Splintering apart lost difficulties
Hermione could have sworn that it was going to rain. The sky gathered in looming, dark clouds that seemed to span for endless stretches of sky. She put her hands on her hips and then turned from the window, facing the doorway of the room. It had taken her a while to get ready for her talk with Harry – a while filled with coming her wild hair, trying to straighten the wrinkles from her white shirt, and fretting over what to say and what not to say.
" I'll just make a fool of myself." Hermione confessed to the mirror.
" Your collar is uneven, dear." The mirror replied.
Hermione fixed it and then smiled awkwardly at her reflection. " Ah, well. I'll just go out there, ask him to come outside the dining hall with me, and then we'll talk."
" Enjoy your meal." The mirror said, cheerfully, and then dozed off.
The dining hall was absolutely stuffed with students. After two days of being out and about with their Yuletide Friends, all the students seemed exhausted and willing to digest a nice, warm meal inside Hogwarts. Hermione sat down at the table and then folded her hands in order to keep herself from cracking her knuckles in utmost despair and nervousness.
" Hi, Hermione." A voice echoed from behind her.
A dark curtain of hair slipped down her shoulder and brushed against her cheek as she turned her head. Behind her stood Neville, looking very embarrassed.
" What's wrong?" Hermione tried not to sound rude. Oh, why does he distract me now? Why not yesterday?
Neville slowly lifted the sleeve of his left hand, for it had drooped over his hand. Except, when he lifted his sleeve, there wasn't a hand there, but a small hoof, like that of a calf. " How did this happen?" Hermione exclaimed, standing up.
" Snape saw me in the hallway, and you know how he hates me." Neville whimpered. " He told me to help him clean out dirty cauldrons. I stuck my hand in one without thinking, and - -" He lifted his hand, which spoke for itself of the effects.
" Can't you keep your curious hands at your sides?" Hermione grumbled, taking out her wand. She did a quick spell and Neville was back to normal. Yet, he remained standing in front of her. " What is it? Anything more?"
Neville looked even more embarrassed, then stammered: " I saw… I saw you didn't have a date yesterday, when you went to Hogsmeade. My date tripped and fell, twisting her ankle, so she's up in the hospital wing. I was wondering if…"
Hermione wanted to cry. Why? Why is it always like this? Why can't I just be left alone by fate? Instead, she grinned and said, trying to wander off-topic: " I guess your date is really your match then, huh, Neville? She's clumsy, too, to fall like that."
His ears reddened. " She… tripped over me. I feel first."
" So – maybe I can take you to Hogsmeade next time? Just so we're both not alone the entire time?" Neville asked.
Hermione nodded. " Sure Neville, but now, I really need to do something…" I'm sorry, Neville, I really am, I just don't have time right now. If I don't catch Harry and tell him, it might be too late. Cho will wrap around him like some sort of octopus, squeezing him with tentacles until he only sees and knows her.
" You mean it? You can?" Neville's face brightened.
" Yes, yes." She sighed. " Would you excuse me for a minute, now?"
Neville nodded and watched her stand up. Hermione looked around the dining hall, trying to see where Harry was. Finally, her eyes saw him, sitting on the opposite polar end of the table, as always, in the usual place. Ron wasn't there, though, but Hermione didn't spend much time worrying about Ron. Instead, she moved towards Harry, her robes rustling loudly. He looked up, and then his expression blanked, his face more expressionless then a peeled potato.
What has Cho been telling him?Hermione wondered, as she said: " Harry, can I talk with you outside?"
Harry seemed to consider it rather deeply. Finally, he gave a curt nod, but didn't say anything to her. He turned to Seamus and told him: " I'll be right back."
" Sure, Harry." Seamus replied, then continued conversing with Ginny Weasley. Ginny had taken somewhat a brotherly liking to Seamus, though nobody really knew when or how. Seamus, of course, had even begun to call Ginny his "little sister". It was a big joke among the Gryffindors.
Hermione went first, taking the lead, as Harry trailed behind her. They were silent the whole way across the dining room, and once they stepped out in to the silence of the hallway, they still remained quiet.
" I want to explain something, Harry." Hermione began. " You don't have to say anything. I know you're upset, but you shouldn't be. I just need you to at least listen me out the whole way without interrupting. Alright?"
Harry nodded half-heartedly.
" Remember - - well, I guess we should go way back when it all started. When Rita Skeeter told everyone we were boyfriend and girlfriend, I was so scared that…"
" … I know, Hermione. You made your point clear about how much you don't want to date last time." Harry's voice was cold.
" No! Please, that's not the case." Her skin flushed. " … I was scared that you would want to stay away from me. I figured that you would never like me, I'm just a bookworm. The only thing I'd do for you, by staying by your side, would be to cause misunderstandings, and to intimidate girls from you. I didn't want you to be unhappy."
A surprised, painful realization flickered in Harry's eyes.
" I decided to keep away from you. That's why I didn't hang out with you, not because of how much I hated you." Hermione shook her head. " Never, not in all of infinity and all the time that is ahead of us in our lives, will I be able to hate someone like you, Harry."
Harry's ears were burning bright red now.
" When you tried to talk to me in the room, I thought you were trying to tell me… something else. I didn't think you were trying to ask me to…" Her voice quivered. " … be your girlfriend."
His eyes met hers.
" If I could do anything, anything at all, to make it up to you, for all the stupid misunderstandings I made, for all the little annoying things I must have done, please tell me." She wrung her fingers in her hands desperately. " Tell me, because I like you. Very much, in fact, and I understand if you found something new in Cho, but at least I hope that now you know."
Harry's eyes closed as he thought, then he said, opening them again: " If you want to do anything for me, then…" He leaned forwards, gently kissing her on the lips, slightly off to the left for it was so sudden that Hermione didn't align her face with his. She felt her heart stop momentarily and then it felt as if everything around her had fallen fifty feet and broken into tiny pieces. Her chin quivered as he pulled his face away. "… then be my girlfriend. I want to finally make things right again. The way it should have been."
" What about Cho?" Hermione whispered.
" She'll understand. I told her we're just going to be friends, and the date was really nothing more then hanging out. As friends, Hermione." He smiled warmly at her.
Hermione's stomach fluttered again. " Oh, Harry." She hugged him close, and this time, their lips didn't land askew.
Ron felt an ill feeling deep inside his stomach. He could still feel Hermione hugging him, and he wondered if she did so purposely. Well of course she did. How do you hug someone by accident? He grinned to himself, hugging a pillow in her place. I wonder if she and Harry made up yet. I just want to see her happy again. It's not like her to go around depressed. She's always spirited and ready to tackle anything.
Suddenly, he felt saddened. She's spirited and happy because of Harry though. I might have helped get them back together again, but so what? He's the one that makes her eyes sparkle that way.
Ron stood and then glanced out the window of the common room. Outside, through the knee-deep snow, a group of students was already leaving for Hogsmeade. Ron wondered if his date would be alright if he skipped out on today's festivities.
There's always the dance. It's just in two days, but by then, I guess, Harry and Hermione will be completely in love…
" Cho, guess what." Harry's eyes peered into hers, sparkling and green. He was already taller then her, and he was younger. She grinned at him.
" What?" She asked.
" Hermione and I made up. It was all a big misunderstanding. She told me she didn't mean what she said, that she did like me, and that she thought I was telling her something else when I tried to ask her out." Harry blurted out, then paused, seeing she looked stricken.
" … she thought you were saying something else? How can you mistaken words of love for words of hate?" Cho looked doubtful.
" I'm not really sure myself, but…"
" You know what I think?" Cho grinned conspirationally. " I think she saw you and me together, and she's jealous. I feel awful now…" Her eyes seemed to fill with tears. " I must have made her mad. Girls like her can be really posessive. Now that you moved on, she probably realized what she could have had."
" Are you telling me Hermione did reject me?" Harry didn't seem to buy it.
Cho bit her tongue and a few more tears formed in her eyes. A sweet, honest, melodious voice emerged from her chest: " Harry, a girl might do anything to date a boy like you. Don't you understand? She doesn't even have to like you. She just wants you in order to be a step ahead of the other girl."
Harry was bewildered. Cho, hurt and through a lot of pain after Cedric, couldn't be trying to play Hermione and him against one another! She was probably not even ready to date yet. They were still on a friends-only basis. She was probably telling him this in order to help him. And yet, something inside of him told him to watch out.
" Well, uh…" Harry looked at his feet. " … I don't know. I just want to stay with her. If anything, I guess I can always break it off. It's going great so far, though, now that we cleared the air between us."
" Of course it would go great, Harry." She smiled. " You're the most amazing boy in Hogwarts." Her silky brown eyes peered into his with an almost dreamy desire.
Harry felt his heartbeat quicken and he stammered: " I'm really flattered, Cho."
Cho sighed. He's pretty slow on catching on, isn't he? Just then, a wide grin snapped onto her face. She slowly toned it down to a very shy smile. " Are you taking her to the dance?"
" Oh! The dance!" Harry seemed to remember it now. " Yeah, I am taking her."
" That's good." She put her head down, her black hair spilling forwards softly. " I… I guess I'll stay in my common room."
Harry felt sorry for her. However, he knew he couldn't go to the dance with two girls. Besides, Cho still had her assigned date, and she might as well try again with him. He said: " Well, I should go."
Cho nodded. " I'll see you around, Harry." She waved to him as he walked away. And, by the next time I see you, I'll be ready to execute my plan. A girl might just do anything to be with a guy like you.