Havoc of the Opera
Chapter 19 - An Unexpected Departure
'You look so gorgeous!' Lavender gushed.
'Now, stand still for a bit. I can't possibly be hurting you,' Parvati scolded.
'Tell that to your wand, and Lavender, I don't look gorgeous!' Harry snapped, wriggling out of their hands and bending over the table to finish his sketch.
'Yes, you do!' Lavender replied, trying to take off his glasses.
'Parvati, I won't be able to breathe in this, let alone sing.' Harry groaned. The tip of his quill had cracked against the parchment.
'Don't be absurd,' Parvati snapped, kneeling to fix the hem of his cloak. 'And stop fidgeting.'
A whistle came from the window. 'Aww, doesn't she look cute when she's angry?' Ron cooed.
'Shut up. I saw your face when these two loonies finished your costume. Have you got an extra quill?'
Ron's mouth snapped shut mid-whistle. 'Mine was horrendous. Yours isn't.'
Lavender glared at him. “Well, thanks for that! Sew it yourself, next time.'
'I'm trying!' Harry stretched, catching Ron's quill mid-air.
'You're really choosy, for someone who wore hand-me-downs all his life,' Ron pointed out.
'Another word and I'll talk them into handing you the first version of your costume,' Harry snapped, scowling.
It was the first week of December, and the Bohemians' performance was just a few days ahead. The Classicals had been granted a week-long pause, so that the performers could have the Great Hall for themselves, in order to check on the technical aspects of the show. The exclusivity, of course, had thrown Hermione into a fit. Eventually, she stopped raving just long enough to let the teachers remind her that the Classicals, too, would have the Great Hall all for themselves in the week prior to their performance, and she relented.
'See, Parvati?' Harry pointed at his sketch. 'This is what I need. Something that actually allows me to move without making me look like a mushroom.'
'But you look quite good...' Hermione commented quietly from the door, turning to Lavender. 'So, you finally laid your hands on him, did you?'
'Hermione, shut up,' Harry grumbled.
'I didn't make such a fuss over my costumes.'
'They didn't look like this,' he retorted. 'Parvati, look at this.'
Parvati obeyed with a scowl. 'We can't do that! It clashes with the scenery!'
'That's my goal!'
Hermione sighed, curling up on an armchair by the fire. Ron approached her. 'You all right?'
'I had a row with Draco, that's all.'
Ron was a second too slow in hiding his instinctive grin. Hermione caught it and glowered lava in his direction.
Ron looked uncomfortable. 'Sor--'
'Shut up. Come here,' she murmured venomously, making her way to the boys' dormitory.
Ron glanced at Harry for help, but Harry was in a fiery discussion with Lavender and didn't look his way.
'Do I have to drag you?' Hermione snapped, already at the door. Ron followed her grumpily.
Hermione stood by the window with her arms crossed and asked without preamble, 'Are you in love with me?'
Ron choked and coughed until he was crimson. 'What?!'
'Are you in love with me? It's a simple question. "Yes" or "No" will suffice.' She glared.
Ron sat on the edge of the bed facing her, pausing before answering, 'No, I don't think I am.' Even he sounded surprised to hear his own words.
Hermione scowled deeply. 'Then what is the matter with you?!'
'The matter with me?!' Ron snapped back. 'What's the matter with you?'
'Malfoy, Hermione? Of all people?!'
She looked absolutely incredulous. 'How could that possibly be any of your business?!'
'It's Malfoy! Malfoy and you, waltzing up and down as if...'
'As if what?' she spat angrily. 'What's the matter with you? Can't you let me be happy?'
'You're not happy!' Ron shouted.
'That's for me to decide!' Hermione shouted back.
'You've been depressed all year, first because of Zabini, then because of this ferret. Harry kept going on about Snape, but I knew it was Malfoy you were thinking about. You think I'm stupid? You think I hadn't noticed?!'
'That is my problem -- mine! You have no right to interfere in my decisions--'
'I haven't done anything!'
'You were foul when I was with Blaise. Now you're foul because I'm with Draco. What's he done to you?'
Ron's eyes widened in astonishment. 'What has Malfoy done?! Has he obliviated you already?!' he bellowed, standing to his full height.
'He's behaved since the start of the year, he's been civil, he's friends with Ginny, he's even been polite to you!'
'He's not a saint, he's... don't change the subject! This is about you and your consumate incapacity to see me with any person who isn't you or Harry. Why don't you want me to be happy?!' she shrieked.
'No, you don't! You hate everyone who comes near me!'
'I just don't want to lose you!' he finally admitted. Caught off guard, she waited for him to elaborate, which he did in a low voice and his eyes set on the floor. 'You're our Hermione. Our girl. And all these people... they're taking you away from us.'
'Do you really think anybody could take me away from you?' she said in a timid voice, gulping visibly.
'Someone eventually will,' he said quietly, his ears very red and his eyes more downcast than ever. 'And until then, they're going to hurt you, like they've been doing so far.'
Hermione tilted his head up to face her. She had tears in her eyes, and her voice came out in a rasped murmur, 'If anybody hurts me irreversibly, it would be very comforting to know that I'd have someone to come back to...'
He wrapped a bushy lock of hair around his finger. 'You can always come back to me -- to us. Any time you need.'
She whimpered silently. 'But until then, I can't sit still or hide for fear of being hurt. Perhaps I won't be hurt at all...?'
'With Malfoy?' he reminded her doubtfully.
'I like him.' she said quietly, but firmly. 'I can't help it.'
There was a pause of a second, and then Ron pulled her in for a tight hug, clearing his throat to disguise his own watery voice.
'I don't like this. I don't support you. And don't expect me to be friends with him,' he eventually warned her. 'But I won't boycott you. And I honestly wish you the best of luck.'
She nodded against his shoulder, just as the door burst open.
'Where the devil is that... whoa!' Harry's eyes widened at them. 'Sorry, I'll be right out!'
'No, really, sorry...' Harry retreated mockingly. 'I suppose you're not interested in Malfoy's gift, Hermione?'
'In the common room. Ginny left it there for you.'
Ron disentangled himself from Hermione and sat back down. 'Were you looking for something?'
'My cloak.' Harry looked around. 'Parvati just doesn't understand what sort of swirl I want Firmin's robes to have-- there it is!' He kneeled on the bed and tugged at his cloak, which was half-tucked under Ron. 'Get up, Ron! So, that gift...?'
“Chuck it in the rubbish bin,' Ron offered. Hermione glowered at him. 'It was just a suggestion...'
'Did I say something inconvenient?' Harry looked from one to the other.
'No. not at all,' Hermione said brightly. 'I'll take care of it. I'm expected downstairs, anyway.'
'Right. Dinner in the dungeons,' Harry griped. Ron snorted.
'Exactly,' she said dismissively. 'Are you coming? Downstairs, I mean.'
'Tell Parvati we'll be just a minute,' Harry requested cheerily, turning to Ron for a summary of their conversation as soon as the door closed behind her back.
Back in the common room, a thin, long paper box sat in the yet-unlit fireplace, whereas on the table facing it a single pearly rose peeked from between the sheets of one of Hermione's books. Harry was quite sure that it hadn't been there minutes ago.
Hermione's mood didn't improve during the next few days, despite the shower of roses and notes that befell her. Both she and Malfoy were openly miserable, but none seemed ready to adapt to the other's principles. The only good thing to come out of this relationship, Harry thought, was that Hermione was now much more understanding regarding his feelings for a certain Slytherin.
'I told you this wouldn't work,' Hermione eventually commented, twirling another of Malfoy's flowery apologies between two fingers.
'At least you like each other,' Harry reminded her.
'That's apparently not enough,' she said pensively. 'He won't admit to it.'
'What do you mean?'
'I'm alone in this.' She sighed. 'I'm ready to face everybody's disapproval, everybody's reproaches... I argued with Ron, I made Blaise miserable, and he... he's ashamed of me! He refuses to present me as his official girlfriend!'
'Well, everybody's noticed it, already,' Harry minimized.
'Yeah, everybody's noticed that the Malfoy heir has been having fun with the mudblood,' she snapped.
'Don't say that--'
'It's true! That's exactly what it looks like, exactly how I feel.'
'You might want to lower your tone,' Ginny advised, joining them.
'I don't want this,' Hermione continued, more discreetly. 'I can't be with someone who hates my friends and refuses to commit to me. I just can't.'
'You're both so stupid!' Harry blurted out in frustration.
'You...' Harry grabbled for words, aware that Ginny was fully concentrated on them. 'If I were in your place, I'd be thanking every great wizard for my good fortune, and you're squandering it, it's just... urgh!'
'You do realise that you were one of the reasons we argued,' Hermione informed him.
Harry pulled at his own hair and groaned.
'I... I don't care! Everybody knows he doesn't like me...! As long as he likes you! Hermione...' he added seriously, 'Don't you two dare use me as a pretext to avoid your own problems. Leave me out of this.'
'It's not a pretext,' she insisted. 'He really, really dislikes you.'
'I'll keep that in mind in case I ever have a crush on him.'
'He has a point,' Ginny commented.
“But it's not that simple!' Hermione groaned. 'It's not just about Harry... he just refuses to commit. Why do you think Parkinson's been so smug, lately. She's knows that her chances are rising again.'
'She couldn't be smug because McGonagall told her she's the best singer in the cast, could she?' Ginny pointed out. 'It's not like she's been bragging about it everywhere, or anything.'
'There's Lavender. I need to talk to her.' Harry sat up. 'Seriously, Hermione, I know this is Malfoy, but really, what else does he have to do to prove that he wants to be with you?'
'Admit to it...' she murmured, watching Harry's retreating back.
'I didn't think Harry would be the one to obsess about the costumes...' Ginny commented.
'Hmm,' Hermione said pensively. 'Maybe it helps him take his mind off of things...'
'Do you mean... Sirius? Has he been talking to you about him?'
'Not really,' Hermione admitted. 'But it looks like he's coming to terms with it. I hope he is.'
'Back to Draco, then...' Ginny began. Hermione heaved a deep sigh. 'I promise I'll say my bit and leave you alone. I just... you're my friend, I want you to consider all the possibilities before--'
'Did he ask you to say that?' Hermione cut her off flatly.
'I'm not an idiot, Ginny. I know who told them about my favourite roses, about the subjects I would choose this year, about my problems with Blaise...'
'I only told him about the roses,' Ginny confessed. 'Charming them was his idea, though. Everything else he found out on his own.'
'Why did you do that?' Hermione asked weakly. 'It was so much easier to dislike him!'
'I've got nothing to do with that,' Ginny gestured significantly. 'This was all your doing. But really, what did you expect?! You knew from the beginning that he... isn't the sort that makes public displays of affection. You knew what you were getting into.'
'I don't need him to shout his affection from the rooftops!' Hermione said fiercely. 'I just need to know that he would be ready to do it, if he had do. I need to be sure that he means what he tells me, that he's not ashamed of me. Sometimes I think that he might be afraid of his father, but that... that thing is in Azkaban, thankfully, so, it can't be him. And if it is, what does it mean? That once his dad buys his way out of prison, as he's bound to do, everything goes back to what it was? I can't live like this!'
'His dad,' Ginny said thoughtfully.
'What about him?'
'He's not around, any more. Hermione!' Ginny wheezed, squeezing her hands. 'Haven't you noticed how much he's changed -- for you, so that you could see him in a better light? Everything he was told since his birth, he shunned for you.'
'I don't follow,' Hermione confessed.
Ginny huffed. 'You don't think he suddenly fell for you last September, do you? I reckon he's been feeling this way for quite a while already, but he could only act on it now that his dad can't control him. Doesn't that tell you something about him?
'That he's a coward?'
Ginny actually laughed. 'That his first priority was to pave the way for you to like him. He must love his dad, right? He hates Harry for sending him to prison, after all. And yet, as soon as his dad landed in a cell, he came after you. Not after revenge, or whatnot -- after you. His first moment of freedom, so to speak, he used on you.'
'Hmm.' Hermione sounded doubtful.
'He didn't care about anybody's opinion when he asked me to help him get your attention,' Ginny reminded her.
Long after Ginny was gone, her words still rang on Hermione's ears. His dad's not there any more...
On the eve of the Bohemians' performance, Hermione unexpectedly arrived in the common room a few minutes before dinner.
'Shouldn't you be in the dungeons?' Ron asked.
'Not any more,' She said brightly. 'I've been released from further private dinners with the teachers.'
Harry's head snapped up from behind his script. 'Sorry?'
She smiled knowingly. 'Professor Snape allowed me to have regular meals with the rest of the school.'
Harry grinned. Ron was still very serious. 'Why?'
Hermione pulled a chair and sat next to them, making sure no-one overheard them. 'He found out what was wrong with me. He doesn't want me to say anything about it yet,' she added hastily, eyeing Ron's already open mouth.
'But... there's no problem? You won't be ill, or something?'
She shook her head happily. 'It's been taken care of, he said. If I just follow a few strict instructions, there should be no problem. He gave me medicine, too, in case I need it.' She waved a handfult of tiny phials in their faces.
'That's... that's great!' Ron grinned at last. 'Let's go give the good news to Ginny, then! She was so worried...'
'I'll meet you downstairs, I still have to check something for Ancient Runes.'
'You won't be long?'
'Not at all,' she winked.
'I'll wait for her,' Harry assured him. 'The later I have to face the horde of Bohemians downstairs, the better.'
'They're not that bad!' Hermione scolded.
'They're the enemy!' Ron shouted, already on his way out. 'Hurry up!
'You don't need to check anything for Ancient Runes, do you? I saw you handing in your essay today.' ~
Hermione shook her head and spoke gravely. 'I need to talk to you.'
'Is there anything wrong?'
'Professor Snape, he...' Hermione looked over her shoulder. 'Well, he does think that it's safe for me to eat in the Great Hall now, but he released me mainly because... he's leaving.'
Harry stared at her. 'Who told you that?'
'He did. I had to ask him,' she emphasised. 'He'd told me he intended for me to have my meals with him until the end of the term, so I had to ask...'
Harry barely heard her rushed words. 'What did he say, Hermione?! Where's he going? For how long? Why?'
She winced when he whispered the last word. 'Just for a few days, he said. He's leaving right after our class on Tuesday. He... he intends to be back before our performance. Harry, I... I really didn't like his tone.'
'You think this has something to do with the Order?'
'He didn't exactly give me the details,' she pointed out. 'He really insisted that I work with you this week, though. I-- I... I'm not at all sure he himself thinks he'll be back on time.'
'Or at all,' Harry finished for her. 'That's what you mean, isn't it?'
She nodded quietly. Harry gazed at her in silence, the full meaning of the words sinking in slowly.
'Harry, I shouldn't even be telling you. He made me promise I wouldn't... I just... I just think that you should at least have a chance to talk to him before he goes. This matters more to you than anybody else, really.' The very words seemed to pain her. 'Don't do that! Sit back down and listen to me,' she ordered hotly, grabbing his arm. Harry had been about to dash downstairs.
'He's... he might die,' Harry let out through gritted teeth. 'He wasn't even going to tell me!'
'I know, that's why I did. Harry, I don't think he really knows how much this means to you--'
'Yes, he does,' Harry growled. 'He enjoys it.'
'Don't say that. Listen... tomorrow will be chaotic, and after the performance... he'll probably be readying to leave, and it'll be a terrible time. So, if you want to talk to him, it has to be tonight.'
'I know. Let go of me.'
'Listen! He's in the Great Hall for dinner, there's no use in running to the dungeons and alerting everyone. Come downstairs, have dinner with us, leave before the dessert is sent up, or something, take advantadge of that mess the first years make when they're leaving for the dormitories, and then go to him. He never stays for dessert, anyway.'
Harry nodded absently. 'That makes sense.'
'Of course it does. I'm going downstairs now. You stay here, calm down, have a shower, and then come down, too. Please, don't do anything suspicious, Harry! This is bad enough as it is.'
'What do I care?!'
'You should!' she snapped in a low tone. 'How do you think Dumbledore will react, if he suspects, even for a moment, that you... all his fondness of you wouldn't help you there, Harry. You must be careful.' She lifted his chin and inspected him from head to toe. 'And change.'
'I... always do that after showering, Hermione,' he replied hesitantly.
'No. Change into the clothes I laid out on your bed.'
'I took the liberty of making a few, just a few adaptations on a few, just a few of your clothes. Nothing extravagant, I just fitted them a bit, changed their colour...' she added hastily, as his eyes widened.
'You messed with my clothes?'
'I think you'll rather like them,' she said dismissively. 'Come on, Harry, we both know you're not going there just to bid him good night... you can at least try to look your best.'
'When did you do that?'
'The other day, during your Quidditch practice. In case something like this happened.'
'I thought you were disgusted with us...?'
'I can't deny that the situation nauseates me a bit...' she confessed. 'And just the thought that I might be helping you to get into something horrible...' Her voice trailed off, and she had to clear her voice twice. 'But you're not a child. This was your decision, and it's my role as your friend to support you as well as I can, as you've supported me.'
Harry had a gripping urge to hug her, but something about her air told him it was best not to try it.
Shortly later, Harry had to scramble through the large amounts of Bohemian paraphernalia to get to the empty seat beside Ron. Hermione, Ron told him, had left with Malfoy.
It must have been a terribly long conversation, since they were halfway through the meal when the pair returned. Both their houses quieted down abruptly to look at them, quickly followed by the excited Bohemians, and then, the staff table.
Hermione and Malfoy stood quite still as the doors to the Entrance Hall closed behind them, and then slowly approached their own table, hand in hand, looking defiantly ahead. There were a few slack jaws around Harry.
There was an awkward moment, when they realised that there was only one empty seat next to Harry and Ron, and another next to Crabbe and Goyle, but Ginny, who sat next to Ron, stood and quietly joined the Slytherins. Malfoy and Hermione exchanged glances and made their way to the empty seats. Hermione was careful enough to sit next to Ron, and Malfoy sat next to her. After a few minutes of stunned silence, the chatter was resumed. Harry noticed that Hermione had subtly swapped her full plate for an empty one, which she tapped with her wand so that it filled individually. He would have to ask her why, sometime.
Following Hermione's advice, Harry discreetly left just a moment after Snape, shortly before dessert, telling Ron that he was going to wait for Dumbledore in his office for a short talk concerning his Occlumency lessons. The moment he set foot out of the Great Hall, he sprinted through corridors and down flights of stairs, making only a quick detour to the kitchens before reaching the dungeons. Soon, he was panting heavily outside Snape's office, balancing a tremendous tray at the same time that he tried to see if he looked presentable. He breathed in deeply and knocked.
When the door opened, all the questions that had orderly queued up in his mind fled him at the sight of Snape's decidedly aggravated countenance. Only one word occurred to him.
Return to Archive | next | previous