Chapter 16 : Chapter Fifteen
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After the Prefect meeting ended, I went to the seventh year common room to talk to Harry and Ron. As I stepped through the portrait hole, the buzz of conversation struck my ears.
“Hey, ‘Mione!” Harry greeted me as I entered his field of vision.
“Hey Hermione!” Ron added cheerily.
“Hi guys!” I responded with enthusiasm, pulling them into a quick, tight hug. “I have something exciting to tell you about!”
“What is it?” questioned Ron.
I looked around, realizing that anyone not in the Advanced Transfiguration class that would get upset about it probably should not hear what I was telling Harry and Ron. “Not here, let’s go to my room instead,” I said as I glanced around the common room at its other inhabitants.
A few minutes later found the three of us sitting cross-legged on my four-poster bed with the door shut. My leg was bouncing up and down so badly the bed was shaking slightly.
“So, what is so important and exciting you have to tell us in secret?” Harry prodded my knee.
“Oh, right! Well in Transfiguration this morning, Professor Tawley has decided that because the ten of us in the advanced class are extremely proficient at everything we were previously taught, she’s teaching us how to become Animagi! And she got Professor McGonagall’s approval!” I announced, a huge smile across my face.
“Wow that’s amazing, ‘Mione!” Harry and Ron said in unison.
“What do you think you want to transform into?” asked Harry. “Probably an otter, like your patronus?”
I shook my head. “No. First of all, that’s not practical, and secondly, I don’t think that fully represents me as a person anymore. I’ll have to think about all the aspects of my personality before I can decide on a creature. It’s going to be a very difficult process, but as long as I have you two by my side I know I can do it!” I exclaimed, patting each of their knees and smiling at them.
Harry returned my smile instantly but a look of befuddlement passed across Ron’s face before he smiled back at me as well.
“So,” I angled my upper body towards Ron, “how have things been with you, Ron? I haven’t had a chance to talk to you lately, what with classes and Head duties keeping me so busy.”
Ron shifted on the bed and leaned back against the bedpost. “Things have been all right, I guess. Harry and I are getting ready for Quidditch tryouts in a couple of weeks, and Ginny’s turning into a right monster about all of it. I’m glad she’s taking it all out on you and not me, Harry. My sister can be a bloody demon when she wants to be,” he chuckled.
“Speaking of your sister, I’m supposed to meet her at Gryffindor tower in a few minutes to talk about some things, so I’ll see you both later. ‘Mione, you know if you need help or someone to punch Malfoy for you, you know where to find me,” Harry said out of the blue. “See you both later,” he slid off my bed and opened the door to leave.
“Bye, Harry!” I called out as he walked out of my bedroom and down to the portrait hole. I didn’t know what to say next so I fell silent. Crookshanks decided to join us on my bed then, hopping up and walking onto my lap and plopping down right there. I let out an “Oof,” as he put his full weight on me; I had forgotten how fat he’d gotten from all the mice he’d eaten over the summer.
Ron laughed and said, “That menace got fat over the summer, didn’t he? I bet he could still eat Pigwidgeon if he tried hard enough.”
“I’m sure he could,” I laughed, scratching Crookshanks behind his ears, his favorite place. Our laughter died down and an awkward silence arose between us.
“Listen, Hermione,” Ron interjected, “there’s something I need to tell you.” He shifted uncomfortably on the bed and began twisting his hands. Ron’s mouth opened and closed a few times as he attempted to develop what he wanted to say.
“Oh, just spit it out, will you?” I burst out, a worrying inkling of what he was going to say already in the forefront of my mind.
He chuckled once before clearing his throat. “Hermione, I know things weren’t really working out for us this summer, but I, uh, just wanted to tell you that I’m, uh, always here for you in case you ever need anything or someone to talk to or need a shoulder to cry on,” he said quietly.
I bit my lip because I knew that was exactly what he was going to say, but I still didn’t know what to say in response.
“I also wanted to tell you that I’m, um, also going to ask Mandy to the next Hogsmeade trip. Just so you aren’t worried about any, er, feelings you think I might have for you still,” Ron continued.
A weight lifted from my chest and my heart soared at this information. “That’s great, Ron!” I forced a smile and touched his knee, hiding my relief at his loss of romantic interest in me. “Come on, I’ll let you get back to Mandy now.”
I jumped off my bed and pulled Ron with me, amidst his statements that I didn’t need to make him go and that he didn’t mind talking to me a while longer, but I insisted on sending him back to the seventh years’ dormitory to talk to Mandy. In all honesty, my pushing him out of the door was mostly just so I could be alone to organize and compartmentalize my thoughts about Ron and all that our past entailed.
After the portrait closed behind him, I padded over to what I had claimed as my chair and tucked my feet under me, staring into the fire pensively. What I had suspected to be an admission of lingering romantic feelings for me instead turned into a release for both of us, and it made me somewhat uncomfortable. I couldn’t figure out why Ron had added in the bit about asking Mandy to Hogsmeade, unless it was simply to reassure me he was actually going through with his word and moving on from our poor attempt at being a couple. I pondered it for a moment longer before stowing it away and focusing on what his letting go meant for me. It was almost like he was giving me permission to move on as well and form relationships with whomever I so chose. Well, perhaps not just anyone; he’d most definitely be against Malfoy and any of the Slytherins, and probably even Dean, but none of them were even my type. Did I even have a type?
Before I could even come up with a semi-plausible answer to the question, the sound of the portrait opening and an angry voice snapping at Merlin caught my attention. Even though it had been well over a month since term started, I continually forgot I had to live with Malfoy. He stomped into the common area, his hair disheveled and his robes in disarray.
“Everything alright?” I queried, unsure of his mood.
“What the bloody hell do you think, Granger?” Malfoy retorted. “Half the bloody school thinks it was me that caused that staircase to collapse, even though I wasn’t at the bloody scene when it happened! I just got back from a meeting with McGonagall about it!”
“Well you don’t have to take it out on me!” I said, indignant.
“Maybe if you weren’t such an annoying and bossy person to live with, I wouldn’t have to!” he shouted, coming to a stop behind the couch.
I rose from my seat, not wanting his height to overpower me so much. “I’m the annoying one? Maybe if you stopped taking a piss at three in the morning every night I wouldn’t be so exhausted and snappy with you!” I seethed, anger coursing through my veins.
“Oh, I’m sorry I have to bloody piss at night, Granger! Not all of us have our day planned out to the last bloody minute like you do!” he clenched his fists at his sides.
I stepped around the couch so we were on opposing ends of it and glared at him. “I don’t give a damn what you think of me, Malfoy! All I want is you to stop treating me like I’m beneath you!”
“I’m sorry if I’m stressed out about all of this because coming back here was part of my bloody sentence, all right? I didn’t ask for this! I didn’t ask to become Head Boy! I didn’t ask for you not to remember what happened during the Battle of Hogwarts!” he took two steps forward, halving the distance between us.
“You keep bringing that up so I’ll help you, but where were you when I was being tortured on your drawing room floor by your aunt? Why didn’t you help me then, you coward?” I countered, moving my own feet forward so we were inches apart.
“I did what I had to survive! If I had intervened, I would have been killed on the spot and so would the rest of you! I saved your bloody life by not doing anything, and I saved it again by stepping in when it was safer to do so! You wouldn’t bloody be alive right now if I hadn’t done what I did!” Malfoy answered coarsely.
I couldn’t come up with a good answer to that, so I stood there fuming, fiercely glaring into his steel grey eyes, a burning passion in me I couldn’t comprehend. Both of us breathed heavily but didn’t break eye contact. His hands found my hair and ripped me to him, crushing my lips to his with unbridled anger.
Our searing kiss abruptly ended with a tear and none-too-gentle push from him as he stalked off to his room, slamming the door behind him. My fingers ghosted over my tender lips, noting the dotting of blood where his teeth had marked me, still not completely sure that had just happened even with the physical evidence he left behind.
A pounding headache and nauseous stomach greeted me the minute I sat up in my bed. Groaning, I laid back down and decided to wait the nausea out long enough to make it down to the Great Hall for breakfast. With nothing to do until I felt better, I did the only thing I could—I thought.
After Granger and I’s brash fight, communication was nonexistent, much like both of our presences in the same room alone for more than ten seconds. The unexpected kiss was still too fresh, too unbelievable to move past quite yet. War and Peace became almost unbearable for us and for our students when direct interaction was required. I didn’t even know what had possessed me to do it. Perhaps it was the lack of positive human contact over the last few months and I needed confirmation this was reality and not a dream; maybe it was validation for something my brain refused to let me see; perhaps it was nothing, just occurred out of passion and anger.
As long as that filthy Skeeter didn’t write another blasphemous article about us, everything would be fine. Conversations with peers remained purely educational or colloquial. Blaise noticed the tension between Granger and I and offered up his time if I so wished to discuss the situation, but I politely declined. Not to mention, we still had to finish planning the charity ball with the Prefects, and it was two months out. And to only add to the stress, everyone still blamed the collapsing staircase on me, even though it clearly wasn’t me considering I wasn’t even close to the area when it fell. Now that Professor Tawley wanted us to become Animagi that was another thing for me to worry about.
Bugger! I knew I’d forgotten something important when doing my classwork last night. Professor Tawley’s assignment to make a list of all of the qualities we possessed made my head throb more painfully and a wave of discomfort to hit my stomach. I didn’t want to think about my character in a regular setting, much less have to analyze it for an assignment. Rolling over, I pawed at the nightstand until my fingers grazed the smooth wood of my wand.
“Lumos,” I muttered, waving my wand at the lamp in the corner of my room. “Starry.” With a head splitting crack the small House elf appeared by my dresser.
She bowed low before speaking. “What does Mister Draco need of Starry, sir?”
“Could you get me something to make a headache and nausea go away, please?” she nodded and was about to snap her fingers when I added, “And check to see if Granger has left her room yet too.”
Starry nodded before disapparating and returning less than a minute later with a steaming cup of what looked to be an Invigorating Draught mixed with Pepperup Potion and something I couldn’t identify. I propped myself halfway up my pillows to drink it. After handing it to me, she snapped her fingers. Expecting her to disappear, I was instead surprised to watch the contents of the cup cool to a drinkable temperature.
“Starry saw that Miss Hermione had already gone down to breakfast. Would Mister Draco like Starry to bring him some toast with jam and eggs? It is no trouble to Starry,” the House elf assured me, a beaming smile on her face.
I downed the drink in one fell swoop, coughing roughly after it went down. The potion’s effects left me feeling much less sickly and much more chipper; a mood I was not accustomed to as of late, but it didn’t matter because my headache and nausea were gone. “That won’t be necessary, thank you. You may go,” I politely told Starry.
She bowed low once more before disapparating back to the kitchens. Now that I was feeling invigorated I figured I would go down to the Great Hall and snag an apple and some toast before retreating to the courtyard for the rest of the day to begin working on our assignment for Transfiguration, all while doing my best avoiding Granger.
Scanning the Great Hall as I entered, Granger was nowhere to be found, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I sat down at the end of the Slytherin table, grabbing a green apple and three slices of buttered toast. However, just because she wasn’t here didn’t mean dirty looks weren’t thrown my way by nearly every other student in the room. I hunched lower in my seat and finished my breakfast in a hurry, not wanting to wait for someone to start something they really would not want to finish.
I escaped to the hidden courtyard, making sure no one followed me on the way down. Twinkling lights floated around me the moment my foot touched the luminescent lichen, and my mood improved in an instant. Coming here allowed me to release all of my pent-up emotions unfit for public viewing. It was a trick my father taught me when I was very young: only show people the emotions they want to see, and feel everything else later. Show them what they want, and they would think nothing else of your reaction; compartmentalize, or die. But now that I was alone, I let my frustration and fear and confusion course through me. I punched the wall without noticing the magic graffiti that sprung from the point of contact. I transfigured one of the polished stone slabs into a pile of sand, which I kicked and magically flung across the room until sand particles covered nearly every surface.
My body came to a halt and my breath hitched in my throat. How could Professor Tawley assign me to decide what kind of animal I wanted to change into if I could barely control my emotions, let alone pick through my memories? Sitting heavily on a mossy knoll near the far wall, I quickly transfigured the sand back into the stone slab and concentrated on slowing my breathing. I summoned my schoolbag from the entrance and pulled some parchment, a quill, and an inkpot out.
Now came the hard part.
I leaned back and closed my eyes; my hand prepped to write of its own accord once my qualities began showing themselves in my memories. With my outer Occlumency walls still held firmly in place, I lowered the internal barriers I had placed around the particularly bad memories I had hoped never to revisit. I winced slightly as the constant pain and fear of the past eighteen months barraged me all at once with flashes of tortures I witnessed in the Manor interspersed with the hidden discussions with mother and the final battle.
As if the courtyard could sense my mental turmoil, the light dimmed and background noise quieted. Twinkling lights settled on different points of my body; I could only assume they had some sort of sentience and were trying to comfort me in the only way they knew how. Once the initial surge of memories began to trickle into a stream, my hand began writing. I didn’t allow myself to linger on the memories—I knew if I lingered on a few I wouldn’t be able to complete the process. After a while it almost felt cathartic to relive some of the events from my childhood and early years at Hogwarts.
I was just finishing replaying a memory of my father and I playing with a conjured baby dragon when the memory of Granger’s torture in the drawing room of the Manor slammed into the current memory my whole body jolted. In my mind I was frozen as I watched yet again how Bellatrix tore into her arm with that cruel blade of hers; watched as Hermione’s eyes flitted to me, begging me to help in any way possible; watched as I did nothing and kept a stoic face because I knew all would be lost if I allowed myself to help the girl in front of me. As her screams faded away with the remains of the memory, I opened my eyes to see what I had written.
The words were haphazard and scrawled at all sorts of angles on the parchment. “Failure” was repeated several times I noticed, my heart falling at how apparent my attempts to correct my mistakes didn’t work. The few redeeming qualities I seemed to think I possessed could never outweigh the bad ones. This realization led me to the conclusion that I needed to talk with someone outside my immediate sphere of influence to determine more abstract qualities without judging my past too harshly. Granger. She would know exactly what I was like.
I packed up my things and left the courtyard, determined to find the one person I could actually trust.
I slipped out of our dormitory as quietly as possible, afraid of waking my roommate and feeling my utter inability to read him. When I reached the Great Hall to find it empty, I checked my watch and saw it was just past seven thirty. Sighing, I debated the merits of going all the way to the kitchens for a meal or summoning Starry to bring breakfast while walking towards the Gryffindor table and taking my usual seat about halfway down and facing the far side of the Hall. Much to my surprise, a steaming plate filled with toast, pancakes, and scrambled eggs appeared, along with a goblet of orange juice.
A smile broke out across my lips; I couldn’t help but love the Hogwarts House elves even more than I already did. Even though breakfast didn’t officially begin until nine, they were still willing to make a dish for a single student to ensure they ate at least once that day. I wolfed down the pancakes and nearly burned my tongue in the process, but I didn’t care. Today was the day I had to do some serious soul searching, and I needed as much time as possible to do that. Moving onto the eggs and toast next, I punctuated bites of each with a sip of orange juice until the plate was scraped clean. Living on plants and poorly made soup for months makes a person appreciate the simpler things in life like a hot, fulfilling, and satisfying meal.
Finished eating, I rose and left the empty Great Hall, making my way towards the library. The quiet of the castle this early in the morning on the weekends was something I always enjoyed being awake for. No one was around to disturb the peace and tranquility of morning and I relished in being able to lose myself in my thoughts, muscle memory leading me to my hidden corner behind the muggle bookshelf in the library.
Without emerging from my thoughts, I set up basic wards around my area and pulled a piece of parchment and self-inking quill from my book bag and set them on the table in front of me. Before I delved into my memories, I thought of the qualities I already could pick out about myself and wrote them down on the left side of the page. With my quill poised on the right side, I succumbed to the memories beckoning my presence.
What felt like days but turned out to be just barely over two hours left me exhausted. Completing the sort of introspection Professor Tawley had instructed us to do was fatiguing work. I checked my list to see what I’d added while looking back at my memories. I frowned at several of them, upset that my mind had made me think such things of myself. Unable to bear it any longer, I folded the parchment up and shoved it into my bag, needing an outside opinion from someone I could trust not to sugar coat my qualities. I lowered my wards and set out to find Malfoy.
A/N: And that’s it for now, folks! Next chapter will have them in a Transfiguration lesson where I will reveal the Animagus forms they all choose. Also, our mysterious bad guy comes back with something surely to shake the already rocky partnership between Draco and Hermione. Next on my list are two requested stories so those should be out soon! As always, reviews are very much appreciated—let me know if there’s any holes in the plot or what you liked/didn’t like—it helps me carve the story out that much better!
P.S. I’m participating in JulNo with a Bellarke (The 100) fanfic so if I’m not around the forums a whole lot that month I apologize! But I should be back on track once it’s over and back to writing all things HPFF.
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