Chapter 3 : 3. * Confessions and Compromises *
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Harry asked when she opened her door.
“Yes.” she answered sharply. She shook her hair off her shoulders and after locking up,
He stalled their departure for a moment, “I’ve decided that today isn’t the day.”
“What!” she practically shrieked, “What! You can’t possibly expect me to go now!” she gave a little kick to the hedgehog boot scraper, which gave off a small squeal.
“I’ve a good mind to hex you for setting me up, Harry James Potter!”
“Calm down! I can’t when your news is more pressing, Hermione. Don’t you see?”
She deflated. “Why on Earth go for lunch then? I’m to sit and be pleasant, only to be most ungrateful and breakup with Ron?”
She waved her hands dramatically, “Thanks for feeding me, Molly, by the way, I’ll never be your daughter-in-law, let alone much else, but thanks for allowing me to be RUDE!”
She spun around and plopped on her backside.
“Not to mention just ruining your plans! Happy plans that I’ve no right to ruin!”
She covered her face and shook her head emphatically. “I just can’t!”
Harry pulled her to her feet, bracing her arms in his hands.
“I’ve got dinner out planned next weekend for my end. Molly doesn’t know you’re coming and I plan to send Ron out to speak with you face to face.”
“Great! If I dissappear after we speak, don’t look for me at home. I’ll be hiding in shame.” she tried to pull away but he gripped her arms tighter.
“I’m right here and I’m going to do as I promised.”
She huffed and swatted at her hair, “Let’s get this over with.”
Huddled tight, her arms around her knees, she sat motionless. Her eyes devoid of feeling as the warm water flowed over her back. She had done it. It was over and she couldn’t decide how it made her feel.
Reaching as deep as her guarded emotions would allow, she only retrieved a sudden, crashing loneliness. A spike of guilt, tipped with awkward relief.
Ron was silent… at first. Just when she was starting to wonder if he was absorbing anything she was saying he blurted,
“But this won’t last long? Right?”
It nearly broke her heart. She left Harry to pick up the pieces.
That Saturday afternoon was spent in dismal silence. Being alone felt right, but she disliked the emptiness that gnawed in the pit of her stomach. It just wasn’t in her nature to harm anyone.
She replayed her words and motions in her head until she felt dizzy. She saw herself, unabashed as she held back no punches. His denial to her words. Her unwavering position to end their relationship.
Hearing the insistent tapping at her bedroom window, she turned to see it was Ginny’s small barn owl.
Wincing through her apprehensions, she unfolded the note quickly.
’Looks like tea sooner than later. I’m not angry, Hermione, so banish the thought. If you need me, I’m an owl away- or in your case, raven =)’
She rummaged on her dresser for a treat and sent off Ginny’s owl with a miniscule sense of relief.
“Well, Crookshanks! It’s just us for the remainder of this miserable day.” she sighed. Crookshanks yawned and stretched from his position on her bed.
She sat on the sofa and read from her newly assigned work on how to fill a report out properly. There were about 17 different types of reports and she engulfed herself within the information.
Shortly before dinnertime she let out Crookshanks and Flotsam from the kitchen door. Having lost her appetite, she opted for the soothing quality of tea and sat at her table.
She read over The Prophet, feeling somewhat at peace. She started to allow herself what she deserved, which was to live her life as her own. The prospect of becoming a full-fledged Auror held her solid with a passion nothing else could give her.
Ron worked in the Department of Mysteries, she knew she’d see him in her line of work. She was confident they’d both get over this bump eventually and be able to move on in their careers, their lives. Maybe even be friends again.
On Flotsam’s return, she quickly wrote to Ginny and invited her over for a late tea/light snack and stood waiting impatiently at her kitchen window. After about five or six minutes, she went back to the sofa and resumed her reading.
It must have been close to 20 minutes when Flotsam swooped in through the fireplace and landed with a solid thump on the back of the sofa.
She reached back to stroke his breast and puckered her lips, making smacking sounds at him. He hopped next to her, shoving his beak under her elbow. When she finally looked away from her reading, she heard a timid knock at her kitchen door.
“She held out her arm and the great black bird stepped onto it, picking at her hair with one foot balanced on her shoulder.
She flung the door open, then quickly turned to set Flotsam on his perch.
“Oh, Ginny!” they rushed into each others arms and Hermione, croaked, “I’m so glad you came. I know you and Harry have such limited time together.”
“Actually, I just came along.” Harry stepped inside and threw his cape over a chair.
He closed the door after Crookshanks came bounding in with what looked like an old sock. He unceremoniously spit it out next to his water dish.
Hermione and Ginny set up tea and grabbed biscuits, grapes, cheese and slices of cold chicken breast.
An attractive platter and tea service later and the three sat at the table. Hermione sat across from the pair so that they could see her clearly.
Hermione was nervous to speak up first, so she held half a biscuit high over her shoulder. Flotsam landed on the back of Hermione’s chair and grabbed her gift greedily, taking it back to his perch.
“I love that bird.” she choked and swallowed threatening tears. “I don’t know what I’d do without him.” she sniffed sharply. “I don’t know where that came from, I’m sorry.”
Harry and Ginny had shared sympathetic glances then rushed to console her,
“It’s all right, Hermione.” Ginny soothed, “You took this easier than I expected. It’s nothing to be sorry for.”
Harry nodded in agreement.
Hermione sucked in air and calmed herself,
“You need to worry about you, not anything else, Hermione.” Harry spoke.
She quirked her eyebrow at him, “Harry--”
“He’s only a small mess. Despondent mostly.” Ginny cut in,
“A bit mopey but nothing pathetic. Mum says that Dad said, he expected it actually. What with the space … Then lack of contact. No one‘s upset with you.”
Hermione plunked her forehead on the table and crossed her arms over her head.
“He’ll be all right.” Harry added quickly.
She looked up at them finally.
“Do you suppose…” she stopped short, wondering if she should even ask, “You suppose we can ever be friends again? No, no it’s still too soon to tell. Naturally, I’ve no right to hypothesize and or over analyze anything yet.” she ranted. She shook her head and stood to look out the window over the sink, her back to them,
“It wasn’t fair, you know.”
She turned to face them again.
“It wasn’t fair to stay when I do love him dearly, I just don’t love him romantically.”
Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand and smiled weakly, “We support you.”
“We know you didn’t enter upon this decision lightly.” Ginny added then smirked, “Nothing with you is lightly.”
That awkward discussion out of the way, they fell into their old routine and simply enjoyed each others company again until it got late.
After they helped her clean up, she stood in her doorway waving goodnight. Feeling cleansed for the first time that day would help her sleep.
Her resolution had come, too quickly she mused but then again she had run the full gamut of emotions that she possibly could’ve that day. Her reclusiveness had been her savior and she was firm now that she had done it right.
She crawled into bed and sipped a partial dose of a sleeping draught. Just enough to help her along and rest well.
She was there again. The darkness surrounded her in thick waves of uneasiness.
The ominous structure loomed before her. Windows that stretched high and coated with a solid layer of neglect.
The whispers engulfed her and she shivered with head to toe goose bumps. They were in her ears, but thrashing her head from side to side wouldn’t reveal their source.
She only felt the urgency to find something. She could never recall what. An object? A person? She only knew that she needed to find it.
The door swung open easily at her touch. The parlor’s high ceiling and cobwebs gave the room the appearance of a dome. It made her feel like she was in the belly of a beast.
Tentatively moving to the stairs, located in the middle, she ascended; one heavy footstep at a time. They spanned out at the top to go left or right.
She needed to go left.
The long corridor stretched before her. Many doors on either side were shut fast. She began checking them with urgency. She sprinted back and forth across the hall, checking each door.
At the end of the hall she saw a large set of double doors that she swore wasn’t there before. They opened as she twisted the handles and pushed inward. A soft light flickered from a candle placed on a small table with elongated legs. It stood directly in the center of the room.
When she came close, she saw a delicate white tea cup with a crack that nearly split it in two. Dark drips had slid down into it from the rim and dried before they had settled on the bottom. She leaned over the cup and gasped.
It was blood.
The whispers launched an attack on her, swirling around her head and above her. No words were discernable yet she felt frightened by them, like ghosts racing past her only to taunt then fly away.
She had to save the cup! Grabbing it up and swatting at the air around her, she raced back town the hall. Before she could reach the stairs, her legs became heavy until her body seemed frozen; unable to move.
The sense of terror racked through her but she couldn’t move. She opened her mouth to scream but it barely made a whoosh of air escape her.
Her eyes flew open. Her breath ragged and her night clothes sticking to her with sweat. She was paralyzed with fear until her breath slowed and she realized she was home in her own bed.
Throwing the covers away she swiped at the sweat built on her neck with disgust. She then promptly ran to the bathroom in time to throw herself over the loo and empty what little her stomach held.
Laying on the floor, letting her face rest on the cool tile, her eyes rolled with another wave of nausea. Her ears buzzed and she flushed in a cold sweat. Grateful when the fit finally passed, she stumbled back to bed.
The grandfather clock in her landing showed 3:30.
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