Chapter 24 : Chapter Twenty-Four: The Broken Heart
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Hermione was never happier to be returning to Hogwarts. The last day of holidays had passed quickly, and she had gone back to the Zabini’s to get her trunk, hoping she didn’t run into Blaise. Luckily, Rhea was there when she arrived, and Hermione felt guilty looking at the woman who reminded her so much of her mother. Rhea didn’t ask her what had happened between her and Blaise, and she wondered what he’d told her. She was quick to thank her for letting her stay, and Rhea even hugged her before she left, telling her that she was welcome any time.
That had been three days ago already. She was back at Hogwarts, and had comfortably returned to her normal routine of classes and homework. She’d been careful to leave the dorm before Draco woke up, and had even switched the Patrol routes so she never had to patrol with him. But it was still a painful reminder when she walked into the bathroom in the morning, and the scent of his cologne still lingered in the air. It was even worse waking up alone, with no sign that Draco had been there, as there had been for so many weeks now.
Losing Draco hurt more than losing Ron. She hadn’t felt this much pain when Ron left and betrayed her, and she had been in love with him for the last five years, and they’d been friends for the last seven. So, losing him should have hurt just as much, if not more, than it did to lose Draco. But it didn’t. Losing Draco felt like someone had ripped another part of her soul away. Losing Draco felt like a part of her had died. It was even worse when she saw him sitting at the Slytherin table, snogging Astoria, or watched them holding hands in between class. She’d never thought she’d experience anything more painful than watching the man she loved with someone else.
On the fourth day, she was sitting at the Gryffindor table with Ginny and Harry—Ginny didn’t understand why she was so upset lately, and she refused to tell her—, when a ministry owl landed in front of her, with The Daily Prophet tied on its leg.
‘I haven’t gotten the Prophet in months,’ Hermione said, confused. ‘I canceled my subscription because I was sick of reading gossip.’
‘It’s for me,’ Ginny said. ‘I usually just burn it, though.’ She untied it, and the Ministry owl flew away.
Hermione watched curiously as Ginny unrolled the newspaper, and her stomach dropped when she saw the front page.
Hermione Granger—moving on.
She felt sick. ‘Let me see that,’ she said. Wordlessly, Ginny handed it to her. Underneath the bold headline was an image of her and Blaise standing awfully close on Platform 9¾. In the moving picture, she was smiling up at him repeatedly. It had been taken before Rhea arrived.
‘I don’t know,’ Ginny said, biting her lip. ‘I didn’t think there were reporters at the platform when we left, but maybe I didn’t see it.’
Hermione flipped to the page where the story was written, and, after taking a deep breath, she began to read:
In mid-July, Hermione Granger, the Brains of the Golden Trio, received the devastating news that her boyfriend, Ronald Weasley, had cheated on her. Later, when she was seen at Draco Malfoy’s (the infamous Ex Death Eater) trial on the first of August, it appeared that Miss Granger was still the same, headstrong, brave girl we all know her to be. Of course, who knows how the poor girl was feeling on the inside. A month later, she returned to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, to finish her seventh year.
As most of you know, the Christmas holidays began two weeks ago for Hogwarts students, and Miss Granger was seen with Blaise Zabini, a Slytherin. She was also reported to be spending the holidays with him, which was later confirmed as she was spotted at the Zabini’s Christmas Eve Ball, where it was reported she danced with him for hours.
So, the real question is, can we assume that Miss Granger has moved on? I think—and hope—so.
Hermione felt as sickened as she had when she’d read the article about Ron all those months ago. Almost hopefully, she looked at the bottom of the page, but her hope was deflated when she saw that Rita Skeeter did not write the article.
‘Hermione?’ Harry’s voice said. ‘Are you OK?’
She looked up. ‘Yeah,’ she said, blinking her tears away. She couldn’t cry here, where everyone would see. The last thing she wanted was for people to see Hermione Granger lose it. ‘I’m fine. It’s just the usual gossip. I’m going to start heading to Defense.’ She stood up and swung her bag on her shoulder.
‘But class doesn’t start for another twenty minutes,’ Harry pointed out. ‘And you’ve hardly eaten anything.’
‘I’m not hungry,’ she said. ‘I’ll see you later.’
She turned, and fled the Great Hall before they could stop her. As soon as she was out, she started heading towards the Defense classroom. She was too early for class, but she needed a few minutes—or several minutes—to collect herself.
When she reached the Defense classroom, she slumped down next to the door, and put her head in her hands. There were a lot of students in Hogwarts who got the Prophet from home, and by lunch, they’d all think she was dating Blaise. Ginny and Harry would know in the next minute or two, and she knew Ginny would be asking her what happened between them during the break, and whether or not it was true. She could handle that, but she didn’t think she could handle all of Hogwarts talking about her—again.
She looked up at the sound of Professor Quincey’s voice, and found him standing above her. He looked baffled.
‘Good morning, Professor,’ she said, managing a small smile. She was glad her voice didn’t crack.
‘Good morning,’ he said. ‘You do know that class doesn’t start for another twenty minutes, don’t you?’
‘Yes. I thought I’d come early today,’ she said.
He nodded, frowning. ‘Well, why don’t you come inside?’ He suggested. ‘Sitting in a chair is a lot more comfortable than the floor.’
The smile came easier this time. She got to her feet,, and followed Professor Quincey inside.
‘Are we going to be doing anything complex in class today?’ She asked, sitting down at the desk across from his.
‘No. We’re having a pop-quiz on what we’ve learned so far,’ he said. ‘It should be fairly easy.’
‘Well, only if you were paying attention,’ she said.
Professor Quincey grinned at her, and then his expression turned serious. ‘I’ve been hoping to talk to you about something, actually,’ he said.
‘Oh?’ She said, raising her eyebrows. ‘Is something wrong?’
He shook his head. ‘No, no. I just wondered… it’s just, you seemed quite friendly with Mr Malfoy a few weeks ago,’ he said. ‘So I was just wondering if you could answer a question that’s been bothering me for quite a while now.’
She hoped desperately that her face hadn’t paled at the mention of Draco. ‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Answering questions is my specialty.’
He grinned again at that. ‘You see, I was simply curious. Do you know if Draco has any siblings?’ He asked.
‘No. He’s an only child,’ she said.
He frowned. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I hate to ask you this, but do you know if Narcissa ever had a miscarriage?’
‘I can find out for you,’ she said. ‘Although I can’t guarantee the answer will come soon. Draco and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms at the moment.’
‘I’m in no rush,’ he said. ‘Not that it’s my business, and I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what happened? It’s just that you seemed quite close before the Christmas holidays.’
‘No, I don’t mind you asking at all,’ she said. ‘And we were good friends. But I made a terrible mistake, and Draco got upset. I didn’t mean for it to happen, it just did. And I’m pretty sure he’s never going to speak to me again.’
She wasn’t sure why she said it at all, but she was glad she did. Professor Quincey looked at her, and his eyes seemed strangely familiar to her all of a sudden, although she didn’t know why.
‘He will,’ he said, and there was confidence in his voice. ‘I saw the way he looked at you. He’ll forgive you.’
‘You noticed?’ She asked, surprised. ‘If you saw… then… then someone else could see it too.’
‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘I only saw it because I was once in the same position. Your situation is probably different, of course.’
‘Not really. If you’re a Pureblood and you were in love with a muggle-born, I imagine that it’s entirely the same situation,’ she said.
‘Actually, it was the opposite,’ he said. ‘She’s the Pureblood, from a long line of purebloods who despise anything to do with muggles. And I’m a muggle-born, so of course our relationship was forbidden. We spent countless nights sneaking out in this castle to meet each other.’
She stared at him. Pureblood, from a long line of purebloods who despise anything to do with muggles. That sounded familiar. Too familiar. ‘I think I know who you’re talking about,’ she said. ‘The girl you loved… did she have a sister?’
‘Yes. In fact, her sister was one of the main reasons we couldn’t be together. She was always afraid that I would be hurt,’ Professor Quincey said.
Hermione’s breath caught. ‘Really? That was bell rang, and the classroom doors opened. She watched Draco as he walked to his desk, and her heart stopped. He’d kept his hair darker since the Christmas holidays, and now she could see the resemblance.
Oh Merlin, she thought. It was a miracle her eyes didn’t go wide.
When everyone was seated, Hermione turned to Professor Quincey, the wheels in her head spinning. She wouldn’t have thought it possible before, but now? Now she could see it. They had the same eyes… the same hair, the same jaw-line and even the shape of their bodies was identical. She’d never wondered before why Draco was always more muscular than Lucius… but now she knew.
As class began, she made a decision. She absolutely had to find out if it was true or not. If it was, then it would change everything.
Draco knew it wasn’t fair to use Astoria as a distraction, and he felt guilty every time he looked at her, but it was the only way he could think of to forget about the pain that Hermione had caused. And it was working.
At least, it was. Until Astoria decided to ask about her.
‘Are you and Hermione having a fight?’ She asked, during lunch.
He whipped his head around to look at her, so quickly that he almost gave himself whiplash. ‘No,’ he said, too quickly. ‘Why would you think that?’
‘Because you haven’t been sitting with her at all since the term began, and you were up until the holidays started. You haven’t talked to her or anything. I just thought you might be having a fight,’ she said.
‘We’re not,’ he said, fighting the urge to grit his teeth. ‘Is it a bad thing that I want to sit with my girlfriend? I know you don’t want to sit at the Gryffindor table.’
‘I don’t,’ she said. ‘And I’m glad you’re sitting with me, but I thought you liked sitting over there.’
Was it that obvious? He wondered. ‘I did,’ he admitted. ‘But I want to spend more time with you.’
‘Draco,’ she said quietly. ‘I’m not blind. I know Hermione’s important to you. I told you I would try to like her, for your sake. Being friends with Hermione is a good thing. Don’t throw it away.’
‘Why does it matter to you?’ He asked, more bitterly than he’d intended. ‘I thought you’d be happy that I’m paying more attention to you.’
She looked like he’d just hit her. ‘You think I’m that girl?’ She asked. ‘You think I’m that girl, the one who wants her boyfriend all to herself? If you think, for a second, that I’m anything like Pansy Parkinson, then you’re wrong, Draco. I want you to be happy, not miserable. Pansy kept you all to yourself, and you were miserable. I’m not going to do that. If you’re with me, its because you want to be.’
For a long minute, he just stared at her, unblinkingly. Then, he swallowed thickly, and took a deep breath ‘I don’t think you’re like that,’ he said. ‘I don’t think you’re shallow at all.’
‘Really? So you bought me diamond earrings for Christmas because you thought I’d like them? Not because you thought I would be happy if you gave me expensive gifts? I don’t want your money, Draco Malfoy,’ she said, her eyes narrowed. ‘And I certainly don’t want to be bought.’
‘That’s not what I thought,’ he said. ‘And I’m not trying to buy you.’
She crossed her arms. ‘I’m not an idiot, Draco,’ she said. ‘You think I haven’t noticed the way you look at her? Something happened on New Years Eve. I don’t appreciate being used as a distraction.’
His opened his mouth, and closed it again. He wasn’t sure what to say to that. Astoria was more observant than he’d given her credit for. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said at last, his stomach sinking horribly.
‘You better be,’ she said. ‘You better be very, very sorry. Because until you fix things with Hermione, you might as well consider yourself single.’
‘What?’ He asked incredulously. He certainly hadn’t expected that. ‘Y-you want to break up?’ A week ago, he might have considered that a blessing. Now, he wasn’t sure what to think of it.
‘For now,’ she said. ‘Just until you fix things with Hermione.’
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t even blink. He just sat there, looking at her, feeling as if he’d just been electrocuted. ‘Why is it so important that I fix things with her?’ He asked finally.
‘You might not have noticed, Draco, but I did,’ she said. ‘Everyone thought she’d be devastated when that Weasley cheated on her, but she wasn’t. I heard her crying in the girl’s bathroom yesterday. When I stayed with you the night we got back, I heard her crying then. Sounded like she was having a nightmare. She’s hurting, Draco.’
‘It wouldn’t be the first time she cried in her sleep,’ he said. ‘And she has no right to be miserable. I’m the one who should be miserable.’
‘She made a mistake,’ Astoria said. ‘Maybe if you let her explain, then you would understand.’
‘How come you’re such an expert on her now?’ He wanted to know.
She sighed. ‘Because, when I heard her crying in her sleep, she kept saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again. I head her say your name. And then she said ‘it was an accident’. I didn’t know what it meant, but whatever happened, it was a mistake,’ she said.
‘She snogged Blaise,’ he blurted out. ‘On New Years, I mean. I walked in the two of them snogging.’
‘You love her,’ Astoria said. ‘And seeing her snog someone else hurt you.’
He sighed. What was the point in denying it? ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you…’
‘I already knew,’ she said, cutting him off. ‘That you loved her, I mean.’
He stared at her. ‘H-how?’ He asked.
‘I heard you. You told me once,’ she said. ‘I pretended that I didn’t hear anything when I woke up, but I heard you. You told me she looked like an angel.’
‘When you were in the coma?’ He could hear the astonishment in his voice. ‘How much did you hear?’
‘All of it,’ she whispered. ‘I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know how. I’m not upset that you love her.’
‘I don’t deserve you,’ he said. ‘I really, really don’t.’
She smiled. ‘Of course you do,’ she said. ‘You deserve good things, Draco. I want you to be happy.’
‘I can’t believe you’re not mad at me,’ he said, half to himself, half to her. ‘Any other girl would be.’
‘Well,’ she said. ‘I like to think I’m not most girls.’
He barely managed not to smile. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said again. ‘You deserve so much better than me.’
‘No,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘You didn’t wrong me, Draco. I knew something was bound to happen between the two of you. I knew you were in love with her. I chose to let it happen.’
‘But… why? You could have told me that you’d heard what I told you. You could have forced me to stay away from her. But you didn’t. Why?’ He asked.
‘Because it was inevitable,’ she said. ‘Why stop what can’t be stopped? It would have happened. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened when it did, but it would have. You cant force magnets apart.’
He kissed her. ‘Believe me when I tell you the last thing I wanted was to hurt you,’ he whispered against her mouth.
‘I’ll be here, if you ever want to come back,’ she said.
He pulled away. Then, Astoria stood up, and left the Great Hall. He stared after her.
Go after her, a small voice whispered in the back of his mind. If you had any sense, you would.
But that mental-voice was Lucius’s, and he was done listening to him.
Instead, he looked across the room to the Gryffindor table, where Hermione was sitting, talking with Ginny.
Time to receive the second half of your Christmas present, Hermione, he thought, a plan already forming in his mind.
Harry had just walked out Transfiguration with Ginny, and he’d stopped to make his bag was closed tight when someone yanked on his arm. He turned, and saw Draco standing against the wall.
‘Malfoy,’ he said. ‘What do you want? Is Hermione alright?’
Draco nodded, and Harry saw a look of pain flash across his face, as if hearing her name hurt him. ‘She’s fine,’ he said. ‘I have to talk to you about something. It’s urgent. Meet me in the Dorm at lunch. Make sure no one sees. The password’s Parseltongue.’
Harry didn’t have time to ask him why, because he had ducked into the crowd of students heading to their next class. He stared after him for a moment, and then shook his head. He’d stopped trying to figure Draco Malfoy out a long time ago, but he was even more confusing than usual.
When he looked up, he realised that he’d lost track of Ginny. Cursing Merlin under his breath, he headed to his next class, trying not to wonder what could possibly be so urgent that Draco would need to speak to him immediately, especially if nothing was wrong with Hermione.
Lunch came quickly that morning, and Harry gave Ginny a lame excuse about going to finish his report for McGonagall. She kissed him on the cheek, and he started walking to the head’s dorm.
‘Hello, Professor Snape,’ he said cheerfully when he reached the portrait.
Snape sighed. ‘Hello, Potter,’ he said. He sounded annoyed. ‘I should’ve known you’d be here sooner or later. Come to comfort Miss Granger, have you?’
‘Comfort… Hermione?’ Harry was confused. ‘What would I need to comfort Hermione for?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. I was portrait traveling earlier—I get bored, you know—, and I ended up in a portrait in her bedroom. Not on purpose, obviously. I left almost immediately. I don’t know how long she’s been in there, but she looked rather distraught. Crying and all,’ Snape said.
‘I didn’t know Hermione was crying,’ he said. ‘She seemed fine last time I saw her. Has she been in there all morning?’
‘No,’ Snape sounded bored. ‘She left, and came back. I assume she had a free period, since she never misses classes, except when she was Petrified.’
‘She did have a free period,’ he said. ‘And she owled me to meet her for lunch. I didn’t think she needed comforting.’
‘Hmm,’ Snape said. ‘Password then, Potter, if you will.’
It took him a second to remember what Draco had told him. ‘Parseltongue,’ he said, and Snape rolled his eyes as the portrait swung open.
In the dorm, he found Draco sitting on the couch. His fists were curled on his knees, and he looked like he was being tortured. As soon as he entered, Harry could hear the sound of crying coming from the bedrooms.
‘What’s wrong with Hermione?’ He asked. ‘Snape just told me she’s been in there since her free period.’
‘My fault,’ Draco said through clenched teeth. ‘I can’t do anything about it. I can’t cast a silencing charm. I deserve this.’
‘What did you do, Malfoy?’ He sighed.
Draco flinched as Hermione’s cries filled the air. ‘Something stupid,’ he said. ‘Should’ve let her explain, I should have. But I didn’t, and I deserve this. Merlin. I can’t stand it. She’s only a few feet away, and she’s crying, but I can’t go comfort her, because it’s my fault… my fault.’ Draco sounded like he was close to breaking into tears himself.
Oh, bloody hell, Harry thought, suddenly having realised what he should have known all along. He loves her. ‘She kissed Blaise, didn’t she? At New Years?’ He asked. ‘And you saw it.’
‘Yes,’ Draco said. ‘Yes, she did, and I saw it. I ran. I shouldn’t have run. I should’ve let her explain.’
‘Yeah, you should have,’ Harry said. ‘Seven Hells, Malfoy. You’re in love with her.’ He felt like he had to say aloud before he could actually believe it.
‘Of course I’m in love with her!’ Draco groaned miserably. ‘How could I not be? She’s perfect, and beautiful and smart and brave… and now she’s miserable, and it’s all my damn fault.’
He sighed. ‘Look, I’m going to talk to Hermione,’ he said. ‘When I get back, you’re going to tell me this ‘urgent’ thing that I had to miss lunch for.’
‘OK,’ Draco said, and he flopped onto the pillow. He looked like he wanted to beat himself in the head with it, but Harry left before that could happen.
When he reached the door to Hermione’s room, he knocked gently. ‘GO AWAY!’ came a muffled scream from the other side.
He smiled, showing the dimples that I loved so much. “Win, but instead, he heard the shuffling of feet on the other side of the door. A second later, it opened, revealing Hermione. Her hair was a mess, and her eyes were puffy from crying. She looked… well, miserable.
‘Well?’ She asked. ‘What do you want? I’m busy, you know. N.E.W.T’s are in six months, and I have to study if I want to graduate top of the class.’
‘You weren’t studying, Mione,’ he said softly. She winced at the nickname. ‘I’m not that daft, you know. I could hear you crying, and Snape says you haven’t come out since you came in here during your free period.’
‘How nice of him to spy on me,’ she said bitterly. ‘What do you want, Harry? I’m not helping you with that essay for McGonagall.’
‘Can I come in?’ He asked. ‘Just for a minute. I won’t stay long. I just want to talk to you.’
She sighed, and stepped back. He came into the room, and saw that she had thrown several books against the wall, and they were lying in a heap on the floor. At the top of the pile, he noticed Hogwarts: A History.
She must be really upset, he thought, if she’s throwing books.
‘I’d make you tea, but I’m not in the mood to be a proper hostess.’
She was being sarcastic, but there was a bitter note to her tone, laced with pain. She walked over to her bed, sat down, and crossed her arms over her chest.
He watched her for a moment, studying her face. It was clear they were both miserable—her and Draco both. He couldn’t decide which one was more miserable, though. ‘You love him,’ he said.
It wasn’t a question. ‘Who?’ She asked.
‘Don’t play dumb. It doesn’t suit you,’ he said. ‘And you know exactly who I’m talking about. Malfoy.’
She flinched, and looked away. ‘That’s a crazy idea, Harry,’ she said.
‘Is it?’ He asked softly. ‘Maybe you thought that once, but you don’t anymore. I know you love him.’
‘Why does it matter?’ She asked. ‘What does it matter anymore? He won’t talk to me. He hates me.’
‘I never thought I’d say this, but you’re wrong,’ he said. ‘He’s sitting out there, you know. In the living room. He looks just as miserable as you are.’
Pain flashed across her face. ‘Don’t,’ she said wretchedly. ‘Just don’t, Harry.’
He sat next to her on the bed, putting his arm around her, like he had the last time she had cried—when Ron had broken her heart the first time. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I hate seeing you cry, you know.’
‘What am I supposed to do, Harry?’ She asked him. ‘First Ron, and now Draco. Is this how it’s going to be? Am I always going to lose the men I love?’
‘Of course not,’ he said. ‘You haven’t lost me, you know. And you haven’t really lost Draco, either. Just give it time. He needs time, that’s all.’
She cried into his shoulder for a few minutes. She was obviously exhausted from the crying, because she ended up falling asleep.
Smiling to himself, he tucked her into bed, and kissed her forehead. ‘Sweet dreams, Mione,’ he whispered, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. And then he left the room, closing the door softly behind him.
In the living room, Draco was still lying on the couch, his fist curled. He bolted upright when Harry entered. ‘Is she OK?’ He demanded immediately.
‘She’s fine,’ Harry said. He sat on the couch, too. ‘She fell asleep after crying. She threw books against the wall.’
‘I heard,’ Draco said, grimacing.
Harry glanced at his watch, and sighed. ‘Looks like I’m missing lunch,’ he said mournfully. ‘So, what is this ‘urgent’ thing you had to tell me about?’
‘Oh, right,’ Draco said, as if he’d forgotten. ‘See, I gave Hermione a charm bracelet for Christmas, but that was only the first part of her gift. I was planning this for Valentine’s Day, but, in light of recent events, I decided it would be a good way to get her to forgive me.’
‘What’s a good way?’ Harry asked.
Draco took a deep breath. ‘I was going to set up a romantic dinner in the Room of Requirement, but that’s too much like that date Nott set up. So instead, I thought I would take her home,’ he said.
‘Home?’ Harry was confused. ‘I don’t understand.’
Draco sighed. ‘Look, something happened to her parents, right?’ He asked.
‘Yes,’ Harry said hesitantly. ‘Hermione wiped their memories and sent them to Australia before the war, so the Death Eaters wouldn’t kill them for information. I sent my family away, too. As far as I know, she went to Australia after the war, but she didn’t return their memories. I don’t know why.’
‘Exactly. That’s why it’s so perfect,’ said Draco. ‘I can’t find her parents and bring them back to her, but I can bring her home. Just for a day. I’ll get permission from McGonagall.’
‘Do you even know where she lives?’ He asked, sighing.
Draco nodded, looking a little guilty. ‘I sort of… er… looked through her diary. I didn’t mean to. I just sort of summoned it. I didn’t read the whole thing, but she has her first Hogwarts letter in it, envelope and all. The thing is kind of like a… what are they called? A scrapbook? Yeah, a scrapbook. Anyway, once I found that, I knew exactly where she lived.’
‘What if she’s moved since she first got to Hogwarts?’ Harry pointed out. ‘You didn’t know how valid that address was.’
‘I didn’t,’ Draco admitted. ‘But her Head Girl letter is also in there, and the address hasn’t changed.’
Harry rolled his eyes. ‘You better not have read any of it,’ he said.
‘Relax, Potter. I didn’t read it,’ Draco said. ‘I just needed to find her address, and I did. I put it back as soon as I had what I needed.’
‘Great. So, what did you need me for, exactly? Where do I come in this grand plan of yours?’ He asked.
‘Er… see, that’s the tricky part. In order for this to be absolutely perfect, I need someone to help set it up,’ Draco said.
‘Let me get this straight,’ Harry said. ‘You want me to Floo to Hermione’s house, break in, and set up a romantic dinner so you can earn her forgiveness back? And how, exactly, do you expect me to do that?’
‘Get permission from McGonagall to Floo to Hermione’s,’ Draco said. ‘She’ll grant it if you tell her it’s extremely important.’
Harry sighed. ‘I’ll figure something out, Malfoy,’ he said. ‘I’ve never tried it, but I can probably use the Room of Requirement. All I need to do is really, really want a fireplace, grab the floo powder, and go.’
‘Can you do that?’ Draco asked. ‘Huh. I guess you probably could. That’s a good idea, actually.’
Harry almost laughed at the grudging tone. ‘You could probably do it yourself, you know,’ he said. ‘It’d be a lot easier.’
‘No. I need you to do it. I’m Head Boy. It would look irresponsible if I miss any classes, especially now. And besides, McGonagall would have my head,’ Draco said. ‘I could pretend to be sick or something, but I’m no good at invisibility spells, and Snape would blab if he saw me leaving.’
‘Really? That was nice of est friends and I hate seeing her so upset, so I’ll do it. But you really, really owe me one, Malfoy.’
‘I know,’ Draco said. ‘Thanks, Potter.’
He hadn’t expected a “thank you”, and it surprised him. He nodded, stood up, and crossed to the door. ‘Oh, and Malfoy?’ He called over his shoulder.
‘Yes, Potter?’ Draco said.
A smile, invisible to Draco, appeared on his face. ‘Change is a good thing,’ he said, and then he stepped through the portrait hole.
That night, long after Hogwarts had fallen asleep, Draco sat outside Hermione’s door, listening to the familiar sound of her breathing. He wished he could be in there with her, holding her while she slept. He missed falling asleep with her in his arms, waking up to her face. Without her, there was a hole in his chest, a constant ache. Being away from her was excruciating.
‘Come back,’ Hermione cried out in her sleep, her voice hoarse. ‘Draco, Draco, come back.’
He wanted to go into her room, and chase nightmares away like he had before. He wanted to tell her that he would never leave her. He wanted to tell her he loved her.
But he couldn’t. Her heart was broken, and it was his fault. Her pain, her tears, it was all his fault. He had no right to comfort her, when he was the reason she was hurting in the first place.
‘Hermione,’ he whispered to the empty hallway. ‘Hermione, I love you. I’m sorry.’
Then he stood up, and went into the sitting room, where he stayed on the couch until dawn.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, there's Chapter 24! I can't believe I've written so many chapters... It's incredible. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this one. Please don't hate me. The mini-break up is totally necessary. Sorry.
*takes a bite of cupcake, disappears in swirl of glitter*
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