Chapter 35 : The Aftermath; Part I
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Chapter 35: The Aftermath, Part I
Time was suspended. She heard Professor Snape's voice, the muttering around her growing louder, but she wasn't listening. The ground beneath her was cold, but she couldn't feel it. She noted movement in her peripherals, but she didn't register what was going on.
Shock. Disbelief. She had been so careful. So sure.... She had almost won.
But it didn't matter, because Hermione knew- almost didn't count.
She raised a hand to shut him up, and broke his gaze. Draco had breached the silence first. Hermione would have noted that as interesting- he was never the first one to give up ground like that- but right now, she couldn't process it. Couldn't process anything at all.
She had failed.
Miserably. And now, she was sitting on her ass, gaping at him like a fool.
“Well, well, well, Mudblood,” Pansy came up to the sitting pair, grinning wickedly from above them. She flicked her hair. Hermione's fingers itched towards her wand. Maybe, just this once, I'll burn it off. Just this--
But she was better than that. “Shut up, Parkinson,” she said softly.
Pansy raised a brow. “My, my, looks like we have a sore loser.”
Professor Snape rolled his eyes and walked away from the trio. “Dinner, at seven. You'll find your trunks in your dormitories.” With a swish of a cloak, he was gone.
And then, pandemonium. Draco's team came up, hooting a hollering, as did most of the Slytherins. They picked him up of the ground, and hoisted him into the air, nearly trampling on Hermione. “Hey- caref--”
Hermione was probably hallucinating. That couldn't have been--
“Oi, shove it!” Ron said, pushing a smirking Slytherin out of the way. He squatted down to be eye level with Hermione. He grasped her chin with his fingers, forcing her to look up. She yanked her chin out of his grasp with a twist of her head.
“Don't.” Hermione said. Ron barely heard it- it was scarcely a whisper.
“Let's get her out of here,” Harry said to run, and grasped Hermione's upper arm. Ron got the other and they picked her up off of the floor. She was a shaking a little, they noticed, but they kept it to themselves.
The cheers got louder and louder, someone started chanting “Draco! Draco! Draco!” Someone else his last name- until the Great Hall was echoing with his name.
“Faster,” Harry said to Ron. They couldn't gracefully get her out together, so Ron stopped quickly, and picked her up. Harry went over and opened one of the side doors. Hermione put her arms around Ron's neck, and put her face into his shoulder.
She wasn't going to cry. She made that promise to herself, but she didn't know when. She couldn't cry in front of anyone. She wasn't a sore loser.
….they just couldn't see.
The ring on her hand burned insistently. It was going to be a rough day, and crying wouldn't add anything to it. She still had too---
She shuddered, thinking about it.
“Cold?” Ron asked, picking up his pace just a little bit, trying to hurry her away from the chants that seemed to follow them like shadows through the halls of the castle.
Hermione shook her head “no”.
He didn't slow down anyway.
Harry shook his head. How in the world. He didn't understand. It was a fluke. Had to be. In some way. But he knew it wasn't. The snitch had been his signet. He had to have deduced that only a seeker could have won the game. But he hadn't put the pieces together. He was surprised that Hermione hadn't put that together. But that's Hermione for you, a voice in his head responded. She likes to do it all by herself.
He glanced at his female friend. “Did she pass out?” He asked.
Ron looked up at Harry for a second. “I think so. She's a lot lighter than she used to be.”
Harry looked again at Hermione, concern in his gaze. “This is going to be a mess,” Harry said as they reached the Fat Lady's portrait.
“I'm going to kill that tosser,” Ron growled.
“I beg your pardon!” The Fat Lady looked down at them, dressed up in her usual vomit of pink laces and frills. “That most certainly is not the password.” Her voiced cracked on the 'not'.
“We missed you, too,” Harry said, sardonically. “And we don't have a password just yet. We've just been told to go to our dormitories and clean up for dinner.”
“Why, that's preposterou--”
“Listen, you've known us for years. It's not like we turned Slytherin overnight. Just let us in already,” Ron said. Hermione might be light, but Ron's arms were giving out a little bit.
“What's the magic word?”
Harry looked up at the Fat Lady, disbelief written all over his face. “Are you serious? You've got to be joking.”
The Fat Lady looked at them expectantly for a moment, and then realized that she was talking to teenage boys. “You lot are no fun at all!” The portrait swung open slowly, and the two males rushed through into the common room, trying to drown out the sounds of her high pitched voice making some sort of absurd comment about how men were more charming in her day and age.
As if they cared.
Ron gently lowered Hermione onto the couch.
“We need to wake her,” Harry said to Ron. “She needs to get up to the dormitories before anyone else gets here.”
Ron looked at Hermione's sleeping form. She looked exhausted, circles under her eyes, hair frazzled, her clothing torn and soggy. He didn't want to wake her, but he knew Harry was right. As per usual.
Harry knelt down next to Hermione, and put his hand on her shoulder. “'Mione,” He said, shaking her a little bit. “Mione, you've got to--”
Hermione suddenly shot up into a sitting position, nearly knocking heads with Harry. Her wild eyes assessed the room- it took her a moment to take in her surroundings. Her heart was beating out of her ears. She had passed out? She looked at Harry and Ron, both messes. “You guys need to get cleaned up,” she said to them and stepped up off of the couch.
Harry and Ron exchanged a glance. “So do you,” Harry responded. “Are you going to be OK?”
Hermione looked at Ron and then at Harry. She got up and started walking to the girls dormitories- they stared up after her. “I'll see you at dinner,” she said over her shoulder, before closing the door to them.
She didn't know quite yet to answer that question.
Ron and Harry were left alone, in the common room, more worried than they were before.
A hot shower.
It was absolutely the most wonderful thing in the world, Draco decided. Especially for a cold-blooded man, such as himself. He massaged his shoulder, sud covered fingers sliding over the pale skin, and let out an audible sigh of pleasure.
Heaven, absolute heaven.
The second best thing was the silence that surrounded him in the shower. His fellow house mates decided to let him, as the victor, take his shower in peace.
He probably would have hexed all of their mouths shut otherwise and then would have had his shower.
He raked the shampoo through through his hair, enjoying the motion. He was trying so hard not to think. But try as he might, his thoughts just kept coming.
He was still in disbelief. He had wanted to win, hell, he should have thought that was going to be the outcome.
But she had been a step ahead of him the entire way. Literally.
She should have won.
He should have been proud of himself, happy for winning, his ego should have been rejoicing right now, doing victory dances and all sorts of other silly non-Slytherin things. Draco frowned.
The fact that it came down to his seeker instincts irked him.
Had she been a seeker, or had his reflexes, the win had been hers.
He didn't care, really. He won, and that's all that mattered.
He tried to block her wide disbelieving stare out of his mind.
He simply stood underneath the pouring waterfall.
The image crept back into his mind.
His mouth lifted into a snarl.
This was ridiculous. All this, over one girl who didn't win.
He took the sponge and finished up the job, no longer enjoying the water running down his back. It was too hot and he was too lazy to turn it onto cold. He left the water running as he stepped out onto the cold stones, wrapped a towel around his trim waist and went to stand in front of the mirror. This was ridiculous. Something had to have been wrong with his brain.
He looked fine. Well, he looked more than fine, he was a quite handsome, he knew this. He leaned closer and looked into his reflection- into his own eyes, for a sign of madness.
He stayed there for a moment, searching, then leaned away from the mirror.
He wasn't crazy. He was the winner!
He slammed the sink with an open palm.
“This is ridiculous.”
He glared at himself, and walked out of the shower door, letting the next boy in, ignoring all of the others waiting for him outside like paparazzi. No one said a word- they stood there like gargoyles, carved out of the Slytherin hall stones. His glare had frozen them.
He strode right by them and into the dormitories, slamming the door behind him.
~* ^ *~
Ginny stormed into the common room. She was not happy. Not happy at all. Hermione had to be there. She didn't care at the moment that the girl had lost everything she had worked for for the past five months or so. She had played dirty, and she was going to get her fill.
She stomped up the stairs, red hair flying behind her. She yanked open the door to the dormitories and then went up to Hermione's floor.
But when she walked in, what she saw stopped her cold. Her prepared speech flew out of her brain.
Hermione was sitting on the floor, still in her pirate garb, tears streaked down her face, staring dazedly at an oddly spiraled ring around her finger.
The curly haired friend didn't respond- just kept staring at her hand.
“Hermione, are you listening?”
“Hmmm?” Hermione responded, not moving.
“We have to go to the Great Hall soon, dinner is in an hour and a half.”
Hermione continued looking at her ring. She already knew that information. The ring glinted at her as she moved it in the light. It was almost uncomfortably warm.
She knew what she had to do. She just couldn't believe it. Any of it. But she was a Gryffindor. And she kept her promises- she payed up to her debts, always. It would all pass. If she treated it as a really bad joke, maybe it would't be real.
The bed creaked a little as she sat up and looked at Ginny. “Don't you have anything else to say to me?”
Ginny's looked into her friend's face. Another day. “I did, but...... it's not important right now.”
She wanted to yell and stomp and rant. But this was something else. She'd never seen Hermione like this. She didn't know what was going on in her brain, but ….. Now wasn't the time for tantrums.
The game had changed people, obviously. Ginny just made an extremely mature act.
“I'm sure,” Hermione assured Ginny. She stepped up, using the bed as a crutch. “I just need to take a shower.”
She didn't look up at the red head as she got up and headed towards the showers. She almost couldn't deal with the repercussions of what she did to her. How she betrayed Ginny's trust. It was unthinkable.
It seemed that the game had changed Hermione also. Undermined her true self. Hermione wasn't sure she was the ruthless woman she played in the game.
But maybe that was exactly who she was.
Hermione gritted her teeth as she ripped off the remnants of her clothing and turned the water onto the hottest setting. She hissed as the water scalded her skin.
It was time to wake up. Time to make a game plan.
Because as much as she'd like to think so, she knew- that the game wasn't over, at least for her. She wasn't going to play to any of their whims they way that they wanted her to.
Draco might have won the game, but that doesn't mean that Hermione was going to bow down to him. He had manipulated her emotions during the game. She was furious. She had been played like a spade on a poker table. It wouldn't happen again. She was not a woman to be messed around with. She just had to remind him of that. He was scared of her for a reason.
She glared at the ring on her finger. Pansy won that bet, too- what made her take the Slytherin girl's bet she had no idea, she had gotten too arrogant it seemed, in a moment of ill judgement. She knew she had to humiliate herself in front of everyone.
If she was going to do it, she was going to do it with a bang.
The wheels were turning in her brain, she knew what she was going to do, and how she was going to do it, but first she had to get her hands on one thing....
She hopped out of the shower, the water turned itself off. Steam was rising off of her skin- she wiped it off with a towel. She wrapped the rest of her unruly hair in a turban, wrapped another white fluffy towel around herself and stepped into the girls rooms.
Hermione walked over to her bed, pulled on some underwear, snapped her black bra into place, donned a pair of jeans and a maroon hoodie, took off the turban, mussed around with her hair, making sure she was a bit presentable at least, and walked out the door- ignoring anyone that was staring at her. The slam of wood hitting frame jolted most of the onlookers, waking them from their trance.
It was showtime, and she was going to be a star.
Pansy was besides herself with excitement. She was about to get to watch the Mudblood's absolute humiliation, and the best part was, that she wasn't going to have to lift a perfectly manicured (thank Merlin) pinky in the process. She would simply get to sit back, relax, and enjoy.
She ran her french manicured talons through her perfectly straight hair. She even smelled cleaned, her perfume a shot of elegance. Her black slacks and dark green button up screamed of money, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
She was back in silk and she could have died happy right then and there.
Well, almost happy. Once the Mudblood humiliated herself completely, then she could die happy.
Pansy popped some gloss onto her lips and grinned at Raven, who was staring at her from across the room. “Like something you see?” she asked.
Raven stared for just a second too long. Pansy winked and sent a blow kiss her way. Maybe later, she thought. For the moment, she had a show to attend to.
And how could she ever forget her new redhead boy-toy. She would have to dump him, she realized. Couldn't have Draco knowing about that.
Or maybe she would keep him around. To humiliate him.
It was final. Pansy Parkinson was in control of everything. She was queen again.
And man, did it feel good.
“You're joking. Tell me, you're joking,” Harry demanded, looking at Ron in disbelief.
Ron simply hung his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees. “Nope. 'Fraid not.”
Harry slumped back into the bed. “Wow.”
“Do you know what you're going to do about her?”
Ron sat up. “She's going to humiliate me. You know she is. Pureblood traitor at her beck and call.”
The fact of the matter was, Pansy never gave Ron enough credit. He was definitely on her level. He could call her every move. If he believed in himself fully, maybe he could make a decent counter attack. He might not be able to play the game completely as well as she could, but--
“Do you want that to happen?” Harry asked. “Do you honestly want to keep her around.”
It wasn't a question. Harry was expecting a “no” from his friend.
The answer took too long in coming.
Ron looked up at Harry. “I agree.”
Harry glanced over at his friend. “You don't have to let her get the best of you, you know. She plays the game well, but--”
“But what? She's meticulous. Doesn't leave hardly anything to chance. I thought she was a, pardon the pun, a complete pansy before the Game. And now? Now she's scary as all hell. Maybe if we were playing a chess game, I might have a--”
“That's it!” Harry exclaimed, sitting up in the bed, looking down at his distraught friend. “Treat it like a chess game!”
Ron rolled his eyes. “There's no board. No players. This isn't the same at all!”
“Yes, it is!” Harry said, face animated. It was nice not to think of his own problems. He still had to deal with Ginny. And Hermione. When either of them were ready to stop being absolutely scary, he would deal with it. He crossed his fingers and hoped that time would be long in coming. “All you need to do is anticipate her move, and play against it.”
“Harry. You don't understand. You think Voldemort was unstoppable. You think he was evil. You don't know Pansy Parkinson like I do.”
“And that's a problem because?”
“Because she's an absolutely crazy bint!”
“And you're absolutely crazy for said bint.”
“That's not the point!”
“Oh, it's not? Then what, pray tell, Ronald, is?”
Ron narrowed his eyes at his best friend. “There is no point. I don't want her to make a fool out of me.”
“Then don't let her.”
“It's not that easy.”
The two stopped and stared at each other for a moment. Harry grinned. “You just have to play her. Come on, they play us all the time. She needs this as much as you do.”
Ron sighed. “I feel like taking girl advice from you is a bad idea.”
“What do you have to lose?”
Ron glared at him.
“Ok, so maybe that wasn't the best question to ask. But listen. Just ignore her. Be the Alpha male she's not expecting--”
“Hey! I'm an A--”
“And it'll throw her for a loop.”
Ron glared at Harry again. “That sounds like a.....” Realization dawned on his face. “Actually. That's not bad. Minus the me not being an Alpha male part. But maybe I will ignore her. I'm not her dog. I can do what I want. I can piss where I want! I can eat what I want! I can--”
“Ok, Ron, I got it,” Harry shifted almost uncomfortably. Men pissed wherever they wanted to. Hearing it said was a different matter all together. “So, plan?”
Ron looked at him with a grin. “Plan.”
Maybe it would work. Maybe it wouldn't.
Well, as a plan, Ron guessed it was better than anything. And when the two walked out the door, an observer could swear that he had an extra bounce in his step.
Thaddius and Blaise ran into each other in the corridor. How that happened, neither of them had any clue. It was supposed to be downright impossible, given the location of their common rooms. Neither of them said anything.
The tension grew as they approached the massive wooden doors of the Great Hall. Thaddius thought he heard one of Blaise's knuckles crack. Actually, he did hear it crack. It scared the hell out of him. He felt a muscle tick in his jaw, but made no comment. His teeth were pushing against each other so hard, he wasn't sure he could open his mouth to say anything to the Slytherin.
Blaise wasn't good enough for Susan. Hell, Thaddius knew that he himself wasn't good enough for Susan, but he was better than Blaise. He was the lesser of the two evils.
If only girls didn't think that they could change men, fix them.... He'd be in the clear. He was obviously the better choice.
But he didn't say it out loud. That was the sure-fire way to lose the girl. And he didn't want to do that.
So he remained silent.
Blaise could practically read Thaddius's mind. If anything, he agreed. He knew he wasn't the choice to make.
But that didn't mean that he was going to give up.
Susan had a choice to make.
And she had better make it fast, or else fists were going to fly, and she wasn't going to like it.
Draco, as per usually, was exactly on time. He walked through the doors and was greeted by an uproar from the Slytherins that were scattered around the room. He smirked at them, refused the silly urge to bow and headed over to the traditional Slytherin section of the Hall. He sat in his seat, Blaise came to sit on his left, Pansy slithered in onto his right.
“We're in for a show, tonight, boys,” She said with a menacing smile. Draco didn't ask, although his curiosity was slightly peaked. Pansy usually made good on her promises- all of those outside of a bed, anyway.
Blaise remained oddly silent beside him. He glanced at his friend, and saw anger written all over his face. It almost made him want to shy away. But Draco was no longer a coward. He was the victor. He was afraid of nothing at this point in time.
There was no one out there trying to kill him.
Speaking of, where is she anyway?
His eyes flicked over the people gathering in the room, illuminated by the thousands of candles hovering in the air, and in less than half a minute, he realized that she wasn't among the colorful crowd. Most people had donned their house colors, though, unsurprisingly. He scanned the crowd again, but came up negative.
Well, that just wouldn't do. She had to be here. She just had to. Maybe that was---nope. Not her.
His fingers curled into a fist without him realizing it.
He didn't know why he wanted her there.
He just wanted to see her squirm under his victory, that must have been it. He told himself he just wanted to rub it in a little more.
Yes. That was most certainly the case. He was merely annoyed, that was all.
And that was when Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley walked in together, easy smiles on their faces.
Yes, he was most certainly annoyed. Pansy suddenly went still beside him.
Well, that was curious indeed.
He didn't have much time to elaborate more on the thought. Professor McGonagall swept through the doors with an aura of command, and gradually a hush took over the Great Hall. The doors shut with a slight thud behind her.
She went up to the podium that Professor Dumbledore had spoken at many times, and smiled down at them. “Welcome back, students. Congratulations, on finishing the Game!”
She began clapping, and the whole room erupted into cheers. “Congratulations, secondly, to our winner, Mr. Malfoy.”
The room again erupted in applause, hearty cheers, maybe a boo or two, but they were drowned out by the lively screaming, hooting and hollering. Draco stood up, and the audience kicked it up a notch.
Professor McGonagall continued. “In a close second, came Ms. Granger.”
Boo's from the Slytherins, cheers from everyone else. The applause and yelling started quieting down though, as people realized that the fierce Gryffindor wasn't amongst them. Some people started looking around, craning their necks to look over neighbors.
Professor McGonagall's brow furrowed. “Ms. Granger?” Her question ventured over the heads of the students trying to answer that question also.
They didn't have to wait long.
The doors to the Great Hall swung open slowly. Draco leaned forward, like everyone else.
Hermione waltzed into the room clumsily and grinned to them, one hand catching the door to hold her balance, the other twirling an empty bottle. She winked at Headmistress, then bowed to the students. On her way out of the sloppy bow, her husky voice carried over the crowd. “You called?”
Her words slurred together as if her speaking became cursive. Shock rippled over the student body, as they realized.....
Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her year, woman who stood by the Boy Who Lived in the Final Battle, the perfect model for just about everything, was completely, absolutely, undeniably drunk.
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