Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
"Don't you get used to her if she's staying in the same house?" Harry asked.
"Well, you do," said Ron, "but if she jumps out at you unexpectedly, like then..."
"It's pathetic," said Hermione furiously, striding away from Ron as far as she could go and turning to face him her arms folded once she had reached the wall.
"Hermione, will you shut up, you're not the only one who's nervous!" barked Ron. "And when you've got your eleven 'Outstanding' O.W.L.s..."
"Don't, don't, don't!" said Hermione, flapping her hands hysterically. "I know I've failed everything!"
"Ah, well," said Ron, throwing the cloak back over Hermione. "Worth a try, but you were a bit obvious -"
"Well, next time you can show me how it's done, Master of Mystery!" she snapped.
Ron and Hermione bickered all the way back to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, where they were forced to stop so that they could dodge undetected around a very anxious-looking Mrs. Weasley and Hagrid, who clearly noticed their absence.
"It is indeed. It seems almost foolish to ask," said Slughorn, who was looking mightily impressed, "but I assume you know what it does?"
"It's the most powerful love potion in the world!" said Hermione.
"Quite right! You recognized it, I suppose, by its distinctive mother-of-pearl sheen?"
"And the steam rising in characteristic spirals," said Hermione enthusiastically, "and it's supposed to smell differently to each of us, according to what attracts us, and I can smell freshly mown grass and new parchment and -"
But she turned slightly pink and did not complete the sentence.
"Well, what's so impressive about that?" whispered Ron, who for some reason looked annoyed. "You are the best in the year - I'd've told him so if he'd asked me!"
"Oh, come on, Harry," said Hermione, suddenly impatient. "It's not Quidditch that's popular, it's you! You've never been more interesting, and frankly, you've never been more fanciable."
Ron gagged on a large piece of kipper. Hermione spared him one look of disdain before turning back to Harry.
"And you've been through all that persecution from the Ministry when they were trying to make out that you were unstable and a liar. You can still see the marks on the back of your hand where that evil woman made you write with your own blood, but you stuck to your story anyway..."
"You can still see where those brains got hold of me in the Ministry, look," said Ron, shaking back his sleeves.
"And it doesn't hurt that you've grown about a foot over the summer either," Hermione finished, ignoring Ron.
"I'm tall," said Ron, inconsequentially.
What did surprise him was that when Ron drew level with them, Parvati suddenly nudged Lavender, who looked around and gave Ron a wide smile. Ron blinked at her, then returned the smile uncertainly. His walk instantly became something more like a strut. Harry resisted the temptation to laugh, remembering that Ron had refrained from doing so after Malfoy had broken Harry's nose; Hermione, however, looked cold and distant all the way down to the stadium through the cool, misty drizzle, and departed to find a place in the stands without wishing Ron good luck.
"You did brilliantly, Ron!"
This time it really was Hermione running toward them from the stands; Harry saw Lavender walking off the pitch, arm in arm with Parvati, a rather grumpy expression on her face. Ron looked extremely pleased with himself and even taller than usual as he grinned at the team and at Hermione.
"I was better than McLaggen anyway," said Ron in a highly satisfied voice. "Did you see him lumbering off in the wrong direction on his fifth? Looked like he'd been Confunded..."
To Harry's surprise, Hermione turned a very deep shade of pink at these words.
"Good idea," whispered Hermione, clearly pleased that Harry was calming down. "Ron, what are you staring at?"
"Nothing," said Ron, hastily looking away from the bar, but Harry knew he was trying to catch the eye of the curvy and attractive barmaid, Madam Rosmerta, for whom he had long nursed a soft spot.
"I expect 'nothing's' in the back getting more firewhiskey," said Hermione waspishly.
"'Slug Club,'" repeated Ron with a sneer worthy of Malfoy. "It's pathetic. Well, I hope you enjoy your party. Why don't you try hooking up with McLaggen, then Slughorn can make you King and Queen slug-"
"We're allowed to bring guests," said Hermione, who from some reason had turned a bright, boiling scarlet, "and I was going to ask you to come, but if you think it's that stupid then I won't bother."
Harry suddenly wished the pod had flown a little farther, so that he need not have been sitting here with the pair of them. Unnoticed by either, he seized the bowl that contained the pod and began to try and open it by the noisiest and most energetic means he could think of; unfortunately, he could still hear every word of their conversation.
"You were going to ask me?" asked Ron, in a completely different voice.
"Yes," said Hermione angrily. "But obviously if you'd rather I hooked up with McLaggen..."
There was a pause while Harry continued to pound the resilient pod with a trowl.
"No, I wouldn't," said Ron, in a very quiet voice.
It was not as though he was really surprised, thought Harry, as he wrestled with a thorny vine intent upon throttling him; he had an inkling that this might happen sooner or later. But he was not sure how he felt about it... He and Cho were now too embarrassed to look at each other, let alone talk to each other; what if Ron and Hermione started going out together, then split up? Could their friendship survive it? Harry remembered the few weeks when they had not been talking to each other in the third year; he had not enjoyed trying to bridge the distance between them. And then, what if they didn't split up? What if they became like Bill and Feur, and it became excrutiatingly embarrassing to be in their presence, so that he was shut out for good?
"D'you think Hermione did snog Krum" Ron asked abruptly, as they approached the Fat Lady.
Harry awoke the next morning feeling slightly dazed and confused by a series of dreams in which Ron had chased him with a Beater's bat, but by midday he would have happily exchanged the dream Ron for the real one, who was not only cold-shouldering Ginny and Dean, but also treating a hurt and bewildered Hermione with an icy, sneering indifference.
Ron gaped at him for a moment, then rounded on Hermione, imitating her voice. "You added Felix Felicis to Ron's juice this morning, that's why he saved everything! See! I can save goals without help, Hermione!"
"I never said you couldn't - Ron, you thought you'd been given it too!"
But Ron had already strode past her out of the door with his broomstick over his shoulder.
He did not see how he could possibly explain to Hermione that what she had done to offend Ron was kiss Viktor Krum, not when the offense had occurred so long ago.
Harry turned away from Ron, who did not look like he would be surfacing soon, just as the portrait hole was closing. With a sinking feeling, he thought he saw a mane of bushy brown hair whipping out of sight.
He had no idea what to say to her. He was just wondering whether there was any chance that she had not noticed Ron, that she had merely left the room because the party was a little too rowdy, when she said in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, "Ron seems to be enjoying the celebration."
"Er... does he?" said Harry.
"Don't pretend you didn't see him," said Hermione. "He wasn't exactly hiding it, was -?"
The door behind them burst open. To Harry's horror, Ron came in, laughing, pulling Lavender by the hand.
There was a horrible, swelling, billowing silence. Hermione was staring at Ron, who refused to look at her, but said with an odd mixture of bravado and awkwardness, "Hi, Harry! Wondered where you'd got to!"
Hermione slid off the desk. The little flock of golden birds continued to twitter in circles around her head so that she looked like a strange, feathery model of the solar system.
"You shouldn't keep Lavender waiting outside," she said quietly. "She'll wonder where you've gone."
She walked very slowly and erectly toward the door. Harry glanced at Ron, who was looking relieved that nothing worse had happened.
"Oppungo!" came a shriek from the doorway.
Harry turned around to see Hermione pointing her wand at Ron, her expression wild: The little flock of birds was speeding like a hail of fat golden bullets toward Ron, who yelped and covered his face with his hands, but the birds attacked, pecking and clawing at every bit of flesh they could reach.
"Gerremoffme!" he yelled, but with one last look of vindictive fury, Hermione wrenched open the door and disappeared through it. Harry thought he heard a sob before it slammed.
Ron, whose hands and forearms still bore scratches and cuts from Hermione's bird attack, was taking a defensive and resentful tone.
"She can't complain," he told Harry. "She snogged Krum. So she's found out someone wants to snog me too. Well, it's a free country. I haven't done anything wrong."
"He's at perfect liberty to kiss whomever he likes," said Hermione, while the librarian, Madam Pince, prowled the shelves behind them. "I really couldn't care less."
She raised her quill and dotted an i so ferociously that she punctured a hole in her parchment.
"Told you," said Hermione succinctly. "Sooner you ask someone, sooner they'll all leave you alone and you can -"
But her face suddenly turned blank; she had just spotted Ron and Lavender, who were entwined in the same armchair.
"Well, good night, Harry," said Hermione, though it was only seven o'clock in the evening, and she left for the girls' dormitory without another word.
"Hi, Parvati!" said Hermione, ignoring Ron and Lavender completely. "Are you going to Slughorn's party tonight?"
"No invite," said Parvati gloomily. "I'd love to go, though, it sounds like it's going to be really good... You're going, aren't you?"
"Yes, I'm meeting Cormac at eight, and we're -"
There was a noise like a plunger being withdrawn from a blocked sink and Ron surfaced. Hermione acted as though she had not seen or heard anything.
"- we're going up to the party together."
"Cormac?" said Parvati. "Cormac McLaggen, you mean?"
"That's right," said Hermione sweetly. "The one who almost" - she put a great deal of emphasis on the word - "became Gryffindor Keeper."
"Are you going out with him, then?" asked Parvati, wide-eyed.
"Oh - yes - didn't you know?" said Hermione, with a most un-Hermione-ish giggle.
"No!" said Parvati, looking positively agog at this piece of gossip. "Wow, you like your Quidditch players, don't you? First Krum, then McLaggen..."
"I like really good Quidditch players," Hermione corrected her, still smiling. "Well, see you... Got to go and get ready for the party..."
"What's happened to you?" asked Harry, for Hermione looked distinctly disheveled, rather as though she had just fought her way out of a thicket of Devil's Snare.
"Oh, I've just escaped - I mean, I've just left Cormac," she said. "Under the mistletoe," she added in explanation, as Harry continued to look questioningly at her.
"Serves you right for coming with him," he told her severely.
"I thought he'd annoy Ron most," said Hermione dispassionately.
Professor Trelawney seemed too tipsy to have recognized Harry. Under cover of her furious criticisms of Firenze, Harry drew closer to Hermione and said, "Let's get something straight. Are you planning to tell Ron that you interfered at Keeper tryouts?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Do you really think I'd stoop that low?"
Harry looked at her shrewdly. "Hermione, if you can ask out McLaggen -"
"There's a difference," said Hermione with dignity. "I've got no plans to tell Ron anything about what might, or might not, have happened at Keeper tryouts."
"Well, yeah," said Ron. He hesitated a moment, then said, "Is Hermione really going out with McLaggen?"
"I dunno," said Harry. "They were at Slughorn's party together, but I don't think it went that well."
Ron looked slightly more cheerful as he delved deeper into his stocking.
"Did you have a good Christmas?"
"Yeah," said Ron at once, "pretty eventful, Rufus Scrim -"
"I've got something for you, Harry," said Hermione, neither looking at Ron nor giving any sign that she had heard him.
[...] Harry led Hermione over to the spare table.
"So how was your Christmas?"
"Oh, fine," she shrugged. "Nothing special. How was it at Won-Won's?"
"I'll tell you in a minute," said Harry. "Look, Hermione, can't you -?"
"No, I can't," she said flatly. "So don't even ask."
"I thought maybe, you know, over Christmas -"
"It was the Fat Lady who drank a vat of five-hundred-year-old wine, Harry, not me."
"Ron reckons I should just hang back after Potions this afternoon..."
"Oh, well, if Won-Won thinks that, you'd better do it," she said, flaring up at once. "After all, when has Won-Won's judgment ever been faulty?"
"Hermione, can't you -?"
"No!" she said angrily, and stormed away, leaving Harry alone and ankle-deep in snow.
"How did you do?" asked Ron, hurrying toward Harry. "I think I felt something the last time I tried - a kind of tingling in my feet."
"I expect your trainers are too small, Won-Won," said a voice behind them, and Hermione stalked past, smirking.
Hermione gave an almost inaudible sniff. She had been exceptionally quiet all day. Having hurtled, white-faced, up to Harry outside the hospital wing and demanded to know what had happened, she had taken almost no part in Harry and Ginny's obsessive discussion about how Ron had been poisoned, but merely stood behind them, clench-jawed and frightened-looking, until at last they had been allowed in to see him.
"Er-my-nee," croaked Ron unexpectedly from between them.
"Is Hermione Granger still visiting him?" Lavender demanded suddenly.
"Yeah, I think so. Well, they're friends, aren't they?" said Harry uncomfortably.
"Friends, don't make me laugh," said Lavender scornfully. "She didn't talk to him for weeks after he started going out with me! But I suppose she wants to make up with him now he's all interesting..."
"Would you call getting poisoned interesting?" said Harry.
"If you don't want to go out with her anymore, just tell her," said Harry.
"Yeah... well... it's not that easy, is it?" said Ron. He paused. "Hermione going to look in before the match?" he added casually.
"No, she's already gone down to the pitch with Ginny."
"Oh," said Ron, looking rather glum.
He stopped talking very suddenly. Lavender Brown was standing at the foot of the marble staircase looking thunderous.
"Hi," said Ron nervously.
"C'mon," Harry muttered to Hermione, and they sped past, though not before they heard Lavender say, "Why didn't you tell me you were getting out today? And why was she with you?"
Ron looked both sulky and annoyed when he appeared at breakfast half an hour later, and though he sat with Lavender, Harry did not see them exchange a word all the time they were together. Hermione was acting as though she was quite oblivious to all of this, but once or twice Harry saw an inexplicable smirk cross her face.
"How d'you spell 'belligerent'?" said Ron, shaking his quill very hard while staring at his parchment. "It can't be B - U - M -"
"No, it isn't," said Hermione, pulling Ron's essay toward her. "And 'augury' doesn't being O - R -G either. What kind of quill are you using?"
"It's one of Fred and George's spell-check ones... but I think the charm must be wearing off..."
"Yes, it must," said Hermione, pointing at the title of his essay, "because we were asked how we'd deal with dementors, not 'Dugbogs,' and I don't remember you changing your name to 'Roonil Wazlib' either."
"Ah no!" said Ron, staring horror-struck at the parchment. "Don't say I'll have to write the whole thing out again!"
"It's okay, we can fix it," said Hermione, pulling the essay toward her and taking out her wand.
"I love you, Hermione," said Ron, sinking back in his chair, rubbing his eyes wearily.
Hermione turned faintly pink, but merely said, "Don't let Lavender hear you saying that."
"Good one," said Harry. "How'd you do, Hermione?"
"Oh, she was perfect, obviously," said Ron, before Hermione could answer.
"Goes back to what I said, doesn't it?" said Ron, who was now shoveling mashed potato into his mouth. "She's gone a bit funny. Lost her nerve. Women," he said wisely to Harry, "they're easily upset."
"And yet," said Hermione, coming out of her reverie, "I doubt you'd find a woman who sulked for half an hour because Madam Rosmerta didn't laugh at their joke about the hag, the Healer, and the Mimbulus mimbletonia."
Ron gave a start and tried to hide behind Hermione as a girl came around the corner.
"It isn't Lavender," said Hermione wearily.
"That's decided, then," said Hermione briskly, getting to her feet and performing a graceful pirouette. "Destination... determination... deliberation..." she murmured.
"Oh, stop that," Ron begged her, "I feel sick enough as it is - quick, hide me!"
"It isn't Lavender!" said Hermione impatiently, as another couple of girls appeared in the courtyard and Ron dived behind her.
"No joy," said Harry, as Ron joined them. "Bad luck, mate, but you'll pass next time - we can take it together."
"Yeah, I s'pose," said Ron grumpily. "But half an eyebrow! Like that matters!"
"I know," said Hermione soothingly, "it does seem really harsh..."
"What were you doing up there with her?" shrieked Lavender Brown, staring right through Harry at Ron and Hermione emerging together from the boys' dormitories.
"Ron, you're making it snow," said Hermione patiently, grabbing his wrist and redirecting his wand away from the ceiling from which, sure enough, large white flakes had started to fall. Lavender Brown, Harry noticed, glared at Hermione from a neighboring table through very red eyes, and Hermione immediately let go of Ron's arm.
"Oh yeah," said Ron, looking down at his shoulders in vague surprise. "Sorry... looks like we've all got horrible dandruff now..."
He brushed some of the fake snow off Hermione's shoulder. Lavender burst into tears.
Ron seemed to be positively lighthearted about the end of his relationship with Lavender, and Hermione seemed cheery too, though when asked what she was grinning about she simply said, "It's a nice day."
"Thanks," said Harry, grinning. "And what did you tell her Ron's got?"
"A Pygmy Puff, but I didn't say where."
Ron scowled as Hermione rolled around laughing.
Ron, he saw, was now holding Hermione and stroking her hair while she sobbed into his shoulder, tears dripping from the end of his own long nose.