Chapter 1 : Hermione's Crisis
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Disclaimer: All characters and places belong to JK Rowling.
The clock on the wall chimed eleven times, indicating the late hour in the Gryffindor common room and startling Hermione Granger uncouthly from her dreamland, who had been sleeping peacefully on the sofa armchair. Her bushy, brown hair cascading on her shoulders, a single tear was clearly visible in the corner of her eye. She must have fallen asleep right after Harry and Ron went upstairs to their dormitories an hour ago.
Putting away her parchment and quill, she decided to call it a day. She felt as exhausted as ever, and her eyes were a bit swollen. She’d been reviewing the whole evening for Transfiguration, entirely devoting her mind to perfecting this test … just to avert her thoughts from the sorrows she’d been feeling all over the last week.
Professor McGonagall had in fact given her word to the class that she would be providing them with an extraordinarily long and mind-numbing test, expecting them to be prepared from then on. Harry and Ron seemed not to put much in store for what they clearly considered a bluff, and had even decided to play wizard chess before going to bed, weary after a long day’s “work”.
Grinning grimly at the thought of her friends’ laziness and rubbing her reddened eyes, she tried to take her books under her arm when a little picture fell from one of them to the ground. The image showed a girl with long and straight black hair, moving and half-hiding her pretty smooth face behind her hands. Hermione picked it up, and suddenly, there was this unbearable sting in her chest again. She felt her sight blurring when tears formed in her eyes.
“Cho,” Hermione said in a soft whisper, looking dejectedly at the little picture. “This shouldn’t have happened at all.” She was referring to an unpleasant and deeply embarrassing incident that had happened between her and the charming Ravenclaw girl. As a result of it, Hermione was now avoiding Cho, diverting her thoughts to her projects, practicing newly-learned jinxes, doing advance reading, preparing for Potions and even memorising huge amounts of data for History of Magic. It wasn’t surprising that each and every night she simply fell exhausted and sleepy over her homework.
This behaviour had been going on for almost a week, so Hermione was steadily becoming a human wreck, to the point that she could not conceal it to her friends. Of course, Hermione was the best in her year; it was not necessary to review that much for her to perfect a test, to master the best essay, or even memorise the dates of events in History of Magic. Her friends knew that, and they already noticed Hermione’s ongoing withdrawal from the group. However, Hermione merely shrugged and smiled back weakly every time the gang approached her on the subject.
“Ms Granger, I think this is very inappropriate.” Snape growled, tapping with his wand on Hermione’s desk. “Sleeping in my class while I am lecturing! Ten points from Gryffindor.”
The whole class was murmuring and whispering. Hermione had been caught sleeping in the classroom! This was as seldom as seeing Snape with a smiling face. What they didn’t know was that she hadn’t slept well last night. Even though she had counted over five hundred Flobberworms, sleepiness couldn’t seize her. Maybe that was because of the three cups of dark coffee she had drunk while reviewing before going to bed.
Snape strode back to the front of the class, swung his wand and the blackboard was filled with the next lecture. “I never thought of you, Ms. Granger, to have such improper manners. Your friends might have not quite the correct influence on you.”
Draco Malfoy was chuckling at the back of the classroom, and Hermione noticed from the side of her eyes that Harry and Ron were exchanging concerned looks. They surely will pester her with questions after class.
“Are you alright, Hermione?” asked Ron, appearing beside her and putting an arm around Hermione’s shoulder.
Hermione startled and instinctively pushed Ron away. When she realised that it was Ron, however, she embraced him like a brother.
“Sorry,” she whispered. Then, she looked to the ground and quickly strode to her next class, hollering back, “I’m OK, Ron. Don’t worry.”
She didn’t know whom she was deluding; either her friends or herself. She couldn’t tell them yet why she felt this shattered, this broken inside as though the whole world had lost its meaning to her. They wouldn’t understand her reason.
Ron went back to the common room, but Harry was not there yet when he arrived. After that Potions class, Harry and Ron had decided to corner Hermione and make her talk. So that Hermione would not become suspicious of the two guys’ plan, Harry and Ron had decided to separate. Harry would wait in front of the class of Hermione’s next subject, Ancient Runes, while Ron had lingered in the hallway between the dungeons and the Great Hall. Since Ron had not even had the chance to confront Hermione, he crossed both thumbs for Harry’s attempt to be successful.
Having thrown his books on the floor, Ron lay on the sofa; his arm was on his forehead, covering his eyes. He was trying to relax a bit before their next class, when he heard footsteps descending from the girl’s dormitories.
“Hey, Ron,” a familiar female voice greeted him. It was Hermione, now walking over to the windowsill, looking under the table and beside the chair, as though she was searching for something.
“Hey, Hermione,” yawned Ron in his sofa. Before he even could realise it, Hermione was already on her way back to the girls’ dormitory.
“H – Hermione!” exclaimed Ron, falling from the sofa as he tried to wrangle up to a sitting position.
Hermione looked back. “Yes?” she replied, suppressing a sheepish grin at Ron’s clumsiness.
“W – What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in your class, aren’t you?”
“Actually, yes, but I misplaced one of my books, and now I’m thinking where it could be,” said Hermione, rubbing her forehead but not staring at Ron, though Ron could tell that something was wrong with the brunette’s excuse. “There was my essay in it, I needed to find it first before going to class. Anyway, Ron, I have to get my bag from my room. See you later!” Hermione smiled slightly and went back to her dormitory, walking up the stairs with a sluggish pace as though she was not really in a hurry to catch up with her class.
Ron was left behind, open-mouthed. He was stunned at Hermione’s behaviour. He couldn’t bring himself to believe such a clumsy explanation as that. But just then, a male voice was saying the password from outside to the Fat Lady, “Golliwog!” The portrait hole slid aside and Harry Potter entered the common room.
“Hey, Ron! Bad news, haven't found Hermione. It’s either she entered her class through another door so that I missed her, or she skipped class.” Both boys looked Hence, she must have entered through a second door.
“She’s in her room. She said she misplaced her book so she went back to get it,” said Ron dully, still staring at the stairs of the girls’ dormitory where Hermione had been standing minutes ago.
“But she’s already late for her next class! She’d rather misplace her head than her book.” Harry ran a hand through his messy hair and sighed in disbelief and worry.
“Of course, she’s Hermione Granger. She’d rather lose a toe than being second best in class!” Ron added.
Both boys fell silent when someone descended the stairs from the girls’ dormitory. Instinctively, they looked up to the stairs, hoping it would be Hermione.
But it wasn’t her. To their utmost surprise, it wasn’t even a Gryffindor.
“Cho!” exclaimed both boys at the same time.
(A/N: Thanks to my beta, Max82. Sorry for my bad English in the author note. hehe *blush* Feel free to leave a comment for improvement.)