Chapter Fifteen: Misconceptions

A/N: Well…yes. So I said it would be sooner. And then my life got ridiculously melodramatic. Hence it not being sooner. The next chapter is already written, so expect it up in the relatively near future. Also? Reviews are LOVE.

Chapter Fifteen: Misconceptions

"I didn't know you had in you, Mudblood," one of the Malfoy twins drawled in a disturbingly approving tone.

"She's not a Muggle-born Dougal," Marlene snapped from next to Hermione, "her father was a wizard."

"Not like it matters, anyway," Marion said coldly from Hermione's other side, "blood status is a fallacious argument for superiority with absolutely no evidence to support it."

"Sorry if there were too many big words in there for you to understand," Evelyn sneered.

Hermione remained silent, her hand that was in her pocket grasping her wand twitching slightly. They had cornered her after Potions, but her Gryffindor friends had made sure she didn't have to face the Slytherin Snob Squad alone. She would rather be facing them alone, and she would rather them be insulting her, like her friends (and Marion) seemed to think they were doing. But they weren't. Hermione knew better. They were, in fact, impressed with her for insulting Riddle in front of the whole class. This was highly unexpected, and a most unwelcome development, especially when she had the sneaking suspicion that the entire class, including Riddle, were right behind her in the corridor listening to every word.

"We weren't talking to you," Estelle Black said witheringly, "we were talking to Hermione."

Hermione. Her insides shriveled with mortification and rage. But what should she do? She stayed silent in her uncertainty.

"Oi, Riddle!" shouted the other Malfoy twin to someone behind Hermione, confirming her worst suspicions, "how does it feel to have someone put you in your place?"

Right. There was only one thing to do now.

"Put him in his place?" Hermione said frostily. "I'm afraid you are mistaken, Malfoy. I apologized to Tom for how inexcusably rude I had been. Please don't assume I in any way share your beliefs or behaviors," and she swept away, chin high, ignoring the incredulous looks and dead silence from all around her.

"No," Ethelinda Higgs, who had remained silent until now called after her, "she doesn't share our beliefs or behaviors. She likes the filthy half-blood, you see. Probably is already planning their wedding."

No, Hermione though in a panic, no, don't—

"Shows as much as you know, Ethelinda!" Marlene whirled around and yelled. "Hermione already has a boyfriend!"

Gossip already traveled at an inhumanly quick rate at Hogwarts to begin with, but this time everyone had outdone themselves, Hermione thought miserably, as she hid in the kitchens eating lunch with the House Elves. She was too wretched to even attempt to talk to the House Elves about S.P.E.W., as she listlessly ate a sandwich. And it wasn't over yet. She couldn't avoid Riddle forever. She couldn't even avoid him for another hour. Ancient Runes was next.

"Heard about Hermione," Igneus Malfoy said, his usual jocular tone rather half-hearted. "I'm sorry, Tom, I know she—"

"She what?" Riddle snapped, thoroughly sick of the whole business. If one more person came up to him expressing their condolences or—other things—then he couldn't possibly be held responsible for his actions. Dumbledore will hold you accountable, a voice whispered in his head, which he ruthlessly ignored.

"Well," Igneus began again awkwardly, "I know she--"

"Tom!" said a fifth year Ravenclaw girl, who was bright eyed and breathless as she rushed up to him the hallway, interrupting Igneus. "I just heard the news. I'm so sorry Tom. That stupid girl doesn't know what she's missing," the Ravenclaw said, opening her eyes wide and batting them in a truly nauseating fashion. "And really, she's not all that clever, and she's certainly not that pretty anyway. You could do much, much better than—"

"Yes, thank you, we don't need any more input from Tom's Tarts," Igneus said irritably, grabbing Riddle and dragging him away from another one of his deranged groupies.

Tom attempted to smile apologetically at the girl as Igneus steered him away. Really, as useful as Igneus Malfoy could be, he had the worst habit of scaring off Tom's potential new followers.

The boys stopped by a window covered in spider webs.

"Anyway Tom, as I was saying—"

"Oh, Tom!" exclaimed a seventh year Slytherin girl, "I just—"

"Will you bugger off!" Igneus roared, and the girl started and scampered away, glaring over her shoulder at Igneus the whole time.

Tom pinched the bridge of his nose, hard. He could feel a migraine coming on.

"Look," he hissed, "I have no idea why everyone seems convinced I am smitten with this girl but it is patently false."

Igneus looked highly taken aback. "Tom…mate…you can be honest with me," he said, his expression and voice one of mingled hurt and surprise. "You know I wouldn't tell anyone."

"There is nothing to tell," Riddle gritted out, pinching his nose still harder and clenching his eyes tightly shut.

"But…you seemed…."

"I seemed what?" Riddle asked dangerously.

"Stop acting this way," Igneus exclaimed, bewildered. "What's the matter with you? You know exactly what I mean. I've never seen you pay so much attention to a girl before."

"What about Belinda?" Riddle pointed out crossly.

"That's different," Igneus said dismissively, "and you know that too. It seems as if…well…that you like her."

Riddle continued to pinch the bridge of his nose, his grip so hard and his eyes shut so tightly that they were starting to water.

That stupid girl, he thought savagely, that stupid, stupid girl. How anyone could think he was interested in her when any of the girls in the school…

His eyes flew open, his hand leaving his poor nose alone, finally.

"I am a prefect," he said, "I want to be Head Boy next year. She is an orphan, she has never been to Hogwarts. I am doing my job. And may I remind you," he added, turning on Igneus, his temper sharply rising again, "that you have been far friendlier to her than I have been."

"I'm like that with everyone," Igneus said, which was perfectly true. "You're friendly with people, but not this friendly."

"This topic is closed," Tom said ominously.

Igneus rolled his eyes. "Yes sir, Mr. Riddle sir," he said, throwing a sarcastic salute. He turned and sauntered away, not whistling or bouncing for once.

Riddle stared after him blankly, his mind on other, bushy headed things. As he watched a fourth year Gryffindor girl hurrying his way, her skirt noticeably shorter than it should be, he gritted his teeth. She was going to pay for this.

"He's a Muggle," Evelyn hissed at Tom Riddle from between the stacks of books in the restricted section they were hiding in. "The boy she's dating."

"And WHY," Tom exploded, still careful to keep his voice lowered, "do you think that I care? I skipped lunch to come in here and get away from all this nonsense for one blessed second and you, of all people, think I care," he paused for breath, deflating a bit. "A Muggle? That's revolting," he sneered, marring his handsome features.

"Yes, his name is Blaze or Blace or Blake or something," Evelyn said eagerly, now that Tom's rage seemed to have subsided.

"How in Salazar's name did you find that out? Have you actually made friends with her?"

"No," Evelyn said grudgingly, "I heard her talking about him to Marion and Marlene in Potions. But don't worry Tom, she hasn't even told him she's a witch, and I don't think she's going to."

"Don't worry?" Riddle repeated slowly, the rage starting to boil to the surface again. "Don't worry? Don't worry about—"

"For your plan, I mean," Evelyn said quickly. "Whatever it is you need her for. You don't honestly think that I thought you liked her?"

Riddle paused, than gave her another one of his rare approving smiles.

"Very good Evelyn," he said, still smiling, "it seems there is at least one person in this entire blasted school who has a brain."

"Where were you during lunch, Hermione?" Marion asked her outside the Ancient Runes classroom. "The whole school was talking, Riddle was missing too."

"What?" Hermione said blankly, horrified.

"I tried to convince everyone you missed your boyfriend so they would shut up about you and Riddle already, but the fact that you were both missing…" the severe looking girl shrugged. "I'm sure you can imagine how that looked."

Hermione groaned, thankful that she had gone to class early and that no one else had yet arrived.

"Well," she said, attempting desperately to look on the bright side, "at least Tom's Tarts won't be out for blood anymore, now they know I've a boyfriend."

Marion looked at her pityingly.

"Hermione, weren't you listening to me?" she asked, her voice tinged with exasperation. "I said Riddle was missing at lunch too, and it made it worse. Not to mention the fact that The Tarts hate you more for being stupid enough to pick some boy no one's ever heard of over Tom."

"That doesn't even make sense!" Hermione exclaimed desperately. "And besides, Blaise is much better than Riddle," she added mutinously.

"You were under the impression that Tom's Tarts were rational?" Marion asked dryly.

Hermione fumed in silence. "It'll be even better once they find out I'm stuck in his group in Ancient Runes," she said sarcastically.

"They already know," Marion said, raising an eyebrow. "Did you also forget the part where they are obsessive stalkers?'

A Malfoy twin rounded the corner, his perma-sneer in place, effectively ending their conversation. All three stared at each other contemptuously before a group of chattering Hufflepuffs joined them as well.
"At least you're not stuck in a group with him," Marion said in a lowered voice, jerking her head at the Malfoy twin disgustedly.

"Which one is that?" Hermione asked. "I can't tell them apart at all."

"Phobos," Marion replied. "He's fractionally less of an idiot than Dougal."

"What kind of a horrible name is 'Phobos' anyway?" Hermione said spitefully as more of their classmates joined them (although Belinda and Riddle (thank god) weren't among them.)

"It means 'fear' as he so often likes to remind us."

Hermione snorted. "Fear?" she repeated witheringly. "Oooh yes, he's absolutely terrifying."

"A lot of people seem to think so," Marion said, look at her curiously, "but you don't seem afraid at all. Of anyone."

Not afraid of anyone? Oh how Hermione wished Marion was right.

"I'm afraid," she said quietly, "I'm afraid of a lot of things. I just don't go around advertising it."

"You certainly don't," Marion agreed, smiling a bit.

Professor Efferguard opened the door to let them in just as Riddle and Belinda showed up with a girl who had stringy blonde hair. Dorcas Meadowes. Hermione felt a little ill as she followed Marion inside.

"I'm afraid of a lot of things," she repeated quietly to herself.

"And remember, a guaranteed 'O' on the assignment, along with 25 house points apiece to the winning team," Professor Efferguard said as she wrapped up her explanation of their group projects. "Move into your assigned groups," she instructed cheerfully, ignoring the few rebellious mumblings that were coming from various sources.

Marion and Hermione turned to give each other rueful looks. Life was really much easier now that Marion had decided to be friendly, Hermione thought idly as she made her way over to Riddle and Dorcas Meadowes. She wasn't sure what had brought on the change, besides her revelation that she had a boyfriend. She'd have to thank Blaise when she saw him, she thought, a smile playing around her mouth a moment before it abruptly dropped. When you see Blaise? A voice hissed in her head. You moron, you might never see Blaise or Harry again, and it's doing you no good to—

Hermione bumped into a tall, sandy haired boy.

"Sorry!" he said apologetically. "Didn't see you there! You're the new girl aren't you? Ginger?"

"Granger," she corrected, "Hermione Granger."

"Brock Miller," he said, shaking her hand. "We're in the same group."

They joined Riddle and Dorcas Meadowes at their table.

"Tom!" Brock said, clapping his hand on Riddle's shoulder as they sat, "brought your girlfriend with me!"

The whole class was silent as both Riddle and Hermione froze. A muscle twitched so discreetly in Riddle's cheek that she doubted anyone else had noticed it.

"I don't have a girlfriend Brock, as you very well know," Riddle said carefully. "Shall we get to work?"

Hermione could see Phobos Malfoy snickering out of the corner of her eye, and Ethelinda Higgs staring in her unnerving way.

"Should we start with the language or the hiding places?" Dorcas Meadowes broke in. "I think at least half of the trick to this assignment is making our clues difficult enough so the other teams aren't able to figure it out before we figure out theirs."

Hermione nodded. "I agree, and we need to hide them in very unlikely places."

"Any ideas as to where?" Brock asked, mainly directing the question at Dorcas and Riddle.

They all shook their heads.

"We should spend this class thinking up the language," Riddle suggested, "then tonight we can go explore the castle for good hiding spots."

"Good plan, Tom," Dorcas said, "but we can't do it tonight. I have Quidditch practice, I play Keeper for Ravenclaw, you know."

Riddle rolled his eyes and snorted "Quidditch" in a revolted sort of manner.

Hermione was far more revolted by the fact that she agreed with him.

"Fine, what about tomorrow night?" he offered instead.

"Quidditch," Brock the Hufflepuff said apologetically.

Riddle opened and closed his mouth soundlessly for a few seconds, before he turned to Hermione. "I would now suggest Wednesday night," he said, a layer of fury well hidden (if you hadn't been looking for it, as Hermione was) lacing his voice, "but I assume you have Quidditch practice then?"

"Not likely," Hermione sniffed, "the Gryffindor Quidditch team can't possibly be that hard up for a player. Why…" she paused to laugh a little, "the last time Harry and Ron got me on a broom—" The three members of her group turned to stare at her as the sudden silence prolonged. "Well let's just say it was rather embarrassing," she lied, forcing another laugh.

"So Wednesday night?" Brock queried. "Eight o'clock in front of the Great Hall good?"

The rest of them agreed as Hermione silently cursed herself. Why did she keep acting so stupid? The sooner this horrible day was over the better.

"You bushy headed bitch," a book whispered furiously at Hermione from the Potions section of the library.

She looked at it curiously. Sure, it was ancient, so ancient one sneeze might do it in, sending the pages splintering into millions of dust particles for Madam Pince to sweep up, but it didn't look dangerous, it was in fact, a copy of Magical Drafts and Potions. She picked it up off the shelf, wondering if it was enchanted in some way, when she saw a pair of eyes maliciously glaring at her from the hole the absent book had made.

"Bushy headed bitch," the owner of the eyes repeated venomously. A few giggles came from either side of Venomous Eyes.

Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes sky (or to be more accurate, ceiling) ward. She was having unpleasant Viktor Krum flashbacks.

"Stupid, ugly, bushy-headed—"

"Now really, enough," Hermione snapped, her eyes also snapping back to Venom Eyes. "That's not even particularly clever, you know," she said conversationally. "I've certainly heard better. Or worse, I suppose," she corrected thoughtfully. Venom Eyes was turning into Bewildered Eyes. "At the very least call me a filthy know-it-all," she instructed. "Now," she continued to Bewildered Eyes, who was now moving rapidly to Gobsmacked Eyes, "I know you hate me cause of Riddle. But think about that for a moment, would you? That doesn't even make sense. Riddle's not even interested in me, one; I'm certainly not interested in him, two; I have a boyfriend, three; and you hating me because I have a boyfriend and didn't choose Riddle makes not a smidgen of sense, as you would hate me even more if I did date Riddle, so I figure the only way you wouldn't hate me is to have him be not friendly to me at all and to be madly in love with yourself which frankly, I have no control over whatsoever. Oh, four," she added absentmindedly.

Dead silence greeted this monologue, and Gobsmacked Eyes had been joined by Disbelieving Eyes on the left and Dumsquizzled Eyes on the right. Hermione raised an eyebrow as the silence went on.

"Ugly, stupid, crazy, bushy-headed bitch!" Venomous/Bewildered/Gobsmacked Eyes recovered.

Shrill giggles greeted this again and a muffled cry of "Good one, Jane!" could be heard.

Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes upward again. "Right then, carry on," she said, and shoved the Potions book back into place.

Riddle. Always blasted Riddle, with his nauseating good looks and obnoxiously, perfectly fake demeanor. He was going to pay for this.