Shades of Grey
by Destiny's Darkness

Disclaimer: If you think I own anything, you're in for a laugh. One of those belly-aching ones. Where you can't get up from the floor.

Chapter One

Hermoine was done with it all. The perfect friendship and the hope it could become something more. The inside jokes, the amusing anecdotes, the foolhardy adventures. The hours spent confiding about love and life, staring at him when she was supposed to be studying or finishing homework. The smiles, the touches, the way he never seemed to notice. It was finished, complete, and over. She'd fooled herself for too long, allowing herself to hope for the best and believe in an impossible future.

He knew her, her mind wailed to her heart. Didn't they tell her that no one who knew her could help but love her? Trembling hands wiped some of the tears from her face, at the same time brushing loose hair from those wet eyes. An unwanted little voice spoke up in her heart. He does love you, it snapped. Hermoine winced at the harsh reminder. And for that matter, he doesn't really know you, does he? You've only shown the one aspect of your personality. You wouldn't let him see the rest, and he's never seen you outside of school. School and the magical world.

She knew that little voice was trying to distract her from her self-pity and replace it with annoyance. But she was hurting too bad to care. His face loomed in her mind's eye, exactly as he'd looked before. The unruly black hair tempted her to brush it out of those green eyes. That all-too-enticing mouth grinned without realizing his words ripped at her heart and soul.

"I love you," she'd whispered, having gathered the vast amounts of her courage to murmur those three words. He looked at her from across the table, the corners of his mouth turning up into that beautiful smile.

"I love you, too, Hermoine," he'd chuckled. One of those incredible hands reached across their homework and gave her own fingers a squeeze. " I though you knew that."

Her heart, her traitorous heart, skipped a beat.

"I mean, you and Ron are my best friends. I love you like a sister." The organ began beating again just in time to shatter. "Probably more than sister actually. After all, you never stuck gum in my hair, or tried to get me in a dress or make-up."

She couldn't help but smile in return, the joy fading from her face once he turned back to his work. She excused herself, gathered her belongings, and fled to the Gryffindor common room. She almost managed to suppress the tears until she made it safely to her room, the first few running down her cheeks as she darted up the stone steps.

Her work dropped to the floor before she could stop her arms from releasing the books. Her brown eyes became clouded as her vision retreated to her inner torment. She wrestled with her emotions until she realized that at some point, she'd fallen to her knees. Breathing deeply, she concentrated on banishing her talkative inner demons into a soundproof box. They resisted, but the brunette's anger convinced the irritating creatures that escaping would be in their best interests.

She collapsed on the bed and into teats. Gasping for breath that was merely released in sobbing, she spiraled from disillusioned to hopeless. Slowly the color returned to her vision and even-ness to her breathing. The emotional explosion faded, leaving only one repeating question in her mind. Why was she surprised?

Harry adored Cho, and had for years. Hermoine had been privy to his most private dreams and thoughts regarding the older girl, even acting as a go-between last year when they'd finally gotten over their stupidity and begun dating. Even now they exchanged letters on a regular basis, and Harry had confided in his friends that there were plans to move in together once he finished this final year at Hogwarts. He swore up, down, left, and right that nothing had occurred between them beyond the occasional make-out session, but they all knew he was lying. Badly. Hermoine had more than once rubbed her knuckles into her temples as she was doing now in an attempt to grind out that particular bit of knowledge.

She straightened, sitting up on her bed, and decided to move on. Hermoine had a gift for controlling her emotions, if she wanted to end a crush it ended. She simply told herself that she and Harry were nothing more than friends, never had been, never would be. And that was it. She'd move on, find some guy to get busy with. She smirked, remembering that the next day was in fact the last before winter break. She'd go back to London, visit some old haunts… Her smile soured. She'd promised Harry and Ron that she'd take Lupin up on his offer to house them over break, and the boys were practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Voldermort was dead, betrayed by one of his most loyal supporters, and the rest of the Death Eaters had fallen victim to the Ministry's "Hand of God" spell. There simply was little that could be a threat to the trio of teenagers. And it wasn't like they needed a chaperone to keep them in line, oh no, not them. Even thinking that caused Hermoine to have the same reaction to Mrs. Weasley's proclamation as the first time Ron's mother announced it at dinner, one of scorn.

They'd likely slaughter her if she skipped out on the trip completely, they knew perfectly well that her presence had more than tipped the scale in their favor in the contemplation of their maturity, but there was no need for her to follow them around like a lost puppy, was there? She'd simply beg out of their plans by claiming intentions of visiting places they'd never enjoy, libraries or museums or the like, and then go where she pleased. Child's play, really.

That was it. Hermoine was done with it all. She refused to act like a schoolgirl with an eye on the forbidden fruit. She could hardly imagine behaving as such; though she was said schoolgirl, the brunette had far too much pride for that sort of nonsense.

And it wasn't like she was desperate or out of prospects. The thought nearly caused her to laugh aloud. Granted, no one at Hogwarts took her seriously, partly because of the damn anti-Muggle spells and partly because she refused to lower her standards for them. Not that they'd seen it that way. Oh no, you see, the perfect Hermoine Granger was too much of a bookworm, had extra IQ points instead of hormones and all, to date and for that matter, what self-respecting guy would date a girl like her, too smart to just cuddle up and smile endearingly, no need for a girl who so easily made them look stupid.

She paused to inhale, wondering when, and how, the hell she'd managed to get herself so worked up. She ran a shaky hand through her hair, unable to restrain her grimace at the feel of frizz. She tried another deep breath; this one was better, allowing her to relax just enough for the anxieties to dissipate. I guess I was a little more fond of the Boy-Who-Lived than I realized, she thought and was surprised by the hint of amusement in her tone.

"God, Hermoine, what happened?"

Lavender had returned from classes. As her wide eyes took in the ink spills and mess of paper, Hermoine mentally cursed.

"Just lost my temper is all," she replied smoothly. She used her fingers to comb the hair from her face once more and sent up a quick prayer that her nose and eyes weren't as red as she knew they were. Lavender stared at her anxiously.

"Are you sure you're all right?"

"Of course," the brunette lied. "I just got a little frustrated finishing up my scrolls for Potions. I mean, do you realize that we're at least three weeks behind the recommended curriculum. Really! I mean, I never though I'd be the one to say it, but Snape really was a superior Potions professor. This new idiot doesn't know toadstool from… toaststool."

Lavender narrowed her eyes in concentration. "Um, right," she agreed quickly, "which is ridiculous. They're nothing alike."

Hermoine didn't know how she masked the sarcasm. "They are. First years can tell them apart." She didn't want to guess when Lavender would realize there was no such thing as toaststool, instead crouching down to clean up some of her dropped homework. "What a mess," she groaned.

Later, when Hermoine went down to the Great Hall for dinner, she overheard her roommate telling her friends about how Hermoine had blown her top because their Potions class was moving too slowly. "She flew into a rage; I mean, she nearly destroyed our room." The brunette considered chewing the girl out, or at least settling for the Cruciatus Curse, but decided on simply rolling her eyes.

And regretted the action as soon as she sat down next to Dean Thomas.

"Feeling better?" Harry inquired.

She looked at him in confusion. "About what?"

"About Potions. Lavender told us you'd really worked yourself up over getting behind."

"That stupid twit," she growled, eyes narrowed, turning to fly out of her seat, and hand reaching for her wand.

Both Ron and Dean pulled her back down. "Calm down," the red-head chuckled. "It's not that big of a deal. Just relax."

"I can't believe she was stupid enough to buy that lie! Does she have any semblance of brains?" she snapped. Seamus' jaw dropped at seeing the typically reserved girl so pissed off. "I could really use a drink," she muttered darkly and under her breath. Dean ignored the comment, thinking he'd imagined such an odd phrase coming from Hermoine's mouth.

Harry rested his hand on hers. "Ignore that idiot," he coaxed. "You've never been that easy to get at before. Don't let her get to you now."

Hermoine's reluctant little smile made Ron, Dean, and Seamus perform beautiful double-takes. The anger had almost completely left her face, and his was more affectionate that usual.

"Methinks there's love in the air." And for once, Ron agreed with Seamus.

So, what do you think? Please review and let me know. Don't worry, I'm not going to threaten not to write more. I'm just going to let you know I'm horrible about writing unless I know someone wants to read it. (Flames permitted as long as you specify what you feel is wrong- can't fix it if I don't know what "it" is...).