Chapter 17 : Coward
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I don’t know what made me say it. It was like my mouth was operating independently from my brain. My brain it seemed had completely shut down. The only thing I seemed able to focus on was the fluttering in my stomach that wouldn't go away. Was it excitement, fear or something else entirely? All I knew was that it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Kissing Victor had been… nice and with Ron it had just seemed completely surreal, a quick and blissful moment in the middle of a battle field. Yet this was unlike anything I had ever felt before. This was so much more. And he had only brushed my lips with his. He had barely touched me and I was gone; completely hypnotised by him. Sensible, over analysing every detail Hermione was gone, to be replaced by an impulsive person that I really didn't recognise.
And all too soon that feeling of bliss was replaced by an overwhelming sense of fear and regret and panic. I could almost feel my eyes widening with the realisation of what I had just done. I had just kissed Draco Malfoy!
Reluctantly I brought my eyes up to meet Draco's face, dreading but kind of already knowing what his reaction would be. His face was as still as stone, his features showing a look of complete and utter confusion. If it wasn't for the fact that his eyes were darting about, looking anywhere and everywhere except at me, then I would have said with certainty that he had been petrified- something that I has personal experience with. I wasn't quite sure whether or not to be insulted that my kiss seemed to create the same effect as a giant basilisk.
While I was pondering this dilemma, Draco was clearly pulling himself together as his darting eyes eventually settled onto mine, locking onto my eyes and keeping me in place. All I could do was to wait with baited breath for him to speak, although what I wanted him to say I had no idea. What could he possibly say to make this whole situation better?
‘Did you…’ he faltered, seeming unsure of what he was about to say. ‘Did you just say what I thought you said?’
Yep I was right, he couldn't make the situation any better. Although it seemed like Draco's words were the key to the spell that had me glued to my seat, for as soon as he spoke I abruptly stood up, ignoring the startled expression on his face that was becoming quite a common sight to me these days.
'Please,' I said reluctantly turning around to face him again so I could pick my bag up from its place on the floor, 'forget I said anything.' And slinging my bag over my shoulder, I made my escape avoiding looking at him as I all but ran from the room. All I wanted was to be as far away from him and that room as I possibly could. I bolted down the corridor, only faltering slightly when I thought for one brief moment when I thought I heard my name being called behind me. I gave a quick glance over my shoulder, relieved to see that the corridor behind me was empty, before picking up my pace and making my way through the castle, back to the Gryffindor Common room.
Eventually I reached the portrait of the fat lady and gave her the password, wishing she would hurry up and open the portrait so that I could climb through to safety. I climbed through and breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the portrait door close behind me.
Leaning against the cold stone wall, I let my bag drop to the floor, letting my heart rate go back to normal. As I stood there against the wall, I was hit with the overpowering realisation of what had just happened. I clasped my hand over my mouth in horror at what I had just done. I had just kissed Draco Malfoy and then I had told him that I had wanted it to happen. What the hell was I thinking! I had just told Draco Malfoy, Slytherin and not to mention one of the biggest purebloods around, who had also made it his personal mission to torment and tease me for the last seven years that I wanted to kiss him. I think it was safe to say that I had officially lost my mind. I had gone completely and utterly certifiably insane.
As I processed what had happened, running over the events in my mind, a slow grin spread across my face and before I knew it I was trying to stifle an overwhelming fit of giggles. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous. I composed myself as quickly as I could when a pair of first or second years wandered past giving me a look that clearly said that they thought I was deranged. Sadly I really couldn't agree with their assessment.
After pulling myself together and making sure that I didn't have scary wide eyes or a stupid grin, I made my way into the common room, walking straight into a rather tall person, whose hands shot out to steady me.
‘Where the hell have you been?,' Harry said, dropping only one of hands from my arms, keeping the other one on my shoulder. 'I was just about to come searching for you,’ he said exasperatedly, showing me the Mauraders Map in his hand. He ran his free hand through his hair, messing it up even more that it was already, looking at me as he sighed deeply. ‘You seem happier anyway. What’s with the grin?’ he asked finally dropping his hand.
Hmm, I guess I hadn't manage to rearrange my features as well as I though.
'Oh, nothing. Just something stupid. You had to be there,’ I said, really not wanting to elaborate. I could just imagine Harry’s face if I told him what I was really laughing at. The mere thought nearly set me off again into hysterical laughter. Harry was looking at me like I had completely lost the plot. I did my best to try and straighten my face, although I could feel the sides of my mouth twitching.
‘Okay, so you want to tell me what happened?’ he said, guiding me over to the comfortable chairs in front of the fire. The common room was unusually quiet which meant that it was probably dinner time.
‘Nothing, I’m fine.’ I said trying to keep my voice as neutral as possible.
‘So you left class before it had ended, in tears no less and skipped classes all day for absolutely no reason at all?’ Harry asked with one eyebrow raised.
I simply shrugged at him in reply.
‘And the fact that Ron’s face has been completely tripping him all day, snapping at anything that so much as breathes in his vicinity has absolutely nothing to do with you either I suppose?’
I shifted my eyes to the side to see him looking at me expectantly.
‘I don’t suppose you would believe me if I said no,’ I asked hopefully, trying again for an innocent expression.
‘No Hermione, I would not believe you,' he said, looking less than impressed.
‘Well what do you want me to say?’ I asked exasperatedly. He must know already what had happened between Ron and me. Why on earth did he need to hear me say it?
‘The truth would be nice,’ Harry snapped, making me whip my head around to glare at him. ‘Sorry, look I’m just concerned about you. You’re my friend and I just know that something’s going on. I just want you to be honest with me.’
Harry always seemed to have the knack of making me feel guilty and want to spill my guts to him. But however good Harry was, he wasn’t good enough for me to tell him that. What I had just done would be a secret that would go to the grave with me. Even the strongest veritaserum could not make me tell Harry Potter that I had just kissed Draco Malfoy. However Harry was like a dog with bone and at the moment he smelled blood. He knew something was up and he would not drop the subject until he had answers. And I was going to give him the answers. Just not all of them. It wasn't lying really, it was more selective truth. As uncomfortable as I was telling Harry about Ron’s confession it was undoubtedly the lesser of two very big evils.
‘Look before I tell you, please don’t tell Ron that I told you.’ I was pretty sure Ron would not be impressed if he found out that I had blabbed about his confession to his best friend. Ron's pride no doubt wouldn't be able to handle it. He wouldn't speak to us for at least a month if he found out.
Harry considered this for a moment. Harry didn't like keeping secrets, especially from his friends. Probably because he wasn't very good at it. ‘Right fine, I won’t tell Ron,’ he promised eventually.
‘Or Ginny,’ I quickly added. There was no way that she would be able to keep her mouth shut if she ever found out.
He rolled his eyes, but agreed none the less. Even Harry had curiosity. ‘Fine, or Ginny,’ he agreed.
‘Okay so this morning on the way to potions, Ron sort of told me something. He said that well...' Okay this wasn't as easy I thought it would be.
'What? What did he say Hermione?' Harry said, now perching on the edge of his seat in anticipation.
I took a deep breath and told myself just to say it. 'Ron told me that he loved me,' I blurted out as Harry's eyebrows disappeared above his overly long fringe. That boy really needed to get a haircut. 'But I don’t feel the same,’ I quickly added when his eyes lit up and he opened his mouth to speak.
‘You don’t love him?' Harry said, sounding almost disappointed. 'Well that would certainly explain his foul mood,’ Harry let out a deep sigh and after a few moments pause leaned forward in his chair and continued. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but why did you turn him down? I kind of got the impression that you liked him.’
‘And what makes you think that?’ I asked shocked. I had always thought that I had been fairly discreet about my feelings.
‘Hermione, come on. I’ve known you both for years and I lived with you both for nearly a year. I’m not stupid, nor am I blind.’
‘Was I that obvious?’ I said reluctantly admitting it. Like I said a dog with a bone, who could always smell blood.
‘Yes and so was Ron. I thought it was only a matter of time before you two got together.'
Pushing that statement to the back of my mind where I was sure I would obsess over it later I tried to deflect Harry from his train of thought.
‘Harry as much as I love you, this is not a conversation that I want to have with you. All you need to know is that I don’t like Ron in that way. I used to, but since the summer and the whole Lavender thing, well I don’t anymore.’
Harry gave me a searching look, clearly trying to decide whether or not to believe me. I just stared back at him impassively. ‘Okay,' he said eventually, 'I won’t pretend to understand, but okay. Hermione?’
‘There’s not someone else is there?’
‘What, no,' I just about managed to choke out, which was quite impressive considering the fact that my heart and stomach had both just leaped into my throat. 'Of course there isn’t,' I said, not even believing myself as a pair of startlingly grey eyes popped into my mind.
‘Okay, I just thought I’d ask. Anyway it’s time for dinner and I don’t know about you, but I am starving. You coming?’
‘No thanks. I’m not hungry. I’ll just stay here and catch up on what I’ve missed,' and get my heart rate back to normal I mentally added. 'You mind if I look through your notes?’
‘Sure go ahead. See you later.' Harry picked up his bag and headed toward the portrait hole before he hesitated and turned around. ‘You know, I know this a bit out of line, but I think he really does care about you Hermione. I know he’s been a bit of an idiot, but if he says that he loves you, then I’m sure he means it. Just think about it okay. He’s been miserable all day.’
I nodded in agreement and gave Harry a slight smile as he headed out through the portrait. Sure, just one of the many other things to think about. And so staring into the fire, I tried to process everything that had happened that day, tried to make sense of it, but even clever and logical Hermione Granger was having trouble with this one.
Running away and hiding were something that I wasn't overly good at. Usually I would face confrontation head on. I would stand up and speak my mind in any situation. When things were tough it would be hard and yes I would be scared and want to walk away but I never did. I was confident in my abilities and I was always sure in what I was doing. Which is why for the first time I was running away and I was hiding, because I didn't have the slightest clue what I was doing. I didn't know what had made me act the way I had, I didn't know what I feeling and I didn't know how to make the situation better. And not knowing things was not something that I had a huge amount of experience in.
And that was why I could be found in the middle of a school day, hiding under the bed covers like the brave little Gryffindor that I was. Ginny had of course tried to wake me up but like the coward that I was, I played the ill card. Either I was turning into a really great actress or I really did look awful. Given the fact that I had spent the entire night tossing and could clearly see that my hair was resembling something like a very large birds nest, I was guessing that it was unfortunately the latter.
I had spent the afternoon at least attempting to do school work so that I wouldn't be too far behind when I did eventually decide to grow a backbone and face the world again, but after writing an essay on the benefits and drawback of amortentia which, with no offense to Ron, was like something that he would have written in about twenty minutes flat, I had given up. It was clear that I was not going to get anything productive done today. However I was not one for sitting around doing nothing. I cleaned my quills, polished my wand, reorganised my trunk and was in the middle of organising my books into categories, first into muggle and wizard, school and personal and then in alphabetical order based on authors name, no one could say I wasn't thorough, when the door behind me opened. Fully expecting Ginny or one of the others, I didn't even bother to turn around to see who it was.
'Miss Granger,' said a voice from directly behind me. Instantly I froze and spun around to face the headmistress, knocking over my neatly organised piles of books as I did so. I stared at her looking at her with eyes as wide as a rabbit caught in the headlights, a mouth gaping like a goldfish and hair that was a birds nest. I must have been quite the sight as peering over the top of her glasses, her eyes raked over me, a look of complete disapproval on her features.
'Can you please explain to me why you have not only missed two days’ worth of classes, but you have also decided not to attend your detention this evening.'
'I, em...' Not that I would have actually gone to my detention had I remembered about it, but until that moment I really had totally forgotten about it.
'Both Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley have mentioned that you were unwell,' Professor McGonagall continued, her eyes never me. All I could do was stare back at her and trying not to focus on the fact that one of my bra's was hanging up on a hook just behind Professor McGonagall. And not just any of my bra's, the red lacy one. Perfect.
With my attention clearly distracted, wondering how I could discreetly hide my underwear from my headmistress, I clearly wasn't responding quickly for McGonagall, as she repeated the question with a 'well?'
'Yes, I'm not feeling well,' I finally managed to say, focusing again on the conversation.
'And have you visited the hospital wing?'
'Miss Granger, allow me to be frank. You are clearly not unwell,' she said waving her hand over me and the quite frankly enormous pile of books that were surrounding me, 'and yet you are choosing to miss your classes and not attend your detention. This is not like you. Is there anything that you would like to tell me? Anything that is troubling you?' she said giving me one of those concerned looks that made me feel like she already knew.
'Professor Haven mentioned an incident yesterday in potions.' Not a question. Clearly she already knew everything that happened.
'Has something happened between you and Mr. Malfoy?'
'What?' I said, hauling myself up from the floor so that I was standing. This was not a conversation for sitting on the floor.
'You and Mr. Malfoy?' she repeated, giving me that direct gaze that made me feel like there was no point in even trying to lie because she already knew the truth. My silence whilst contemplating this and how I could get out of it seemed to only confirm to her that something indeed had happened, as she sighed before continuing. 'I had hoped that pairing the two of you together would have helped to ease the tensions between the two of you, yet I appear to have been wrong.'
'No, he hasn't done anything wrong.' It was technically true. If anything I was the one who had something wrong. He was the one with the reason for avoiding me.
'Miss Granger...' McGonagall began, ready to contradict me before I cut her off again.
'No really he hasn't done anything. At all,' I said trying to sound as earnest as possible.
'Regardless, after yesterday’s incident I feel that continuing with the current system would be a mistake. I think that it's time to create some distance between the two of you. I shall speak to Professor Haven and speak to her about changing your potions seats and partners and for the time being at least, separate detentions too.'
'No Professor you don't need to do that,` I exclaimed almost desperately. As much as I knew that I was being a coward, I really didn`t need Malfoy to know that. He would think that I had gone to McGonagall in order to get away from him and that would just make things worse. `Things are fine, really,` I added, feebly, knowing full well that I was convincing no one with my continued denials.
`No I am decided. I think some time apart would do the both of you good. This is a very important year Miss Granger. You have the ability to become a very talented witch. Do not allow any distractions prevent you from reaching your potential. I expect you back in classes tomorrow as usual.'
With one last look she turned and walked out of the room, closing the door silently behind her, leaving me to sink slowly back to the floor, panicking even more than I had been before and dreading the day that was to follow.
A/N- Okay so I know I that this chapter has been an extremely long time coming but I I've explained in previous authors notes and review replies I have had a pretty tough year so far and writing has just not been possible. I also started this chapter earlier this year and when I did come back to it I really didn't like it anymore and so it's taken a while to get the chapter to a level I'm happy with. Also I know this chapter is pretty short but don't worry it's just an intro to the next chapter which is much longer and about 95% complete so I will update again in the next week.
If you're still with me then thank you so much for still reading and thanks to all the lovely and supportive reviews that people have given me. It's really given me the motivation to continue this story. So thank you and the next chapter (which I think is pretty good) will be with you really soon. x