‘Hermione!’ A voice in the distance cried out and registered slightly in my head, pulling me out of the depth of my many thoughts. I looked up and stopped dead in my tracks, suddenly realising that I was back in the Gryffindor common room. How the hell had I got here so quickly? I didn’t even remember going up the staircase to get here. Hell I didn’t even remember giving the fat lady the password or going through the portrait hole.
‘Hermione, are you ok?’ Harry asked, coming towards me, his eyes filled with concern.
‘Em… I… well, em…’ I stuttered, unable to form a coherent sentence. No I wasn’t fine. I was so confused and I was freaking out. Malfoy had nearly kissed me. Malfoy!
‘Hermione! Look at me,’ Harry demanded, pulling me out of my thoughts again and forcing me to look in his direction.
I lifted my head to look at him, my eyes not quite able to meet his and tried to give him a smile to show him that I was fine, but apparently I didn’t quite manage to pull it off as effectively as I would have liked, as Harry’s green eyes once again filled with concern, before he gently took my hand and led me over to the comfy seats in front of the fire, sitting me down and watching me carefully.
He continued to watch me for a minute or so, staying silent but the concern never leaving his face.
I stared in the fire to avoid looking at Harry’s worried face, completely aware that he was watching my every move. I tried to act naturally and like I was fine, but the longer he was silent the more my thoughts began to wander back to the library corridor. Malfoy looking deep into my eyes. Sitting unbelievably close to me. Moving his head closer to mine, our lips nearly touching. A small shiver shot through my body just remembering the closeness of his body to mine, causing me to take a small intake of breath.
Harry immediately moved closer to me and took my hand. ‘Hermione its ok, I’m right here.’
Guilt and fear flooded through me.
Guilt because here was Harry, my best friend, being so sweet and concerned about me because he thought I was reliving a horrible memory from Cormac’s attack and here I was actually thinking about nearly kissing a boy. Not to mention the fact that said boy is in fact my best friend’s enemy.
But the main emotion that coursed through my veins was fear. Fear because I knew that for the briefest moment, I had wanted Draco Malfoy to kiss me and for that brief moment, I wanted to kiss him back. The boy who had tortured me and teased me for half my life and made the last seven years of my life completely miserable and I had actually been going to kiss him. I must be going insane. I must literally be losing my mind. Logical and rational Hermione Granger was going mad. Perhaps it was post- traumatic stress. That would have been the only thing that would have explained my momentary lack of judgement. Yep that must be it. It was the only logical explanation.
‘Hermione,’ Harry said, once again pulling me out of my trance, ‘look do you want to go to the hospital wing or do you want to talk about it?’
‘No, look Harry I’m fine, honestly,’ I said wincing slightly at how high and squeaky my voice was. Why could I not just act normally? Why did I have to make it so completely obvious that I was having a complete mental breakdown? Harry just gave me another of his disbelieving looks.
‘Hermione, look I know how strong a person you are, but it’s ok not to be ok. What that bastard tried to do to you was totally unforgivable and I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I’m just so sorry that I didn’t get there sooner.’
I looked up at Harry and upon seeing the concern filling his eyes, images started to flash through my head, Cormac’s angry face; Cormac pushing me against the wall; trapping me against the wall. The fear I felt, the pain, feeling so trapped; feeling so scared and so utterly helpless all came rushing back into my mind, completely overwhelming me. To be honest, I had put it to the back of my mind, Malfoy being the sole occupant of my brain. I guess shock does weird things to people. But as the images and fear that I had felt rushed through my mind, tears started to fill my eyes. How could he do that to me? What would have happened if Malfoy hadn’t been there? I didn’t even want to think about it.
I tried desperately to blink back the tears that were threatening to spill out of my eyes. I looked up at the ceiling, trying to breathe deeply. I would not cry. I would not cry.
I lowered my eyes and found myself looking straight into the eyes that I had been trying to avoid and felt the control that I had been so desperately clinging to, slide away and before I knew it, my resolve vanished and I completely broke down in front of Harry, opening my heart to him and spilling all the emotions that I had been trying to keep hidden.
‘I guess I just felt so powerless. I couldn’t get to my wand and there was nothing I could do and I just feel so stupid and ashamed,’ I choked, as to my horror the tears began falling down my cheeks. I hated showing weakness and I tried desperately to hold back my tears, but the more I tried to hold the tears back, the more steadily they began to fall. I let my barriers down and I couldn’t find the will to put them back up.
‘Hermione, you are a brilliant witch and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. This was not your fault.’
I had been doing reasonably well at trying to hold back the tears, but at Harry’s words, I broke down completely my tears becoming full on choking sobs. Harry pulled me closer to him, pulling me into a hug and rocking me back and forth, holding me tightly, allowing me to cry my heart out on his shoulder until I eventually fell asleep in his arms.
It took all of four seconds after waking up the following morning before I remembered the events of the previous night. I was immediately dreading the day that was to come. Not only was I going to have to deal with Cormac, but I also had double potions with Malfoy and I was not sure that I was ready to face him just yet.
I lay in bed for a few minutes wondering if I could just stay there for the entire day. Harry had woken me up from the couch in the common room just before midnight and I had at stumbled my way up to my bed. I had been so exhausted that I had fallen asleep straight away; too tired to even change out of my clothes.
Right now I regretted that decision. The buttons on the front of my skirt were digging uncomfortably into my side, but I couldn’t find the will to actually want to move. My whole body was aching and I just felt so exhausted. My eyes felt dry and sore and my head was aching in the way it usually does after you’ve been crying. I didn’t even want to go near a mirror today. I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a very pretty picture. Another very good reason to just stay in my bed all day. If only that damned button could stop poking me.
I had pretty much convinced myself that I was going to stay in bed, despite my uncooperative skirt, when Ginny breezed into the room, fully dressed and looking fantastic as per usual. Why was I even friends with this girl? I swear my ego took a hit every time that she walked into the same room.
‘Morning, Hermione,’ Ginny said coming towards me, ‘Merlin you look awful,’ she said upon seeing my face. Wow, what a great way to start to the day. And here was me thinking that friends were supposed to be all supportive.
‘Thanks Ginny, just say what you think now, don’t even try to spare my feelings,’ I said sarcastically, giving her a pointed look.
‘Well you know me. No point in trying to hide the truth. So what’s up with you anyway?’ she asked plonking herself down on the edge of my bed, sitting on and crushing my feet.
I was about to tell her to move, when her words registered in my head. I looked at up at her. She didn’t know. I thought Harry would have told her. God, I did not deserve a friend like Harry. He really was so loyal and thoughtful. I was so glad he hadn’t told anyone. I really didn’t want anyone to know. I was already getting stared at and talked about in school; I really didn’t need to be everyone’s source of gossip again.
‘Just feeling a bit sick and I have a headache, you know. I think I might just stay in bed,’ I lied quickly, ‘I’m not really up for classes today,’
‘Is this about Cormac?’ Ginny asked looking at me.
‘What?’ I said in a panicked voice. ‘What do you mean?’ Ok so thanks Harry. I guess he had told her after all.
‘Look Hermione, you can’t keep avoiding him forever. If you don’t want to go out with him then just tell the poor guy, but to be quite frank I really don’t see what the problem is. He’s a nice enough guy.
Oops, sorry Harry and seriously Ginny, Cormac a nice guy, if only she knew I thought.
‘It’s nothing to do with Cormac,’ I lied again, ‘I just don’t feel very well,’ I said trying to look just a little bit pathetic to try and support my story.
‘Well tough you have to come to class today. We’re learning animal transfiguration today and you know you can’t miss that. I’ll meet you downstairs in ten minutes.’
I groaned loudly. I had forgotten about that and Ginny was right. There was no way that I could miss it. Animal transfiguration always came up in NEWT exams. Oh well I guess I would just have to grin and bear it.
I forced myself up and went to the bathroom, groaning as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Why did it have to be so big anyway? Yes I know I look bloody awful. I really don’t need to see every inch of just how bad.
My skin was a deathly grey and my eyes looked small, puffy and red. It was perfectly obvious that I had been crying. My hair was dull and tangled; a far cry from how it had looked in the last week. George’s potions were still working miracles in taming my frizzy hair and so I figured it could be time to try out a few of his other products. If I ever needed help in looking better, today was definitely that day. I pulled out all the little bottles and jars from my cupboard in the bathroom and a mere ten minutes later I emerged into the common room completely transformed and looking actually quite decent in comparison to the state I had been before. With one last look in the mirror, I figured that this was pretty much as good as I was going to get. With a deep sigh I turned to the bathroom door, deciding that I had better get this day over with.
When I emerged from the dorm room, I was relieved to see Harry was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, giving me a bright but still concerned smile as I walked up to meet him.
‘Hey, how are you this morning?’ he asked, looking deep into my eyes.
‘Oh you know, been better,’ I said shrugging my shoulders, not even to bothering to lie to him anymore. What was the point? The boy knew me too well.
‘Yeah I figured as much. Well I figured you could use some moral support for this morning.’
‘Thanks, I guess I’m going to need it,’ I said trying and failing to give him a small smile, ‘So where’s Ginny?’
‘She said she would meet us in the great hall, she had a book to get out of the library or something.’
‘Good because I kind of wanted to talk to you alone. Harry thank you for last night. You know how much it meant to me, but I really need you not to tell anyone about last night.’
‘What do you mean? Hermione, you have to tell someone about he did to you. You can’t let him get away with it,’ Harry said, his voicing rising with anger as he realised what I was saying.
I moved towards Harry, taking hold of his hand in a desperate attempt to try and calm him down. He was looking really angry and his loud voice was starting to attract more than a few unwelcome stares.
‘Look Harry this is my decision and I really don’t want everyone knowing. It’s bad enough being talked about as it is, I really don’t need their pity as well.’
‘But Hermione…’ Harry began, before I raised one hand and cut him off.
‘Please Harry,’ I said desperately, ‘this is hard enough as it is and besides he got what he deserved last night from Malfoy.’
At that Harry gave me a look that clearly said he disagreed with me.
‘And I really don’t need you to make this worse. I’m dealing with it.’
Harry gave a loud sigh and gritted his teeth as he answered, ‘Fine. But I’m not happy about it. I really think you should tell someone.’
‘I know, but I just need you to do it for me. Please, promise me,’ I said stopping him and forcing him to look me in the eye.’
‘I promise you Hermione, I will not tell anyone…’
‘Not even Ginny,’ I interrupted him.
‘I will not tell anyone, not even Ginny, but Hermione, you need to promise me that if he so much as looks at you in the wrong way then you will tell someone about what happened.’
‘I promise,’ I said, feeling relieved that no one else would have to know about this.
We walked down to the great hall together, Harry staying right by my side the whole way. It was really quite sweet how protective he was. He was the big brother that I never had. As we walked into the great hall, I could feel that familiar feeling of dread building up deep within my chest. I clocked Cormac straight away at the Gryffindor table. He wasn’t hard to miss. He was still covered in cuts and bruises from Malfoy’s punches. He looked bad. Good. He deserved it I couldn’t help but think bitterly. He clearly hadn’t been to the hospital wing; I guess not wanting to answer any awkward questions about how he had got them.
My whole body stiffened when I saw him and I felt the bile rising in my throat. Harry must have sensed the change in my demeanour as he took a step closer to me and put his hand protectively around my shoulder, steering me towards a seat as far away from Cormac as possible.
Harry sat beside me, his whole body tense. I watched as he kept on shooting murderous glances in Cormac’s direction. It was quite unnerving to see him so angry. Harry was usually very calm and composed and he was not one to get irrationally angry.
‘I should go over there and curse that guys bits off.’
‘Harry,’ I said in a warning voice, ‘you promised me, remember.’
He finally tore his gaze away from Cormac and looked at me, the anger in his eyes slowly ebbing away, until he gave a defeated look and let out a long sigh.
When Ginny finally joined us ten minutes later, the atmosphere was still tense. Harry was still shooting the occasional glance over at Cormac. I tried desperately to try and keep the conversation going and keep Ginny from noticing and eventually questioning Harry’s weird behaviour. I could see Ginny knitting her eyebrows together and shooting me questioning looks that I tried to ignore, finding the food on my plate completely fascinating as I pushed it around the plate.
When we finally stood up to go to class, Ginny finally asked the question that she had been so evidently desperate to ask for the last twenty minutes.
‘So do you want to tell me what’s going on?’ Ginny said giving a questioning look to both me and Harry.
I could feel my eyes widen slightly and my body tense. If Ginny knew something was wrong, there was no way she would let it go. I knew Ginny. She was like a dog with a bone. Once she got her teeth into something, she would not drop it until she had worked it out.
I shot Harry a nervous glance. Would he tell her?
‘Nothing’s the matter Ginny. Just a bit of a disagreement, that’s all,’ Harry said, lying smoothly.
‘About?’ Ginny asked questioningly, clearly not happy with that response.
‘Nothing important. Look we really need to go or we’ll be late.’
‘Right,’ Ginny said slowly, following Harry, her face full with questions and doubt.
I let out a relieved sigh and followed them. Harry had kept his promise. He had kept his promise for now. I could only hope that Ginny would forget about it the whole thing and not question me or Harry again. Harry may have promised me, but if Ginny was suspicious, then it was only a matter of time before she brought up the subject again and there was only so long that I could lie to her for.
The rest if the day passed pretty quickly, but of course potions class was at the end of the day, so I spent the rest of the day worrying about having to see Malfoy. I don’t know what I was nervous about. I mean of course he hadn’t wanted to kiss me and of course I didn’t want to kiss him. I mean we had both suffered head injuries. We were both concussed, it didn’t mean anything.
As much as I convinced myself that I was fine and that it didn’t mean anything, I was still nervous. Walking to potions class seemed like I was heading for my doom. My legs felt heavy and the butterflies in my stomach were making it incredibly hard for me to breathe. More than once I thought about going back to the common room, but then running away hadn’t exactly been working for me lately and besides I didn’t want him to think that I was avoiding him. Not that he would think that I was avoiding him. I mean I’m sure that I hadn’t entered his head once. I mean why would I? He hates me. Pure and simple. There is no way that he would have been worrying about seeing me.
But then what should I do when I saw him. Act like we usually did and ignore each other, or acknowledge the fact that he had saved me yesterday, but then that would mean acknowledging the fact that we had nearly kissed and I really didn’t want to bring it up. Right, if he spoke to me, then I would speak to him, but if he ignored me then we would just go back to how things normally were. Sorted.
With my new resolution in mind, I had been hoping that I would be in the class before him, so that it would be up to him if he said hello to me. But when I stepped through the door, I stopped dead, upon seeing a blonde head sitting at our table. Ok so now what did I do? Try and be calm I told myself. Just be calm and go and sit down. It was not a big deal.
I walked over to my seat, determined to try and act naturally, hoping to slip into my seat quietly without drawing too much attention to myself, but of course I seemed to be having the worst luck in the world and so since a quiet, cool, calm and collected entrance was what I was aiming for, it was of course the last thing that I was able to achieve.
I pulled my seat out, banging it against my leg as I did so, causing me to give a small squeak of pain. Of course that couldn’t just be all that I managed to do because then I then I proceeded to drop my bag on the floor and of course half of the contents just had to go and spill out onto the floor. Bloody brilliant. I gave a deep breath and closed my eyes momentarily, wondering why the hell today was the day when I had to be at my most clumsy.
I dropped to the floor, making sure my back was to Malfoy, trying to hide the fact that my face had turned a rather unattractive beetroot shade. When I had finally put everything back inside my bag, I slinked into my chair, glad that my moment of tortured embarrassment was finally over. I kept my eyes firmly to the front of the class, determined to look anywhere but to my right where the rather composed blonde wizard sat beside me. This was not going how I planned.
Feeling completely and utterly embarrassed, I now tried even harder to act naturally, like I hadn’t nearly kissed the boy sitting beside me and that I hadn’t just acted like a complete and utter fool. But the more naturally I tried to act, the more aware I became of every move that I was making. I put my hair behind my ear at least five times before realising that it showed off more of my face, so I quickly flicked it back round so that my face was hidden. I shifted between having my legs crossed and uncrossed, my hand on the table or on my lap, my hand up at my face or holding my quill. I had never felt so uncomfortable in all my life.
All the time however, I was desperately trying not to look at Malfoy, which was actually just about the only thing that I was actually managing to achieve so far. It had been working whilst we were listening to Professor Haven and I was able to focus my attention on her, but when she stopped talking and announced that we were now ready to start making our potions, I had nowhere else to hide. I would have to look and talk to him, sooner or later, but right now, I was opting for later. I only had the next hour to get through without speaking to him. It shouldn’t be too hard right.
I opted to go and get the potion ingredients, desperate to be away from the tension for a moment, when I met Harry inside the potions cupboard.
‘So what’s going on with Malfoy?’
‘What do you mean?’ I said a little too quickly, wincing as I noticed the panicked tone that had crept into my voice. Oh my god, Harry had noticed how awkward it was between us. Did he know something? Had he seen something? Oh my God I would actually die if Harry knew.
‘I mean after last night.’ Shit he did know. ‘I mean he stopped McLaggen.’ Ah thank god, he was talking about that. ‘I mean is he going to say anything to anyone. He hasn’t given you a hard time about it, has he?’
‘No he hasn’t said anything. I doubt he will anyway. Why would he?’
‘I guess not. He must have done a pretty big number on McLaggen, judging by the state of his hand.’
‘What do you mean? What’s up with his hand?’
‘Dunno, but it’s all bandaged up. He must have hit McLaggen pretty hard. Never thought I’d be jealous of Malfoy. Wish you’d let me do that. The guy deserves it.’
‘That may be,’ I said rolling my eyes, ‘but like you said, Malfoy did more than enough.’
When I got back to the table, I finally let myself look to my right and noticed that Malfoy’s right hand was like Harry said bandaged up. For a moment I was confused. How had he hurt his hand? I had healed all his wounds before I left. Then realisation hit me. After we had nearly…, well after what had happened, he had punched the wall. He must have hurt his hand pretty badly. I still didn’t understand why he had done that. I mean why would he be that angry? I could understand him being angry with me, seeing how he hates me. The only other logical explanation for his actions would be that he was angry with himself for the fact that he had almost kissed me. I’m just a filthy mudblood in his eyes. God he must have been so disgusted; to have actually been so repulsed that he had punched a wall.
I worked in silence, preparing all the ingredients, suddenly feeling hurt and upset about Malfoy’s reaction. Why I was feeling upset was totally beyond me. I hate him and everything that he stands for, so why on earth would I be upset that he doesn’t want to kiss me.
I worked quietly, lost in my thoughts until I heard a soft clatter beside me. I turned around just in time to see Malfoy dropping his knife. I saw the look of annoyance that flashed through his eyes, which turned quickly to anger when he saw that I had noticed. I looked down at what he was attempting to cut and saw that he was failing miserably, no doubt due to his hand.
Going against my better judgement, I moved beside him and picked up his knife from the floor.
‘Here let me do it,’ I said making a move to start cutting up his mandrake roots.
‘It’s fine, I can do it,’ he snapped, trying to grab the knife back with his bandaged hand.
Typical Malfoy pride. First rule of being a Malfoy, be an arrogant arse, second rule of being a Malfoy, don’t show weakness. At that moment he was succeeding brilliantly at both.
‘Evidently, you can’t. Look I’m just trying to help you. Stop being such a proud jerk,’ I hissed, turning around to face him. Big mistake. I had intended to show him how angry I was and how he wasn’t intimidating me.
Instead I turned around and looked up, suddenly realising how tall he was. Was he always that tall? My angry eyes instantly vanished the second that they met his magical grey ones. I found myself searching again for the shades of blue and green that I had seen the day before.
I realised quickly that I was staring and broke the eye contact, feeling the familiar flush creep its way onto my cheeks. I started to back away and once again walked straight into the stool behind me, hissing in pain as I hit my ankle off of the wooden bar at the bottom it. Great. That’ll be another bruise to add to the collection.
I looked up to find that Malfoy was once again watching me, clearly amused at my clumsiness. His expression was doing absolutely nothing to improve my mood.
‘What,’ I snapped, annoyed that nothing about this day was going right.
‘Nothing,’ he said simply, folding his arms and sitting down, a small smirk forming at the corner of his mouth. ‘Go ahead.’
‘What?’ I asked confused as to what on earth he was talking about.
‘The potion,’ he said slowly, pointing towards the knife in my hand.
Oops I had forgotten I was meant to be doing that. Once again I had proved what a complete an utter idiot I was. What was the current score, cool, calm and collected Hermione, zero, clumsy idiot four.
‘Oh, right, sure,’ I said turning my back on him and starting where he had left off. I could feel his eyes on me as I worked and once again, when I was trying to be as natural as possible, I felt I was being anything but.
I was completely over analysing every move that I was making. Every move was so deliberate and so controlled. I could feel his eyes on me and I was determined that I would do it perfectly. I was not going to slip up and allow him to criticise me. Every muscle in my body was so tense. I was gripping that knife as if my life was depending on it. I swear my knuckles were turning white with the pressure and my hand was beginning to shake I was so tense.
‘There, done,’ I said, silently breathing a sigh of relief when I was finally finished and was able to add the ingredients to the potion.
‘Thank you,’ came a voice from behind me.
I whirled around to the direction of the voice in shock. I must have imagined that. Malfoy could not just have said thank you. Malfoy never says thank you. Malfoy is never nice to anyone, least of all me. In the whole seven years that I had known him, I had never heard him utter those words.
‘What?’ I said in confusion. My brain refused to believe that he had just said those words. He was going to have to say them again if I was going to believe that he had just said that.
‘I said thank you, for you know, helping me out,’ Malfoy said, pointing to the knife and board that I had used for chopping and running his hand through his blonde hair. I would swear that he looked a little uncomfortable. I would bet that he could count on one hand the number of times that he had ever thanked someone.
‘Oh, well you’re welcome,’ I said smiling slightly back at him. It was kind of cute seeing him so out of his comfort zone. Wait no, scratch that, not cute. Definitely not cute. He was however definitely avoiding my eyes and I would swear that there was a slight pinkish tinge appearing on his cheeks. He made a move to continue with the rest of the potion and as I stood watching him, I couldn’t help the words that came tumbling out of my mouth.
‘By the way, thank you for, well, you know, last night. Thank you for helping me,’ I said watching Malfoy carefully, analysing his reaction. His whole body stiffened and he stopped mid movement where his hand was putting the next ingredient into the cauldron, but his eyes stayed firmly on the cauldron, never looking at me.
‘I’m so glad that you came, well I don’t mean that I’m glad that it was you that came, I’m just glad that somebody came and found me and it just happened to be you, but I’m still glad that you were there,’ I rambled pathetically. Why was I acting like an utter fool around him today? ‘I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t been there and I guess I just really wanted to say thank you. You didn’t have to help me and you did, even though you hate me so much, so I really mean it, thank you.’
I immediately cursed myself for opening my big mouth. I’m pretty sure a simple thank you would have been sufficient. Instead I once again acted like a complete idiot around Malfoy. He had stayed completely frozen throughout my little speech, only giving me one quick sideways glance. My face was flushing red again and just as I turned around getting ready to hide in the potions cupboard, a hand caught my wrist, pulling me abruptly back around.
I spun around in a gasp, finding that Malfoy was no longer staring at the cauldron, but had turned around to look straight at me, his deep grey eyes piercing directly into mine.
As our eyes locked, he immediately dropped my wrist and lowered his gaze, looking somewhat awkward. The first time I had seen him look even remotely uncomfortable. He slowly lifted his gaze back to mine and in a low steady voice, said ‘you’re welcome.’
In that moment, my heart momentarily stopped beating and as he abruptly walked away from me, leaving me feeling utterly confused. Why was Malfoy acting so strange and why was he suddenly being so nice? But what confused me the most and what I spent the rest of the day contemplating, was the way my heart had been beating so quickly when he had looked at me, the way my skin had tingled as it touched mine and the fact that I could not stop thinking about the grey eyes that had looked so deeply into my eyes, it felt as if he had seen into my soul.
A/N- I really need to aplogise for taking so longo with this chapter. Life has been pretty hectic this last month and I haven't had the time to make the chapter the way I wanted it. However things have calmed down now and I have the next 2 chapters ready so expect some more updates soon. As ever thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read and a big thanks to everyone reviewing. I seriously love you guys so much. Gives me a huge smile every time I get another review, so please can everyone leave just a little review to let me know if you are enjoying it. I really love knowing what you all think.