Chapter 2 : Pandora's Box I
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Pandora’s Box I
I walked past the guard huffily as he glared at Hedwig. I found his glower rather annoying. It’s only an owl! Why did Hedwig have to suffer from his hissy looks?
I threw a withering look his way and continued strolling towards the pillar of Platform 9, the Weasleys and Harry a little behind me. Hedwig was staring at the guard with huge, unblinking, round eyes as he sneered at her. Honestly! Has he never seen an owl before?
Mrs Weasley gave each of us a huge hug as we leaned out of the compartment’s windows. Grinning broadly, I reached out to receive the hug as she frantically instructed me to make sure Ron would stay out of mischief and to look after Ginny. The train’s whistle blew as we stuck out our hands for a parting wave and just as the scarlet express train rounded a corner, Mr and Mrs Weasley gave us a final smile and with a faint, “pop” were gone.
“Come on Harry, we have to get going. We’re supposed to arrive earlier than the prefects, remember? Harry?”
He was staring at the carpet beneath his shuffling feet and he mumbled, “Sure… Hermione, I have to tell you something later… alone.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Okay… That’s fine. Ron? Are you coming with us or when the meeting commences?”
He cast a distracted look my way and glanced back at Ginny who was currently fiddling with her fingernails.
“You guys go ahead. I’ll… I’ll see you in a while,” He waved us off and plopped next to Ginny as she looked up at Harry and I, as if wondering what could have caused the grim line to appear on Harry’s lips.
A familiar feeling bristled within me as I held back.
Merlin, what was wrong with me? Jealousy was coursing through my veins yet again.
I thought I was over this!
Biting down hard on my bottom lip, I stiffly marched out of the compartment door with Harry behind me, eyes focusing intently on the carpeted floor of the train.
Hoping he would take the hint, I let my voice trail off into the wind as I drew the door to the Head’s compartment closed behind me and stared at Harry, trying to capture his eyes.
Shuffling from one foot to the other, he looked more awkward then I’d ever seen him. Gauchely, he wringed his hands and, when he finally met my eyes, hesitated.
“Harry… are you-”
That single word alone was able to silence me. Despite the discomfort displayed in his eyes, his voice was anything but. Seriousness reeked out of every syllabus and everything was slowly coming to a standstill before my unblinking eyes while my heart thudded furiously and painfully in my chest.
“Hermione-” he vacillated, “I- I have to tell you something.”
Focusing on his eyes I slowly nodded, signaling for him to continue as my brain fired a thousand reasons while watching his lips move.
“I… I like being with you…” I blinked. I know this speech…
“You’re smart, pretty, reasonable…” Say it! Just say it! My heart was screaming.
“But- but I…” SAY IT!
“I don’t think… that- I mean… You’re great and everything and…” he fumbled with his words, emerald eyes darting from the carpet to my face, “-and it’s wonderful to have you as my girlfriend but- No, I mean that- that I like you but it’s just that its not- not really-”
Although I felt my heart start to beat unnaturally and my brain go into freeze mode, I let two words escape my lips, albeit soft, cracking and barely above a whisper.
“I-” he began softly, “I like Ginny,”
I waited for myself to burst into tears and charge out of the room, sobbing loudly. Uncontrollably and not caring about whatever other people thought but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I was still standing in front of my ex-boyfriend’s presence, heart on the verge of shattering into pieces and posture unnaturally rigid.
“Please go out now. I would like some time alone.”
“Hermione, I’m sorry. I really like you, I really do. You’re a fantastic person, admirable and-”
He took one look at me, obviously at a loss of what to do. “Al-alright. I’ll excuse you from the meeting?”
I nodded silently, still standing rigid as a board as he cast a final, distressing look my way before disappearing behind the door, slowly closing it with a subtle ‘click’.
And that was when the tears took over.
I didn’t know how long I stayed in the Head’s compartment, rocking back and forth, hugging my legs and crying into my robe. My shoulders were shaking and raspy sobs emitted from my throat. Even with my school robe drawn round me, clutched so tightly with knuckles turning white, I could only feel coldness. I felt depressed, miserable and downright sick and yet the only thing I could think of was Harry.
Wouldn’t cuddling in his arms right now be great?
I wouldn’t feel so bitter and frozen and he would whisper softly in my ear, easing me into a blissful fantasy whereas back in reality, I was huddled in a corner of the Heads’ compartment, bawling my sense and dignity away.
Footsteps echoed from the passageway that led to the Heads’ compartment. A second later, the compartment door drew open and light streamed into the dim room. It had to be Harry. Harry’s back.
But you don’t want him here, a firm voice spoke in my head.
You don’t want him to see you like this.
Taking deep breaths, I tried to lift my head, back still facing him and said in a near-calm and commanding voice, “I’m fine. Just go and I’ll- I’ll be up in a se- second-”
To my horror, my voice cracked in the middle of the sentence and before I knew it, I had sunk my head back into my robes, knees drawn tense in front of my chest again with sobs racketing out amid every shiver and tremor my body made.
Immediately, the footsteps rushed from the doorway to me and a pair of arms found their way round my quaking self and held me close. It was only when I breathed in the scent of vanilla and strawberry did I realize that the person who was witnessing my breakdown was not Harry.
It was Ginny.
“Mione, don’t cry. Please don’t cry. Come on Mione… please… This isn’t the Hermione I know…” her voice trailed off as she hugged me tighter, as though trying to suck away all the pain I was feeling.
“Harry- Harry told me what happened- I- I’m so sorry Mione. I don’t know what to do- You must really hate me- I- I didn’t know that he- I’m so, so sorry… Please don’t be like this Hermone…”
Though alarm bells were ringing in my head and nasty, spiteful words of, “I hate you! Go away! Leave me ALONE!” were being thrown around in my mind, what came out of my mouth instead was, “It’s alright. It- it’s not your fault. I’m f-fine,” and right then, as her eyes rose to meet mine, warm chocolate russet and teary honey brown in an intense gaze, a single, lucid tear fell from one eye, trailing down her pale, pastel cheek and I knew that what I had said was true.
It took us both a while to collect and pick ourselves up and off the floor. Seated on the plushy red seats, we fell into a comfortable silence, staring out of the window and replaying the scene that had unfolded before us a while back.
Ginny cleared her throat and my attention snapped to her as she fiddled with her button.
“Hermione… I know this may seem like a big request but after that fiasco just now… I hope you won’t… despise him,” She quickly glanced at me and I dropped my gaze to the floor.
“I don’t know… I mean, I don’t hate or dislike him, that’s for sure but I don’t know if I can actually look at him in the eye. For the time being anyway,”
A soft smile appeared on her lips and she seemed to relax.
“It’s okay, Mione. Over time, I think it’ll be alright. Besides, I’m sure Harry doesn’t want his friendship with you broken. It’d hurt him as well and I don’t want to see him miserable. I don’t want to see either one of you miserable. So don’t you dare,” and with that, she sent a half-serious look my way, which in turn made me smile. But as my eyes lighted up with humor, my brain took in the emotion which had flashed in her eyes as she said that she didn’t want Harry despondent.
As I surveyed Ginny, I had a fleeting feeling that the girl with the scarlet tresses cared more for Harry than I, no matter how impossible it seemed. And as strange as it sounded, a sense of relief washed over me as the very thought of that registered in my head.
The remainder of the ride to Hogwarts had been peaceful. Besides the jovial, plump trolley-witch, it was only Ginny and I in the Heads’ compartment, catching up like two buddies who hadn’t spoken for a long time. Which was rather the truth as she had been in a withdrawal state the day Harry and I held hands.
Catching myself, I wheeled my thoughts back to Ginny.
She was right in every aspect. Harry wouldn’t like me upset and down and neither would he like our friendship strained. Right now, I had to get over that part of my life. I couldn’t hang onto memories; they’ll simply pull me back.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves seated in the Great Hall. Ron was stuffing himself with the vast array of food and Ginny was daintily cutting a piece of steak as Harry and I talked. Our conversation started off awkward and it still was but trading words with nervous laughter seemed much better compared to the deathly silence we had when we saw the other on the train.
Even now, my heart still pounded when I spoke to him or when he laughed. I knew our dating relationship was gone but I couldn’t help feeling a pang of jealousy whenever he gave Ginny that special smile. That special smile that was normally directed at me was now expressed to another girl.
But still, no one said the road to recovery had to be smooth.
With small, almost unnoticeable, heartrending smile, I tucked into my dinner.
“Ms Granger, Mr Potter, I request that you two come to my office immediately after dinner,”
Startled, I whirled around from my pudding to see McGonagall standing behind us, her lips set in a tight line. “Is that clear?”
Glancing at Harry and I, her eyes softened for a spilt second but after that, the regular sharp look came right back.
“Good,” she nodded curtly and turned towards the Hall’s double doors.
Ron looked up from his chocolate soufflé to stare at McGonagall’s retreating back.
“What’d she say?”
“Don’t know. She wants us to see her in her office later,”
Ron shrugged and returned to his puffy desert.
“Must be a Heads’ thing,”
As Harry and I seated ourselves on the green armchairs, Professor McGonagall surveyed us over her spectacles, as if wondering how she should start.
“Ms Granger,” she peered at me, fingers laced, “I have heard that you and Mr Potter are in a rather -” pause “-difficult situation right now-”
I started. How did she find out?
Next to me, I felt Harry stiffen.
“- and,” she continued, “the Headmaster and I have decided that it would be best if one of you,” again, she surveyed us, her stern gaze brushing over our worried faces, “dropped out as Head.”
I sat myself on the couch and leaned back, thinking over the event that happened a minute ago.
I wasn’t too sure if I was relived or not.
After much jaw-openings and stutters, McGonagall had decided that Harry was to drop out.
“But Professor! He hasn’t even started being Head Boy! You can’t just strip him of his title! Can’t you wait till after he’s done a few tasks and then decide?”
Her mouth was set in a thin line and her eyes held a kind of fire I’d never seen before.
“No, Miss Granger. What’s been decided has already been decided. As much as I would like to give him the privilege of being Head Boy, I cannot. The Trolley Witch has informed Professor Dumbledore and I about the happenings in the train.
I cannot allow two students’ works to be pulled down because of such a silly matter. It-”
“B-but Professor! We’re okay now! We can sit and talk normally, just like any other-”
“No, you cannot, Ms Granger. I have been watching you two since the start of the feast and I cannot see the trust and bond you two had. What I saw instead was gauche looks and inept movements. Heads’ are there to help the other students. How can they when they cannot even help themselves?”
Silence filled the room as Harry and I mulled over our so-called conversation in the Great Hall.
Finally, voice tense but laced with softness, Harry spoke up.
“She’s right Mione,”
My eyes widened and I whipped around to meet his gaze.
“Y-you agree? But- but that would mean that you have to drop out as-”
“I know,” casting his gaze to the floor, he fiddled with his hands, “I know,”
For the second time that day, Professor McGonagall’s eyes softened as she spoke in a kind voice, “The other professors and I will look for a suitable boy to replace Harry. In the mean time, you two can rest in the Heads’ dormitories,”
Looking at us two, she gave Harry and I one of her very rare, thin-lipped smiles.
“I’ve seen this happening between many students before, Ms Granger, Mr Potter. At some point, they’ll be the best of friends again but for right now, the present, its best to simply free them from awkward situations.”
And with that, she swept out of the office, leaving Harry and I in a stunned silence.
With the fire crackling merrily, I thought over what she had said.
I wasn’t sure where her sudden wisdom of boy-girl relationships came from but they did seem to make sense.
Harry was seated on the couch near the fire, his head rested on one hand.
“Are you…upset over this?”
He turned to look at me and I was a little surprised to see the sadness portrayed so painfully in his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Hermione. I’m so sorry for making you cry,”
As his words dimly registered in my head, I didn’t know whether to scoff or break down into tears.
“Don’t say that, Harry. And don’t worry. As McGonagall had said, we’ll be back to being tight friends in no time. Just put a little more effort into building our friendship back together, strong, tight and unbeatable.
We’ll be fine,”
And I offered him a smile, which he returned.
“Ms Granger, Mr Potter?” Professor Dumbledore’s voice came in thorough the front door.
“We’re coming in now!”
With a swift click, the door to the Heads’ dormitories swung open and Dumbledore’s face appeared at the doorway.
“Ah, yes. Working out your differences I suppose?”
I gave him a small, rather gauche smile but he never noticed it.
“Good, good. But now, its best to keep those differences and talks at bay- you have to meet your new Head Boy!”
Harry and I smiled at Dumbledore’s choice of words.
“Come in! We’re all waiting for you,”
With that sentence alone, I drew out the conclusion that my new partner is a shy boy. Must work on his public speaking,” I noted.
“Good! Now, Mr Potter, Ms Granger, I do believe you three have met,”
And I stared disbelievingly, jaw agape, at the ferret’s stupid, smirking face.
Author'sNote SO. How was it? The second chapter was too long so I had to break it up, thus you have PANDORA'S BOX I.
Anyway, much thanks to Ducks, my lovely editor and Breakway615! *huggles* Thanks to the people who reviewed!!
lady_darkness, Dark Princess 06, spellborne, Dracos_DrEaMeR, ducks (:D), Breakaway615 (:D), Lily 4eva & ron is SEXY!
Love you guys!
ps Happy Thanksgiving you guys!
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