Hold a leaf up to the light
Harry woke up the next day and saw that it was raining. Actually, that was an understatement. Thick, bloated raindrops spattered the roof and windowsills of Hogwarts with such ferocity that Harry couldn't fathom how such an ill-foreboding day could promise him good luck. He pressed down a cowlick of particular annoyance to his forehead, then sighed as it made its way up again.
Heaving himself up from his bed, he began to dress. He dressed blindly, but he was lucky enough to have laid out a color-coordinated outfit the night before. Not that it mattered – his Gryffindor robes slipped right over his clothing anyhow. This was it – the day before the big night. If he didn't try his hardest at fulfilling the plan, he'd lose Hermione forever, and Ron might distance himself too. After checking himself over in the mirror, Harry began to head for the dining hall.
He was going to be early – in fact, a few boys were still sleeping. He wanted to have enough time to ready himself and to steady his frayed nerves. This was going to be a tough day.
Breakfast smelled delicious – the promising hashed scent of bacon, the fond smell of chicken soup, the essence of warm milk, and the ever-present warm, slightly buttered buns. Hermione loved the scent of mornings much more then evenings, when she was tired and grumbled her whole way through the meal, in particular annoying herself with images of kitchen elves slaving over boiling pots and steamy stoves. Yet another thing Harry can't understand about me. Who needs him, anyway?I do. She pushed aside the startling answer and concentrated on how good a bowl of oatmeal and a bun sounded. She sat down at the near-empty table and then smoothened her skirt out so that it wouldn't crease when she sat.
She leaned forwards, a sleeve of her robe trailing across a tray of sausage rolls, and she grasped a bun for herself. Then, she lifted a bowl of oatmeal from a prepared silver platter. The mealtimes still began at the regular time, but a lot of students were busy partying and having fun to wake up in time for it. That's why there was still much choice. Hermione couldn't help but bristle at the graphic images of Seamus, Ron, Fred, and George having food-eating contests, seemingly trying to figure out how to disgust girls quickest.
Hermione tasted the white frosting on the bun with the tip of her tongue before she bit in. It really was a very sweet reminder of how much she loved mornings. She closed her eyes, and with a delighted smile playing on her lips, she turned her head to the side to see if anyone else was at the table enjoying a bun as well. She thought it would be nice to marvel along with them at how great the buns were.
With a scowl, she realized that other then a few students she didn't really know, Harry was the only other student sitting at the table. He seemed to sit secluded, at the very end, but she knew better then to feel sorry for him. He should be the one feeling sorry for me. No wait, he shouldn't, because I'm perfectly happy now.
Hermione's eyes closed again and she turned her head back so she was staring straight forwards. If I bore a hole in the wall with my eyes, I'll stay like this. No way will Harry catch me looking at him.
She ate in silence as the room slowly filled up with students. There weren't many people sitting around her, though, and so Hermione felt surprised when suddenly someone tapped her on the shoulder. She looked up and saw Ron. Ron smiled. " Hi."
" Hey, Ron." She scooted over so he had room to sit, but he shook his head.
" I just want to ask you something. Well, more of a favor, really."
" What is it?" Hermione asked, startled.
" See me out by the lake right after breakfast. I need to talk to you." Ron then patted her shoulder and walked away.
Hermione felt a bit puzzled. What could Ron possibly want to say to me that he can't say here at the table? However, it also intrigued her, so she decided to go.
Hermione walked briskly towards the lake. It was cold outside and she knew as a fact that just standing by the water would make the temperature colder then usual. As she busied herself thinking about such things, the wind suddenly blew so fiercely her scarf flew across the ground in angry tumbles and then submerged in the water. She shivered, realizing she disliked going into water, and this particular water wasn't helping anything by also being abnormally cold.
She found a good-sized stick and tried to fish it out and finally succeeded. She held the sopping wet scarf in her hands and then a miserable feeling crossed through her. It felt so hopeless and stupid to just stand there, and yet… there was a need for her to be there, at that point and time, that she didn't really understand. It was a sub-conscious sort of thing. Her fingers needed gloves badly, she realized suddenly – the wind was stinging horribly and she hated to have chapped fingers, even more then chapped lips.
" Hermione?" A voice questioned.
Just like Ron, to walk up to you from behind like that.Hermione thought angrily, for the voice had startled her and sent a shiver up her back. She turned around, ready to give him a light hearted scolding, and was surprised to see Harry standing there instead.
" Harry, I…" She frowned angrily. " … this will not stand. I'm going inside."
She turned on her heels, heading for Hogwarts, when he took her elbow. He didn't speak, he simply turned her around so that she was looking him dead in the eye. Her chin trembled but she gave him a brave, satisfied glare. " Don't you dare try anything funny. I'm not anything like Cho." She yanked away from him, but he held on tight.
She kept staring at his eyes. There it was – now she recognized it. Harry hardly ever had that horribly sad, dragged-over-coals look that he had at the moment. His eyes seemed to have been made of crystalline dried sap – flaky and wax-like, completely devoid of the original green sparkle and now holding a dulled herbal-tea colored green. This look had been there before, once or twice – when he had retold the story of Cedric's death, and when half the school went against him and wore rebellious "Potter Stinks" badges.
Harry's stomach dropped and he looked at his feet, breaking the eye contact. He figured that now Hermione had used some of her feminine sixth sense and rationalized that Harry really was sorry – at fault or not. His fingers loosened on her elbow, knowing that she wouldn't run, not now, and leave him in this depressed state. " Harry, listen to me." She said, finally, reluctantly. Don't show him you miss him or feel bad for him, that only encourages him.
He looked at her with a piteous little grimace on his face. Her stomach squeezed. " I saw what I saw. I…"
" It was an accident!"
" How do you kiss someone by accident?" She demanded.
" Well, alright! If you just let me explain it all from the beginning…"
" First!" Hermione interrupted. " Tell me the truth. Are you seeing Cho behind my back? No lies, no sweet talk… I want brutal truth, no matter how much it will hurt to hear."
" No." Harry whispered. " Hermione, I'd never see anyone behind your back. I… love you."
She felt her eye twitch in discomfort. Her eyes slowly moved down to his feet. " Well… I'd never see anyone behind your back, and if you know what you're doing, Harry, you wouldn't promise me anything false right now."
" I'm telling you the truth." Harry replied.
" Alright, Harry. Tell me everything, then." Hermione said softly.
He nodded and began: " Remember when you saw me and Cho on a "date"? I heard her crying in a room, and I went to talk to her, and I just asked her to come with me as a sign of comfort." Harry was about to continue on and on, but he wouldn't have had a chance. Someone was running at full-speed towards them, waving their hands angrily.
Hermione turned and saw it was Cho.
Harry scratched the back of his head, embarrassed, and then said: " What is it?"
Cho took a deep breath and then pointed at Hermione. " She's a liar, Harry! Don't listen to her!"
" How dare you!" Hermione exploded. " How dare you call me a liar when you - - you are the ultimate liar!" She stomped her foot down and then added, threateningly: " I thought I told you to leave me and Harry alone. Whatever it is you wanted to do, whatever were your intentions – they are still unwanted. So, without further ado, leave US ALONE!"
Cho raised her eyebrows. " My intentions were only to help Harry, and they have nothing to do with you."
" Cho, what are you doing here?" Harry was getting a bit frustrated.
Cho's lower lip quivered and jutted out in a very sweet way. Her eyelashes batted as she whispered: " Harry, Hermione's lying to you. Whatever she tells you now, she's the real cheater. I have proof!" She raised a paper that was in her hand.
Hermione rolled her eyes. " Whatever that is, it's obviously forged. I think you really need help, Cho."
She glared at Hermione and read from the top of the paper: " Dear Hermione, I hope our date is still on. I hope Harry doesn't find out though, he might be mad at me. I think he still likes you no matter what. Oh, the big chair in the common room has a broken leg now so don't try to sit on it or it will fall over. Well anyway thank you for making the date with me, I really hope to see you, Neville."
Hermione shook her head. " Cho, that is really low…"
Cho turned to Harry, tears in her eyes. " I can't believe she did this to you, Harry, and with Neville! You never cheated on her, but she ended up being the one that cheated on you!"
Harry's face was very red now. He shook his head and looked at Hermione.
" And - - get this. I have sources saying that Hermione was seeing Neville even before … the unfortunate incident." She put on a sad display and then took Harry's hand, patting it. " I'm really sorry to be the one bringing this news, but I couldn't bear watch Hermione dig her nails into you again. She… she had to go and ruin everything for you, from the beginning!"
Harry was confused and bewildered. He looked from Cho to Hermione, unsure of what to do.
" Cho's the one that's lying! She's the one that's wrapping her slimy tentacles around you!" Hermione whispered hoarsely. " The only time Neville and I ever agreed on going on a date was yesterday, right after you and I had that horrible fight!" She looked weakened, as if someone had struck her a blow.
" How can you even say things like that?" Cho began to cry, softly and gently. She pressed her head down onto Harry's shoulder and then began to speak: " Ever since I saw you breaking Harry's heart by refusing him, I knew something was up. Then, you probably got jealous when he was taking me to the theater. I knew you were jealous, you cruel, cruel…" She shook her head and discontinued, simply adding: " How dare you do this to Harry?"
Harry couldn't stand it. He disliked seeing Cho cry, and she cried so bitterly and honestly that he knew that she couldn't be lying. She would never jeopardize my relationship with Hermione unless she had a reason. After all, she doesn't want to date me, so the only possible reason for her to do this is to help me." Hermione, I…" He frowned. " I can't handle all these ups and downs anymore. I just don't think I can go on."
He took another look at Cho, and beneath her tear-streaked cheeks and glossy eyes was an encouraging and gentle smile.
" I think it's time we should just break up."
Harry's tone was so icy it could have cut Hermione's heart in half.