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That night, sleep came to Hermione only for short, intermittent periods. Worry and dread occupied her thoughts, but anger and frustration had been the most prominent feelings of all. Raw emotions boiled under the surface of her skin, even as she slept, and her jaw clenched tightly in response.

Boys were the most troublesome creatures ever to grace the planet, Hermione decided, and it was no wonder why she’d sworn off boys her own age—they were much too immature to handle serious situations in an adult-like manner. After that night’s incident, Hermione was more thankful for Charlie than she ever had been; he, at least, would never have jumped to conclusions like Harry and Ron did. She now regretted even bringing up the subject with Harry, but at the time, it had seemed like the right thing to do.

Then there was Malfoy. While she hated to blame the snooty Slytherin for everything, the fact of the matter was that it really was all his fault. Granted, Malfoy had no control over his enemies’ reactions, but he was the one who came on to her in the first place. He started the whole entire mess, whether or not he’d actually meant to cause so much trouble. Although, the more the thought about it, Hermione didn’t really mind placing all the blame on her Head counterpart, as he was probably basking in the enjoyment of wreaking so much havoc among the students he loved to torment most.

She ended up sleeping—or trying to sleep—on the couch in the common room. The third time she woke up, her watch read four-twenty a.m. Rather than try to go back to sleep, she lay on her back and planned her next actions (what to do about Ron and Harry) and day dreamed about Charlie. It was four-twenty a.m., and Hermione realized it was Valentine’s Day.

I should be happy>, she thought. I shouldn’t have to defend myself against Harry and Ron’s false accusations. I shouldn’t have to fend off a randy Head Boy who only wants another notch scratched on his broom. I shouldn’t have to be worried about what my news will do to Ron and how much I’m going to hurt him. I should be with Charlie. It’s Valentine’s Day, and I should be with the man I love. Yes, I should be happy—I deserve to be happy—but I’m not.

“How’d the couch treat you, Granger?” came a voice from the stairwell. “My bed would have been a lot more comfortable, but since you refused my offer…”

Hermione slammed her extra pillow over her face, hoping that Malfoy would get the hint and leave her alone.

“Now I know I kiss better than that pillow does.”

Frustrated and annoyed, the sleepy Head Girl launched her pillow at the offending boy. She slung her arm over her eyes to block the light.

“Don’t talk to me,” Hermione ordered.

Malfoy smirked. “I just came to give you a good-morning kiss and tell you to have a happy Valentine’s Day,” he said innocently.

“And don’t touch me.”

Hermione huffed and snatched her pillow back from Malfoy. Why he’d gotten up at the crack of dawn was beyond her. Probably just to annoy me, she mused.

The sun was beginning to rise, and Hermione felt like she hadn’t slept a wink all night long. She wanted nothing more than to stay in her room and sleep, but the dreaded day had approached far more quickly than she would have liked. Now was not the time to relax; she had to prepare herself for whatever Ron had cooked up and find a way to break her news.

“See you in class, sweetie!” was the last thing Hermione heard before the door to the Common Room closed behind her.

What an arse, she thought.


When she got to the Great Hall, Ron and Harry were already waiting for her.

Merlin, will I ever get a break?

Their eyes followed her all the way from the door to her seat, begging all of the thousands of questions they wanted answered. If that wasn’t enough to make her uncomfortable, the decorations in the room surely did. Red and pink streamers lined the doorway, pictures of hearts and doves adorned the walls, and a charmed cupid flew about pretending to strike his arrow into unsuspecting victims.

What a horrible day for this to happen, she thought.

“Good morning, boys,” Hermione greeted, hoping that her formalities would allow her to stall at least until breakfast was over.

“So, are you going to tell us what happened?” Ron asked, getting right to the point.

“Hello to you, too, Ron,” Hermione said sarcastically.

Ron was bewildered, wondering why she had said hi twice, especially when he had just asked her a question.

“Good morning, Hermione,” Harry answered back. He then nudged Ron in the side and nodded his head towards the table.

“Oh, sorry. Good morning, Hermione. Better?”

Hermione sighed. Harry’s manners weren’t too detestable, but Ron still needed a considerable amount of work.

“And how is everything, this morning?” inquired Hermione, determined to start the day off right.

But Ron was antsy and not at all in the mood to play games. “Err, all right, but I still want to know what that whole thing last night was about.”

“That’s good,” she replied. “And about last night, I’d rather talk when he had some privacy. The Great Hall is not a good place.”

Yeah, Malfoy could over-hear you talking about him,” Ron muttered to Harry.

“What was that, Ron?” she asked.

Before Ron had time to lie, a large brown owl swept down to the Gryffindor table and dropped a bundle of red roses in front of Hermione. Her jaw dropped as she stared at the arrangement of the most gorgeous flowers she’d ever seen.

“Malfoy got you a Valentine’s Day present!?” Ron bellowed. “What the bloody hell is he trying to pull?” The rage behind Ron’s eyes blazed, and he stood up to seek his revenge.

“Sit down, Ron!” Harry hissed, and pulled on Ron’s shoulder.

“What does the note say, ‘Mione?”

“No note,” she answered. That’s weird. Maybe it was Malfoy, since there’s no note. No, it couldn’t be from him. They have to be Charlie’s.

“It was him. I’ll kill the little bastard…”

Before Ron was out of his seat again, two smaller owls made additional deliveries to Hermione: both were bundles of red roses identical to the first.

“He just won’t quit, will he? Listen, Hermione, I don’t care how you feel about Malfoy, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to let you date him!” insisted Ron.

“Like it’s up to you?” shot Hermione.

“Well, yeah! He’s evil, ‘Mione! Harry and I won’t let you!”

Ron looked to Harry to back him up, but the terrified look on Harry’s face said he wanted no part in Ron’s attempt at being protective and possessive of their female friend.

“And he’s sending you bloody roses! How fake is that?”

Tears welled up in Hermione’s eyes. After such a rough night, the last thing she needed was to be berated by one of her best friends. She wouldn’t even get to enjoy her flowers now that Ron had ruined the incredibly romantic moment.

“Think what you want, Ron! If you won’t let me explain myself on my terms, then you can just go on believing whatever the hell you want! I’m leaving!”

“You can’t go!” Ron shouted to her.

The small girl stormed out of the Great Hall with three bundles of roses crushed in her grip. The brown paper that bound them together crunched against her as she ran all the way to her room.

Ron was mere steps behind her and, owing to his longer legs, caught up with her halfway there. Still, no matter how much he argued and begged her talk to him, she wouldn’t listen. Her attempt to close the common room door on him was none too successful, as her small stature was no match for his towering strength.

“I’ll give you a detention for being in here, Ron!” she shouted. “You don’t have my permission!”

“I don’t need permission! I’ve got a damn good reason to be in here, whether you like it or not!”

“Trouble in paradise?” Malfoy asked as he entered the common room.

“Sod off, Malfoy!”

“Calm yourself, Weasel. What’s the commotion about?”

“It’s about you and your damn roses!” Ron screamed.

“What’s he—“ Malfoy started to ask, but then noticed Hermione had retreated to her room, which was made apparent when the door slammed with an eardrum-shattering bang.

“Hermione!” Ron called. He raced up to her room, completely forgetting about the no-good Slytherin downstairs.

“Go away!” Hermione yelled.

“Let me in. I need to talk to you.”

“You’ve done enough, Ron.”

Alohamora.”

“That won’t work!” he heard her say.

With that, Ron kicked the door as hard as he could and nearly broke his foot in the process.

“RON! What on earth are you doing?”

“Breaking down your door! What does it sound like?”

As furious as Hermione was, she did not want a broken door (especially since that was the only barrier between her and Malfoy every night). She reluctantly crossed the room and opened the door.

“What is it?” she demanded, glaring at him.

“Tell me what’s going on! Tell me why Malfoy sent you roses!”

“If you would have used your head, instead of being so thick all the time, you would have realized how it didn’t make sense for Malfoy to send roses by owl.”

“Why would Malfoy send roses by owl?” Ron asked.

“He didn’t, Ron! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! They’re not from Malfoy. Read the card!” she said angrily, while thrusting a small piece of parchment into his hands.

Yeah, that’ll show him. Now he’ll stop pestering me about Malfoy, thank Merlin.

“Where did this come from?”

“It was in the last bundle. Oh yeah, I couldn’t stay in the Great Hall long enough to read it, because somebody had to go harass me over it!”

Ron snorted at her and tore open the outer envelope. Hermione folded her arms and watched him angrily as he read.

She watched his eyes travel down the page, and slowly his face unscrewed from the rage and jealously he’d felt. As this began to happen, Hermione soon realized it was not a good thing. She saw his eyes widen in disbelief, and when he finally looked up at her, all he could do was stare. No words came from his mouth. His shoulder and arm muscles lost all control and fell limply at his sides; the note slipped from his hands and floated gracefully to the floor. Ron’s face was now completely white—a stark contrast to his reddening eyes.

Oh, god, Hermione thought. What have I done?

But she found herself as speechless as Ron. Everything she tried to say was caught in her throat. She could only stare back at him.

Slowly, Ron turned on his heel and made his way carefully towards the door. His strides were so calculated it seemed as if he had to literally instruct his legs to move. He looked so weak that Hermione wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just collapsed right on her bedroom floor.

All her argument rehearsals with her mirror could not have prepared her for Ron’s reaction. She’d not expected this at all. Of course, she didn’t expect to have to tell him this way, either, but she at least expected a fight. But it wouldn’t be so. Whether Ron didn’t want to talk to her, or simply wasn’t able to, she didn’t know. All she knew was that she’d waited entirely too long, and that her anger at Ron’s temper caused her to hurt him in the most excruciating way imaginable. She didn’t work into it gradually, as she had planned, but rather threw it in his face in the worst possible way. Reality had smacked Ron with a hard slap on the face, and she knew it stung him. It stung him so hard that Hermione could feel it, too.

Ron was halfway down the stairs, going as fast as his weak knees would carry him, when Hermione called out, desperately, “Ron! Ron, don’t go…”

She stood at the top of the stairs, looking down at him. He looked up but didn’t meet her eyes, and merely waved his hand in response. He mumbled to himself something that sounded like “Gotta go,” and completely ignored all of Malfoy’s comments as he crossed the common room.

The tightening in Hermione’s chest was now unbearable. She felt like the wind had just been knocked out of her by a runaway hippogriff and would have cried if she’d had enough oxygen to do so. She barely made it inside her doorway before falling in a heap on the floor.

Hermione tried not to think about anything, as breathing was proving to be a difficult task in itself, yet she couldn’t help the negative thoughts that overwhelmed her mind. Everything was a complete disaster, and there was no way she could fix it. She couldn’t take any of it back now, and she had no idea how to make things right with her friend.

I waited too long, she scolded herself. I got angry and frustrated. I can’t get like that with Ron. I can’t blame him for his untamed emotions, because when I do, I hurt him beyond repair.

I should have just told him in the beginning. Concealing the truth is the same thing as lying. Ron has always been straightforward with me (mostly), and I just couldn’t have the decency to pay him the same courtesy. I led him on, and now I’ve shredded his heart.

How will things ever be the same again? There’s just no way. I’ll never be able to live happily with Charlie knowing that I was the source of Ron’s broken heart. Fred and George warned me, and I failed them. I failed Ron, and I failed Charlie.

A reserved tap sounded on Hermione’s door. She didn’t answer or even respond with a gesture. Malfoy walked through her open door and kneeled beside the curled up girl. As much of a prat as Malfoy could be, crying girls always seemed to break down his harsh barrier. Well, she didn’t really seem to be crying, but he reasoned it was her stubbornness that willed her not to cry. He knew she wanted to, and that was enough.

“Err, Granger, I don’t know what that was all about, but… You seem pretty upset,” he said. Well, duh, she’s upset. Look at her, he kicked himself. Reasoning that he was probably the last person she wanted to talk to right now, Malfoy stood up. Before he exited, he noticed the small piece of parchment lying on the floor.

“I think this is yours,” he said, moving it to her with his foot. Then he left.

Hermione kept her face buried in her arms until the last of Malfoy’s footsteps died off. As weak as she felt, she couldn’t stop herself from reading Charlie’s letter. Should have done this before I bombarded Ron with it, she thought bitterly.

She read:

Dear Hermione,

Surprise! Hope the roses arrived all right. You might not have counted them yet, but there are forty-three: one for every day I’ve missed you. I know a bouquet of roses hardly makes up for me not being there with you, but maybe it will come close.

How did your talk with Ron go? Did he break any school property when he found out? If so, I’ll pay for it myself—wouldn’t want Mum to find out he did something like that, or she’d let him have it. That’s the last thing he needs right now.

Words can’t describe how much I miss you, love. Thankfully, Hogsmeade Flowers and More let me mail order the roses for you to help with that. Amazing people, they are. Oh yes, and I’ve been meaning to ask you something: how do you feel about diamonds?

Hope your Valentine’s Day is more bearable than mine. I love you.

Yours always,

Charlie

Now Hermione cried. No wonder Ron had reacted the way he did. He found out about Charlie and her lying to him all in the same letter. Moreover, Charlie had practically proposed when he asked her about the diamonds.

Thinking about his question made her stomach flutter and she cried even harder. How was she supposed to be happy—no, how was she not going to feel guilty about being happy about Charlie, when she’d just caused Ron so much anguish? This was all just too much to handle.

And the roses… Oh, the roses had been such a sweet gesture on Charlie’s part. She only imagined how much forty-three roses cost him, plus the cost of having them delivered to Hogwarts. He must have planned that weeks in advance.

Hermione went to her bathroom and filled two large jars with water. She set them on her windowsill, divided the roses nearly equally, and placed them inside. They really are gorgeous, she thought. Unfortunately, Hermione couldn’t keep her mind on the joy she felt from receiving them, as every time she looked at the roses, she was reminded of how they had inadvertently hurt Ron.

Still crying, Hermione crawled into her bed and laid her head against the cool sheets. She held Charlie’s letter in her hand and fished out his others that she stowed underneath her pillow. Holding them to her chest, she breathed deeply and willed herself to sleep.

Malfoy went to check on her one last time before going to class. He saw her lying down, with her back towards him, and decided not to disturb her. He nodded sympathetically and closed the door as quietly as he could.

Granger’s going to miss her classes today, and it’s all my fault.

It wasn’t like Malfoy to feel sympathy or remorse for anything or anyone, but the state in which he saw Hermione that morning was wretched enough to tug even at Malfoy’s taut heartstrings.

I bloody hate Valentine’s Day. This lovey-dovey shit is highly overrated, and apparently detrimental to friendships, too.

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