Chapter 5 : Jealousy
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"You!" Ron all but screamed when she re-entered the common room, soaked to the skin and dripping water in puddles all around her feet. She felt like a drowned rat, numb and shivering yet satisfied with the decision that had been made. She still didnít dare believe it was true.
It had been two weeks since her relationship with Draco Malfoy had begun. They saw each other on rare occasions, whenever they had time to snatch the chance away to spend time together. It was difficult and exciting, their secret liking, and she wished they could have it out in the open, but Draco had refused entirely, saying he wasnít ready yet to accept other peopleís reactions. They were still slightly shy together, only going so far as to steal a kiss every now and then. She yearned to be open more than anything, to sit down with Ron and Harry and confess to them the truth. She knew they wouldnít be happy with it, but they would have to respect her decision.
She had just returned from another visit to Draco, where they had stood talking together underneath the trees, the dead twigs spindling like blood-leaking fingers towards them from the heavy merciless rain. They had talked of the future, how they would change everything, how all would be as they wanted.
She looked at Ron with guiltless innocence, surprised by the wrath that burned red on his face. The common room was deserted save for the three of them; Harry sat angrily in one of the armchairs, his arms folded tight across his chest and staring into the fire.
"What?" She asked of them, her voice trembling and shocked. "Whateverís the matter?"
"Draco Malfoy, thatís whatís the matter!" Ron roared, fists clenched into fierce balls of temper, as if he was visualising Malfoy standing in front of him now and wanting nothing more than to cause him as much pain as possible.
Her heart pounded fiercely within her breast. Surely they couldnít know already! Desperation and despair flooded her with guilt. They would never understand Ė all that had been decided outside would not be destroyed their disdain. They would ruin this fragile relationship for her.
"Youíre seeing Malfoy, arenít you?" Ron asked dangerously, his face contorted with rage. "Youíre going out with the enemy!"
She couldnít deny it. "How did you know?" She asked simply.
Everything in Harry seemed to break. He stood up and faced her with incredulity written all over his features. "So itís true? I thought Creevy was making it up . . . Youíre really seeing Malfoy."
"It was an accident," she confessed. "I donít know how it happened." Her eyes blurred with tears from their accusations. "Please donít be angry. Iíve been feeling . . . something . . . towards him for a long time now. And at the Halloween Ball I realised he felt the same. Weíve only just spoken of our feelings . . . itís not as if Iíve been going behind your backs."
"Oh, so you were going to tell us, were you?" Ron snarled.
"Yes!" She paused. "With time."
There was a long silence where only the fire crackled ferociously. No one knew what to say. Hermione felt ridiculous, stood there divided from the other two, dripping slowly with water. She shivered.
"Iím going to get changed." They didnít answer, only glowered.
She hurried up the stairs, eager to be away, and flung open the door to see Lavender and Parvati staring at her, wide-eyed. Understanding shadowed her heart Ė everyone knew. Their relationship could never be a secret, as they had hoped.
"Oh, Hermione, is it true?" At her silent nod they both squealed and threw warming arms over her. "Fantastic! I canít believe it! Itís like one of those proper love stories, like the Muggle one Ė Romeo and Juliet." They grinned at her, wide-eyed. "However did you manage it? Heís the best looking person in the school. He never looks at anyone." They eyed her critically. "Are you sure itís true?"
She ignored their spitefulness and moved towards her trunk, pulling out a dry set of clothes and changing into them, feeling the snug warmth about her. She brushed her hair almost carelessly, still moving in a dream. Her guilt stabbed at her relentlessly. Ron and Harry would never understand.
Romeo and Juliet Ė she thought with a sinking feeling. She remembered reading Shakespeareís play when she was ten, back in Muggle primary school. All ended in tragedy. Her stomach swam with dread. Would hers and Dracoís be a tragic ending also?
* * *
Draco sat alone in the common room. He couldnít believe what had happened. They knew Ė every single one of them. He could sense it in the way they looked at him. Accusing. Disgusted.
"So itís true then?" Blaise snorted contemptuously Ė he was supposed to be Dracoís friend. Draco stood to meet his glare and nodded.
"I donít believe this," Blaise chuckled dryly. "You mean youíre dating that dirty little Mudblood slut?" He sneered malevolently. "Whatís gotten in to you?"
Dracoís anger welled up from somewhere deep inside him. He took hold of Blaiseís collar and slammed him hard against the wall, holding him there and snarling. "Donít you dare call her that." His grip tightened and moved to Blaiseís neck, who looked at him startled and disbelieving. Draco wasnít feeling particularly loquacious this evening. Why did he have to explain to anyone, and why had Hermione told people without his consent? How could she? He felt betrayed and vehement. "I interdict to you calling her that. Ever."
Blaise nodded frantically, and he released him, sneering as his gaze walked the room.
"Anyone else have something they want to say?" he was breathing heavily through his anger. His temper was renowned. All knew there was no limit to it. "Good," he said at last to the stilled silence.
"But sheís plebeian, Draco," Pansy protested suddenly, unable to swallow the words. "I thought you hated Mudbloods."
He turned to her callously, his sigh regretful. "Hermioneís taught me to see a whole lot of things differently."
There was no answer. He sighed and decided to go up the owlery. He had to see her; she had to explain to him why she had gone behind his back.
* * *
"How could you?" Harry asked her later when they were alone. Ron had gone to bed. Dinner had been an interesting event. The school was humming with news of their relationship Ė she had wanted to talk to Draco, to tell him it wasnít her fault, that she hadnít said anything, but Ron had been glaring at her so coldly she had not dared.
"What do you mean?" She asked him, looking up from the Astronomy homework she was finishing. It had been a hard task putting her mind to it with all the gossiping going on around her, but with Harryís interruption she felt annoyance prick at her.
"How could you do that to Ron?" Harry glared, full of anger. He was in his pyjamas, his untidy hair worse that usual. It was still raining, the sound of it against the windows ominous and continuous. The common room was plunged in darkness save for the usual crackling of the fire. The room was filled with heat as contrasted to the cold outside, and she felt snug, sat their in her thick woollen jumper and fresh pair of jeans. The clock was nearing midnight, but it didnít matter Ė it was Sunday tomorrow, and she would be able to rest for longer. She hoped she would be able to speak to Draco, to tell him the truth about what had happened, to hear his opinion.
"What do you mean, how could I do that to Ron?" She demanded with frustration, placing down her quill and pushing the parchment aside. She looked carefully at Harry, confusion written all over her face.
"Youíve got to be stupid not to have noticed," he scoffed, standing up and turning his back towards her. "Ronís crazy about you."
"Well thatís his problem isnít it?" She glared frustration straight into him. "I canít help what Ron feels, I canít help but not feel the same way. My feelings rest elsewhere . . . Harry, please understand . . ." Her eyes filled with tears. "I donít want to lose our friendship, but I know we canít go on like this without understanding one another."
"Go away," Harry growled. "Just get out of my sight."
Hermione sighed. She knew that love was blind, could it be that she was not seeing right? She tucked her hair behind her ears and they both jumped when something flew into the window. They looked up to see Draco Malfoyís eagle owl, Aeries, battling against the driving rain and winter wind.
"Thatíll be for you," Harry informed her needlessly. She climbed up to the window and struggled to open it. A blast of cold air hit her straight in the face, and she breathlessly detached the bone-dry parchment from the birdís talons. A charm had been put on it to protect it against the rain. She smiled; that was just like her Draco.
Unfurling it, she found the simple, neatly written inscription easily:
Meet me in the owlery
Her heart hammered worriedly. Was he angry? Surely he would be. The letter trembled in her hands and she chewed her lip nervously.
She found the owlery deserted, so she climbed higher where the tower was open to the half-moon and the veiled constellations, which had been blocked out by a mass of cloud. She glanced around nervously, the silence an echoing darkness surrounding her. The tower top was slick with rain and she struggled to stop herself from falling, then a pair of angry, vindictive eyes glittered in the darkness and Draco Malfoy stepped into view, pushing back his hood to reveal an expression of pure wrath.
"Why did you do it?" He demanded her, the sneer audible in his malicious voice, cold against the wind and the rain that drove them apart. "You promised to wait Ė you Ė"
" Ė Stop it! Listen!" She shouted back, her temper rising. She stopped and took a breath, trying to calm herself. "Look, I didnít say anything, I didnít need to. Someoneís been watching us Ė he caught us and spread the news."
"Who?" Draco immediately snapped, alert with lust for vengeance. "Just tell me who Ė Iíll break his spindly neck Ė"
" Ė It doesnít matter who," she interrupted metallically. She glared across at him coolly and he stared defiantly back. "It isnít about blood and revenge, Draco Malfoy, itís about us, and weíve got to sort this out because it canít go on like this." She drew a breath and then sighed it out again, lifting her hands to her face to wipe away the bluish smudge of rain that inked across her cheek. He neared and caught her hand from her, gazing deeply into her eyes.
"Alright," he said calmly. "I thought it was you before." He smiled. "I should have known you wouldnít betray me. Iím sorry."
She nodded. "How did your friends take it?"
He shrugged and tried to conceal his worry. "Oh, they were ok, you know . . ."
"Draco, if youíre not comfortable with this then we could always Ė"
" - I am comfortable with this!" He exploded, causing her to jump and step back sharply. He added quietly, "If they donít like it then thatís their problem." The ghost of a smile traced his lips. "Iím almost glad itís out now Ė at least we donít have to worry about what people will think anymore now that itís public." He frowned and bit his lip. "I hate to think what fatherís going to say when I see him."
Hermione looked up at him, glimpsing a flicker of fear and doubt in his eye before it was gone again. Was there something he wasnít telling her? Then he smiled and she forgot. The rain eased and they lay on the floor together, breathing in the sweet, cold, fresh air and relishing the beauty of the shrouded stars and moonlight.
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