All I could hear was the sound of our footsteps echoing through the dimly lit corridors as Draco walked me back to my dormitory. We had stayed up in the tower for an hour, just talking and kissing. I smiled ear to ear in the dark as we quietly strolled down the hall, remembering all of the moments again. He slipped his hand into mine as we went on. I wanted to go as slowly as possible so I could prolong the amount of time before we had to separate.
“Thank you for coming with me.” he said quietly.
I smiled at him, “I’m happy I did.”
I knew that it wouldn’t be long before he would let go of my hand and disappear to his dorms, so instinctively, my pace slowed even further, He smiled at me when he noticed.
“Merlin, am I going to have to carry you the rest of the way or something? With the pace your going at we are never going to get to bed.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” I said lightheartedly, but then I frowned, “It doesn’t matter, anyways, we are here.”
“That was fast,” he whispered.
“Yeah, too fast,” I responded bitterly.
“Time goes by quickly when I am with you,” he said, squeezing my hand as I sighed sadly.
“Too quickly,” I responded as we stopped right before the fat lady.
“Agreed,” he said, laughing, flashing his white teeth at me.
“Well, goodnight,” I said ambivalently, trying to slide my hand out of his and starting to turn away.
“Hey, wait,” he whispered to me, pulling me back so I was in front of him, and my heart raced. One thing that I loved about Draco was that it was never boring. I bit my lower lip as he wrapped his arm around my waist to pull me close. “That’s no way to say goodbye,” he smiled.
I gave him a small smile as he tickled my lips with his own, moving towards me gradually to prolong the time before we kissed. I tilted my head up to meet him, and brought my hands to his smooth face so I could hold him close to me.
“I will see you tomorrow, okay?” he said in between kisses.
Okay,” I sighed, pressing my lips to his again and again.
“I look forward to it, especially our detention together,” he smiled and I nudged his side playfully, and then he went back to kissing me. I longed to stay like this all night.
“Bye, Draco,” I said after a few moments when he parted lips with me. I took the opportunity to brush his smooth cheeks with my thumbs.
“ ’Night, Granger,” he whispered to me while still holding me inches away. I leaned forward and gave him one last peck on the cheek before he slid his hands across my hips and down to his sides and turning without another word. I watched him go in silence, until his black robes fell invisible to the dim hallways. All I could hear were his footsteps slowly fading as he walked further away.
I turned and walked towards the fat lady, giving her my password and ignoring her wary glance as she measured the actions she had heard just moments ago. I ducked through the small opening, considering how much bigger it was to me just a few years ago, and made my way through the common rooms. I was about halfway through when I noise made me jump in surprise.
“You’re back,” Harry whispered worriedly, his head poking up from behind the couch.
“Merlin, Harry, you scared me,” I said frustrated, my body slowly calming after the minor fright. He sat up quickly, and I walked slowly over towards him.
He was sitting in front of the small fire on one of the red couches. He looked like he had been dozing off, his tufts of hair sticking out more than usual.
“Where have you been?” he asked. I looked at him with wide eyes.
“Erm, I was out. Why are you here?” I asked, trying to sound indifferent, although I couldn’t hide my slight anger.
“I was waiting for you! Ginny told me that you hadn’t made it to your dorms after dinner, so I wanted to make sure that you were okay,” he explained. I sat down next to him.
“That’s very sweet of you, Harry, but I can take care of myself,” I said calmly. He searched my face for the truth, as if he didn’t fully believe me.
“Hermione, what were you doing?” he asked me, a little more demanding this time. I did not like the fatherly tone he was taking with me.
“I told you, I was out.”
“Why are you so set on knowing the truth?” I asked a little more angrily, his eyes burning into mine. I looked away, and he took my hand. My face flushed.
“I just am afraid that you are doing something that you.... shouldn’t be doing” he said worriedly, squeezing my hand, and I immediately became nervous. But first, I pulled my hand away from his.
“Look, I am kind of feeling like I have been leading you on. And I don’t want you to think that because I really see us as friends. Okay, Harry?” I said cautiously.
“You were with someone, weren’t you?” he asked me, moving closer. I moved away from him until I had nowhere to go, my back pressed against the armrest of the couch.
“Harry, stop please, did you hear what I said?” I asked him, trying to be patient, even though I could tell that he was panicking.
He touched his hands to my face, searching my eyes. I could see the orange light from the fire dancing in the reflection of his glasses. He took a deep breath, bringing his face close to mine. In the back of my head, I knew that this was going to happen eventually, and so I wanted to make sure that he knew how I felt about him. Unfortunately, had become frantic to change my mind, only propelling him closer to me. I felt so guilt ridden at that moment.
“Harry, please,” I begged.
“Don’t lie to me, Hermione,” he said, his breath hitting my face. I pressed my hands to his chest to keep him from coming any closer. I knew that this was his way of trying to change my mind. Because he knew. He knew who I was choosing over him.
“Stop, Harry!” I whispered urgently. He stopped moving only inches from my face, but I could feel how badly he wanted to keep moving; desire was radiating from him. His eyes were on my lips, and I gaped at his forwardness.
“But Hermione,” he started at me.
“I know Harry, I know how you feel,” I said calmly. Not like it wasn’t obvious at the moment.
“Harry, don’t make me do this. I just broke up with our best friend, and you know how he would feel about this,” I continued to whisper, as carefully as possible. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt my friend’s feelings anymore.
“That’s not why you don’t want me close to you,” he answered.
“What are you talking about?”
He paused again, only looking at my eyes as I tried to fight his strong gaze. He was waiting for me to give in and admit that I was with someone, but I feared how he would react if I told him the full truth.
“You were with him, weren’t you?” Harry whispered to me with undertones of jealousy.
“Harry,” I started guiltily, peeling his hands off of my face and sitting up in my seat a little bit in order to gain a little bit of space from him. I crossed my arms and gazed into the fire. Even though I knew I should have just gone and told him, I couldn’t find the words to tell him any such thing.
It sounded like despite the fact he was giving me a hard time about being with Draco, he still didn’t know if it was true or not. I was afraid that if I confirmed his suspicions, he would freak out on me. Honestly, I didn’t know what it expect. Harry said that he would always stand by me, but I wasn’t sure if being intimate with someone he hated so much would make him change his mind.
“You and Malfoy are sneaking around, aren’t you?” he said finally, unable to hide the truth from either of us anymore. Even though I knew he knew the truth, the sound of Malfoy’s name coming out of Harry’s mouth made me snap my eyes shut and wince.
“I can’t believe it! It’s true!” he said with a raised voice, his suspicions confirmed. He stood up and faced me, and I looked up at him to find intense pain and shock covering his face.
“You knew, why are you sounding so surprised?” I asked weakly, not really knowing what to say.
“How could you do this to me? To Ron? How?” he asked, his face turning red. I had known he would react just like this and I was afraid people were going to hear.
“Please Harry, don’t wake anyone up. That’s the last thing I need right now,” I fearfully whispered, my eyes pleading.
He took a few deep breaths. “You didn’t cheat on Ron like he accused you of doing, did you?”
“Of course not! It started...after,” I tried to explain, my mouth going dry.
“Don’t do it Hermione, he is bad for you, he is only going to hurt you.
“Harry, please don’t.”
“How could you choose him over me or Ron? He is horrible, just awful- you can still look him in the eyes after all those nasty things he has said to you, all the things he has done to us over the years?”
“I can’t explain it Harry, you wouldn’t understand, we kind of just...happened.”
“But he treats you terribly! Just the other day, he humiliated you and made you cry, and now you are running off with him?”
“I know. I know he did. But he was really sorry. And we didn’t just kiss the whole time,” I paused as I saw Harry’s glazed-over eyes wince, “we talked. A lot. For hours.”
He just gazed at me. I felt so awful that I wanted to cry. I wanted to explain myself but I couldn’t find the words to do it properly. Draco and I just had this connection, this force that was pulling us together and there was no way Harry would ever understand it. I pulled him back down to sit next to me and faced him.
“Harry, listen. I love you so much, and I love Ron, too, just not the way you want me to. And for that, I am horribly, terribly sorry. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You are hurting me right now. By choosing Draco.”
I cocked my head to the side as he looked at me in disbelief.
“You can’t help who you want to be with,” I explained softly, trying to point out how what I said was true for both of our sides.
“You want to be with him?” he asked, his voice cracking.
I shrugged my shoulders. “Maybe,” I said. He gazed at me, lips pursed in anger.
“Please,” he said emotionally, though his face was stern.
“Oh, Harry,” I said, my voice shaking at his emotion. I thought at any moment he would burst into a blind rage, but he managed to contain himself, sucking in a deep breath and suddenly becoming calm. I watched him cautiously, completely unsure of what his next move might be.
“I can’t do this right now, Hermione,” he told me, “But I know one thing: I am not going to lose you to Malfoy.”
Before I had the chance to respond, Harry leaned forward and gave me a soft kiss on the cheek, silencing me. He stood up, and without another word, disappeared up the stairs and quietly closed the dormitory door behind him. I stood up, blushing from the kiss, and made my way up the stone steps in a zombie-like silence. After collapsing in my bed, I wound up facing a sleepless night as my head swirled between happiness with Draco and emotional roller coasters with my two best friends.
My eyes cracked open slightly just so I could catch a glimpse at the time. My lids were heavy from a lack of sleep, but judging by the time, I calculated in my head that I had managed to sleep for three hours total. I was frustrated to have tumbled in an out of the rest I needed, and now it was time to get up for my first class. It was still a little early, but I managed to scrape myself out of bed so I could take a shower. Plus, I would have extra time to pretty myself up for the day. It was nice to be able to have someone to look pretty for again. I pulled my elastic out of my hair and let my hair spill over my shoulders as the shower heated up.
I closed my eyes and let the water spill over my face, letting the steam and heat relax my body. All I could think about were the kisses I had received in the last twenty-four hours.
I carefully styled my hair and took extra time to make sure my face was looking it’s best as everyone began to stir and move around me. I felt more ready to start the day than I had in a while. I met Harry and Ron in the common rooms- just like I had done for the past six years with them. They seem startled by my confidence as I walked into the room, my face glowing and my smile wide.
“Hi Hermione,” Harry said warily, and Ron followed with a similar comment.
“Hey, lets go,” I said with a smile. I tried to push aside what Harry had said to me last night and instead tried to focus in the thrill of seeing Draco this morning. The two followed me, and I could not help but smile at their bewilderment.
“Are you all right?” Harry asked me after a while, as if he was expecting me to be somber after last night. I didn’t want to sound like a bad friend, but he gave me his argument. I knew that he did not agree with what I was doing or whom I was with. But just like he was fighting for me, I was fighting to keep Draco, whether it was bad or not. Somewhere deep down, I was convinced that Draco was a good person.
We walked into Charms together right on time, taking our usual seats. I tried not to look around, but I felt anxious as I kept a watch for him despite my best efforts and listened attentively as well. Nothing.
When class started, I furrowed my eyebrows, suspecting that he may have slipped in without a sound, though it was very unlike him. I turned my head slowly to catch a view of his usual seat next to Pansy, but it was empty. I felt Harry’s eyes on me, and then Pansy began to glare at me, as if she knew what I was doing. I turned away and colored slightly, trying to look indifferent. By the time Charms was over, my head was swirling with questions. I didn’t dare look back again until I knew that I had a reason to be facing that side of the classroom, and that was while I was gathering my books up. I tried to look up as innocently as possible, and to my deepest regrets, the seat was still vacant. My excitement was deflated, to say the least.
“Looking for someone?” Harry asked me sarcastically, because he knew exactly who I was looking for.
“No,” I said curtly, lying as best as I could. Ron either was choosing to ignore our conversation or was not paying attention. I gathered my quills and turned on my heel, hoping that they were behind me, because I didn’t feel like waiting up for them at the moment. They were, however, right beside me as I walked to my next class.
There was something about seeing Draco that brought me somewhere new. It had this entire year. It was that peculiar, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling mixed with increased heart rate and tingling core. Even though I knew it was common with a crush, I had never experienced it in so intoxicating a manner before. Ron had always been so bloody innocuous. Now that I was at the stage where I wanted to see Draco, because he wanted to see me too, the feeling came to me faster and harder than I had ever felt. There was nothing I wanted more than to see Draco’s bold eyes finding mine and locking in place.
Now that Draco was absent from the first class, a wave of distress washed over me, and I looked around my next classroom franticly for him. I thought about everything he had said to me the night before, and the fact that he sounded just as interested in seeing me today as I was in being with him. He was a no show again, and the same vicious circle happened during every single class change. My eyes would dart around the room more frantically with each class, and I actually began to worry about him. I tried to recall him mentioning something to me the night before that would allude to his absence today. I hoped that he was okay. Harry knew what my distress was all about. He was observant and it didn’t take long for him to realize what all of my fuss was about. Draco had never once missed classes, so I was internally freaking out.
My appetite was shot after a day of constant worry, but I walked beside Harry and Ron on our way to the Great Hall, my head hanging a little as I went along.
“What in the bloody hell is her problem?” I heard Ron whisper to Harry, his voice confused and concerned. Despite his rather rash formation of words, I didn’t bother defending myself. I was too exhausted, and I knew that Ron was doing it out of defense of my feelings. Harry was sticking by me, just like he said he would, and Ron was doing it, too. I knew that they were both being too good to me after everything that we went through. Harry and Ron’s conversation became inaudible as I tuned them out and lost hope. My stomach was turning with fear and questions.
Did someone find out we were seeing each other? Is he okay? What was the mission he was chosen for? Why did he leave without telling me? Didn’t he know I was going to worry about him? We entered the Great Hall, and I was still looking down. The world seemed to be bustling around us as the three of us walked in slow motion. I felt Harry nudge my arm inconspicuously as we walked. I looked up at him about to question why he was doing so, and then I saw him motion to our left with his eyes.
I followed his glance, and my heart faltered as I found Draco in the sea of Slytherin. He was sitting down, his hand cupped in his cheek, looking off into the distance. I let out a sigh and a smile, though I could feel Harry’s tenseness beside me. Draco looked sickly, his pale skin whiter than I had ever seen it before. I wanted to take off towards him. I felt drawn in, like there was a force that wanted us to be touching. It was hard to resist, because I knew that I couldn’t go to him.
I tore my eyes away for a few moments to find my seat, hopefully a far enough distance away where I wouldn’t feel that pulling sensation on me any longer. It was like every time I was near him, I needed to be next to him.
When I was about to get into my seat, I made another attempt to find him in the crowd. It was easy to find him. Within a half a second, he turned his head to meet eyes with mine, as if he had sensed that I had located him. His head perked up out of his cupped hand, and he looked apologetic as I sent him an emotional mix of looks. I knew we were going to meet up after. I didn’t know when or where, but I knew that we would somehow find each other through the mass of people separating us at the moment.
I immediately went to work on my dinner, scoffing the food in my mouth as quickly as possible without choking. I had only one thing on my mind, and that was being with Draco. I knew that my friends were questioning my behavior- except for Harry of course. Shockingly, I didn’t care. I wanted to make things normal with everyone, but doing that while trying to be with Draco was going to be hard. I speared a piece of chicken and popped it into my mouth, looking around me as I chewed. Ron was looking at me, speculating.
“I’m starving,” I lied, after swallowing.
“Ah,” he said suspiciously. I went with it and kept chewing. Before I knew it, my plate was empty, and I was sure that I had a twenty-minute head start on everyone else.
I carefully wiped around my mouth and began to gather my belongings. I tried not to look up at Draco so I wouldn’t draw eyes in his direction. Instead, I just hoped that he would see me and follow.
“Where are you off to now?” Ron asked me incredulously.
“Oh, I am so behind in Potions, I need to catch up,” I lied again. I did this with a pang of guilt.
Harry sat still and refused to look at me, though I swore I could feel the anger radiating off of him as I lied to his face when he knew the truth behind my motives. I felt so awful. I stepped away, but Ron called after me.
“Hermione,” he started, drawing my attention to him again. He looked frustrated and confused. “You seem so...distant these days. Can’t we catch up? You barely talk to us anymore.”
I winced at this statement, feeling so awful and mentally noting that I would try to make it up to all of them in the near future. But all I could think of right now was Draco, Draco, Draco. He was pulling me in, dragging me to the door. Making me anticipate that moment where my body would press into his. What was happening to me?
I took one step towards the table, and looked right at Ron.
“Erm, tomorrow. Why don’t we go for a walk or something and… catch up?” I said.
“Can’t you just stay now?” he asked me.
“I’m sorry...I can’t,” I responded, “but tomorrow, we will do something.”
“Yeah, if you have time for us in your suddenly busy schedule,” he mumbled sarcastically.
“I promise, Ron,” I said. He didn’t respond. After a few moments of silence, each of us staring off into the distance, I turned and walked away, feeling relief that I got out of the situation at hand. I still didn’t know where exactly I was going or if Draco was going to be there, but something deep inside convinced me to keep walking. It was telling me that somehow, I would find him.
I walked through the corridors aimlessly, wandering and hoping. I suddenly feared that he didn’t see me, that I had become the invisible girl again, and that I had dreamed last night completely. My heartbeat increased, and I could feel the adrenaline kicking in as I became determined to find him. I decided, suddenly, to change my course and go to the one place I knew he would be thinking of as well.
My aimless search turned into a fleeting race to a destination, and with heavy breathing, I stepped onto the top step of the staircase leading to the tower. It was the same tower he had taken me last night, and I hoped that I would find him there. I used a charm to open the locked door, and I slowly opened the heavy door, letting the rose colored light spill onto my face.
It was the same setting as the night before; the chromatic spectrum of the sunset giving Hogwarts an orangey glow as the sun disappeared behind the horizon. It was almost gone, and the orange was slowly being replaced by burgundies. I looked around the tower, and my heart sunk when I realized that I was the only one standing on its circular balcony. Where could he possible be? I know he had seen me in the Great Hall, and I thought that he wanted to see me too. I walked to the edge of the tower, leaning over the wall so I could get a better view of the landscape below me.
I figured that waiting would be worth it, and that if we were meant to be, that Draco and I would be together again. As I stood looking over the edge, I noticed that cool breeze that was going across the sky, bringing along with it the smell of autumn. I loved that smell, but the coolness was unsettling as I was still used to the warmth of summer. After about twenty minutes, I heard the door open behind me.
I turned, already smiling, but my smile faded when I noticed how much more sickly he looked up close.
“What are you doing here, Hermione?” he asked suddenly, breaking the silence. I couldn’t say anything to him, I was just gaping at his grayish complexion and his dark circles. There was something about him that was different. He had always been pale, but this time it wasn’t radiating. He looked terrible.
“What do you mean?” I asked him, stuttering slightly. I walked up to him and placed my hands on his cheeks. He looked exhausted and ready to collapse. He didn’t answer me. “Draco, what happened to you?” I asked, suddenly becoming concerned. I examined his body, running my hands down his limp arms, bringing my hands to his. I lifted them up with every intention to warm them in my hands and press my lips to them. He pulled them away from me rather quickly.
I gaped at him again, suddenly feeling hot tears stinging my eyes. I could feel it. He was turning on me again. “No. No, Draco!”
“No what?” he asked me, exasperated. As he formed his question, he was turning his back to me and headed towards the door. I walked around him quickly to face him.
“Don’t you dare walk away! Don’t do this to me again. I know what you are doing. Don’t do it!”
“Hermione,” he said quietly, “it’s for the best.”
As soon as my suspicions were confirmed, I broke down. I let the tears escape and began to sob loudly, sinking to the ground in front of him. It hurt so much that Harry had been right. His words were echoing in my head. He is only going to hurt you, he is only going to hurt you.
He watched me, motionless, as I curled up and attempted to make myself as small as possible. I didn’t know what made me think that things would be different this time. It just wasn’t fair.
I looked up at him. “What happened? Where were you? Who did this to you?”
“Hermione,” he coaxed, but he was lacking emotion, "you have to trust me. As hard as it is, we need to stop this before it even starts."
"But what happened?" I repeated.
He just looked at me blankly. I suddenly became angry, standing up with tears still running down my cheeks. “You have to talk to me. You can’t say all of those things you said to me last night, disappear without warning, and come back like you are indifferent to me. You have no idea what I have given up to be with you. What I have risked. What I have turned away-”
He put his hand up, stopping me. “Remember what I said yesterday? About how I was being chosen for something?”
I nodded, taking a step closer to him. I wanted things to go back to the way they were before he had disappeared. I wanted him to hold me and kiss me and talk to me. I was afraid that I would lose the Draco I cared so much about and it felt like I had lost him already, just a day later. I was still crying.
He suddenly became pained. It was like he was trying to show no emotion toward me. Draco brought his hands up to my face and held them there, taking a step closer to me.
“I was chosen,” he stated quietly, raising his eyebrows and studying my face for a response.
“For what?” I demanded through sobs. I sniffled loudly and rather unattractively.
“I can’t tell you,” he said to me unhappily.
“Why not, Draco? I told you that if this is ever going to work, we are going to need communication. And if you can’t communicate with me, I can’t waste my time standing by someone like that,” I said, recovering quickly and somehow ready to start an argument with him.
I thought of Harry and Ron and Ginny and everyone who I was ditching to be with him. No matter how badly I wanted to be around him, I couldn’t fight for someone who wasn’t emotionally there for me.
“Hermione, wait a second,” he said, but I began to shake my head. I took my hands and pushed him away from me, completely surprised by my actions. I couldn’t keep waiting for Draco to be there for me.
“I have just gone through something...something terrible, and completely against my morals. And I can’t talk about it. I am not allowed to. How do you think that makes me feel?” he began to explain, following me as I gathered my books on the ground, half blindly, through hot tears.
I wiped my wet cheek with the back of my hand, pausing and looking up at him. “How do you think it makes me feel when the one person I have ever cared about so much that it hurts...hurts me on a daily basis? Can’t make up his mind about me? Can’t share with me things that are bothering him? No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to be important enough to you,” I said, my voice shaky.
He looked so ambivalent, so terrorized, that I almost began to feel bad for him, but then I came back to my senses. “I like you, so much. More than you can believe. But I can’t do this anymore. Don’t think that I won’t move on,” I said to him sternly.
“Hermione,” he started, but I cut him off.
“No, Draco. Talk to me when you figure out how I can become important enough to you.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but I was too quick for him, making my way to the door and slamming it behind me. I went down the steps as fast as I could, not wanting him to come after me as I made my way to the Gryffindor common rooms. It was fickle how quickly life could change.
Suddenly, being with Harry and Ron didn’t seem so bad. All of Harry's actions were going through my head; the note he had given me, his warning, I couldn't help but admit that he had been right about everything.
Harry and Ron became my new destination. It was actually something that I wanted more than ever. They were constant. Unchanging. I knew I could rely on them for anything, anytime. It was a comfort to know that despite their flaws, I knew they would always be there, even Ron. My tears subsided and I tried my best to wipe my face dry. As I walked, I silently hoped that I was still important enough to them to be allowed to fix everything I had screwed up.
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