Hermione didn’t know that a person could feel so many things at one time. She was feeling so much all at once that it had left her nerves frazzled. In an effort to calm herself, she escaped to the girls’ dormitory to have a shower. But as she padded back into the dormitory, squeezing the ends of her freshly conditioned curls with her towel, her wandering thoughts did little to settle her mind.
When she had parted ways with Ron and Harry coming out of the boys’ dormitory earlier, they had run into Lavender, who had been upset to see what appeared to be Hermione and Ron emerging from the dormitory by themselves. As planned, Harry had been tucked away under the Invisibility Cloak, full of luck and confidence thanks to the dose he had taken of Felix Felicis. That wasn’t why she had run though. It was what she heard that had startled her.
“Don’t push me, please Dean,” she had heard Ginny’s voice coming from the portrait. “You’re always doing that. I can get through perfectly well on my own...”
Hermione was not ready to see Dean after their kiss, and was certainly not ready to see him with Ginny. She hated that it bothered her that Dean would be spending time with Ginny, especially after he had kissed her not three hours previously. But she knew Dean had obviously meant the kiss to be something to get at Ron, nothing more. He, unlike she, continued to have an easier time navigating where their friendship ended and their fake relationship began.
Sighing, she laid her damp towel over her trunk and sat at her bedside table. With a wave of her wand, she conjured a jet of cool air to begin drying her curls, scrunching them as she went, like her mother had taught her. Maybe it was time to write to her mother and admit the mess she had gotten herself into. She might be exasperated and a little surprised, but she would know what to say.
Of course, Hermione knew what she would likely say.
“How can you be certain of his intentions if you haven’t spoken with him? Use your words.”
Hermione could picture her insistent eyes looking to her as they discussed the matter over tea, as they always did whenever there was a problem that needed solving.
If I brought it up I’d look ridiculous. I’m the one who wanted the boundaries in the first place. If I admit that I fell for him anyway, I’ll have to leave Hogwarts forever because the shame will surely suffocate me.
Even as she sat at her bedside table, twisting the curls framing her face into place as her wand finished drying them, she could vividly imagine the light coming through the sitting room window, reflecting off of her mum’s favorite jade head wrap. She would roll her eyes at Hermione’s dramatics.
“Have you considered maybe why he felt comfortable breaking through the boundaries you both established in the first place?” she could hear her asking.
Hermione dropped her hands from her head, placing her wand on the table. This stumped her. Although she struggled with the “how” of being a fake girlfriend, Dean was always a gentleman. He never made her feel bad, or pushed her where she didn’t want to go.
She gasped, bringing her hand to her mouth. There had been that look. He had been sizing her up, she just couldn’t put her finger on why.
Does he suspect I like him? she thought to herself in horror. Could it really have been a test to prove his theory one way or another?
With an audible groan she stood and threw herself onto her bed. The memory of his warm lips on hers, the pounding of her heart pulsing through her body that she was sure he could feel, the shaking in her voice after...She squealed into her pillow.
“What’s wrong with you?” a cold voice came from the doorway.
Hermione flipped over to see a low-spirited Lavender glaring at her as she made her way to her bedside. Sitting up she tried to look more carefully at Lavender. From here she could see that her eyes were bloodshot, as if she’d been crying. She watched as she turned away from her and angrily ripped off the crystal ball earrings that Parvati had gifted her for her birthday, throwing them in her bedside drawer.
“Erm, are you OK Laven—“
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” she shouted, slamming the drawer shut.
Hermione gave a start, taken aback by the shrillness in Lavender’s voice. Biting her lip, she pressed forward, feeling fairly certain what was going on. “Did Ron—“
“Did Ron what? Break up with me? You’d like that wouldn’t you,” Lavender scowled, wheeling around and walking a few paces to the center of the room. “I bet the Golden Trio would have a right good laugh at silly stupid Lavender. You think I don’t know what everyone says?”
Hermione got up from her bed, alarmed. She knew Lavender hadn’t been the happiest with her, especially since Ron got out of the hospital wing, but how could she think that? “I didn’t mean...I just thought because you were so upset! We wouldn’t laugh at you.”
“Do you think I’m an idiot? I know he has feelings for you Hermione. So you’ll be happy to know I dumped him. Now you can go on and do whatever—“
“I don’t like Ron!” Hermione said incredulously, taking a step towards Lavender.
They were both now standing in the middle of the room. She could see the dried tear tracks running down Lavender’s face. Lavender looked back at her defiantly and doubtfully.
“I have a boyfriend.” She hadn’t been as happy to have a fake-boyfriend as she was in this moment. Lavender would have to believe her, and then they could make up, returning their dormitory to peace once more.
“And Ron had a girlfriend. You were just using us to make each other jealous,” she said, accusatorially.
At this, Hermione shifted uncomfortably, casting her eyes around the room, searching for aid. Crookshanks slinked out from underneath Parvati’s bed, weaving around their feet, purring as he did so, oblivious to the tense atmosphere. Hermione sighed.
“I don’t think that’s true Lavender. He really enjoyed being with you in the beginning.” This was true. He may have enjoyed it for the wrong reasons, but it was still true. “And I really like Dean,” she said, looking Lavender earnestly in the eyes, a lump of emotion suddenly filling her throat.
That was the first time she had said it out loud. The cracks that had formed in her façade of indifference towards her and Dean’s relationship were finally giving way. Her emotions flooded forward; all her stress, fondness, and confusion all at once. Tears filled her eyes, threatening to fall.
Lavender looked startled. “Hermione! I-I’m sorry. I really thought...I guess I really am silly and stupid!” she exclaimed, now shaking her head with a watery smile.
“No! You’re not!” Hermione said, swiping at her face. “I’m the one being stupid. Ron’s a prat and has treated you awfully. And you were right in a way, I have been telling him to end it, but only because I was tired of watching him treat you that way. I—”
“I’ve dumped him,” Lavender said suddenly, looking slightly embarrassed.
“Oh,” Hermione said lamely, admittedly shocked that Ron should be the dumped not the dumper.
With a sniff, Lavender gave a weak chuckle. “Yeah. I don’t even think Professor Trelawney saw that in her cards.”
Crookshanks meowed impatiently between them, tired of being left to watch from below. Hermione scooped him up and Lavender stroked his fur, lost in thought for a moment. Their eyes met and suddenly they smiled genuinely at one another, a relief washing over them both, dispelling any remaining tensions.
Crookshanks leapt from Hermione’s arms, sauntering towards the now opening door. Parvati walked in looking surprised and then satisfied at the sight before her.
Turning to her best friend she said very seriously, “I saw what happened while I was with Professor Trelawney and came as quick as I could.” Hermione was in too good a mood to roll her eyes at this. Parvati then looked between two of them and said with a smile. “I think this calls for a girl’s night!”
Hermione woke the next morning feeling much less anxious than she thought she might. She did feel a little drained still from the barrage of emotions she had contended with last night, but mostly, she felt more relaxed than she had in awhile.
She owed much of this to Parvati. Though a pure-blood witch, she knew how to throw a sleepover that would pass any Muggle’s standards, or so Hermione thought based on what she’d seen in movies. They had talked about boys, mostly famous, Lavender’s heartbreak still too soon for any real prospects. They did each other’s nails, Lavender even took the time to enchant them to shift color in the sunlight. It had been a welcome diversion from her own font of feelings.
Even those were now causing her less distress. She liked Dean. She had known it before, but what she hadn’t known was that she couldn’t hide from it. Accepting it had lifted a huge weight off of her shoulders. Because she cared about him, she would still do her best to uphold her end of the deal as he insisted, but she was also no longer worried if he found out about her feelings. If he did, she would deal with that as it came.
As she walked down to the common room, she felt confident. Her hair was down and freshly washed. She had even taken the time to put on eyeliner with her mascara that morning. She knew this didn’t mean it wouldn’t be uncomfortable being with Dean from time to time, nor that it wouldn’t hurt when they finally did end things. But knowing herself and accepting the facts as they were, she felt ready to take it all on.
The common room was mostly empty, most students having already headed down to breakfast. Shafts of sunlight streamed through the windows, warming the common room at such an early hour, ensuring a warm day.
Turning to head out of the portrait hole she nearly jumped out of her skin as Dean pushed himself off of the wall within its entrance.
“Dean! You startled me.”
He didn’t say anything at first, only looking at her carefully.
“Where were you last night? I didn’t see you at dinner or in the common room.” Whether he was concerned or irritated, Hermione couldn’t tell.
“Harry, Ron, and I went to dinner early,” she said, ignoring the “Why?” she could see forming in his eyes. They had gone early because Professor Slughorn liked to savor his meals, so they needed to use that time to prepare for Harry’s excursion. “And then after I felt I was overdue for a wash day—“ she tucked her hair needlessly behind her ear, “—then Lavender and Parvati wanted to have a girl’s night.”
She bit her lip and looked at him. If she thought she fancied him before, then she was beyond help now. It was like everything she had noticed before was jumping out at her with increased force—his jaw repeatedly clenching and unclenching as he mulled over her words, the way his Adam’s apple bobbed as he cleared his throat, and how his tongue darted out to lick his lips as he prepared to speak. It all left her feeling slightly woozy, as if someone had sucked all the air out of the room.
“Are you listening to me?” he asked.
“Erm, yes. I should have let you know where I was,” she said, trying desperately to recall his exact words.
“No, I said it would have been nice to know where you disappeared to.”
He analyzed her for a moment, his long eyelashes framing his coffee colored eyes with a look so searching Hermione felt her stomach fluttering. She bit her lip and turned away, feeling the heat rising to her cheeks.
“We should get down to breakfast so we aren’t late to Herbology.” As he always did, he reached for her hand, but his warm touch sent goosebumps up her arm and caused her to start. He groaned, “See this is what I was worried about! I knew something was wrong.”
Hermione shook her head, replying a little too quickly, “No, nothing’s wrong!”
“You can’t get this awkward around me now, Granger. Don’t gape at me.” She hadn’t realized her mouth had fallen slightly in confusion. “If the kiss bothered you that much, why not just tell me? Look, I know we agreed and it’s in the contract, but the opportunity felt too perfect and I couldn’t pass it up.” He looked at her sincerely. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
Disappointment tugged slightly at her heart as she realized she’d quite like for it to happen again. A thought of striking that rule from the contract entered her mind, but she tempered the urge. She smoothed her expression as much as she could and said, “Good. But I’m fine really. Just a little tired from staying up with Parvati and Lavender last night.”
He looked at her reluctantly. She slapped a large grin on her face and picked up his hand, ignoring the prickling of hers as their palms touched, and pulled him out of the portrait hole.
Things fell more or less back to how they were before the kiss. The only thing that had changed was the intensity of her own feelings. Her heart would race when Dean even so much as smiled at her. Internally, she was a mess, but she was miraculously able to hold it all together.
During Charms, Hermione entered with Dean and Seamus, intending to sit with them as she had been since the start of term. Harry, however, was motioning her over to his table with Ron.
“I’m going to go sit with Ron and Harry, is that alright?” she asked Dean and Seamus.
Dean looked back at Harry, who was looking at her expectantly, and Ron, who was chewing on a licorice wand. He nodded and she smiled, waving to them both as she headed over to sit with her friends.
Professor Flitwick began class and explained the lesson. They were to be turning vinegar into wine. Hermione was excited to get into such advanced magic. She was finding that as magic grew more advanced, the lines between the types of magic began to blur, between Transfiguration and Charms, Herbology and Potion work.
But her excitement quickly dissipated. Harry regaled both her and Ron with the tale of how he had successfully procured the memory from Slughorn, and all about the contents of the memory in hushed whispers as Flitwick patrolled between the desks.
He explained it all very matter-of-factly, if not excitedly. There were seven Horcruxes—seven pieces of Voldemort’s soul. Hermione knew there was magic so advanced she might never encounter it, but hearing of magic this dark sent a deep chill down her spine. The plan was for Harry and Dumbledore to search for them, collect them, and hopefully destroy them.
It can’t be this simple, she thought to herself.
How does one destroy a Horcrux? She imagined you must destroy the vessel first, but she knew curses this advanced would be difficult to penetrate. It was no wonder they couldn’t find anything in the library. This was too dark a subject matter for them to allow easy access to at Hogwarts.
“Wow,” said Ron, when Harry had finally finished relaying the finer details. His wide-eyed expression conveyed much of what Hermione felt, his wand waving haphazardly towards the ceiling, the lesson quite forgotten.
“Ron,” she whispered, “you’re making it snow.” She grabbed his wrist directing his wand away from the ceiling, white flakes floating down atop their heads, covering them and their desk in a thin white layer.
The laughter came naturally as they observed themselves, hair full of dandruff like flakes. In their mirth, the darkness felt banished away for the moment. Ron chuckled and dusted a few flakes from Hermione’s hair and shoulder. She smiled up at him and him down at her.
She turned her attention back to the desk, waving her wand to clear the remaining flakes. As she did so she glanced at Dean. Usually, he would be joking around with Seamus, much like they were now. Now, though, his back was tensed and hunched over his goblet in deep concentration. Furrowing her brows slightly, she tried to think of what might be bothering him before finally deciding he must be concentrating on his work as she should be doing.
She turned back to her own goblet full of the acrid smelling vinegar. With difficulty she tried to grasp the properties of vinegar and hold them in her mind—the acidity, the viscosity, the amount of it all. On the seventh flick of her wand, she could suddenly taste the vinegar’s sharp flavor hitting the back of her tongue. Concentrate, she willed herself, holding onto the properties tightly in her mind. Another flick, and then it worked, the biting sharpness of the vinegar giving way as a deep sweetness rushed over her thoughts and tongue. The swirling clear liquid in her goblet was now a dark cranberry color.
“Oh my, Miss Granger you’ve done it again and in only 30 minutes time! 10 points to Gryffindor!”
The Gryffindors gave her light applause, being used to her winning them points in class but appreciative still. She beamed and looked to Dean, who strangely looked away.
If she had done anything wrong, Hermione never got to ask Dean. Katie Bell had returned and been reinstated to the Quidditch team. While this news was met with resounding cheers from most of the students at Hogwarts, especially Gryffindor students who could almost feel the Quidditch Cup within their grasp, Dean was disappointed since this meant he had lost his seat on the team.
“We'll go together! One last hurrah. It won’t be so bad,” she tried to cheer him up that day as they walked to the Great Hall for lunch. “It’s great that Katie’s back and able to play at all!”
“Yeah mate. Besides, I need you. Hermione doesn’t know anything about Quidditch—“
She gasped in indignation. “I do, too! For example, Puddlemere United in 1854—“
“I know,” Seamus said exasperated, “I’m just saying she needs a lot explained to her. But if you’re there, I can sit with Padma. We’ve been talking all about Quidditch lately. I think she might actually go for it!”
Dean did his best to seem happy for his friend and not ungrateful for Katie’s recovery, but Hermione could see he was disappointed. “I guess I can always try out again next year, right?” He asked with a slight smile and shrug.
They nodded to him encouragingly.
The balmy days drifted into May. For the most part, everything was going along just fine. Ginny did seem to be increasingly present wherever they were. A few times, she saw Dean stalking away from her down the corridors when they thought she wasn’t around. This, coupled with Dean’s continual irritation with Ron’s presence, had left lingering tension in their relationship.
Hermione knew she didn’t have a right to feel hurt by his involvement with Ginny. That’s what they had set out to accomplish. But she was hurt anyway. He seemed happy and content to be spending time with her when it was just them. It was in these moments that her heart would betray her and wonder why that wasn’t enough.
She had been spending more time with Harry and Ron than before because there were Horcruxes and other things of that nature to discuss. Of course, Dean didn’t know that this was what they were doing. At times, she got the feeling he knew they must be up to something big. He would make a joke of it, saying things like, “Ah, you’re off on a mission,” and shoot her a significant look.
That didn’t make him any more understanding of the time she was spending with Ron, though. He had moved on from demanding a full apology to insisting Hermione realize he wasn’t a good friend even if he seemed like he was turning over a new leaf. These cyclical conversations did leave her feeling a little weary. But then he would wink at her from across the Herbology greenhouse, her heart would skip several beats, and she’d forget it all.
In truth, that was why she found herself in Professor Vector’s office negotiating better marks on her most recent Arithmancy test. She had been so wrapped up with everything involving Dean and the Horcruxes that she had been distracted taking the test, misinterpreting one of the questions. To her satisfaction, however, she was able to convince Vector that her interpretation was also correct.
Walking out of Professor Vector’s class on the fifth floor she felt victorious.
“You can’t let that happen again!” she told herself sternly.
End of year exams were very nearly here and she couldn’t afford silly mistakes like that moving forward. She was lost in her lecture to herself as she rounded the corner of the corridor, bumping into none other than her chief distraction, Dean.
“Funny meeting you here,” Hermione said with a friendly grin.
“Did you just come from Professor Vector’s? I was just about to head there to ask her something about my essay.”
“Ah, well you should go. I’ll see you after dinner!”
After thinking about it a moment, he offered her his arm and said, “Nah, let’s go to dinner. I can ask tomorrow.”
She gave him a stern disapproving look but linked her arm with his anyway.
When they reached the Great Hall, Hermione was surprised to find Harry and Ron absent. She knew Ron had been ill lately, feeling the weight of expectation placed on the match this coming Saturday. Shrugging their absence off, Hermione sat with Dean and Seamus, laughing their way through the meal.
It all came to an abrupt end, however when suddenly, third year Slytherin Rodney Nguyen ran in through the doors down the Slytherin and Gryffindor tables shouting, “Harry Potter attacked Draco Malfoy! Peeves just told me!”
An uproar arose from the Slytherin table and Hermione sat still for a moment, not fully comprehending the words. He couldn’t mean actually attacked, not without provocation. That was idiotic even by Harry’s standards. She glanced around to see Gryffindors whispering eagerly with each other and the Slytherins glaring across the Hall at them. Pansy Parkinson shot up out of her seat and rushed out. Murmurs were now spreading to the other tables.
Without a word, Hermione stood up. She looked at Dean for a moment, who nodded in understanding, before darting off.
Ron was alone in the common room when she found him. He looked slightly shaken.
“He was covered in blood, Hermione.”
Hermione’s eyes grimaced. “Are you sure it was blood?”
“Well unless he fell into a cauldron of Trelawney’s sherry I don’t know what else could have gotten all over him,” he said with a dry laugh.
They waited together in the common room by the fire, alone at first, then joined by Ginny, who had also heard the news.
When Harry had finally returned and explained how he had used an unknown hex on Malfoy from the Prince’s book, all of Hermione’s feelings of concern vanished.
“I won’t say ‘I told you so,’” she said.
“Leave it, Hermione,” Ron said, angrily.
Hermione pursed her lips and glared at Ron, who was red in the ears but held his tongue. “I told you there was something wrong with that Prince person,” she continued, unable to stop herself. “Why don’t you just listen to me?”
“We still don’t know that there’s something wrong with him. So he put a spell in a book? I don’t see the big deal in that,” Harry said stubbornly, looking to Ron for support.
He had some nerve, she had to give it to him. There was no wonder the Sword of Gryffindor presented itself to him. He wasn’t being allowed to play in their final match against Ravenclaw, not that Hermione cared, but she knew that was the lowest blow for him. And yet, he still defended that so-called Prince!
“How can you defend him after what you did to Dra—“
“Stop harping on the damn book! I don’t have it now. Besides, it’s not like he knew anyone would use it.”
Harry’s glasses were glinting dangerously in the firelight but Hermione didn’t care. She wasn’t scared of him. “You cannot be defending cursing some—“
“You’re putting words into my mouth! I’m not defending what I did. But without the Prince I couldn’t have saved Ron or won Felix, which would have never helped with the you-know-what,” he exclaimed, glancing at Ginny who had been strangely silent.
“Oh yes!” Hermione said, her voice going shrill. “You would have never won the Felix Felicis without the Potions brilliance you don’t deserve!”
“Give it a rest, Hermione!” Ginny said. Everyone looked at Ginny in surprise. “By the sound of it, Malfoy was going to use the Cruciatus Curse on Harry. You should be glad he was able to defend himself!”
She knew they were on odd terms at the moment, but Ginny had always been prudent. She couldn’t really be on his side. Hermione looked at her, affronted. “Of course I’m glad he wasn’t cursed! But you can’t skirt around the fact that Sectumsempra is an absolutely nasty curse, intended to do someone serious harm! I’d have thought, seeing as what this has done to our chances in the match—“
“Oh, don't start acting as though you understand Quidditch because your boyfriend plays," snapped Ginny, "you'll only embarrass yourself."
The boys stared on in shock, having never seen the two of them fight before. Hermione got up, shooting Harry an angry glare before stalked off for the girl’s dormitory.
Over the next couple of days, Hermione mostly kept to herself. Dean was baffled by her behavior, left to assume Harry’s attack on Malfoy really had upset her that much. She hadn’t told him about the fight or Ginny’s role in it. He tried to cheer her up by coming up with funny sketches throughout the day, not realizing it was because of him that she felt this way. Ginny lashing out at her like that could mean only one thing. She wouldn’t have been so mean or brought Dean up at all if she didn’t have some sort of emotions invested in him.
It wasn’t actually that difficult for Hermione to avoid everyone. Since Harry had landed himself in detention for the last match, the team had to play alternates. Harry had booked the field for every available slot leading up to the match to try and better their odds with their now adjusted line-up. That meant Dean, Harry, and Ron were out at the pitch for most of the evenings and on their free periods. Even Seamus was busy, opting to join in and watch.
This worked in her favor. With exams around the corner, it was important to keep a strict study schedule. She even went as far as drawing up schedules for Dean, Seamus, and the boys. At the moment, she wasn’t in a mood to share them with any of them, but she would eventually.
On the Thursday evening before the match, Hermione was walking back from the greenhouses where she had been taking some additional observational notes on Venomous Tentacula. Professor Sprout had hinted heavily that morning that they would be making a “tentacular appearance” in the exam. The weather was pleasant that evening. The sun was hanging low above the castle and a soft breeze blew past, eliciting a contented sigh from Hermione.
It had been a better day. She was in a good mood because she was ahead of schedule with her studies. She was considering adjusting the schedule she’d drawn up, worried she had given herself too light of a load. The Quidditch Pitch loomed ahead, the trill of a whistle reverberating off the nearby lake and forest as Harry called inaudible plays and instructions. She might have stopped by to watch the Gryffindor team practice on another day, but she still was trying to teach Harry a lesson.
As she passed the pitch, the whistling stopped.
She looked up and saw Dean flying down to the ground in her direction. Looking up confused, she saw the rest of the team descending a ways away. Harry must have called a break. Throwing his broom over his shoulder he jogged the rest of the way up to her.
He was in his practice kit. Hermione’s heart sped up. The loose fitting shirt had no sleeves, showing off his toned sun-kissed arms, and the fabric of the shirt clung to him as sweat dripped down his face. She blinked up at him, dazed.
“I feel like I haven’t seen you all day! You spent lunch and dinner in the library. Why don’t you stay and watch?”
“Sorry, I have a few more chapters to read before I finish my essay for Defense,” she lied. She felt conscious of Ginny’s eyes glancing over at them as she talked with Demelza and Ritchie from near the changing rooms. “Don’t act like you know anything about Quidditch...” rang in her memory.
“You know, some might start to think you’re avoiding me,” he said teasingly, reaching out for her.
She pulled abruptly away, not wanting to be swayed by his charm. “I’m not avoiding you. I’m just busy!”
Dean rolled his eyes stepping closer to her, stealing all the air from around her, making her catch her breath. “I’ve got you pegged, Hermione. I know when something’s bothering you. So tell me.”
Glancing over at Ginny she groaned. She felt like she was being cornered and it wasn’t fair. He had used his charm and good looks to disarm her. Begrudgingly, she told him about the fight and what Ginny had said.
To her surprise, Dean shrugged. “That’s what’s been bothering you? What does it matter what she says?”
Hermione spluttered, taking a step back from him. “What does it matter? I dunno, maybe firstly that she’s clearly still not over you? Seems kind of like a big deal to me. I would think you would be happy.”
He snorted. “How can I be happy when you’re avoiding me all the time?”
He was insufferable. “I’m not!” she insisted, crossing her arms in front of him, glaring. “Besides, we should be putting some distance between us, should we not? We’re due to break up soon.”
“Yes, break up amicably. We can’t do that if you keep hiding away ‘studying’,” he said putting air quotes around the last word.
“I have been studying!” she shouted louder than she intended, scaring the birds out of a nearby tree. Taking a deep breath she said more calmly, “As I said, I have more studying to do. Have fun with Ginny! Let me know how it goes!”
Turning on her heel she took a step to leave, only for Dean to pull her back. She saw that mischievous glint in his eye and she tugged at her arm, trying to wiggle it from his grasp before he could attack with whatever he was planning to do.
“Are you jealous?” he asked with a smirk.
She froze like a Demiguise caught in wandlight. He had called her out. All she had to do was say was “no,” but her brain had stopped working for the moment. He had an eyebrow raised playfully at her, his eyes shining even brighter. Before she could move to make her escape or even respond, someone approached.
"Oi, looks like she wants to be left alone, mate."
Dean turned around, still holding her arm. It was Ron. He was staring directly at Dean, his ears glowing red.
“Ron—“ she began in confusion.
Dean cut her off, stepping between them, dropping her arm. He looked amused. "Alright, Weasley?" he asked.
“I think your girlfriend is done here. I think you should let her leave.”
“Right. My girlfriend. Hermione can handle herself. She doesn’t need you taking care of her. We’re all set here.” Dean’s jaw clenched dangerously.
“Didn’t look set to me.”
“What, are you going to duel me, Weasley?” Dean asked sarcastically.
“If you don’t leave her alone, maybe.”
“Oh so you’re a big macho Quidditch player now? Feeling tough now that you’re the King Keeper?”
Their voices were raised, drawing the attention of the rest of the team.
“Would you two stop?” she said in a hissed whisper. “What has gotten into you? We weren’t even fighting Ron, its fine, go back to the pitch.”
“Wait are you serious right now?” Dean asked looking from her to Ron, making no attempt to lower his voice. “You’re going to give him yet another pass, letting him parade around, treating you how he wants because he’s jealous?”
Hermione was speechless. Why was this happening now? The whole team was watching the train wreck in earnest now.
Ron took a step towards Dean. “Jealous? Why would I be jealous?” his face and ears were scarlet. Hermione prayed he didn’t have his wand on him, gripping her own in anticipation. “I’ve been her best friend for five years. And I’ll still be here after you two are done.”
Dean laughed sarcastically, taking a step closer to Ron. “I’m not going anywhere. You should maybe get used to that. You should also get used to treating Hermione better if you want to stay friends with her.”
“Dean!” Hermione exclaimed. The team had begun making their way over to them cautiously, Harry jogging over as he clearly sensed the danger, their voices no doubt carrying on the breeze.
“You think buying her a pretty bracelet makes you better than me? Do you have any idea what we’ve been through together?” Ron was seething. She’d rarely seen him so angry. She felt helpless, unsure of what to do short of jinxing them both.
“What’s going on here?” Harry said as he approached. He looked between the three of them cautiously, his wand gripped tightly in his hand. Hermione shot him a desperate look. “Let’s get back to practice.”
Dean ignored him. “That’s right Weasley, treating her well might have actually gotten you somewhere.” He laughed as if a thought had just occurred to him. “You're just mad because you thought getting a little note would change anything between you two. You broke up with Lavender and guess what, SHE STILL DOESN'T WANT YOU."
Hermione’s ears were ringing, her eyes widened. There were gasps from the team and Harry gaped at him, unsure of what to do, looking to Hermione for direction.
“How’d you know about the letter?” Ron asked. His glare was hard, nostrils flaring.
Before she could stop him, Dean replied with a scoff, “You really thought you were the only one who got a note? How do you think we started dating?”
“DEAN!” she shouted angrily. No one heard her though. The two had launched themselves at each other, but Harry was quicker, casting a Shield Charm between the two. She pulled Dean back.
He shrugged her off, looking at her and shaking his head incredulously. “OK. Whatever.” Not looking at Ron or any of the rest of the team, he stalked off towards the changing rooms.
“What the bloody hell was that?” Harry asked, finally looking between Ron and Hermione, letting down his charm.
“He was being an arse! How in Merlin’s name can you date him Hermio—“
She whipped around pointing a finger to his chest. “Don’t you dare Ronald Weasley.” She poked him in the chest for emphasis. “It is none of your business who I date or what we do. If you ever talk to him or any of my boyfriends like that again you can duel me.”
He smartly cowered away, holding his hands up in surrender. Angry tears now threatened to spill from her eyes. Not wanting to give him the satisfaction of being able to call her mad or hysterical, she turned on her heel and stormed back up to the castle.