Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, and I am not taking credit for it. The plot is also base loosely on Warner Bro’s A Cinderella Story.
Update: January 11, 2009
Chapter Eight (The End of Secrets)
It wasn’t until they reached the kitchens and she had started eating when Ron and Harry started looking at her with expectancy. They wanted an explanation, and she’d have to give one to them.
“Did anyone say anything during classes…?” Hermione said starting the conversation she knew had to come at some point. Harry and Ron caught each other’s eyes and quickly looked away.
“Not really,” Harry said hastily. Hermione frowned; obviously that was a lie and she had been the topic of more than a few conversations that day.
“Who put up all of those signs? And where did they get them? And you said they were letters! Who were they to? And… and what about your dad? You never once mentioned anything!” Ron seemed to be unable to hold back any longer. Hermione looked at her food for a long while before answering.
“Those were private letters that I wrote to… someone. None of that was meant to be told to anyone else and this person would never do something like this on purpose.”
Harry looked at her, confused. Ron made a face at her.
“Then how did excerpts from those letters end up posted to the walls around the school?” Ron said, looking like he was losing his patience. Harry nudged him in the arm. Hermione shifted in her seat, uncomfortable.
“Cassandra Hazen put them up… she found them.”
“Why would she do that? Sure, we’re not her favorite people, but that doesn’t give her any legit reason to-,”
“She’s my step-sister.”
Harry and Ron looked dumbfounded. They were staring at her as if they had just seen The Fountain of Fair Fortune. She sighed, realizing what she was getting into and knowing it wasn’t going to go away until she explained everything to them.
“The summer after my forth year, a year after my mother died, I arrived home to find my dad married to Madam Hazen, who is a terrible person that you two are very lucky to have never met before. Back to the point, I came home and suddenly I was thrown into this world featuring Cassandra, Riley, Cassandra’s squib sister, and the madam. They, the Hazens, ended up moving into our home in Muggle London, where they incorporated magic into our lives. My father had never told me where he had met Madam Hazen, but I’m quite sure it was she who found him.
“It was late August, however, when my father died. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but he also got into a car accident on his way home from work. I-I didn’t mean to keep the two of you in the dark from this, I really didn’t. I was planning on telling you everything when I saw you again at school! Then everything with the Prophet and Order of the Phoenix happened and all of those new problems were piling up on top of that – I couldn’t put my troubles on you, on either of you.” She tried her best to explain her reasoning, nearly begging out her excuses.
“Hermione, you could have told us – this was important. Just because we’re in the midst of a war doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell us your problems too. And this is just…” Harry looked very hurt by all of this and guilt flooded through her. “Hermione you’re father died. You should know you could tell us something like that no matter what is going on with us.”
“I know, Harry, but it was all just so sudden. Everything just happened! He was there one day, gone the next; the next thing I knew I was being owled by Dumbledore that I was going to be taken to the Headquarters and left a day after my father’s funeral. Then I learned everything that had happened over the summer – and you arrived and felt so lonely! I’m not blaming this on anyone but myself – I should have told the both of you and I can’t pretend like this wasn’t a mistake, because it was.” Hermione felt her eyes watering and the tears that had flown earlier returning.
She had thought over what she was going to say to Harry and Ron when the time came earlier. Of course, all of that was forgotten once she had started speaking.
There was a strained silence between the trio and none of them spoke. Hermione sniffled a bit, trying to hold back any more tears that may have come.
“So who were the letters to?” Ron said finally, breaking the silence. Hermione tensed; she had hoped to avoid this somehow.
“They were to no one.” She looked at him seriously, warning him not to ask.
“How could Cassandra have gotten hold of those letters, then?” Ron asked, trying to evade her evasion of the topic.
“She must have taken them because there is no way he would have given them to her,” Hermione said, eyes flashing with anger towards Cassandra.
“He? He…?” Harry’s words trailed off until he sat stiff as can be. “Hermione. What. The. Hell.” Harry physically stood from his seat this time, fists clenched.
Hermione froze as she recalled the conversation they had held just a few days prior. Bloody hell, why does this always happen to me…!
“Calm down, Harry! It’s nothing – it-it’s not a big deal!” she pleaded, trying to calm him, and also stood up.
“Why the hell were you willing to tell Draco Malfoy-“
“WHAT!” (Ron had finally caught on)
“-things like that but not us? We trusted you, Hermione, and you lied to us.”
“I didn’t know it was him! Please just sit down and listen! I want to explain myself, please! I swear I didn’t know!”
“Sit down Harry! Just listen to her!” Ron said, angry himself, but wanting to know what was going on now.
“Ron! She’s been sharing Merlin-knows-what with Malfoy! For all we know she could have relayed information about the Order-!”
“Harry!” Hermione took a step away from him, shocked. ”I can’t believe you’d actually accuse me of betraying-,“
“Do you hear yourself!? You’re the one who’s been keeping secrets from us this entire time – two years now!”
“Yes, Harry, secrets to keep you calm and to prevent anything else from coming in the way of defeating Voldemort. I can’t believe you.” She shook her head at him, disturbed by his words. Harry didn’t respond, but clenched his jaw and sat down at the table again next to Ron none-too-gracefully.
“Keep going, ‘Mione,” Ron said stiffly, glaring hard at Harry, to Hermione’s surprise. For the first time in years Ron was being the collected one and it was Harry that was exploding. She glared hard at Harry before taking a breath and beginning to speak again.
“So this past summer was the first with the Hazens alone and it was difficult. I was subjected to mainly housework and chores – most likely how it is with you and the Dursley’s.” She nodded her head at Harry.
“Do you remember, last year, when there was a package on the ground on the Hogwarts Express and I picked it up in order to return it to the person it belonged? Well, I sent it over and he sent a letter back; we got to talking. We became… friends, of a sort, but neither of us told the other who we were.
“Then came the stupid Masquerade Ball, and it was naturally the perfect chance to finally meet. Needless to say, I didn’t leave early to my room that night as you two thought. We got along well, which was nice (Harry coughed), and we went for a walk on the grounds. When midnight came around and the Ball was ending, he told me he wanted to show himself to me. I was reluctant at first but finally agreed, and well… you know.” Harry still looked angry and Ron’s brow was knitted in concentration.
“Of course, when I saw him I didn’t know what to say. I just told him to leave me alone and stop writing. I hadn’t taken off my own mask yet, since I didn’t know what he’d do, so I just ran away.” She stopped talking and looked at Harry, wondering if his outlook had changed at all. He didn’t say anything.
“Then how did Cassandra know anything at all?” Ron said, ignoring Harry’s angry self next to him.
“I… I don’t actually know. All she said was that she ‘heard something interesting,’ about me being ‘infatuated’ with Draco, then proceeded to blackmail me into doing her homework. Obviously, I declined, and so… here we are,” she said finally, glad that this story of hers was over with.
“That’s a lot to lay on us so suddenly, ‘Mione. You should have told us earlier, like we said before.” Ron stared at the table in front of him in concentration, looking a bit torn.
“I still don’t see how you allowed yourself to become friends with Malfoy,” Harry said with less malice than he held before.
“I didn’t ‘allow’ myself to do anything, Harry. It just happened,” she glared at him and held back the urge to roll her eyes.
“It could have been prevented. All of this could have been prevented!” He looked frustrated, and Hermione looked away from him. He was just very testy lately, although she completely understood why he was that way. The entire buzz with Voldemort’s upcoming plans was getting to him – it was getting to all of them.
“I don’t know what to tell you, but I can say that I don’t regret starting to talk to him. He’s a good person from what I’ve gathered and although he is Malfoy, I think I may be willing to give him the benefit of th-,”
“Are you listening to yourself Hermione! What is wrong with you! He’s a Death Eater-in-training and his father is Voldemort’s favorite bloody death eater! He’s evil and a few scraps of parchment and clever words can’t change that!” Harry exploded once again, staring at her accusingly.
“I think you two should leave. Thank you both for the company but I can tell one of you doesn’t want to be near me. When you suddenly gain the ability to speak to me civilly come find me,” Hermione spoke harshly to Harry, and just glanced at Ron and mumbled a ‘Thanks’ and they left together.
At least they were getting somewhere, even if it would take some time for Harry (and possibly Ron, too, since he hadn’t really given much of his opinion) to come around.
She sighed and stood up, deciding it would be best to head back as well, and made her way out of the kitchen.
Of course, it was physically impossible for her to complete a trip to a specific destination without passing by someone she couldn’t care to see at the time. Alas, when none other than Draco Malfoy rounded the corner right in front of her, it was only natural she would freeze on the spot.
Let’s just say awkward doesn’t describe the half of it.
They looked at each other, Hermione with fear and humiliation; Malfoy with genuine surprise, since he hardly expected to (nearly) run into her.
“Uh…” Hermione didn’t even know where to start, so she decided simply not to, and forced her feet to move as quickly as possible, without running, away from Malfoy.
He didn’t say a word.
It wasn’t until the following day, when she had mustered up enough courage to leave the shelter of her dormitory and go to classes, that she saw Cassandra.
She had been heading for the Great Hall for dinner and just as she was about to go down a flight of stairs she passed a group of Slytherins, Cassandra among them. Intending to walk past them silently, she ignored them all-together as if they weren’t there. Only when Cassandra spoke did she bother to even make the slightest notion that they were even there.
"We didn’t see you in class yesterday, Granger; what’s got you off your high horse?”
Hermione made no reply and continued walking.
"It’s not as if anything of any importance happened. So what? Your friends know the truth about you now – you’re a desperate orphan with, well, no one."
Hermione now stood still, glaring at her. “And what about you? I’m sure there are secrets you’re hiding.”
“Hardly,” Cassandra said, eyes flashing to the crowd behind her. Hermione smirked; might as well have fun with this – it’s not as if there was anything worthwhile to keep hidden anymore.
“So have you talked to Riley since you left home? How is life without magic treating her? And what about the Madam? Hopefully she hasn’t-,”
“Shut up, Mudblood! You don’t even know what you’re talking about!” Cassandra took a step forward as if to intimidate her.
“Of course I do – I do live with you,” Hermione said casually, smirking all the while. A collective gasp came from the small horde of Slytherins.
“Liar!” Cassandra’s foot stomped on the stone floor with an echo.
Hermione gave a wave and proceeded down the stairs to the Great Hall as she originally intended.
A/N:I was wondering how many readers actually go back and read the responses I leave you when you review. I reply to the ALL and it takes a while, so I just was curious as to know how many of you actually take a look. Please just mention in your review if you do or not. Thanks :).
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