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Chapter 20 : Chapter 20
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I've also now got a 'meet the author' page, you can get to it my clicking on my author name. Anyone on the HPFF forums can ask me questions :) anyways, I'll shut up now and let you read!
As always, exciting news spread through Hogwarts quicker than fiendfyre. By the following morning, according to the rumours, Harry and Ron had lost their jobs and been sent to Azkaban, Draco had sprouted extra limbs after being hit with a wrongly pronounced spell and Pansy had needed to be held down and given several calming potions by Madam Pomfrey.
Hermione was trying her hardest at breakfast the next day to ignore the conversations that were going on in the Great Hall. It was difficult to block them out when it seemed it was all anyone wanted to talk about. Every time she heard her own name it caused her to look up and every time she heard Draco's name it felt as though she was being hit with a stunning spell, fresh waves of pain and heartbreak with each time she heard it. Yesterday she had tried not to think about him and had barely succeeded, today it was impossible with everyone talking about him. To make matters worse, people knew she was at the centre of the drama so took to staring at her. The more brave students actually tried to get her side of the story, the first few she kindly asked them to leave her alone, her temper gradually increasing until she threw her cereal spoon at an unlucky fifth year. After that no-one approached her, but the muttering increased.
"Hey Hermione..." A voice from behind said.
"I swear, if you mention even one word about last night I will..." Hermione growled, her teeth clenched.
"Woah, Hermione, it's me." Ginny said, sitting down on the bench next to Hermione.
"Oh, I'm sorry Ginny. People have been pestering me all morning about Harry and Ron turning up last night. It's driving me crazy." Hermione put her head in her hands.
"Yeah, it's all anyone was talking about in the common room last night. I didn't get back from detention until late and most of the Gryffindors were still up, you should hear some of the theories!"
"Yeah, I've heard most of them this morning unfortunately. Draco's six legs, Harry, Ron and Draco fighting for my affections, Pansy's calming potion overdose..."
"Well, I know for sure that one isn't true," Ginny lowered her voice to a whisper, "she ran out of the hospital wing after they took Malfoy to St. Mungo's."
"St. Mungo's?" Hermione sat up. "Why's he in St. Mungo's? Surely he just needed some skelegrow for his broken nose? And how do you know anyway?"
"My detention. McGonagall had me helping Madam Pomfrey, I tell you, alphabetising medicinal potions is boring!"
"Ginny, not important. Draco?" Hermione prompted.
"Yeah, he went to the hospital wing but Madam Pomfrey said he wasn't concussed, there was something more serious wrong with him that only the healers could figure out. So she flooed him to St Mungo's and Pansy ran out crying."
Hermione whipped her head around to scan the Slytherin table. There was no sign of Draco or Pansy. Hermione assumed that he was still at the magical hospital and that Pansy was by his bedside, where he would want her, not Hermione, to be.
"Anyway," Ginny went on, "why do you care? He's a nasty little ferret who got what he deserved. At least you'll get some time to be away from him, might help you to get over him..."
"I suppose you're right. Come on, we had best head off to class, don't want you getting another detention, do we?" Hermione and Ginny left together and went their separate ways at the stairs; Ginny went down to Potions and Hermione went up to Transfiguration.
Professor Wilkins had the seventh years writing NEWT practice papers in preparation for their upcoming exams. Hermione was thankful for this, not only was it excellent preparation and an idea of what to expect in June, it also meant that the class had to be quiet, and being quiet meant no gossiping.
Hermione read the first question (What is the incantation for transfiguring an object into a hedgehog and can you describe the process, beginning with the wand movement and ending with the resulting product?) and began to write her answer. About halfway through the paper she came to a similar question, this time it was asking to describe the reversal spell for a human who had been transfigured into ferret form. Hermione had to read the question several times to convince herself that it was not her brain playing tricks. It was a coincidental but cruel reminder of Draco. Tears filled her eyes before she could stop them, she quickly excused herself and ran from the classroom to the nearest girls' bathroom. Locked in a cubicle, Hermione let the tears fall freely, her chest heaving with her silent sobs. She couldn't even get through one lesson without thinking about him. She hated that he made her feel so weak and needy, whilst he didn't give a damn about her.
She heard the door of the bathroom open and two girls continuing a conversation that had started before their entrance.
"...true then? She's gone?"
"Yep, left last night after Draco went to St. Mungo's."
"How d'you know?"
"She wrote to me, got it this morning. Said she 'couldn't deal with the guilt over what she had done and knew she would be in trouble when they found out.' She didn't say what she had done though, just that what happened to Draco was her fault."
"Poor thing. It was hardly her fault that Malfoy dumped the mudblood for her. Everyone knows him and Pansy were meant to be, Granger just got in the way."
"Yeah, stupid Gryfindor Golden Princess or whatever it is they call her. Anyway, we had better get back before Trelawny uses her inner eye to find us!"
The two girls left, giggling. Hermione emerged from the cubicle, more confused and angry than she had entered. So Pansy wasn't with Draco nor was she at school...but then where was she? What had she done to make her feel the need to run away?
Hermione was so lost in her own thoughts that she wasn't paying attention to where she was going, until she bumped into someone. It was Professor McGonagall.
"Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry Professor, I was just too busy thinking and not looking and..."
"Not to worry Miss Granger," McGonagall interrupted Hermione's stammering apology, "I have just come from Professor Wilkins' class, I was looking for you, actually. He told me you had excused yourself in a bit of a hurry. Is everything alright?"
"Oh, yes, Professor, I'm fine. Just had a little too much pumpkin juice at breakfast." Hermione quickly changed the subject before she was questioned further, "did you say you were looking for me?"
"Yes, I've just received an OWL from St. Mungo's, I need to talk to you about Draco Malfoy..." The mention of his name this time finally sent Hermione over the edge. She burst into tears in the middle of the fourth floor corridor.
"Goodness, Miss Granger! Whatever is the matter? Come on, dear, lets go to my office for a cup of tea."
Moments later, Hermione found herself in the Headmistresses office, facing a concerned looking Professor McGonagall with a cup of tea in her hands. She had managed to regain control of herself and stopped crying, though dry sobs still escaped her chest occasionally.
"Do you wish to talk about it?" McGonagall spoke for the first time since entering her office.
"Honestly, Professor, I'm fine. I think it was just the pressure of the NEWTs getting to me. You know, Professor Wilkins had us doing practice papers and it just got too much." Hermione said, desperately trying to sound casual.
"Hermione Granger, do you think I was born yesterday? I've worked at this school since 1956, I know when a student is lying to me. I also know that you are one of the most ambitious students I have seen in my time here, not to mention one of the brightest. You have been in my house for seven years so I know you well enough to know that something as little as a practice NEWT paper would not reduce you to tears. May I be so bold as to say I think this is about a boy? Draco Malfoy perhaps?"
Hermione gave a small nod.
"Then you will be pleased to hear, he has written to me. He wishes for you to go and visit him. I'm sure you will have heard by now that he is in St. Mungo's."
"No." Hermione said immediately, putting her teacup down on the desk harder than intended, tea spilling over the sides. She took out her wand to clean it up and continued, " I mean, yes I know he is there, but no, I don't want to see him. I can't, Professor. I won't."
She knew he would just want to hurt her more. He probably assumed that she had asked Harry and Ron to teach him a lesson. Well, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction, wouldn't subject herself to more pain.
McGonagall sighed, "Usually the complex teenage relationships that occur at Hogwarts are of little interest to the staff, however the one between yourself and Mr Malfoy has not gone unnoticed. As you know, I saw first hand the effect it had on you after whatever fall out the two of you had. I can see you do not wish to talk about it, however I will say this. That boy cares for you deeply, and your feelings for him are undeniable. Do not try to disregard your feelings Hermione, trust me, I know that no good will come from it. As they say, you never forget your first love."
"Thank you Professor, but I don't love him, and he doesn't love me, I know that for certain. Please tell Draco that I have declined his invitation. May I leave please?"
"If you wish." McGonagall gestured towards the door.
As Hermione stepped onto the stone steps, she heard the headmistress call her name.
"Miss Granger?" Hermione turned to face her. "You're wrong about Draco. He does love you." She said simply as Hermione disappeared down the moving spiral staircase.
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