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Chapter 19 : Falling Apart
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The next week, I was spending every possible minute with Draco. We were in sync; when I moved, he moved and when he moved, I followed. Even though Harry and Ron had finally accepted my relationship with Draco, I could tell that his friends had not accepted his relationship with me. Even though he tried to tell me otherwise, I could tell that he was being alienated by his friends. When I would bring it up, he would tell me that it didn’t matter and that they didn’t mean to him what I meant to him. I still hated everything about Slytherin, but a part of me still wanted him to be accepted by them. I would reluctantly nod my head when he would express his apathy towards his old friends. When he would kiss me in an attempt to make all of my worries go away, I would let him for only a few moments before playfully fighting him off of me.
When I wasn’t with Draco, I was catching up with Harry and Ron, and of course, with Elle as well. She was making a considerable effort to become friends with me, much to my dismay, and I was almost positive that Harry and Ron had put her up to it.
One day when I was walking towards the library, she tagged along and refused to go away, no matter how many excuses I attempted to throw in her direction. I was determined to work on my Defense Against the Dark Arts assignment, but she persisted with efforts to make nice. I wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted from me, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be her friend. The last thing I wanted to do was start conflicting with Ron again. As Elle flashed an unwaveringly bright grin at me, I knew that I had no choice but to fold and allow her to bother me for a while longer.
“You know, I really think that we should be friends,” she said to me, pulling out a chair opposite of mine at the library and sitting down at the table I had chosen a considerable distance away from the bustle of people.
“Do you?” I responded sarcastically, trying to return her flashy white smile with one of my own. I could see her retract from me as she thought about what to say next.
“Yes, well…because I’m dating Ron, and you were dating Ron and you’re his best friend,” she answered, slightly taken aback by my sharp tone.
“I am aware of that,” I responded to her, trying to be nicer to her. I pulled out my parchment, textbooks and quills. I could feel her eyes on me as I opened my textbook up to the correct chapter. I wrote the title of my essay at the top of my page in a swirl of black ink. For a few moments, the sound of the quill scratching against the paper was the only sound between us.
“Hermione…I’m trying here,” she said softly. I immediately stopped writing, looking up at her to meet her sad expression. I sighed and placed my quill down on the parchment in front of me in order to give her my full attention.
“I know you are, Elle. I just don’t-” I started, not really knowing what to say, but she cut me off. I folded my arms across my chest without thinking; it was a sign that I was beginning to become defensive. She seemed to become defensive as well, but hers took the form of fumbling with the cuticles of her already perfectly manicured hands.
“You know…it’s difficult being the one after you,” she admitted to me after a few minutes, running her fingers through her shiny auburn hair.
I stared at her with wide eyes. Her conversation had certainly taken a turn. I was surprised that Elle was trying to make friends with me by talking about her relationship with Ron. Was the relationship only good from an outside view? “What?” I said after a few moments of silence.
“I just feel like…I’m always in your shadow,” she said after sighing. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“You’re not serious,” I responded after taking in what she said to me. I didn’t want to believe her. Everything about their relationship looked so adorable it was almost sickening. It was hard to think it was just a façade. Maybe she was actually a normal person.
“I am serious!” Elle responded truthfully.
“But what am I doing to make you feel that way?” I asked her, dumbfounded.
“You’re not doing anything. Ron…he just always talks about you,” she said rather miserably.
“Elle, I can’t do anything about that,” I said to her, though my tone was definitely more reserved. I wasn’t really one for therapy sessions.
“I know,” she answered, “I just feel like I’m competing for his attention all the time.”
“You feel like you are competing…with me? With…stories about me or whatever he is talking about?” I responded to her. It only further proved my idea that he was not romantically invested in her. I didn’t know what to think of Ron’s storytelling. All this time, I believed he was mostly over me, but now I was questioning myself, and it was making me uncomfortable.
“Yes,” she said slowly. I was staring at her with a wide mouth, completely incapable of coming up with a valid response.
“Well, if that’s what you came here for…” I said, but I trailed off.
“No it isn’t what I came here for! I came here so we can be friends!” she said, perking out of her chair a bit to make herself as clear as possible.
“You are trying to be friends with someone you feel like you are competing with?” I asked in disbelief. She was even more persistent than I thought. And more human down to earth than I thought, as well.
“Well, I guess you could look at it that way,” she answered truthfully. I sat back in my chair after hearing this, completely in awe of her. She didn’t make any sense, but I figured I would see what kind of things she would say in order to win me over. Needless to say, I was enthralled.
Elle went off talking about being in Ravenclaw and how she came to be Ron’s girlfriend, and even though I didn’t care to hear about most of her stories, I listened to her. She captivated me with her carefree composure and self-deprecating nature. She stopped talking for a few moments, probably to catch her breath, and began to run her fingers over the table in the same pattern as the wood it was made of. As she spoke, she didn’t make eye contact with me, but I was watching her every move.
“So you are with Draco Malfoy, I hear?” she said suddenly. Elle had clearly been harboring an interest in my relationship and had worked up the energy to ask me about it. She changed the topic so fast, I felt as though I had just been whiplashed. I quickly recovered and answered her question.
“Yes, I am,” I responded with a smile. I wished I had him by my side at the moment, but we had decided mutually to spend the free time catching up on schoolwork. I had never truly fallen behind, but I knew that Draco had.
“Well I just think that’s really great,” she smiled back at me. When I just looked at her without anything to say in return, she continued in an attempt to explain herself. “Well, not many people are willing to alienate everything they know in order to be with someone. I think that you guys are really special,” she responded earnestly.
“You do?” I asked, flattered and surprised that someone would notice something like that.
“Yeah, I do,” she returned with a warm grin.
I didn’t know what to say to her, so all I did was smile at her. I decided in that moment that perhaps Elle was more than I made her out to be. By the look on her face, she knew that she had won me over in the sincerest of ways.
Harry and Ron were happy to see that I was becoming close with Elle, and I was enjoying my time having another girl around. We respected each other, and she knew when it was time to leave me alone with Draco. Our friendship also worked in the favor of Elle’s relationship with Ron, who had reacted positively when he saw that we could truly get along.
Draco, on the other hand, continued to spend as much time alone with me as possible, excluding time that he had put aside for schoolwork. I had tried countless times to help him study, but he would always distract me; words could not describe how attractive I would find it when he would get flustered and begin pulling his hand through his hair over and over again. He decided that it would be better if we studied alone. We would make plans to meet up with each other in between classes and spend time alone during our longer free periods. We both loved our library spot, but had recently opted for a change of scenery; upon locating an abandoned classroom on the same floor as the Slytherin dormitories, we had made it another place to spend time together.
In our Potions class that day, we decided to meet in that very spot after dinner. Habitually, I ate speedily and said goodbye to Harry, Ron and Ginny, who were eating in their usual seats and at their usual pace. Typically, Draco and I would spot each other from opposite sides of the Great Hall, and meet each other in the corridor outside, but I had trouble finding him. After searching for him for a few moments, I decided instead to make my way to the classroom and see if he was already in there. It wasn’t like him to flake on me, so I automatically assumed that he was there waiting for me to show.
I paced through the empty corridors, happy for my opportunity to spend more time with Draco. Upon reaching the room, however, I was surprised to find that the abandoned room was not abandoned at all. As I slowed my pace, I could just make out the low voices of two men speaking to each other. One of them sounded furious, and the other was attempting to defend himself. I walked to the edge of the doorway, which was left open a crack, so that I could hear what they were saying.
“I cannot believe that you would defy me like this! The Dark Lord will be furious if he finds out!” said the unmistakable voice of Lucius Malfoy. I couldn’t believe he was back here so soon after Draco’s return. I began to panic, and I could hear my heartbeat pounding against my chest. I was sure that he had intercepted Draco on his way to dinner that night.
“I’m doing nothing wrong!” Draco defended himself, though I could hear undertones of fear in his voice. I didn’t know what they were arguing about, so I listened closely for more.
“Nothing wrong? How do you not see the errors in your ways?” Lucius shot back angrily. I was afraid for Draco as the silence told me he was searching for a response.
“I can be with whoever I want to be, father,” he said after a few moments in a calmness that shocked me. When I realized they were talking about me, I was floored. Horror washed through my entire body and I became so fearful of Lucius that I wanted to run far away. I became even more afraid for Draco.
“Draco Malfoy, not only are you associating yourself with a disgusting mudblood, but you are also associating yourself with the very being the Dark Lord is trying to destroy,” he answered in an infuriated tone. He was talking about Harry and I.
Draco paused for what felt like an eternity. “How did you find out?” he asked quietly.
“I have my connections within the walls of this school!” he fired back, his voice rising.
“Well, it doesn’t matter, anyways,” Draco said, his tone still subdued. I couldn’t tell if he was retracting from fear or losing interest in the conversation. It was difficult to tell without being able to see his face.
“And how do you figure that?” Lucius returned lucidly. I slowly and carefully walked to the other side of the door in order to get a better angle of the conversation at hand. Lucius Malfoy was standing with his back to me, while Draco was positioned many feet away from him. Draco saw me immediately, and I could tell that the look he gave me told me to run while I still could. I wasn’t going anywhere.
He look back towards his father before Lucius turned to see what Draco had been looking at. “Because it’s too late,” Draco said, crossing his arms as though he was stating the obvious.
“Too late for what? You have a loyalty to the Dark Lord that you cannot break, and dating that mudblood Granger is defying that-”
“Don’t call her that,” Draco responded quietly. Surprisingly enough, his subdued tone was even more powerful than if he were to scream.
“I swear Draco, if you do not get rid of her, I will-” Lucius started again.
“She’s not going anywhere!” Draco responded, suddenly raising his voice beyond the level of his father.
“And why is that?” Lucius responded angrily.
“Because I love her,” he said simply, shrugging as though there was no other way. I faltered at the sincerity in his voice.
It all happened so fast. Lucius shuffled for something beneath his deep jade cloak and Draco watched him with wide eyes, full of disbelief and confusion. When I realized what he was doing, I jumped towards the door, but knew that going in would only put Draco in further danger. Lucius did the unimaginable. He pointed his wand at Draco and spat the hex that nobody would ever want to be on the receiving end of.
“Crucio!” he exclaimed, and Draco immediately yelped and fell to the ground, writhing in pain as his own father tortured him out of anger and spite. I was lost, and muffled a scream with my own hand as he continued to scream and cry out in pain. I could now only see the tall figure of his father bearing over him.
“Get rid of her!” Lucius said through clenched teeth. Draco couldn’t even form a response through his pain; he just continued to scream in agony.
I had to do something, anything that could break the curse that Lucius was torturing Draco with. I looked around, knowing that whatever racket I would make outside to distract Lucius would make him look outside of the classroom. I scaled the area and laid eyes on the inset in the wall that housed the bust of a famous witch atop a stone cylinder. I carefully withdrew my wand and pointed it at the bust.
“Wingardium Leviosa,” I whispered quietly, causing the bust to hover above its stand. Draco cried out again, causing me to wince as I slowly directed the bust closer to me. It the bust shook slightly when I jumped in response to Draco’s pain. After refocusing, I steadied my wand and moved it closer to the target I was aiming for. As I inched it towards the door, I stepped back down the hall so that I could run around the corner and out of sight before Lucius came outside. After taking a deep breath, I whipped my wand to the right so that the bust would crash heavily against the thick wood of the door, causing it to smash into thousands of pieces and fall to the ground.
As soon as the bust made contact with the door, I turned and sprinted around the corner and out of sight. I tried my best not to breathe too heavily as Lucius fell right into my trap, poking his head out of the door to look back and forth. My heart continued to race when I saw him tuck his wand in his cloak and shut the door behind him. He stepped carefully over the shards of stone and walked in the opposite direction down the hall, muttering to himself until he was out of sight.
I was thrilled my plan had worked, but I was also worried sick about Draco. When I felt it safe to make my way towards the room, I ran faster than I had ever run in my life to the doorway. The silence was agonizing as I approached the it, turning the lock and pushing the heavy door open with my shoulder. I made sure to shut it and lock it from the inside before checking on Draco.
“Draco?” I asked as I locked it, checking to see if he was even awake, and when all I could hear was silence, I became even more nervous than I actually was. The tyrannical nature Lucius had over Draco was absolutely horrifying. I ran to the center of the classroom, where Draco was passed out on the floor. I immediately dropped to my knees and placed my hands on his face, turning his head back and forth. Even though he was passed out, his eyebrows were furrowed as though he was still in pain. When I reached for my wand, I noticed that my hand was covered in blood, and I gasped in surprise. I already had tears tumbling down my cheeks as I pointed my wand at him.
“Rennervate,” I whispered, and as Draco’s eyes slowly opened. As we made eye contact, I threw my wand to my side and I grasped his face again. After it finished clattering against the floor, all I could hear was our heavy breaths as Draco awoke.
He coughed for a few moments as he woke. “Thanks,” he mumbled to me weakly, but then I saw him grimace as his pain returned with his consciousness.
“Oh my god,” was all I could manage in response as I inspected the gash he had gotten from the fall, noticing how his white-blond hair was discolored by the deep red of the blood.
“You’re bleeding,” he said quietly, pointing to my hand. I laughed humorlessly.
“No, you’re bleeding,” I confirmed as I pressed my palm against his head, causing him to wince.
“I suppose I am,” he responded quietly, but I remained detached and unfocused on his words as I tried to stop his bleeding head.
“If I hold my hand here long enough, it should start to…” I said under my breath with determination, drifting off as I repositioned myself so I was at a better angle.
He picked up his arm and placed it on my own. “Hey,” he said, his eyes squinted by his sensitivity to the light pouring in from the windows. I gave him all of my attention immediately.
“What, what is it? Do you want me to prop your head up or-” I started, wanting to cater to his every need, but he cut me off.
“No, no, just hush for a second,” he said, extending his hand to my face, stopping my frantic movement almost instantly.
“What is it?” I said, my eyes wide.
“Thanks for stopping him,” he responded quietly. He swallowed, and when I placed my hand on his chest, I could feel his heart racing. My heart began to do the same, as though there was an electric shock extending up my arm that was connecting the two of us.
“Of course,” I answered. “Merlin, I’m just happy you’re okay!”
“I’ll be all right,” he said. We sat there for a few minutes, and when the blood finally stopped flowing, I removed my bloody hand and placed it on the floor to balance myself as I began to stand.
“We need to take you to the hospital wing,” I offered softly, wanting Madame Pomfry to have a look at him before he got cocky and decided that he was okay. My hand was sticking to the floor, and when I lifted it, it left a print of Draco’s blood. My hand, not his fathers, was covered in Draco’s blood. I observed the irony miserably, knowing that all of this was my fault. I peeled my bloodied fingers completely of the floor and wiped them on the bottom of my skirt, preparing myself to lift Draco up.
“All right,” he said, closing his eyes tightly for a few seconds. I helped him up slowly, and though it was a little bit of a struggle, Draco still had some strength left. His knees wobbled when he first stood up, and I slung his arm over my shoulder to help him walk to the hospital wing.
The halls weren’t empty anymore, so I made sure to attract the least amount of attention to the room we had been in (direction attention away from Draco and I was absolutely useless at this point); I fixed the bust upon opening the door and used my wand to guide it back to the stand where it belonged. Before leaving the room, I looked back and removed the blood that had now dried to the hardwood floor. Finally, removed the evidence of my guilty: my handprint formed by Draco’s blood. It was pointed at me, screaming out my culpability and shame until I zapped it and the whole room looked as though nothing had ever happened. To me, it looked exactly as it did before Lucius Malfoy decided to tear my world apart.
“Here we go,” I whispered quietly upon setting him on the bed below us, Madame Pompfry ushering us in the right direction as soon as we walked in.
As soon as she finished tending his wound, she looked over at me, her eyes immediately looked at the proof caked onto my limbs and clothing. I was caught red handed without having anything to say to defend myself. We surely could not tell her that his own father had hit him with an unforgivable curse, so I needed to quickly figure out the story I would tell her about why he was not only injured, but also extremely weak and pained. I could already see the question forming on her lips. She looked over at Draco, who had his eyes closed from sensitivity to the light.
“What happened Mr. Malfoy?” she asked quietly. I was about to jump in, but luckily, Draco spoke before I could fumble out the words. I got off of my feet and sat down comfortably beside him and tucked my legs to the side.
“I fell,” Draco said. Both Madame Pompfry and eye raised his eyebrows in response to the brevity of his explanation. I was surprised that was all he could manage to come up with, but I was sure that Madame Pompfry was as suspicious as ever. “I don’t remember anything that happened before,” he added as an afterthought.
She still wasn’t convinced, but when she questioned him further, he threw some excuse out about being too weak to remember anything. She decided to stop interrogating him and walked to her office after being sure he was stable. Draco ushered me to lay down with him, sliding slowly to one side of the bed to make room for me.
I slowly slithered into bed beside him, resting my head in the crook of his arm as I had done when we were at my house. I was feeling a lot happier about us then. Now, all I felt was guilt pushing down on my chest, making it difficult for me to breath.
“I’m happy we can be alone again, now that she’s done harassing me about what happened,” he mumbled into my hair.
“Yeah, you made a very convincing argument,” I said sarcastically. It was meant to be a joke, but my unhappiness left the words bitterly humming between us.
I grasped Draco’s hand, not knowing what to say in response to his silence. I focused on his hand wrapped around mine as I felt his whole body begin to relax. The pain was finally going away.
“What are you thinking about?” he mumbled to me quietly.
I fumbled with his fingers with my free hand before making eye contact with him. “I feel like you are always getting hurt,” I admitted unhappily.
“I’d rather it be me than you,” he whispered to me, sending a crooked smile in my direction.
“It’s nothing to smile about. This is my fault,” I said seriously, feeling so miserable I thought I was going to start crying again.
“Don’t even go there,” he warned me, but I was already falling apart in his arms.
“He hurt you because of me. Because you couldn’t for one second turn your back on us and tell your father that you hate me for your own safety.” I said, becoming frustrated with that fact.
“How could I?” he whispered to me. I sniffled, feeling tears push at the back of my eyes.
“Of course you could,” I answered, my voice breaking, “you hated me up until a little while ago, you had to have been able to make something up.”
He watched me for a few moments, searching for an answer on my face. “I couldn’t lie,” he stated simply. I blubbered through the tears that were now silently running down my cheeks.
“Yes you could have. You would have avoided all of this,” I responded, and he squeezed my hand tighter.
“He needed to know,” he answered with determination.
“No he didn’t! You could have gotten yourself killed,” I said, and he made no effort to respond to my statement because it was true. I was hurt and upset beyond words, and I knew that separation, at this point, was the only way we could be safe. It wasn’t worth it to me to see him suffer anymore. I wouldn’t let him get hurt again because we were dating. I took a deep, ragged breath and leaned in closer to him.
“We can’t be together anymore,” I stated quietly with a frown on my face. One of my tears splashed onto his shirt.
He reacted so quickly to my statement that he almost whacked his head on the edge of the headboard above us. “What are you talking about?” he said with furrowed eyebrows. I pushed him back to the ground slowly, but my arms were weak because I was using all of my energy sobbing.
“You know exactly what I am talking about,” I mumbled sadly, trying to stay calm, but my voice was cracking even more than before. He shook his head violently, his gray eyes burning into me.
“Hermione, I don’t care about him or what he wants from me!” he answered defensively, the edges of his lips pulled down into a frown.
“That’s not enough. I care about your well-being. I can’t have you get hurt because of me again. Neither of us are safe if we are together,” I responded, my voice and heart faltering from the sadness. I couldn’t believe my own words, not wanting them to be true. I wanted to wake up from the terrible dream before it got any worse than it was already.
“I’ll protect you. I won’t let you get hurt,” he said, his lips pressed into a firm line.
I laughed bitterly. “Draco, look at you. You can’t even protect yourself.” We both knew that this was not an insult to him, but a simple fact that the forces against us were overbearing and powerful.
He looked up to the ceiling and then closed his eyes tightly. “Don’t do this,” he said.
“I have to,” I responded miserably, now sitting up. Being close to him was beginning to hurt too much. I still couldn’t believe I was doing it. It was tearing me apart. My mind was determined, but my heart was breaking.
“No you don’t. We will be more careful from now on!” he said, continuing to try to fix something that I knew was already broken.
“I heard what he said to you. We aren’t even safe inside the school…he has people watching us,” I answered.
“We can still be together,” he responded, his eyes becoming glassy, knowing that his counter argument was weak.
“Please, Draco, don’t make this any harder than it already is,” I answered slowly.
“Don’t surrender to my father,” he responded, placing his hand on my cheek, my salty tears splashing onto his hands.
“I would rather be separated from you than have you dead. And I think you would want the same for me,” I answered. It was logical. It was the way it had to be. I placed my hand on top of his and slowly peeled it from my cheek, letting a sob escape from between my lips in the process.
“I need you,” he said, but by the tone of his voice, I knew he already realized he had lost.
I just shook my head, tears overcoming me. “This can’t be right now,” I said. I had the smallest glimmer of hope that we would be able to be together someday, but it wasn’t safe for us at the moment. I felt like all anyone wanted to do was tear us apart.
He gulped, “I know,” he admitted, the words barely audible.
“I love you,” I whispered through tears, my voice shaking uncontrollably.
“I love you, too,” he answered. He placed both of his hands weakly on my face and pulled me close to him.
I slid my hands from either side of his body to his own cheeks he brought my face close to his. I pressed my forehead to his for a few seconds, my tears transferring to his face so that it looked as though he was crying, too. Our chests pushed together, and just for a few seconds, it felt as though our hearts were beating- aching- together. He tilted his chin up to meet my lips, enveloping my in a soft, yet passionate kiss that left me lingering above him when he paused for air. I drifted away slowly, my eyes fluttering open only to find him already turning his head away from me, already falling away.
“Goodbye,” I mumbled so quietly that I wasn’t even sure anything had even come out of my mouth. I slid off of the bed and stood up, allowing myself to look at him only briefly before I change my mind. I turned and walked slowly the way I came in; I had walked in with the love of my life, and was leaving empty handed. Nothing could possibly make me feel more miserable inside.
I made my way back to the Gryffindor common room, my entire body numb and exhausted. The mere sight of me must have been a fright to the people sitting there. I was tired beyond words, my eyes were puffy and red from the tears, and I, of course, was still covered with blood. I ignored the questions about the traces of it that had crusted my hand and edge of my skirt. Only Harry and Ron knew by the look of me not to ask me any questions and let me return to my bed without so much as a greeting. I was grateful to them for that, but I also knew that nothing they would tell me the next day would make me feel better. It was almost impossible falling asleep with the knowledge that I would have to get up the following day. I lay in bed wide awake for most of the night, falling in and out of sleep, my mind replaying everything that had happened over and over again.
The last thing I ever wanted to do was walk away from Draco. At the beginning of everything, I had been sure he would be the one to walk away from me. But I was haunted by the fact that I had done the exact thing to him that I had feared so much. Being walked out on because of mere dislike or ambivalence didn’t seem so bad anymore. I now understood just how badly it hurt when you walk away have from someone for the exact opposite reason. Nothing could possibly hurt more than walking out on someone because you love them with every ounce of your being.
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