Chapter 15 : The Champion
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A/N: Thanks for reading everybody. Also, do not despair over the end of this chapter. This is definately not the end for these two. Please leave a review and tell me what you think.
After dinner one evening, Hermione was asked to go to the Headmaster’s office by Professor McGonagall and reluctantly attended after pulling herself away from the library.
She approached the scene to see Cho Chang and Susan Bones waiting outside. Hermione joined them timidly and smiled.
“The Yule Ball was great, wasn’t it?” Susan asked the girls.
“You’re so lucky to have gone with Viktor Krum,” Hermione complimented to Susan.
“Yes, and you and Cedric -” Susan slammed her mouth shut and looked towards Cho, who did not look happy.
Hermione blushed slightly and stared at the ground and there was silence to consume the awkwardness.
“Yes, it was a nice night,” Cho muttered bluntly.
Hermione was worried about her. Cho obviously hated her guts because Hermione was dating Cedric and she wasn’t. This left Hermione convinced that Harry did not deserve a girl like her and she reminded herself to talk to him about it later that evening. Who knew what Cho was up to…and especially because Harry was famous…
Gabrielle Delacour floated around the corner and so the four girls were welcomed into the office.
Draco did not turn up for the second task, so he had no idea that Hermione had been dragged to the bottom of the Black Lake along with Cho Chang, Susan Bones and Gabrielle Delacour. Instead he was in a corner of the library with Pansy. This had become a regular spot for himself and Hermione during their second year, where they would meet up and intend to study; instead they would end up chatting about teachers and laughing, nearly being asked to leave by Madam Pince.
Every so often, Pansy would hold his hand or caress his cheek and it would take all of his strength not to pull away from her.
“I love being in your company, Draco,” Pansy crooned.
“That’s a shame, because I hate being in yours.”
She chuckled foolishly, blind to his obvious hatred. “You’re so funny Draco.”
He did not understand why she liked him so much. He liked to think it was because he was so irresistible; she and everybody else had seen what went on in the entrance hall weeks ago.
Pansy walked her fingers up his arm and slowly brought his face to hers in a kiss full of longing and adoration. However, when Draco’s lips met hers, he did not see Pansy’s sharp face meeting his own. He saw Hermione’s bright eyes, her heart shaped lips, her soft brown hair…
He pulled away, his breath escaping him. How could he let himself do that? Pansy was not and could never be like Hermione. When he couldn’t take any more, he excused himself and bumped into Harry and Ron on his way to the ground floor, his heart nearly beating out of his chest.
“Move,” he told them.
“And what if we don’t want to?” Ron tested.
Draco exhaled loudly and pushed past them, unwilling to rise to the bait. He was too exhausted these days to bother to fight with people.
“Could you tell Hermione that I want to speak to her?” Draco called.
Harry and Ron were silent, staring at each other.
“I don’t think so,” Ron finally said.
Hermione joined the excited rabble of Gryffindors after a long hot shower; the second task celebrations still had not eased. People were singing, laughing, dancing and eating food supplied by the twins amongst all of the confetti and party poppers.
Spotting Harry sitting in the corner of the room with his head down amongst his papers, Hermione joined him.
“Hi.” Harry looked relieved and his eyes immediately fell on the Potions book in Hermione’s hand. “I couldn’t borrow your notes, could I, Hermione?”
“Of course.” She opened the book and gave him a pile of papers she had written up in the library.
“I just haven’t had time to study recently, what with the tasks and all.” He spread them out on the table and began scrawling an essay on the parchment in his hand. After a moment, he noticed that Hermione was staring at him, so he looked up slowly. “Yes, Hermione?”
She caught her breath, her chest heaving. “Is Cho okay? I saw her before the task and she didn’t seem well.”
“I don’t know about that. I’ll ask her if you like.”
“NO! Don’t tell her it was me who said something,” Hermione shouted quite quickly. Harry’s eyes widened at her sudden outburst. “It’s just, I don’t think she likes me much.” She did not have to say why. They both knew it was Cedric.
“Yeah okay,” Harry mumbled. He folded up his papers and sighed at his empty inkpot. Hermione pulled out her wand and tapped it, the ink instantly refilling.
He turned to Hermione. She was his friend, so he told her what Draco had said during their encounter earlier that day.
“He looked terrible,” Harry said. “I don’t even like him and I felt kind of sorry for him. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you do this time?”
He made it seem like she was always the cause of his problems. “I didn’t do anything, Harry. If getting a boyfriend is a crime, then I’m guilty.”
“Although, it is obvious what’s going on between you two,” Harry whispered.
Hermione was about to object when Ron sat between them on the rug by the fireplace. “I don’t even know why you’re friends. He hates your kind.”
“And what exactly is ‘my kind’ Ronald? ”
“No, I just mean muggleborns in general. You were never meant to be friends.”
Throwing him a look of disgust, Hermione went up to her dormitory to study for an upcoming Ancient Runes test.
Ron used this excuse to write his potions essay from her notes.
On the night before the third task, Hermione went down to the ground floor to wait for Cedric to meet her. She had anticipated this meeting with much anxiety. This was one of the last times she would see him before the final task.
Just as luck had it, Draco was leaving the Great Hall after his evening meal. He approached her with his heart in his throat.
“You okay?” he asked awkwardly, rubbing his clammy hands on his trousers. He did feel a little ashamed about making her cry the other night. That was never his intention.
“I’m fine. The task was quite scary though.”
“I didn’t ask about the task.”
“He had to save me from the bottom of the lake.” Hermione had spared saying Cedric’s name for the sake of Draco’s feelings.
“They’re really pulling out all the stops, aren’t they?” He stared at his shoes. “Do you have five minutes?”
“Not really, I’m meeting…someone.”
Draco knew that it was Cedric. Who else could it be? She didn’t have any other friends besides him outside of Gryffindor Tower. God, was it his fault that she was so lonely?
She nodded and they walked along a corridor on that floor.
“I wish we could be friends again,” Draco admitted. “Properly.”
She nodded. “Me too.” The whisper was very audible. “I miss us, Draco. What happened?”
He laughed. “I have no idea. I guess certain…feelings got in the way.”
“Yes.” Hermione bowed her head. “It was my fault really.”
“You don’t need to apologise.”
“I do. You can’t let Cedric come between us.”
“And I thought that I wouldn’t have to hear his name!” Draco said sarcastically. Why did she always have to ruin the moment?
“Do you want to call a truce?” Hermione asked softly.
“No.” On the spur of the moment, Draco took Hermione’s wand from her back pocket, pushed her into an empty classroom and locked the door with his wand.
“Draco! LET ME OUT NOW! Draco? DRACO!” She banged on the door with her fists. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have to, Hermione.”
“No, you don’t. I’ll never forgive you, Draco. Not unless you open this door right now.”
Draco had walked away from her before she had finished her sentence, his grey eyes squeezed tightly closed for a moment. He crossed paths with Cedric who was leaning against a wall in the Entrance Hall.
Struggling to speak to Draco, Cedric said, “Have you seen -?”
Draco paced carefully to his common room, where he found Blaise playing chess against Crabbe and Goyle, testing the theory of whether two heads were better than one.
“Draco, where have you been?” Blaise began. “I’ve beat these two twice and -” He paused. “Why do you have two wands?”
“Knight or rook?” Goyle muttered to Crabbe as quietly as he could.
Blaise knew whose wand it was. Draco stared at him. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Draco.”
His blonde friend grasped the two wands between his fingers and went to bed, hoping and praying that he had done the right thing.
After a refreshing sleep, Draco followed the rest of the crowd the next day onto the maze-filled Quidditch pitch as the sun set. For once, he was smiling as he and Pansy walked to their seats and he even let her kiss his cheek.
“You’re in a good mood,” Pansy noticed.
Draco shrugged and watched as Cedric asked Harry and Ron where Hermione was. They hurried around trying to find Parvati, but found Lavender instead, who told them that Hermione had not come back to their dorm last night.
It looked as though Cedric was about to go and look for her, when the champions were gathered by Professor Moody and soon after, they entered the maze.
Finally, the door gave way. Hermione had been banging against it all night. Looking down, she noticed a house elf and thanked him for opening the door.
She was sorely tempted to run into the Great Hall for something to eat because she was starving. Instead, she kicked off her shoes and ran to the Quidditch pitch, hoping to see Cedric before he left.
It really was hours since the champions had gone into the maze and the crowd was growing restless. Pansy was leaning against Draco’s shoulder saying something about what she had planned for the summer. He nodded occasionally but never took his eyes off the maze. Draco hoped that she was not asking for him to kiss her, marry her or do whatever else couples did because all he was doing was agreeing with everything she said, inputting relevant noises to her one-sided conversation.
How long were they going to be? He tapped his foot, anxious as to the outcome of the task. He would be so mad if Diggory won! It would be like he had won everything. The whole school loved him. Hermione loved him - at least he thought so. He hoped she didn’t. If he was crowned the Triwizard Champion, Draco would just give up. He was even considering not returning to Hogwarts to save himself from the humiliation…
The whole crowd seemed to gasp at the same time. Harry had just been flung out of the maze with Diggory under his arm, who - Draco noticed - was not moving.
“Oh no,” he whispered.
“What is it?” Pansy asked.
Draco, along with everybody else, watched Hermione walk slowly towards his body. Someone must have let her out and Draco wished that for this moment, she had still been locked away.
Hermione appeared from the path leading up to the castle and into the hush. Harry was all over the place, screaming and crying and ranting about Voldemort, but Hermione was silent. Until she touched him. She screamed and cried, shook and shivered, then half-ran towards the castle.
Draco pushed his way through the crowd - including Cho Chang who came to comfort Harry - and found Hermione sitting against a tree deep in the forest with her hand over her mouth, trying to breathe steadily.
She looked at him, hatred governing her glare.
Draco quickly pushed his hand into his pocket and held out her wand. “Take it,” he whispered.
She eyed him suspiciously. “Go on,” he said encouragingly.
Hermione pushed herself off the ground and grabbed it; instinct told her to point it straight at him. Draco froze, instantly regretting his decision.
“Hermione, I’m sorry,” he tried, genuinely afraid that she would curse him. He put his hands up in a surrender-type position.
“Stay away from me,” she said calmly, circling him. “You planned this.”
“How could I have planned it? I didn’t kill him. Apparently, Voldemort did.”
“You made sure I couldn’t see him.” She was crying so often these days, it almost looked natural for her face to be tear-stained and wet.
“I was dumb. I was being selfish… I want you all to myself.”
“Well, you can’t have everything your own way, Draco! He’s dead. HE’S DEAD! Are you happy now?”
“Good! Because you’ll never have me. You’ve crossed the line.” Draco tried to touch her shoulder, but she yanked it away. “Don’t you get it? I hate you! Get away from me. I’ve had enough!”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Don’t I? I hate you Draco. I thought I loved you too, but you’ve only ever contributed to the worst days of my life.”
“But, what about the good times? The days where we used to spend hours in each other’s company? When we’d laugh all day together like it were the most natural thing in the world?”
“That was years ago Draco. The past doesn’t count anymore. So many things have happened since then.” Hermione walked away from him, weaving in and out of the tall thin trees. Her fear of the Dark Forest seemed to disperse as her mind was not concentrating on the creatures that were living in it.
Her boyfriend was dead. Cedric… she could not get over the idea that one moment he was with her and the next he was gone and she didn’t know where…all she knew was that he was in a place where she could not reach him…a place so far away from her that she could not stand it.
“Hermione,” Draco began. “I’m sorry about locking you in the classroom. I wasn’t myself. I wouldn’t have ever thought of doing these things, but I do them for you. I’d do anything for you…”
“Really?” She laughed as she tripped slightly over a branch and started back up to the castle. “If you’d do anything for me, you wouldn’t torture me like this, Draco.”
“Torture? Hermione, I’ve never -”
“Hurt me? Then what the hell is it that you’re doing now?”
He clenched his teeth together and finally felt a fear inside of him which told him that this was a turning point. Things could all go wrong from here. He looked beyond the border of the trees where students were making their way back up to the castle in great hoards.
“We are best friends,” he whispered, angry at her for being like this with him.
Draco moved in to kiss her, trying to change her mind. To his surprise, she did not push him away or hit him. He did want her to be crying, but just the contact of her silky lips against his was sufficient. They stood together in the darkness while the crowd could still be heard behind them. He pushed his arm around her waist and held onto her tightly, his fingers caressing the material of her coral jumper.
He leaned away from Hermione and saw that her eyes had been closed.
“Well?” he asked.
“Were best friends.”
She started to cry again, pushed his arm from around her and left him swearing to himself under the moonlight.
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