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Chapter 8 : When Was The Last Time You Cracked?
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When was I ever going to hear from Harry and Ron? Was I ever? Or was Draco merely bluffing? Thousands of thoughts raced through my brain cluttering my already stressed mind. I gathered all my pieces of scattered parchment and the ink and quills that had spread halfway across the Common Room in my absence. I walked over towards the window once again and glanced down at the window I'd seen the flickering light emitting from. What was he playing at? Did he want to cause trouble? Was he waiting for someone? I could barely think of a logical explanation as to why he'd chosen to sit by himself in a deserted corridor at four o'clock in the morning. I was startled by a calm voice behind me.
"Hermione?" He asked.
It felt as though my heart had ceased to beat within my chest. I dropped everything I had in my hands. By instinct I reeled around pulling my wand from my pocket and by the time I faced the source of the voice it was already in hand, I was prepared to take on any attacker. I realised at once it was no attacker, only Neville.
"Neville! God you scared me!" I gasped clutching my chest.
"Sorry!" He whimpered. "I didn't realise, I'm dreadfully sorry, I just thought I heard someone down here." He apologised bending over quickly to pick up everything I'd dropped once again.
"Its fine!" I cried bending over to help him. "No harm done. I just thought you might have been someone else that's all."
He nodded and passed the quills ink and parchment he had collected off the floor to me, the look in his eyes was almost one of questioning, like he could see through my charade to what lay beyond, a tight ball of emotions. Never ceasing, never fading. For a moment I saw nothing in his eyes, the hope that I'd seen vanished as though my own worries were transferring to him in a single glance.
"Harry and Ron are alive aren't they?" He asked suddenly.
He words cut straight to the chase, to the very heart of my worries. Everything I'd been seeing and hearing told me that they were alive, but part of me worried that perhaps they'd been caught, what if they hadn't made it out of the Burrow? No-one had heard a single thing from them for almost a month. How could anyone survive out there in the wild without being captured? My heart rate increased I could hear its rhythmic beating in my ears the blood pumping through me at an almost painful level. I slowly opened my mouth and instead of the 'Yes they are.' I so desperately wanted to tell him, my emotions took hold of me, leaving me helpless to what I would say. My body shook uncontrollably as the words I'd been repeating to myself over and over again 'I hope they're alive. What will I do without them?' we're released from their prison.
"I hope so." I said, a tear falling from eye. "Because I don't know what I'll do without them."
I dropped all my books and ran to the safety of the Girl's Dormitory, not wanting to be asked anymore questions, the pain worsening with each thought of Harry or Ron, part of me so desperately hoped that they were alive, but somewhere deep within my heart another voice always warned me that they might not be as well as I had hoped and that they'd left me, alone to clean up all the mess. By the time I'd reached my soft, no longer warm bed the tears were unstoppable. Everything I'd tried so hard to repress, all the memories, bad and good seemed to be flooding me all at once. I was unable to stop seeing Ron's outstretched hand as I ran desperately towards it at the wedding, Harry clutching Cedric Diggory's body as he appeared suddenly before the crowds at the Triwizard Tournament. Things no-one needed ever to relive flooded back to me, memories that I'd long conquered regaining strength and attacking me with all their might.
I curled into a small ball at the foot of my bed, not even able to sit upon the soft mattress. I felt a warm hand grasp my shoulder and two worried voices echo in the back of my mind.
"Hermione?" The first asked, I faintly recognised this to be Lavender Brown.
"Should we go get a teacher?" I heard the second ask, that could only be Parvarti Patil.
"No, I don't think that's a good idea." Lavender whispered again.
"Hermione?" Parvarti asked. "Hermione are you alright?"
"She's not alright. Just look at her!" Lavender cried out.
I felt their warm arms enclose around me, pulling me into a tight hug.
"It's okay." Lavender whispered softly to me. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but it will be alright, I know that."
"You've just got to be strong for now. Because if you lose hope what chance do to the rest of us have at surviving this war?" Parvarti whispered to me.
"There's nothing left for me…" I whisper to them softly. "Why did they leave me?"
There was a large pause, I dared not look up from the ground, for I knew the fear that would reside in both girls eyes, a fear that I no longer wished to see. Was I finally cracking? Was I really going insane at the very thought of my Best Friends?
"They didn't leave you." Lavender whispers reassuringly to me. "You obviously have another purpose here, something you were meant to do. Professor Trelawney always says that one has another purpose in life. A second meaning they didn't know existed until it's revealed, maybe you've just got to find yours."
How could she even begin to consider quoting that old bat at a time like this? This was serious! Not mind games and trickery. Despite Lavender's kind words of encouragement and hope I still felt empty, not the empty you feel as you watch a loved one slip away from you, empty as in literally, no purpose, and no life only the broken and scattered shards of who you used to be. The sort of empty where all that is expected of you is to gather up the shards you can and continue on your way in life – that empty. Was anyone ever really able to gather up the pieces? Was it even possible to reunite all these parts of who you were in a way that seemed to make your life almost normal once again? Or was this just a hope that most had, a hope that the ones they watch suffer though it shall return unharmed? How could Lavender say that there was another purpose for me? When all I ever knew slipped away from me by mere centimetres? Could she say this without truly understanding the significance of her words?
"You don't understand…" I whispered. "And I hope that you never have to… That somehow these feelings are never something you have to endure…" I replied to her.
"What do you mean?" She asked, I looked up. Parvarti was exchanging nervous glances with her.
I swallowed, what could I say, here was where one wrong turn would leave me truly helpless. These girls where tossing me a lifeline, a chance at starting afresh, was I really going to throw that away or would I throw it away for the cold hard truth that seemed to be rotting away at me from within. My suspicions that Harry and Ron, the last shred of hope for the lost, weak and suffering wizarding community may be in more danger than they ever could have imagined, dare I even say it? In the hands of the Death Eaters?
"I just hope you don't ever have to go through this." I said standing grabbing my bag and running from the Dormitory, wanting nothing more than to be alone, free from questions and other annoyances.
I found myself running, nowhere in particular, but at the same time to the one location I desperately sought – The White Tomb of Albus Dumbledore. I ran through the empty corridors, it was too early for students to be prowling the corridors yet and I made my way quickly to the large wooden doors at the front of the school. I pushed upon them carefully and they slowly creaked upon, carefully I slipped out, not wanting to cause any unwanted attention to myself. In a quiet manner I ran quickly through the grounds to where the tomb stood in all its beauty overlooking Hogwarts, The Great Lake and the mountains that surrounded us. I felt a sudden surge of anger boil within me.
"Why?" I screamed aimlessly at the tomb, as though part of me believed that this would help me.
"Why did they leave me here and you give me no way to help them but a stupid book!" I screamed again ripping the small delicate book from my bag and throwing it upon the ground.
"Why?" I whimpered, the tears cascading lightly down my cheeks.
I opened my mouth to scream as loudly as I could, but no sound I could make, my eyes became transfixed upon the book which lay open upon a small page, the title reading "The Tale of the Three Brothers" I glanced down upon the page noticing a single rune I'd ever yet to see, surely there were thousands but this one was singularly unique, a triangle with a circle within it, and within that circle a single vertical line, it looked strangely like an eye. I bent down to pick up the book carefully, regretting my decision to throw it upon the ground as I had, it was after all other than my memories the only thing I had left of Albus Dumbledore, and as Professor McGonagall had put it, not too many people had been granted such an honour.
"Sorry Professor…" I whispered running quickly away from the tomb, ashamed in my behaviour and the childish way I had acted I ran straight back to the Common Room, because even now I noticed the castle had come to life, students had begun piling into the corridors making their way sluggishly towards the Great Hall where breakfast awaited us. I moved quickly through the castle taking routes that ensured that I would not be seen by any other students, finally making my way into the Dormitory in time to see Lavender and Parvarti already dressed heading down the spiralling staircase.
"Sorry." I muttered apologetically.
"It's okay, I guess we understand, neither of us know what its like and only that it must be horrible." Parvarti replied kindly.
"It's probably not as bad as I make it sound, I was just a bit I guess agitated." I replied quietly. "I better go, or I'll be late for Defence Against the Dark Arts." I called running up the stairs.
This was all Draco Malfoy's fault, his cryptic clues, his arrogance, his plain annoying personality, it was the reason I'd finally cracked. I know it seems stupid to blame another but it's the truth, the honest truth, his words caused seeds of doubt to grow within my mind, making me doubt even my most intense hopes and desires. He was the reason I'd finally cracked, and there was only one way to stop this from happening ever again, I was going to avoid him at all costs, because with all the seeds of doubt he'd already caused to be planted within my mind, there was no doubt he would be attempting to plant more, because that's what low-life's what him specialise in – making others feel miserable, so miserable that they will inevitably crack.
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