Chapter 28 : Ripples in the Pool
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Chapter 28- Ripples in the Pool
“One day left,” Ron said happily as they left their final class on Thursday afternoon. “Just one day, and we’ll be free for two full weeks.”
“You’ll be free to study for NEWTs, you mean?” Hermione asked pointedly.
Ron scoffed. “You think we’re going to be studying when we could be out searching for...for you-know-whats!”
Hermione’s stomach turned over as it did every time they talked about the Horcruxes. She had too much on her mind lately between those vile things and the Death Eaters in the castle. Not to mention she was still worried about her fight with Draco, and she had NEWTs coming up. Hermione swallowed hard.
“Three to go, Hermione,” Harry reminded her. “Ron’s right; we should spend our Easter holidays searching for them.”
“We have no idea where they are, Harry,” Hermione replied carefully as the three Gryffindors walked out of the castle doors. The late-March air was cool, but not uncomfortable. They sat on the steps outside the castle for a few moments, drinking in the dim sunlight that shone through the haze.
“You haven’t had the chance to ask Malfoy about the Death Eaters, have you?” Harry asked. “We could actually use all the help we can get, and he might know something that we don’t.”
“We still aren’t speaking,” Hermione admitted, her throat tightening with sadness. She clenched her hands into fists around the warm fabric of her cloak.
“What are you going to do about that?” Harry asked.
“I…” Hermione paused. She’d decided earlier in the week what she was going to do, but she had yet to tell Harry and Ron. “I’m going to stay here over the holidays,” she finally said.
“But Hermione!” Ron protested. “You aren’t even talking to the guy! Please come back to the Burrow with us. You didn’t come home for Christmas either. You shouldn’t be spending every holiday alone.”
“I had Draco with me at Christmas,” Hermione hedged, “and I need to study anyway. I’ll be more productive here. And if you two learn anything about the Horcruxes, you can owl me, and I’ll be there straight away.”
For several moments, Harry and Ron didn’t speak. A cold breeze blew across the grounds, and Hermione’s eyes drifted towards the forest where she thought she saw Hagrid entering the trees. She bit her lip, feeling guilty about how long it had been since she had visited him. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been down to his cabin…
“This is stupid,” Ron grumbled, interrupting Hermione’s ponderings. “You shouldn’t stay.”
“I don’t really have a choice,” Hermione said, trying to justify herself. “If Draco and I start talking again, I can ask him about the Death Eaters that are close to Voldemort, and that might bring us one step closer to the next Horcrux. If not…I can get a lot of studying done. The NEWTs are going to determine a lot for us.”
Harry nodded slowly as Hermione rambled. “Okay,” he said as another gust of wind blew into them, sending shivers down their spines. “Let’s go inside.” The others followed him as he stood and led the way back into the castle. The entrance hall was deserted, so they made their way up the marble staircase, bound for Gryffindor Tower and the cozy fire that was sure to be waiting there.
“Are you going to tell Theo that you’re staying here?” Ron asked as they walked through the quiet hallways.
Hermione sighed. “I suppose that I have to, yes, but we aren’t getting along very well right now.” Although Hermione had told Mandy that she would apologize to Theo, she still hadn’t done so. After they had argued about his plans for the future, they hadn’t been talking as much. Theo was behaving very cordially towards Hermione, and she couldn’t seem to gather the courage to bring up their fight again, even if she was just apologizing.
“Why not?” Ron asked, surprised. “Mandy didn’t mention anything.”
Harry laughed suddenly. “You expect your girlfriend to gossip to you about girl problems like boyfriend troubles?” he asked. “Yeah right! Ginny never tells me that sort of stuff.”
“Mandy and I are very close,” Ron said defensively.
Hermione smiled as Harry and Ron continued to bicker all the way to Gryffindor Tower.
“Snargaluff pods,” Ron said grumpily as they reached the Fat Lady’s portrait. It swung forward, and they climbed through the portrait hole, Ron grumbling the whole way about how Harry didn’t know anything about his relationship with Mandy.
“What’ve you three been up to?” Ginny asked as the older Gryffindors approached her place by the fire. “I would have thought you’d be back by now.”
“We were just talking, went outside for a bit, but it was too cold,” Harry explained, falling backwards onto the couch to sit beside his girlfriend. Ginny smiled at him and rested her head on his shoulder.
“So, are you ready to go back to the Burrow tomorrow, Hermione?” she asked, glancing at her friend. Ron and Harry exchanged glances, but let Hermione do her own explaining.
“I’m not actually coming,” the Head Girl hedged, scuffing her foot against the carpet and readjusting her bag on her shoulder. She suddenly felt like she was on trial as she stood in front of her friend. Ginny narrowed her eyes and sat straighter on the couch, noting Hermione’s fidgeting.
“This is about Draco, isn’t it?” the younger girl asked bluntly, raising an eyebrow. Hermione refrained from mentioning how much she looked like Mrs. Weasley in that moment.
“Yes,” Ron replied instantly. Hermione glared at her friend, but nodded all the same, her bushy hair bouncing with the movement.
“I thought you two weren’t talking,” Ginny continued, sinking back into the old couch and knitting her eyebrows together. “Why would you spend the holidays here?”
“He’s going to be all alone, Ginny,” Hermione said sadly. “Even if we aren’t talking, I want him to have the chance to come and see me if he needs anything. I wouldn’t want to be alone at Easter either.”
Ginny sighed and leaned against Harry again who put his arm around her gently. “Let her do what she wants,” he said. “She can make her own choices.”
Hermione smiled at her best friend. “Thanks.”
“You’d best go tell Theo,” Harry added, wincing slightly. “I don’t think he’ll be pleased…”
Hermione sighed and nodded again, glancing towards the portrait hole. “You don’t think I can just hide here until he leaves tomorrow?” she asked reluctantly.
“You’re a Gryffindor, Hermione Granger!” Ginny scolded. “Go act like it.”
Reluctantly, Hermione nodded, waved goodbye to her friends, and made her way out of the Gryffindor common room.
He’ll be in the Heads' Dormitory right about now, Hermione thought as she climbed out of the portrait hole, Ginny and Harry’s words of encouragement still fresh in her mind. All I have to do is figure out what to say.
As she wandered back towards her common room, Hermione's mind wandered as well. She couldn’t think how to explain her choice to Theo, and for some reason, she knew he would be upset no matter what explanation she gave.
Why are you afraid to talk to him about Draco? she asked herself as she stepped onto one of the moving staircases and felt it shudder beneath her feet. As it shifted to another position and she was routed away from her destination, Hermione felt a laugh bubble in her chest. It seemed even Hogwarts knew that she wanted to delay this particular conversation with her boyfriend. Draco shouldn’t be such a taboo topic, she mused. Theo’s my boyfriend. We should be able to talk about anything, right? He’ll understand that I want to support Draco, even if we aren’t getting along right now. That’s what friends do. He won’t be angry.
She stepped off the staircase on the fifth floor and turned down the hallway, still lost in thought.
“Hermione!” a voice called suddenly from behind her. Hermione tripped to a halt and turned to face Theo, wincing visibly. She hadn’t had time to think of what to say yet!
“I was just coming to find you,” she said, forcing a smile as her boyfriend trotted up. You can do this, Hermione.
“I was going to say the same thing,” Theo laughed, kissing Hermione’s lips lightly and putting an arm around her shoulders. “Let’s go back to our common room.”
Hermione let him lead her down the hallway, a little confused about his sudden warmth towards her. He had still seemed cordial and distant a few hours ago.
“Vermillion,” Theo stated to the portrait blocking the entrance to their dormitory. The soldier nodded and swung forward to let them pass. “Over here,” he said, leading Hermione to the couch.
“What’s the hurry?” Hermione asked, smiling slightly as they sat beside each other. Theo’s green eyes were sparkling with excitement, and Hermione felt the burden on her lift at bit with his happiness.
“I have a surprise,” he said mysteriously. “I know we haven’t been getting along lately, but I thought of something that might change that.”
Hermione raised her eyebrows suspiciously as Theo took her hands in his.
“We should go away together,” he announced. “I have some money laid aside from my parents, and I’ve been indicating in my letters that I won’t be home for this holiday…so I was thinking that I could take you somewhere. France, maybe.”
Hermione’s brown eyes widened and her heart stuttered nervously. Oh no.
Something in her expression must have hinted that things weren’t okay. Theo’s face fell, and his grip loosened on her hands. “What’s wrong? You don’t think it’s a good idea?”
Hermione sighed and leaned into him, hiding her face. Inexplicably, she felt tears jump to her eyes. She couldn’t go with him. She knew that. There were so many reasons why that wasn’t a good idea…
Don’t cry, she thought desperately, pulling away from Theo and looking at him. Bad idea. The look in his eyes wrenched at her heart. His furrowed eyebrows and small frown spelled out his confusion and doused her in guilt that twisted her stomach uncomfortably.
“Theo…I…” She didn’t understand why she was feeling this way.
“Are you breaking up with me?” Theo asked, cutting her off. Hermione was surprised at how steady his voice sounded.
“No! No, of course not!” she replied immediately. “I just don’t know if it’s a good idea for us to go anywhere for the holiday…I was actually planning on staying here.”
That caught his attention. He dropped her hands, now watching her like a hawk. “Why would you stay here?” he asked, clenching his fists around his robes.
For a split second, Hermione wanted to lie to him. Words about how she needed to study for NEWTs sprung to her mind, but caught in her throat. That wasn’t the real reason she was staying. She could study anywhere. “I…I wanted to be here if Draco needed anything,” Hermione said honestly, her throat constricting unexpectedly. “He won’t have anyone else.”
“He doesn’t need you to babysit him!” Theo snapped.
“I’m not babysitting him,” Hermione argued. His predictable anger cut her more than she had thought it would. “I’m just being a good friend.”
Theo’s eyes narrowed as he clenched and unclenched his teeth. “You haven’t spoken to each other in weeks,” he ground out. “Why are you going back to him now of all times?”
Hermione leaned back instinctively, shocked. His words sank in, falling like stones into a pool of calm water. Going back to him now…The water rippled. She could answer that.
“I never left him…” she mused, the words coming out before she realized she had thought of them. The sincerity and truth in them was audible even to her.
“That’s all I needed to hear.” Theo stood and turned away, not waiting for a response as he swept out of the common room, the portrait slamming shut behind him.
What on Earth just happened? Hermione thought, the confused tears jumping back into her eyes.
“We’ll see you in a couple of weeks, okay?” Ron said, hugging Hermione tightly. “And we’ll send word if we need you for anything.”
Hermione hugged him back. They stood in the entrance hall amidst hundreds of other students heading home for the holidays. The Hogwarts Express would depart for London in less than an hour. Part of Hermione wished she would be on it.
“I’ll miss you all,” she said, glancing between Harry, Ron, and Ginny. “Have a good Easter, and tell everyone that I say hello and that I love them.”
“We will,” Harry assured her. “You be careful here. I don’t know if those Death Eaters are sticking around, but you’ll need to keep your eyes open.”
Hermione nodded solemnly. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll have Draco if anything goes terribly wrong.”
Hermione’s three friends exchanged glances, obviously not pleased by that reassurance.
“Don’t worry,” Hermione repeated, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”
She hugged them all one last time and watched them leave the castle, other students swarming around them. Theo hadn’t spoken to her since their fight the day before, and as Hermione stood on the marble staircase watching her friends leave, she noticed Theo walking out behind them in close conversation with Garrett. He didn’t look back, and he didn’t turn to say goodbye.
Author's Note: Hello everyone! I hope you enjoyed this chapter and understood its significance. I love you and and would so much appreciate hearing your opinions of this. All reviews are adored and answered! :D
Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered, please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums. There's a link on my author's page!
(Edited as of 8-9-14)
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