"Hope, Hope, Hope, Hope," Draco muttered to himself as he wandered through the castle in search of Hermione. "The girl's name is Hope."
He continued his venture, stopping once when he saw a girl with hair like Hermione's, and continuing again when he saw the yellow color on her robes.
"Watch where you're going, Malfoy," Draco heard after he bumped into a tall, lanky Gryfindor. Ron Weasley, of course. Because, who else would it be? "You're looking for Hermione, then? Want to tell her you love her, again. I know about your rehearsal slip-up."
"Shove it, Weasley. Yeah, I'm looking for her, but not to- How did you hear about that, anyway?"
Ron turned red and mumbled something incoherent. Curious.
"Just leave her alone," he said.
"Or what? Are you going to make slugs come out of your mouth if I don't? Or fall off your broom, perhaps? Or maybe you'll--
"You heard what I said, Malfoy."
"Weasley, you hadn't had a chance with her in the first place."
"Malfoy!" Ron yelled, and lunged at him. And this time, Hermione wasn't there to warn him of what a bad idea it was, or tell him that Draco wasn't worth it.
* * *
“Oh, this is such a mess,” Hermione muttered pitifully to herself as she walked outside by herself. “Such a mess.”
“You got that right,” a voice said, startling Hermione from her thoughts.
“Wha- Harry! What did you say?”
“I said that you’re right, everything is a mess.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked cautiously.
“The grounds, of course,” Harry said sarcastically.
“Harry, I can’t deal with any of this right now. Crazy as this sounds, I just want to go back to last year, when everything was so clear and books had all the answers, for me, anyway.”
“Hermione, I don’t know what to say. I mean, you’ve known Ron forever, and despite your fighting, he’s always been there. Malfoy, he’s… well, you know how he’s been. People don’t change in the blink of an eye… well, not mentally.”
“Harry, I know that. And it’s not such a matter of liking Dra- Malfoy- whatever, as it is not liking Ron, in that way.”
“But Hermione, everyone always thought—
“I know what everyone thought, and I think they had me thinking that, too. But, I don’t know, I guess I realized that maybe I’d convinced myself to like him, rather than thinking it of my own free will, you know?”
“I guess, but Ron doesn’t know. He’s pretty sore about the whole situation.”
“Well, where is he right now? Maybe I could talk to him.”
“That didn’t work out so well last time, did it?”
“No, but maybe if he’d actually let me speak this time, I could explain things properly.”
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t know where he is, though. Want me to help you find him?”
“Sure. Maybe you can hold him off me if he decides to hurt me,” Hermione joked.
“Hermione, that’s not funny,” Harry said earnestly.
“Yeah, I know. Trying to lighten the mood.”
* * *
“Weasley, get your disgusting self off of me! I’ll have you put in detention for a month!” Draco exclaimed as he struggled under Ron’s weight.
“Malfoy, I’m going to- to- to hurt you!”
“You’re already hurting me with your stench, Weasley!” Draco said while he shielded his face from Ron’s punches. “Get off!”
Ron punched at Draco, his fists making little impact as Draco used his own hands to block them. Finally, Draco managed to roll Ron off of him.
“Malfoy, how dare you say—
“Say the truth, Weasley? Why are you fooling yourself? You’ve talked to her!”
“And do you know what she told me? She told me that she doesn’t want you, either!”
“So what? Weasley, I don’t care! So just leave and be your Weaseley self.”
Ron glanced over Draco’s shoulder, seeing a girl and a boy standing there, watching the scene with deep interest and wide eyes.
“You really don’t care?” Ron asked, watching the boy and girl walk closer.
“Can’t you hear? I don’t care,” Draco repeated slowly.
“Hear that, Hermione? Malfoy doesn’t care about you!” Ron called out.
“What are you on about, Weasel? Granger isn’t here.”
“Yes, I am,” the girl, now known to be Hermione, said.
Draco spun around, the expression on his face a mix of worry and shock.
“I’m sorry,” he said immediately.
“For what?” Hermione said breezily, although she had a semi-hurt, semi-angry look in her eyes. “I was just looking for Ronald.”
“Well, I was looking for you,” Draco said. “Gwyne sent me to find you so we could rehearse.”
“I’m not really in the mood. Besides, I need to speak with Ron. Ron?”
“Are you coming?”
“Oh, sure,” Ron said as Hermione turned to walk back the way she came, with Harry at her side.
* * *
“Harry, can Ron and I talk alone?” Hermione asked him.
“Sure, I’ll be in the common room,” Harry said, and walked away.
“So, Hermione, have you come to your senses, then?” Ron asked once Harry was gone.
“What I mean is, have you decided you don’t like Malfoy?”
“No! Well… I mean, I don’t know. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“What I wanted to say is that I think you know that we left things off on a bad note last time we talked.”
“And I don’t want us to not be friends, ever.”
“I know. I feel the same way.”
“And I think that we, that is to say, you and me, work better, I mean, relationship-wise, that way. I mean, as friends, that is.”
Ron stared at her.
Hermione took a deep breath.
“And I really hope you’re okay with that because I don’t want us ever to not be friends, like I said, because, I mean, you saved me that time in first year, and we’ve been through a lot and….”
Ron stared at her.
“…and… don’t you have anything to say?”
“Is this about Malfoy?”
“Ron, no! Why are you so preoccupied with him? You heard what he said back there!”
“But Pansy said—
“What has Pansy got to do with this? And why have you been talking to her?”
“Nothing, I haven’t. I- never mind. Yeah, sure, that’s all fine, Hermione.”
“Ron, what aren’t you saying?”
“Nothing. I’ve got to go, Hermione. Bye.”
“Ron! Where are you going?”
But he’d already disappeared around the corner.
* * *
“How’d it go, Hermione?” Harry asked as Hermione entered the common room.
“Okay, I suppose. But Ron left all of a sudden and said something about Pansy Parkinson. Did he come back here a while ago?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“I wonder where he went.”
“Alright, well, then, I suppose I should go back to my room and do my homework.”
“Typical,” Harry laughed.
Hermione smiled, thankful for the small distraction.
A/N: Chapter 9 should be up soon! I'm halfway through writing it, so it'll be submitted pretty soon. R&R please!
AHH! I just got my 200th REVIEW!! Thankyou all so much!