Chapter 16 : Breaking News
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Luckily, Ginny was too distracted to notice—she was anxious to see Harry again and it was all she could talk about. “Harry said for us to meet them at The Three Broomsticks. I can’t wait to show him our team logo!” Her cheeks were flushed with anticipation.
The Three Broomsticks. Hearing the name made Hermione’s heart jump into her throat. She nodded and they made their way towards the tavern. Hermione’s mind began to race with questions. How do I say this, how do I break the news in the best possible way? IS there a best way? Will they hate me?
Before she knew it, they had reached the Three Broomsticks. Ginny burst through the door; Hermione took a deep breath and followed in her wake.
Harry and Ron were sitting at one of the tables. Harry, with a big grin, stood up just in time to catch Ginny as she hurled herself into his embrace. He held her in a long, tight hug, his eyes were closed and the blissful look on his face immediately lifted Hermione’s spirits. It was wonderful to see Harry so relaxed and happy. Then she remembered Ron. She looked down at him—he was still sitting—and he looked up at her with a bashful smile. “Hello, Hermione.”
She took in his flushed face, hesitant grin, and the way his blue eyes peered up at her through the ginger hair flopping over his forehead and she realized that she loved him, but only as a friend. She wasn’t exactly sure when it was that her feelings had changed towards him, but they most definitely had and her friends had a right to know that. When the time is right, she thought. Now is the time to enjoy each other’s company. “Hello, Ron,” she answered him with a smile.
Ron stood up slowly and gave her a hug. Hermione could feel tension in his body as he hugged her; ironically, she was completely relaxed. Seeing Ron again showed her that she was doing the right thing—it would be wrong to continue a relationship where the feelings for each other weren’t mutual—and as a result, the feelings of dread that she had been harboring had significantly lessened.
She hugged him back with enthusiasm. “It’s good to see you again Ron,” she said softly, with emotion. She meant every word. He would always be very dear to her, but now she knew that it would be in friendship only. She gently stepped out of his embrace and turned to Harry. He was still hugging Ginny. Hermione giggled. “Ginny, let go of Harry and give me a turn, for Merlin’s sake!” Ginny looked over her shoulder at Hermione and gave her a small, playful pout. “Oh, all right. But don’t take too long!” She stepped away from Harry with a smile as he threw his arms out to Hermione. “Hermione,” he got out just before she flung herself into his arms.
Hermione could feel tears pricking her eyes as she hugged Harry tight. She hadn’t realized until that moment just how much she had missed her friends. “Harry,” was all that she could manage. It was enough. They held each other for a moment and then Harry pulled back slightly and cupped her face in his hands. “You look well. School agrees with you,” he said with a grin.
Hermione smiled. “Well, you always knew that about me.” She stepped back and sat down at the table, between Harry and Ron’s seats. Harry sat down next to her, Ginny at his other side. He looked closely at Hermione. “So, you’re doing better, then?” he continued. Hermione knew he was referring to that last month she had spent at the Weasleys before going to stay with her parents. She had been very withdrawn and listless and ended up spending most of her time cloistered up in Ginny’s room reading.
“I am. Thanks, Harry.” However, it was Draco Malfoy, and not school that had gotten her out of her depression. In the past week of dealing with him, she had felt more alive than she ever had since the War ended.
Harry ordered butterbeers for the table and the four of them sat and chatted for a while, with Harry and Ginny doing most of the talking. Hermione was biding her time to bring up the news at the correct moment; Ron seemed a bit awkward and covered up his lack of conversation by drinking a significant amount of butterbeer.
The conversation finally started to wind down. Harry and Ginny had been giving each other some long, lingering looks and Hermione could tell that they were getting ready to break away for some time alone. This was the moment, she realized. She took a deep breath. “I have something to tell all of you,” she began.
Ginny and Harry immediately looked away from each other and focused on Hermione with concern. “Hermione,” Ginny said, “is everything okay?”
“Well…it all depends on how you look at it. Remember how I was telling you all about what a git Malfoy was being, and how we ended up in detention together and such?” They both nodded. Ron, she noticed, had finally leaned in and was listening intently. Oh dear, she thought. Just keep going; this has to be done. She turned to Ron and took his hand. “Ron, I’m sorry. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but Draco and I seem to have reached an…understanding,” she blurted out. She didn’t know how else to say it; it barely made sense to her, how was she supposed to explain it to someone else?
“Draco? Did you just call him Draco? Hermione, have you completely lost your mind?!” Harry exploded. Ginny’s mouth was open in a surprised “O”, but she held her tongue. The news had confirmed some of her suspicions. Hermione looked back at Ron. He had let go of her hand and had leaned back in his chair, his eyes staring at the floor. Was he in shock? Hermione thought frantically.
“Hermione, how can you trust that…that…Slytherin snake? How many times did we save that coward’s life and then he turned on us!” Harry was getting more and more worked up. Ginny was holding on to his arm in an attempt to calm him down.
Hermione looked away from Ron, who was still staring at the floor in silence. “Harry,” she explained, “I know we have a long and horrible history with Draco Malfoy, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that war changes people. And remember that he did help us out at Malfoy Manor…even though Ron and I weren’t disguised at all, he wouldn’t confirm our identity to the Death Eaters.”
The look on Harry’s face was still incredulous, but at least he wasn’t shouting at her anymore. Ginny leaned in, took Harry’s arm once again and said to him in a low tone, “Remember the night Dumbledore died, Harry. You said that you felt sorry for Malfoy…and that he had lowered his wand before Snape finished Dumbledore himself.”
Hermione gave Ginny a look of gratitude. “Please trust me, Harry. I’m finding that the world’s a different place now, and that I’m finally ready to start living in it again.”
Harry sighed. “Well...I guess it’s not really for me to say…it all depends on Ron…”
She slowly turned her focus back to Ron. He still hadn’t said a word and that was making her excruciatingly worried. “Ron..?” she ventured timidly.
His eyes finally met hers and they were swimming with emotion. Blue eyes reflected confusion, anger, embarrassment and deep hurt. “So now I’m supposed to say, ‘That’s okay, Hermione, I understand’? Well, I’m not, because I don’t!” And with that, he rose out of his chair and stomped out the door.
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