Almost two weeks had passed since Hermione’s return to Hogwarts, and Draco had not been seen by anyone in the time being. With every passing day, the edge on her nerves increased. She often felt like something had happened to him to make him disappear, but tried as hard as she could to stray from those dark thoughts.
Harry and Ron had resumed Quidditch in addition to schoolwork, so most of their free time was spent without her. Ginny was much more social than she was, and had been spending these first two weeks re-networking around the school. She’d told Hermione she knew some Ravenclaws who knew some Slytherins who might know where Draco could be.
Hermione had nothing to her but her school work and her books, making her feel quite useless and miserable.
Her time was divided two ways; Her classes and the people involved, and spare moments where she dwelled on Draco’s absence. Harry had been watching her closely, and caught her sleepwalking towards the library a few nights in a row. Hermione discovered that he’d been putting sleeping potion in the tea he’d been bringing her on the nights after that, to keep her from wandering.
She could have dealt with Draco leaving a little better if she at least knew he was safe. Without that knowledge, she was a wreck and worse for the wear. No matter how hard she tried, she could not think of any reason that he would choose to leave without saying goodbye. At least, one that did not involve him forgetting his feelings for her.
“Hermione!” Came Harry’s voice. He was walking to her, brandishing a stack of what looked like pictures. “Your Mum sent over the pictures from Christmas. They’re the Muggle kind, though; don’t move.”
“Oh! Let me see them!” Hermione said excitedly as Harry passed her a few.
She saw Ron and Ginny, side by side in their formal wear; Her mother and father by the Christmas tree along with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley; a few of Fred and George harassing Ron or hugging Ginny; then, the last few were of herself and Harry in ball clothes, arm in arm. Harry was the only one giving a genuine smile.
Hermione felt a bit sad, wishing she could make herself look a little bit happier. She was wearing a smile in the photographs, but it looked plastic.
“You’ve always been a little camera shy haven’t you?” Harry chuckled, trying to joke. Hermione could only fake another smile as she put the pictures on the table in front of her with a sigh.
“They’re only pictures ‘Mione. No big deal.”
“Yeah, no big deal.” She echoed, a bit forlorn. Suddenly, her heart jumped at something she remembered. “Did she send… any other pictures?”
Harry visibly tensed as he unwillingly handed over an sealed envelope from his back pocket.
It said her name on the front, in her mother’s elegant cursive writing, making Hermione smile. She opened it, pulling out the first one. It was a picture of Draco and herself, side by side in full ball dress. Hermione had to force herself not to blush at the sight of how dashingly handsome Draco looked, even in just a picture. The next one was of them after the snowball fight, Hermione laughing wildly and Draco smirking in her direction, covered in snow. She saw one of them opening each other’s gifts, and Hermione was able to see the surprise on her own face as she opened her rose, and Draco’s warmth as he opened his sheet music.
The last three were hard to look at. One of Draco kissing her under the mistletoe, one of Draco with an arm around her mother, and a few of Hermione standing over Draco when he had played the piano. She felt a pang in her heart as she stared at Draco’s form. His posture relaxed, his face frozen in a subdued smile. He looked as if someone had put him under a trance. Someone only looks that way when they’re truly at peace.
When she was done looking, Hermione placed the pictures down without a word.
“Your Mum’s a good photographer. Must come from the whole artist thing.”
Hermione nodded wordlessly, fighting that empty feeling again. Harry exhaled.
“Hermione look; I know, that I am not Malfoy, nor do I aspire to be. But, I’ll always be here for you.” He looked at her with intensity. “Always.”
“I know that Harry; thank you.” She met his eyes. “But even though..”
And before she knew it, he was kissing her. His hand resting gently on her chin, pulling her into him, his lips beckoning hers to move with them.
Hermione felt how utterly wrong it was, and pulled away almost instantly.
“Harry.” She said in a stern whisper. “No.”
He flushed, looking at her with for a few moments with sad eyes. “No, huh? Not even now?”
Hermione shook her head slowly. “Not even now.”
She watched Harry hang his head slightly, before getting up and leaving without another word.
When he was gone, Hermione was overcome with the need to be completely alone, in a place of her own with no memories attached to it.
She took her pictures, and ran off to wander the corridors to a new sanctuary.
She arrived at the brick wall, walking past it once or twice before a small wooden door made itself visible to her. She walked in, thankful for its refuge.
It had become a small room, with wood paneling and a bookshelf built into the far wall. A queen bed with an elegant headboard sat in the middle of one wall across from a fireplace, which was lit and going strong, made up in white linens. She walked over to it, running her hands along the rough walls as
she did, and sank down into its comfort. She sighed as she felt how soft the sheets were, and how warm she felt inside them. She cried no tears, and thought of nothing as she drifted into sleep.
As the morning came, Hermione managed to wake herself in time to return to her dorm to change into school robes and get her books. The only person who noticed she had been gone was Ginny, who said nothing for once.
She walked straight to the Potions classroom once she was dressed, not feeling up to breakfast, and sat in an uncomfortable silence for about twenty minutes before everyone began to arrive.
She acted as though she’d just walked in when the other students took their seats around her. She’d been dreading this moment all morning, because sooner or later Harry would take his usual seat beside her, and she had no idea what he felt about their last encounter.
“Hey ‘Mione.” Said Ron, sliding down into Harry’s seat instead, giving her a sloppily concealed grimace. “H-how are you?”
Hermione looked Ron over for a moment. “Fine.” She answered warily. “How are you?”
“Fine, thanks. Good breakfast. I brought you an orange.” He said nervously, plopping a citrus fruit on the table in front of her.
Ron, in Hermione’s eyes, did not look the least bit fine. His hands were shaking slightly and his cheeks held a slight flush of unpleasant anticipation.
“Where’s Harry?” She asked.
“In bed. He’s not feeling well, he said.”
Hermione ignored the sinking feeling in her stomach. “And why aren’t you with Lavender?”
“She’s sitting with Padma, and I thought you’d like the company.”
“Oh. Well thank you.” Hermione said, turning to eat a few pieces of her orange.
Just as Professor Snape stood to begin the class, the door creaked open slightly, making Ron turned to whisper in Hermione’s ear.
“Be strong ‘Mione.” He said, looking at her meaningfully.
Before she had time to ask what he meant, he pointed his finger in the direction of the noisy door. Hermione turned, feeling the breath leave her chest as Draco Malfoy walked into the room. Striding in as though he had been there all along.
Hermione gaped, astounded and glad. Draco was here, safe and within her reach. He didn’t looked harmed or traumatized in any way either. For a few moments, she stared at him in what seemed to be pure and utter relief.
Then, as he took his usual seat across from her, something clicked. He was unharmed, he wasn’t messed up at all. That meant he had left on his own terms. Hermione knew for sure now that he had been lying to her all along, and he’d left to save himself more trouble.
She turned away from him, and began to bite her tongue to ward off her tears of anger and betrayal. She felt Ron squeeze her hand, and she gripped back. Thankful for his touch to keep her from rising out of her seat.
The Professor began to dictate the class assignment for the day as everyone started to take notes. Hermione launched herself into the task, wanting to feel nothing but the feel of a quill in her fingertips and the parchment under her hand.
She scribbled like mad, listening to the scratching to calm herself down.
Ron placed his hand over hers when she started to break through the parchment.
“Let me go get the ingredients.” He said understandingly, leaving Hermione to a few moments peace.
She grit her teeth as she stole another glance at Draco.
I will be strong. She thought. I will not cry, I will not cry.
Draco was flipping through his book and simultaneously adding ingredients to his cauldron, trying to ignore Blaise leaning in to talk to him.
Hermione felt her pain rear up again, and it was all she could do not to break in front of him.
Ron returned with supplies for both of them a minute later, and they started their own work.
It was what seemed like hours later before she spoke to Ron again.
“He’s not even looking at me.” She said, trying to control her voice.
“I don’t know what’s going on Hermione, but you can’t let him get to you.”
Hermione looked at him blankly for a moment. “I’m just supposed to sit here while he ignores me like this? He doesn’t even have the ba…”
“Lower your voice a bit.” Ron said, realizing that people were starting to stare. “We are in class, maybe he’ll talk to you after.”
“Yeah. Yeah, maybe after class…” Ron’s words calmed her just enough so that she could complete her class work without a mistake.
Hermione lingered in Potions for a while, matching Draco’s slow packing speed, but leaving out her heaviest books. Once they were completely alone, Hermione walked close to him, doing a very convincing trip and spilling all her books out onto the floor and landing with them.
Draco stopped what he was doing to look down at her. His eyes were frosted over and pinched from what looked like lack of sleep, but his condescending smiled was as on point as ever.
“You should work on being a little less clumsy Granger.” He said, casting her a look of annoyance. “It’s unbecoming.” He walked out after that. He didn’t help her with her books, he didn’t even help her off the floor; he just left.
Hermione stayed there a moment, dazed, hearing the nasty way he said Granger play on repeat inside her head.
Against her better judgment, Hermione attended dinner. She knew that she had a strong possibility of seeing Draco and Harry, but she was achingly hungry.
She vowed to make it quick, to eat her fill not look up from her plate as little as possible, but that changed when Padma Patil took a seat next to her.
“Hermione Granger.” She drawled, casting a wicked grin. “Long time no talk.”
“Padma.” Hermione said shortly. “What do you want?”
“A girl can’t come chat with an old friend?” Padma said, feigning shock.
“We are not friends.” Hermione said, full of venom. “By any means or purposes of the word.”
“Ouch, Hermione’s on the prowl today isn’t she?”
“Padma, what the hell do you want?” She almost gasped in annoyance and impatience.
Padma rolled her eyes and tossed her dark hair. “Nothing really, just wanted to see what’s up with you and our resident sex god?” She nodded toward the Slytherin table. “He moved on already?”
“It’s none of your business.” Hermione snarled. “And he hasn’t moved on.”
Hermione watched Padma raise her eyebrows into a look of malice. “Oh, he hasn’t has he? Look over there.” She pointed a bony finger at the Slytherin table once more.
Hermione saw Draco, sitting with his usual crew. This time however, it seemed that Pansy Parkinson had been allowed to sit near him; next to him in fact. Pansy was laughing extra hard at something someone said, placing her hand on Draco’s knee. Draco added on to the joke, and Pansy exploded with giggles. He turned to her then, leaning forward, and kissed her promptly on the mouth.
Hermione felt she was going to lose her dinner.
“Oh, my!” Padma giggled. Hermione turned to her, eyes full of loathing.
“Stay away from me.” She whispered icily. No longer feeling up for dinner any longer, Hermione exited the Great Hall in haste.
“Hermione!” She heard someone call after her as she walked.
She did not answer, for she knew her voice would be choked with brewing tears.
“Hermione, wait!” It was Ginny, bounding up to her quickly. “I saw him! I haven’t figured out why he left yet, but I saw him! I can’t believe he would do such a… Hermione what’s happened?”
Tears were spilling over now, and Hermione just shook her head.
“I know why he left. He wanted to be rid of me, to come back to his perfect world. Back to Pansy…”
“He’s is not with Pansy!” Ginny gasped in disbelief.
Hermione nodded. “I saw them kissing at dinner!” She let out a few choked sobs, and let Ginny hold her close, but wasn’t really listening to her words of comfort.
A few moments passed before someone walked out into the hall after them. The two girls heard footsteps approaching slowly, and Hermione turned away and let Ginny face whoever had stumbled upon them.
“Malfoy.” Ginny spit.
Hermione exhaled raggedly, forcing herself to stay facing away from the loathsome creature.
“Weaslette.” He said, not holding any emotion in his voice. “I need to speak to Granger.”
“You will not say a word to her.” Ginny said between gritted teeth. Hermione had never heard such force come out of her before. “You aren’t bloody worth her time.”
Malfoy said nothing.
Ginny continued. “My brother and Harry were right about you all along. And I trusted you! You made her trust you! Hermione is my best friend, and I warned you not to upset her. You’ll have hell from me here on out.”
“That’s nice and all Weasley, but isn’t it up to Granger to decide who she wants to talk to?”
Ginny sputtered a moment. “You think that after what you did, she would want to talk to…”
“Ginny.” Hermione silenced her friend. “Let me talk to him a moment.”
Ginny looked bewildered, but let her speak.
Hermione stepped out into the open alongside Ginny, gathering all the anger and pain she’d felt over the past two weeks into her heart for this one moment.
“Malfoy.” She said, surprisingly calm. “I don’t want to speak to you, and I want you to leave me alone. You’ve made it painfully clear you don’t want me anymore, so let’s leave it at that.” She took a breath to keep herself from crying. “And be done.” She watched Draco’s expression shift slightly, but couldn’t place what he could be feeling. “I need nothing from you, now that I know the promise you didn’t want to break.”
He nodded. “Sounds good to me.” And walked back into the great hall.
Once he was gone, emotion hit Hermione head on, and she didn’t wait for Ginny as she walked up to Gryffindor tower.
“Maybe Hermione should have talked to him. He might’ve explained why he left.” Ron said, placing a hand on Hermione’s shoulder.
Ron and Ginny were sitting with Hermione by the fire, arguing over the night’s main event.
“Do you hear yourself when you speak Ron?” Ginny exclaimed. “She doesn’t need to hear anything from that git!”
“She’s not going to feel better until she gets answers!”
“You aren’t in your right mind!”
“What makes you think he won’t just lie to her again?”
“I am right here!” Hermione yelled, no longer holding any patience for bickering. Without any words, she left to get ready for bed.
She needed to be alone, completely alone.
In the corridor leading to the room of requirement, Hermione walked silently. She had been lucky enough to slip out of the tower unnoticed, and she wanted to keep that streak going.
She walked as swiftly as she could in the darkness, led only by her memory and the light of her wand. She wanted to get there quickly, for sleep was sure to overcome her soon.
She was almost at the wall when a loud thump sounded behind her, followed by a few hasty steps, making her freeze in her tracks. After a few deep breaths, she figured it wasn’t a teacher.
“Who’s there?” She whispered. “Show yourself!” Another minute or so later, no one responded, so she continued walking.
She watched the wooden door appear before her after a few key thoughts were made, and slipped inside. She was pleased to see her little hideaway hadn’t changed at all, and the bed had even been made. Her bed was calling her, and she answered it, not giving another thought to her pursuer.
A/N: Hey everyone! Thanks for reading this chapter :) I also want to say thanks for the great reviews I've gotten on the last two. You guys are amazing! Again, do you miss the soundtrack notes? Please, please let me know if you do! I want to start doing them again, but I won't if they bother too many people. At this point, we are FIVE chapters away from the end of this story. I can hardly believe it :( I've had some people ask me this, and I can answer you now. There will NOT be a sequel to this story. I'm sorry. I almost wish I could write another one, but there's no where to move forward to. You'll see what I mean once this one is over. Anyway, thanks for reading! Please leave a review :)