A/N: Hey my faithful readers!! Thank you so much for your support with this fic! I am loving writing it and I'm so happy people are loving reading it! Enjoy this chapter - it's a bit slower than the last two, but I still think it's okay :D
Fallout and Friendships
Dinner the following night was a stony affair. Hermione sat picking at her food, well aware that the eyes that rested on the back of her head belonged to Draco. She would know that hard, icy stare anywhere. Feeling incredibly miserable that she had managed to hurt someone so profusely, even if that someone was the boy who broke her heart without solid reason, Hermione sighed, pushing her plate of chicken and roasted vegetables away. Her stomach churned with the knowledge that Blaise had not spoken to her since they had agreed to just be friends. She tried not to think about what that could mean, feeling herself grow angry at both him and herself whenever the thought entered her mind. She was also feeling guilty for having spent the day avoiding Harry and Ron as much as possible. Harry sat by her side, and Ron across the table, tucking into his meal with relish. Hermione fiddled with the sleeve of her robe, wondering when she should tell Ron about Blaise. Part of her feared his reaction, but another part kept telling herself that it was not really his place to tell her who she could see. Harry looked at her curiously, leaning close.
“Is everything alright? Where were you yesterday afternoon anyway? You missed class,” he whispered, his voice showing faint signs of disapproval. Hermione shook her head. Ron was watching them, his eyes flickering from one to the other, a small frown on his face. Lavender sat beside him, close enough to almost be on his lap, and Hermione felt a burst of happiness at the knowledge that at least someone’s relationship seemed to be going right. Harry leant closer again, opening his mouth.
“I’m fine,” Hermione hissed, annoyed at his interference. He frowned, sitting back.
“Fine,” he said stiffly, stuffing a forkful of mashed potatoes in his mouth. Hermione sighed again, turning to Harry.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly, laying a hand on his arm. “I had a bad afternoon yesterday.”
“What’s going on?” Ron asked suspiciously, looking from one to the other again. Harry gave Hermione a pointed look, nodding towards Ron and she shook her head, throwing him a warning glare. She was not ready for Ron to know just yet, and she especially could say nothing incriminating with Lavender sitting there. Harry sighed.
“Lavender, could you excuse us please?” he said simply. “Ron and I need to talk to Hermione.”
“Do I have to leave, Won-Won?” Lavender pouted, moving a little closer to Ron, who managed to look embarrassed. Hermione snorted and rolled her eyes, snickering into her pumpkin juice, reminding herself never to call Blaise something as equally ridiculous as ‘Won-Won’. She felt Harry give Ron a sharp kick under the table, staring at him in desperation, and the redhead scowled, turning to Lavender.
“Lav, could you please …”
“Just for a while, Lavender. Ron’s not going to run off,” Hermione snapped, scowling at herself. She had not meant to say what she was thinking, but now the words were out and the damage was done. Lavender glared at her, before standing up in a huff and striding away to talk to the Patil twins, continuing to throw Hermione dirty looks from the other end of the table. Ron frowned.
“Hermione! What gives?”
“She’ll be back, Ron. It’s not like she can stay away from you for very long,” Harry sighed, looking sideways at Hermione. Ron managed to look affronted as well as slightly pleased. “Right. Ron, Hermione has to tell you something.”
Hermione stomped on Harry’s foot under the table, satisfied when he jumped and groaned. Ron was watching her curiously, his eyes narrowed.
“Has this got anything to do with Malfoy, Hermione? You haven’t gotten back together with that git, have you?” Ron asked tightly, glancing over Hermione’s head towards the Slytherin table. He made a face, before shifting his eyes back to Hermione’s. “Well?”
“No,” she said quietly, feeling her face heat up.
“Well, what then? Nothing can be as bad as getting back with Malfoy, not even failing an assignment,” Ron laughed, looking cheerier and reaching for a chunk of bread. Hermione stole a glance at Harry, hating him for bringing the whole thing up, especially at the dinner table. Hermone dropped her eyes to her lap, fidgeting with the hem of her robe sleeve again, her fingers plucking idly at a loose thread. Harry sighed.
“Blaise Zabini,” he said quietly, and Hermione’s head shot up, her cheeks flamed, her eyes flashing a warning to Harry, who simply shrugged unapologetically. Ron swallowed, looking confused.
“What’s he got to do … oh, Hermione,” he whispered, the uneaten chunk of bread sliding from his frozen fingers and bouncing off the table. He gulped, staring at her burning face. “You’re not? You’re shagging Blaise Zabini?”
Hermione bristled, folding her arms over her chest and sitting up straight. “I’m not shagging anyone, Ronald, and if I was it would be none of your business. But yes, if you must know, Blaise and I are sort of seeing one another. I already know what you’re thinking. He’s a Slytherin, so therefore he must be the devil, but he’s not. He’s different” – Ron snorted, and Hermione glowered at him – “he’s nice and polite, smart, and …”
“A sneaky, manipulative, rich-boy Slytherin prat,” Ron hissed, and Hermione took a deep breath, feeling anger and hurt flood through her. She had not expected him to understand, but she had expected him to listen and not pass judgment. She sighed, comprehending that sometimes people could not let go of their prejudice. She gave Ron a hard stare.
“I didn’t expect you to understand,” she said quietly, returning her gaze to her plate. Ron sighed, reaching across the table to grip her hand, but she pulled it out of his grip.
“I just don’t get it, Hermione. Another Slytherin? I know they say girls like the bad boys, but …” his voice trailed off, and Hermione looked up.
“But what? Finish your sentence, Ron!” she snapped, her voice beginning to rise.
“Hermione,” Harry whispered desperately. “I’m sorry I brought it up. Lets go and talk about it somewhere else,” he begged, and she glared at him, before turning back to Ron, her arms folded over her chest. She raised her eyebrows at him.
“I thought,” Ron began loudly, ignoring Harry’s warning look. “That you would have learnt your lesson after Malfoy.”
Hermione took a deep breath and leant across the table towards Ron. She sensed Harry reach out and grab at her arm, but she moved out of his reach. Ron was watching her with wary eyes, a stubborn expression on his face. More angry with her friend than she had been in a long time, Hermione’s hand snapped out and she slapped Ron across the cheek. Harry hissed at her, grabbing her around the waist and trying to pull her down into her seat, but she batted his hands away, staring at Ron with all the controlled animosity she could muster.
“Don’t you ever speak to me like that again,” she whispered, watching as he lifted a hand to cup his cheek, shock and surprise written all over his face. Without another word to either of the boys, she walked away, ignoring the silence from the Gryffindor table and the confused glances thrown in her direction. Hermione heard the clatter of a fork falling to the floor, followed by an explosive curse from Harry. She smiled, a spring in her step despite the most recent torturous events in her life.
Later that evening, Hermione curled up by the roaring fire in the Gryffindor Common Room with a book balanced on her knees. Most of the other younger students had long gone to bed, and Hermione had managed to avoid both Ron and Harry for hours after dinner, taking refuge in the library where she worked on her assignments, and then spoiling herself with an extremely long bath in the Prefects bathroom. With her hair wrapped in a towel, Hermione had snuck into the Common Room, finding it virtually empty. A couple of second years had scuttled out of her way when she entered, racing up the stairs to their dorms under the stern look she had given them, accompanied by a tap on the watch around her wrist. Hermione glanced around the room. A couple of girls from Ginny’s year were sitting giggling and whispering together in the corner, and a small group of fifth year boys were playing wizards chess and exploding snap at one of the small tables against the far wall. Sighing contentedly, Hermione turned back to her book.
After half an hour of solid reading, the beginning of a headache tapped against her temples, and Hermione let the book fall closed, staring dreamily into the fire, allowing thoughts of Blaise to finally creep into her head. She was lost in a pleasant daydream when a shadow fell across her lap, and she jumped, looking up crossly. Ron stood glaring at her, his arms folded. Hermione sighed, sitting up straight, glaring back.
“Where have you been hiding?” he asked, his eyes narrowed. “Been with your boyfriend?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Don’t be so childish, Ron. But no, I haven’t been with Blaise, and he’s not my boyfriend.”
“Not exactly. Where’s Lavender?” she asked, looking around the room, noticing that she and Ron were the only two still up. “And where’s Harry?”
“Both in bed,” Ron answered, his voice tight and strained. Without invitation, he sank into the seat beside her, running his hand through his fiery red locks. “Hermione, about earlier. I’m sorry okay. I didn’t mean to upset you, but you didn’t need to hit me either.”
Hermione flushed, shame stealing over her cheeks, but she shook her head, looking at Ron firmly. “You didn’t need to insult me, Ron. That was a really rude thing to say. You know how much I went through with Draco. It wasn’t necessary to imply that the same thing is going to happen again, because I know it isn’t,” she replied.
“How can you be so sure?” Ron asked quickly, and Hermione bit back an angry retort at his soft and gentle tone. “Hermione, we care about you, me and Harry, we both know how much Malfoy hurt you, and we don’t want to see it happen again.”
“Blaise is not Draco,” Hermione said softly, giving Ron’s hand a squeeze. “Thank you for caring, Ron, but I don’t need protecting.”
“I just hope you know what you’re doing,” Ron muttered, staring into the fire. Hermione sighed, folding her arms over her chest.
“You’re only saying that because Blaise is in Slytherin. If he were a Ravenclaw or a Gryffindor, you wouldn’t be this concerned,” she replied testily, ignoring the rising sense of guilt as she remembered her own angry words to Blaise the previous afternoon. Ron’s eyes snapped to her face.
“He’s in Slytherin for a reason, Hermione. The Sorting Hat put him there just as it put us in Gryffindor. Just be sure you know what you’re getting in to,” Ron admonished.
“You don’t even know him,” Hermione snapped, her voice rising shrilly, echoing around the empty room.
“And do you?” Ron retorted, nodding when he saw the faint colour trace across her cheeks. “I thought as much. I’m sure he’s charming and sweet when he wants something, but I bet underneath he’s as slimy and manipulative as the rest of them.”
“Do you want me to hit you again, Ron, because you’re going the right way about it,” Hermione snarled warningly, and he shook his head. “If you can’t even pretend to be happy for me, then just stay out of it. I don’t need you hassling me.”
“Alright, look, I’m sorry, okay? Just promise me you’ll be careful,” Ron muttered. Hermione stared at him, feeling angry despite the fact she knew his words arose from concern. She pushed a breath of air from her lungs, feeling depressed and defeated, and stood up, grabbing her book and tucking it under her arm. Ron looked at her in surprise.
“I’m going to bed. Goodnight, Ron,” she said quietly, leaving her friend sitting on the couch staring into the fire. Hermione climbed the stairs to her room quickly, sliding in under the covers, careful not to wake her roommates. Her mind drifted back to the horrible scene with Draco. She had not mentioned it to Harry and Ron, fearing their reaction. The boys were waiting for the chance to make Draco’s life a misery. She could almost see their fingers twitching towards their wands whenever the blonde came into view, and the last thing she wanted was to get her best friends in trouble. Hermione sighed, rolling onto her side, thinking. Draco’s reaction at finding her and Blaise together was just as she feared it would be, and she felt guilty at not having told him about it, but the whole thing had happened so quickly she was still coming to terms with it herself. She could still not understand how she had ended up in Blaise’s arms in the first place, only that once she was there, she did not want to ever leave. Being with him was comfortable, she felt right and complete, relaxed and totally blissful. When she was with Draco, she had often felt on edge, nervous and worried. She thought that feeling arose from her concern at being caught out, and about how Harry and Ron would react, but once her friends knew, the feeling had not gone away. Hermione had to admit there was something dangerous about Draco, something that had continued to draw her to him until he broke her heart.
Hermione shook her head, pushing Draco’s image from her mind. She was sorry she had hurt him so badly, but nothing he said or did would ever make her change her mind. He was in the past, and that was where he was going to stay.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Please make me happy and leave a review! :D
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