Please be advised that this fic is rated T for a reason! Thanks!
Chapter 13 - The Plan
Harry strode purposefully through the common room, the portrait hole door closing behind him, muffling the giggling of the students who were milling around before going to breakfast. He had made up his mind last night, he was going to get Ron to listen to him, whether Ron liked it or not.
He slid his wand from his waistband as he marched along the weak sunlit filled corridors to the Great Hall, and tapped its tip softly against the metal rim of his glasses. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the colour change back to its original black. He didn't want to walk into breakfast with pink, framed glasses. They may have looked good on Hermione, but pink just wasn't his colour.
Not only did he have his mind working on how to approach Ron, it was also whirring manically with remembering the details of Hermione's kiss, and the disappearance of an injured Snape into the forest. What was Snape up to this time?
"Mmm," Ginny remarked as Harry sat across from her at the Gryffindor table, "I like your glasses."
Harry froze mid seat, he felt a warm flush beginning to creep up his neck. Wasn't he able to perform a simple transfiguration spell?
"What?" He blurted out at her, as he moved the glasses further down his nose so he could inspect them. "What's wrong with them?"
Ginny rolled her eyes as she swallowed a mouthful of steaming porridge. "Nothing's wrong with them. You've changed the shape, an updated look, I like them," she smiled mischievously at him as she placed a spoonful of porridge into her mouth.
Harry felt the warm flush begin to creep further up his neck as he sat down, and his eyes lingered a little on Ginny's mouth before he managed to shake himself out of his usual Monday morning daze, and reach towards the centre of the table to grab a handful of toast.
The part of the table next to him shook as a large pile of books was dropped onto it unceremoniously. Harry turned his head to see a very-tired looking Hermione take the seat next to him. She mumbled something that sounded like 'good morning', before her bushy mane disappeared behind a large book.
"Hermione?" Harry questioned her.
She quickly whipped her head from the book. Harry's toast almost fell out of his mouth when he saw her face. It was sickly white, and she had dark circles under her eyes.
"I've got an Arithmancy test today, I totally forgot about it. I was up all night studying for it," she moaned, wide eyes on the verge of tears.
Harry wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulder, "you'll be fine Hermione, and I don't think you even need to study for tests. You already know everything."
Hermione took a shuddering breath, and dove back into the book she held in her hands. Harry's gaze drifted along the staff table as he munched on his toast anxiously. He didn't like seeing his friend so needlessly worried.
He noticed that Snape's chair was empty, and so was Professor Dumbledore's. Their empty chairs did nothing to comfort him. He just knew that something was up. Snape hadn't returned. He wondered if Professor Dumbledore had gone looking for Snape when he noticed he was missing from the Hospital wing.
He continued gazing along the hard ochre staff table until he met the stern grey eyes of Professor McGonagall. An unwavering stare greeted emerald eyes, of which produced the instant reaction of the removal of his arm from Hermione's shoulders, and a slight flush of his cheeks.
Continuing to munch on his toast, Harry scanned the Gryffindor table for Ron's lanky frame. That morning when he woke up, Ron's bed was empty and he couldn't see Ron anywhere in the hall. He swallowed his toast in frustration. The situation between the three of them had escalated out of control. He had been hoping to run into Ron before breakfast, to knock some sense into him before the day's lessons began.
Although after the kiss last night, he was confused about his feelings for Hermione. What was the point of talking to Ron, if as soon as they had all made up, he decided to take more of an interest in her? That would seal the deal if he wanted to destroy all chances of Ron ever speaking to him again. He thought the best thing to do was not to mention the kiss to Hermione, and he would just wait to see what she did next.
He gulped down some pumpkin juice. He decided that he would fix things with Ron, and hopefully nothing would happen afterwards to complicate their friendship again. Now all he had to do was figure out a way to get Ron to listen, the problem being his friend was being even more pig-headed than usual lately. Harry sighed.
Ginny raised her eyebrows amusedly at Harry, and scraped her bowl clean. The piercing sound brought Harry back to the present. Hermione was standing up, collecting her books from the table. Quickly standing up beside her, Harry picked up the remaining books.
Hermione smiled sweetly at him, tipping her head to the side.
"Thanks, but I can manage it," she said curtly, reaching out to claim her books from Harry's arms.
"I don't mind carrying some of your books Hermione," Harry resisted her outstretched hand, "and besides. Can't I help you out for once?"
He watched her think about it for a few seconds. "Okay," she flicked her hair over her shoulder, and looked up through her thick lashes at him, "but don't expect to do it all the time. I am a capable young woman you know."
"I know," Harry whispered as he followed her through the throng of jostling students towards the large door to the foyer.
"Have fun with Potter last night, did you Granger?" Malfoy's voice rang clear across the crowd. "I see you've got him carrying your filthy things for him, though I suppose it was easy for you; he's such a weakling."
Hermione looked over her shoulder to glare at Malfoy. Her thick yet shapely eyebrows had knitted together to form a solid, bushy line separating her forehead from her hazel eyes.
"I tell you Potter, I wouldn't touch something that dirty with a 10 foot long broomstick! Even if she was the only girl available in the Forbidden Forest!" The Slytherin's in the crowd laughed.
Harry stopped walking and spun around to face Malfoy. He felt the handle of his wand between the tips of his fingers. Maybe he could pull off a non-verbal spell, even when he hadn't been practicing.
Like she could read his mind, Hermione took him by the sleeve and began to lead him away. "It's not worth it," she muttered under her breath.
Hermione's actions just made Malfoy laugh harder.
The crowd began moving through the door more hurriedly as it was almost time for their morning lessons to begin. Hermione was pushed roughly from behind, and landed hard on her knees her books spreading in all directions over the floor as her hands stretched out to break her fall.
Harry saw a blur of red hair dash out of sight as he bent down to help Hermione up, the last of the crowd of students were hurrying to class, the laughs of the Slytherin's vanishing with them.
Hermione brushed some dirt from her robes and studied her knees, a pained expression crossing her face as she touched them gently. There was a nasty gash in her stocking and a slight graze of blood was showing through. While Harry was collecting her books from the entrance hall floor, he watched as she silently mended herself.
She righted herself and looked him in the eye. "I think I'd had better carry them."
He nodded and handed her the pile of heavy books. They hurried in silence towards the dungeons for their Potions class. Their footsteps made echoing noises along the empty stone corridors.
They stood outside the classroom door for a few seconds to catch their breath and compose themselves. Opening the door to their classroom, they quietly crept in.
"Twenty points from Gryffindor," sneered their replacement Potions professor – Professor Dedalus Slinkvaul.
"Sorry we're late Professor," Hermione said as they found their seats and began unpacking their bags.
"So you should be," he smiled evilly at them. The class who had been moments ago working quietly concocting the difficult and dangerous Ravenswhorl potion, were now watching and listening intently. They were continuing their work on the potion, and they were up to the final important stage in its brewing.
"I will of course be letting your head of house know of your lateness, she is of course concerned about the amount of time you are spending together," he turned his back on them and walked over to where a group of Ravenclaws were working.
Harry was aware of the skin on the back of Ron's neck turning puce as he wildly chopped at his ingredients. "We're just friends," Harry snapped angrily. What had happened between himself and Hermione was private- between them. He didn't need people, especially teachers, coming to false conclusions about what they were up to.
"That will be detention at lunch for you Potter," he said quietly, not turning around. "You will address all your teachers with respect, not just the ones you like. You are not above anyone. You will call me Professor Slinkvaul or Sir."
"Yes Sir," Harry said quietly fuming as he continued with his Potion.
Hermione looked a little misty-eyed, but that could have been due to no sleep and copious amounts of deep purple vapour pouring from her perfectly completed potion.
Harry returned to the Potions classroom at lunchtime to complete his detention. He hadn't seen Hermione since first class that day, and was wondering how she had coped with her Arithmancy test.
Professor Slinkvaul gestured for Harry to sit at one of the desks. Two large cauldrons sat on the desk, one empty and one full of dead frogs. Harry's nose wrinkled at the disgusting smell of damp moss and rotting garbage.
"You are to remove the skin from the Frogs and place it in the empty cauldron. The remaining parts of the frogs you will place into this," he handed Harry a large glass vial.
Harry set to work immediately, and to distract himself from his gruesome task, he thought about how he was going to get Ron to listen to him long enough to believe his story.
It took almost three-quarters of the hour-long lunch break, but he had figured it out. That night after dinner, he would ambush Ron in a dark corridor, take him to an empty classroom, tie him up and make him listen. He would give his story to Ron, let him know there was nothing going on between him and Hermione, and hopefully he would get some answers from Ron too.