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It's not that strange

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It's not that strange, she thinks while watching his cloak billow behind him.

Defence Against the Dark Arts was a curious affair. At the start of the year, it came as a habit for her to wait by the DADA room a little bit early. At times, he would already be inside. At times, he would come in a few minutes later. And each time he did, she would utter out a greeting. And each time she did it, he never replied.

It's not that strange, she thinks again while watching his cloak billow behind him. When things happen routinely, you would wish for it to differ from usual. And maybe a small nod from someone who never gives you the time of day is, in fact, just a small nod your mind has coaxed your eyes to see.

.

It's not that strange, she thinks while looking around at the sea of faces.

It came to her one day, she couldn't pinpoint specifically when it began, but she started noticing it. It wasn't a hit in the face like a sledge hammer. It wasn't like the public display Ron and Lavander had going on. No, it was subtle. Subtle like the air we breathe in. Like the cool touch of the wind on a sweltering day. You wouldn't notice it at first, but you know it's there. The downside is: once you recognize its presence, it can pummel you.

Awareness is good.

But awareness of something you don't have can be devastating.

At the corner of her eye, she spots Ginny. She lifts her hand to wave at her, but then pulls it back down as Dean came beside the redhead offering to carry her bag. She wonders, perhaps not for the first time, when someone would offer to carry her bag, too.

'It's not that strange,' she thinks while chewing the spoonful of mashed potato in her mouth.

Her first period Ancient Runes that morning got her thinking. Not about Runes exactly, but about the incident that followed after the class. McLaggen was suspiciously hanging around the corridor near her classroom door. It wasn't a surprise that his immediate action was to zoom in on her. The event was blurry now, but she definitely remembered asking him, out of curiosity, to carry her bag only to get a rude response and a crude innuendo. That wasn't subtle. McLaggen wasn't subtle. He was the sledge hammer that pounded her back to reality, widening further the gap that she unconsciously created.

Opposite her, she sees Harry looking longingly at the person beside her. Harry was looking longingly at Ginny. She wonders, perhaps not for the first time, if someone would look at her longingly, too.

.

'It's not that strange,' she thinks while staring at the books scattered on the floor.

Up on the couch, Harry spent his time brooding. She did that too, lately. Brooding. It wasn't obvious, but it was there. She broods about what was happening, what has yet to come, what she had, and what she wished she had. She broods about the past and about her future. And about school and about relationships. She broods over brooding. And when it became consuming, when it became an unhealthy obsession, she'd think on her ache. Like a bruise a few days old. Once the swelling is gone and still the color remains, the bruise no longer hurts until you touched it. And maybe she likes the pain it brings, and maybe she likes poking at the bruise.

She hears Lavander giggling somewhere and something cold squeezes her heart.

That night, with a heavy heart perhaps not for the first time, she slept.

.

The morning was bright and cheery, a contrast to how she really felt. As is her usual routine, she stands outside the corridor, waiting for him. She decides that today might be as regular as yesterday. Or maybe something could finally happen somewhere, just so she could shake off the dark cloud that had been looming over her for months.

'It's not that strange,' she thinks while hearing light footsteps coming towards her. In any second, he would be walking past her as should be. Her mind is conflicted. Greeting him would be another poke to her bruise, so maybe she should just stop. Let him pass just like that. He is getting nearer and she panics. She imagines she could feel the swish of wind whenever he is near. She thinks she is masochistic for still wanting him to poke her bruise. But leaving everything and letting go is like a sledge hammer to her face. She braces herself and looks up to his face.

"Good morning, Professor."

His gaze was piercing and she couldn't stand it... A poke, no, a sledge hammer. She looks down, feeling sorry for herself.

"Miss Granger."

.

. . .

. . . . . .what?

She tries to crush the budding hope that grows inside her. Because maybe... maybe this was her mind again, coaxing her ears to hear... But... it was impossible to miss that deep, resonating voice. One that cuts right through her heart and soul.

So...

...maybe it's real?

'It's not that strange,' she thinks while not bothering to hide her smile. A big, genuine smile. Other students were starting to enter the room and she knows she should, too, but she couldn't get herself to move.

Not yet.

Harry came up to her, looking at her strangely. "Alright, Hermione?"

"It's not that strange, Harry," she says, still smiling. "When something feels *this* good, you'd be crazy not to enjoy it." She wonders, perhaps not for the first time, that poke to her bruise every now and then is something she could stand, as long as he did something to make her smile.