Chapter 7 : Can't Answer, Can't Explain
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Chapter 7: Can’t Answer, Can’t Explain
Draco was slightly worried that he may be permanently paralyzed, but all in all, he believed that the sacrifice was well worth it. But he was still lying on top of Hermione, and he was more worried about crushing her than about his possible paralysis. “Am I too heavy?” he asked her, his quiet voice muffled because it was still buried in her hair.
“No, you’re fine,” she whispered contentedly.
“Good; I don’t think I can move my legs.” He turned his head slightly so he could kiss her neck.
She smiled sleepily and said, “Don’t worry; I’ll push your wheelchair.”
“Thanks,” he propped himself up on his elbows and grinned down at her, brushing a lock of hair off her face. He had never felt this comfortable and… happy after sex before. Draco was still slightly overwhelmed by the fact that Hermione had initiated the whole thing. He certainly hadn’t expected her to confront him the way she had, but thinking about it now, he was rather pleased with the way it had worked out.
A few more minutes of drowsy contentment passed before Hermione spoke. “Draco?” She was afraid he might fall asleep on top of her.
“Hmm?” he grunted, his face once again buried in her hair.
“You are starting to get just a bit heavy.”
“Oh, sorry.” Instead of rolling away from her as she had expected, he slid his arm beneath her and rolled them both so she wound up splayed over him, her head lying comfortably on his chest. Draco grabbed a bit of blanket as well and flung it over the both of them.
The change in position, however, seemed to have woken up Hermione’s brain. If she was truthful with herself, she had wanted this ever seen she had danced with Draco at the celebration Dumbledore had held before term had started. But now that she was here, she was unsure of how to act. What he must think of her now, being as brazen as she had been, practically telling him to shag her. With Ron, it was easy; they had known each other so long and had been heading toward that point since fourth year, but this was different. She had only really known Draco for a couple of months.
Her thoughts were slowly leaving the Heads’ dormitory and creeping towards Gryffindor Tower where she knew her friends were probably doing homework (well, Harry and Ron were most likely playing chess, and Ginny was doing homework). She bit her lip and resisted the urge to start twisting her fingers together nervously. Hermione didn’t regret what had just happened, not in the slightest, but she was slightly concerned with how her friends would react when they found out, for they surely would. Ginny would almost certainly be happy for her. Harry… she wasn’t so sure about him. Sure, he had accepted Draco as a friend, but would that newfound friendship be enough for him to accept Draco shagging the girl he thought of as his sister?
And she didn’t even have to ask herself what Ron’s reaction would be. Maybe Ron didn’t have to know… but how could she possibly keep it from him? Even thinking that she could hide it was a betrayal, which is likely what Ron would feel anyway. It was certain that any bridges Ron and Draco had been building toward friendship had just been completely obliterated.
And speaking of Draco, what did this make them? Was this a one-time thing? What happened when –?
“You’re thinking far too loud,” he murmured out of nowhere, interrupting her thoughts. His hand was lazily stroking her back.
“Sorry,” she whispered.
“What are you thinking so hard about anyway?”
“Tomorrow,” she sighed. She turned her head so her cheek was lying on his chest and closed her eyes. For some reason, hearing the beating of his heart calmed her hectic thoughts.
Draco’s body tensed a bit. “Oh?” he asked, trying to make his voice sound casual. The fear that she was regretting what had just happened between them was surprisingly sharp. She trailed the fingers of one hand down his arm absentmindedly.
“Yeah,” she said, a small smile crossing her face. Hermione decided to stop worrying and questioning everything. Tomorrow would come whether she puzzled over it or not, and her friends’ reactions would be the same regardless. She turned her face up to look at him, a seductive smile curving her lips. “Among over things.” She ran her nails up the sides of his chest and back down again.
“Such as?” His nerves disappeared and he couldn’t help the smirk that appeared. His hands were still tracing the skin of her back, but it was no longer in a lazy fashion, and the result was anything but comfortable. How could one be comfortable when they were burning, after all? It was amazing to her that he could be soothing one moment and then in the next be unbelievably arousing. But then again, he was Draco Malfoy.
She slid her body up slowly until her mouth was level with his; the sound of his suddenly ragged breathing delighted her. “Your hands…” he ran his fingers up and down her spine and she shivered deliciously “…and your mouth…” she lowered her mouth to his and kissed him gently “…and, well,” she sent him a very telling look, “lots of stuff.”
Draco cocked one brow in an arrogant fashion and said, “Well, Granger, you’ve a very busy mind, then.”
“Mmm-hmm. And it’s entirely your fault,” she added playfully.
“Then it seems I should help you clear it, shouldn’t I?” He rolled over so she was once again beneath him, and placed his mouth to a sensitive spot just below her ear.
“Well,” her voice went husky, as he had hoped it would, “it’s the least you can do.”
While Hermione was being thoroughly ravished (again), Ginny was slowly becoming more and more frustrated. Sitting in the library by herself made it a little easier; at least she had no distractions, but she really had no understanding of Transfiguration. She had an essay due by the end of the week for McGonagall on Conjuring Spells and nothing she was reading was helping; on the contrary, it was only serving to confuse her further. She had done well enough on her O.W.L. (she had gotten an “E”), but it seemed that a year without McGonagall’s lectures and Hermione’s assistance had left her in the dark. I hate Transfiguration.
Dragging her hand through her hair once again, she gave it a little tug and seriously considered heading to the Heads’ dorm to beg Hermione for help. She had some time before curfew after all. Or she could even ask Harry if she could borrow his Invisibility Cloak, though she wasn’t overly fond of that idea.
It wasn’t just that she didn’t want to have to ask him, but there were too many memories tied up in that bit of material. Particularly clear in her mind was the time they had snuck out of Gryffindor Tower at midnight to make love on top of the Astronomy Tower and had almost been caught by Filch. Luckily, Harry had grabbed the Cloak in time to cover their naked bodies before Filch had seen them, but it had been a close call. It hadn’t helped that Ginny was shaking with silent giggles because Filch was muttering to himself that he could have sworn he had heard screaming only moments before. They were lucky he hadn’t stepped on them as he prowled about.
Ginny could remember so well the way that Harry kissed her; their lips had always seemed designed to be pressed together. She knew how the flavor of his skin deepened at his jaw line, and how his fingers would always, without fail, wrap themselves around hers when they were lying in the afterglow. Harry always had been fond of holding her hand, as though that small connection was all he would ever need.
Ginny shook her head to dispel the memories; there was no point in thinking about the past, especially when her present (meaning the paper and her apparent inability to comprehend it) was so daunting. What she should be thinking about was the proper way to cajole Hermione into helping write her essay. Before she was able to decide on a plan of action, however, Dean Thomas plopped down in the chair next to her and slung his arm over the back with a casual elegance that he always seemed to exude.
“Hey, Gin. How are you doing?”
“Poorly,” she growled out, pressing her fingers to her temples and closing her eyes. Much as she liked Dean as a person, she wasn’t in the mood to deal with him trying to charm her.
“Why?” He leaned forward to look at the books surrounding her. “Ah, Transfiguration, is it?” He remembered her dislike of the subject. “What’s the topic?”
“Bloody Conjuring Spells,” she answered shortly.
“Oh, they’re easy,” he smiled. When she glared at him through narrowed eyes, he quickly sobered. “I mean, you know, for some people. Nearly killed me, they did.”
“Really?” she said sarcastically with a tilt of her head.
“Er… yeah.” He grinned in a slightly sheepish way, realizing that she wasn’t fooled. “But I’m pretty good with them now; I could help you if you like.”
“Well, I was going to ask Hermione –”
“She’s not here, I am. Come on, Gin; you know I’m good at this stuff.”
“Yeah, you are. Okay, here’s what I really don’t understand…”
They spent the next half hour discussing theory before Madam Pince chased them out. On their walk up to Gryffindor Tower, Ginny was reminded how easy it was to talk to Dean and why she had liked him in the first place. So really, was it such a bad thing that he wanted her back?
Once Ginny had given the Fat Lady the password (Jobberknoll, yet another strange animal that the Fat Lady seemed to have developed a liking to; Ginny sometimes wondered if she was spending her free time talking to Hagrid), they found seats at one of the many tables in the Common Room. Unfortunately, since the room was still crowded with other students doing homework, they were forced to sit opposite Harry and Ron.
Harry glanced up vaguely when he heard chairs being pulled out, and then his head shot up again when he saw who sat down. It was Ginny, with Dean Thomas, whom Harry currently loathed for no other reason than that he was Ginny’s ex-boyfriend and was trying to win her back. All Harry’s focus was gone; he couldn’t think about Herbology when he could hear Ginny murmuring to Dean, when he could see Dean lean into her while pointing out something from one of the books they had brought with them, when her light floral scent was floating over to him and he knew Dean was in a better position to enjoy it.
The Common Room slowly emptied until the only people left were the four at Harry’s table and a couple of third years that were playing Exploding Snap in the far corner. Ginny pulled her hair to one side absentmindedly, a habit that Harry knew was a sign of fatigue. Dean leaned into her and said something quietly that Harry couldn’t hear. But she laughed lightly and turned to look at him, their faces only inches apart. Harry’s blood began to boil even while he was telling himself over and over that what Ginny did and with whom she did it was none of his business anymore.
While Ginny was laughing, Dean placed his hand gently over hers and, when she didn’t pull it away, Harry slammed his copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi closed without thinking, causing everyone around him to jump with surprise. He couldn’t take it anymore. He mumbled that he was going to bed and stalked up to the boys’ dorm, leaving his paper and books where they lay.
“I think I’ll head to bed, too; it’s getting late.” Ginny slid her hand from Dean’s and began to quickly pack her bag. Ron packed up as well and waved to the others before following Harry up the stairs. When he arrived in the dorm, Harry was already in bed, laying on his back and staring at the ceiling, still fully clothed.
“You alright, mate?”
“Yeah, Ron, I’m fine. Just… tired, you know?”
“Yeah.” Ron knew exactly what Harry was feeling. Every time he saw Hermione with Draco Malfoy, even though he knew nothing was going on between them, he felt sick to his stomach. Asking no more questions and leaving Harry to his thoughts, Ron got changed and fell asleep almost immediately after climbing into his four-poster.
Meanwhile, Ginny was thanking Dean for his help. “I really appreciate it, Dean. I might actually be able to write this paper now,” she smiled at him as she stood and lifted her bag to her shoulder.
“Well, I think that I know a way you can repay me,” he grinned at her in a charming way. He stood as well and, though it was only a few feet, walked her to the bottom of the girls’ staircase. “Come get a drink with me at the Three Broomsticks on Saturday night.”
She lowered her eyes from his. Damn it, she thought. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings by turning him down, but she didn’t really want to be with anyone at the moment either. “Dean… I don’t think that’s –”
“Look, I know it’s been a while and that we used to fight sometimes, but I still think we could make this work. We could start over, from the beginning, no expectations, no demands.” When she still hesitated, he tucked a strand of fiery hair behind her ear and added quietly, his tone sincere, “I miss you, Gin.”
She softened at his words. He was kind and thoughtful, attractive, he made her laugh, and he cared about her. Why shouldn’t she be perfectly happy with him? And then she realized what was stopping her: he wasn’t Harry. “I… I’ll think about,” she said with a small smile.
“How about this? On Saturday night ’round seven, I’ll be having a drink at the Three Broomsticks. If you decide you want to give this a try, pop in. If not… I’ll try not to sob into my Butterbeer,” he suggested with another charming smile.
Ginny laughed a little and nodded. “Okay. Good night.”
“Good night,” he said as she walked up the stairs to her dorm. Once inside, she set down her bag and got changed for bed. She slipped under the covers silently, trying to figure out why she had the urge to cry.
The next morning was an awkward one for Hermione. When she woke up, her back was pressed up against Draco’s chest, his arm was slung over her midsection holding her in place, and their legs were tangled together. She was sure that wasn’t the position she had fallen asleep in. Hermione was almost positive that she had fallen asleep on top of Draco, not next to him; it seemed their bodies had slipped naturally into that position, and wasn’t that odd? And even though she was extremely comfortable (more comfortable than she should have been, really), she knew she had to get up.
Hermione turned, with some difficulty, to face Draco, intending to give him a gentle shake so he would let her go, but she stopped herself. It suddenly occurred to her that Draco Malfoy was still in her bed after a night of very little sleep and quite a bit of physical activity, and he looked, for the first time in a long time, peaceful. She simply couldn’t wake him. So, after slowly and carefully unraveling herself from Draco, she was completely awake and in no need of tea. As she made her way to the bathroom, she realized that this was the first morning in more than a year that she hadn’t needed at least one cup of tea to function properly.
She took a quick shower and dressed, and by the time she was knotting her Gryffindor tie, she realized that tea was necessary after all. As she waited patiently for the tea to steep properly, she heard Draco stumble out of her room and head for the bathroom. She turned her head automatically to say good morning, but her voice got trapped in her throat at the sight before her.
He was completely naked.
Hermione spun back to face the stove and clapped her hand over her mouth, unsure whether she should be amused or horrified. But if she was truthful, she couldn’t say she was shocked; she had always known that Draco Malfoy had no shame. She let out a small chuckle. Well, that certainly woke me up. Since she was running earlier than usual, she decided to enjoy her tea while repacking her book-bag rather than inhale it and head straight down to the Great Hall. Besides, she really needed to talk to Draco.
She wandered around the Common Room collecting the books she would need for that day, sipping her tea as she went. As she picked up her Potions book, a goofy grin appeared on her face. Draco came out of the bathroom, thankfully covered in a towel this time. He sent her a sleepy smile and turned into his room, presumably to get dressed. Hermione shook her head and let the smile drop, reminding herself that she needed to know exactly what was happening between them before she could let herself be happy about it.
When her bag was completely packed, she returned to the tiny kitchen to pour herself more tea. Glancing at her watch, she called out, “We’re going to be late for breakfast if we don’t leave soon – oh! I didn’t realize you were there.” As she had turned, she saw Draco standing in the kitchen doorway. She was suddenly nervous, again unsure of how to act in the morning-after situation.
He was staring at her cup with a somewhat desperate expression on his face. “Is that the last of the tea?” he asked.
“Yes,” she answered, holding it possessively and leaning against the counter.
“Are you going to make me beg, then?”
“It’s a definite option.” She smiled playfully, relieved that there wasn’t any awkwardness between them. “Maybe I just want payment.”
“What kind of payment?” he smirked.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll think of something.” Hermione placed the cup on the counter as he moved toward her and captured her lips in a surprisingly soft kiss. Draco’s hands were gentle on her waist and she couldn’t stop her fingers from threading through his still slightly damp hair.
“Does that cover my tab?” he said quietly when they broke apart.
“I think so.” Draco grabbed her tea off the counter with a half-smirk and drank it down in one gulp, before making a face at its bitter taste.
“You really should add sugar. Come on, then, let’s get to breakfast.” He turned to leave the kitchen.
“Not yet.” She waited until he turned back and she began to twist her fingers together; he noticed this with a raised brow. “I, well… this is going to sound so juvenile… I’m, well, I was wondering… I mean, I just wanted to know… damn it!” She turned and gave the wall a little kick, which was very unlike her.
“Was that another expression in frustration?” he quipped, leaning up against the kitchen doorjamb with a characteristic smirk. He positively loved it when she cursed.
“Don’t you get cute with me, Draco Malfoy!” she said, suddenly angry.
“I can’t help it, Granger; it’s inborn.” He pushed away from the doorway and walked back toward her slowly. He knew what she was so anxious about, but she wasn’t the only one who was nervous; he was just better at hiding it. She might be wondering where he stood, but he had questions of his own that he wanted answered. Draco stopped when he was directly in front of her, close enough to brush against her, but not. “Last night meant something to me. Did it mean anything to you?”
Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. How can he ask me that? “Of course it did. It… it meant quite a bit, actually.” She lowered her eyes to the floor nervously.
Draco let out a sigh of relief. Well, that’s one down, he thought to himself. “Good, me too.” He placed a finger under her chin and tilted her head back until she was looking into his eyes again. Starting at her shoulders, he ran his hands down her arms and linked his hands with hers. “I want to be with you, Hermione… exclusively. Is that a problem for you?”
She thought briefly of her friends and what their reactions would be. Of Ron, how hurt he would feel seeing her and Draco together. Of what the rest of the school would think, how whispers would follow them everywhere they went. But right now, with Draco’s hands in hers, and his stormy eyes looking into hers, those concerns seemed far away. “No,” she shook her head gently, a beautiful smile slowly covering her face.
“Good,” he said again with his own smile. He was flooded with happiness and amazement that this remarkable girl would choose to be with him, when he knew full-well that he didn’t deserve her, that she was too good for him. He kissed her softly again. “Now can we please get some breakfast? I’m starving.”
She smiled and picked up her bag. “Teenage boys are always starving,” she said with a laugh as they walked out. She didn't realize that they had begun walking hand-in-hand in a corridor filled with other students heading down to breakfast.
“I suppose you’re right. Not to mention that I was up all night engaging in rather –”
“Draco!” Hermione hissed, though she couldn’t keep the laughter out of her eyes.
“What?” he asked playfully. “It’s your fault that I’m so tired –”
“Oh, shut up,” she giggled. They were nearing the Great Hall and nerves replaced her laughter again. “Listen, would you mind if we weren’t… obvious in front of everyone just yet?”
This is what he had been afraid of, that she would be ashamed to admit she was with him. “I didn’t realize you would want this kept secret, Granger,” he said, barely succeeding in keeping his voice casual.
“I don’t! Draco, it’s not that.” She stopped outside the doorway of the Great Hall, and turned to face him, keeping her hand tight in his. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that a lot of the students walking past were looking at her and Draco curiously, already starting to whisper. When Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil passed by, eyes wide and not bothering to hide the fact that they were staring, Hermione knew it would be impossible to keep her relationship with Draco hidden even if she wanted to. She pulled him further down the corridor, where there weren’t quite so many people. “I don’t want you and me to be a secret, but… it’s complicated. I need to talk to Ron alone; he needs to hear about us from me, not through the Hogwarts’ gossip mill.”
Draco let out a breath of frustration, knowing she was right. Though he didn’t like the fact that Ron was a factor, he had to admit that if he were in Weasley’s place he would feel the same way: He would want to hear it from Hermione herself.
“I’m sorry –” she began, but he stopped her.
“No, I understand.” He smirked arrogantly and pulled her against him. “Just do it quick, Granger; I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off you for long.” Since they were pretty much by themselves, he lowered his head and kissed her neck softly. “Did I happen to mention that you smell fantastic?”
She let out a small chuckle. “We’re going to miss breakfast.”
“I thought you said you were hungry,” she responded, her voice going husky as his lips cruised along the sensitive skin of her collarbone.
“Oh, I am,” he brought his mouth up to hers. “Starved.” He captured her lips with his, his hand sliding along her jaw to her the back of her neck, knowing that this small bit of her would have to carry him through the rest of the day.
Hermione was a bit surprised that she didn’t push him away. Here she was, Head Girl, snogging the Head Boy in the middle of a school corridor where anyone could happen upon them. Including Ron. But she couldn’t stop herself; no matter how many times Draco kissed her, she felt more alive than ever before.
They broke apart a minute later and Hermione sighed. “Come on,” she said softly, letting her fingers slip from his, although somewhat reluctantly. And so they walked, together but apart, into the Great Hall. But when they arrived at the Gryffindor table, neither Ron nor Harry was anywhere in sight. Only Ginny was there, picking glumly at her food and looking preoccupied.
“Morning,” she said without looking up from her plate as Hermione and Draco sat down.
“Where are Harry and Ron?” Hermione asked.
“Ron just ran back upstairs to get something. I don’t know where Harry is.”
“You haven’t seen him?”
“No,” Ginny answered shortly, never taking her eyes off her plate. “And I don’t care to at the moment.”
“Ginny, are you alright?” Hermione asked her as Draco loaded his plate.
“Not really,” Ginny sighed. “I really need to talk to you Mione –” She cut herself off when she finally looked up into Hermione’s face. Glancing between her and Draco a few times, Ginny’s eyes grew wide with realization and a trace of shock. “You two shagged, didn’t you?” she asked loudly.
“Ginny! Lower your voice!” Hermione’s wide eyes glanced around at everyone who was now staring at them, while Draco just burst out laughing next to her.
“Sorry,” Ginny answered quietly, smiling sheepishly.
“Merlin, you might as well start handing out flyers, Ginny,” Hermione said exasperatedly. She let out a frustrated breath when she saw Lavender and Parvati deep in conversation, flicking glances in Hermione’s direction.
“So I was right, then? You two shagged?” For the first time since she had spoken to Dean the night before, Ginny was completely distracted. She only needed to see the shy happiness creep over Hermione’s face to get an answer. “So are you...?” she wondered tentatively, waggling her finger between them. Hermione smiled and gave a small nod; Draco just winked at her. “Well, that’s great – oh…” she had suddenly realized the reason for Hermione being tight-lipped. “What are you going to tell Ron?”
“The truth,” said Hermione simply.
Ginny nodded, knowing Hermione would never consider lying to Ron, especially about this. “When?”
“Today… as soon as I get a chance,” Hermione answered, trying not to betray how terrified she was, but Ginny knew. Before she could comfort her friend, however, Draco did it for her by placing his hand over Hermione’s twisting fingers in a comforting fashion.
“Everything will be fine, Granger.” He knew that she was more afraid of hurting Ron than getting hurt herself, and Draco was trying not to let it bother him. Hermione sent him a grateful look and turned her hand over in his to link fingers briefly.
Ginny watched this interaction with considering eyes and a slight smile. Well, at least I know it’s not just about the sex. And though she was very pleased that Hermione was happy, she couldn’t help a trace of sadness from flitting through her when she realized how far from happiness she herself was.
Hermione and Draco’s fingers parted only moments before Ron and Harry both appeared in their midst. Having little time for breakfast before classes began, Harry ate quickly without joining in the conversation, and he couldn’t help but notice that Ginny didn’t speak much either. Apparently she was lost in thought and Harry could only wonder miserably what (or who) was occupying her mind.
When Dean had come into the dorm last night there had been a wide smile on his face that made Harry extremely miserable. He assumed that Dean had asked Ginny out and that she had accepted. And that was the real reason Harry had not come to breakfast sooner; he hadn’t wanted to see the two of them together, not again. Only when Ron had come back up to the dorm for his Charms book and had mentioned as casually as possible that Ginny was sitting alone in his absence did Harry decide to brave the Great Hall that morning. Perhaps the worst had not happened, after all… at least, not yet.
Hermione didn’t get a chance to speak to Ron privately all day. Professor Flitwick gave them a surprise test (thank Merlin she had spent lunch the day before reviewing her extensive notes) and Professor McGonagall started them on a new spell that even Hermione had some initial problems with, though she of course mastered it by the end of class. Ron didn’t join them for lunch because he hadn’t finished his Potions essay (as usual) and had had to run to the library.
This did, however, give Hermione the chance to fill Harry in on everything that had happened, though she of course hadn’t gone into detail. She had sent Draco a quiet look before they went into the Great Hall, silently letting him know that she was about to let Harry know. He only sent her a cocky (and she had to confess, sexy) smile before striding into the Hall with Ginny, trying to start a conversation to cheer the girl up. Hermione couldn’t help but smile after him; he really could be very sweet when he tried, though he admittedly didn’t try very often.
She pulled Harry aside before he entered the Hall, said she needed to speak to him, dragged him out to sit on the front steps, and told him everything that she felt he had a right to know about what had happened the night before between her and Draco, mainly that they were now together. He sat silently the whole time, never interrupting, listening in his careful way. When Hermione finished, he stayed silent for a moment staring out over the grounds, apparently thinking something through. “Right,” he said, more to himself than to her, and nodded once as though making up his mind. He stood, said, “Excuse me,” and strode swiftly through the large oak doors into the Entrance Hall.
Hermione couldn’t move for a minute, surprise gluing her to the spot. But then she jumped to her feet and ran after Harry into the Great Hall, thinking shit, shit, shit the entire time. She was sure that he was angry, and that Draco was going to bare the brunt of it. By the time she caught up with Harry, he was already standing in front of Draco, and she caught the tail end of what he was saying. “…to speak with you. Privately.”
“Of course,” Draco responded, his tone just as serious as Harry’s was. Inside, he feared what the Gryffindor would say, but let none of it show.
“Harry, wait –” Hermione began, but Draco stopped her with a quick look, signaling her to let him handle whatever it was that Harry had to say. Hermione sat, watching anxiously as they walked out. She noticed vaguely that the Hall was quieter than usual, since most people were watching what was happening between the former rivals.
Draco followed Harry into the deserted Entrance Hall and stood calmly, waiting, but Harry only paced about, obviously unsure of how to begin.
“Right,” he started, pacing back and forth in front of Draco like a human metronome; four steps left, four steps right. “Okay. Hermione told me what… happened between you two… Hermione’s like a sister to me, she is my sister –”
“I know,” Draco cut in quietly.
Harry stopped his pacing to look at Draco squarely. “Then I don’t have to tell you how important she is to me. I’m trusting you with her, and if you hurt her… I won’t kill you, but I’ll make it so that you’ll wish I did.”
“Good.” He held out his hand for Draco to shake. When their hands met, Harry let his face split into a relieved grin and Draco couldn’t help but do the same.
“I thought you were going to hex me for a second there,” Draco admitted after dropping his hand.
“I did consider it briefly. Not because it’s you, mate, but because it’s her.”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“How are you planning on dealing with Ron?” Harry asked, serious once again.
“Hermione’s going to talk to him as soon as she gets the chance; she wants to make sure that he hears about it from her. After that… I have no idea.” Harry simply nodded. They began walking back in, but before they reached the doors, Draco said sincerely, “Harry, I’m not going to hurt her.”
“If I thought you were going to, you wouldn’t be able to stand right now,” Harry said with another grin and walked ahead of Draco into the Hall.
“Of course I wouldn’t,” Draco muttered, before catching up.
When they pasted the threshold, both couldn’t help but notice how many heads were turned in their direction. “Is it just me,” Draco said as they walked toward the Gryffindor table, “or do they all look a bit disappointed that we aren’t bloody?” Harry just laughed.
Hermione was relieved to see both Draco and Harry were still in one piece when they arrived back at the Gryffindor table. The only uncomfortable thing about lunch that day was Ginny’s pre-occupation and Harry’s obvious distancing from Ginny. Completely bewildered as to why her two friends were so miserable today, Hermione pulled Ginny away from the boys and asked Ginny to meet her in the library after dinner to discuss what was going on. And Ginny agreed on one condition: that Hermione told Ron about her and Draco before then.
“If I had had a chance yet, he would already know, Gin.”
“You’re lucky he hasn’t already found out.”
“Well, I do have one thing working for me there,” Hermione said lowly as they walked out. At Ginny’s blank look, she explained. “Do you really think anybody in this school is thick enough to mention to Ron Weasley that Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger are shagging?”
“No, probably not,” Ginny had to admit. “But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have overheard it somewhere.”
“You know as well as I do that Ron doesn’t hear anything unless he chooses to,” she said, though that thought didn’t cheer her any. Hermione was afraid that she was going to have to be dreadfully blunt with Ron for him to accept what was happening. And she was terrified that he would hate her for it; even the thought that Ron might pull his friendship from her was tying knots in her stomach that were nearly unbearable.
Harry, Hermione, and Draco made their way down to the dungeons for Potions that afternoon without waiting for Ron, as he had told Harry and Hermione that he would meet them there. It was a bit odd for Harry to see Hermione and Draco’s hands intertwined, especially since it seemed that it was unconscious; their hands simply found each other’s naturally.
It made Harry think longingly of Ginny. Their hands used to do the same thing, finding each other without a conscious effort. He had always loved holding her hand; it fit perfectly into his as though it belonged there. In his sixth year, when the Wizarding world had begun to crumble around them, knowing that he could reach out and touch her in that most innocent of ways had kept him grounded. That was why he had gotten so angry the night before. Dean touching Ginny’s hand had enraged him like nothing else, and he couldn’t help but wonder if Dean loved Ginny’s hands as much as he, Harry, did.
He shook himself as they settled into their seats in the dungeons and he pulled out his old, battered copy of Advanced Potion-Making. When they had returned to Hogwarts in September, one of the first things Harry had done was go back to the Room of Requirement to retrieve the book that had belonged to Severus Snape many years ago. It would have been a real shame, he had explained to Hermione, to let a perfectly good book go to waste, especially when it was filled with so much useful information.
Hermione still hated that book, even though Harry had promised to treat any spell he found within it with extreme caution now that he knew who the previous owner had been. But it was still Harry’s ambition to become an Auror and having Snape’s old copy would undoubtedly be helpful. Any adolescent fantasies that Harry had held about becoming a professional Quidditch player had disappeared. There were more important things in life than catching a Snitch, and after all, who was better equipped than Harry to fight Dark wizards? He probably had more experience in that field than any Aurors now in training.
Professor Slughorn walked in five minutes late, as usual, only moments after Ron had arrived. After turning in their rolled up essays (Ron had had to leave his open since the ink on the last few paragraphs was still drying), they began work on a very complex potion that only Harry and Hermione were able to complete without trouble. Harry because of the book, and Hermione because, well… she was Hermione.
But the difficult potion made absolute focus necessary, which of course meant that Hermione was, again, unable to speak to Ron. Although, even if the potion had been simple, she probably still wouldn’t have spoken to him yet. They did, after all, share this class with Draco, and it would be much more prudent to wait until Ron was not in the same room with him. Perhaps it would even be best to wait until Draco was not in the same country.
By the time class was over, Hermione had decided to do the same with Ron as she had done with Harry, which was to pull him aside before dinner to talk. Harry had asked if she wanted him to come along for moral support when she told Ron (and whether that moral support would be more for Ron or herself, she did not know), but Hermione said no; this was something, she knew, that she had to do alone.
She still had no idea how she was going to tell him. It was so much more complicated with Ron than it was with Harry. First of all, Ron was far more volatile; Harry was more likely to think something like this over before acting, where as Ron would simply fly off the handle.
And second of all, Hermione had no romantic history with Harry. Her love for Harry had always been sisterly, and she knew he felt the same way. But she had been with Ron, had intimately loved him in more than just the physical sense. And on top of that, it was painfully obvious that Ron had not moved on as she had, so it would be doubly hard because she knew he would be hurt.
But the point remained that it had to be done. Just do it, Hermione, she told herself, before you lose your nerve.
“Ron,” she said, grabbing his elbow and pulling him purposefully away from the Great Hall. “I need to talk to you.”
“Yes, right now,” she answered, trying to find a deserted classroom.
“But… the food is that way,” he said, jerking his head in the general direction of the Great Hall, from which the scents and sounds of dinner were emanating. “Couldn’t this wait until after we eat?”
“Ron,” she stopped and turned to him with a plea in her eyes. “Please, this is important.”
He took a moment to study her. She was extremely nervous, he noted, and he could see her fingers trembling. An incredible thought passed through his mind and he latched onto it desperately. Could it be that she was ready, finally, to be with him again? Was that why she was so nervous? Was that the reason she was intent on finding a private place to chat? That had to be it. “Okay,” he said with a small smile. “Lead the way, then.”
“This classroom will do. Come on.” She turned away from him to open the door, stubbornly refusing to see the hope that had leapt into his eyes. After dropping her bag just inside the doorway, Hermione silently conjured two comfy looking poufs out of thin air. They were reminiscent of what one might find in Professor Trelawney’s stuffy Divination classroom. The conversation was going to be uncomfortable enough, Hermione reasoned, so why should they sit in uncomfortable desk chairs while they spoke?
They sat down across from each other, knees almost touching. Hermione sat rigidly, her whole body tense with nerves and fear. But Ron was completely at ease; he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs with a slight grin. A moment passed in which Hermione couldn’t bring herself to speak, only stare down at her lap where her hands were twisted together. “So, what was so important?” Ron broke the edgy silence. He couldn’t understand why Hermione was so hesitant to tell him that she wanted to be with him again. Surely she knew that he wanted the same thing?
Hermione drew a deep breath and gathered her courage. “Something happened last night…” she trailed off, needing another moment to make sure her words came out the right way.
Yeah, Ron thought to himself, you realized you were still in love with me. When Hermione still didn’t speak, he reached across and pulled her hands into his comfortingly. “Mione, it’s okay.”
She finally lifted her head and looked into his eyes, knowing exactly what he was thinking. If for no other reason than that it was unfair to allow him to believe any longer, she had to tell him now, and quickly. She slid her hands deliberately away from his. She never broke his gaze and said very clearly, so that there would be no confusion, “Something happened last night between me and Draco.”
Ron’s smile froze abnormally on his face and his hands hung limp between his knees. “What?” he said faintly.
“Draco and I, last night, we… well, anyway, we’re together now…”
Her voice sounded dim and far away. Ron knew that Hermione was still speaking – he could see her mouth moving – but he couldn’t hear a thing she was saying. An angry buzzing was in his ears, as though a thousand bees had invaded his mind. He couldn’t even see her clearly anymore, his vision blurred, not by tears, but by utter shock and denial. It couldn’t be true, it couldn’t. Vicious images filled his brain, flashes of Hermione, his Hermione, in the arms of Draco Malfoy.
Her fingers touched the skin of his arm and he was suddenly wrenched back into reality, pain hitting him with stunning strength. “Ron?” Hermione’s voice was strangled and weak.
He looked at her as though he had never seen her before. There were tears in her eyes, her beautiful eyes, begging him to understand, to not hate her. Didn’t she know that he could never hate her? But how could she expect him to understand? Not this, not with him.
“Please,” she whispered, “please, Ron, say something.” She wanted him to scream at her, curse her, something. Anything would be better than this tortured silence. But he only shook his head and stood abruptly, moving away from her, as though he couldn’t stand to be so close to her anymore. He wouldn’t look in her direction, as though he couldn’t bear to see her. Hermione stood as well, but did nothing to close the distance between them. They were suddenly so much farther away from each other than the scant six feet of air that physically separated them.
Ron couldn’t speak, words utterly failed him. What possible response could he give her? There was only one thing in his mind now, one question he must know the answer to, and suddenly it was flying from his brain to his mouth of its own volition. “Why?” he asked hoarsely, his voice rough with emotion.
Hermione stifled a sob and answered him as truthfully as she could. “I… I don’t know. There’s just this… connection between us. I don’t know how to explain it to you, it just… is.”
Her response, rather than comforting him, only caused him more pain, and he closed his eyes, trying to absorb it. It was worse, somehow, knowing that Hermione herself didn’t understand it. Ron would have said almost the exact same thing if anyone had asked him why he loved her: He just did, always had and always would. Loving Hermione was as natural as breathing for him, and somehow just as essential.
“Ron… I never meant… please, don’t hate me.”
“I could never hate you, Hermione. Never.” He turned back to her with a thin, humorless smile twisting his face. How ironic; he couldn’t let himself hate her, and she wouldn’t allow him to love her. The smile faded as quickly as it had come. “But… I can’t be near you… or anybody else right now. Okay?”
Hermione nodded, not speaking, terrified that anything she said would only make matters worse. She picked up her bag and left the classroom silently, her feet carrying her automatically toward the library where she knew that Ginny was likely already waiting for her. She really needed the comfort of a friendly face, and right now, though she wanted to, she couldn’t go to Draco.
Alone in the empty classroom, Ron sank slowly onto one of the poufs that Hermione had left behind. The room was colder in her absence, or was that simply the loss of hope he now felt so profoundly? The only sound was his ragged breathing, and the frantic thoughts cascading through his mind were the only company he could stand. He wondered, vaguely, how long it would take for his heart to stop feeling as if it were being repeatedly stabbed by an icy knife, or whether it would ever end at all.
A/N: Yeah, I know, the end of this chapter is kinda depressing. Sorry, but it had to be done! It was going to be longer, but I felt like this was the right place to stop. And besides, it’s pretty long anyway. For anyone that wondering where the music went, it’s coming back soon. Oh, by the way, I’ve been using the HP Lexicon to make sure my information is as canon accurate as possible, so I would just like to send a thank you to them; they’ve been a big help. And I’m sorry to anyone who was expecting the Neville/Luna ship to be more prevalent; they aren’t really a main focus because there’s more important stuff going on with the other characters. But I promise that we will see more of them in coming chapters. Not necessarily in the next chapter, but at some point, I swear. I’m actually considering writing a one-shot about them that’s all about how they got together (you know, in connection with this story), so if anyone wants me to do that, just say so. The more votes I get for it, the more likely it is that I’ll write it. I can’t wait to hear everyone’s reactions to this chapter, so please, please, PLEASE review! ~Meghan
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