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Chapter 25: Revelation and Reconciliation

Hermione groaned as she struggled to open her eyes. Every inch of her was hurting, especially her head. Completely disoriented, she tried to figure out where she was and how exactly she had gotten there. She sat up slowly, rubbing her arms. It seemed that she had fallen into a rosebush and the prickly thorns had scratched every inch of skin that was exposed.

Nothing was making sense. Did she trip and happen to land on her head when she fell? She certainly couldn't remember anything, and that explanation would explain the sudden bout of amnesia from which she was suffering.

She tried standing up and found that she was able to, although her legs were a little wobbly. She tried thinking back to the moment in time before she had passed out, but that hurt her head too much so instead she concentrated on walking back to the manor. As she slowly made her way back inside, it suddenly struck her that no one had bothered to come outside to find her. How long had she been there, lying on the ground? How much time had passed?

Finally reaching the front door of the manor, she stepped into the foyer. She was making tracks for the safety and comfort of her room when she was suddenly stopped by a house-elf.

"Missus is late for the tea party!" the house-elf squeaked.

Hermione stared at the house-elf with her mouth slightly open and everything, or most of it at least, came flooding back to her. "Merlin's pants!" she groaned. "The tea party with the Narcissa--er, the bachelor's mum!" She was panicking now. Hermione Granger was never late to anything.

"I will show you the way there, missus!" the house-elf squeaked cheerfully. "Right this way, missus!"

"Er, thanks," said Hermione, following the house-elf to the parlor. Half of her wanted to get there as soon as possible, while the other half wanted to fix up her appearance first.

Before she could make a decision, she was at the parlor. The house-elf gave a slight bow before disappearing and Hermione was left on her own. She stepped into the parlor and immediately noticed a mirror image of herself. Only, the reflection wasn't completely accurate. For one thing, the Hermione staring at her in shock was wearing a red strapless dress, and a quick look down at her own outfit told her that she was wearing yellow, not red. For another, that Hermione had managed to transform her head of wild curls into gentle, cascading waves while the real Hermione knew that her hair was beyond messy at the moment, due to having recently used a thorny rosebush as a pillow. And lastly, that Hermione was seated on a pouf and biting into a pastry, while the real Hermione was still hovering by the door.

Her brain was still trying to register what was going, and she seemed incapable of speech. Fortunately, Georgina spoke for her.

"What the bloody hell is going on?" said the French girl, looking from one Hermione to the other, completely confused.

"Why are there two Hermiones?" said Caitlin slowly, as she stared, with much bewilderment, at the Hermione who had just arrived.

Narcissa, whom Hermione had just noticed, set down her teacup. "Well," she said mildly, "we seem to be in a puzzling predicament."

Before the real Hermione could say or do something, there was a commotion just outside the parlor.

"Draco, let me go!" shrieked a familiar voice. The voice was familiar in that it sounded a lot like her own voice…and yet there was something very different about it.

"Not until you tell me what exactly you're up to, Pansy Parkinson!" This voice belonged to a male and was very familiar. It was the bachelor, of course…Draco Malfoy.

"I'm not Pansy!" the first voice returned, a desperate protest. And with that a third Hermione stumbled into the room, crashing into an exact replica of herself.

The real Hermione stared at the two mirror images of herself. This had to be a really bad dream. There was simply no other explanation for it.

Draco Malfoy entered the room at that moment, looking a lot calmer than the three Hermiones and the rest of the women in the room. His stormy silver gaze flickered from one Hermione to the next, lingering for an extra second on the messy-haired one in the middle.

"Alright," he said loudly, his voice resounding around the parlor. "I know that one of you is the real Hermione--"

Karina interrupted him with a scream. The Russian girl had spilled her tea all over her lap and was pointing a shaking finger at the Hermione sitting on the pouf. This Hermione was in the midst of transforming back into her real self. Her hair was straightening and becoming lighter, her eyes were changing colors, her face shape was morphing into something else, and her body was becoming slightly taller and a bit thinner. It was quite disconcerting to watch, which explained Karina's shock.

Draco took a long, hard look at the girl who had looked like Hermione just a few seconds ago. "Lavender Brown?" he said incredulously. "That Gryffindor girl?"

Lavender looked down at her feet, too ashamed for words.

Draco turned his head and looked back at the two remaining Hermiones, only to find that just one was left--the one with the messy hair. The other was now Pansy Parkinson, and she looked close to tears.

"I knew it was you," he said, anger and disappointment mingled together in his tone of voice. "Pansy, what were you thinking? And dragging Lavender along too?"

"She was part of it too," said Pansy accusingly, pointing at Maddi as though hoping some of the blame would be taken off of her back.

Maddi was indignant. "I was not!"

Before Pansy could say something back, Narcissa Malfoy said, in a warning tone, "I think we'll leave Monsieur Beaumont to judge that." Maddi shrank back into the cushions, embarrassed.

"Hermione," said Draco, turning to face her. His arms ached to hold her, and he took a step in her direction, but she shook her head slightly. Her voice was coming back to her, and she intended to use it with full force.

Hermione was shaking with anger. She had never been more infuriated in her life. She was so furious that she could hardly speak, even though she wanted to scream at the girls who had done this to her.

"Hermione…" said Draco again, this time warily. She was about to explode, he could tell.

"What," said Hermione in a low, dangerous voice, "the bloody hell is wrong with you people? Coming back into the game like this, Parkinson? Was this the dignified comeback you had hoped to make? Are you always this selfish, ruining other people's lives so that you might feel a little better about your pathetic self? Trying to sabotage my shot in this game, my chance at happiness? You couldn't bear to see someone else with your Draco, hmm?"

Pansy glared at her even as a tear trickled out the corner of her right eye.

"And Lavender--seeking revenge for something that was all a huge misunderstanding? I don't think I deserved to be betrayed like this. I thought I knew you better than this." Hermione was near tears herself, but Lavender was the one who burst into tears first.

"I'm sorry!" she cried, burying her face into her hands. "It was all a huge mistake. I'm so sorry, Hermione…but you must know that I didn't go through with Pansy's plan. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I know that doesn't make it any better…but I just wanted you to know that."

Hermione paused for a second, her angry gaze softening slightly.

"It's true," said Georgina hesitatingly, not wanting to get involved but feeling like she had to. "She didn't do anything to embarrass you or anything, I promise."

Lavender nodded, her tearstained face pleading for Hermione to forgive her.

But Hermione felt like she should apologize too. "I'm sorry about what happened earlier today," she said. "I swear to you that I have no romantic feelings whatsoever about Ron, and he had none for me either. He misses you, Lavender. You should go see him."

Lavender smiled a watery smile and then stood up to give Hermione a hug. "Thanks Hermione," she said. "And I'm sorry, once again, for going along with something as stupid as this."

"It's fine…I forgive you," said Hermione, smiling slightly. "We're alright now, aren't we?"

"Yeah," said Lavender, nodding enthusiastically. "Hey, one of these days we should all go out or something--you, me, and Ginny…I'll call up Parvati too."

Hermione gave her a real smile this time. "That's a great idea…. I'll talk to you later, Lavender. Ron's probably waiting for you."

Lavender grinned, hugged Hermione again, and then Disapparated with a loud crack.

One down, Hermione thought, one more to go. With much trepidation, she turned to face Pansy, only to see that she was in Draco's arms, sobbing.

"I'm sorry, Draco," Pansy was crying, her mascara streaking onto his shirt. "I never realized…I never thought…"

Before Hermione could get properly jealous (the rest of the girls were already green with envy, glaring at Pansy), Pansy broke away from Draco, wiping her eyes.

"We used to be good friends, Pansy," said Draco. "What happened?"

Pansy sniffed. "I liked you more than a friend," she said brazenly, "and you didn't love me back."

"I can't love you when I love someone else," said Draco slowly and evenly, looking her in the eyes.

Caitlin gasped and started making wild hand motions. "He loves one of us!" she mouthed. Georgina kept her expression calm while Karina looked on haughtily. Maddi made a face. She had recently come to the conclusion that winning the bachelor's heart was quickly becoming a hopeless cause.

"I'm sorry for interfering," said Pansy tearfully. "I'm sorry I came back."

Draco merely gazed at her for a moment before glancing at a wary Hermione. "I think Hermione is the one you need to apologize to."

"Right," said Pansy, taking a deep breath and forced herself to look at Hermione. "Granger--er, Hermione…I'm sorry for impersonating you in an attempt to steal Draco from you. And I'm sorry for Stunning you too."

At this revelation, Draco's expression quickly became something akin to fury. "You went as far as to Stun her?" he said in a low, dangerous voice.

Pansy seemed to shrink a little. "Yes," she said in a tiny voice, "from an upstairs window."

"You Stunned her from behind?" said Draco thunderously, outraged. Pansy shrank even more and cowered as though she expected a bolt of lightning to strike her down.

"That explains a lot," Hermione muttered to herself.

"Hermione, are you okay?" said Draco with much concern, taking two quick strides to get to Hermione's side. He gently took her by the shoulders, holding her out at arm's length, and examined her carefully, noting the bruises and scratches on her arms and face. He was furious that this had happened to her. In fact, he thought savagely, if Pansy weren't a woman he would have beaten her to a pulp for doing this to Hermione.

"I'll be alright," Hermione assured him. She gently shrugged away from him, as much as she wanted to lean into his comforting embrace. But there was business she had to finish first. She took a step toward Pansy, who flinched but held her ground.

"Pansy," she said slowly, "I haven't forgiven you yet. I'm still rather angry with you. But one day, you'll find someone else who loves you back, and you'll learn to forget the prejudices you have toward me…and maybe we'll look back upon this day and…laugh." She ended her little speech softly; the anger had seeped out of her. Suddenly she was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to heal her wounds and sleep the rest of the day away.

"You are far too kind," Draco murmured into her ear. He was by her side again, one arm wrapped around her waist.

"I'll be leaving now," said Pansy, looking down at the floor. She had stopped crying, for now. "Goodbye." She gazed around the room one last time and some of her old self seemed to come back into her. She smiled sweetly. "Thanks for the help, Maddi," she called out. "We couldn't have done it without you."

Maddi turned bright red. Monsieur Beaumont chose that precise moment to come into the room, catching Pansy's last words and looking very confused. "Did I miss something? Mademoiselle Parkinson, why are you here? And Mademoiselle Granger, what happened to you?" he asked. He then caught the guilty look on Maddi's face. "And what did you have to do with it?" he inquired, looking directly at Maddi.

Pansy was hovering by the door, looking like she wanted to stay around to see just how everything would play out, but Draco stopped her.

"Pansy," he said sternly, "leave."

And Pansy Parkinson left without another word. It was the last time Hermione would ever have trouble with her again. 

Yes, it's been awhile. And I'm sorry to say I'll be even more busy these next two months. I have 3 AP tests to study for!!! Unfortunately they are more important than HPFF, although believe me, I'd much rather be writing my stories. Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone for all their reviews. Whenever I have time to write, I look at them for motivation and inspiration. So keep the reviews coming, please! And if you're bored between updates, you can always reread! Chapters 13-18 are especially in want of reviews...(most of the original ones got deleted during the site crash) :D
Yours till the Specterspecs make you blind (thanks to stepnhunguyen for this new sign-off!),

Queen Luna

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