Chapter 22 : When Was The Last Time You Protected?
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I pulled on my robes and grabbed my books, walking towards the Great Hall for breakfast, it seemed as though my lack of sleep was slowly causing a lack in concentration, I failed to notice Neville attempting to speak to me and several failed attempts at having a conversation started with me by Ginny. Finally it became all too much for her and she ended up poking me quite roughly on the arm bringing me to life suddenly painfully causing me to cry out in shock, this also caused the attention of most of those present in the Great Hall to fall upon us. Ginny merely flicked her hair behind her shoulders and turned to face the Slytherin table and hissed at them that there were better things to be doing than staring at her while she wasn't looking. This caused an outbreak in snickering and embarrassment among the house tables and within seconds everyone was eating and talking as though nothing really had happened at all.
"Hermione what is wrong with you it's almost like someone's died and your mourning! What has happened to you?" She asked looking at me intensely.
I tried to turn my face so she could not see the lie within my eyes, "It's nothing I swear, just haven't slept properly in a couple of nights, just so much homework, I'm drowning in it all!" I joked, taking a bite out of a piece of toast.
"Hermione we both know that is not the case!" She hissed grabbing my arm. "Tell me! I'm your best friend. They don't lie to each other; it defeats the purpose of being best friends."
"Ginny, I'd tell you if something was wrong, and there isn't would you please just let it go?" I asked.
"No, I will most certainly not let it go until you tell me what ever the matter is. I can help you, please just tell me and don't even try to tell me that nothing is wrong! Have you looked at yourself lately? It almost looks like your falling apart!"
I noticed from the corner of my eye Draco entering the hall his long platinum falling in front of his eyes. I tried not to look directly at him, although I noticed his gaze wander near me, I looked down at the table. I had not noticed but Ginny had continued her speech and was only just beginning to skim over one of the few problems I faced. I grabbed a piece of toast from the centre of the table and begun munching away trying to hide the smile that was slowly breaking across my face. Ginny suddenly clapped in front of my face causing me to jump.
"Are you even listening to a word I'm saying?" She asked.
"I'm trying to eat breakfast Ginny!" I cried, "Can I not have a moment of peace?"
"Is there a guy?" She asked suddenly. "Is that what all of this is about? It seems pretty obvious I'm surprised I did not think of this before. Hermione if he doesn't love you for who you are it is not worth changing for him. Is that what all of this is about?" She asked.
"Please not here." I asked. "Now's not the time."
I watched as Draco came to a halt in front of the table, standing just a little to the right of my vision, I noticed the way green looked upon him, I'd never really noticed it before but green really suited his pale skin and blonde hair. It seemed like a perfect match for him. I could not believe I'd failed to notice it yet, he continued to walk down to the staff table where Professor Snape sat talking to him calmly. Ginny stopped talking for a moment beginning to slowly eat the food on her plate in front of her, I was at least grateful for the silence. I watched as Draco walked away from Snape and begun to approach the Slytherin table which lay directly behind us. Once he had vanished from sight I turned to face Ginny once again.
"It's nothing I swear, nothing I can't deal with anyway." I said with false confidence.
"Hermione, do you love him?" She asked.
"Who?" I choked.
"The guy, the one who's making you like this." She said pointing at me. "I'm just worried, it can't be worth it if your killing yourself over someone who can't even love you for the way you are. That is entirely pointless Hermione!"
"Who ever said I was in love? Who ever said I had some problem with a guy?" I snapped. "For your information, he's just a boy, nothing I haven't dealt with before; I would rather your nose in your own business thank you very much."
I gathered my bag in my arms slinging it over my shoulder before taking several steps away from her. I turned back to face her, her jaw was still agape and she had an expression of utmost horror upon her delicate face. "I don't love him either." I said a tear in my eye as I turned to storm out of the Great Hall, not failing to notice the form of Draco Malfoy rushing past me suddenly – as if he had been standing there the entire time.
What had I done, had I lied to save myself the effort of having to actually tell someone else how I felt about him, had my words even hurt him at all? My heart was screaming at me to run after him, but I could not move. I was firmly planted to the spot staring as he almost ran from the hall. My brain told me that perhaps he had forgotten a book, but that did not seem like the likely explanation. No he had heard ever single word I had said, and he would now think of me as a liar, a user. A single sob broke free from my chest, followed by several tears which wasted no time in falling from my eyes. I'd thrown away the one thing I wanted more than anything else in this world by one stupid sentence I didn't even mean. A sentence I only said to get my best friend off my back about the entire situation, I knew she'd never understand. I knew that perhaps I didn't love him, but I certainly had feelings for him.
I ran in the direction I had seen him stalk off in, hoping that he would somehow be waiting for me but only when I was clear of everyone's view. I looked around desperately looking for him, yet I could not see him anywhere, he was too far gone for me to even see among the waves of students heading towards the great hall. I noticed the cupboard he had dragged me into weeks ago and decided it would be worth a try. I wandered over to it and pulled it open clambering inside. I noticed a figure inside the second I had closed the door.
"It's you." He sneered, I recognised his voice.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it I swear. She'd never understand. I could never tell her. Please you have to believe me!" I begged, the words coming out rahter differently than had sounded in my mind.
"Should I believe someone who so easily lies? For all I know that could be an apology that merely eases the guilt you feel! You may not even truly mean it."
"I promise I do mean it. I haven't had much experience in these sorts of matters; please you have to believe that I was merely protecting the both of us!" I cried, the tears streaming from my eyes. "Please, please forgive me!"
"What am I? Just a boy?" He asked. "Something that doesn't even matter to you anymore, something one day you'll wake up and realise that doesn't even matter to you anymore? I was going to wait for you Hermione, god I would have waited an eternity, but I can see that wait has been in vain."
"No! I never thought of you like that! I can't tell you how truly sorry I am! Please give me another chance. I swear I'll make it up to you."
"Is this you telling me you want to go out with me now?" He asked sarcastically.
"No, I just need time. I really like you. I might even love you. That's how big this is and I just don't want to rush this decision when it could change so much."
"How long do you expect me to wait Hermione?" He asked standing in front of me close enough that our bodies were pressed together. "Two years maybe three, because if you haven't noticed we don't have that. We don't have forever, you know it as well as I do that we both have knives dangling above our heads. Why is it so hard for you? It's no different for me, why can't you just give it a chance?"
"I want to, but I can't. I just can't not now." I whispered stepping away from him, backing into a wall.
"Why not?" He asked standing in front of me again.
"Because I haven't got much longer left. Draco, they're going to expel me if the Hearing doesn't go according to plan." I whispered, several more tears falling from my eyes. "I don't want to have to lose you as well…"
"You won't lose me, do you want me to prove it to you?" He asked.
"How could you possibly…" My words were silenced once again by his lips upon mine.
It felt the same as last time, electric and perfect. Yet this time it did not last, it was short and sweet yet I was left only wishing for more. I gazed into his grey-blue eyes sadly. "As much as I wish things are different they're not. I'm going to be without a home, without anything and I'm going to go out there and join Harry and Ron. I'm going to do my bit in this war and I don't want you waiting for something that might never happen. I don't want to put you through that. This is the last time you'll ever have to deal with this I assure you." I whispered grabbing the door handle. "You don't know how much I wish things were…different. Maybe then I could stay… Maybe I'd be able to…"
I slowly pushed open the door and walked out, running straight into Ginny. She looked at my eyes and immediately placed her hands over her mouth. Her happy expression dropped to a guilty one.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you!" She cried hugging me tightly.
"It's alright, I was out of line anyway." I said hugging her back.
"Why won't you tell me who it is?" She asked. "What is it Draco Malfoy or something?" She said laughing loudly, Neville, Luna and Seamus joining in none of them aware as to how close to the truth they really were.
"No of course not." I laughed. "He's not that bad you know. He's actually rather nice you know once you get over the initial behaviour and arrogance."
"You're joking right?" Neville said.
I felt a sudden surge of sadness, I was protecting him out of instinct, and he was worth protecting. How could I ever tell my friends about my feelings if this is how they regarded him? Was I doomed to never be able to express how I felt about him? They were waiting for my reply as we walked along the corridor towards the Grand Staircase.
"I'm not joking; mind you I've spent more time with him in meetings than all of your put together!" I said laughing. "He's really not that bad, nothing I can't deal with anyway." I said with a smile.
"What were you doing in that broom cupboard?" Luna asked. "We're you looking to rid yourself of Wrackspurts, because there are more efficient methods than walking into dark rooms I can assure you."
"Actually I was looking for something, I left my book on this floor and you know how things have a tendency of ending up in those broom cupboards?" I replied. "It wasn't there anyway; I might just check my trunk again."
We walked along the corridor together all the way to the Common Room, in some ways I felt guilty for lying, for betraying the trust of those who placed their trust in me. Yet at the same time I was protecting the one I cared about and myself. I would no longer be able to call them my friends if I told them. They would be unable to cope with such information I was sure of it. I didn't want to hurt them either. I was protecting everyone around me from myself, I wasn't going to let Draco near enough to me to get hurt, I wasn't going to let my friends get hurt because of how I felt about someone, and I wasn't going to hurt myself by letting myself feel something I could not control. I was going to protect myself and most importantly those I cared about. There was the potential to cause too much damage for my liking, and I felt safer in the knowledge that if I did leave suddenly I wouldn't leave such a large mess to be cleared up.
There are the secrets we protect with our hearts and the secrets we protect with our minds. I was protecting everyone with my heart, too scared, too worried and lastly too foolish to realise that sometimes the truth was the only thing that could set us free. I'd read about it countless times, yet I was not able live by this. I had to hide it all away; I had to have some form of security. I needed that one comfort if I couldn't have the others I so desperately craved. I needed a shield to protect myself when the hordes of oncoming enemies broke free and begun attacking me with all their might.
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