DIFFICULT

By: Provocative Envy

OOO

Author's Note: Oh, my. How many years has it been since I started doing this? Anyway, this story is a little bit different than what I've done before; I'm aiming to make my aesthetic less flowery, but only by a small margin, since flowery is basically what I do best. Oh, and for all of you who were wondering about my book—it didn't get published. I was willing to bend on most changes that were requested, but there was a fairly graphic scene towards the end of the novel that my editor wanted to cut completely… and we didn't end up reaching a compromise. I'm fortunate enough to be in a position that allows me to be picky about things like that, so for the time being my first novel is sitting in a bookshelf in my living room, collecting dust. Its time will come, I'm sure of it. Haha. I'm working on a few new things right now; mostly short stories, but I'm playing around with some ideas for another full-length. Might as well have a shelf full of unpublished manuscripts, right?

OOO

PROLOGUE

I wasn't normally so dramatic.

That was all I could think as the silence deepened and thickened and turned poisonous; why had I opened my mouth at all? What had I been hoping to accomplish, exactly?

His eyes widened with a strange combination of surprise and resentment, and I felt a nervous flutter in my throat—were there more words, regrettably sharp, about to pour forth, uninvited? Had I totally lost control?

It wasn't so much what I'd said, though—it was something about my tone, something about the suddenness of my outburst that had changed the atmosphere for the worse.

"I…" he started to say, his voice shaky. But then he shook his head, let his jaw jut out, and blinked.

"I shouldn't have said that," I blurted out, wincing.

He studied me for a long, shadowy minute, his face etched with derision; a trickling sense of fear was traveling through my bloodstream and I started to wonder where the all-encompassing rage that I'd felt earlier had gone.

"D'you want to know why I missed her, then? This is why I missed her," he finally spat, laughing—but his laugh was all wrong, it was cold, and humorless, and it made my stomach hurt to think about what he would say next.

"Sometimes—God, sometimes I just want to scream at you that I get it, okay? I get that you're better than me at literally everything, usually without even meaning to be. I get that you're smarter, and, and more responsible, and more prepared for things."

I was stunned, feeling every hateful word hit me, stinging, like a razor sharp raindrop.

"I just—I can't fucking stand it anymore, Hermione. You're too much. You're too…hard. It's difficult to love you. What you just said…" he trailed off, pausing for a precious, uneven second before continuing. "All it did was remind me how much easier my relationship with her actually was. She didn't go out of her way to make me feel inadequate…because she didn't think I was inadequate. Amazing, that."

"I didn't realize you wanted to be worshipped," I said woodenly, my mouth dry.

He snorted, crossing his arms over his chest as he looked away from me.

"It isn't about worshipping me! It's about—fuck it, it's about thinking I'm someone worth worshipping. You walk around like you're in this whole separate stratosphere, as if I should consider myself lucky to be standing fifty feet beneath you."

He raked his hands through his hair while I stood, frozen, every last one of my muscles locked in place.

"It just isn't worth it," he said tiredly, his face softening. "I can't—"

"Right," I interrupted, feeling as if I'd been slapped. I couldn't help but think that if I'd just kept my mouth shut, and let things go more often, and not expected perfection…this conversation wouldn't be happening.

"It's just not worth it anymore," he repeated, shrugging.

And then there was a peculiar tightness beneath my eyes, and I knew that whatever tenuous hold I'd had over my wildly vacillating emotions had disappeared.

"Being cruel about it just seems a little unnecessary," I retorted, furious with myself.

He gaped at me, nonplussed, and I felt a shiver of guilt pass through my body. I was being horrible, melodramatic, and petulant—what had happened? Why had I snapped?

I remembered how happy we'd been in the beginning, when we still felt like two puzzle pieces finally realizing we fit, perfectly; I remembered the relief, that my best friend could be something more, something better, and how easy I thought our relationship would be. I remembered little things, falling asleep with our hands clasped, waking up to scruffy red hair and a bleary, sheepish grin; I remembered thinking, for years and years, that there couldn't be anyone else, would never be anyone else.

And in the space of ten minutes, I'd ruined everything.

It was humbling to think about the fact that while I was gliding along gracefully, believing everything between us was fine…he was apparently miserable, bitter, and hating me.

How was it possible to be so wrong?

"So you'll be getting back together with Lavender, I take it?" I asked gruffly, pressing my lips together.

"I…don't know. If she'll take me, I guess. Listen, I'm sorry I said what I did. I don't want things to be weird for us, Harry's got enough on his plate, right?" he chuckled awkwardly, raising his eyebrows as he waited for my response.

"Right," I said slowly.

And then he hugged me, sort of, if one arm being thrown haphazardly across my back counted as a hug, and he made up an obvious excuse to leave, and I was, very abruptly, left alone.

I stood still for several seconds, letting my gaze drift over the mottled gray surface of the lake in front of me. I was trying to understand what I was feeling, trying to label it, and I was finding it hard to come up with any adjectives.

I was upset, but not for any of the reasons I should have been.

I started to make my way back to the castle, dragging my toes in the grass as I walked.

I sighed, wondering how it was that I could be so good at memorizing spells and writing essays; but so incredibly bad at dealing with people. I could never make sense of what they wanted from me—I lacked sensitivity, and this latest failure was nothing but a potent reminder that I should get used to being alone.

"Granger! Watch where you're going."

An unpleasantly familiar voice interrupted my thoughts.

"I didn't even—never mind," I responded tiredly, not wanting to argue—Draco Malfoy was rarely worth the energy.

"Why aren't you dragging Weasley around with you like a puppy? Isn't it about time for his walk?" he asked rudely.

I rolled my eyes and pushed past him, heading for the doors.

"And here I thought engaging you in conversation was what you wanted," he called after me. "You do so love to talk."

I stopped walking and turned around.

"Certainly not to you," I replied stonily, glaring back at him.

He was smirking as he watched my face, his hands thrust in his pockets, shoulders slightly hunched.

"The feeling's mutual, I promise," he said lightly, before taking an oddly menacing step towards me. "But speaking of Weasley, how are things between the two of you? I heard the most fascinating rumor, you see…"

My heart jerked to a halt. Already?

"We broke up, if that's what you're referring to. If you'll excuse me," I responded tightly, making a move to go inside.

"Well, you can't be too surprised about that," he said reasonably, a cruel glint in his eye. "I mean, for God's sake, you were more like his babysitter than his girlfriend."

I flinched—if Malfoy had noticed, how had it escaped me?

"I didn't say I was surprised, but thank you for the…compassion."

He chuckled; the sound was like nails on a chalkboard, screechy and toxic, and it followed me, pounding my eardrums, as I trudged through the castle. I felt sick at the thought of Malfoy basking in my misery—except I wasn't miserable, I was angry.

It was humiliating to be the last one to know. I, the girl who prided herself on knowing everything about everything…hadn't known. Did I just have a debilitating lack of self-awareness? I knew that I was pushy and controlling and predisposed to condescension; I had no trouble recognizing my flaws.

I'd been naïve, then. I'd assumed, because Ron was my friend, had known me for what felt like forever—I'd assumed that he would accept me for who I was, that I could be myself wholly and truly and not worry about the repercussions.

Obviously, I'd been wrong.

OOO