A/N: Here is my next chapter. Whew! And since it is Christmas time as I write this, I wanted to add that into the story a bit, so that is why it sort of randomly starts with Christmastime coming (also, I thought that might kind of help with having a time frame reference for the story). I just want to take a second and thank everyone so much for all of the review! They mean so much. (And I want to apologize in advance for any weird formatting, for some reason I am having a horrible problem getting it to format right).
When Hermione entered the Great Hall the next evening, she was hit with the sudden realization that it was almost Christmas. With everything that had been going on, it had almost slipped her mind, which disturbed her, due to the fact that Christmas had always been her favorite time of the year.
It seemed that Hagrid had been very busy with bringing in the Christmas trees for the celebration, and must have been at it all day.
The Great Hall looked as though it had become a forest - there were so many trees lining the hall.
“Hiya, Hermione,” Harry said, looking relieved to don’t have to be studying as he slid down to make room for her.
“Hi, Harry,” she said.
“Cheer up, Hermione,” he said, “it’s nearly Christmas.What could be better than that?.”
“Due to circumstances, I don’t know if my Christmas plans would be the same as they usually are.”
“Why? Oh, you mean because we’ve always...”
“Finally! You’re actually paying attention for once,” she said, happy that she could talk to Harry with such ease. It was definitely a good feeling, compared to how she had been feeling lately.
“I guess I hadn’t really thought about it that way,” he said. “I mean, Ginny told me I could...”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Of course you can, Harry! I’m not telling you that you can’t. I was just saying that I ---”
She stopped talking right there and her face lost all colour.
“Hermione... what’s wrong - ” Harry started, but didn’t get to finish.
Slamming his books down on the table, Ron stared at the two of them. “So you’re at it again, are you?” Turning all of his attention to Harry, he said, “Does my sister know? Or are you keeping her in the dark, too?”
Ginny appeared behind him at that moment and grabbed his arm. “Ron!” she hissed. “What has gotten into you lately?”
He shrugged her off as he kept talking.
Draco sat at the end of the Slytherin table and watched what was going on. Up until now, he hadn’t actually seen any of this confrontation going on between them, unless you counted class the other day.
Seriously? he thought. I can’t believe she’s been putting up with that... thing.... for as long as she has.
He shook his head and looked away, but for some reason he always kept drifting back.
Quietly, Harry said, “Ron, Ginny’s right. What has gotten into you lately? You used to not ever be like this.”
Ron stepped up so that he was face to face with Harry and their noses were practically touching.
“Oh no? Maybe it’s because my brother’s dead.”
“My parents are dead, too, Ron, but I don’t treat people like this.”
“They were dead before you could know them. It’s not the same thing.”
Harry felt as though he had been punched.
Hermione had had enough.
“It’s not Harry’s fault about Fred. We all miss him, Ron. But you don’t have to be like this.”
“Oh? And what about you? Sending your parents off to Australia? What was that all about? Then getting them back? It’s not like you had to loose anybody. Maybe you should have left them the way they were. Then you certainly wouldn’t be in the predicament you are in now.”
Draco didn’t even realize that he’d stood up until he had walked halfway over to where they were standing..
Ron sneered at him when he had made his way over. “And what do you want, Malfoy?”
“You should apologize to her, Weasley,” he said in a low voice.
Hermione, Ginny and Harry’s heads all turned to stare at him.
Ron stepped so they were mere inches apart.
“Who do you think you are, Malfoy, to tell me what to do?”
“Apparently I’m a better person that you.”
“What did you just say to me?”
“I said, that I must be a better person than you. Because I would treat a person I claimed to love better than you do.”
“As if you would know, Malfoy,” Ron said, spitting the words out. “After all, your parents are dead too, aren’t they?”
Draco clenched his fists, but willed himself to stay calm.
“So they are... but that doesn’t mean that you have to blame everyone else for your brothers death.”
“Maybe I shouldn’t blame the rest of them. Maybe it’s just you that I should blame. After all, maybe you’re the one who’s responsible.”
“Ron!” Hermione hissed. “Stop it!”
“Why? It’s true.”
“No it isn’t, and you know it.”
“Oh, so I see how it is. Harry isn’t enough for you, is he? You’ve been giving it to Malfoy here as well?”
Ginny’s eyes got wide as she sucked in her breath. That was a low blow. Probably just about the lowest.
“Maybe it’s you that should be dead, Malfoy. And Fred could still be alive.”
Hermione picked up her things and stormed out of the room, leaving the rest of them standing around behind her.
Ginny stared at Ron in disgust.
“How could you say something like that? You may be my brother, but that doesn’t mean I can’t say that you aren’t being a complete and total ass.”
“Are you alright?,” Draco asked, as he walked into the common room to find her still sitting there, as if she had been waiting for him.
“I’m fine,” she said, as he sat down next to her, immediately putting her on edge. Would there ever be a time when they could talk completely freely without being on edge? When she had hated him, she was never at a loss for words to say to him, about him, around him. Now, her mind was always empty and had trouble being able to pull sentences together.
“He shouldn’t have said it, you know. He’s just being a pompous prat. He’s got... Don’t worry about him,” Draco whispered, gently wiping the tears away from her face.
She was extremely surprised when he didn’t say anything else, and without another word, stood up and made his way to his room and closed the door.
She sighed as she closed her eyes and laid her head on her arms.. Why couldn’t she get him off her mind? She didn’t know what was worse. The fact that she wanted him to leave her alone, or the fact that he had left her alone.
For reasons that she couldn’t explain, the fact that he had simply gone to his room without speaking hurt her feelings.
As that thought crossed her mind, a piece of paper seemed to float out of nowhere and landed next to her. For a moment, she just stared at, confused as it what it was doing, and not to mention, where it had come from.
Finally, her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she picked it up, and slowly unfolded it.
I figured that you were probably tired of me doing nothing but talking to you all of the time, as well as invading your privacy. I imagine as you read that last line that you showed a smirk, even though I’m sure you wouldn’t ever admit it.
She caught herself doing that very thing, and immediately tried to stop. Did he have to be damn bloody observant??
Potter and I talked about you the other day - but before you get angry, at least finish reading what I have to say.
She shook her head. He really did have her figured out. Too bad someone else couldn’t be quite so perceptive.
I asked him if you were alright, he said that he didn’t know exactly what was going on with you, but that as much as he’d have loved to blame me in the past, he knew that it wasn’t my fault. How bloody ironic is that, huh?
Her feelings flickered back and forth between feeling betrayed that the two of them had talked about her - together - and having a sense of happiness that at least there were some people out there who still cared.
Anyway, what I really wanted to say was, if you need someone, I can be here for you. I want to be there for you. If you need me, just let me know.
She slowly refolded the note and laid it beside her book. That was very strange, but somehow, comforting all at the same time. She stood up slowly and as she turned around, she glanced in the direction of Draco’s room and saw that he had the door opened a crack, and was leaning against the door frame and was watching her.
She gave a small smile as she headed in the direction of her own room. But this time, she felt a little happier.
Hermione stared up at the ceiling and the only thing that she could think of was how everything seemed so unreal. How had she gone from hating, despising, absolutely loathing Draco Malfoy to - this? She’d kissed him, she’d wanted him - and enjoyed it.
Her mind was flittering in so many directions, that she figured at any moment it would completely take flight on it’s own and do whatever it wanted anyway. How had all of this happened?
Then she remembered something that she had always heard when she was growing up, something that her grandmother had always talked about. She remembered the way that her grandmother always talked about her grandfather, but it was more of the way of how he had been, rather than he was. When she was very young, she hadn’t quite realized what that meant, until she later found out that he had been placed in a Concentration Camp during the muggle World War 2. How her grandmother had always talked about how afterwards, he’d never quite been the same. It wasn’t the most pleasant topic that they had ever talked about in her family, and it wasn’t until she was older and really understood what it was that they meant It finally clicked in her mind, and when it did, she couldn’t believe that she had been so stupid, not to realize it before.
“Grandma... why is Grandpa always so sad? At school, the other kid’s Grandma’s and Grandpa’s came to visit for Grandparent’s Day. But their Grandpa’s seemed happy. Like you. I thought all Grandpa’s would act like...Grandpa,” six year old Hermione asked her Grandmother.
“Hermione, your grandfather... he was always such a wonderful person, so easy going, never worried about anything. Then suddenly, one day it was all gone. He’d come home, found everyone in his family...gone. It’s hard to explain it now, but maybe one day... maybe you’ll understand the difference.”
Several Years Later
Hermione remembered attending her grandfather’s funeral, and it had confused her as to why her Grandmother hadn’t seemed as sad as she would have figured she would have been. Noticing this, her grandmother pulled her aside and said, “Don’t worry, Hermione. Your grandfather... he suffered so much in his life, he never truly forgave himself for not being there for his family, you know. He said later that he should have left then, but how could he? He didn’t even know what had happened to them, and he was only fifteen. It didn’t take long before they came back and took him away. After that, I’m not really sure what happened. He never liked to talk about it much. All I knew was that he had changed - it was like he was a completely different person from the young man I had once known. I know that now he’s at peace, or at least I like to believe that he is, which is why you don’t see me crying over him, but that in no way means that I don’t miss him.”
*End of Flashback*
The same thing had been what happened to Draco. Maybe not directly, but hadn’t he virtually been in his own concentration camp, within his own house? He had mentioned, she remembered, how seeing certain things happening right in front of you tended to change your perspective on life, but hadn’t realized just what it was that he meant until just now.
“You weren’t there, Hermione. You didn’t see the way that he looked at me. At my parents. He wanted to kill us. All of us. We had failed him. My father and I both. How we lucked out then? He couldn’t be bothered to kill us. It wasn’t until the end that he finally decided that he would kill my father. How could they have ever looked up to someone like that? Someone who would snuff out their life in the blink of an eye?”
“He wanted you to...” she said, not being able to bring herself to say the words, but knew that he knew what it was that she meant.
“Kill Dumbledore? Yeah, he did. Why? Because he knew that I wouldn’t be able to do it, just like my father hadn’t succeeded before. He wanted to punish by father my putting this on me. I couldn’t let them down, could I? If I failed, we’d all be dead. If I succeeded, we’d probably all have been dead. Then I was hit with the moment and I couldn’t. I literally couldn’t. You have to mean it with a curse like that, you know. Like really mean it, with everything you have. I knew I couldn’t. Even if... even if I’d have said it, it probably wouldn’t have done much more than knock him out for a few moments.”
She stared over at him and just watched him, in silence.
*End of Flashback*
She had never quite made the connection until that moment, that maybe there really was more to Draco Malfoy than met the eye. After all, she couldn’t deny that he was right - that she hadn’t been there and didn’t really know what had happened. She also wouldn’t have been able to believe that Draco really could have killed someone. Sure, he had been mean, and vile and cruel at times, but there was a big difference in that and being a murderer.
She also hadn’t realized until that moment how much she herself had changed. Or any of them had changed for that matter - maybe it really was true that you can never go home again. But above anything, she knew exactly what needed to be done.
A/N: Ok, so for everyone who has been asking about Ron leaving the picture, that was pretty much it. Up until now, she's kind of hesitated about actually ending it (kind of like, she wants to, but at the same time, isn't sure, but after his outburst and everything, she knows its over. So he's pretty much out of that equation. I also added in the part about Hermione's grandparents because it just kind of hit me that the two ideas, from both the muggle world and wizarding world, are relatively similar. B combining the two, it helps to bridge that gap, and I felt, to give the story a bit more dimension.