Moonlight

Feelings may grow

..::Chapter 3::..

It was darker then before outside as Harry shut the tall Hogwarts entrance doors and then glanced at Hermione. She had white snowflakes dotting her hair like diamonds in a crown, or stars in the deep blue blanket that cloaked the sky that night. His smile was trying to appear warm and inviting, but Hermione simply walked past him, giving him a cool but sophisticated grin. He stared after her as they moved up the staircase, running his hand through his hair nervously. The black strands fell forwards on to his forehead again, though, and he sighed.

" What's wrong, Harry?" She turned to look at him.

" Nothing." He murmured, wishing he could get his hair in order for once in his life.

Hermione's voice seemed to echo in doubt though as she replied:

" Well, alright."

They soon neared the Gryffindor common room. Harry said the password and Hermione went first through the passage, and then Harry. They found themselves in a room so dark their eyes barely adjusted. Harry held his wand up and said: "Lumos!" A piercing light seemed to bring the room to light again and Hermione was able to see past the tip of her nose again. She cast a spell, causing the room's candles and lamps to light up instantly.

She gave him a signal and he moved closer to her. She motioned out the window in utter silence, as if sound could pierce the magical glow in the room and chase the beauty of the moment away. Outside, the sun had finally set, a blazing fiery mane still prominent in the sky, beneath the purple-bellied clouds. " Oh, isn't it marvelous?" She asked him, her voice trembling in emotion.

Harry nodded.

Hermione turned away, her hand stirring the great crimson-colored curtain awake. It rustled pleasantly as she slowly sat down on the plush leather sofa and then curled her legs up, sitting Indian-style. He watched her with an awed respect.

" Sit down." She said, softly. " You don't have to stand."

Harry nodded again, this time stupidly. " Of course." He said, finally, and then sat down beside her. He could see the way her dark hair curled behind her ear, where it was tucked back modestly. He could also see the gentle curve of her nose, where it ended with a slightly upturned peak, giving her a rather friendly exposition. Most evident to him was the round, provocative curve of her lips, the way she wet them with the tip of her tongue, slowly brushing a stray hair from her mouth with her hand, and then pursing her lips as she spoke:

" Thanks for taking me to the joke shop."

" No problem." He examined her face, and suddenly, he knew. He knew what it was that he felt, all of a sudden. Now or never… "Uh, Hermione, I have to tell you something."

She looked up to face him, her soft features illuminated in the flickering light of the candle on the coffee table in front of them. There was somewhat of a riddling expression on her face, and he wished he could read her expression so that he could predict her reaction.

" I… I don't know how you might react, but this has been on my mind all year." He glanced at his hands. " Remember how… Rita Skeeter mentioned us being a couple? Well…I was thinking…"

" Harry, I know." She blurted out. His eyes met hers and he saw tears blurring her vision.

" You… you know?" Harry felt hurt at her saddened expression.

" You don't have to pretend about how you feel anymore." She whispered. " I just want you to know that I don't agree."

Harry's stomach fell sharply inside. " I … I thought, in the least, you wouldn't mind."

" Well, I do." She turned wild, angry eyes at him. " I find that its rude for you to even tell me things like this. I've tried to be a good friend, and this is what I get?" She shot up. " All I asked for is to just be friends. And you have to go and sweep that under a rug." Her heart looked literally broken.

" Hermione, please, don't be angry!" He jumped up as well, trying to grasp her hand.

She yanked it out and then shouted: " Alright, I won't be angry! Why don't you go hit on Cho Chang, now that you got that all out?"

Harry turned his face away. " Then I will." Her hands balled into fists and she looked ready to whip him. Instead, Hermione dashed across the room and through the passage that would lead her to the girl's quarters. Harry collapsed onto the couch again and shook his head.

He couldn't understand what went wrong. Harry was nearly sure that she'd love to hear that he'd had a crush on her for a while now. He wasn't expecting for her to blow up like that in his face. Her face was contorted with anger as she hissed angrily at him, then leaving him with his shattered hopes, bits of rainbows fallen to the earth after a shattering mistake. Harry's mouth twitched upwards in a bitter smile. So she wanted to be "just friends", as she said… why did she avoid me then? I thought it was surely because she had feelings for me as well. I guess I'm the fool, in the end. His bitter smile gave no hope to an uplifting in mood, however, for he stood, punching the wall with a deafening crack, before receding into the boy's quarters.

~*~

Hermione balled up the tissues and pressed them against her eyelids, through which hot tears streamed. Her chin was propped up on the parapet of the window as she tried to take her mind off of Harry's insensitive words. How dare he treat me that way! I thought he'd at least not bring up Rita Skeeter and the way she called them a couple.

Her mouth opened to try and breathe, for her nose was completely runny by now. Instead, she released a low, wailing sob. Oh, I can't believe I exploded that way! I should have at least been nice and nonchalant about it!

" I thought you wouldn't mind!"

How arrogant! I wouldn't mind the fact that he'd willingly dump my friendship that way? Hermione kicked aside a pillow and then slowly lowered her head down so that her forehead was pressed to the ice cold window. I predicted this, I knew it was coming, though.

Then why do I feel as if this is all wrong?

~*~

The morning revealed that Hogwarts was completely weighted down and covered with snow. Hermione stretched and nearly rolled off her bed and onto the ground. She groped the bedside and found it completely strewn with tissues. It took her a while to process the situation, then she scrambled from bed and took a long, bristling look into the mirror. Her eyes were very light pink and so bloodshot that she looked frightening. Her face was puffy and blotchy and her nose was still runny. Her hair, meanwhile, was matted and so disorganized it was almost funny.

Running a brush through the tangles, Hermione tried to process a very tight, strict schedule for the day. She'd have to avoid Harry and Ron at all costs. Harry would probably either ignore her completely or offer lame excuses, depending on his mood and how badly his feelings were hurt by her outburst. Ron, meanwhile, would probably stick on her like a leech, sucking out the tiniest of details of their row.

Hermione suddenly felt tired. She snatched the brush from her hair, tugging angrily at a few tight strands, and then she tossed it across the room. It bounced off the headboard of some other girl's bed before tumbling to the floor. Hermione was glad to see that she was alone again. The girls were all probably heading to breakfast and then a second date with their Yuletide Friends partner.

Yuletide Friends, my ass. A wedge was driven between me and Harry, and that damn program had to go and severe us apart completely.

She nearly burst into tears again, but then she regained composure and went to get her brush.

Only the mirror offered comment: " Dearest, you should consider a braid for today. That hair is just wretchedly matted."

~*~

Hermione collapsed onto a bench beside the Gryffindor table just as many students were wrapping up their meals. She chose to sit by Neville and the Weasley twins this time, instead of on the opposite end of the table, where Ron and Harry sat. Harry looked up, trying to get Hermione's eyes to lock on his. Hermione could see him just fine out of the corner of her eye, though, and she ignored him. Harry whispered something to Ron, then stood and left the table.

Hermione felt a bit guilty. It's really not his fault, though, who wants to be hounded by a friend like… me?

She averted her eyes from Harry's back as he left the room and then concentrated on Neville's long speech about his most recent accident. He looked quite shaken, but his voice was such a monotone that it droned and dulled everything about the story.

Hermione twiddled her fork through her food and then excused herself from the table as well. " I think I should go get some fresh air." She added, as Fred and George looked at her questioningly.

" Ah, trying to go heat up some of the spark from your night with Harry, eh?" George said, loudly.

" Heard you guys left early, couldn't keep your hands off each other." Fred added.

" Went right for the couch in the common room…" George continued, adding a dramatic flair to his words.

Fred and George were laughing so hard they didn't make notice of Hermione as a tear fell from her eye and down onto the tiled floor, where it dissolved into the muddy tracks of students.

~*~

Hermione strolled for a good while outside, her footsteps making a pleasant splashing sound in the puddles that resulted from the melting snow. The weather was very pleasant – not so cold that it stung her skin, but not warm enough to destroy the winter-like wonderment and beauty in the air. She took in a deep, wavering breath and for the first time in many days, felt immaculate and calmer then the stilled water in the lake. The cool crispness of the air against her skin was enough to enfold her in unending, passionate emotions. There was a sea of disturbed, hurt feelings inside of her, and she finally could release them.

Crying softly, she sat herself down on one of the steps that led up to the Hogwarts doors and then looked down. The steps were an odd pathway, frighteningly real yet like a fantasy through her blurred eyes. She could only see the first few steps, but the tears in her eyes hid the unfolding path downwards. Her life would soon unfold this path downwards, she assured herself inside.

Just then, she heard a voice behind her: " Hermione? What are you doing here?"

She turned and saw Ron.

" Nothing. Just thinking." She said, averting her eyes so that he wouldn't see the tracings of tears in them.

Ron leaned against the brick stone pillar supporting the little roof over the walkways of Hogwarts. His mouth formed a little lopsided smile. " So, was it that shocking?"

She looked up.

" Having Harry tell you he liked you."

" WHAT?"

~*~


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