It's never enough
Hermione thought she would tear Cho in half. She saw her now, trembling slightly, her eyes wide open and dewy, her lower lip sticking out in a half-pout, half-grimace. Cho's hair was like a picture from a fashion magazine – simply cut, but with very stylized, curled-in bangs and dark red highlights, but only about six or eight of them, also very simply but fashionably intertwined between her natural black strands of hair. She really did look fabulous in general – small waist, curvy, her eyelashes were very slightly dabbed with some tinted mascara, making them a little lighter in color, which showed off her eyes very well.
Hermione couldn't explain to herself why, at first reaction, she had begun to examine Cho with a somewhat horrified expression. Then, something deep inside her contorted, twisting into a demonic arrow, squarely striking her through the heart. Her mouth fell open a while ago, and only now did venomous words escape: " Cho! What do you think you're doing?" Her hands flew outwards, ready to tear out Cho's shiny locks.
Cho pressed her face into Harry's chest, shaking with tears, her mouth spilling out counter-curses to Hermione's words: " Oh, I'm so scared Harry. I didn't think she'd - - oh, of all horrible places! Tell her, she dislikes me, I can see that!"
Harry took a step backwards, leaving a formidable area between himself and Cho. He glanced at her tear-streaked face, innocent eyes, and her worried but still kind expression. Then, his eyes shifted at Hermione – wild-eyed, her hair a mess of angry frizzles, her mouth askew as she snarled: " Harry, what poison did she feed you? What has she been telling you about me?" Her chin quivered for a second. Get a hold of yourself. If I make a scene again, I'll probably never have a chance to be with Harry again. She pressed her lips together into a thin, worried line.
" Hermione, you - - you don't understand. Please let me explain…" Harry said, hopelessly.
It was too late. Something had snapped in Hermione. She had suppressed a hidden rage inside of her for a while now, ever since she saw Harry and Cho together at the theater. Now she could feel it all escaping her like air deflating from a balloon. The air around them grew deathly still and the only sound remaining was Ron's confused, heavy breathing.
Hermione's hands grabbed at Cho's robes, pulling her towards her by her collar, her voice shrieking: " You witch! Why did you have to tear me and Harry apart! We were happy together!"
Cho pushed her away, sobbing harder. " Hermione, I didn't mean to. You know I'm your friend." She wiped her hand across her eyes, gathering her tears. " I didn't want to hurt you, if you'll just let Harry explain…"
" No! You probably fed him all these lies about me!" Hermione was shouting at the top of her lungs. " You must have started from the moment you both went to the theater together. Yes, I saw! You don't think I'm an idiot not to suspect that…" Hermione was ready to grab Cho again, but then a figure moved in between the two girls.
" Hermione, stop it." Harry said, slowly.
She glared at him in horror.
" All Cho's ever said about you were good things. She really is just trying to help us out. She was worried over a rumor about the dance - - she… she wanted to show me the ropes about girls." Harry's voice halted to a complete stop. His explanation hadn't helped anything.
" Just because your boyfriend died doesn't mean that you have to ruin my relationship!" Hermione shouted at Cho.
" How dare you?" Cho replied, in a hiss. This really did hurt her feelings. She then feigned a sob again. " No, no, please, Harry, explain it to her. Why is she being this way to me? Doesn't your girlfriend trust you at all?"
Harry's face blanched.
Hermione closed her eyes, trying to hold back tears. Then, she burst out: " OUR kiss? You had to practice for our special end-of-the-dance kiss?"
Harry suddenly felt the wave of guilt and the strange strangling of his conscience. He shouldn't have ignored his gut instinct – it was usually right, and down to the point about things. He took a step backwards, seperating himself from Cho even more. Harry's hand took Hermione's, hoping to sooth her by holding her hand. " I'm really, really sorry, Hermione. I don't know what I was thinking."
She yanked her hand from his. " Well, that makes two of us! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!" Her eyes darted back to Ron, standing behind her. Ron shrugged, which wasn't of any comfort to Hermione. Hermione turned back to Harry, and in a low, eerily calm voice, she said: " Our kiss. I know what this all means. You don't have to lie to me, I know enough about how the world works to figure a thing or two out." She took a look at Cho, then another at Harry, and then turned away, taking Ron under the arm. " Have fun at the dance, you two." She said, softly, as Ron led her away.
Harry paced the common room. He thought about jumping out the window, but he figured that Malfoy would probably vandalize his resting-place, since it was to be conveniently on castle grounds. Instead, Harry realized he had to do something to get Hermione back. The dance was in one more day – or, the day after tomorrow. He had to act before he lost her forever. He now knew he'd been an idiot to be blinded by good intentions like that.
Poor Cho, this must be taking an awful toll on her. She was trying so hard to help us out, but instead it ruined everything. I didn't think that Hermione would take it so badly. I thought she'd be happy if I had gone to long lengths to make her feel good at the dance. Cho assured me that this was something the girls wanted.
He shook his head and then leaned it down on the cold marble mantle of the fireplace. He could finally understand why some boys cried in confusion because of girls. There's just no pleasing them. Hermione's really gone off the deep end on Cho, and then… she seemed to be so alright all of a sudden, just walking away.
" How could she just walk away!" He said, aloud.
" She's a real character." A voice said behind him.
Harry spun around, ready to wreak havoc if the speaker was to dare to joke of his position. Instead, he saw that it was Ron, his best friend. Ron looked honest enough, though his fiery red hair and comical expression didn't really give off a very serious feeling.
" You saw." Harry said, finally. " What was your first thought when you saw?"
" That … you were cheating on Hermione, and that you were an idiot." Ron replied, not holding back.
Harry gave him a tight and very controlled smile, behind which he hid a broken heart. " I wasn't. Don't you believe me?"
Ron raised his eyebrows. " I don't want to believe, Harry, but I saw what I saw."
" You saw the bad part of the deal with Cho."
" Deal? Or do you mean affair?" Ron crossed his arms.
" Deal!" Harry shouted. Then, he felt his stomach drop. He hadn't yelled at Ron for almost a year now, if not longer. It was like a slap in the face for the Weasley boy, who was still standing beside Harry despite his doubts. " R-Ron, please, listen me out. I'm going to go crazy if I don't get it all off my chest."
Ron's brow furrowed. He seemed a bit doubtful if he should or shouldn't listen to Harry – after all, Harry had hurt the most wonderful girl in the world. All she had and cherished in the world seemed to revolve around Harry now, and he threw it all away for… for whom? Cho?
" I did not cheat on Hermione. I would never cheat on her. She's the most amazing girl - - woman - - I've ever known. I don't want to throw it all away." Harry gushed.
" Then … WHY?"
" Cho came to me and told me that all the girls were expecting a little special something from their boyfriends on the date. She told me that Hermione would probably want a good kiss, too." Harry stopped. Now he saw how really cheesy and very stupid it all sounded. Yet, it seemed so innocent and good at first! " … I…"
" So you let yourself do some practice on Cho?" Ron uncrossed his arms and then pointed at Harry's chest. " Are you nuts? That still counts as cheating – practice, or call it what you may – it's still cheating."
" I didn't cheat." Harry whispered hotly.
" Yes you did." Ron replied. " Maybe not exactly on purpose, but in extent, you did cheat on Hermione. Now, what's important is how to get her to see the truth."
" We have to get Cho and Hermione back on friendly turf, too. Cho just wanted to help Hermione. She even called her a 'great girl'."
" What she says and what she means is really quite different." Ron replied.
" Are you trying to say that - - that she set this all up?" Harry laughed bitterly. " She has nothing to gain through all this."
" Yes she does. You." Ron made a movement with his hands in the 'quote-quote' symbol. ""THE great boy who lived", "THE Harry Potter"."
Harry rolled his eyes. " Cho wouldn't do that. She's practically suffering from Cedric. She wouldn't just forget him in one instant and then find someone else in the next. She's never said or done anything, as of yet, to even remotely hint that she wants to have me." Harry wasn't exactly telling the truth. Cho had told him that girls would go to great heights to have someone like Harry. But she wouldn't.
" Whatever, Harry." Ron replied. " I just want to help you and Hermione patch up, that's all." He held his hands up in a sign of innocence. " I don't have a white flag, but you can consider me neutral here for now."
Harry smiled. " Why are you doing this for me?"
Ron didn't try to mask his feelings. " I want Hermione happy. Be it with you, but she's going to have to be happy. It makes me happy." He turned his face away from Harry's. " Now, let's start on a plan, we really need to figure out something here."
Hermione found Neville, after a lot of searching, and she immediately greeted him with an anxious and very satisfied hug. Neville turned about four shades of red and then struggled away from her. He'd lost some weight over the summer, but he still looked rather round on the face, and when he turned red, he achieved the tomato-effect. If taken out of context, the situation would have been comical. " Uh… H-Hermione…" He stammered.
" Hello, Neville." She said, sweetly.
Neville grinned back, not daring to speak and waken from his glorious dream.
" Oh, you look so surprised." Hermione teased. " You do know why I'm here?"
" Yep. Our date." Hermione could feel a dull ache inside of her. The ache threatened to make her cry just then, but it would look odd if she were crying in pain while asking a boy out. She straightened Neville's collar and added: " You do remember when you asked me about a date?"
" Good. I hope you're still serious about it." She dug into her pocket and pulled out two tickets to the dance. " See this, Neville?"
" Y-yes, I…"
She gave him a very intimidating but powerful smile. " Do you think you can make it to the dance? It's just a while away. I'm afraid my date is… pre-occupied."
" Oh, gladly, you…"
" So then it's set!" Hermione wondered whether to kiss his cheek or to give him her hand so he could kiss it. Instead, she simply shrugged and then added: " So… anything else?"
" Why so suddenly?" Neville asked.
" What do you mean?"
" I figured you'd need some time to, uh, think about it. You just went right ahead and said yes, didn't you?" Neville couldn't have looked more pleased about it, either. " I… I…" He slowly began to turn. Hermione noticed what he had been doing – he had been trying to mask something about his back.
" What happened?" Hermione asked him.
He was completely turned around now. There was a small, red-eyed bush baby clenching hard at his robes from the back, squeaking uncomfortably. Its sharp nails were probably puncturing right through the material and into his body.
" Oh, dear! How did you manage to do this?"
" I dropped my wand and it turned into the monkey." Neville replied. " I really can't explain it at the moment, can you just… get it off me?" He laughed nervously.
" Sure!" She laughed and peeled the monkey off and then tapped her wand on it, casting a simple spell that reverted the object to its original state. " There, its good as new." Hermione lifted the wand from the floor and handed it to Neville. He didn't take it until she shook it and showed that it wasn't alive.
" Thanks." He took it and pushed it into his pocket. They remained, face to face, in silence.
" Well, I'll see you at the dance then." Hermione said, softly.
" What happened to Harry?" Neville asked.
Hermione had forgotten. A bit earlier that day, he'd stopped her in the hall and she told him all about how Harry and Hermione were going to go to the dance. Now she felt sick in the stomach. No wonder he was so surprised. "Harry would prefer someone else's company." Hermione replied.
Neville looked very surprised.
" How about your Yuletide Friend? Is she recovering well?" Hermione asked.
" I'm glad to say that she healed from the last incident, but..."
" Oh! What now?" Hermione couldn't help but sound cross.
" I went to visit her and ended up turning her glasses into a melon. She's madly allergic to them. She broke out in hives." Neville bit his lower lip. " I didn't mean to, I really didn't. You do understand, don't you?"
" Of course." Hermione couldn't help but feel afraid. He'll kill me before the date is over.