Harry grinned as their carriage came to a halt. “How about a hot butterbeer at Rosmerta’s, start the day off right?” he suggested.
“Absolutely,” Hemione said.
“Lead the way, mate.” Ron added.
“Hey Ginny! Do you and Dean want to join us at Rosmerta’s?” Hermione called.
Ron tried in vain to get her attention. “What’re you inviting her twit of a boyfriend for, Hermione?” he demanded. “We’re here to have a good time.”
Hermione turned around exasperatedly. “Ron. She’s your sister. At least pretend to be happy for her – Dean’s a great person. If you recall, you two used to be friends?”
Ron grumbled as Ginny and Dean walked up hand in hand. “Hey guys!” Dean said. “Doesn’t the place look awesome?”
“Gorgeous!” Hermione beamed. They walked up the hill to Rosmerta’s, aglow with twinkling lights and a garnish of crystalline snow.
Her cheeks red from the cold, Hermione pushed open the door to the pub, reveling in the sound of laughter and the warm gust of air, heady with the scent of spices and butterbeer.
“Merlin, I’ve missed this,” Ginny said behind her, taking a deep breath.
They made their way to a round table by the fire, stopping briefly to chat with Neville and Luna.
“The Snargles are really thick today, don’t you think?” Luna asked Hermione airily.
“Er, yeah. I suppose they are,” Hermione answered, wondering what a Snargle was. “Well, good to see you, we’d better grab that table before it’s taken…”
“Unique as ever, huh?” Dean laughed.
“Boy, I guess,” Ron said, momentarily forgetting that he was supposed to be giving Dean the silent treatment.
Hermione’s smile faded when she saw the group of Slytherins seated near the table she was headed for.
Malfoy. She felt her heartbeat pick up. Well, I won’t give him the satisfaction of frightening me off, she thought, claiming the table with a loud *clunk* of her purse on the timeworn wood.
All four Slytherins looked over at the noise. Hermione stared at Malfoy defiantly.
Harry and Ron had just reached the table, closely followed by Ginny and Dean.
“What’re you staring at?” Ron demanded of the Slytherins.
“None of your business, Weasley,” Pansy spat back.
Ron flushed and sputtered indignantly.
“Ok, let’s all just ignore each other so we can enjoy the day in peace,” Hermione said, with a final glare at Malfoy.
“Good idea, Granger. No one wants to listen to you and your moron friends, anyway,” Malfoy sneered.
Theodore and Dareon laughed half-heartedly.
“Oh, I’m sorry Malfoy. I didn’t realize that a piece of your broom had lodged up your bum when you lost the Quidditch match. Does it hurt?” Hermione put on a fake pout and signaled Madame Rosmerta over.
Malfoy’s cheeks tinged scarlet. Good, I hope that stings.
Madame Rosmerta bustled up. “Now, what can I get you dearies?” she tittered.
“Five butterbeers please,” Hermione said.
“Excuse me,” a snide voice cut in. “We were here first.”
“I’ll take your order as soon as I’m finished here, dear.”
Malfoy opened his mouth to say something else but Pansy and Dareon shushed him.
“Relax, Draco. She’ll get ours in a minute,” Dareon whispered.
“It’s not about that,” he spat back. “It’s about the fact that we were here first, so our order should have been taken. FIRST.”
“What’s gotten into you?” Theodore asked incredulously. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re my mate and all, but the last few days you’ve been – I don’t know – a bit unreasonable.”
Malfoy’s skin took on a deeper shade of pink, and he pushed his chair away from the table abruptly, causing Hermione and the Gryffindors to look up.
“Fine. You won’t have to suffer my presence any longer.” Malfoy stormed away, nearly pushing Madame Rosmerta over in the process.
“Well,” she huffed. “Well!” She hurried back to the bar without taking the Slytherin’s order, muttering about “Disrespectful kids.”
Harry frowned. “What was that about?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione said, her voice distant as she tried to make sense of his behavior. What was going on with him?
“I know,” Ron said, staring at the bar where Madame Rosmerta was gathering their butterbeers. “Malfoy’s being a selfish git, as usual.”
Dean snorted agreement.
“Yeah, but he’s never been that bad – at least not to his friends,” Ginny said.
Pansy, Theodore and Dareon were clearly having the same conversation at their table.
“They look pretty bewildered,” Hermione commented, feeling a twinge of something she couldn’t identify (was it sympathy? Concern?). She hadn’t forgotten the semi-normal moment she’d had with Pansy while Malfoy was hurt.
“Looks like they could use a few butterbeers, too,” Harry said drily.
“Yeah, Rosmerta forgot all about them when Malfoy nearly ran her down,” Dean said.
Sensing eyes on them, the small group of Slytherins stopped conversing and looked over.
The two groups stared at each other for a second before Madame Rosmerta sashayed back to their table with a full tray of butterbeers. “Here you are!”
“Thank you Rosmerta,” they answered sweetly, overcompensating after the Malfoy incident. She beamed and turned to walk back to the bar.
“Wait!” Hermione and Harry called at the same time. They hesitated and nodded awkwardly at the Slytherin’s table next to them.
“I think they need some butterbeers…” Hermione said apologetically.
Madame Rosmerta blew a wisp of hair out of her face and sighed, pursing her lips and glaring at the small group. “I suppose you’re right. Their friend was a right snob, though, I’ll say that much.”
She swept back to the bar and poured three more butterbeers.
The Slytherins looked at Harry and Hermione, surprise written on their faces. Rosmerta returned, plunking the mugs down before them before rushing off.
They nodded gratefully at the Gryffindors.
“What’d you do that for?” Ron whispered angrily.
“Come off it Ron, they didn’t do anything to us. Malfoy was the one being a git.” Harry said.
“Hmph,” Ron snorted. “He’s probably just mad that they set a date for his Dad’s trial. Couldn’t slither his way out of that one, eh?”
“WHAT?!!!” Everyone exclaimed at once, earning them strange looks from the bar patrons around them.
Hermione lowered her voice. “Why didn’t you tell us that?”
Ron shrugged, still swigging his butterbeer. “It’ll probably be in the Prophet Monday, Dad just owled me this morning.”
So that’s why he’s been acting so weird…Hermione thought with a pang. Still, it didn’t give him a license to treat everyone like scum.
“Hm, that explains a lot,” Harry said. “But I’m glad Lucius is standing trial. He deserves to face his sentence.”
“Merlin knows he’s gotten off scot-free in the past,” Ginny said with a frown, remembering the diary incident.
Hermione felt a strange need to defend him. “He didn’t know what that old book was, or what it would do…”
Dean cut in. “He knew it was You-Know-Who’s, so he should have guessed. Don’t play him as the innocent, Hermione.”
Hermione flushed. “I’m not. Let’s – let’s just finish our butterbeers, ok? I’d like to get to Honeydukes.”
“Wow. That was…surprising,” Dareon said, glancing again at the Gryffindors.
“Yeah,” Theodore agreed.
“You know, Granger’s not that bad,” Pansy said, almost defiantly, as though daring the others to disagree.
Theodore nodded. “I don’t know – ever since she stood up to Blaise I’ve had some, well...respect for her.” Theodore said.
“Me too,” Dareon said. “But I’m not sure that was the smartest thing she ever did. Blaise is no joke.
"He’s targeted her, I can tell,” he added.
“That’s true,” Pansy said. “But when the Dark Lord comes to power she and other Muggleborns won’t stand much chance anyway.”
“Then hopefully she’s as powerful as she told Blaise she was…” Dareon said.
They shook their heads and sipped their drinks.
Draco strolled through the forest, kicking up snow as he went. “Call themselves friends, huh.” He muttered. None of them understand.
He looked up, realizing he had come to the Shrieking Shack. He stopped and sank onto a frost-covered boulder.
He needed to control his emotions. In the back of Draco’s mind he knew it was wrong of him to lash out as he had. Not to mention dangerous. Any display of anger or sadness could be used against him, and when the Daily Prophet came out on Monday he’d be scrutinized within an inch of his life. Waiting for me to break. He couldn’t let it happen. Draco sat up and tightened his cloak around him, deciding to walk back to the castle alone.