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Better Than I Know Myself by rj_sunshine
Chapter 22 : The Room Of Requirement
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 10


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  Hermione had fallen asleep in the library. She had picked a nice light spot beneath the window to study for upcoming tests and examinations - and also to watch Draco until had finished his duties; he had worked until the sunset. Now, the sun glowed threateningly, throwing pinks and passionate orange through the window to dance over the dark of her closed lids; she awoke. Her arms had been wrapped around her stomach and when she moved them a large pile of books fell crashing to the ground. Hermione looked around and expected to hear Madam Pince shout, but then sighed gratefully at the time of day; the librarian was never at work during the dawn.

She yawned with a wide mouth and decided to catch up on some sleep in her dormitory. Hermione piled the Potions, Charms and Ancient Runes books and scooped them into her arms, carrying them slowly up to the seventh floor and through the portrait of the Fat Lady.

The previous night she had been begging Harry to teach them all Defence Against the Dark Arts and had only prevailed due to the accumulation of so many good reasons: these included the mass breakout from Azkaban and the fact that none of them had so much as used a defensive spell in over four months. She planned to rally up a few members that day in time for the meeting in Hogsmeade after trying to figure out where they could practice.

Hermione sidled into the common room lazily with the intention to go straight up to her dormitory when Fred pulled her from the entrance and took her books from her arms.

“Thanks,” she muttered, thinking that he was being kind to her for once. “Why the change of heart, Fred?”

“Don’t think I wouldn’t on any other day, Hermione, but we’ve just heard from the Order. You just missed them, although I think Umbridge may be suspicious so we won’t be hearing from them again while she’s here - which hopefully won’t be long,” he said hopefully.
 
Hermione was suddenly wide-eyed at this and scrambled over to the fireplace where Harry was sat in his pyjamas with Ron, who was yawning, George, who was fully dressed in his uniform, and Ginny who was wrapped in her dressing gown.

“Is it Hagrid?” Hermione whispered. “Is he back yet?”

Ron sighed and shook his head. “Still nothing on him.”

“But they have basically confirmed our theory,” Harry said disjointedly while trying not to think of their biggest friend. “That we weren’t put into the ministry departments for no reason.”
 
The previous evening, along with Hermione’s triumph of winning Harry over, they had received their allocations for the work experience in the Ministry of Magic. Harry had been placed in Law Enforcement, Ron in the Goblin Liaison Office and Hermione, with the Daily Prophet. She was not particularly pleased at this but nevertheless was glad that there was a point to her suffering.

“So…” George continued the story in a hushed whisper. “Sirius told us that Harry’s been put with the Aurors, Kingsley and Tonks and such, to keep an eye on him and so that the other ministry workers don’t have a go at him for being a lunatic.”
 
“How did he get that place anyway if the ministry hate him?” Ron asked. “How did he end up getting a place at all?”

Ginny answered this one. “It’s obvious isn’t it? All students must have the opportunity, so that it’s equal and the best place for him would be with some Order members so he can help.”
 
Ron’s face showed some comprehension, then he flashed a look towards Hermione, his ears turned red, and then he looked back down at the rough red rug by the crackling fire.

Hermione noticed this and then said, “A-And what about the rest of us?” By that, she meant ‘Ron and I’ but did not want to group them together in such a way.

“Ron wasn’t put with the mad creatures because he is one himself,” Fred said with a grin.

“A goblin is not a ‘mad creature’ Fred,” Hermione interrupted. “They are just as equal as witches and wizards.”
 
“Sure, that’s they have a department in the ministry so they can keep tabs on them…” He shook his head incredulously. “He’s there in the creatures department to see if anything strange is going on, if You-Know-Who may have got his hands on some more allies.” That was smart, thought Hermione. “And you are in the Daily Prophet because…?” He left her to guess.

She sighed. “Because I enjoy reading about Harry’s apparent violent psychosis?”

“Funny,” Harry muttered. “No, because they want you to slip a few things in and to keep those sort of things out.” And at Hermione’s rage, he added, “I thought it was risky too.”

“Risky?!” she exclaimed. “Risky? Do you think for one moment that they won’t suspect me? I’ll be expelled for sure!”

“Of course you won’t,” George said without any sympathy. “Dumbledore will vouch for you. And even if you are, at least people might see the truth. Apparently it’s right next to the Minister’s Office too.” He said this as if this would make her feel better.
 
She was still upset, as the other’s gathered, which may have been the reason for the swift change of subject.

“Have you been telling the others what Umbridge has been up to, Ginny?” Ron asked as he watched his sister stare at her own fingernails.

“Of course I have. Do you think I’ve been sitting by while this all happened?” Ron shook his head quickly. “Good. But even they can’t do anything. If it’s enforced by the ministry, it can’t be overridden. I’ve even had to stop sending them news since Hedwig was frisked the other day.”

She looked comfortingly at Harry, who tried to grin back.

“I think we should definitely meet up on regular intervals on this work experience thing even though we’re in different departments.” Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement.

“I wish I could go,” Ginny mumbled quietly.
 
“The thing is,” Fred muttered, ignoring her. “I know the Order say they don’t know what he wants in the ministry but I’m not sure they’re telling us the truth.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked.

“Well, it just seems as if they’re making it seem as if we’re involved, but personally, I don’t see what good this all is really. This seems more like an attempt to gather other information, such as the creatures thing and putting news in the Prophet rather than finding out about any weapon.”

They all sat in silence for a while, really getting into what Fred had shared with them and Hermione could tell, from glancing around the room that the others felt the same as she did.

“They must already know,” Harry whispered.

“It makes sense,” Ron replied.

“But why send me in there if Voldemort wants me? And Hermione? Well, he wants everybody!”

“He won’t attack when the ministry thinks he’s not around to do just that,” Ginny said confidently.

“Well said, sis,” George said. “Now, if you don’t mind, Fred and I are going to do some last minute touches on the Skiving Snackboxes.” The twins disappeared up the staircase, closely followed by Ron, who was insistent upon getting a few more hours sleep before he attempted anything. As Hermione was about to make for the staircase up to her room, Harry caught her eye. He looked over at Ginny, who was cleaning the fireside with her wand.

Hermione really did not want to, but she turned towards her as Harry left them alone.

“Ginny…”
 
“Yes,” she replied dismissively while taking care not to look at her.

“I’m sorry,” Hermione said, feeling small. “About biting your head off about Draco, about ignoring you, about not talking to you for so long, because you were right. You were right all along.”

Ginny sidled over to her and gave her a tender hug only a best friend could give. “You didn’t need to explain.”
 
“I did,” Hermione breathed.

“Took you long enough. I thought you were going to leave for this work experience thingy without talking to me. I was wrong.”
 
“Well…Harry did just persuade me to talk to you just now…” Hermione felt the need for honesty even though she would have loved to say that it was her own idea.

“Never mind.” Ginny’s voice wavered for a moment and Hermione waited patiently although her mind was on a pile of Ancient Runes and Arithmancy notes waiting for her in her dorm. “Why did you kiss Ron?”

Hermione had hoped that this would not come up.

She shifted a little in her shoes. “First of all, he kissed me -” Ginny smiled, nodding. “ - and secondly, I have no idea why he did it. But I sort of let him carry on because, well…I don’t know…I guess I sort of missed it…” Hermione had no idea why she was admitting this to Ginny but awaited her answer all the same.

“Hermione, I would have thought that it was at least because you liked him!”
 
“I can assure you, I don’t.”

“Not even a little?” she asked hopefully. Hermione shook her head but then Ginny seemed to turn a little pinker. “So you kissed my brother to satisfy your lack of snogging?” she queried, trying not to get angry.

“No…it wasn’t like that. Not at all. He was nice to me…” And that was rare for Ron. He also had never said anything so nice to her in her life and so what could she do other than not shout at him for violating her personal space? It was much more than she had done for Draco anyway - which was also another secret reason for her holding on. She had often wondered whether she and Draco would have shared a glorious kiss in Madam Puddifoot’s teashop had it not been for her own ignorance.

“Nice to you, Hermione? Nice to you? Why not kiss Harry too then? Kiss Fred, George, Dean, Neville…Professor Dumbledore…?!”

Hermione could not suppress a laugh at this and even Ginny chuckled a little at the absurdity of her suggestion.

“You completely misunderstand me,” Hermione said heartily.

Ginny sighed. “Have you talked to him yet?” Thinking of Professor Dumbledore, Ginny said, “Ron, I mean.”

“No…we’ve sort of avoided speaking about it really. It’s almost as it if never happened.” She remembered the look her had given her moments earlier by the fireplace.

“Well you need to tell him how you feel before he gets his hopes up,” Ginny said sadly. “I think he may have already.”
 
“Oh no. I hope not. I don’t know how I’ll ever tell him that no one will ever compare to Draco.” She nervously looked away from Ginny and blushed.

Ginny smiled. “Have you told him that?”

“You know I haven’t. If I did I think I might die of embarrassment!”

“Of course not. He already knows. You both have always known. And I expect to see you both back together by the end of this trip to the ministry.”

Before scuttling off to her bed, Hermione turned to Ginny and asked, “Fancy being taught Defence Against the Dark Arts by Harry instead of the old toad?”
 


This was the question passing Hermione’s lips all day however not in the same way due to fears of being overheard and reprimanded. She had tried to recruit in the library where she managed to snap up Susan Bones while they shared Charms notes, Fred and George while she tried to ban some more of their products, the Patil twins (although it was tough and took twenty minutes) in the girls bathroom on the first floor and Dean Thomas at the Gryffindor Table. Angelina whispered to Hermione that she would be coming to the meeting after Fred told her and this delighted Hermione greatly. Ginny had told her that she was spreading the word to the students in her year so Hermione was confident that they would have a full class for their group.

However when they arrived in the Hog’s Head the next weekend, herself, Harry and Ron were quite disappointed.

Ten people had turned up around them and Harry had had the impression that it was all a big joke. “This is a joke!” he whispered between Ron and Hermione. “We can’t do it with ten people.”
 
“You’ll have to,” Hermione pushed. “They were willing and even if they’re the only ones, we’ll have to hold up our end of the bargain.”

“You mean, my end of the bargain,” Harry retorted darkly.

He turned and tried to explain to them that he had hoped more would come and then nervously told them that he would try to help them with their Defence as Hermione had previously suggested. Fred, George, Ginny, Neville, Luna, Dean, Parvati, Padma, Angelina and Susan listened eagerly to his rant about Umbridge and importantly his speech about Voldemort.

After discussing why some people had not turned up (Cho did not want anything to do with Harry and was now dating Cormac McLaggen, Ginny had been dating Michael Corner but dumped him after he would not join and many others were either too scared of Harry and his so-called lies or were afraid to break the school rules and the ministerial educational decrees, however many of them there were now) they had come up with the name Dumbledore’s Army and arranged to speak soon when they find a place for practice.

“That went well,” Ron said as they walked to Transfiguration that afternoon with heavy bags over their shoulders.

Hermione had missed the sarcastic angle to his comment. “I thought so too. It was a great turnout.”
 
“What?” Harry said.

“It was better than nothing.” That was true, although they failed to see the bright side of the fact that only ten other students thought Harry was sane.

They sat in the classroom while McGonagall continued to try and prepare them for their OWLs exams with long explanations of each topic they had to and had yet to learn and how they would useful in the future. Through this long speech, Harry had lying across the table, threatening to fall asleep, Ron was staring at the ceiling with his mouth open and Hermione was nearing the edge of her seat with excitement at the prospect of their upcoming lessons.

At the back of the class, Draco chuckled to himself thinking that he had found her academic enthusiasm extremely adorable in latter years, and found it devilishly attractive at that particular moment.
 

That night, Draco had been walking about the sixth and seventh floors of the castle in the hope of catching Hermione - that was, if she left her common room. Her usual routine involved late night check-ins at the library nearing exam time and he hoped that this had not changed as she grew older. After feeling as though he may have missed her, Draco settled more permanently on the seventh floor just in case, defying his prefect timetable, hoping that there was no trouble on the floor below him.

He sat down on the ground in sight of the staircase and listened. He had no idea where the Gryffindor common room was and just as he was beginning to guess, Hermione walked around the corner and had stopped abruptly at the sight of him.

He had wanted to smile, but maybe that would have been too much. Instead he settled for, “I hoped I’d find you.” Draco stood up and faced her.

“You did?” Her knees grew weak and her heart quivered in her chest.

“Yes.” They walked for a while without speaking until he said, “I’m sorry” as earnestly as he could. He really meant it. Hermione gazed at him affectionately, glad the moment had come at last that they could be as they were before…and much closer… “I’m sorry for calling you a mudblood. I’m sorry for believing my father’s nonsense about your magical ability and worthiness. I’m sorry for ignoring you and shouting at you and for everything else I’ve done to you.”
 
“Oh, Draco…”

“But I will say this. I’m not sorry for trying my hardest to get you away from Diggory. I wanted you so much. You should have been mine at the Yule Ball.”

Hermione frowned a little at this, but pressed his statement a little further. “I belong to you, do I?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Draco had not realised the tone in which Hermione had spoken; it was accusatory.

“I’m sorry, Draco, as much as I want to forgive you, I can’t as long as you think I’m your property.” Her voice was sharp and stung Draco like poison. She was distraught with the idea that Draco may see her as an item rather than a person.

“I don’t think that. I just said that -”
 
“That I should have been yours instead of his.”

“As in ‘girlfriend’ Hermione. You should have been my girlfriend!”

She realised her error and in an attempt to cover up her mistake, said, “Well, why didn’t you say that? You’re always so confusing.”

“I thought I’d made myself clear.”
 
“Well, you didn’t.”

“I can see that.” He grunted angrily. “You make things so difficult.” He began pacing. “All I’ve ever wanted was for us to be together, to forget about everyone else because you are the only thing that existed in my world, in my life. You and I. That’s all I’ve ever cared about since I came to Hogwarts and stupid little things keep getting in our way.”

“I wouldn’t think that You-Know-Who is a stupid little thing,” Hermione whispered timidly.

“You think he’s stopping me?” Hermione shrugged. “No, Hermione. We’re stopping us. We fight over the silliest things because we’re afraid of what might happen if we let our feelings take over, if people found out about us. I thought you would have realised right now that what other people think doesn’t matter to me any more.”

“Well, it does to me. You’re the most hated boy in this school because of that Squad you’re part of.”
 
He laughed in disbelief. “My popularity is stopping you from going out with me?!”

“No…that’s not what I meant…”

“What did you mean then?”

“I just - it just…I’m afraid that if we do, more people will have something to say…I’m afraid that no one will accept us.” And also Umbridge scared her to no end.
 
Draco touched her hand slightly. “When will you realise that nobody has to?”

Hermione blinked back the tear brewing behind her eyes. “But what about Celeste Ironcore?” She sniffed and then the tears flew down her face, anger burning through her thoughts. “You already have a…g-girlfriend.”

“How do you know about that?”

Hermione howled and cried some more guessing that his words were confirmation that he indeed had a girlfriend.

“Please…” he whispered. “Don’t cry… Listen to me. Celeste thinks we may be dating and the boys in the common room keep winding me up about her, that’s all.” But she still cried. “That is all Hermione. I’m serious.” He continued to pace and said, “Why can’t the whole world just go away? Why can’t it just be me and you where no one else can find us?”

Hermione hiccoughed as a door materialised out of the wall, big and brown. She wiped her eyes unsuccessfully as Draco apprehensively pulled the handle.

The room was filled with all sorts of junk, piling high in rows. However, to the left of the room, right ahead of them, there was a cosy two seat armchair, a table, a few bookcases and about a dozen boxes of tissues stacked on top of one another.

“What is this place?”

“I-I-I think I k-know…” Hermione reminded her self to voice her suspicions to Harry and Ron later that evening about this room while she helped herself to a few tissues and sat down.

Draco was unsure of whether to join her so he stood by the door as if afraid it would disappear again. Hermione blew her nose and wiped her eyes. Although she had wished that Celeste was just a friend of his and although she had believed him, she still found herself upset beyond belief about the possibility of Draco shacking up with a girl he’d barely known for five minutes.

Draco on the other hand was panicky and angry simultaneously. He had purposely let Celeste think they were dating and had even let her kiss him (and more) the previous night in his dormitory. While he thought about how he would tell her they had to ‘break up’, Hermione muttered, “Thank you. About warning me in the summer.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “Sit with me.”
 
Hermione quietly took the empty seat beside him and stared down onto the floor anxiously. She was so close to him that she could hear him breathing, smell him, feel his leg against her own.

“I missed you so much, Hermione,” he said, while she leaned on him.

“I missed you too.”

Draco took her hand. “Can I kiss you?”

Hermione’s heart felt like it was not her own; it was pumping way too fast inside her as she stared into Draco’s grey eyes longingly.

“Can I?” he asked. This time he was much closer. She felt his breath slide over her cheek, felt his blond hair tickle her face, felt his hand move across her body to her shoulder.

With a slight nod from Hermione, Draco moved in closer, pressing his lips to hers. Lifetimes seem to pass by while he touched her, while they connected at last. She never imagined his lips to be so soft nor so inviting as they worked over her own a million times over.

This was pure joy; Draco could have carried on all night. He pulled Hermione closer to him. Chest to chest, they held onto each other. He pulled his fingers through her hair while she grasped onto his shirt and he felt her smile beneath their embrace.

Hermione did not care that she had been on the way to the library for a NEWT standard History of Magic textbook. All she cared about was him.


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