TITLE: Hold My Breath
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah, with much help from JKR
SUMMARY: Hermione tries to deal with Ron and Lavender's burgeoning relationship. Part 4 of the Ron/Hermione saga.
PAIRING: Gee, let me think on that… Ron/Hermione, duh
RATING: T – Bad language. Totally understandable, if you think about it from Hermione's viewpoint.
DISCLAIMER: My name is not JK Rowling. I am in no way affiliated with her, Warner Bros., Scholastic, or Harry Potter. This is purely to satisfy my muse, which was incredibly disappointed that Ron chose Lavender (LAVENDER!) and simply wanted to do something about it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place sometime during chapters 14 ("Felix Felicis") and 15 ("The Unbreakable Vow") and is told from Hermione's POV.
This might seem a bit out of character for Hermione, but I maintain that if you saw the guy you had a crush on smacking lips with some bimbo, you'd be angry, too. In fact, I kind of toned it down a bit, because I definitely would be using words that would bump up the rating to M.
Occasionally refers to "Tripping on Words", so if you haven't read that you might want to.
Character thoughts are in italics.
Based on the song "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing" by Shania Twain.

Like what you read? Click on the review button and let me know! Didn't like what you read? Well, I don't need to know everything.

Hold My Breath

"And it only hurts when I'm breathing. My heart only breaks when it's beating. My dreams only die when I'm dreaming, so I hold my breath – to forget…" – Shania Twain

Hermione had been angry with Ron before, several times, and for various, reasonable reasons. His pointless jealousy over her non-relationship with Viktor. His insistence that Crookshanks had eaten Scabbers (which she actually wished he had, because then that horrible Peter Pettigrew would be dead and not a thorn in Harry's side). His constantly calling her a know-it-all and how he always called it spew and not S.P.E.W. His general pigheadedness. His utter cluelessness when it came to how she felt about him. But she had never experienced anything quite like the hot-blooded, full-bellied anger she felt at the moment she stepped through the portrait hole after the Quidditch match to find him snogging Lavender Brown. In the common room. For everyone and their grandmothers to see.

Lavender bloody Brown. The same Lavender who, for the better part of six years, had made fun of his clothing, his family's financial status, and him in general. The same Lavender who sat in the girls' dormitory and drooled endlessly over which boy had the best behind. (Dean was the general consensus, apparently. Hermione, of course, never spoke up, because it was foolish and silly and because Lavender and Parvati would torment her mercilessly if they knew she thought about Ron's backside. But really, Hermione liked his arms the most. Ron had really nice arms.) The same Lavender who had supposedly been lusting after Seamus since fourth year.

Actually, it wasn't anger so much as hurt. The kind of hurt that actually hurt. Her heart ached, her head throbbed, her eyes burned. She was about to burst into tears right here in the bloody common room.

Who the hell named their child Lavender Brown? Really. It wasn't even a name. It was two colors shoved together instead of being creative and thinking up something original. (Something like Hermione, perhaps?) Sodding bloody Lavender Brown. Just who did she think she was?

The girl Ron was currently snogging with great enthusiasm in the middle of the common room.

Hermione felt her chest constrict until it felt as though her heart was going to burst out of her chest and go skittering across the floor and out the window. It seemed as though everything in her body came to a screeching halt – her blood stopping pumping, her heart stopped beating, her brain stopped functioning properly. She could do nothing but stand there and stare as Ron – her Ron – snogged some floozy in the middle of the blasted common room.

She wanted to be that floozy. Why hadn't Ron ever snogged her in the middle of the common room, for everyone and Merlin to witness? She had made it perfectly obvious that she fancied him; she'd asked him on a date, for Merlin's sake! They were going to Slughorn's Christmas party together. What more did he want – a written invitation?

Dear Ron,

You daft git. I've fancied you for ages. Snog me senseless.

Love, Hermione

Right. That was perfect. Too bad his tongue was down Lavender Brown's throat.

Tears stung her eyes, burning furiously. She angrily brushed them away and turned around, dashing back through the portrait hole. She didn't even care where she went, as long as it was very very far from what she had just been forced to watch. So she stumbled blindly through the corridors, just trying to get away. If she passed anyone, she didn't notice. If she hit anything or bumped into anyone, she wasn't aware of it. She found an empty classroom and snuck inside, shutting the door behind her.

Finally alone, she burst into tears. The kind of tears where her whole body was racked with sobs, and she had to greedily gulp for air after she was finished. She cried until she couldn't cry anymore, and then she climbed onto the teacher's desk.

She had the sudden, very strong urge to throw something. Or break something. Preferably Lavender's arm. Or nose. She wasn't particularly picky at this juncture.

But she didn't throw anything, or break anything. She waved her wand over her head and said, "Avis!" Soon she was surrounded by half a dozen canaries, which circled her head like a wreath. She choked back another sob – that was the spell she'd spent so hard teaching Ron, before he started acting like the world's biggest prat, getting mad at her for no reason, and shoving his tongue down Lavender Brown's throat.

Men. They were all pigs.


Okay. Maybe not all of them, she thought as Harry poked his head through the door to the classroom. His face bore an expression of sympathy, and Hermione felt the tears welling up again, but she was determined not to cry in front of Harry. "Oh, hello, Harry," she said, almost wincing at how pathetic her voice sounded. "I was just practicing."

Harry glanced up at the ring of birds. "Yeah… They're – er – really good."

A heavy silence descended, and Hermione had a feeling that Harry was trying to think of something reassuring to say to her, but nothing could take away the hurt and utter humiliation of what had just happened. She opted to try and be nonchalant about it, pretend that it didn't bother her in the slightest that the boy she'd fancied basically since first year was currently snogging the roommate of hers she liked least.

"Ron seems to be enjoying the celebrations," she said, and again, she almost winced, because instead of sounding casual and indifferent, her voice sounded squeaky like Dobby's.

"Er… Does he?" said Harry. Hermione almost rolled her eyes. He was so eloquent.

"Don't pretend you didn't see him," she said, and her voice gained back some of its strength as she fell upon the anger that was bubbling beneath the surface. "He wasn't exactly hiding it, was – ?"

Just then, as if her life couldn't possibly get any worse, Ron burst into the room, laughing and pulling Lavender bloody Brown behind him. And that cheap little tart was touching Ron in a way that no one in the whole entire world should be able to touch him, except for Hermione.

Ron stopped short when he saw her and Harry, and she noticed with some satisfaction that his face paled significantly. "Oh," he said.

Oh? Oh? He snogs one of the biggest floozies in their year and all he has to say for himself is, "Oh?" Smug little bastard. She'd show him.

The silence that fell was even thicker and more palpable than the one earlier when it was just her and Harry. She stared at Ron, absolutely incredulous, wondering where in the hell his brain had gone, and he didn't seem to be able to look her in the eye. That, at least, said something. If he weren't ashamed or embarrassed at all, he'd be able to look at her and say, It's my life, Hermione, and I'll snog whoever I bloody well please. But no, he was averting his eyes, shuffling his feet, and she could tell that this was the last place on earth that he wanted to be.

Well, that made two of them. Well, probably three. She couldn't imagine this was where Harry wanted to be, either.

"Hi, Harry!" Ron said, completely ignoring Hermione, who continued to shoot daggers at him – all the more so because he hadn't acknowledged her at all. "Wondered where you'd got to!"

Hermione took a deep breath and slid off the desk. Her canaries followed her – her own support ring. However mad and hurt she was (and she was still extremely mad and hurt, sodding git), she wasn't about to let Ron see it. He didn't deserve to know how much this was killing her. If he wanted to snog Lavender bloody Brown, that was his prerogative.

He was wrong – and an idiot – but that was his choice.

"You shouldn't leave Lavender waiting outside," she said. She was amazed at how calm her voice sounded. Talking to Harry, she'd barely been able to control her tears. "She'll wonder where you've gone."

She slowly made her way to the door, all the while thinking, I can't leave it like this. I can't let him get away with this. Daft, sodding, self-centered, thoughtless, irresistible, smug bastard. When she reached the door, she whirled around, pointed her wand at Ron and said, "Oppugno!"

The canaries sped towards Ron in blurs of yellow. He gave a strangled yelp and covered his face with his hands, but her little birds attacked him viciously, pecking and clawing at any exposed bit of skin they could find.

It was highly satisfying, but it didn't make the hurt go away. And she hadn't really expected it to. But it did make her feel slightly better.

The last thing she heard before slamming the door behind her was Ron saying, "Gerremoffme!" She almost burst into tears again, but Lavender bloody Brown was on the other side of the door, and as much as Hermione didn't want to cry in front of Ron, she wanted to cry in front of Lavender even less.

Lavender seemed to have realized that something was happening to Ron, because she looked at Hermione with narrowed eyes and asked, "What did you do?" before racing inside to see to her man.

Hermione's stomach clenched painfully at the thought.

She walked back to Gryffindor tower in a daze, again not really paying all that much attention to where she was walking. When she got back, the party was still in full swing, which was somewhat of a relief. With everyone's attention otherwise occupied, no one noticed as she slipped through the portrait hole and schlepped up the staircase to her room.

Well, almost no one. Ginny met her at the base of the stairs.

"My brother," she said by way of greeting, "is an insufferable prat. I really don't know how you've put up with him all these years."

Hermione gave her a half-hearted smile, but it quickly faltered and disappeared. "You've managed somehow."

Ginny made a face. "Only because I have to." Hermione made her way up the stairs. Ginny followed close behind. "He's such a prat."

Hermione could feel the tears stinging her eyes once more. She thought Ron fancied her; the way he'd acted over the summer suggested that. But she hadn't imagined the genuine laughter when he walked into what he thought was an empty classroom with his snogging partner, so maybe she'd been mistaken about his feelings. It wasn't like she'd never been wrong before.

True, it didn't happen often, but it did happen.

"He has a right to kiss whomever he wants," Hermione said, again impressed by how calm and rational she sounded, though she was certain she wasn't convincing Ginny, since she wasn't even managing to convince herself.

Ginny stopped abruptly and grabbed Hermione by the wrist. "Don't be mad at me, but I think I know why he's doing this."

Intrigued in spite of herself, Hermione asked, "Why would I be mad at you?" It's Ron I should be mad at. Leads me to believe he fancies me then takes off with the first tart he sees.

Ginny wouldn't look her in the eye. Hermione was instantly reminded of Ron and fought down a fresh wave of hurt. "I may have mentioned to him that you snogged Krum."

"What?" Hermione said, incapable of uttering anything more intelligent. No wonder Ron had been acting like such a git the past few weeks. If he thought that she had… Well, it certainly explained a lot. "Why would you do that?"

It was a lie. Well, it wasn't technically a lie. It was an exaggeration. Viktor had kissed her once – maybe twice. Okay, maybe a few times. But they were chaste little pecks on the lips and cheek, certainly nothing even remotely near to what Ron and Lavender bloody Brown had been doing in the common room earlier. Hermione wouldn't let the kisses escalate into anything more passionate than those chaste pecks because she knew she didn't feel for Viktor what he felt for her, and she didn't want to lead him on. Kissing him felt weird, not at all like she imagined it would feel like kissing Ron, and she didn't even really consider those few experiences to be kisses. Her first real kiss, she'd been saving for Ron.

Except he'd ruined that. Stupid wanker.

"I'm sorry," said Ginny, and she did sound sincere. "He caught me and Dean, and he started shouting at me, and I was angry and it just came out. I really didn't mean to tell him, but he's such a bloody hypocrite. I wanted to take him down a peg."

Hermione suddenly didn't want to look at Ginny. Her careless remark had caused the abrupt shift in her and Ron's relationship, was the catalyst behind his impressive display of tongue exercises, and was the reason she currently felt like the world's biggest loser. She stomped up the remaining stairs to her room and slammed the door behind her. She marched across the room, threw herself on her bed, and yanked her curtains closed. She wanted to be alone. She wanted to be miserable. She wanted to cry until her throat hurt. She wanted to charm Lavender bloody Brown's bed to toss her out of it every time she tried to sit down.

But Ginny wouldn't leave well enough alone and followed Hermione. "He's only trying to make you jealous," Ginny's muffled voice came through the curtains. "He doesn't really like Lavender."

"Well," Hermione said, though she didn't want to respond – she was mad at Ginny, "he has an odd way of showing it."

"He's a boy," said Ginny, opening the curtains and sitting uninvited on the edge of Hermione's bed. "He's not thinking with his brain. He's thinking with his boy parts. All boys think with their boy parts. It's like a law."

Hermione rolled onto her stomach and faced the wall. She was mad at Ginny, after all. She didn't want to be having this conversation. If it was true that Ron was only snogging Lavender to get Hermione back for kissing Viktor, then there was a chance that this whole thing would blow over. Of course, judging by the look in his eyes, she would have to guess that it was a slim chance. He'd certainly seemed to be enjoying himself.

Had she missed her chance?

"Ron'll come 'round eventually," Ginny said.

Hermione snorted and propped herself up on her elbows, still looking at the wall. "Yes, well, I'm not about to hold my breath waiting for him."

It seemed to Hermione as though Ginny wanted to say something more, but she must have ultimately decided against it, because she bade Hermione good night and left. Hermione shut her curtains once more and buried her face in her pillow to muffle her sobs, because she didn't want anyone to hear her crying over stupid Ron. Eventually, she heard the door open and her roommates came in, with Lavender telling Parvati all the juicy details about kissing Ron.

Hermione wanted to puke. Charming Lavender's bed was starting to look all the more appealing. She fell asleep still crying and dreamed that one of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts burned Lavender's face until she resembled Pansy Parkinson. It was a nice dream.

She went down to breakfast early, before most of the other students were up, and though there were a few Ravenclaws and even some Hufflepuffs in the Great Hall already, she didn't run into any Gryffindors, and for that she was grateful. When she finished breakfast, she dashed back up to the common room and retrieved her books, then she went to the library and claimed one of the tables in the back corner, where she wasn't likely to be disturbed.

Harry found her around lunchtime. He said nothing, just sat across from her and began to work on his own assignments. She was surprised and thoroughly pleased that he didn't ask her about Viktor. It had all happened so long ago, and it really wasn't any of his business. They worked in companionable silence for more than an hour before he suggested they get some lunch.

"Ron's already eaten," he said. "He won't be there."

She wanted to say how ridiculous that was, that she wasn't going to act like some silly girl who couldn't even stand to be in the same room as the person with which she was angry, but the truth was that she was glad Harry seemed to realize that she didn't want to see Ron at this point in time and was making a genuine effort to avoid a blazing row. She hated putting Harry in the middle, as he so often was, but so long as Ron continued to be a self-righteous prat, she would be spending a lot of time in the library.

"He went to the hospital wing when he woke up this morning," Harry said. "To get a salve for all those scratches from your birds."

Hermione somehow managed to resist the urge to smile in smug satisfaction. She also refrained from saying something childish like, Serves him right, the smarmy prat. Let him see how it feels like to hurt everywhere. She was very pleased with her maturity.

Days went by with Hermione dutifully avoiding the Great Hall at times when she knew Ron would be there and the common room in the evenings, which she managed by spending an awful lot of time in the library. Harry joined her nearly every evening (except for those nights he had Quidditch practice), which he said was because he never got to spend time with her, but she had it on very good authority that he couldn't stomach Ron and Lavender much longer. From what Hermione had been told – by Ginny, with whom she was once again on speaking terms (it wasn't her fault, after all, that her brother was an insufferable prat) – Ron and Lavender were quite nauseating.

Hermione wasn't sure whether to be pleased or disgusted with that knowledge. She settled for being hurt and angry. It felt good to be hurt and angry, so long as she continued to dream about Lavender being mauled by dragons. Whenever she happened upon the two of them together (and they were always together – Lavender seemed to have surgically attached herself to Ron's side), she immediately looked at the floor and scurried on her way as quickly as her feet would go. She knew if she looked at them for any prolonged period of time, she would burst into tears.

"It's like she considers every moment they're not snogging to be wasted time," Harry said, as quietly as he could, as they were in the library one evening. "Even Parvati's starting to get sick of them."

Ron was not a topic she wished to discuss. Ever. So she adopted a lofty tone and said, "He's at perfect liberty to kiss whomever he likes. I really couldn't care less."

But she could, and she did, though it was comforting to know that Parvati also disapproved on Lavender's behavior. Parvati had started acting a lot nicer to Hermione lately, while Lavender flat out ignored her. Not that she really cared what Lavender or Parvati thought about her, but it was nice, sort of, to know that she wasn't the only one who was repulsed by Ron and Lavender.

Parvati had actually mentioned to Hermione that Lavender really did fancy Ron, but Hermione had waited until Parvati was out of earshot to scoff and roll her eyes. Lavender didn't fancy Ron – she fancied the popular Quidditch player he had become, although Hermione did have to admit that Ron was looking particularly handsome this year. He'd filled out quite nicely, and he wasn't so gangly looking. So Hermione supposed she could understand why Lavender believed she fancied Ron, but as Lavender had never spent any time actually having a conversation with him (apparently all they did was snog, which made Hermione nauseous just thinking about it), she couldn't possibly truly fancy him. She just liked the way he looked.

Hermione quickly changed the subject to something she knew would stop Harry from thinking about Ron and Lavender, though she wouldn't: Romilda Vane and the supposed love potion the fourth year had been cooking up in an effort to get Harry to ask her to Slughorn's Christmas party – the Christmas party to which she was supposed to be going with Ron, until he became such a blooming prat. Now she had no idea whom she was going to ask, but she had to ask someone, because she was not about to go to this thing alone, not when Ron was parading Lavender bloody Brown around at every opportunity. She knew that she shouldn't sink to his level, but she just wanted to wipe that barmy smile off his face before his tongue got lodged in Lavender's throat and they both choked.

Eventually, Madam Pince kicked them out of the library and yelled at Harry because his copy of Advanced Potion-Making had been written on, and though Hermione wanted to bring up how dangerous it was to be trusting this so-called Half-Blood Prince, she refrained. Harry was really the only friend she had left, and she didn't want to alienate him when she needed him the most.

And she certainly did need him, after they walked into the common room and she found Ron and Lavender wrapped up in each other's arms, squeezed into the same armchair. An amazing feat of physics, one that made Hermione's heart clench. But even though she needed Harry, she wasn't about to stay and watch that. She might break down in front of everyone, and she couldn't have that. So even though it was only seven o'clock, she turned to him and said, "Good night, Harry," and trudged up the staircase to her room.

The next day, during Transfiguration, she almost burst into tears again. It was stupid, really, the kind of thing that they all would have laughed about had they all been speaking, but while Ron was trying to change the color of his eyebrows, he ended up giving himself a ridiculous and obscenely large handlebar mustache. Ron retaliated by doing a horrible, cruel, callous impression of Hermione answering Professor McGonagall's questions. Lavender and, to Hermione's slight surprise, Parvati laughed heartily at Ron's juvenile antics, and Hermione felt the tears welling up in her chest. After the bell rang, she ran out of the room without bothering to pick up her belongings. Harry brought them to her later, placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, and offered to pound some sense into Ron.

"I'll do it, too," he said. "He's really starting to get on my nerves."

Hermione smiled sadly. "If you want to, I'm not going to stop you. But don't do it on my behalf."

"Oh, don't worry," Harry said. "This is on behalf of all Gryffindors. I'm half-tempted to tell them to get a room, but I'm afraid of what they might do there."

Hermione felt a lead ball drop into her stomach. How, in all the time that Ron had been snogging Lavender bloody Brown, had she not thought about that? Certainly it had to have escalated further than snogging. Ron was a boy, and as Ginny said, he thought with his boy parts, and she knew for a fact that Lavender was more than willing. Lavender had already stolen Ron's first real kiss from Hermione; how many other firsts had she stolen? Hermione couldn't bear to think on it.

What if they…? Would Ron tell Harry? Would Harry tell her? Would she even want to know? Why was Ron doing this to her? What in Merlin's name had she ever done to him?

Harry seemed to have realized that he had said the wrong thing, because he said, "I'm taking Luna to the party tonight."

That, of course, was also not the right thing to say. Slughorn's party! She still didn't have a date! And she couldn't go alone, could she? But who could she take? She thought about asking Seamus, or even asking Ginny if she could borrow Dean, but somehow she had a feeling Seamus or Dean wouldn't grate on Ron as sorely as she wanted her date to. So who could she ask that would drive Ron wild with jealousy?

She momentarily considered Zacharias Smith – Ron certainly had it in for the Hufflepuff, as did most of Gryffindor – but only momentarily. She wasn't very fond of him, either, and wasn't certain whether or not she could spend an entire evening in his company. She would never condescend to ask a Slytherin (not like any of them would ever accept anyway) and she couldn't think of any Ravenclaws that Ron didn't like. Of course, she had a feeling it didn't matter whom she asked – Ron would hate him anyway. He'd hated Viktor for the sole reason that she went out with him, when he'd practically worshipped the ground he walked on prior to that.

The answer came to her in a flash. McLaggen! It would have to be McLaggen. Yes, he was egotistical and thoroughly unpleasant, but Harry and Luna, at least, would be at the party, and she could escape with them if need be. And given the fact that McLaggen would probably have been made Gryffindor Keeper if Hermione hadn't Confunded him at the trials, she knew that Ron would turn purple with rage at the sight of them together.

McLaggen it was then. After Harry left to go back to his dormitory, she found Cormac in the common room. He was sitting over by the fire with a miniature model of a Quidditch pitch, making the little players move with plays he'd no doubt designed, probably waiting for Harry to come to his senses and kick Ron off the team.

"Hello, Cormac," she said.

He turned to look at her, somewhat startled, but then a smile spread across his face. "Hermione," he said, leering openly at her. "To what do I owe this extreme pleasure?"

She suppressed the sudden urge to vomit and forced herself to focus on the task at hand. Dealing with the smarmy slimeball would be worth it if only she could make Ron jealous. "I was wondering, do you have a date for tonight's party?" She hoped he would infer that she was trying to ask him to go with her and save her from actually having to do it. She wasn't sure she could say the words without vomiting.

His leer was grotesque. It made her feel dirty. "Why, no. I don't."

Oh, Merlin, he was really going to make her ask him flat out. "Would you like to go with me?" Please say yes. Please say yes. Dear god, I can't stand you for more than five minutes, but you'll make Ron insanely jealous, so please say yes.

Cormac tapped his chin lightly with one finger, as though seriously considering the decision, like she had just asked him if he could only save one of his parents from a burning building, whom would he choose. But then he said, "It would be an honor and a privilege."

The bile was rising in her throat. "Good. Shall we meet at eight and walk together?"

He smiled, but his smile still resembled a leer. "That would be most agreeable. Until tonight."

She went down to dinner feeling triumphant and slimy, but more triumphant than slimy, especially as she ate dinner alone, forced to watch as Ron and Lavender fondled each other at the dinner table. She was half tempted to yell, "Do you mind? Some of us are trying to eat," but ultimately decided against it. She was still smarting from Ron's impression of her during Transfiguration.

Once she was finished eating, she walked down the table towards Ron, Harry, Lavender, and Parvati. Ron and Lavender, of course, were swallowing each other's heads. Harry and Parvati were attempting to ignore the other two, in the middle of a conversation.

"Oh, hi, Hermione!" said Parvati. She smiled broadly, and Hermione could tell that she felt guilty for the way she'd laughed at her earlier. Hermione smiled back. It wasn't Parvati's fault, after all, that her best mate was a man-stealing tart.

"Hi, Parvati!" she said, pumping as much fake enthusiasm into her voice as she could muster and doing her best to ignore Ron and Lavender, which was difficult, considering the gross noises they were making as they sucked each other's faces off. "Are you going to Slughorn's party tonight?"

Parvati shook her head sadly. Hermione knew she'd badly wanted to go. She'd mentioned once, while Hermione was hiding behind her curtains, that she secretly hoped Harry would ask her. "No invite. I'd love to go, though, it sounds like it's going to be really good… You're going, aren't you?"

Hermione widened her smile; she was sure she must look maniacal, but no one seemed to notice – no one important, anyway. No one being Ron. He was otherwise occupied. "Yes, I'm meeting Cormac at eight, and we're going up to the party together."

Halfway through her sentence, Ron disentangled himself from Lavender to stare at her. He looked as though he'd just found out Harry was kicking him off the Quidditch team. She ignored him. Served him right. Prat.

"Cormac?" Parvati said, sounding thoroughly intrigued. Parvati loved to gossip, and she was the first to learn about this particular piece of information, so Hermione knew she was happy. "Cormac McLaggen, you mean?"

"That's right," said Hermione, as sweetly as she could stand. "The one who almost became Gryffindor Keeper." She put a great deal of emphasis on the word "almost", practically daring Harry to mention that he would have been Keeper if not for her interference. But Harry didn't rise to the bait.

Parvati's eyes went wide. "Are you going out with him?" she asked, awed.

Hermione giggled. It was rather difficult to do, as giggling was not a thing she did often, but it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and so she did it. "Oh – yes – didn't you know?"

Of course she wouldn't know. Hermione had just asked him out less than an hour ago. No one knew. But Parvati played the part well. "No!" she said, looking at Hermione as though she led this secret life no one knew about. Like Hermione snuck out of bed every night to sneak up into the boys' dormitory… Hmm, perhaps she should have thought about the implications of that. But Ron was starting to turn a delightful shade of white, so Hermione really didn't care. "Wow, you like your Quidditch players, don't you? First Krum, then McLaggen…"

Ah, bless Parvati for mentioning Viktor. If anything would put a wrench in Ron's snogging, it would be that. "I like really good Quidditch players," Hermione said, still not looking at Ron. It was a low blow – she knew he was self-conscious about his ability – but he deserved it. Prat. "Well," she said, after a significantly dramatic pause, "see you… Got to go and get ready for the party…"

She left, surreptitiously sneaking a glance at Ron. She was immensely pleased to see that he looked as though he was going to be sick into his pudding. Served him right. Prat. He really was a prat.

It didn't take away the hurt. It didn't lessen the pain. But somehow, it made it a little bit better.

Now, if only she didn't have to spend the entire evening with Cormac McLaggen.