Bathwater

Betraying the Brightest Witch

In the silent corridor of the ancient castle of Hogwarts, Hermione Granger walked with her arms crossed over her chest. Such ferociousness with her act that one to see her would assume that her own hold was keeping her together, keeping her from falling to pieces.

And with every heavy step that she took, leaving a bit of her soul behind, wishing she could disappear into the walls and die there, her eyes drained single teardrops. Each held a broken emotion as they ran down her usual rosy cheeks with mock, reminding her that the pain that she was feeling in her chest was real—that her broken heart was real.

Without having the courage—oh, that once normal courage— from removing her arms from around herself, Hermione came to a stop in front of a small wooden door, staring at it silently and brokenly. She took a ragged breath through her nostrils and aimed a weak kick at the door. (She didn't dare to lift her knuckles onto the wood, that would imply risking the chance of falling into pieces on the marbled floor. And if that happened, who would pick her up?)

Bang. Bang.

The door opened instantly. Almost as if they'd been waiting for her to come knocking at any given moment; waiting for her by the door like they knew she was coming.

Relieved eyes stared deeply into her broken ones. "Hermione," she was pulled into a pair of strong arms and smashed into a toned chest, hearing the erratic heartbeat against her ear. "Where have you been? Pansy said you left without a word—and you weren't there for Cho's wedding!"

"Harry, who's at the— " Coming out of the only room inside of the chamber, Ginny Potter, dressed in her dark nightgown, stared with wide eyes at her husband and a brunette embraced tightly in his arms. "Hermione, you daft witch! You had us looking for you everywhere! Do you know how scared we were?" The redhead shouted, stomping her way towards the two at the entrance of her chamber. "Where were you?"

Feeling a retort of how much Ginny sounded like Mrs. Weasley, how much she looked like her mother when she was angered stick in her throat without a chance of coming out, Hermione swallowed it away and pushed herself away from her best friend's hold.

Harry held onto her hand, however, refusing to let go.

"…Harry," she mumbled thickly, her voice coming out hoarse. "I — " but before she could complete her sentence, the brunette started leaking tears from her puffy-red eyes like rain from the skies on a stormy night.

Mirroring the same look of worry, of panic that Harry had, Ginny took a slower step towards the brunette. "Hermione," she whispered gently through the girl's sobbing, "what is it?"

Hermione didn't answer, she just cried, cried, cried.

"Did something happened to you?" The redhead asked again, more concern in her voice. "What's going on? Don't cry, 'Mione. Harry, go get Malfoy."

"No!" Hermione picked her head up quickly, her curls swaying away from her wet face at the mention of the sadistic surname. "You don't need…" she trailed off pausing for a second as she felt her chest pain her so roughly. "Can I have a moment alone with Harry, please?"

Ginny looked between the girl and her husband. She didn't move from her stance, a little hesitant. (Now, don't get her wrong here. It's not that she was being hesitant because she mistrusted Hermione—because that would never be the case—it was because she was crying. Surely she'd want to talk to Ginny, another girl. Someone who will be more of a use as she shed tears than Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Knows-Nothing.)

But respecting the girl and the fact that the clueless boy was her best friend, Ginny nodded solemnly. "Very well then. I'll be in the room. I'll just owl Ron, okay? He was worried sick that Pansy had to smuggle in some Firewhiskey from the wedding to calm him down."

Waiting three seconds just in case Hermione would object and see reason that this was a girl-conversation, Ginny nodded her head at them and proceeded back into her room.(Bloody hell, where was George with those Extendable Ears when she needed them?)

After waiting for his wife to close the door of her chamber, Harry turned back around to face his best friend. "Hermione, what's going on?" He asked automatically, furrowing his brows at her. "You disappeared from Zabini's wedding without telling anyone where you went, that's not right. Ron, Malfoy and I searched the bloody castle for you everywhere—what happened?"

"He happened," Hermione snapped with a teary retort, abruptly infuriated at the sound of her fiancée's name again. (Must everyone refer to him properly? What happened to 'the Bouncing White Ferret?' Did that suddenly become too long for everyone to say?)

Harry said nothing, except he stood there looking a little perplexed.

She continued, wiping her tears from her cheeks. "Draco fucking Malfoy," it sounded so wrong from her usually polite manner of speaking. "Why did no one ever have the decency to tell me that I was being so stupid in lowering my defenses when it came to him? Why couldn't you or Ron nag me on and on that I shouldn't trust him? Why, Harry?"

Harry took a step back, holding his composure as she punched his chest, tears spilling everywhere.

She was a downright mess and she knew it. But she couldn't help the anger, the fury, that was burning deep in her chest. It was far more intense than the pain—which she has yet to fully feel unfortunately. Because all she had been managing to do is repeat Malfoy's words over and over again in her head. Trying to find some sort of logic to them; to see the tiny gap in between the hatred spewing from his mouth and discover the lie. Discover that it was all a lie and she heard wrong, that for once the Brightest Witch of the Age was wrong.

But of course that would never happen. She was who she was. She was Hermione Granger and she was never wrong.

Unmoved by another swift punch he received, Harry kept his bespectacled emerald eyes on the crying brunette in front of him. Confused by the tears and the intense emotions radiating off of her like she was a stranger crying her troubles in front of him. "What exactly happened, 'Mione?" His voice was low. "You...I need to understand, and you need to be clear about it."

She looked up at him, something like an anger crossing her expression.

He cleared his throat awkwardly. "I'm assuming Malfoy is at fault here?"

"Obviously," she huffed, wiping away those never-ending tears from her cheeks that kept wetting her face.

She needed to remain calm, that's what she was known for after all. To always be the one to think, speak, and then react. (How could one single boy mess that up? How could he have the power to turn her into a pile of utter rubbish; to the point that she didn't even know how to act or be herself?)

"I overheard him talking to Blaise, Harry," she began, taking in a much needed breath; hoping to Merlin that she wouldn't pass out from the lack of it. Her lungs seemed not to be functioning at that moment because her chest was overloaded with so many emotions that it was forgetting how to work, how to keep her breathing and living.

She took another moment to pause and drag in oxygen with her mouth.

She exhaled after a long second. "We've been...We were getting along fairly for a while now. And the Christmas holidays just seemed to intensify that...I f-found myself thinking about him more than usual, and none of them containing ways on how to hex him to get myself o-out of this mess...I dunno...

"I was stupid. A pathetic girl who fell for the charm of a boy who...I just started to fancy him, that's what happened.…I started to enjoy every moment that we were together. All the while l-liking the fact that we still bickered like our old selves...but that hatred wasn't there anymore...It was something m-more."

Her voice cracked, and Harry reached for her other hand. (It was about the only support he knew how to give the brunette at the moment.) "…So, erm, you fancy him. Is that it? Is that what has you all worked up?"

There was silence. The girl looking like she was lost somewhere faraway, her eyes not focusing as they looked into Harry's.

"Hermione," her best friend cleared his throat again, "I know that you and Malfoy have had extreme hatred for one another before, but if that changed, then there is no need to feel—"

"And when he would kiss me," she interrupted him, barely hearing what he was saying as instead she was too focused on those betraying silver eyes playing in her mind, "…it just felt right. It felt sincere...and absolutely blissful...So when I let him...when we allowed to forget everything and just express what we felt...to do what we—" She shook her brown curls, shaking away the painful memory of their first time together as she gave her best friend's hand a squeeze and she came back to the now.

"I thought he felt the same way," her tone was raw. "When he l-looked at me, Harry, I knew that there was something truly there—but it was all a lie!" She tossed his hands from her, feeling the pressure of her hurt jab her insides with much force that she had to clutch the door handle to keep herself from falling over.

Harry tried to get a hold on her shaking hands once more, but he was met with a furious stare and he decided to take a step back from Hermione instead. He was well aware of the charms that she was capable of doing when she was upset, after all, and he was not so keen on risking his neck. Ron was still traumatized by yellow birds last time he attempted to approach her when she was irritated, and he didn't want to experience that. (He had just gotten married, he wanted to live.)

"….I don't understand."

"He lied to me!" Her voice was shrill, holding an aggravated tone. "His plan all along was to make me fall in love with him for Merlin-knows what reasons in that sick head of his! All he was doing was just toying with me. He wanted me to give in to him, to accept this marriage without a kick or a scream, make his job easier for him! And after I bared his filthy last name, that's when he was going to show his true colors and make my life a living hell!"

More thick tears fell easily from her. The pain so fresh and unbarring that she still felt like those past hours that she had hid in the Room of Requirement never happened. Because she still continued to cry like if she was under that cabin window and everything came to light.

"I'll murder him." Harry reached for his wand, taking it out quickly from his pocket like the experienced Savior of the World that he was. "Forget about keeping the peace, I'm sure I can persuade Kingsley from locking me up in Azkaban once I'm through with that sack of trash."

"Harry, no!" The brunette snapped herself away from her pain, turning instantly to the angry-faced Gryffindor. "Are you mental? I will not let you do such a thing. He doesn't deserve the effort!" She managed to walk to him, without landing on the floor, and grasped his arms tightly; looking into his stare with pleading eyes. "You can't Harry. I-I wanted to tell you specifically because I knew you wouldn't react so maniacally like Ginny or Ron."

He glared behind his glasses.

She squeezed his arms tighter. "Promise me you won't go looking for Mal…for him, okay? He's mine to attend to."

"'Mione," Harry pushed her grip aside, and for the second time, held her hands tightly with his own, "you're like my sister. I would never...you know that I..." he trailed off helplessly. (Blimey, he really did suck when it came to this.)

"I love you too, Harry," Hermione whispered, her tears slowing down in their pace, "but...but what's done is done, and I was fooled. I lowered my defenses, broke my walls down for him. And now I'm paying for my mistakes. And no one else should be held responsible for what I'm feeling but him and I..."

The Chosen One scoffed. "I doubt that git of a ferret will take responsibility of his vile characteristics, Hermione."

Now she was a little confused. "…What do you mean?"

"The marriage, 'Mione, the marriage! He still gets what he wants in the end!" His voice rose two levels too loud. "You were there when Kingsley and McGonagall repeated quite a few times about the Marriage Law being a binding magical contract. As citizens of the Wizarding World we must obey them. You'e no choice, Hermione. You will have to marry Malfoy just like it was said."

Hermione's brown eyes opened widely and her hands slowly slipped out of Harry's. Realization spreading throughout and all over her tear-stained face.

"I-I..." her lips trembled as she tried to form coherent words. But seeing as she wasn't about to say anything sane for a few long moments, she turned on her heels and dashed out of the Potters chamber with the weight of her friend's comment on her shoulders.

"Hermione, where are you—"

"Nice going, idiot!" Ginny bolted out from the room before her husband could exit the chamber and run after the brunette.

"What? I didn't—Did you hear everything?" The black-haired wizard asked as the fiery redhead gave him a lethal stare.

"Of course!" His young wife retaliated. "I had to do it the muggle-way and use my own ears, mind you, but I managed to get every word." She stalked over to Harry and smacked him upside the head. "You should've listened to what you said, Potter!" She shouted after Harry muttered a 'What did I do?' as he rubbed his head; recoiling at her furious frown. "She's about to do the stupidest thing ever!"

Harry frowned. "She's not," and then dodged another smack.

And, oh, for Dumbledore's great, white beard was he going to be wrong.

X

"I want to know where she is!"

A pair of fists were slammed roughly against the surface of the grand desk that belonged to the Headmistress of Hogwarts.

"I assure you that we have done everything possible when it comes to the school's security," her beady eyes looked patiently and somewhat smug into the infuriated silver ones glaring back at her. "We have had the Prefects, Professors, Staff, Head Boy and Girl, and not to mention the ghosts, look for her, Mister Malfoy. All I can suggest now is for you to remain calm until she's found."

Ignoring the old woman, Draco hissed, "report it to the Ministry!" All his manners flying out the window of her office as he forgot that he was shouting, and being incredibly rude to the authority of his school. "If no one in the castle has been able to find her is because she's not inside of these walls! She must have gotten out!"

"Mister Malfoy," the Headmistress sighed tiredly—although she was enjoying his worried scene for his fiancée.(She had heard of his dramatics, but never imagined them to be this annoying.) "Miss Granger couldn't have possibly left the castle without any of our security-charms breaking. Again, I assure you she's still inside of the castle. All we have left to do is wait for her to return on her own accord. We have tried—"

"She's the brightest witch of the age!" He didn't wait for her to tell him the same useless things. Draco Malfoy always got what he wanted, and he wanted answers and Hermione Granger in front him at that precise moment. "She can find a way of getting out of this castle without anyone noticing! And I will not calm down until I have her in front of me, so there's no damn use of repeating it."

And what Draco Malfoy wants, Draco Malfoy gets.

The door of the Headmistress' office burst open; the faint sound of the gargoyle staircase reeling itself back down was heard as a brunette walked inside.

Something appeared in the air. Something that was too thick to be ease.

"Professor," glistening brown eyes met those frantic grey ones as the brunette came to a halt by the entrance of the office.

"Hermione!" Draco breathed, his heart settling itself back down to its accurate place in his chest. His anger towards the Headmistress, and every incapable and inept member of her search-party, slowly faded away as relief took over his entire being. "Where the hell where you?" He practically apparated to her, embracing her tightly. (The jumped-up bookworm! How dare she make him an nervous pile of rubbish?)

"Let go of me," Hermione mumbled, her palms reaching up to his cold chest, no longer feeling the warmth of his being, and contracting her nails into his flesh through his robes. "Let go of me!" She repeated louder, pushing with all of her force against him.

He blinked at her, confused. "Hermione, what's wrong?" He asked her, wincing dimly at the small wounds forming on his chest. "What happened?"

"Don't you dare touch me," she hissed, taking a step away from him and his lies.

"Professor," Malfoy spoke, his eyes staring at the brunette with much more than worry, "perhaps we should send her to Madam Pomfrey. Something is not right, she looks a mess."

"—Because of you!" Hermione screamed without missing a beat. "I'm a mess because of you!" She whipped out her wand from inside of her dress.

"Miss Granger!" Professor McGonagall stood quickly from her chair, gaping at her most decent student with perplexed eyes. "Lower your wand. We do not resolve matters and miscommunications with violence. I expected you to know much better than that by now," she scolded. "Now, lower your wand."

"I will not lower my wand!" Hermione contradicted, no longer letting the reasonable side of her overpower the fury inside of her.

She couldn't think of her morals or that she was defying a teacher, not now anyway. All she knew was that ragged pull and lurches going on in her insides. She could only feel and focus on that pain that seemed never ending. On those damned tears that never wanted to stop, on those unholy and betrayed sensations she felt when her face was buried into Draco's chest.

She just wanted to break him, to kill him—just like he had done to her with his viciousness and cold heart.

"Hermione," and not understanding, not seeing that she hated him, Draco tried to reach for her, "what happened? Did someone hurt you?" A strange pressure formed in the back of his sockets as she rejected his hand, his touch. (He just wanted to hold her. He needed to hold her.) "Tell me what happened."

In the background, the Headmistress stared with deep worry at her top student. "Miss Granger?"

"….I give up," Hermione muttered weakly, the knot forming much more agonizing in the pit of her throat, causing her such a disturbance she found the next words to slice her to shreds as they made their way out. "I give up. I don't want to do this...I don't want to do this anymore." She blinked tears. "Maybe you were right, Professor. Maybe I am a quitter. And I should've never let the drive to succeed...to gain your respect and prove that I was brave like I've always been to take me into the traps of this...person."

The old woman knitted her eyebrows, something in her knowing where this was going.

"I want out," Hermione screeched in the lowest tone, contradicting itself. "I don't care about laws, I don't care about my commitment to my community, I just want to quit."

"What are you talking about?" Malfoy asked, swallowing a lump that'd just formed and bothered him greatly because of her apparent misery. "Hermione, what's going on? Why are you—"

"I heard you with Blaise," she retorted, unmoved by his sparkling silver eyes and puzzled expression. (His charms will never get the best of her anymore. Fool her once, shame on him. Fool her twice, oh hell to the no.)

She watched as he opened his mouth and no words to his defense came out. "…Exactly. Nothing to say, right, Malfoy?"

Draco swallowed again, his eyes hardening. "You don't understand—"

"No, I understand perfectly," the Gryffindor interrupted him, not letting his words taint her ears anymore. "I might have been stupid before, but my hearing is perfectly fine, Malfoy. I will not give you the satisfaction of watching me trail after you like a ruddy cat. I'm done. You wanted to play with me? Well think twice, Malfoy! I've hexed cowards who have tried to hurt me, don't think I won't hesitate to do it to you!" She lifted her wand higher to his face.

"Miss Granger— "

"Are you mental?" Draco shouted, shoving her wand away from his face. "How can you believe that after everything we've progressed together?" He pulled his own wand out as she snapped hers back into the air. "I thought you knew me!"

"Oh, please! I've gotten to know who you wanted me to know!" Hermione responded aggressively, no fear spreading throughout her body as he pointed his wand inches from her nose. (He'd already caused a vast pain inside of her, a curse would be nothing compared to how she felt.)

The Headmistress frowned at both of them and their tactless audacity. "Lower your wands," she ordered.

"I'm through," the brunette repeated, turning her gaze to the professor, her wand held high. "I'm done, Professor McGonagall. I know what it implies to reject the Minister's law, but I don't care."

"Hermione— "Both Slytherin student and the Headmistress said quickly, their eyes open wide at the remark the Gryffindor had said.

She raised one of her palms, shaking her head; pleading them with her broken brown eyes to stop. She couldn't hear it anymore, she couldn't handle it anymore. "….There's nothing to be said," Hermione lowered her wand in resignation.

After all, he had won now. He wanted her to break, and that's exactly what happened.

She was done.

She raised and waved her flag of surrender. The battle, the war were all his.

Moving her tearful look at the marbled floor of the office, beginning to make her way out of the door, Hermione could feel the fragments of her heart pounding loudly in her ears with all those insane and exhausting emotions. "I'll be expecting Kingsley's letter and date," she said, inhaling deeply as the last words drained from her lips and she reached for the door handle. "I will present myself at the Ministry when he orders it…to give up my magic and erase my memories."

And then—Bang, out of nowhere; but so expected.

The had door closed abruptly behind her with the last flecks of will she had left to do it. She could hear the yells of 'Hermione, Hermione!' coming from Draco Malfoy; her traitor tears beginning to roll once more down her cheeks.

Betraying her with every tiny splash they gave onto her skin, reminding her that, in fact, she was in love with the Slytherin Prince and all the charms that had come with him.

Oh, what an idiot she was for falling for it.

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