Strictly Experimental Ch4
Hermione was staring at him with a wide-eyed expression that he could not seem to interpret.
Was she shocked that he could have known what she was thinking? Was he wrong? Was she just nervous? Ron was becoming increasingly unsure of himself with every passing moment of her silence.
'He cannot be this stupid. He absolutely cannot possibly be this thick!'
"Hermione… say something!" Ron gave her an utterly heart-breaking-lost-puppy-look that was making it impossible for her to be mad at him. She was beginning to panic.
"I… I… Ron, I…" Hermione tried to compose herself. She needed to either reassure him or break up with him. She was finding both options impossible.
"Hermione, please say something." He was begging. He was positively whining. She didn't know whether to find this endearing or pathetic.
"Ron. I… I need to use the bathroom."
Hermione broke free of his gentle hold and ran up the stairs as fast as she could.
Ron stared unblinkingly where she had previously stood in his arms.
'What. Just. Happened?'
Hermione ran directly to Harry's room. She did not know what possessed her to do so, she just needed to be around him.
She found him lying on his back, staring at the ceiling over his bed. His arms were folded behind his head, he was breathing slowly and evenly, and his face held no readable expression.
"Harry?" Hermione asked tentatively. He didn't answer her. She rushed into the room anyway and sat on the edge of his bed.
"Harry please. I really need to talk to you." 'Wonderful,' she thought. 'I sound about as pathetic as Ron.'
"I'm sure you do," he said blankly.
"Harry? Don't be mad at me. I just…"
"Mad? Why should I be mad? Look Hermione... I'm not your boyfriend, Ron is. And I'm certainly not your girlfriend. I really don't want to talk about your relationship problems so you can save that for Ginny. I'm your friend, and friends aren't suppose to… to do what we did this afternoon. So just… just stop… Oh don't… don't cry! Please don't cry I'm sorry! I just meant to say… well…"
Hermione couldn't help herself. She couldn't stand to loose Harry as a friend. She already knew she had messed things up between them. She couldn't loose both of her boys in the same day. 'I have to fix this somehow. But first I have to stop crying like a pathetic little first year.'
He knew he shouldn't do it, but Harry couldn't bear to see a girl cry, especially not Hermione. He wrapped a hand on her arm and pulled her to him. She impulsively rested on his shoulder as he cradled her head under his chin and patted her back. Harry wasn't exactly sure how to comfort someone, since he never really experienced it himself. He was going by pure instinct. Perhaps instinct could also be blamed for why he titled her head up and began softly kissing around her eyes and her cheeks, though he was still slightly in control of himself and was careful to avoid her lips.
Hermione's mind again went blank under his gentle ministrations. The 'I shouldn't be doing this' was pushed so far back in her conscious that she found herself snuggling up to Harry like a child desperately seeking a mother's attention. As he placed one of many soft kisses on her cheek she moved her head to capture his lips. I wasn't at all like the afternoon. There was no awkwardness, no guilt, and no passion. It was a simple, light, consoling kiss between two people who truly cared for one another.
They pulled apart gently and looked in each other's eyes without shame (for the first time that day). Hermione broke the gaze and looked down at the floor. She had to explain herself.
"Look… Harry I know your not my girlfriend. I mean I do save the girly stuff for Ginny. I think you'd go mental if I started talking to you about my…"
"Please. Don't finish that."
Hermione gave him a reproachful look, but was glad to see he was joking with her again.
"I know Ron's my, my boyfriend. But I'm not so sure I'm happy about that part. I thought I was, but…"
"Do not break up with him because of me. Don't you dare!" Harry realized he had said that a bit too loudly. Hermione was giving him a look as if he'd just slapped her on the wrist. He tried desperately to articulate what he was thinking without sounding cruel, but it didn't seem to be working.
"Hermione, in case you haven't noticed I have enough drama in my life right now and I don't need yours on top of it. I can't deal with loosing you or Ron right now. Okay? I've lost enough people I care about."
At this thought it was Harry's eyes that began welling up. Hermione again felt as if she'd been slapped, though this time it was more like she slapped herself in the face… repeatedly. 'Of course he doesn't need me to push all this nonsense on him. He just lost Sirius, now I'm jeopardizing all our friendships. I'm so… wait... how many times have I called myself stupid today?'
"Oh Harry… I'm so sorry."
Hermione leaned in to hug him, and Harry was ready to welcome the embrace, despite his mind being in 'crawl in a dark hole and die' state. They heard heavy footsteps trampling up the stairs toward the door.
"I'm supposed to be in the bathroom," Hermione said in a panicked whisper.
She ducked down to the floor and rolled under Harry's bed where a multi-colored thickly knit woolen blanket covered her from plain sight. Ron entered the room in an angry daze. He closed the door behind him and looked at Harry expectantly.
"Well?" Ron said impatiently.
"Well what?" Harry replied confusedly, not sure what Ron was searching for and silently begging whichever god that had forsaken him to come back and make sure Ron didn't discover his girlfriend hiding under Harry's bed.
"Well, aren't you going to ask me what happened?" Ron said angrily, taking a seat on his own bed.
At this point Harry sat up attentively. 'I didn't give Hermione a chance to say what she wanted to talk about. I wonder what did happen between them. It couldn't have been bad. They looked friendly enough.' Harry tried to repress the sick feeling in his stomach when he thought of the two of them hugging.
"Oh, sorry mate. What happened to get you so riled up?"
Ron threw his hands up in the air. "Hermione happened! I swear Harry, you are so lucky to not be involved with anyone. Women are completely mental!"
'Yeah, lucky,' Harry tried to repress the smirk forming on his mouth, and instead silently urged Ron to continue.
"So there we were at the bottom of the stairs, I kissed her and we snogged a bit… then she gave me this hug, you know? Like not a normal hug. It was a bit…suggestive, you know?"
'Yeah. I know. Shut up,' Harry thought angrily. He suppressed the urge to grind his teeth.
Meanwhile Hermione was under the bed contemplating how Ron could mistaken a "don't kiss me" hug for a "kiss me more" hug.
'Suggestive!?! Honestly! I've never done anything even remotely suggestive to him! Oh Harry, please, please don't believe him!'
"So then she went to say something, but I figured that she wanted to… you know… take things a bit further with our relationship. So I…"
"What the bloody hell did you do to her?" Harry was about to kill Ron. 'If this is why she came in to talk to me and I pushed her away I'll never forgive myself.'
"Whoa, settle down Harry! I don't DO anything! I just said it, and she just stopped talking. I mean I figured that's what she meant, you know? We've been together for a while now, so wouldn't you expect a girl to…"
"I wouldn't EXPECT Hermione to have to do anything. You probably scared her you prat! Hermione's not like other girls. You know she's not!" Harry was truly disgusted with Ron at that point. He knew Hermione wasn't the type to be pressured into anything. Besides, she's always been more mental than physical in any sort of relationship. 'Well, except this afternoon… and just now.'
"Will you calm down. I came in here expecting a little sympathy! Us blokes are supposed to stick together with this stuff!" Ron was looking at Harry like he had been betrayed. That was exactly the look Harry feared if Ron ever found out what he had done. Perhaps that's why he calmed down… he owed Ron something he could never give him. He owed him the truth.
"You're right Ron," Harry sighed.
'What?' Hermione thought from under his bed.
"I'm sorry. I guess I'm just a little overprotective, you know, cause it's Hermione. I'm still getting used to the idea of you two being more than friends. I'm happy for you and all (he had to choke that statement out) but I just don't want anything to come between all of us staying friends."
Ron looked a bit ashamed of himself. "Yeah. I guess you're right. I was a bit of a prat."
'Damn right you were,' both Harry and Hermione thought.
"So what do you reckon I should do about it?"
'Why do they keep coming to ME for advice!' Harry thought rather pathetically.
"When she comes out of the bathroom, apologize to her for rushing things. Tell her you're a prat and you're sorry. Maybe…maybe you should go downstairs and make her something to drink. You know… as a peace offering. I'll tell her you're waiting for her downstairs."
"Yeah, I guess your right. Thanks mate," said Ron as he made his way to the door.
Hermione readied herself to climb out from under the bed as soon as he left the room. Harry let out a large sigh. He couldn't believe they were in the clear.
"Hang on," said Ron, his hand still on the doorknob.
"How did you know Hermione was in the bathroom?"