Chapter 6 : chapter six
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I placed the last item in my trunk and lowered the lid on its contents as I let out a sigh. After this, there would only be three more terms between me and the end of my time at Hogwarts. It was a strange notion to think about, that I was almost done with my schooling, and a part of me ached at the thought of things changing. This year had proved to be a hard one on my relationships with Harry and Ron and we were still held together by the bounds of this castle, but what would happen once we left these walls? Would our friendship stand after we no longer had to see each other? Or would I once more become that girl I had been in our first year, friendless and afraid. I knew that I was really no longer that girl, I was not afraid of the things I had been then. And what I wouldn’t give now to have those things as my only fears instead of the things that now plagued me. They were fears that could do so much more to me than a fully grown Mountain Troll ever could. The fears of my mind were very much real and most days I had a hard time even fathoming their reality.
I tossed my thoughts aside and headed down to the library to spend the remainder of my time before boarding the Hogwarts Express reviewing the material that we would go over next term. The library was practically empty when I got there, one reason I enjoyed coming here at this time, and I plopped myself down at an unoccupied table and opened my charms book to the next section we would go over and began reading. I muttered the new charms under my breath as I practiced the wand movements under the table until I had committed the first five charms to memory. It was during the last flick of my wrist that a sound broke through the otherwise quiet library and I couldn't help but look up at the interruption.
Of course, I was not prepared to see Draco Malfoy at the source of the noise as he bent to pick up a thick tome which he must have dropped. From my position, I could see the scowl that marked his face announcing that he had not meant to make so much noise. I watched as he tossed a few looks over his shoulder to where Madame Pince was located and once he was satisfied that she was once more immersed in her duties, he slipped the book into his cloak and made a hasty exit.
I couldn't help but wonder what he needed that book for, and what information it would include, that he did not want his name attached to the book by checking it out. Of course, this wasn't the first time that he had acted strange this year between last night’s charade at Slughorn’s Christmas party, his spats with Pansy, and the incident in the Room of Requirement I was beginning to think that maybe this wasn’t strange behavior for him but rather the first time that I was actually noticing him. As I continued to mull over my new thoughts about Draco Malfoy, I couldn't help the curiosity that raged through me wanting to know what was so important about that book and why he was acting so strange. And it was with that thought that I realized maybe Harry had the right idea of following Professor Snape and Malfoy last night. There was not going to be any other way to figure it out, and for some reason, I felt like I needed to know.
At that, I snapped my book closed and rushed out of the library hoping that I hadn't let Draco get too far ahead of me. I skidded to a halt just outside the library doors as I noticed that Draco had only managed to make it a few feet down the hallway and was in a rather heated discussion with Pansy. I watched from my position as Pansy flailed her hands around in a dramatic gesture before she stormed past him. She shot me a look and with a glint in her eyes, she turned back towards Draco.
"See," she shouted out, causing the few students walking by to turn their heads in her direction, and then gestured towards me, "this is exactly what I'm talking about. How am I supposed to trust you when every time I turn around, she is there?" And at that, Pansy continued on her way, leaving a speechless hallway behind her.
I stood my ground as everyone shot looks between Draco and I, wondering what exactly it was that Pansy was talking about. And it was a question that I hoped that Draco would be able to answer for me. There was definitely something going on with him, and somehow I had gotten dragged into it, and now he was going to have no choice but to explain Pansy's outburst. I straightened my shoulders and took a step in Draco's direction, eyes following my every movement, but it seemed that Draco had other plans as he turned on his heel and stalked down the hallway at a rushed pace. However, I was not going to be deterred by his behavior, and I quickly followed behind him.
Chatter began immediately in my wake, with speculations of what Pansy had meant flittering between the small groups of people. I ignored them and continued on my way, trying not to lose Draco as he shoved wandering students aside and made sharp turns. At random intervals, he would glance over his shoulder, before straightening his shoulders once more and pressed on. I wasn’t sure exactly how long it was that I followed behind him but suddenly, he stopped up ahead of me.
“You know Granger, you’re being rather foolish right now,” he called out with his back still to me. “You see, you just blindly followed me throughout the castle, never once paying any attention to your surroundings. Had you done that, maybe you would have realised that I am not the only one being followed here.”
I let out a small gasp and looked behind me to find Crabbe and Goyle just down the hallway, fists clenched at their sides. I turned back to Draco and noticed that he was now facing me. “Just answer me one question Malfoy, and I’ll leave. What did Pansy mean by her outburst?”
“Now, now, Granger, did you really think that I was going to tell you just like that? It would seem to me that maybe you aren’t the brightest witch after all.” At that, Draco smirked and made some sort of gesture towards Crabbe and Goyle. I looked behind me once more to find the two slowly stocking their way towards my position and I turned back to Draco with wide eyes.
“Two can play at that game Malfoy. Maybe I don’t need to know exactly what she thinks is going on, she clearly doesn’t believe you and I would only have to confirm her suspicions about it and you would be ruined. I don’t even think your body guards would know who to believe and then where would you be?” I shot him a small smirk of my own but he didn’t appear to be worried.
“You wouldn’t dare Granger, because if you did, you could kiss your little Wonder boy Potter and Weasleby good-bye. Because, you see, the thing that Pansy is accusing me of is entangling myself with the likes of a Mudblood. And you can thank Weasleby’s girlfriend for that rumor which was then added upon by your own outburst in front of Pansy that day in the library. So really Granger, your involvement was brought on by your own stupidity, and not of my own doing. So why don’t you and boy Potter leave me alone, or things may just take a rather unfortunate turn for you.” At that, he shoved his way by me, and heaved his shoulder into mine on his way.
I watched as he and Crabbe and Goyle walked away from me, leaving me to my thoughts. Was that really what Pansy had been speculating about? It didn’t even make sense. Everyone knew how much Draco disliked me, so how had Pansy even come to believe that we would be meeting up together? I understood that there had been a rumor about me back when Ron and Lavender first got together, but that rumor had long since quieted down after no other information had come forth on the event. There had to be some other reason for Pansy to believe that there was something else going but I just wasn’t sure what that could be.
After turning over my thoughts, and still finding myself no closer to an answer than I had been previously, I decided to head down and begin to make my way to the train. There had only been an hour before the train was set to leave when I left the library and I wasn’t sure how long it had taken me to get to my current location, let alone how long it would take me to find my way back. As I wandered the empty corridors, I began to think about how foolish I really had been. Draco was right, I had not paid any attention to my surroundings as I followed him blindly and now, I found myself unsure of where exactly in the castle I had ended up. There was something to say about this castle and the fact that you could live here for almost six years, and still have not seen everything that it had to offer. I walked by portraits I had never seen before and found dead end after dead end before I finally managed to find a familiar hallway. It was the hallway that had in many ways, brought my friendship with Ron and Harry into fruition.
My lips curved up in a smile as I recalled my experience in the third floor girls’ bathroom. I had been so upset at Ronald and the way that he had been talking about me to the other boys that I ran off to the bathroom as an escape. There had been a connection that I had felt between myself and Harry and Ron, and to hear Ron say that he thought I was a nightmare had hit me rather hard. I had tried for months to create any resemblance of a friendship with the girls that I shared a dorm with, but it had seemed that my love of studying was not something easily shared among the others and I was quickly cast aside as they giggled and gossiped. When Harry and Ron burst in the bathroom door and distracted the troll, I knew that I had finally found friends.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from there, that is for sure, and of course my friendship with Ron has always been a bit more on the rocky side but I knew that we would always be there for each other, no matter the situation. And with that thought, I came to a horrible realization, Lavender had been Ron’s troll so to speak, and instead of going to fight for him, I had stepped aside. Maybe it was time for me to forgive him and be at his side once more.
I ran the rest of the way to the entrance hall, dodging around slow moving couples and giggling friends. A large crowd had already begun to form near the doorway as they funneled out into the cool December day. I glanced around me, trying to spot either Harry or Ron among the students still left inside, but could not find them. My guess was that they still had yet to make their way down from Gryffindor Tower and I decided to continue on my way to reserve our compartment.
Outside the cool air nipped at my exposed face, though it was not completely an uncomfortable feeling, just one of a light tingling that forced a rosy pink color to my cheeks. The horseless carriages stood just as majestic as the day I first saw them, and I quickly threw myself in one that had an opening. After the events of earlier today, you would think that I would have paid more attention to my surroundings; however, I was just as foolish as I had been blindly following Draco. The carriage took off with a start, and I sat myself down in the empty seat before finally looking up at the other occupants.
Their noses were all turned up in disgust at my appearance and I knew without them saying anything, that I was not a welcome addition. Not that it mattered any now, once the carriage started, there would be no stopping it until it reached its destination. Pansy Parkinson and her usual group of Slytherin friends stared at me as I brushed the few snowflakes off of my shoulder. I was not going to show them how uncomfortable they made me and instead I looked around at the winter scenery. It was almost like a painting, what with the white capped trees, carriages being pulled through mounds of snow, and we even had the image of the ice covered lake in the distance. Of course, our carriages were horseless, and instead of a church, we had the Hogwarts castle standing tall and majestic.
“Filthy Mudblood,” I heard Pansy mutter under her breath beside me. At first, I had ignored her, the use of the word mudblood had long since lost its sting, but she soon began again. “I don’t know what he sees in you, you’re clearly not as attractive as me and then of course, there’s your linage, which is severely lacking. But I figure I’ll let my Drakey have his fun with you, and then when he’s ready to settle down, I know he’ll come crawling back to me.”
“Pansy,” I finally spoke up, “I’m not sure where you heard this nonsense about Malfoy and me, but there is nothing going on. You can have your Drakey,” I mocked her, “because frankly, I wouldn’t want him anyways.”
“How dare you defile his name,” she screeched, and I snorted, I think she had done a good enough job defiling his name without my help. “Just because he’s sneaking around with you doesn’t make you any better. As a matter of fact, it makes you nothing but a low life slut. I know that you’ve been meeting up on seventh floor; I’ve followed him there enough times. I may not have been able to catch you in the act, but I was there, the night that all the rumors began about you. I watched as you ran down the hallway, your head ducked out of sight, and then moments later, Draco emerged. Since that night, he has hardly wanted to be with me, and it’s your entire fault. But you’ll see soon enough that Draco is just using you, and then you’ll be left behind once more.”
The carriage soon came to a stop after her outburst and I sat rooted to my spot as she and her friends stampeded onto the awaiting train. It seemed that the harder I tried to untangle myself from Draco Malfoy, the more knotted that everything became. And it would seem that it all came back to that one night, that one night that I hated more than any other night in this castle so far, the night that Gryffindor won their Quidditch match against Slytherin, the night that Ron began dating Lavender.
The Hogwarts Express popped out from its otherwise white backdrop in front of me, and it let out a shrill whistle to indicate that there would be ten minutes before it began its departure. Hogwarts students were busy enjoying the last few minutes in the cool outside air before they had to succumb to a day long journey. Laughter and cheers rang out around me, as snowballs were tossed and small forts were made. I couldn't help but smile at their behavior and wished that Harry and Ron had been here so we could join in on the fun. It wasn't very often that the three of us participated in frivolous things like snowball fights, but I could easily recall the few times that they had convinced me to take part in the activities. It was with great clarity that I could remember the cool wetness as a snowball connected with my shoulder and chunks lodged itself down my jacket. And then suddenly, it wasn't just a memory as I felt a snowball shatter against the back of my head and the pieces begun to melt on my neck and cool droplets started to soak my shirt. I looked around; trying to find out who had sent it in my direction, but everyone was still running around chasing after their friends. I decided to chalk it up to a rogue snowball and wiped away its residue as I stepped onto the train.
Most of the carriages were still open, and I quickly ducked into an empty compartment and sighed as I realized just how nice the warmth of the train felt against my rosy cheeks. I sat down in the seat nearest the window and watched as the wind lifted up small tufts of the fresh blanket of snow and swirled it around. The train let out another shrill whistle indicating that there was only five minutes left until the train would be leaving the station behind and soon, the hallways filled with loud chatter as many of the students began searching for a compartment to nestle up in. I stared as group after group, continued by without so much as a glance in my direction and I sighed and continued to look out the window, it was going to be a lonely trip.
The compartment door suddenly slid open and I perked up at the sound and looked over to the newest occupants hoping to find Harry and Ron. I slunk back in my seat a bit as I recognized the faces, and while they were welcome company, they were not the two boys I had been hoping to see.
"Alright there, Hermione," Neville asked as he flopped himself into the seat across from me.
"Yeah, I'm alright Neville. How are you?"
"My Gran and I are going to see my parents over Christmas," he said under his breath, not wanting to alert the other occupants of his plans, "but then she has agreed to take me to this greenery in Scotland that houses a few rare herbs. So it shouldn't be an overall horrible vacation."
"No Neville, that sounds like a wonderful vacation. My parents seem to be rather excited that I'll be coming home this Christmas but I imagine it's just going to be a normal gathering at my grandparents’ house on my mother's side. The most exciting thing that can happen is that my grandfather tends to indulge a little too much with his drinks and for the most part will be passed out just after lunch is over."
"How about you Luna," Neville said turning to the blonde next to him, "what are your plans for Christmas?"
"Oh, daddy and I are celebrating with his parents. We're having a medieval pensylvanian wizard Christmas. Hunting for Moon Frogs, eating Bilywig stew and roasting Chizpurfle toast over a fire. It was always Mum's favorite way to celebrate."
I just nodded my head at her excited chatter, to be honest, I understood almost none of what she said, although, that was to be expected when one considered that it was Luna Lovegood we were talking too. Ginny plopped herself down next to me and looked miserable. I had a small inkling that I knew exactly what was bothering her but decided to ask.
"What's wrong Ginny?"
"Oh, it's Dean again. He's just upset that I won’t go visit him over the holidays and that I don't want him to come to the burrow either," she bemoaned.
“Ginny, did you ever think that maybe you and Dean just weren’t meant to be? It seems like you two are fighting more than you are not lately, maybe the holiday break is just what you both need to figure out if this is really the best thing for you both,” I told her thinking about Harry and the feelings that he held for her.
“I know you’re right, you’re always right after all, but I do like Dean. I don’t know,” she sighed, “I just don’t want to hurt him.”
“Dean is a great guy,” I agreed, “but you need to make sure that you’re both on the same page in the relationship. Sometimes two really great people don’t make a great couple, no matter how hard they try, just something to think about.”
Ginny sighed and looked out the compartment door just in time to watch as Dean walked by with Seamus, both laughing about something. Dean looked over his shoulder and caught Ginny’s gaze. He shot her a small smile before continuing on his way, and Ginny sighed deeper before she turned her attention to the seat next to her and picked at the peeling fabric.
The train lurched and let out another piercing whistle as it began the journey to Kings Cross Station. Silence cloaked the compartment suffocating me, and I yearned for the usual vulgar nature that sitting with Harry and Ron could be. Across from me, I could hear Neville strike up a conversation with Luna about Moon Frogs and I tuned them out and my attention back out the window to the changing scenery. On the bright side, there was only six more hours to go before we would be at Kings Cross.
AN: Thank you so much for checking out my story, I really hope that you enjoyed it! I want to give a huge shout out to Dee for all the help that she has given me with this story and for being my awesome Beta! Let me know what you thought of this chapter. Also keep your eyes out for a new chapter seven and eight! As I'm adding a few new events that will take place between this one and the current chapter seven!
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by Ben Hallport