watch the thread-thin veins

Chapter 10

Hermione didn't feel like waking up, ever again. She wished she could die peacefully in her sleep so as not to have to face this day. Oh come on, it's not like this is your funeral. It's a dance. Be merry and festive. She lifted her head from the pillow slightly so that she had a rather sideways view of the room. She smiled. Why do I always do that? Look before I act? It's not like it ever helped me.

She stood up and quickly dressed and then rushed through the Gryffindor common room. She was thankful, for once, that she got up before anyone else did, so that she didn't have to run into any people on the way out. She made sure to make very few, if any sounds.

There was a festive feeling in the dining hall. The teachers were up all night, it seemed, using the best of their magical abilities to spruce the old place up. Hermione thought it looked amazing – cascading silver and blue streamers with little holograms projecting stars and the moon against the 'sky', or the dining hall's ceiling. And then, there were the tables, trimmed with red carnations and midnight blue streamers, and lastly, the dance floor, also reflecting stars and the moon, shimmering and moving in the illusion of waves across the floor. It was all a very lovely illusion created by a few spells, but it still made Hermione feel proud of her school.

I guess I'll just grab a bun from the table and get out of here. I don't feel like talking with anyone.

She took a bun from the table and then began to stroll through the hallways, not really going anywhere, but not wanting to stay in one place.

She was beginning to feel a bit lighter, more comfortable inside, when Ron suddenly walked out of the boy's bathroom and they ended up looking at each other from across the hallway. " Hi!" He said, finally, giving her a friendly smile. Something seemed odd about him, though, as if a part of him had broken and fallen away deep inside and he was trying not to show it.

" How's everything?" Hermione asked him. How's Harry?

" Well, everything is about the same." Ron replied. " I thought I should talk to you about Harry."

She felt defensive. " Not you too, Ron!"

" No, listen to me." Ron said, raising his voice, trying to keep himself calm, but at the same time showing that he was very serious about their subject matter. " I don't think you realize the truth here."

" Oh, I don't, do I?" Hermione replied. " Harry doesn't trust me at all. He… he denies it, but I think he cheated on me. Then, he didn't trust me when I told him the truth. I don't want to listen to any more talk about how good he is, or how wonderful his intentions were. It loses its meaning after being repeated so often. I don't think I can ever be with him again."

Ron shook his head. " You're the one that's having trust issues."

"What?" She exclaimed, ready to laugh at him if this was another silly whim.

" No, really! You didn't trust him from the first place, Hermione. You didn't trust that he'd want to hang out with you. You didn't trust him when he… and Cho… you know. You didn't trust him enough to listen him out whenever he tried to explain things to you – you always mistook it for the worst." Ron said, giving an effective jab into Hermione's chest with his finger.

She grimaced. " You're out of your mind, Ron. Way out of your mind."

" Or am I exactly right?" He questioned.

" No, you're not." She turned away from him, angry to have Ron tell her these things when she knew them; deep inside, on her own, but she didn't want these thoughts to surface.

Ron persisted: " Don't you see? You know as well as I do that Harry just isn't being himself. Cho's being an extra wench lately, too." He leaned against the wall, pushing his hands into his pockets. " I'm not going to say Harry's innocent, because he's really a total knucklehead to make any contact at all with Cho while going out with you. I'd never do that." Ron whispered the last bit in a heated way.

Hermione raised her eyebrows, skeptical.

" In fact, I am mad at him, but I still want to help him out. You're both my friends and I don't want to tear everything apart because of Cho. She's really scheming things, you saw it yourself. Don't tell me you didn't?"

Hermione didn't tell him she didn't, but she didn't say she did either. Her face seemed to grow a new, more understanding expression that showed Ron she was willing to listen in further.

" Cho wrapped Harry around her finger. She led him into a little maze, see." Ron didn't know how to word it exactly but he did his best to. " She led him on to the point that he didn't know the real you or the real Cho, he just couldn't see past the maze of confusion she made, like some sort of spider web of mistrust." Ron's eyes flickered angrily and he continued: " Harry doesn't really know the truth from the lies anymore. I guess he is just too confused about everything. That's why he broke up with you – he just didn't know what to do, who to believe."

" See? He's choosing Cho over me already!" Hermione shouted.

Ron rolled his eyes. " Harry didn't choose Cho, she chose him, and now she's not going to let go. She's practically impaled her nails into him and she's holding on with all her might." He shook his head in distaste. " We have to make her back off because Harry's too polite and too kind to do anything, while I know you have some spirit left."

She smiled and nodded.

" Hermione, I'm going to begin from the start. I heard your story, I heard Harry's, and I've even heard a bit of Cho's woeful tale from Fred. She came to Fred and told him this whole bogus story from her point of view, and so if Fred is a bit mean to you, then that's why." Ron gathered his thoughts for a while and then began explaining things, integrating her side, Harry's, and Cho's, until they figured out what it was that had finally led them to this point – all the confusing mishaps and creative misunderstandings that started a warpath between Harry and Hermione.


The dance floor was slowly ebbing to life as students gathered, taking their seats with their partners at four-person tables. People had either come on double dates or they met up with another pair to enjoy a table. Draco Malfoy was sitting with Lavender and Goyle and Parvati – Padma was unlucky enough to receive Crabbe. However, it seemed they were actually somewhat enjoying their company, and in fact, it appeared that they were laughing and making jokes. Of course, Draco was looking a bit glum as usual, staring at his plate thoughtfully, only looking around from time to time to make a crude joke about how stupid a certain Gryffindor looked, or how sorry he felt for those paired with Mud-bloods. At those times, Lavender and Parvati cringed, but at least they were glad that they could sit with another female at a table. Besides, Draco Malfoy might have looked down at them all a bit, but it was hard for a girl to not acknowledge that he was, at least, handsome.

Hermione sat at a table at the far corner, preferring her own company to that of anyone else's. Ron had later on come to sit by her, for they had much to discuss as to how they would try to patch things up with Harry. Ron promised that he had tried speaking to Harry, but Harry had decided to come to the dance with Cho, because 'she began to cry on his shoulder in pain knowing that she was going to be alone for the evening, and would Harry be a good friend and take her along?'.

Ron said it didn't look very promising at the moment. Cho had managed to push in a lot of things into Harry about how Hermione, though a great girl, was just not his type, and that she didn't trust him. Then she turned tables and added that Hermione obviously never wanted to be with him anyway, that she had resisted him from the start and only wanted him back when he began to enjoy Cho's presence. At this point, Harry was acting like a woefully depressed pincushion. Cho was sticking the needles in, blaming the pain on Hermione, and then she pretended to be the one that was slowly easing the needles back out again, making Harry feel affection for her, which teetered on the edge of becoming adoration.

" Goodness, see how she hangs all over him?" Hermione whispered to Ron angrily.

Cho and Harry had arrived, and she was dressed in a gorgeous floor-length black gown, slinky and perfectly outlining her rather well defined curves, shimmering like a black winter wonderland on her skin. Harry, meanwhile, looked a lot older and much more handsome, with a very well-crafted black tuxedo and a white shirt beneath, which he credited to a quick withdrawal of money from Gringotts and a stop at a very expensive wizard tailor. Cho's neckline dropped rather low for Hermione's taste, and she tended to pronounce her breasts even more by leaning forwards and whispering into Harry's ear, as if she couldn't manage speaking in a normal manner.

Hermione tried not to show any anger. She gritted her teeth and glanced at Ron, who seemed positively carefree, sipping gently at a glass of fizzy water and pretending it was something more elegant, such as champagne. " How can he stand her? Can he really not see what her aim is? She obviously just wants him."

Ron placed the glass down. He looked really nice himself. His freckles had lightened, faded into his skin slightly, and his red hair was combed down and elegant, in a very cute way. It was hard not to notice that he was handsome too, but in a different way than Harry or Draco Malfoy would be. He was handsome in a non-stuffy, non-regal way, sort of like a rugged cowboy sort of handsome. She found herself liking the look, but she could never feel much more for Ron than a brotherly love. Ron spoke without any trace of worry to his voice: " She can flaunt it if she wants. Cho should enjoy her night with Harry, it would be the last." Suddenly, he realized something. " Where's Neville? Isn't he you date…?"

Hermione nodded. " He said he'll arrive ten minutes into the dinner part of the dance, because he's visiting his Yuletide Friends Partner in the hospital wing."

Ron laughed. " I hope he doesn't botch things up again."

She laughed too and then looked into Ron's eyes. " Why did you just abandon your evening? What happened to your date?"

" We just didn't click." Ron replied. " Really, I think I've explained it all to you anyway."

Hermione didn't take his words as a reasonable answer. " You could have found another girl. Lots of girls wanted to come here, and a couple of the guys went to Hogsmeade instead, so they were stuck pairing up and coming together as just friends. I'm sure any one of them would have liked going with you."

" I didn't think it would be right to leave you alone." Ron said, admittedly. " I wanted to keep an eye peeled, just in case Cho tries anything funny."

She felt sad suddenly, sad for Ron in a way that she could not help out with. Instead of letting him know that she felt this way, she said: " Thank you."

" You're welcome." Ron replied cheerfully. " And look. Dinner's starting. I guess I'll just move on to a different table so you and Neville can enjoy a good dinner. He's a lucky guy." He gave her a big smile again.

Hermione smiled back, equally large grin. " I'm a lucky girl. To have a friend like you, I mean." She then watched him sit down at a table where Seamus Finnigan and another boy sat. They all engaged in a lively conversation, which showed that Hermione didn't have to worry much about Ron being lonely.

Food appeared in front of everyone, and Hermione quickly did a 'duplicate' spell in order to make another plate appear in front of the seat opposite of her, for Neville. Just as she began to eat, Neville plopped himself down in the seat in front of her. " Hermione." He managed to utter. He was horribly out of breath and saying her name served as an appropriate enough greeting.

She grimaced. " You look like you've seen a ghost."

" I will be a ghost if my Yuletide Partner ever sees me again." Neville said, finally.

" What now?" She didn't mean to sound irritated, but she was. "Did you turn her into a pig or something?"

" No, no, nothing like that." Neville said, then sighed. " Okay, I guess giving her a snout would count as turning her into a pig… Madame Pomfrey beaned me in the back of the head with a pillow afterwards and told me to leave before she has me expelled. She confiscated my wand. She says its really malfunctioning." Neville grinned in an embarrassed way. " So, what did I miss?"

" Only Dumbledore's introductory speech. It wasn't worth hearing. Well… maybe the part where Dumbledore bent over, and Malfoy made a fart noise with his hand. At least, I think it was him, but then he, Crabbe and Goyle all burst into laughter and it was impossible to figure out which of the eggheads did it."

Neville laughed. " They're really insane. I wonder what makes them disregard school rules."

" Malfoy's too rich to care." Hermione replied, then suddenly stopped listening in to Neville as he explained another ordeal with a more recent misfortunate accident. She saw that Cho and Harry had taken a seat and Cho was giving Harry the eye, and talking to him in a low and sexy voice. It was infuriating her, and she resisted the urge to grab her chair and whack Cho into next week.

I'm not normally violent, but I think I'll have to pull out my brass knuckles if she dares do anything funny. She can't! Not before I can get Harry to come outside with me so I can tell him everything, tell him the truth.


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