Chapter 4 : Humiliation
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I can do this. I can do this. I can do this, I chanted in my head as I walked to dinner in the Great Hall by myself. My hands were gathered into fists as I walked in, and they were beginning to hurt because I was clenching them so tightly. I had sat in that chair throughout my entire free time, staring off into space. My facial expressions had gone from smiling to frowning to confusion to gawking and back again. I could have sat there all night, until I heard my stomach growling and a complete silence cast over the library. I had known immediately where everybody was.
I had run as fast as I could, trying not to be late for dinner. Despite my best efforts to come up with a different plan, I decided that my only choice was to sit in my usual seat with Harry and Ron. I knew that Harry- at the very least- was on my side and that I could trust him not to judge me. Ron was a completely different story. I had no idea what to expect from him; he could yell at me, say hateful words, or embarrass me. There was really no way of knowing. I was also terrified that I would run into Draco while I was around them. As I walked in the Great Hall, it looked as though everyone had already started eating and I was able to walk down the aisle rather inconspicuously. There was a very low chance that Draco would see me get to my seat.
Sometimes, I believed that Harry was a mind reader. Even though my regular seat had always been next to Ron, he was kind enough to have Ginny sit next to her brother and leave the open spot across the table next to himself. Despite this, I could not stop my heart from pounding against my chest. I could feel it racing in my ears as I saw Ron notice me from across the room. The look on his face made me want to immediately turn and run in the opposite direction. Ron was clearly not letting go of the grudge anytime soon, especially because of what he had accused me of. I felt guiltier now than ever because of the kiss that Draco and I had shared earlier. But it was not like we had kissed while Ron and I were still together.
My mind raced as I got closer and finally sat down. I immediately looked at Ginny, and I could tell that she knew everything already.
“Hi Hermione,” Ginny said in a slightly cautious voice. I smiled back at her, although I was worried about her tone. She had probably learned about the entire situation.
“Hey,” I responded quietly. I could see Ron out of the corner of my eye staring down at his plate and eating his food ravenously.
“Where were you?” Harry asked me. I looked over at him, and he also looked worried and careful.
I immediately looked away. “Oh, I was just in the library, catching up on some, um, reading,” I said calmly as I could manage, trying not to give away how badly my heart was racing,
“Oh,” Ginny said, “I was looking for you in there but couldn’t find you,”
I made eye contact with her. “I’m sorry, I was pretty far in the back,” I said simply. Our pointless conversation turned in to an excruciatingly awkward silence, so I lifted my hands out of my lap to put some food on my plate.
My right hand managed to reach for some bread, but my left hand was quickly stopped and pinned back down to my thigh. I felt my cheeks became hot as I looked down at my lap to find Harry holding my hand. It first looked like a sign of support, and I was grateful for it. I wanted to smile and hug him but knew that I couldn’t. Instead, I quickly looked up and him to share my gratitude, but instead my eyebrows furrowed slightly as I saw his expression. He gave me a slight smile. I felt Harry lace his fingers within mine and grasp onto my hand.
I could feel Ron staring at us, but I didn’t care. I could see something in Harry’s eyes, and this time I was determined to figure out what it was. A look that I had seen several times before in the past few days. This time, I put the pieces together. It was a look of longing, desire. I couldn’t believe that despite everything that happened, I was actually convincing myself that Harry liked me more than a friend. I was slightly worried that I was wrong, but at that moment, I was so convinced that I was right. His expression knocked the wind right out of me and I didn’t know how to react except by looking away.
I didn’t know how I felt, either. I didn’t want to pull my hand away in fear of hurting him, but I didn’t want to give him the wrong idea, either. I tried to busy myself and continued loading my plate up with food. After a few moments, I couldn’t stand it any longer, looked up at Harry, and peeled my hand carefully away from his with a small smile. He looked away from me quickly and took a large bite out of his bread roll.
What did he expect me to do? I searched his face for a reaction, but was afraid that Ron would see me staring at him. I looked back down at my plate. The world around me became nothing but white noise, and eventually surrendered to my own thoughts, getting lost in my mind as I considered the kiss.
I was so happy that he had surrendered to his feelings, even if it was just for a few moments. In a way, I had surrendered to mine as well. And there was no doubt that the kiss was absolutely fabulous. But he changed like the direction of the wind. One second he was holding me, and then next he was talking to me like I was below him, like he could do whatever he want just for his benefit. I ate in silence, and as I chewed, I suddenly became more and more furious. I could feel my eyebrows furrowing, my chewing become more rapid as I thought about it.
I couldn’t believe I had let him just walk in and have his way with me and then walk out as his rude and usual self. It was so unlike me, and so unacceptable. I speared at my chicken and pushed it into my mouth with force, almost feeling the tears beginning to sting the back of my eyes. I was so angry with myself for letting him treat me the way we did. He was a vile, awful, horrible creature, and I just couldn’t let myself forget that. I immediately vowed never to let him treat me like that again- if we were ever to interact again. Since when did I ever allow another boy to control my life?
“What? You said-”
“I said...friends,” I repeated carefully, and he finally came to the realization that I didn’t want to get back together with him. He slowly let his arms slide to his sides as he looked at me painfully.
“Hermione, you don’t want to get back together?” he questioned me quietly.
“Ronald, I just...can’t right now. I’m not ready,” I say, touching my hand to his biceps. He looked over at my hand and made me feel so uncomfortable that I pulled it away from him.
“Okay,” he said after a few moments of silence. I could hear my heart racing in my ears. I was afraid about how he would react to my rejection.
“I have to go get my books,” I mumbled, feeling substantially awkward. In one last attempt at a friendly gesture, I bring my hands to his face. He looks at me, his expression still extremely pained.
“Friends, right?” I asked quietly.
“Friends,” he mumbled back. I nod and smile slightly at him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a quick squeeze before he had a chance to react or attempt to do anything stupid.
Without another word, I got up and walked a few steps before turning around and asking him if he wanted to walk back to the Great Hall with me. He nodded without saying anything and we walked together silently side by side. I knew he was hurt, and most likely furious with me, but I just couldn’t dive back into a relationship with him right now. Everything was too sudden, and everybody was too caught up in their own emotions.
As we walked back in, Harry was standing in the aisle, looking worried and curious. Ron and I split up at the end of the table and walked down parallel aisles to return to our seats. I sent Harry a weary, small smile to make him understand that everything was fine. As I came closer, he took a few steps towards me.
“Are you okay?” he said, his eyes searching my face for truth. I was hearing that phrase too much for my liking lately.
“I am, I promise,” I said, continuing directly to my seat and sitting down. Harry climbed into the bench seat after me and sat down as well. I ate only a few bites afterwards because I had lost my appetite for the most part. I kept mostly to myself, trying not to think about everything that was going on, but failing miserably.
My mind swirled with three boys who were either fighting for me or not sure what they wanted from me. I didn’t know what had made me so damn special all of a sudden, but I knew for sure that I did not feel that special to have three potential men in my life. I felt more and more dense by the second. Nausea rose slowly in my throat. The majority of my dinner was left untouched on it’s plate as I gathered up my books.
Everyone was beginning to leave now and head to the Common rooms before bed, and I wanted to be out of my robes and lying horizontal as soon as physically possible. My mind was exhausted, and my heart was still hurting from everything. It had been such a long day. The one thing I wanted more than anything was sleep.
~ : ~
The next day was slightly torturous. Ron was being a miserable baby in my opinion. We were talking again, though it wasn’t much because he was still hurt by my rejection. Not to mention, every hour, Harry convinced me more and more that he likes me more than a friend.
We walked to Potions together quietly with an unusual but predictable silence between us.
“How did your paper go, Harry?” I asked in an attempt to strike up a conversation. He turned to me quickly.
“Oh, it was all right, I wrote about the multiple uses of Ashwinder eggs. What did you write about?”
“I wrote my paper on the positive and negative effects of Amortentia and why it is custom for every person who crosses it,” I said, lifting my head high. I was very proud of my paper.
“That sound so much better than mine,” Ron grumbled to my right. I rolled my eyes.
“Oh, Ron, stop being so negative,” I said playfully, nudging him on his side, but this time, he didn’t react to me. I looked ahead and cleared my throat awkwardly. The remainder of the walk was in silence.
I found that the days go by so slowly when you are waiting for something to happen. I continually kicked myself for feeling eager to hear Draco Malfoy’s verdict, but I couldn’t help myself. I had done exactly as Draco asked of me the week prior. I hadn’t so much as looked in his direction since the day he had cornered me in the back of the library, and I felt pretty proud of myself. I was putting my foot down. There was just no way I was going to let him get to me any longer.
The week away from him had been a good time to decide that my friendships with Harry and Ron were much more important than being patient for Draco Malfoy, no matter how awkward it was with the two of them at the moment. I had transformed my ways and I felt like a brand new woman. He would be sitting and wondering what he wanted from me, and I would be living my life. I wasn’t going to let him treat me like crap, no matter how well he kisses. Despite all that, I was anxious to be around him again, to look at him, but I was stubborn and refused to give in. Needless to say, he was driving me crazy.
There was no denying that Potions was slightly unbearable. We walked in early and sat in our usual seats, and I felt that same knot in my stomach that I had felt for the past seven days. As soon as I heard Draco’s voice, that same, nervous feeling would return deep in my core. I found it hard to breathe for a few moments and my pulse raced, but I refused to look at him.
“Drayyyyyyycoooooooo!” Pansy cooed loudly to him.
“No, Pansy,” he said flatly, and I perked up slightly so I could hear the conversation that was about to unravel. Pansy groaned loudly and I could hear her shuffle over towards him from behind me. I was aching to look.
“Why not?” she pouted in a frustrated tone. I could tell she was about to throw a fit. Draco started mumbling to her under his breath. His voice was quick, inaudible, and frustrated. Ron looked at me and I shrugged at him in my best attempt to look indifferent and unfazed.
“You WHAT?!” she screamed suddenly. Her voice was ear piercing and made me cringe. Harry and Ron had both turned to face them, eager to witness some sort of unraveling fight. I finally turned towards the couple, despite my greatest effort not to. I kept my eyes glued on Pansy’s backside but I feared that at any moment, I would give into the temptation of seeing Draco’s warm, bold eyes against the cool undertones of his skin. He was facing me, after all.
Pansy was huffing, her fists clenched.
“You heard me,” Draco said coolly. He had clearly given up on not causing a scene; it was hard to do when you had a past with someone as obnoxious as Pansy. They were on the brink of a very public argument.
“Pansy. I told you already. I don’t want to go out with you any longer. You are suffocating me,” he said calmly, cutting her off. She glared at him, her face turning bright red. I wondered selfishly if any of his decision had to do with me.
“Why is that? Have you found somebody better?” she exclaimed in rage. I kept my eyes on her small frame, but as soon as the words came out of her mouth, I could feel Draco’s eyes on me. Pansy followed his glance, whipping around to make eye contact with me. She had tears lining her red eyes, and I immediately felt myself shrinking away from her in fear. I was furious that Draco had put me on the spot like that. Now I could feel everyone’s eyes on me, even Ron and Harry’s.
Pansy took a step towards me, her chest heaving in anger. “GRANGER?!” she screeched.
I immediately started shaking my head back and forth quickly, my eyes down to the floor. I couldn’t seem to make eye contact with her.
“Pansy, quit being irrational,” Draco said angrily but nervously. I could hear his cool composure vanishing.
“Pansy!” Draco yelled harshly.
“Well! Is it her?!”
“You are bloody crazy! Why on earth would I choose to date a filthy mudblood like Granger?” he spat. His words knocked the wind out of me. I went from sitting quietly to gasping for air, the name-calling closing my throat and catching me off guard. He had called me names since we were first years, but it still hurt every time. It hurt especially because he had actually kissed me within the week. I guess I got my answer, I thought sadly.
I didn’t dare look up, but eyes went wide and my whole body immediately ached from hurt. My cheeks heated up when I heard a few of my classmates gasp. There was really nothing I loathed more than public humiliation. Tears began to sting the back of my eyes and the spiteful words had overwhelmed my thoughts. I couldn’t bear to be facing him any longer so I turned around in my seat to face forward and avoid the eyes of curious onlookers. I kept my eyes on the ceiling, trying not to cry. I had waited for a response for him for so long and now I was receiving painfully mean comments from him instead. How dare he?
“Why were you looking at her then?” Pansy asked, calming down a bit after she had heard him throw around such crude words in front of me.
“Don’t accuse me of doing something I wouldn’t do in a million years,” he said coldly. My heart ached further. It was all wrong. I was attracted to someone who couldn’t even be decent to me in public. Nobody said he had to like me in public, but he had to bash me? He was willing to throw me under the bus for the sake of his image and status in front of the school. I figured that I had gotten my answer from him after all, even though it was in a slightly obscured manner.
“Don’t you dare talk about her like that, Malfoy!” Harry said loudly, getting up out of his chair.
“Enough!” Professor Warnock said forcefully. I hadn’t noticed he had walked in, but by the sound of his voice, he was not very happy about what was going on in his classroom. I was surprised to hear his voice raised, and I also had no idea how long he had been listening. I was taken aback by it, but there were clearly others in the room who could care less.
“Oh back off, Potter! Nobody needs your input!” he spat. I spun around to face Harry and took his hand while shaking my head. He looked down at me with a hurt expression. I knew at that moment he could have hexed Draco if he could. I was sure that Draco’s eyes were on me again as I pulled down on Harry’s hand, my eyes teary and my face reserved.
“Enough!” Professor Warnock yelled louder over all of us. It seemed that everyone in the class looked up to find him standing in the front of the class, his expression frustrated and confused. “Sit. Down. All of you!”
“Come on, Harry, he’s not worth it,” I said quietly, but loud enough for Draco to hear me. I considered the importance of taking my own advice every once in a while. Harry contemplated his options for a few moments, and I tugged on his hand again so he wouldn’t any longer. I could not believe he was defying Warnock’s orders. I tugged on him harder. He sat down angrily and immediately turned towards Warnock.
“I don’t know what is going on here, but I would like to see all of you after class. Potter, Granger, Malfoy and Parkinson,” he explained looking at all of us. He looked more offended than angry. I nodded slowly when he looked at me.
The professor began his speech after sighing and I immediately began to tune him out. Harry turned towards me when he felt it was safe enough.
“Hermione, are you okay?” Harry asked quietly. I had my eyes closed in an attempt to compose myself. I was just happy that the spotlight on me was shrinking.
“Yeah, are you all right?” Ron added worriedly. I nodded my head at them, but kept my eyes closed. I was afraid tears were going to escape out if I did.
I was so angry with Draco. He was humiliating and careless and was bringing me to tears again. I was frustrated that I had found myself crying so much these past few days.
“Hermione...” I heard Harry say softly, “Look at me.”
I turned to him and he placed his warm hand on my cheek. I almost wanted to roll my eyes and push his hand away. It didn’t feel right for him to touch me like that because I knew how he felt about me. It almost felt like he was taking advantage of me being weak, and I hated myself for thinking something so terrible. I opened my eyes like he had asked me to. Luckily, no tears had escaped, but my eyes were very watery.
“I’m sorry he said those things,” he whispered. I touched my hand to his hand on my cheek and gently removed it. He looked hurt by my action.
“Harry, thank you,” I whispered back, moving my head away from his, “and forgive me, but I really don’t want to talk about it right now, okay?”
“Okay,” he said skeptically after a few moments. I really did not feel like getting yelled at by Warnock for cozying up with my best friend and talking about my feelings with him. I decided instead to pick up my quill and begin to get lost in the wonder of Potions.
I could feel Draco’s presence right behind me the entire class, but I tried my best to ignore it. I instead hoped that he felt awful about publicly humiliating me. The thought was somewhat comforting. Throughout everything that happened, I found myself wanting to be alone more and more. In turn, I have become extremely lonely with each passing day.
I turned away from him after he nodded in my direction, and I felt guilty that I had rejected his help. I had rejected Ron, and now I was rejecting my other best friend. I had rejected Ron mostly because I wanted to hear Draco’s answer, and I knew how awful that was. And I had just rejected Harry because I no longer wanted to discuss Draco. He was the boy who had my heart for the shortest few moments and then proceeded to lose it right after. And it was his fault.
For a few moments in that class, I wished that he had never approached me to begin with. It was true that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. I would have spent a lot of time wondering, but eventually I would have gotten over it. He had caused so much trouble for me. He had made everything weird and broken. I needed him to stay far away.
When class was over, the four of us walked up slowly to Professor Warnock’s desk. Ron had filed out of the classroom quietly, not wanting to get involved. I didn’t dare look at Pansy or Draco, I instead stood by Harry; at least he was someone that I could rely on.
Professor Warnock placed his hands on the desk and leaned towards us. “I apologize for raising my voice today. It is not something I like to do often,” he started, “and I don’t know what happened. So would someone like to explain it to me?”
“Well, professor, Pansy and I used to date, so we were simply going through a little bit of a rough patch,” Draco explained calmly.
“Used to date?” Pansy shot at Draco, huffing in response to his use of the past tense. Draco ignored her.
“Yes Mr. Malfoy, but that wasn’t the time or place to have an argument,” the professor returned. “And if it was between you two, how did Mr. Potter and Miss Granger get involved?”
“They were both insulting Hermione, professor,” Harry said defensively, trying to rationalize why he got angry.
“Well you two made Miss Granger very upset, and I really don’t appreciate the language that was used in the exchange,” he said, raising his eyebrows at Draco. So he had heard.
“I didn’t say anything,” Draco said, trying to defend himself.
“I heard you Mr. Malfoy. I am going to have to give you detention. I really don’t want to be the bad guy here. But you really give me no choice.”
Draco sighed loudly in response. “So, I am going to be the only one that gets detention even though I am not the one that even started the argument?”
“Perhaps you weren’t the first one to raise your voice, but you are an instigator, Mr. Malfoy. Something tells me you do stuff like this frequently,” Warnock added, narrowing his eyes at Draco. Draco didn’t respond, he just glared at his professor with his bold eyes. “That is why you are the only one getting detention. I am very busy this week so it will be scheduled for a week from tonight at six o’clock. Be here on time please,” he demanded, before smiling and turning to the rest of us.
“That is absolutely ridic-” Malfoy started angrily.
“That’s quite enough,” Professor Warnock said, “you can all go now. If any other teachers give you a hard time, tell them to talk to me. Have a good day,” he said, nodding his head at us.
We all turned away, Draco and Pansy huffing beside us.
“Miss Granger, could I have a word with you in private?” he asked me. I turned to face him, and as I did, I could feel Harry’s eyes on me.
“Yes professor?” I asked curiously. As soon as everyone was gone, the professor continued.
He looked away from me for a few moments before addressing me. “I um…heard what Mr. Malfoy called you,” he started at me, confirming that he had been listening to the argument a lot longer than I wanted him to.
“Oh,” I responded, my cheeks going red.
“That is why I gave him detention and nobody else. I have a very sore spot when I hear people use that word,” he crossed his arms over his chest, “I know what it feels like to be called that, and I am sorry if he has done that before,”
“Two Muggle parents, yes. I grew up in a small town just outside of London. They were shocked when I received that letter,” he said smiling fondly on the moment.
“Me too. My parents are both dentists,” I grinned at him, and he smiled back at me. It was nice to have something in common with him.
“So listen, Miss Granger, I would like you to come to detention with Draco. You are not being punished at all, I just want to discuss the situation with the two of you together.”
I paused, not exactly thrilled by his proposal. “I suppose that would be okay,” I said after a few moments.
“Great. I will see you then,” he responded to me. “Now head off to class before you are too late.”
I walked away from him, both anticipating and dreading what would occur a week from tonight, wishing I knew what to expect.
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