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Chapter 15 : chapter fifteen
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“There he is!” I shouted, causing Ron to jump. He had fallen asleep after only ten minutes of searching.
“What?” he asked, and wiped away a spot of drool that had begun to make its way down his face.
“Malfoy,” I said, jumping up from my position on the floor, my body aching from the disuse. “I found him.”
“Where is he?” Ron asked, his words slurring together as he stifled a yawn.
“I’ve got to go,” I told him, ignoring his question and quickly shoving my way through the many people still milling around in the common room.
I still held the map as I rushed to Draco’s location, making sure to keep an eye on his dot, though it never moved. What was he doing? Was he looking for me? If tonight were a normal night, we would have been meeting up around this time to do homework together, to get ready for the end of the year tests. But tonight wasn’t a normal night. Tonight, Harry and Dumbledore were off looking for a Horcrux, and a horrible feeling had settled in my stomach ever since Harry admitted what was going on. And I couldn’t help but think of Dumbledore’s behavior. He had been so worried earlier, the crinkles on his face standing out; he had appeared every bit of his age.
The halls were eerily empty this evening. Everyone who had been wandering about had already retired to their common rooms, leaving the castle with an abandoned feeling that could rival that of a haunted house. My shoes clicked off the stone floors, and the sound echoed down the hall, making the eerie feeling sink deep into the pit of my stomach. No other sounds could be heard this far into the castle, the whistling winds left behind in the common room. I almost wished that I could be back in the common room with the chatter of other students surrounding me.
I neared the library, and there he was, standing right by the doorway. He was looking down at his hands, which he was currently fiddling with. This told me that he was nervous about something- my heart told me I wasn’t going to like whatever it was that he was nervous about. I took a moment to take in his appearance. He was still pale, maybe a shade or two lighter than what he normally was. His shoulders were hunched over slightly, giving me the impression that he was tired, even though he had spent the whole day resting in the Infirmary. But even though he looked to be tired and worn, my heart still pounded in my chest.
“Draco!” I shouted out as I neared him.
He looked up at me. Now that I could see him head on, I could tell that he was stressed about something; maybe he felt the impending darkness that was swooping in on the castle. His blonde hair wasn’t as neat as it usually was, though I wasn’t sure if that was due to stress or the fact that he had just ran his hand through it.
“I was looking for you,” he admitted as he closed the last of the space between us.
“You were?” I asked, my face flushed at that.
“Yes, I uh— I wanted to thank you for coming to visit me in the hospital. You were the only one that came.”
“Oh, well uh... It was nothing,” I whispered.
“It was.” He grabbed ahold of my hand, and I felt my flush deepen.
“Listen, Draco, I came to ask you something. Please don’t interrupt because I don’t think I will be able to get this out if you do… Harry, he thinks he heard you in the Room of Requirement earlier today. He said that you were excited about something.” I paused, trying to swallow the lump that was pressing on my throat. “He thinks that you’re up to something. Please tell me he’s wrong.” When he said nothing, I prodded once more. “Draco?”
“I can’t promise you that, Hermione. You don’t understand, my family is on the line here. My father may come off as a harsh, overbearing man with no redeeming qualities, but he loves us, my mother and me. And my mother, she would kill for me, Hermione. I would be letting her down if I didn’t do this.”
“You’ll be letting me down if you do,” I said, my heart pounding at my admission.
“I’m sorry, Hermione, I really am, but there is no other way.”
I felt tears begin to prickle my eyes at the realization that we really were on opposite sides of the impending war. Somehow I had let our friendship blur the lines; I had let him make me believe that there was some good in him. That maybe I meant something to him. But if I had, he would never be going through with any of this. He would have accepted my help. How could I have been so blind? He had never wanted my help – that should have been my first clue that he could never change. I had fallen for his trick, simple as that.
His hand landed softly on my shoulder in a calming gesture, but it did nothing to steady my nerves tonight. After all these years, Harry really had him right. Harry had known that Draco had been behind both the poisoned mead and the necklace, that he had been excited about something tonight. But yet I had denied him. I had denied one of my best friends in favor of Draco Malfoy, the boy who had teased and taunted me for the better part of six years. I had been a failure as a friend to Harry, but I wouldn’t be any more.
A tear streaked down my face, others soon following after it, and I turned my face away from Draco, refusing to let him see how much he had gotten to me. He still kept his hand on my shoulder, the heat of it sinking through my shirt to my skin, causing slight goose bumps to rise. My chest began to hurt and breathing soon became labored. I couldn’t take it anymore; I needed to get away from Draco, away from the crushing pain that he was causing me.
I turned, causing his hand to drop from its resting place, and began a wobbly run down the hall. I ran away from him, away from the man who had pieced my heart back together after Ron had so carelessly broken it. And now he was the one who shredded it beyond recognition.
From behind me, I could hear Draco shouting out after me, though no footsteps followed mine. Soon I was far enough away where silence once more filled the castle. It was then that I dropped to the ground, not able to take another step. All I could decipher was the hurt. I hurt everywhere, but most of all, my heart hurt. It hurt for a man that I thought was a friend, a man that I had trusted even though I hadn’t been given any reasons to. And now I realized, as I leaned my head back against the rough stone wall, that maybe, maybe my heart had even felt something more for the blonde-haired man. I let out a gut-wrenching sob at that thought because I realized it was true. It was true that I felt something so much more than friendship for Draco Malfoy. Somehow at that round table in the library, among the silence and flashes of smiles, among the headaches and talks, I had fallen in love with him.
The tears ran anew. How could I have let this happen? With Ron, everything just felt right; it was expected for the two of us to be together. But with Draco, it seemed like things just kept happening. Was it fate that had brought us both to the same room all those months ago when my heart had been broken by Ron? Or was it just a coincidence that brought us together? Are things every really meant to be, or do we have to make them happen?
I knew that curfew was approaching, and I knew that Harry needed me. It was that fact that finally drew me up off the ground and helped me make my way back to Gryffindor Tower. I couldn’t let the hurt and anger that I felt about Draco stop me from doing what I had promised to do. The coin I had used to alert everyone of meetings for Dumbledore’s Army was still tucked upstairs in my trunk, probably fallen deep into one of the corners among the year’s debris of quills and ink bottles.
Ron and Ginny were both still sitting on the couch where I had left them. They both looked up when I walked in, exchanging worried glances, and I quickly wiped away a stray tear that had fallen. I ignored them and made my way up to my bedroom. My trunk’s contents were neatly arranged, but in my haste to get to the coin, I threw my clothes across the floor, thankful that the other occupants were still mingling down in the common room. Before clasping my hand around the small object, I had managed to pinch my finger on the small fragments of quill lingering at the bottom. I stared at the golden coin in my hand, worried that no one would respond to it. It had been over a year since the last meeting of Dumbledore’s Army. Would anyone still have their coin on them? What were we to do if we couldn’t get ahold of the members this way? It would be impossible to track down each member of Dumbledore’s Army, and how were we supposed to get to the Order? I wasn’t sure if Harry realized how hard of a task he left behind for us. And what were we supposed to say when we finally did get ahold of someone? That Harry had a bad feeling?
I grunted in frustration and quickly keyed in the day’s date and time into the coin I held. That way anybody who was still holding their coin would know that we needed them right away. Doubt clouded my thoughts. I wasn’t sure if it was all to do with this impossible task or if feelings from my talk with Draco were also at play, but I knew that whatever it was, I needed to get over it. Harry set out a task for us to do, and it wouldn’t help anyone if I was a blubbering mess. When I got back down to the common room, it was a sight to behold. I had stopped on the steps out of pure shock. All of the old Gryffindor DA members stood around Ginny and Ron, talking excitedly, arms waving wildly.
I walked over, curiosity taking over me. “What’s going on?” I asked, shouting out above the noise.
“What’s going on,” Neville responded as he held up the burning coin, “is that our coins all just went off. We were hoping you could answer that for us.”
I blinked and looked at the handful of burning coins being held out for me to see. They had all kept them. And even more importantly, they had all kept the coins on them. Had they been waiting all year for such an occurrence to happen? I had to believe in my heart that they had been. And when I looked up and saw all their expectant faces looking back at me, patiently waiting for me to tell them what was going on, I knew that they had been hoping all year to have their coins go off. They had been hoping for another meeting of Dumbledore’s Army.
“Here’s what’s going on,” I began, and a hushed silence fell over our group, though the common room still held plenty of other chatter, assuring no one else would overhear. “Harry and Dumbledore are off on a mission. It’s our job to keep an eye on Snape and Dra— Malfoy. We need to know where they are and what they are doing. Last we knew, Snape was pacing in his office all night and Malfoy was in his common room. Then we need to contact the Order and get them here. Harry thinks that something is going to happen tonight, something big, and we need to make sure that we’re prepared. If you don’t think you’re ready to fight, then stay behind in the common room and make sure that nobody gets out... or in, for that matter, unless they are a Gryffindor.”
Nobody really seemed interested in staying behind and possibly missing some action, but finally after a few minutes, Colin Creevey spoke up. “My brother and I will stay behind. He’s only a third year, after all. And making sure no one else gets into the common room is a big job. But I think that we’ll be able to handle it.” He puffed his chest out as if to say that they were macho, and I flashed him an appreciative smile.
“Thank you, Colin and Dennis,” I said, though Dennis didn’t look too happy that his older brother had spoken for him. “For now, I need the rest of you to monitor the halls, make sure that there aren’t any random students wandering about. And most important, if you come across either Malfoy or Snape, let us know by using the coin. As for Ron, Ginny, and I, we’re going to head to Dumbledore’s office and use his fireplace to floo the members of the Order. Do you all understand what you’re to do?”
From the back of the crowd, someone began to speak up. “What do we do if we run into teachers on patrol, or Filch?”
“Tell them what’s going on,” I responded.
“Which is what, exactly? All you’ve told us is that Harry thinks something is going to happen tonight. What is it that Harry thinks is going to happen?”
I sighed; I had hoped I was going to be able to ignore that question. “We don’t really know. All that Harry really told us was to gather the Order and watch Snape and Malfoy. He said that Malfoy is excited about something, and whatever it is, it is not going to be good for us.”
There were a few murmurs at that, but everybody was still on board with the plan. We took turns slipping out of the common room so as to not alert the rest of the people still milling about. When it was my turn, I tossed a quick smile at the Creevey brothers, silently thanking them for staying behind. I honestly wasn’t sure that if those two were running about the castle I could properly concentrate on the task at hand and not worry about them. It was bad enough that my emotions were still going haywire from my run-in with Draco earlier that evening.
I slowly crept towards the door, lightly nudged it open, and when I thought no one was looking, I slipped through to the hallway. But what was waiting for me on the other side was another huge surprise.
AN: Thanks again to A_Wiz for being my awesome beta! So what did you guys think? Excited to finally have Hermione admit that she has feelings for Draco? How about that ending, what do you think is waiting for Hermione on the otherside of the portrait? Let me know what you think in a review! Thanks for reading!
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by Ben Hallport