Ron’s stomach growled, but he ignored it. Somehow hunger seemed the least of his concerns right now. Harry urged him to get out of the chair that he’d been sitting in for the past five hours, but it was no use; Ron absolutely refused to move, refused to eat, and refused to talk.
The rest of the Gryffindor crowd had cleared off for dinner, but Harry remained behind to stay with Ron. After Transfiguration, Ron had missed the rest of the day’s classes, so Harry felt he needed to at least keep Ron company, since he wasn’t able to earlier.
“Listen, Ron, I know you’re upset and all, but you’ve got to eat something. It’ll make you feel better,” Harry pleaded.
The now quiet common room stayed quiet as Ron just stared back at his friend.
“It’s going to be all right, you know. He’ll take care of her…”
“What?” Ron asked.
Harry was so shocked to hear Ron’s voice that he nearly fell out of his chair and responded another “What?” on top of Ron’s. He couldn’t believe Ron was talking, but Ron’s long pause made him fear that he might have ruined it.
“What do you mean, ‘He’ll take care of her’? Who is the ‘he’ you’re talking about?” Ron finally answered.
“Erm, you know…Charlie.”
Ron scrunched his face up, crossed his arms in front of his chest, and put on the most menacing glower he could muster. It seemed he was too angry for words yet, but his bright red face spoke wonders.
“So you knew, then? You knew all this time, and you never told me.” Ron’s voice was surprisingly calm. This was not the frantic yelling of Ron’s usual angry temper, but instead the sound was deep and venomous: the voice of a man who had been hurt and betrayed.
Harry’s words caught in his throat. He had so much to explain, yet his brain had just completely short-circuited upon hearing Ron’s accusation. How would he ever get out of this one? Now the tables had turned; Ron was no longer the one without words.
“She told you, and she didn’t tell me. Why?” Ron asked, in the same deadly drawl.
Harry shook his head and moved his lips, but the silence was loudest of all.
“No. The better question is why you didn’t tell me. So much for friendship there, mate.” As Ron said this, he moved from his stationary position and felt his stiff muscles scream as he stood.
Finally able to react, Harry grabbed for Ron’s robes and held on tight to keep him from walking away. Ron turned slowly and said, “I believe your hands are on my robes. Now let go.”
“I can’t do that, Ron,” Harry answered. “I have to talk to you about this.”
“I don’t want to talk.”
“Then just listen.”
Ron frowned and eyed the hand that still clenched the arm of his robes.
“I’ll let go if you sit down and listen.”
“You try all day to get me to move, and now you want me to sit back down? That’s rich, Harry.”
Harry sighed inwardly. Ron was going to make this as difficult as possible just to get back at him for his betrayal. In a way, Harry knew he deserved it for keeping such a secret from his best friend, but on the other hand, there was really nothing else he could have done. Hermione was his friend, too, and he had to respect her wishes as well. It’s never easy to choose between friends.
“Ok, we’ll stand,” Harry countered.
Ron looked annoyed, but Harry didn’t care. He finally got Ron to talk and wasn’t about to let anything mess it up.
“Ok, Golden Boy,” Ron agreed sarcastically. “Tell me why you lied. You have three minutes.”
“Merlin, Ron, I didn’t lie. I just didn’t tell you. It’s not that I didn’t want to, because I really did, but Hermione wanted to tell you herself,” Harry started. The words flew out rapidly at first, almost as if Harry thought Ron would really hold him to his three-minute time limit.
“So what? I’m your best friend, not Hermione,” Ron pointed out. “Well, I was your best friend,” he added.
“You still are, Ron. But you being my best friend doesn’t mean I could betray Hermione, either. I had to protect her wishes, and besides, Ginny would have skinned me alive if she found out I told you.”
“So my baby sister knows, too? Perfect. It’s my life, and I’m the last one to know everything about it.”
Harry shook his head fervently. “That’s not how it is. Well, maybe, but that’s not how it was intended. Hermione tried to tell you so many times. She just couldn’t hurt you.”
“She did a good job of that.”
“This isn’t her fault, Ron.”
“Yeah, then whose fault is it? It sure as hell isn’t mine! If it’s not Hermione’s fault, and it’s not my fault, then it must be your fault!”
“It’s no one’s fault. Things just happen.”
“Oh, really? Well, tell me what you know, and we’ll determine whose fault it is. You must know everything that’s gone on while you three left me so blissfully ignorant, so tell me what happened.”
“I can’t do that. Hermione wanted…wants…to tell you.”
“Well, she already got that part down, and she did it with a bloody note from Charlie. That’s how she told me: a fucking mushy Valentine’s card from my own damn brother!” The normal raging anger of Ron’s voice returned as he lost control and began to shout and swear.
Harry tried to deal with him as calmly as he could. “You didn’t leave her much choice, though, did you? You made her angry and she was defending herself against your Malfoy rant.”
“Yeah, a rant that you started! See, it is your fault! You were the one who told me Malfoy snogged her.”
“But I also said that we could be wrong about the whole thing and that we should wait for her explanation. Dammit, Ron! Why did you have to go chasing after her this morning?”
Ron clenched his fists as if he’d like nothing more than to punch Harry in the jaw, but turned and started to storm off towards the boys’ dorm. A few paces later, he stopped. “I suppose it was real easy for you to watch her get those roses this morning, wasn’t it? You weren’t the one watching the girl you love get gifts from some other guy!”
“It could have been you, you know!”
“What!?” Ron shot back.
“It could have been you giving her the roses if you’d have just told her you loved her when you had the chance.”
Ron walked back to where Harry was standing. “Impossible. We agreed to just be friends. It never could have been me.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it. You two never agreed to anything. I think you were just scared of letting anything real happen.”
“So? Your little ‘decision’ to keep love out of it is what drove her to Charlie in the first place. Surely you noticed how miserable she was in the holidays? I hate to say this, but that was all because of you and her love for you. You didn’t give it to her, and Charlie did.”
“So then Charlie moved in on my girl, and she took him because she couldn’t have me.”
“Hermione was never your girl, Ron. You laid no claim to her, which you made quite apparent. And maybe, at first, she took Charlie because she couldn’t have you, but it grew into love. She loves him, Ron, and you can’t get her back.”
Ron breathed heavily, taking in everything Harry said one word at a time. You laid no claim to her… And you can’t get her back… He sat, once again, in the squashy chair he’d become to attached to that day and stared silently up at his best friend.
“Hermione wants to talk to you. It will do you good to hear it all from her. Will you be ready to face her tomorrow?”
Though the nod of Ron’s head said ‘yes’, his watery eyes definitely said ‘no.’
Hermione didn’t make it to dinner, either. With Ginny’s promise to bring her back something to eat, she felt it would be best for all if she just stayed put in her room. When the knock came a little early, she was a bit surprised, but not disappointed.
“Come in, Gin,” she answered.
The door inched open and a blonde head poked inside. “No, it’s me. Sorry,” Malfoy said, and slowly entered the room.
“Where’s Ginny?” Hermione asked.
“At dinner, I guess. Dumbledore asked me to bring this to you.” He stretched his hand out to give her a letter.
Hermione didn’t hide her confusion. “What’s this?”
“I don’t know. Didn’t read it.”
“Yeah,” Malfoy replied, walking towards the door.
While tearing the seal, Hermione beckoned him to stay. “Can you wait a second? I mean, just in case I need to write him back.”
Malfoy waited. He heard her voice shaking. This girl was not used to getting in trouble, and she’d just received and unexpected letter from the headmaster. He could only imagine how nervous she was. But then, he didn’t have to imagine it after he saw Hermione’s face pale.
“He wants to see me tomorrow…” she choked, “in his office. Oh my, I’m going to be expelled! It’s for skiving class today. I just know it.” Hermione was so frantic that she jumped out of bed and pulled her trunk out from underneath it. Malfoy watched her with a puzzled expression as she went to her closet, tore her clothes off their hangers, and tossed them unceremoniously into the trunk.
“You’re not going to be expelled,” Draco assured, grabbing a handful of her clothes and returning them to her closet. “Dumbledore couldn’t part with the female third of the Golden Trio, especially when she’s the Head Girl.”
“How do you know?” she asked, now tossing all her books in her trunk.
In between her trips from the trunk back to her desk, Malfoy made trips of his own to counter her sloppy packing job. He grabbed a handful of her heavy texts and stacked them back on her desk. “I just know, so stop getting all hysterical about it.”
“What are you doing?” Hermione asked, when she noticed her trunk was not nearly as full as it should be.
“Saving you some work. You’d be pretty disappointed if you got all your stuff packed only to find out tomorrow morning that you don’t have to leave. At least now you’ll only have to unpack half of your bedroom.”
Hermione glared at him. How could Malfoy be so insufferable and so helpful at the same time? The paradox that was Draco Malfoy became more confusing by the day. “You seem very sure of yourself, though that’s hardly a new attitude for you.”
“I know I’m right, Granger. You just have to trust me, for once.”
Hermione snorted. “Well tell me, then, what exactly did Dumbledore say to you?”
“Just asked if I’d deliver the message to the Head Girl. That was it.”
“What was his face like? Did he look angry?”
“When has Dumbledore ever looked angry? That senile old man was smiling like a fool. It wasn’t the face of someone who was about to expel his cleverest, most obsessed-with-school student.”
Even under Malfoy’s insult of Dumbledore, Hermione couldn’t help to be relieved to hear this. Maybe she wouldn’t be expelled after all.
“Ok, fine,” she said, starting to help Malfoy unpack her trunk. When she realized she had just proven him right, she was frustrated with herself and asked him to leave. Just before he closed the door, she called out, “Thank you!”
What a day, Hermione thought. I do like excitement, but this is just a bit much. Hermione looked over at her roses that still sat on the windowsill. I wish you were here.
But her thoughts were interrupted by another knock, this time, by a visitor she’d been expecting.
“Hey, Gin,” she greeted.
“What are you doing?” Ginny asked, noticing Hermione’s open trunk. She set a plate of food down on Hermione’s desk.
“Unpacking,” Hermione answered, and then, seeing Ginny’s bewildered expression, added, “It’s a long story.”
Ginny plopped down in a chair and said, “I’ve got time.”
“You’re starting to sound like Ron and Harry.”
“Never mind. That’s another long story, and I’m not up for a whole lot of talking right now.”
“Well, I hope you’re up for a lot of talking tomorrow. I made a stop by the common room before coming up here, and Harry said he actually got Ron to say something. Of course, by the time I got there, Ron was back to being a comatose lump.”
“So he’d only talk to Harry, then?”
“Yeah, but Harry says Ron agreed to talk to you tomorrow. Or at least listen while you talk.”
“Great. There’s just one problem: I have a meeting with Dumbledore tomorrow.”
“About what?” Ginny asked, suddenly afraid. “You’re not in trouble are you?”
“That’s what I thought, but Malfoy seems to disagree.”
“He would disagree. He’s just a very disagreeable kind of person.”
“Now, Ginny…” Hermione scolded.
Ginny looked offended. “Why would you stick up for him after he’s been so horrible?”
Horrible, maybe, but not so horrible, Hermione thought. “He’s the Head Boy, and his duties require a certain amount of honesty and responsibility.”
“Not everyone is as noble as you are, Hermione, and certainly not everyone takes school as seriously as you do.”
“I know, but I really have no reason not to trust him.”
“Whatever you say. So when does this meeting take place?”
“Oh. How long do you think it will take?”
All of Ginny’s questions were starting to get tedious. “I really don’t know,” she answered, taking a bite out of a buttered roll. “I don’t know what he wants to see me about, so there’s no telling how long it will last. Why do you ask?”
“Ron’s going to meet you at the Three Broomsticks at noon. He wants to talk to you alone, but I suppose if your meeting lasts longer than an hour, Harry and I should stay with him.”
Hermione’s stomach churned as she thought of Ron just sitting there, waiting for her to explain about Charlie. Merlin, how am I going to do this? After a long pause, she answered, “That would probably be a good idea.”
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