Chapter 20 : When Was The Last Time You Stopped?
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I closed my eyes and imagined life if I had have taken Draco's offer, life would never have been easy, but it would have been worth living for. It would have been a life I was happy with, yet at times I would dislike the whispering and talking of other students, yet he would have been there to help me, he would have made it easier. Why was I waiting for Ron? I thought sitting up suddenly opening my eyes, it was dark, almost as though I had blinked and the word had shifted completely while I did so. I turned and looked out the window, night had fallen hours ago and yet I had not noticed, time had slipped by me as though I had become something hardly worth noticing and it had just abandoned me. Like it seemed to be with many other aspects of my life these days.
I slowly placed my feet upon the cold ground, and wandered over to my trunk. I was still wearing the clothes I had been yesterday, I grabbed a few items and wandered down to the Prefects bathroom slowly and quietly to avoid being seen. After whispering the password I walked slowly into the room locking the door behind me. I slowly turned all the taps on experimenting with every sort of mixture that the room had to offer, the result was a highly fragranced, strangely coloured, swimming pool sized bath just for me. I dragged off my clothes and submerged myself in the warm water, I could feel the salt that had been clinging to my face all day slowly sliding away, leaving my skin feeling alive. The fragrance of the water no longer seemed to bother me, in fact it seemed to be soothing the headache I had induced upon myself.
After what seemed like an eternity I dragged myself out of the water and pulled my clothing on. In some ways I felt better, as though a relaxing bath had made all the difference in the world, yet in others it only brought me back to the reality of what I had done. Being alone had given me time to think, time to breath, all without the constant worry of having other people looking at me or whispering from the other side of the room. I had heard Lavender and Parvarti whispering about me and what might have caused this, Lavender had mentioned that perhaps I had heard from Ron and something bad may have happened. I did not bother correcting them, I just lay there listening, waiting, and hoping that things would feel somewhat better in the next hour. Yet it never did.
I walked over to the door grabbing my clothes from the small pile I had left beside the bath and discarded my towel in the laundry basket. I could still smell the scented aroma of lavender and peaches upon my skin, which now were clearly recognisable once away from the almost overpowering aromas of the bath. I walked slowly back to the Common Room, taking the long way which led along the corridor I had encountered Draco within last night. I pulled myself carefully onto the window ledge he was sitting upon and gazed out upon the school grounds. He had found one of the most truly magnificent places in the school, from this point you could even see Hogsmeade, which astounded me. Why had I never seen this place before? Never a day went by that Hogwarts did not reveal some secret to a student, yet this was one that barely any would stop and notice for themselves.
Dawn broke upon the horizon, filling the grounds with an unnatural and almost pleasant warmth before slowly vanishing behind the dark clouds that seemed to always cover the castle. I got to my feet and begun the solitary walk back to the Common Room, as I walked forward to announce the password the portrait swung upon and Neville came bursting out already puffed as though he had been running about looking for someone. He breathed a huge sigh a relief and grabbed his chest handing out a large scroll to me. I took it and examined it within my hands.
"What is this?" I asked quietly gazing upon the unfamiliar seal.
"It's from the headmaster… I've been looking for you for almost an hour!" He cried. "Professor McGonagall told me it was urgent that you received this letter and followed the instructions given to you."
"What?" I whispered to myself breaking the seal and opening the scroll.
It is of the utmost importance that you attend a brief meeting with Professor McGonagall and I at eleven am sharp in her office. We ask that you bring the scroll which she has entrusted to you and that you be prompt.
Professor Severus Snape - Headmaster Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
"How strange…" I whispered dropping the letter upon the floor, the sudden realisation of what this meant dawning upon me.
"What's wrong?" Neville asked.
"They know." I whispered placing my hand on my lips. "They know I'm Muggleborn."
He looked at me, the expression upon his face fell leaving only worry and fear in his eyes. I felt my hand shaking uncontrollably, as though they was nothing else I could feel except this unnatural fear, fear which blotted out even the worst of memories I was feeling. I felt sick to my stomach, as though I was about to be sick. The same though kept repeating continuously within my mind, as though it were almost imprinting permanently. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do? It was all I could hear, not even the words Neville spoke were reaching me, I could see his lips moving yet I was hearing no sound. It seemed as though everything was happing in extreme slow motion. I could see everything around me slowing down, the students leaving the Common Room for breakfast seemed to be walking in slow motion. Neville's movements became even slower.
Is this the feeling you get as the world ends? I thought to myself. Is this it? The last chance you have to say goodbye, the last chance you have to run and hide. Is that why everything slows down? I stood there motionlessly as though I could not move, the world seemed to be collapsing around me, leaving nothing left but a pile of unrecognisable rubble. The rubble of my once life. I took in a huge breath before walking towards the portrait. I glanced back at Neville there was a look of confusion and worry in his eyes, it had replaced the fear. Somewhere there I could see hope, I could see a glimmer of something that make my spirits soar.
"It's going to be okay. I know it is." I whispered turning back to face The Fat Lady.
"Powdered Dragon's Claw." I said shakily to her.
"Correct my dear." She said boomingly swinging open to allow me entrance to the Common Room.
I walked in an almost dazed state back to the Girls Dormitory. It seemed to me as though when one part of my life came crashing down it brought every other aspect with it. Leaving nothing by a mess for myself and everyone around me to clean up. I looked at my watch, it was nearly nine o'clock already and I still had to finish some homework. I quickly pulled out my Astronomy homework and begun carefully filling in the lunar chart we were required to complete before next lesson. Which proved a healthy distraction to the goings on of the world around me, its difficulty and desire for exact calculations allowed me to rid myself of all the worries that seemed to I had seemed to drag down upon myself in the last twenty four hours. Surprisingly it was easier to concentrate on Astronomy homework than it was to think about my own concerns and fears. Almost two hours later I completed the chart which would be ready to hand in at the next lesson. I grabbed the scroll from within my trunk and begun the short journey to Professor McGonagall's office.
I knocked upon the door and it was swiftly opened by Professor McGonagall who directed me to a seat on the opposite side of her desk. She too took a seat, however it was next to me. I assumed this was to allow Snape to take her usually seat as he was Headmaster and she was a teacher. We waiting in silence for what seemed like hours before the door finally swung open and Snape swooped in as he usually would, his black robes fluttering behind him. My immediate reaction was a single thought; What a hypocrite! He had told me to be on time but he was almost fifteen minutes late! He took his seat as though he were on time, neither I nor Professor McGonagall dared to comment on this. We all sat in silence until he finally drew a scroll from within his robes.
"Miss Granger earlier this morning I received a letter requesting that you be sent to the Ministry of Magic to attend a hearing in front of the Muggleborn Registry Commission. It has also stated that you may be accompanied by an adult, in which case Professor McGonagall has kindly agreed to. I was rather shocked to read that you have ignored their summons in the past, choosing to prolong this simple process even further. Although I might add you are also in violation of the new decree regarding blood status I will not be questioning this matter at the present time." He said nasally, to both Professor McGonagall and I. "However, I do ask that you do not manage to make this any more difficult than already is and if you expulsion is required after the hearing please know that I will oblige."
"You can't I have nowhere else to go! Hogwarts is my home!" I cried. "I have done nothing wrong you can't expel me!"
"I do believe I have already explained you are in violation of the blood status decree. The Ministry at the current time is quite strong on the enforcement of this new rule. Therefore I do have grounds to expel you should the need arise."
"Hermione I know this is not an ideal situation. It's not an ideal situation for anyone to find themselves in, but trust me when I say this is a better outcome than most would receive." Professor McGonagall said lightly to me.
"I understand that but I do not wish to jeopardise my place here. I wish to complete my education."
"Be that as it may, you are just an underage Muggleborn witch, and in today's world that equates to the dirt on Pius Thicknesse's shoes. It is clear that you do not wish to leave the school however as I have clearly stated it is my job to serve the Ministry and if that means I must expel a student, so be it. I have much to do today and I apologise that I could not discuss this further, however I have important matter to see over as Headmaster." He said standing and swooping from the room in a similar fashion as to which he entered it.
"Did you tell him it was you?" I asked as soon as he closed the doors.
"Severus knows less than he would like to know. He does not even know what the scroll is for, I merely asked him if he could ask you to bring it. Not for any purpose in particularly really, but more as a warning for you. I knew you would understand the meaning of such a meeting if I informed you about needing the scroll." She added.
"I was slightly worried. I thought he knew about what you have done for me." I said quietly.
"You are far more important than I am in this war. I can handle myself." She said with a smile.
"Thanks Professor. When is the hearing?" I asked walking to the door.
"Next week. So be prepared to answer questions from that family tree." She said looking at me rather sadly.
"Don't worry Professor, I will be." I replied walking from the room.
It was time I faced the facts, I needed to stop what I was doing, I needed to stop feeling so sorry for myself and afraid and needed to become stronger. I needed to be strong. It was time I stopped regretting my mistakes and started living the future. It was time that I stopped thinking about Draco Malfoy and remembering the importance of my own survival. In general it's time I stopped acting like a child, and started acting more like an adult and it was going to start right now.
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