A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 18: Love Remains the Same:

The rest of the summer was hell for Draco. He felt as if he was back at Hogwarts. He went back to playing a part. He hung out with a different girl every few days. He never explained anything to Hermione. They never spoke anymore, at least not about anything important. They talked about school. They talked about books and movies. They talked about current events. They never had any meaningful conversations. Theo kept trying to find out from both of them what had happened between them, but neither would tell him anything.

Draco knew but couldn’t admit it.

Hermione didn’t know, so she couldn’t tell him anything, anyway.

She never went to Draco and asked him what happened either. Sometimes Draco was glad for that, and sometimes he wanted to explain everything to her.

Summer soon ended, as did their potential love life. Somehow, as summer turned to fall, and fall to winter, they became tentative friends once more, mostly because of their shared friendship with Theo. Hermione continued to be concerned for the man. Draco continued to brush things aside, insisting that he just needed time and his friends.

A conversation concerning that matter finally took place between Draco and Hermione, started by Theo himself. Theo and Hermione had a disagreement one late winter evening concerning a letter he got from his mother. His mother wanted him to come home for the up coming Christmas holidays. Hermione told him that she thought it was a bad plan, and besides, the three of them had already decided that they were going to stay at school for the holidays.

“We’ve already decided,” Hermione whined from her place beside Theo on his couch. “I already told my mother, and she’s going skiing with friends. Do you want me to have to spend Christmas alone?”

“You won’t be alone. Malfoy will still be here,” Theo said. Draco sat at the kitchen table; feeling slighted by Hermione’s comment, but determined not to show it.

Theo was the glue that now held Hermione and Draco together, and everyone seemed to know it but Theo. Hermione quickly picked up her books and slammed everything into her satchel. “Fine, whatever, spend the holiday with your mother. I just don’t think it’s a healthy place to be. I don’t think she’s a good person for you to be around right now.”

Theo stood up so suddenly it scared Draco. He looked over at the pair who both now stood in front of the couch. Theo threw a glass he had in his hand across the room, where it hit a wall and shattered. Draco stood up while Hermione cowered.

“I’m so sick of you saying things like that, Hermione!” Theo bellowed at her. “Nothing’s wrong with my mum! Nothing’s wrong with going home!”

Hermione threw her bag down and said, “Nothing’s wrong except for the fact that every time you come back from a weekend visit, you spend two days in bed, depressed! I’m tired of picking up the pieces of your heart after your visits, Theo!”

Theo rushed up to her and grabbed her shoulders. As soon as he did, Draco rushed over and stood behind Hermione. Draco placed his hands over her shoulders as well, under Theo’s hands, and pulled her back against him. “Stop it, both of you,” Draco shouted. “Let go of her,” he ordered. Theo dropped his hands. Draco placed Hermione behind his back, between him and his friend. “Just go have a nice visit, Theo.” He turned to Hermione and said, “Stop trying to cause trouble, Hermione.”

He hated chastising her, because she was right. Theo’s mum only fed his depressed state. She was like a fester on his open, wounded heart, but Draco didn’t want to admit it. He just wanted everyone to get along and be relatively happy.

“I’m leaving,” Hermione said. She picked up her bag and left.

Draco turned to Theo and said, “What’s wrong with you? Why did you become so angry with her?”

“I’ve seen you two fight worse than that,” Theo said, feeling defeated. He sat down. “Hell, you two are barely friends anymore. You don’t even spend time together unless I’m here. What happened last summer?”

“We’ll talking about you and her right now,” Draco groaned. “Not me and her.”

“There’s nothing wrong,” Theo sighed. “I’m just tired. I’m tired of my mum’s nagging and tears, I’m tired of Hermione’s constant worrying, I’m tired of you and her not getting along, and mostly I’m tired of being tired.” He walked to his room and slammed the door.

Well, Draco was tired, too. He was tired of helping a man who didn’t seem to know how to help himself. He was tired of denying his feelings for a woman who now apparently hated him. Draco shouted, “I’m tired, too!” He got his coat, scarf, and hat, and ran out of their flat.

He didn’t get far. He saw Hermione sitting on a bench on campus, near their flat. He knew she hated walking home alone at night. One of them, usually Theo these days, walked her back to her flat, or drove her, since Theo now had a car. He walked up to her and sat down.

“Theo will be okay,” he assured.

She looked at him, tears in her eyes, and said, “No he won’t! Are you blind? He’s worse everyday, and when he comes back from being at home, he’s almost catatonic. That place is poison to him. He needs help, Draco!”

“He’ll be fine,” he repeated.

She turned her head from him, placed her gloved hands over her face, and cried. A few people walked by and gave them strange looks. He wanted to comfort her, but they didn’t have that sort of relationship any longer, did they? He couldn’t remember the last time he really touched her. Yes, he could. It was the last time they kissed, last summer. He touched her accidentally a few times after that, but nothing remotely resembling ‘touching’ had occurred since then.

Maybe it was time. “Please don’t cry,” he whispered. He pulled her to him, and she slumped over his lap. He placed his right hand on her back and rubbed circles over her coat. He placed his left hand on top of her hat, on her head.

“What happened to us?” she said through the sobs.

He didn’t want to have this conversation. He was happy just to hold her. Why did she always have to talk? He said, “Things just change.”

She sat up and pushed on his chest. He frowned. “You kiss me one morning, tell me that you’re going to tell Theo about us, then that evening you go off and kiss another girl. You broke my heart, Draco Malfoy. Not only that, but we were friends, and now we really aren’t. We’re more like associate friends: both friends of Theo’s, so friends by association, in case you were wondering what that meant.” She brushed her gloves over her eyes, to dry the tears.

She was right, but he didn’t know what to say to her. Therefore, he said nothing. “You have nothing to say?” she asked. He shook his head no. “Did you even like me just a little?” she inquired.

He looked away. He crossed his legs and continued to look away.

“Fine, Draco. Do you still want to be friends at least? If you regretted kissing me, and flirting with me, and leading me on, because that’s what you did, I accept it. You regret it. However, don’t you still want to be friends? I miss my friend.” She started to cry harder and placed her hands once again over her face.

He turned to her, agony on his face, and in every fiber of his being. He felt so frustrated. She was right about everything, and that made him angry. She was right about Theo. He did need help. She was right about them, too. They weren’t friends any longer. The only thing she wasn’t right about was that he never regretted kissing her. He only regretted that she was right about the fact that they were no longer friends. “I miss being your friend,” he finally said.

He pulled her over to him, and for at least an hour, she cried and he held her. It was the least he could do. Finally, she sat up and stated, “I have to go home. I have an exam tomorrow, and so do you.” She picked up her bag and started walking.

“I’ll walk you back,” he said.

“I don’t want you to,” she retorted. “Not unless we’re at least friends again.”

“We’re at least friends,” he repeated. He took her bag from her and they began to walk. They passed by two young lovers, wrapped in each other’s embrace and Draco’s heart went out to them. He envied them. The woman beside him was the one he wanted to share that sort of love with, so he made a vow right then and there – graduation was still over a year away, but if Theo didn’t tell Hermione by graduation that he loved her, then he was going to tell her that he did. He wouldn’t wait any longer than that.

They reached her door. He said, “Do you still want to spend Christmas here with me?”

She nodded. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“I suppose if those are your two options, I should feel honoured,” he joked. She smiled.

A man walked up the stairs to a door on the second floor and as he approached them, he looked up at her landing and said, “You look pretty tonight, Hermione.”

Draco glared at the man. He quickly opened his door and went into his flat. “Who’s that?” Draco demanded as he pointed down at where the man stood.

“He moved in downstairs. Since the landlady’s husband died, she made the second floor into two more flats so she could have some more income. He’s nice. He’s French.”

“Damn frog,” Draco said.

She laughed and said, “That’s not a nice word to call a French person, Malfoy. Rather like when you called me Mudblood back in school, and by the way, your ancestry is French, isn’t it?”

He pointed at her and confirmed, “I’m English, Granger! One hundred percent, and happy about it, thank you. I can’t do anything to change my ancestry!”

“You always speak proudly of your French heritage,” she reminded him.

He had nothing to say in defensive of that statement. He didn’t hate the French. He was proud of his French heritage. He just didn’t want some French man to say ‘Hello’ to her. She was his….friend. That was how he had to view her for the time being. They stood outside her flat and merely stared at one another for what felt like a very long time. She was still in the same flat that she had been in since day one. Finally, she unlocked her door and turned to face him.

Then, she smiled.

His heart melted. He reached out for her, but then pulled his hand back. No, he wouldn’t hurt her again. Touching was not a good idea, unless she was crying or something. He said, “See you tomorrow.”

He jaunted down the stairs, and turned back once, raised his hand, and then jogged down the sidewalk, back to his flat.

Hermione stood in the doorway and decided something. If Draco was so stupid and bullheaded that he was never going to admit that he loved her, then she would tell him that she loved him. Graduation was still over a year away, but she would tell him then. She would tell Draco that she loved him on Graduation day.

Theo looked out his window, his heart full and heavy. He did hate going home for the holidays, but his mother needed him. All she ever wanted to do was talk about his father, and he didn’t want to talk about the man. There was always something dark, deep inside, but never on the surface, that bothered Theo about his father. It was more than the fact that he was once a Death Eater. He felt like it had something to do with Hermione, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He only had flashes, but whatever it was that he couldn’t remember, he associated it with Hermione, and he wasn’t sure why.

He hated that he had hurt her this evening. He almost laid a hand on her. His father used to beat his mother. Why did she miss him? Why did he? He wasn’t much of a father. Draco hated his father, and by all accounts, at least the elder Malfoy always openly loved his son. Theo was always a disappointment to his father.

Poor Hermione. He did want to spend the holidays with her. He knew that she didn’t want to be alone with Malfoy. He would have to tell Draco to be nicer to her. Whatever problem they had between them, they would have to work it out, for all of their sakes.

He decided something else. He was going to tell Hermione that he was in love with her. He would tell her soon. He didn’t know when, but soon.

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