Chapter 2 : Rock Bottom
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I blinked my eyes furiously in a hopeless attempt to wake myself up as she continued to ramble on about the speech that I had heard for six straight years now. No matter how much I tried to focus on what our new headmistress was telling us, I couldn’t concentrate. Instead of listening to what she was actually saying, I watched her thin lips move, her emerald robe sway as she animated her speech with her arms, how she stood rigid and upright like a statue. The taste in my mouth went sour as her high voice echoed. There was something about today that made me feel sick to my stomach. It was quite possible that McGonagall taking Dumbledore’s place was making me ill. His voice was soothing and welcoming, but hers just felt like a cacophony to me. And the hurt that everyone felt over his loss surely wasn’t helping the situation. At that point, my mind wandered to Harry and how he was doing. I looked across the table in his direction.
Harry had his cheek cupped in his large hand, and his eyes were fixed on the leftover food on his plate. He moved it around in absent-minded manner with a fork in his opposite hand. I immediately frowned in response; I knew he was really sad. He seemed fine on the train, but I knew this breakfast was nothing but a rude awakening for him that Dumbledore was no longer going to be at Hogwarts. When I saw people in such a state, I couldn’t help but comfort them, and this was probably why I reached out without thinking and touched his forearm softly.
“Harry...” I started softly, trying to sound comforting. I saw his fork discontinue movement as he stared at my hand on his arm momentarily.
Then he looked up at me, his eyes wide and dark, his messy bangs probably distorting some of his vision, seeing that they were almost entirely covering his eyes. Harry had the most peculiar look on his face, that same look I saw on the train that had been shockingly intense. I returned his gaze with one of my own; I was trying to decipher what his meant, what he could possibly be thinking that was sending spasms of electricity down my spine. I removed my hand from his arm and returned it to my lap, scolding myself for making such an inappropriate move. I looked down at my hands and flushed in embarrassment. I wanted to scold Harry for making me feel so uncomfortable as I felt his eyes on me still but I didn’t dare look up at him again.
McGonagall’s voice crept into my head again and swirled around in my mind, interrupting my thoughts and skewing my decoding process. I sighed and gave up on trying to figure out Hurry’s beyond-confusing behavior. I looked towards the headmistress’ limber frame again and tried to concentrate.
“It is my pleasure to welcome a few new professors to Hogwarts this year. Our new Potions master, Professor William Warnock!” the headmistress said. Off to her side, a tall, handsome man with a mop of auburn hair on his head stood up. Slughorn’s replacement smiled and gave a curt nod to all of us. I saw the girls around me start to ogle at him. After a short round of applause erupted in the audience and the professor returned to his seat, the headmistress continued.
“As well as Professor Ridema Raglow,” she said, gesturing to her other side, “who will be our new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor,” She smiled, and the woman rose from her chair. She had dark skin and jet-black hair, with equally dark eyes. She looked as though she were in her mid-thirties.
Everyone seemed to be measuring the new professors, including myself, especially Professor Raglow, who was replacing Snape after just a year of him teaching. I wondered with the rest of the room what kind of teachers they would be, and if they were nice or strict. There were so many questions, and so much change. There were definitely people who were feeling as overwhelmed as I was, especially Harry.
A few moments after the second round of clapping winded down, my mind wandered again, and I began to think about my trip here. I was so excited to get to Hogwarts, and I had hit a sour note before even stepping foot in the building. I had been recovering from the episode on the train since the second I had gotten off of it, and I quickly concluded that something about what happened was still bothering me. My tolerance level for my boyfriend was diminishing more every time he spoke to me, even if he was being relatively normal. I found myself judging his every word, and even feeling disgust towards him when he would speak like a child.
My thoughts were altering so quickly and I couldn’t seem to stop them. He had really started this year on the wrong note, I had quickly concluded and my wandering mind was uncontrollable. This morning before breakfast had an unspoken tenseness, and I felt like both Harry and Ron were suspecting me of something. It was some sort of weird vibe that had seriously thrown me off. Despite all of this, Ron was still pretty much being himself.
That’s when I felt a hand slide around my waist and pull me close to his side; I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes and turned my head towards the boy who was pulling me out of this world and into a world of our own.
I felt his sweet breath on my cheeks. “Hi,” he whispered to me, before giving me a quick peck on the lips. He tasted like butterbeer. He always tasted like some form of sugar. It was nauseating sometimes.
“Hi,” I responded, opening my eyes to look at him. I chewed on my lip, contemplating his mood. I was wondering to myself whether this was a good or bad thing. I could feel Harry’s gaze burning into the two of us as we sat close together. Ron brushed a curl out of my face and tucked it behind my ear as I continued to look at him.
“What’s the matter?” he asked quietly. I almost wanted to ask him the same question.
“I’m not dealing with the McGonagall monologue very well, I don’t think,” I whispered back plainly, even though I was sure that wasn’t the truth. I felt sick to my stomach as I realized how different this year was going to be…and how different it was feeling already.
“Oh.... well I can help you pass the time...” he started, a small smile spreading on his face. I was surprised to find him smiling after all the tension and the weirdness that I had been experiencing with him and Harry in the past day. It wasn’t exactly the right time or place.
“Thank you,” I said, blasé, without much gratefulness in my voice. I was only referring to the fact that he was currently keeping me company, which I wasn’t so sure about to begin with. But apparently Ron had another idea stored in his immensely immature brain.
He swept my mane of hair out of the way and exposed my neck to his full lips. Ron started kissing the nape of my neck with a passion that surely wasn’t appropriate in a hall packed with hundreds of people, including professors. Neville started chuckling at the horrified expression that was emerging on my face as I calculated how I would get this leech off of me that was boring into my poor neck. Harry’s fork clattered loudly against his plate as he repositioned himself away from us in disgust; he had certainly seen enough. I had had enough as well.
“Ron Weasley!” I hissed, but he continued to kiss me, going in a line all the way from my collarbone to right below my jaw. His hand slid up my back and he pulled me close so our bodies pressed together. I leaned away from him, bumping Lavender in the process, and forced my boyfriend off of me by placing my hands on his chest and pushing me away.
“Wha’?” He asked in the midst of wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. I looked at him very sourly as he expressed complete innocence. I had never gotten very far with Ron, except for maybe some intense kissing. He was allowed to be passionate, especially when we first started dating because I used to really truly enjoy every second of it. But it was just not okay in front of a crowd, especially this crowd! I really did not like the vibe I had just received from him and I honestly felt dirty and used as he continued to shock me.
“Are you seriously asking me that?” I questioned in wonder, my eyes widening in disbelief. He just looked at me with that stupid expression on his face. “Do you really think that’s okay right at this moment?” I asked him again. I fought the urge to shake that ridiculous look off of his face. His thick-headedness was shocking me more and more as we spoke.
“You said you were bored!” he responded, still proclaiming his guiltlessness. I scoffed and widened my eyes at him.
“I never asked you to start making out with my neck!” I said a little louder, attracting many at the Gryffindor table to look up at our minor discourse. I crossed my arms stiffly over my chest and faced away from him, clearly signaling the end of the conversation.
“But-” Ron started at me, in unfailing stubbornness. I opened my mouth to both tell him of and cut him off, but I was even more surprised to be cut off myself by a least likely person to do something like that.
“Oh, Ron, will you please shut up and quit being so bloody immature?” Harry intervened harshly. It was the first full sentence he had spoken all morning, and Ron and I stared at him in disbelief. I couldn’t believe he had just added himself to this argument. I spoke up before they were throwing punches, which, judging by the rage on Ron’s face wasn't far from happening.
“Not another word, from either of you,” I said warningly, fuming with frustration as I turned away from them. I could not believe Ron’s immaturity. It was at times like this, where Ron would do stupid things or pick stupid battles with me, that I wished I could find someone who was more mature than Ron was. I would always feel guilty for thoughts like this, but to be honest, Ron and I were on complete opposite levels when it came to acting your age. It was the first time I really truly felt like getting rid of him. He was puling ridiculous acts like this with me all the time, and I was getting really sick of it. I hated feeling like I was dating a baby.
I sat as far away from my childish mate as the crowded wooden bench permitted me, and I could almost picture the steam bursting out of my ears for the next ten minutes. McGonagall was now sorting the First Years, and she was only on G’s, so I was just about to go crazy. My mind wandered away from the two boys that were inescapably close to me, and my eyes meandered across the massive amount of students. And that’s when I locked eyes with him.
It had to have been him; who else had those iridescent grey eyes and shockingly white-blond hair? I craned my neck, just to be sure it was him, and my whole body began to tingle with desire as my suspicions were proved correct. I gazed across the room as Draco’s orbs burned into mine. My cheeks flushed a deep red and I fought a small smile by chewing on my bottom lip. My mind told me to look away from the boy that had hurt me so many times, but something kept me glued to the very sight of him.
I wondered what was making me hungering for him after loathing him for so long; I had been so angry with him just yesterday. Then, I wondered why, suddenly, the two of us were finding each other in a crowd of hundreds after avoiding each other at all costs for six straight years. And then, I swelled with guilt, knowing my boyfriend was only inches from me as I yearned to be with someone nearly every Gryffindor despised. And yet, I didn’t look away.
That is, until I was distracted by none other than Ronald.
“What in the bloody hell are you staring at?” he said cruelly. I looked at Ron before realizing that I was breaking eye contact. Harry was staring at me too, bewildered by my facial expression. He alternated between looking at me and looking behind him, searching for the object that was making me blush like crazy. I had looked away only for a second, but Draco was gone when I searched briefly for him again. My heart sunk.
“Nothing...” I said, looking down at my empty plate. I started picking at my nail beds in mortification. This day was becoming the day from hell.
“Nothing?” Ron said, his eyebrows rising as he gazed at me in wonder. “It didn’t look like nothing,” he concluded with a harsh tone.
“You are so...” Ron started, and he lowered his voice and muttered something incoherent under his breath. I momentarily looked up at Harry, who was watching me with a confused expression on his face. I shrugged at him before looking away again. I couldn’t believe the tension that was going on between the three of us, just within the first forty-eight ours of being together again. I never imagined us being like this, but somehow I felt our trio was falling apart.
As soon as McGonagall released us to go to our first class of the year, I nearly jumped from my seat in relief, gathered my books, and took off. I didn’t really care at this point whether Ron or Harry were following behind me; we were going to the same classroom, anyways. The crowd of students bottlenecked slightly as we all tried to exit the Great Hall, and as soon as I was beyond the double doors I was off, only looking ahead of me. There was a clatter of feet behind me as I trotted up the marble staircase on my way to Charms, but I was uninterested to look back and see if it was my two best friends. Flitwick was one of my favorite teachers, so I was really happy to have Charms as my first class this year.
I took my first left at the top of the stairway and followed a wave of students into the bright, open classroom. I took a seat at a table for three, sitting right in the middle. If they wanted to sit with me, they could; I couldn’t bother caring at the moment because I needed to focus on my studies. In my own quiet, my mind wandered to my boyfriend and how exhausted I was already. I was tired of the childish behavior coming from Ron, but I was proud of myself to finally be standing up to it. I sat up a little straighter, elated at my own self-confidence. I opened my book, The Standard Book of Spells, and found the page the Professor had written up on the board. I flipped my hair back behind my shoulder and waited patiently for class to begin. Then, I braced myself as someone sat down next to me.
“Oh, my favorite person, wasting space in my class,” said someone in that all-too-familiar, sarcastic and cruel tone. I didn’t have to look at him to know Draco Malfoy had slyly sat beside me to cause me more hell. As if I hadn’t been through enough today.
“Go away, Malfoy,” I said as spitefully as I could manage, refusing to look at him and feeling my self-confidence diminishing with each passing second.
“Ah, it seems that we see each other quite a lot lately, wouldn’t you agree?” he said, ignoring my comment. I saw him out of the corner of my eye innocently cock his head to the side, waiting for my response.
I was silent and refused to respond to him or look at him, because I knew what situation that had put me into last time. He urged a reaction from me by nudging my arm with his cool fingers.
“Don’t touch me,” I hissed, moving my arm away from him, “and what does that have to do with anything?” I asked in reply to his question, giving in and looking at him. His eyes were even more mesmerizing up close, just as they had been the previous day. I placed my hand over the spot where he had touched me; I had felt an electric shock shoot up my arm at his contact. Goosebumps were rising on my arm.
“Don’t you think it is a bit odd?” he asked, a more seriously than before. It seemed almost as if a humane sounding question was coming from his lips rather than a degrading one. He leaned closer and was only millimeters from me, as if searching for the answer on my face. His breath smelled like mint as it washed over me. I just watched him, as he stood still, like a marble statue, in complete silence.
I continued to look at him unblinkingly in slight wonder as he seemed to be pondering for an answer to his own question, our noses almost touching. I rubbed my arm in an attempt to remove the goosebumps, although I didn’t look away from him. I gazed into his grey eyes and felt myself losing self-control as he dazzled me. And then he was standing. He had gotten up off of the seat as quickly as he had sat in it. He looked at my arm and paused for a second.
“I gave you goosebumps?” he asked me, rhetorically of course, with a genuine, crooked smile breaking across his face. Before I could even open my mouth to respond, he had already turned and walked away, and I was left at my seat bright red, tingling all over, and wide mouthed. I sat there, watching him walk away, biting on my bottom lip and fighting a gigantic smile.
Suddenly, I thought about how horrible he had made me feel the day before, how he had made me cry, and my smile faded faster than it had approached. He had gone from demeaning to an actual human being in less than a minute, and then he was gone; I was seriously considering admitting myself to the hospital wing as my head began to hurt. Was that some form of a sick apology for making me cry the previous day? Or was I still hallucinating? I reinstated the probably theory of mine that a library would be very beneficial to my health at the moment.
I looked around, suddenly worried about who could have witnessed our exchange. I quickly peeked behind my back and froze, coming face-to-face with Harry and Ron. They were standing next to each other, and judging by the look on their faces, they had seen the whole thing.
Great, I thought as I turned around quickly and faced forward, feeling my face heat up. Ron placed his textbook on the table with a little bit of extra force before sitting down next to me. Harry slid into the seat where Draco had just been, and I didn’t look at either of them.
“What the HELL did I just see?” Ron started angrily. He and Harry exchanged glances
“I couldn’t really tell you...” I replied, pretty honestly, I had to admit. I really had nothing to say about that exchange because I wasn’t sure what had happened myself. I continued to stare right ahead, considering I didn’t quite feel like facing either of them yet.
“What do you mean, you can’t tell me? He was touching you! And you were...smiling!” Ron said in disgust. I swore to myself in my head, because he had seen everything. I looked over at him slowly. His eyes were wide in disbelief and fury, and he continued to ask me senseless, infuriated questions. “What is going on between you two? Between this and yesterday on the train.... you are just bloody lying to me!”
“Please, Ron, not now,” I said calmly, hoping to pacify him, but he only flushed another three shades of red. I was so afraid that he was going to freak out at me. It seemed that today, that was all he was really doing.
“HERM-” he started loudly, but Harry cut him off. They had obviously made some sort of amend on the way up to the class.
“Ron, this isn’t really the place,” he said firmly, while looking warningly at Ron. Ron sighed heavily and turned to face forward while Harry and I both watched him slowly calm down. I was relieved he hadn’t blown up in front of everyone, but questioned why Harry had been taking my side so much lately. On another note, I was honestly surprised that Harry had actually stopped him from arguing with me. We had successfully pacified the baby yet again, I thought in disgust at my rotten luck. The three of us were silent for a good couple of minutes, and I resorted to watching the remainder of my classmates file into the room.
“Hermione...” Harry whispered, in a concerned tone, “what went on just now?”
I turned towards Harry, and leaned in close so Ron wouldn’t overhear us speaking.
“Um, he just kind of sat down next to me,” I responded, shrugging. What else was there to say that wasn’t too personal? It was the truth, after all. I hadn’t initiated anything with Draco; the conversation had been initiated completely by him. Harry nodded slowly, as if trying to process the vague information I had just given him. I watched him, much to my dismay, as he formulated another question.
Flitwick climbed up to his podium and began the lesson, so the conversation wasn’t able to go any further, even though Harry had opened his mouth to continue. I took a deep breath of relief and tried to focus my attention towards the first lesson of the year. I could feel the intense tension at our table, and I was caught right in the middle of it.
After a couple of minutes, I looked up a row of tables and saw Pansy and Draco making out violently in their seats. I looked away quickly and almost immediately felt the bile churn in my stomach. A wave of nausea made its way up my throat as I breathed in and out in an attempt not to puke all over my Charms textbook. I was most definitely going mad.
I could tell that Ron had been aching to drill me for answers throughout the remainder of Charms. I did my best to ignore it and instead focused my energy on class and on trying to remain calm and composed. As soon as Flitwick let us go, I was relieved and anxious to get behind the safe doors of the girls dormitories. I had packed up my items quickly and was on my way to the dormitories for the hour-long break that I had before my next class. I only looked ahead as I methodically weaved my way through my fellow classmates. I had gotten a lot of practice in my last six years at the school when I would try to show up to my next class before everyone else. My lightning-fast momentum was abruptly halted as someone collided with me.
“Oh, sorry-” I said, simply from habit without even looking up. I stopped walking and searched for the person who I had run into, and I immediately shut my mouth at the sight. It was not very often that my stealthy means of movement were disrupted. I came face to face with none other than Malfoy. His face was as surprised as mine. I could tell that he was just as shocked to see me as I was surprised to This was just getting too weird. Why were we having so many interactions all of a sudden? Within a few moments, his face went cold, and I saw the normal Malfoy that I had seen for the past six years.
“Watch it, Granger,” Malfoy said to me in a cruel tone. I found myself taken aback by his temperament, as if I was almost expecting much more from him.
I watched him walk away and was unable to form words as he breezed by me, so quick on his feet. Everything moved in slow motion as I looked at him in utter bewilderment, my mouth opened slightly. I watched him as he looked back over his shoulder to make eye contact with me one more time. My heart sped up even faster than it was already pumping, and at this point I was pretty sure I was going to pass out.
“You wouldn’t want to get another case of those goosebumps,” he snickered over his shoulder, just as Pansy went rushing by me to catch up with her boyfriend. She slid her arm right next to his and grabbed onto it, leaning against him and gushing at him. At this point, she had all his attention and I was still, completely in shock.
“You didn’t even wait for me, baby....” I heard her pout as they walked off. What a selfish jerk, I thought, then I remembered how difficult Pansy was. So that’s how he was working. He knew. He knew how I responded to him when he was decent, and now he was just using that against me. Great. Just as I was about to move my rigid body again, Ron and Harry appeared once more. Apparently, they had been on my tail the entire time because a new round of angry questions was spewing from Ron’s sour face.
“What were you two doing? What is going on? Why are you two always together now?” he asked me stubbornly, and I rolled my eyes in exasperation. I began to walk out of the door and quicken my pace. He was being the typical jealous boyfriend, and I would understand why except for the fact that it was Malfoy we were talking about. My face was still red from embarrassment, and I felt stiff as I tried to get away from his constant nagging.
“Ronald, maybe I don’t want to talk about it!” I said over my shoulder, speeding up, frustrated beyond comprehension. We were only a few corridors away from the common rooms – and the safety of my dorm- much to my relief. I didn’t know how much longer I could take this.
“I want to know! Now! Why are you two always together?” he said, raising his voice and matching my speed to walk beside me. What was he going to do next, stamp his foot like a little girl? I thought sarcastically, almost wishing I could ask him that exact question. To be honest, I was just as confused as he was, so it wasn’t like I could give him much of an answer. But he was persistent and obnoxious and his presence was wearing me down.
I tried to be reasonable with him. I didn’t want to yell back, it would only make him angrier. “Ron, listen to me. You are wrong, I swear,” I said, my voice pleading. I just wanted him to stop causing a scene.
“Don’t lie to me!” he said with a gaping expression.
“Ronald! Not right now! We aren’t doing anything!” I said, raising my voice as well. I didn’t want to have to deal with any of his immaturity, but today I couldn’t seem to escape it. I quickened my feet as I tried to get away from him.
We were speeding through the corridors now, and Harry was doing his best to keep up with us. I could feel the eyes of students watching me the two boys following close behind. At the sight of the painting, Harry ran ahead of is and gave the fat lady our password, which I promised myself I would thank him for later. The fat lady watched us with a peculiar look on her face as we rushed past and entered.
After we were behind the closed doors of the Gryffindor common room, Ron let everything out that he had been bottling up. I saw a flash of familiar faces in the large space as I attempted to get to the girls dormitories, and their friendly chatter died down as Ron began to yell. I was halfway up the stone steps and on my way to the dormitories when Ron caught my wrist and spun me around. He exposed me to every person socializing in the common room, and I immediately felt my entire body heat up in embarrassment.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MALFOY?” he shouted through clenched teeth, his ears fire-engine red and his jaw tightening in anger. My mouth dropped at his blunt conclusion and my eyes were wide with question.
“What are you talking about?” I responded with a shaky voice, as calmly as I could, though I feared what was going to come next. I ripped my arm away from his strong grip and tried to take a step back, but he only followed me. He matched my move by taking a step up the stairs and getting right in my face.
“I SAID: WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH HIM? ARE YOU CHEATING ON ME?” he yelled harshly. The words were like the biggest slap in the face I had ever felt in my life. I was enraged. Was he going completely mad? What had happened to us? Everything we had ever built up was deteriorating by the second.
“What? What the hell, Ron! ARE YOU ACCUSING ME OF CHEATING?” I screamed back, fire ripping at my core. I couldn’t believe he was accusing me of something so stupid. I couldn’t believe he thought I was low enough to do something like that to him. How dare he think I was being unfaithful to him, with Malfoy, of all damn people! He knew I hated his guts! Hell, he had witnessed Malfoy make me cry not even twenty-four hours ago!
“WHAT IF I AM?” he shot back defiantly. My eyes were wide and I could feel myself shaking my head. I couldn’t believe our relationship had gone this sour so fast. I couldn’t believe that he was dumb enough to think I was some sort of...slut. I shuddered as all my anger turned to hurt.
“HOW COULD YOU THINK I WOULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT? WHO ARE YOU?” I screamed, tears stinging my eyes. I didn’t know him anymore. He had changed on me so fast, he had turned against me, and there was no going back now.
“I WAS JUST ABOUT TO ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION!” he fired back, crossing his arms across his chest. I was sobbing now, I couldn’t help myself. I had only talked to Draco three times in the entire school year; Merlin, it had only been one day! At that point, it was as if my brain had disconnected from my body, because I felt like I wasn’t controlling my actions anymore.
I slapped him with every single ounce of strength I had left in my body; whatever hadn’t been drained from me yet because of his actions today. The sound was so loud that I could hear it ringing in my ears for minutes after my hand had made contact with his face. Everyone in the room gasped, and I momentarily saw Harry, who was completely frozen in place, lower his head so he didn’t have to watch anymore. Ron’s face had curled in pain in response to my slap, but I didn’t even care. Merlin, it actually felt good. I took a deep breath so I would be able to form coherent sentences. I wiped the tears from my face with the back of my hand; which I quickly noted was sore from the impact.
“WE. ARE. THROUGH. I AM DONE! YOU BETTER STAY FAR AWAY FROM ME, WEASLEY!” I screamed, pointing at him before turning and continuing up the steps. I saw his mouth drop as he pressed his hand against his tender cheek. I was confused and shocked at my use of the epithet that I never dared to call him before. I didn’t think I had ever referred to Ron by his last name before today.
Even through my tears and hurt, as I sped up the steps and slammed the dorm door behind me, it felt so good to be done with him. To be free from the immaturity and the pain and the noxious relationship that had made my first day of school hell, and it wasn’t even over yet. After that sigh of relief had passed, I leaned against the door and slid down until I collapsed on the floor. I continued to sob, feeling like I had most definitely hit rock bottom.
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