She carried the letter in her pocket; it somehow made her feel as if he was closer to her that way. When she slept, the letter was under her pillow. It had been weeks since arriving at Hogwarts and writing her first letter to Charlie, and still no response. She knew that one single owl flying all that way would take a long time, but she hated the uncertainty of never knowing when a reply would arrive. Part of her anxiousness was due to the simple fact that she wanted to hear from him. Another part was deciding exactly how she was going to get the letter and read it without Harry or Ron seeing. Just to be safe, Hermione had even used a school owl instead of borrowing Hedwig from Harry, because she didn’t want to have to explain everything and risk her secret leaking to Ron.
Hermione mentally scolded herself every time she thought about lying to Ron. She knew she needed to tell him, but finding the right time was not going to be easy, nor was thinking of what to say. Several times she had thought about just coming right out and saying it. She even practiced with the mirror in her bathroom.
Ron, Charlie and I are together.
As in, “together.”
I love him, Ron. And he loves me.
Yes, I’m sure.
Because he told me. We’ve been together since Christmas.
He is not too old for me!
Why would you say something like that? Your brother would never…
I just know, ok?
No, I’m not supposed to be with you! I’m supposed to be with Charlie!
But we agreed, Ron! Just friends! We were just going to be friends…
But every time it ended the same way, with Hermione envisioning Ron’s reactions as they took the worst possible of courses (which she felt were probably the ones most likely to occur). More often than not, her practice sessions with the mirror ended with a silent sob in her bathroom.
Three light taps sounded on the door. “Hermione? You in there? It’s Ginny. I brought you some food.”
Hermione reached from where she sat on the opposite side of the floor, leaning her head against the edge of the tub. Determined not to move from her spot, she willed her arm to stretch a few feet further, but to no avail.
“Just do it,” the weeping girl answered feebly.
Ginny ducked into the bathroom, but all Hermione saw through her watery eyes was a red blur.
“I brought you some food. Oh, Hermione, you’ve really got to stop this, you know,” Ginny said sympathetically while taking a seat on the edge of the tub, right next to Hermione. “It’s not helping anything…”
Hermione didn’t reply; she just shifted herself away from Ginny ever so slightly.
“Sorry. I’m not trying to be insensitive,” Ginny apologized while gently stroking the curly brown hair across her lap. “But really, will crying make it any better?”
Hermione leaned up and looked Ginny in the eyes, letting the tears fall freely down her face, and shook her head no. Ginny grabbed a tissue to dry them off and gave a sad smile.
“And just who are those tears for, Hermione? I know you miss Charlie desperately, but for some reason I think this is about someone else…”
Damn your acumen, Ginny! Sometimes I wish you were as thick as that brother of yours. Though, lately he hasn’t been too bad…
“What makes you say that?”
“Come off it, now. You’re scared to tell Ron, aren’t you?”
Hermione sighed heavily and didn’t refute the accusation as she was entirely too exhausted to argue.
“What am I going to do, Gin? I don’t know how to tell Ron, and I haven’t heard back from Charlie… My life is completely in disarray and I can’t take this anymore!” Hermione said, growing more frantic the longer she spoke.
“Hey, hey, calm down. Shhh, it’s ok,” Ginny soothed. “If you had come to breakfast this morning, you’d have been there for the arrival of your letter.”
Hermione’s heart jumped as she saw the folded parchment Ginny held in her hand. She immediately relieved Ginny of the letter and tore through the outer envelope, then stopped abruptly.
“No one saw, did they?” Hermione asked with her hands still frozen in place around the letter.
“Of course they saw, but they don’t know who it’s from. Not like you can hide a giant bird like that when it surprises you at eight in the morning.” Ginny saw the horrified look on her friend’s face and continued, “I told you they don’t know. I made sure to take the letter before they could see anything. That’s when I grabbed you some food and told them I’d be bringing it up to you. Don’t worry; they have no idea.” Well, Harry does…
Hermione relaxed her shoulders a bit and asked, “Did they ask about me? I mean, why I wasn’t at breakfast?”
“Only about a billion times. Of course, ninety-nine percent of that came from Ron,” Ginny answered with a smirk.
“And you told them…?”
“The usual: you didn’t feel well and weren’t up for breakfast with a crowd of people. Then, of course, Ron had to be his ardent self and insist on coming up to check on you, but I handled him,” Ginny assured. “I also reminded him that I was the only one of us who knew the password to the Heads’ common room so it would do no good to get on my bad side.”
“Handled him gently, I hope,” she said while raising her eyebrow.
Ginny laughed but quickly silenced herself when she realized Hermione was serious. “Definitely. Told him you were stressed about NEWTs and that it would probably be best if I came alone. He started to argue, but I told him it was girls’ business. He didn’t fight me after that.”
“Thanks, Gin,” she sniffed. “Oh, goodness, what time is it?”
“About that time…”
“You’re right. We need to go.”
Hermione stood up slowly and waited to steady herself as she felt the blood rush to her head. Leaving her untouched breakfast behind in the bathroom, she followed Ginny out into the Heads’ common room, picked up her schoolbag, and hurried off to Care of Magical Creatures to meet Harry and Ron. The second letter, after being placed in her pocket alongside the first letter, would be saved for later, as Hermione had much more immediate, pressing matters to attend to.
“How are my eyes?”
“Puffy and red.”
“Thanks for the brute honesty,” Hermione said sarcastically.
“Any time. Good thing you’ve developed an allergy to pollen, Hermione,” Ginny noted facetiously. “And, oh no… You’ve got to go outside and expose yourself, again.”
Hermione was truly grateful to have Ginny around covering up for her. She’d never been able to lie worth anything, so having Ginny was a blessing. Not that Ginny necessarily enjoyed lying, but she knew desperate times called for desperate measures, and she had to protect her friend’s integrity and pride at all costs.
”Yeah, pity,” Hermione agreed with a soft chuckle.
“Harry, we really need to get her to tell him,” Ginny said to him.
“First of all, we aren’t going to get her to do anything. As far as she knows, I have no clue about Charlie, and I’m not about to give myself up as a pathetic, peeping tom and have her hate me for the rest of my life. No thanks.” Harry crossed his arms and tried his hardest to stand his ground.
But Ginny was not about to let Harry weasel out of this one. “Ok, so we get her to tell you first, then the two of us can work on her.”
“Err, why don’t you just do it yourself? Just say…whatever it is that you girls say to con each other. Use reverse psychology, I don’t care,” he said, desperately trying to stay out of Hermione’s business.
“I’m not doing it myself because you’re Ron’s best friend, you prat. Who do you think she’d be more likely to listen to on the subject of Ron?”
Harry leaned back his head in exasperation and sighed heavily. “Fine…” After all, he found his girlfriend’s persuasive techniques rather hard to resist, and knew he’d end up doing her bidding, anyway. He reasoned he ought to make it easy and not to fight her about it.
“Good. I’m glad you’ve come to your senses. Now, come sit down,” Ginny beckoned as she patted the seat next to her on the couch.
“Gin, I’m tired, and my lips already hurt, as it is…”
Ginny rolled her eyes in a very Hermione-like way. “Not what I was talking about. Is that all boys ever think of?” she teased him.
Harry shook his head in defeat. He’d given up on ever trying to understand girls. One minute they can’t get enough, and the next they turn the tables to give the men in their lives a hard time.
“Just hurry up and get over here, before I get angry,” Ginny smiled.
Harry duly obeyed and prepared himself for an endless conversation that would, no doubt, be filled with a giant list of precise, detailed instructions. He had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he only imagined it to be a painful experience.
“What if Hermione doesn’t want to tell Ron? Or me, for that matter?” Harry asked skeptically.
“Trust me; she does.”
Deciding to go along with his girlfriend’s whims (not like he had much choice in the matter), he assured himself that she was a girl, after all, and would know how to deal with other girls a lot better than he did. It was a good thing she did, too, because Harry had vowed never to delve into the inner-workings of his female counterparts again, and having Ginny’s vehement insistence was the only way he’d ever get involved in Hermione’s private affairs.
Ginny had better be right about this, he thought, or Hermione will have my head.
Hermione lay motionless on her bed, staring up at the ceiling and reflecting on her day. Her mounds of unfinished homework lay neatly stacked on her desk but she couldn’t conjure up enough motivation to do any of it. She heard Draco Malfoy enter the common room, back from his rounds, but didn’t even move. They had been putting off their weekly meeting for a few days now, but Hermione couldn’t make herself care enough to drag her body out of bed. If she knew Malfoy as well as she hoped she did, he wouldn’t mind missing one meeting. Much to her satisfaction, she heard his bedroom door close shut.
Her day hadn’t been particularly bad or anything. Well, after the morning’s bathroom incident, that is. Her classes were as stimulating as could be expected, Ron and Harry were appropriately concerned with her well being, and the weather had cleared up considerably. Actually, her day had been quite good, but the utter exhaustion she was now suffering due to emotional strain was taking its toll on her studies and her physical state. She wanted nothing more than to lay motionless forever, curled up in her soft bed, and dream about…
“Charlie!” Hermione remembered and violently scrambled through her robes for her letter.
Her day had been so eventful and busy that she’d completely forgotten what should have been the highlight of her day. She held the still folded letter in her hands for a while before reading and closed her eyes, thinking how Charlie had touched this very parchment that she now pressed to her chest.
My lovely Hermione,
I’m sure this letter will be days old by the time it reaches you. Sorry it’s taken so long, but I wrote back as soon as I got yours; it’s quite a bit more difficult and time-consuming to write with my wrist in this awkward bandage. Don’t worry, love. It’s not serious—just a little accident, that’s all. I get a considerable amount of grief from my fellow trainers about it, too. They always say things like, “Well, if you hadn’t been thinking about her again, you would have seen that dragon go straight for you.” Quite funny, sometimes, except then I remember how far away you are, and suddenly it’s not so funny anymore. I miss you like hell, Hermione. Sorry for swearing, but there’s really no other way to describe it. Being without you is torture. I always loved coming to work before, but now I can’t seem to think of anything but when I’ll get to see you again.
But enough of my whining. How are your classes going? I remember NEWTs being tough, but I’m sure you’re on top of everything and aren’t worried one bit.
Hermione paused at this point in the letter and looked at the stack of closed books on her desk. During any normal week, Charlie would have been right: she would have been on top of everything—but not today. Well, maybe now that she’d heard back from him it would help her calm down enough to focus on her studies. She shifted her eyes from the books and continued to read:
I bet you’ve been studying far too much for your own good and haven’t even given your brain a moment to start missing me yet. I just want to say that it’s ok if you take it easy; I know you’re going to do amazingly well in all of your NEWTs and come out the top of your class, so I’m sure you’d be fine even if you didn’t put so much pressure on yourself. Although, Ron and Harry might learn from your rigorous study habits, don’t you think?
How is everything else going? I mean, how are things between you and Ron? I know you said you wanted to tell him sometime, and by now you might have done it already. I’m sure it’s really hard for you to think about, and if you have any doubts about it, you know there’s absolutely no pressure to rush into it. Don’t think you’re going to hurt my feelings by not telling him right away, because I completely understand. I can’t imagine how tough it is to be torn between your best friend and your boyfriend. And yes, I realize I never properly asked you to be my girlfriend, but will you humor me? I promise that a proper asking will come your way in no time.
My hand is killing me almost as much as not having you here. Of course, it doesn’t help that this bloody owl is becoming very impatient with me and is trying to eat my fingers… Hope to hear from you soon.
Love you always,
This was exactly what she needed after a long day. Hermione read the letter again several times before folding it back up and placing it under her pillow with the other letter. Now her day was complete and perfect—or nearly perfect, if not her lingering concern about Ron. Something would definitely have to be done, but no suitable options presented themselves. She wished she had the courage to just tell him… But there was no time to think of that now, and even writing to Charlie would have to wait until morning, due to her dire need for sleep.
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