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Chapter 4 : A Moment of Weakness
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When she had come across him, she had just left Dumbledore’s final remembrance ceremony. She had felt all of the emotions of the past few weeks closing in on her, and she hadn’t been able to cope. She had felt herself losing control over everything, and she refused to make a scene. She refused to let anyone see. She had distantly heard Harry and Ron’s startled words as she abruptly rose and hurried towards the exit in the middle of the ceremony. She had rushed through the endless hallways of Hogwarts, her emotions ready to burst, as she pondered everything that had happened- and the sacrifices that she was even now preparing to make.
She hadn’t told anyone, even Harry or Ron, about what she intended to do to her parents. Ron wouldn’t, couldn’t, have understood. She knew that he was desperately worried about his own family, but they were wizards. They knew the threat they faced, and they would be able to protect themselves. Ron wouldn’t understand how Hermione lay awake at night, terrified of what might happen. Too afraid to go to sleep, where tormented dreams waited for her. Her parents, though some of the most intelligent people she knew, were completely ignorant of what was going on. She had kept them in the dark, knowing that they would only worry about her. Knowing about the threats she constantly faced would do them no good. She couldn’t prepare them for what might happen; against a wizard, they were utterly helpless. They would be dead in an instant, possibly before they even knew what was going on. No, Ron, with his family already making plans to go into hiding and their connections with the Order, would not have understood her pain.
Harry might have, if she had told him. Harry understood the Muggle world in a way that Ron didn’t, but moreover he understood Hermione. It was for Ron that Hermione felt her heart quicken, but it was Harry who had been like a brother to her all these years. Hermione had always longed for siblings, and in Harry she had found someone to fill that void. Harry was deeper, more reflective than Ron, and he had known more than his share of pain. It was this more than anything else that made Hermione certain that Harry would have empathized and comprehended her agony, but this was also why she was certain she couldn’t tell him. Harry was already suffering from far too much. The weight of his burdens bent his shoulders forward and wrapped him in a shroud of despair, cutting him off from the rest of the world. He was the Chosen One. Hermione believed that, had always believed that, and she knew that it meant that her worries paled in comparison to his own. Harry had enough to concern himself with. Not for the world would Hermione lighten her own worries if it only meant adding to his own.
But she needed to talk to someone. She was bursting with a desperate need to admit her feelings to someone, anyone. Life had never seemed so awful, nor so lonesome. Even her first year at Hogwarts, when she had had no friends, had not been like this. Because at that time she had never known the feeling of true friendship or the freedom of telling secrets, and so she had not felt the deep void within her that she now felt. She longed to confess her fears and be comforted, even if only by a hug or a whispered empathy. But that was impossible from anyone she might have once been brave enough to confide in.
And so, in a moment of emotional anguish, distraught by the way her world was rapidly spinning out of control, she had blurted out her hidden feelings to none other than the very person who had tortured her for six years, the one who had helped give rise to this horrible scenario… she had revealed her heart to Draco Malfoy.
She had been secretly thrilled to come across Malfoy as her thoughts swirled endlessly through her head, screaming for a way to get out. Here was someone that she could rail and rage against. She would be able to let out, if not all that she had been feeling, at least some steam. Then maybe she’d be able to bottle up everything else and go on pretending that she was still calm and collected, instead of desperately afraid. Except that, in the end, she couldn’t. He himself had looked so distraught, as though his life was everything she was going through and then some, that she couldn’t add to his troubles… curse her soft heart! If only she had kept her resolve, she could have screamed at him for a few minutes, and then she would have been on her way to the common room, and he none the wiser. Instead she had let everything pour out, had even tried to comfort him, and now he knew things that not even her best friends knew.
She was horrified, now, at what might happen. There would be consequences, a cost for her moment of weakness. Malfoy would mock her for her worries. She was a stupid, stupid girl to let him see that side of her- to let anyone see it, but him especially. However desperate she had felt, and however kind-hearted she had meant it when she comforted him, her impulsiveness had led to a slip that could backfire on her severely.
And yet… the sorrow in his voice. The raw pain. Had she really been so mistaken when she believed, just for a moment, that it was real regret she saw in his eyes? Was it all that ridiculous to think that perhaps he had really meant every word that he had said?
Hermione felt herself slowing down as her anger dissolved into confusion. It was true that perhaps Hermione had been very, very foolish to reveal such a tender and vulnerable part of herself to Draco Malfoy. Was it any more foolish to believe that he had, just for a moment, shown such a piece of himself to her? Was it ridiculous to believe such a part of him even existed? For the past six years, Hermione would have answered yes. Now… she wasn’t so sure.
Draco Malfoy had always been many things to Hermione Granger. Cruel, arrogant, ignorant. Mocking, sarcastic, a thorn in her side. The boy who had called her Mudblood and nearly got Buckbeak executed. The one who mocked Harry for his fear of dementors and Ron for his nervousness in Quidditch.
Draco Malfoy had always seemed to be many things, but vulnerable had never been one of them. Until then.
Hermione shook her head and tried to put Malfoy out of her mind. She wouldn’t torture herself. And if she had wanted to think dark thoughts, she already had plenty available. She would not concern herself any more with Malfoy’s affairs.
Draco Malfoy had always struck her, even from the first day of school, as a dangerous sort of boy. But a vulnerable, pitiable Draco could be the most dangerous kind of all. Because, like the snake he was, he might find a way to wiggle his way into her thoughts and concerns.
When she reached the Gryffindor common room, she woodenly gave the Fat Lady the password and climbed into the room. She glanced around and realized, with a rush of relief that the others were still at the ceremony. She would have enough time to compose herself before they appeared.
Hurrying to the washroom, she quickly dried from her face the tears she hadn’t realized that she had shed, then, head high, went to the sixth-year girls’ room. Glancing quickly around the room, she whispered a good-bye, knowing that she would not be returning in the fall, if ever. Then, turning to her bed and the open trunk that lay on top of it, she began packing. She packed quickly and efficiently, a perfectly composed mask on her face. No one who had entered the room at that moment would have guessed the turmoil that she had pushed underneath the surface. When she finished, she carried her trunk down the stairs to the common room. A carefully blank expression still on her face, she curled up in a chair, looked out the window, and waited. Waiting for her housemates to return to the room, for the train that would take her away from here, and for the destiny and heartbreak that it would carry her towards.
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