I kept my head down and let my hair cover my tear-stained cheeks as I made my way to the common rooms. The entire way down from the tower, I was picturing in my head the way I wanted it to be.
I wanted Draco appear from behind me. I wanted him to grab my hand and spin me around, telling me that I was all he ever wanted. I wanted him to bring me close and kiss me romantically in front of everyone, not caring who was there to speculate his expression of love. I knew that it wasn’t going to happen as I approached the fat lady. I did however, know that forgiveness from my two friends was more important, no matter what I wanted from the boy I couldn’t have.
I wiped my tears and did the best I could in composing myself before I had to face them. I walked quietly into the common rooms and quickly searched the area for any sight of Ron and Harry. I took a few steps back behind the wall when I noticed them off in a corner playing chess by the crackling fire. Ron was facing me and Harry had his back to me; he was slumped in a big crimson chair and was barely visible.
“Knight to E-seven!” Ron was saying triumphantly, a crooked smirk breaking across his face. I heard the piece moving across the board, followed by a large cracking sound. Harry groaned and uttered a line of curses under his breath as he assessed the damage.
I smiled despite my terrible mood. Harry had always been beaten in chess. Ron was incredible. Even after seven years of playing together, I had only seen Harry win a few times compared to Ron. Sometimes, I had thought that Ron had lost on purpose. I almost wished I had kept a scoreboard. It would have been funny to see how many more times Ron won than Harry. As these thoughts entered my head, the guilt swelled inside me as well as I realized how many fun moments I had probably missed because of my gallivanting with the bad boy of Hogwarts. I slowly stepped out of the dark. Ron saw me almost immediately.
His eyes instantly widened, as if he was shocked to see me. I immediately wanted to crawl back behind the wall and hide from the truth I was now going to be forced to face. His neck arched and his eyebrows furrowed as he tried to figure out what I was doing. Meanwhile, Harry was still lost in the game.
“Ron, what’s your next move?” he asked, finally looking up from the board when there was no response. The room was dead silent. “What are you-?” he started, turning towards me.
When his eyes locked with mine, they widened just like Ron’s had, but I knew that he could read my expression better than Ron could. My eyes were red and rimmed with tears, my face was sallow and my expression was saddened. As soon as that “I-told-you-so” look spread across his face, I had trouble holding back my tears.
“I-I’m sorry!” I said, my voice cracking, and the tears filling my eyes. I buried my face into my hands, not knowing what to expect from them. They could sit there and watch me cry. Harry could look at me with little sympathy, knowing that this would happen eventually.
But he was the first one to me, wrapping his arms around me and holding me snugly to his chest. I buried my face there and held him for a few moments. He had stood by me like he said he would, and now I just longed for Ron’s forgiveness. We hadn’t truly been okay since before our breakup. I wasn’t sure if he still wanted to be okay. Despite my doubts, he was next in line. He looked at me dubiously, but nonetheless, he was there.
I let go of Harry slowly before taking quick steps towards him and throwing my arms around his neck. He was stiff at first, slowly wrapping his arms around me without any feeling. I pulled away for a few moments.
“I am so sorry, Ron,” I said quietly.
He looked at me, his face still pulled into a doubtful frown. I continued to look at him, searching his face for some sort of reconciliation. He gave me one curt nod, and I knew I had permission to hug him again. This time it was different. He let me to press against his body like I used to, and he wrapped his arms snugly around my lower back, bringing his face down into the crook of my neck. I waited as he warmed up to me. He seemed to be breathing in, reminiscing and remembering when we used to be okay. I was doing the same.
At the same time, when I closed my eyes, I pictured Draco. I found myself comparing, dreaming and wishing. As much as I wanted to completely forget about him and move on with Harry and Ron, I knew that there would always be a part of me that remembered the Draco that was kind-hearted, sweet and chivalrous. It was a rare side to see, but I was lucky enough to have experienced it, and now I would have a difficult time forgetting it and trying to stop wishing for him to always be like that. Getting Harry and Ron to forgive me was a battle, but I was aware that the war occur if Ron found out about my short, quasi-relationship with Draco.
He surprised me with a small smile as we pulled away from one another. “How about that walk?” he said quietly. I smiled back at him and nodded slowly and hoped for the best as the three of us made our way out of the common rooms.
“So what is it that has been keeping you from us?” Ron asked me quietly as we slowly walked through the corridors of Hogwarts. His expression was initially carefree and curious. When he saw Harry and I exchange worried looks, his mood changed. He looked back and forth between the two of us for a few moments.
“What?” he exclaimed, suddenly extremely worried.
“Ron, I am just really afraid of how you are going to react when I tell you,” I murmured. Harry stayed silent.
“Harry? Have you been snogging my ex-girlfriend or something?” he accused. Harry raised his eyebrows and shook his head violently.
“Of course not! What kind of friend do you think I am?” he shot back. As he said this however, I could see Harry’s cheeks flush; he felt guilty. He felt guilty because he had feelings for me. Even though that wasn’t what Ron had accused him of, he knew it was true and that it was against the relationship code. I felt tingles spread through my body as Ron turned back to look at me.
“Ron, I just want to be honest with you. And you need to understand that this did not happen until after we broke up. Okay?” I asked him, making myself very clear. I wanted to be sure that he understood this. He just looked at me, his eyebrows pulled down. “Okay, Ron?” I repeated.
He nodded his head slowly at me. “What did you do?” he asked quietly.
I winced, already preparing for the explosion that would occur when I told him. “I have been spending a lot of time with...” I paused on the name, which was lingering at the tip of my tongue, “...Malfoy.”
“MALFOY?” he shouted at me. “What exactly have you two been up to? Snogging? Screwing? All behind my back? Right after you and I broke up! Exactly what I had accused you of! I was right all along!”
“Ron, I told you. Nothing happened until after we broke up!”
“Of course, Hermione! Once you could rid of me you had Malfoy move right on in where I used to be! I thought you were better than that! Sleeping with Malfoy! Absolutely RANCID if you ask me,” he said.
I shushed him, but it was pointless, and I knew it. His ears were bright red and his eyes were wide with disapproval.
“She wasn’t sleeping with him,” Harry said quietly. Ron spun around to face him. My eyebrows raised in shock that Harry was standing up for me. He also just threw himself under the bus for me.
“You KNEW!?” he exclaimed.
Harry kept his cool. “I just found out last night.”
“Regardless! You couldn’t tell me?!”
“I couldn’t. It wasn’t my place to tell you. And I knew you would react this way!”
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I watched the two of them fighting for a few minutes until I was compelled to intervene. I hadn’t seen them fight before. Ever. It was just too much to bear.
“Stop it! Look at what this is doing to us! Please, I know I made mistakes. And I wanted to tell you the truth because I couldn’t allow us to grow any further apart!” We all looked at each other in silence for a few moments, and Ron still looking wild with shock.
“How could you do this to me Hermione?” Ron said, suddenly subdued and solemn.
“I can’t explain it, Ron. We were just drawn together. We only kissed, Ron, nothing more. He isn’t a good person though, he never was. I know that we were all aware of that. But he was different with me at times. I know it is hard to believe that. But no matter what I did, he still couldn’t treat me fairly. So I walked away. And I am sorry for what I did to you. Please forgive me!”
“I am going to beat that filth to a bloody pulp! He is the reason why we broke up!”
“Ron, don’t,” I started at him. I knew where this was going.
“You and I were fine when he was out of the picture. Now he is gone again-”
“We went over this. We can’t get back together!” I said to him, suddenly becoming frustrated.
“And why is that? Because Draco snoggs better than I do?” he said mockingly. I didn’t want to tell him that I actually believed that. It wasn’t the most important reason why, but it was definitely the truth. I would never be able to admit it, however, because I cared too much about his self esteem.
“Because we aren’t meant to be, Ron, you have to believe that,” I murmured to him.
“And what if I don’t?” he asked me stubbornly.
“You will eventually,” I said solemnly, giving him a small smile, “it’s for the best.”
“But Hermione, I still love you,” Ron said quietly.
I shook my head slowly and sighed at him. Harry’s eyes darted away from us. I knew these were they types of conversations he couldn’t bear to listen to. I felt bad for him, but I couldn’t ignore the huge statement that Ron had just dropped.
“I love you too, Ron,” I returned, “but we aren’t going to get back together.”
It was things like this that brought me back to why I couldn’t stand being in a relationship with him. He was so immature. Ron acted immaturely and Draco was an indecisive jerk. Did there have to be something wrong with all the guys in my life?
“Because. I think we are all getting too caught up in our feelings,” I started, but this time, I was directing my thoughts to both boys, “I think that we need to remember our boundaries because when we become more than friends, things get too complicated. I think that we should accept who each other is dating because it is no one’s choice but the person who should make it. Okay?”
Sometimes I needed to put down an authoritative power over the two of them, it was something that was required in times like this. The two of them nodded at me like sad puppies. I nodded my head once and then gestured back in the direction that we came from. The three of us walked together down the dimly lit corridors and back into the common rooms. Harry and Ron returned to their game of chess and I sat quietly beside the board watching them battle while debating whether or not I should start keeping score.
I dreaded detention the entire day. When six o’clock finally arrived, I took a deep breath and made my way slowly down to Warnock’s office. Malfoy was the last person I wanted to see at that moment. When I started gathering my things, Harry and Ron looked at me expectantly for an answer.
“I have to go to detention,” I told the two of them, figuring it wasn’t worth lying to them.
“You? Detention?” Ron asked me surprised.
“Warnock wants to talk to Malfoy and I about what he called me last week. Believe me, I do not want to go,” I said truthfully.
Ron didn’t respond, but Harry just shrugged his shoulders at me as I made my way out the door. I know, I deserve it,
I thought angrily to myself. I walked down slowly, knots in my stomach the entire time. When I approached the room, I took one last deep breath and opened the door.
Draco was sitting with his back to me, facing Warnock, who was sitting atop his desk, his legs swinging over the side. I stopped right when I saw Draco’s platinum hair, my heart already aching just at the sight of him. The professor was speaking to Draco in an inaudible tone. He was relaxed but serious.
When the door shut behind me, Warnock looked up at me. “Ah, Miss Granger, thank you for joining us. Would you come sit down?”
I smiled at him reluctantly as he jumped down from his seat and slid a chair so it was facing Draco. My smile faded quickly. “Come and sit,” he said to me warmly.
As I approached the chair, Draco began to protest. “I came here for detention, not a bloody therapy session,” he spat.
“Quit testing me Mr. Malfoy,” Warnock warned. Then he turned to me and coaxed me into my chair. As soon as I sat down, my cheeks began to burn. Having Draco that close to me made me nauseous and completely uncomfortable. Professor Warnock sensed my stress.
“Well you two seem to be polar opposites,” he observed at the sight of our discomfort.
Draco sighed loudly, and I folded my arms across my chest, keeping my head down, after a few moments of excruciating silence, I tried to get myself out of the situation. “Professor, please forgive me, but I don’t feel comfortable being here.”
“Miss Granger, I am sorry for any discomfort. But I need you to stay. Draco needs to understand what implications can occur from the things he says.”
“You have no idea,” I murmured.
“I’m sorry, but do you two know each other more than you both are letting on? Because it certainly seems that way,” the professor asked.
“Can we just start this so I can go?” Draco growled. The professor watched us intently for a few seconds.
“Very well then,” he sighed, “Mr. Malfoy, do you understand how offensive calling someone a ‘mudblood’ is?” he asked. I was surprised that he had actually said the word.
“Oh can you stop wasting my bloody time and get to your point?”
“Why did you call her that, Malfoy?” he asked him in a demanding tone.
“Why? I will tell you why,” suddenly, I could feel Draco’s eyes on me, “because sometimes, you want people to stay away from you.”
“Obviously, Draco, but that is no reason to-” Professor Warnock continued, but Draco cut him off. I slowly lifted my head to make eye contact with him as he talked to me.
“Not like that,” Draco scoffed angrily, “sometimes, you are nothing but bad news and you don’t want someone to waste their time being with you when you are only going to hurt them. When you are dangerous, you know it is better for people to stay the bloody hell away from you.”
I watched him with wide eyes, knowing that some of his motive for hurting me was so he wouldn’t hurt me in a worse way. I watched him and suddenly wanted him so badly that I wished I were glued to the chair.
“Like for instance, when you don’t want to inadvertently kill them,” he said, raising his eyebrows at me.
This time, Warnock laughed. “Well I wouldn’t be that dramatic, Draco, but I get your point.”
Suddenly, I was angry. “That isn’t an excuse to treat someone like dirt. To lie to their face,” I shot back, my arms still folded tightly across my chest.
“I never lied to your face! Besides, a relationship like that would never work out!” he said to me defiantly.
“Well, if you feel so bloody strongly, then you should never lead the person on in the first place,” I responded, annunciating every word. Draco didn’t respond, he only stared at me with a hardened expression, although I could see through it; he looked helpless and angry with himself.
“I see…” the Professor said, speculating us. Draco didn’t seem to be finished yet.
Draco and I started at each other for a long time, and I was waiting for some sort of explanation to rise out of his stone-cold face, but nothing did. Instead, Draco stood up.
“Can I leave now?” he said forcefully.
“I suppose so. But it seems to me that you two need to work things out between yourselves,” he said calmly, glancing between the two of us. I hated being on the spot.
“Please,” Draco responded while holding up his hand, “if I wanted a therapist, I would call one.” He turned on one heel and exited the room. On his way out, he turned over his shoulder and added, “Thanks for nothing.” The door slammed behind him and he disappeared from sight.
“Thank you, professor,” I said quietly, knowing already that he knew too much, simply by listening into the one-way conversation that Draco and I had just partook in.
“Be careful, Miss Granger,” he said as I walked by him. I nodded my head at him and walked out the door. I beat myself up the entire way out; completely furious about how much I had just let my teacher learn about me. A part of me wished that Draco would be waiting for me on the other side of the door, but an even greater part of me knew that he wouldn’t be. When I opened the door and saw that the hallways were dotted with a few people- none of whom were Draco- I bowed my head and walked quietly back to the common rooms.
No matter what Draco’s motives were behind convincing me that he wanted me in his life and then dropping me twenty-four hours later, I couldn’t spend my time worrying about his problems. I had been in school for over a month now, and I could not believe how much drama had piled up since before I even got off the train. I had to let Draco decide when or if he wanted me, and I couldn’t stand by until he was ready. At that moment, all I cared about was getting back to the two people who I knew were waiting for my return.
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