, a smile beginning to appear on his lips.

‘Really,’ I say with complete honesty. As he watches me, he sits with a contented smile on his face, clearly pleased with himself. A thought seems to come into his head and he leans forward. ‘Have you noticed how a rose stands for Gryffindor and Slytherin? The red of the petals for Gryffindor and the green of the stem for Slytherin.’

‘Yeah the beautiful part is Gryffindor and the prickly thorns for Slytherin,’ I tease.

He rolls his eyes at me before continuing, ‘You see red and green; Gryffindor and Slytherin; they can go together. They complement each other perfectly. Like us. I kind of thought it had double meaning.’

‘Well now I love it even more,’ I say as I lean up and once again kiss him and then ease back to cuddle in beside him, my head resting on his shoulder.

‘Hermione,’ he says suddenly, breaking the easy silence that has settled between us, ‘I’m really glad that I could spend Christmas with you. I know it’s not been the Christmas you wanted and I’m not the person you would have chosen to spend Christmas with, but I think it’s been perfect.’

I think over his words for a moment. Think of the Christmases that I have spent with the Weasley’s and with my family. I think of laughing over the dinner table, telling jokes, playing games and being surrounded by family. And yet here, with just one person beside me, I feel more happy and content than I ever have done before.

‘Draco today has been perfect and I am so glad that it is you that I get to be with,’ I say, knowing that I’m telling the truth. This time it’s him that pulls me into a deep and searching kiss and I know for sure that there is nowhere on earth I would rather be and no one that I would rather be with.



At some point we must have fallen asleep in front of the warm fire, because with a start I suddenly jerk awake, my heart pounding with the shock of being quickly woken so abruptly. It doesn’t take me long to realise what has woken me up. My head, which only a moment ago had rested on Draco’s shoulder was jerked off by his sudden movements.

I watch in shock as Draco starts moaning and yelling loudly, a look of extreme pain on his face as he twitches and convulses beside me.

‘Draco. Draco,’ I scream, watching as his head thrashes from side to side, his features twisted into a look of pure agony.

‘Draco,’ I yell again as he cries out in pain and a few tears start streaking down his face. I reach over and grab his shoulders to try and shake him awake, but all that does is cause him to twist and thrash even more as he tries to escape my grasp. I try a different tactic and kneel on the couch beside him. I put my hand gently on his face and start to stroke it softly, pushing back the sweat drenched hair from his face.

‘Shhh, Draco, Shhh,’ I say soothingly, ‘it’s only a dream.’ Immediately his body starts to relax and his movements still, as I continue to stroke his face, until slowly his eyes open and he looks directly into mine, fear still evident in his gaze. His eyes dart around trying to work out where he is but I force his face back to mine, ‘it was just a nightmare Draco. Everything’s fine.’

He pushes himself up into a sitting position, turning his face away from me and running his hands through his hair in a gesture that I have become so familiar with. He rests his head in his hands and breathes deeply, trying to return his ragged breathing to normal.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’ I ask tentatively.

He shakes his head slowly, but after a minute of silence he starts to speak anyway.

‘I was back at the manor. He was there. It was like it was real. Like it was happening all over again,’ he chokes out, his hands clenching into fists. ‘He was angry with me. He gave me the cruciatus curse again and again. I could feel the pain. It was so real. It hurt so much,’ he says, closing his eyes as if reliving the agony all over again.

‘Hey,’ I said softly, gently placing my hand on his back. ‘It’s ok,’ I say, rubbing my hand over his back, feeling the strong muscles in his shoulders shivering under my touch, ‘it was just a dream. He’s gone. He can’t hurt you anymore.’

Draco suddenly sits up straight and my hand falls away from his back, hanging limply in front of me. Lifting his head, he turns and looks at me with such desperation in his stormy grey eyes. ‘You shouldn’t be with me Hermione. Why are you even with me? I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve anyone. You have no idea the things that I’ve done. You would walk out that door and never look back if you knew.’

For a minute I actually feel scared. Not scared of the things he says he’s done. Not scared of what he could do. I feel scared for him. I have never seen him look so vulnerable. His eyes are wild and full of pain. His body is literally shaking, trembling with self-loathing. He looks like he is a fraction away from breaking. And all I want to do is comfort him.

‘Draco, I don’t care what you’ve done in the past,’ I say forcing him to look at me. ‘The past is over. It’s done and you can’t change it. I know what person you are now and that’s the person that I want to be with.’

Suddenly he leans forward and buries his head in my shoulder, wrapping his arms tightly around me. Gently I wrap my arms around him, pulling his sweat covered; trembling body closer to mine. I rest my head against his and hold him, until all the tension leaves his taut muscles. Even though I can tell he is in agony, that he is facing unknown demons, the closeness between us, the physical contact reminds me of something that I haven’t felt in a long time.

After what seems like forever, he loosens his grip and lifts his head, pulling it back to look at me, his eyes red rimmed.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, looking slightly ashamed.

‘Don’t be,’ I reply, once again forcing him to look me in the eyes, ‘we’ve all had nightmares.’

He nods sombrely, ‘I’m sorry for waking you up too. You must be tired.’

‘I’m fine’, I say, although that is far from the truth. Being held by Draco and holding him back, I had felt a calm wash over me and the heavy weight of sleep had begun to set in.

We both jump and look around as the room begins to rumble and shake. I grip Draco’s arm tightly as the walls begin to move back, the furniture starts to spin and suddenly a huge four poster bed with deep red curtains appears behind us.

Draco brings his wide eyes to mine before blurting out, ‘I did not ask for that. I swear.’

The moment would be almost comical if it wasn’t for the deep panic that sets over me. He may not have asked for the bed to appear, but the room certainly seemed to think that we required it.

‘You know what,’ I say quickly standing up and stretching, ‘I am actually quite tired. I should probably head back to the common room.’

‘No,’ Draco almost shouts out before he seems to realise what he’s done. ‘I mean you don’t have to go,’ he says more calmly. ‘I don’t want you to go,’ he adds.

He looks at me warily and must see the look of apprehension in my face because he adds, ‘I mean you can sleep in the bed of course and I’ll take the couch.’

I want more than anything to stay, but my head was screaming at me so loudly to leave. That it was too much, too soon. Yet the look on his face helped to weaken my resolve. The way he had clung to me. The look in his eyes, the hurt and the pain. All of it made me want to say yes and before I even knew what I was doing, I was nodding my head. I was agreeing.

I moved over to the large bed at the opposite side of the room and sat down on it, sinking into the soft mattress. Draco still stood by the couch and watched me as I took off my shoes, socks and my jumper, leaving me in my jeans and a vest top. I shivered slightly, not only because of the cold without my jumper, but with the weight of the stare that I could feel watching me the entire time.

He smiled at me, before he turned around and sat down on the couch. Even from my bed on the opposite side of the room I could see that it was too small for his large frame. Before I could stop myself, the words came spilling out of my mouth. ‘We could share the bed,’ I blurted out and his head popped up from behind the couch like a meerkat peeking out of its hole. ‘I mean it’s large enough for two,’ I said as I pulled back the covers and climbed into the bed.

I could feel his indecision from across the room as I lay down in the bed. I knew that he wanted to, but I also knew that, like me, he would think it was too fast. Yet a moment later I heard his footsteps as he walked across the room towards the bed. Gently he pulled back the covers and I felt the mattress shift as he lay down on the mattress, the furthest away from me as he can be.

I turn my head and meet his eyes, giving him a nervous smile, before I turn my back on him and reach for my wand. ‘Night,’ I say as I flick my wand and extinguish all lights from the room, leaving only the warm glow of the fire to penetrate the darkness. ‘Goodnight Hermione,’ came the reply a moment later from behind me before I drifted off to sleep.



I wake up the next morning with the feeling that something is strange, different. I know that I’m not in my bed. It’s too big for a start and too warm. Slowly I open my eyes and immediately stiffen when I see where I am and more importantly when I see an arm draped over my waist. All at once the memories of the previous night come back to me and I could almost groan with my stupidity. How could I have let this happen?

I want to move and get out of the bed, but I am trapped. I’m lying on my side, facing the wall and I can feel the warmth of Draco as his chest is pressed firmly against my back. I can feel his warm breath tickling the back of my neck as he blows strands of my hair gently across my face. His arm is draped over my waist, pinning me in place, keeping me from moving. I wonder how we came to be like this. When we went to sleep we could not have been further apart, each lying on the very edge of the mattress. At some point in the night we must have moved. Or he must have moved as he was now very firmly lying on my side of the bed.
I try to move gently away from him, but my movements must stir him, as he lets out a soft groan and shifts slightly, pressing his chest even more firmly against my back and squeezing me to him. He relaxes his arm and I gently reach out and move it away so I can get free. Almost as soon as I touch his skin I gasp and let go, realising what I’ve done. His arm now lay face upward, showing me very clearly what he usually takes such pains to hide. His dark mark.

I can’t help my reaction. I shrink back away from it, but end up pushing myself closer to Draco. I turn around and glance at his face. He looks so peaceful in sleep. All of the trouble and anguish that marred his features the previous night have disappeared. The usual stiffness of his features, the proud curve of his jaw and hardness of his eyes, all calm and relaxed in sleep. He looks younger, peaceful and innocent. It’s a jarring contrast with the symbol on his skin.

I can’t get out of his grip without moving his arm. Without touching his arm. Without touching it. I return my gaze to his arm. His arm is deathly white, the black a visible and startling contrast. If I didn’t know what it stood for I could almost convince myself that it could just be a tattoo. Any innocent tattoo. Slowly reaching down, I tentatively bring my fingers to just above his forearm. My fingers shaking slightly. Gently I let my fingers rest against his skin and ignore the sick feeling that rises in my throat as my fingers come into contact with the blackened skin. Slowly I move my fingers, curiously tracing over the shape on his arm, startled to find the skin is just as smooth as the rest of him, the skin still just as warm. My fingers are still gently brushing his skin when I suddenly stop, aware that the gentle breath that I could feel on my neck has stopped. I turn my head around and find myself mere inches from Draco’s piercing eyes, wide awake, looking at me with a mixture of awe and curiosity.

‘That tickles,’ he says softly, his voice thick from just waking up, but also strange as if he’s holding back his emotions.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,’ I say, suddenly feeling very shy. Waking up with a man’s arm around me, was not a situation I had ever found myself in.

‘What were you trying to do?’

‘I was trying to move your arm,’ I say, as his gaze flicks to the arm that is draped over my waist. His face betrays no emotion as in one swift motion, he lifts his arm from me and rolls away so that he’s lying on his back.

I sit up and wrap my arms around myself, feeling cold not with the room, but with the loss of his body wrapped around mine.

‘I’m sorry,’ he says.

‘What for?’

He sighs gently as he too sits up in the bed. ‘I didn’t mean for you to see it.’

‘It’s fine,’ I say, although even I can hear how strained my voice is. I don’t know why it bothers me. I know deep down that his mark doesn’t define him. That it’s not who he is, or even who he was. And yet it’s a reminder of who he could have been.

‘Hermione, I can’t get rid of it. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s not who I am.’

‘I know. I’m sorry Draco. I over-reacted.’ Feeling the need to prove myself, I reach over to touch his arm. His eyes watch me warily, as my shaking fingers touch his mark, hesitating for only a moment before they touch the skin. He gasps as if I’ve burned him and I go to move my hand away before he grips it tightly.

‘Don’t ever apologise to me Hermione. I know it’s not easy, but it’s me that needs to earn your trust, not the other way around. The fact that you’re even willing to try is enough.’


The final week of the Christmas holidays passed far too quickly. Draco and I spent nearly every moment together. We went for walks around the lake, in the forest, we played chess again; I was getting better although I suspected that he was still going easy on me and we talked. A lot. Draco told me about his family, his childhood and his friends. He had a way of talking that kept me listening and made me want to know more. He had a dry sense of sarcastic humour that on more than one occasion had me laughing so hard that my sides were sore. He always looked surprised when I laughed at what he said. Almost as if he wasn’t used to it.

However we never let ourselves get into a situation like we had on Christmas Day. I slept in the Gryffindor common room and he slept in the Slytherin one, although we always met each other for breakfast the following morning. One thing we never talked about was what had happened. It was like an unspoken rule. He felt that he’d revealed too much and I didn’t want to hurt him again by bringing it up. Yet in that brief moment of honesty, barriers between us had dropped. We had crossed over some sort of line that seemed to have brought us closer together. We didn’t need to say it, both of us felt it.

Draco also spent most of his time trying to open up his snitch. I knew he was getting annoyed, but he was too proud to ask me for any help. I knew that feeling myself, the excitement of a problem that needed solving and the thrill when you finally do. It was New Year’s Eve when he finally cracked the code. I was waiting for him in the room of requirement, wondering what was taking him so long, when he finally walked in with a definite smug look on his face.

‘What?’ I asked, wondering what he looked so happy about. I noticed he had a rather large bag with him and I knew he wanted me to ask what was inside.

‘Oh, nothing,’ he said. ‘Are you thirsty? Do you want some Firewhiskey, or maybe Gillywater? Or maybe you’re hungry. Maybe you want some freshly bought chocoballs, cauldron cakes or maybe some no melt ice cream.’
I looked over the pile of goodies that Draco had emptied out from bag and smiled. ‘You opened the snitch,’ I stated, knowing immediately what he’d done. Inside the snitch that I had given him for Christmas was a map of Hogwarts. Not quite as sophisticated as the Mauraders Map, but it showed all the passages out of the castle and their passwords. Draco had clearly used it to go to Hogsmeade to buy all of his supplies. ‘It took you long enough to guess the password.’

‘Detention, seriously,’ he said, giving me a pointed look.

‘Well I didn’t want to make it too easy for you,’ I said laughing, ‘And besides I thought it was kind of fitting.'

‘Yeah well it was worth it. I definitely wasn’t expecting that. No wonder you lot used to be able to sneak around so much.’

‘So Hogsmeade tomorrow? We can go to Pudifoots and hold hands with all the hearts and frills,’ I said putting on a sickly sweet voice that actually reminded me a lot of Lavender.

‘Over my dead body,’ Draco replied with a look of horror that had me bursting out laughing.



In the final few days of the holidays the atmosphere between us shifted slightly. We both knew that what we had, what we were doing was coming to an end. Soon we wouldn’t be able to walk around hand in hand. We wouldn’t even be able to be seen together. We would have to start hiding again.

On the final morning we had one final meal together in the room of requirement. I had picked up some things from the kitchen on my way and we had eaten in silence. People would be arriving back at the castle all day- some from the train, some by floo and some by apparition in Hogsmeade. We both knew that we didn’t have much time. Once we finished our breakfast, we would be going our separate ways.

We drew out eating for as long as we could, but we both realised that we couldn’t hold off for much longer. With a sense of sadness we walked out of our room, our little haven for the last time. We walked hand in hand until we came to the end of the corridor on the seventh floor. My common room wasn’t far, but Draco would have a long walk back to the Slytherin common room near the dungeons. We stopped and faced each other, unwilling to let the other go.

‘I really don’t want to let you go,’ Draco whispered softly as his arms circled around my waist.

‘I don’t want you to let go,’ I reply, stepping closer to him and filling the remaining space between us. ‘That was the quickest two weeks of my life.’

‘Yet I think it was probably the best two weeks of mine,’ he admitted resting his forehead against mine.

‘Me too,’ I agree, reaching my hand up around his neck to use as leverage to pull his lips down against mine. He responded slowly at first, his lips moving gently against mine, but as I part my lips, inviting him in further, his composure seems to break. He gasped suddenly and pushed me back against the wall behind us, only stopping when my back was pressed against the cold stone. Keeping one hand firmly on my waist, he slid the other one gently up so that his fingers tangled in my hair. I’m gasping for breath as he kisses me and I don’t ever want him to stop, when suddenly a loud voice cracks like a whip through the air.

‘What the fuck is going on?’

My eyes spring open and instantly fall on two pairs of eyes looking at me with a mixture of shock and horror. My stomach drops and I am overcome with a sense of dread as I meet the staring eyes of Harry and Ron.



A/N- Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. A few clichés in there, but I’m writing romance, it needed to be done. So how much do you just want to give Draco a hug? Any predictions for chapter 22?

Anyway this chapter wasn’t easy to write. Trying to get into the Christmas spirit in the middle of summer is pretty hard. So thanks so much for all the people who left me reviews about the Christmas present. You guys are amazing. Lots of great ideas and I’ve kind of incorporated some of them- see if you can spot your suggestion. So what do you think of the eventual gifts. I swear I want what Draco gave to Hermione, but his gift will make an appearance in a later chapter.
I am currently on holiday at the moment (sunning it up in Mexico) but chapter 22 is pretty much written and will be posted when I get home. Please leave me lots of fabulous reviews for when I have to come home to rainy Scotland and back to work. : ( But maybe you guys can help me to reach the big 200 for my review count!! Also remember you can favourite this story just below if you like it. Thanks again for being amazing!

P.S. sorry for a late update. Meant to update before I went on holiday but ran out of time and hotel doesn't have wifi so here I am in cancun in Starbucks updating the next chapter. Don't say I'm not good to you. Also sorry for any dodgy spacing. It's hard to fix things on your phone.

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