A/N: Bonjour! If you're reading this, please review it!
Disclaimer: All characters and places in this story belong to the amazing J.K. Rowling.
Summary: When infamous couple of the moment Draco and Hermione suddenly break things off, the students of Hogwarts are in an uproar, unabashedly taking sides left, right and centre. Whose side are you on, anyway? Oneshot.
Whose Side Are You On, Anyway?
Having breakfast in the Great Hall was usually a quiet and weary affair for the students of Hogwarts on Monday, save for the mornings that hosted a long-awaited Quidditch match. Students bogged down with homework were silent, and every desire to sleep was etched in their overworked faces. With the clouds revealing an unusually, stormy grey tinge for spring time weather however, it was easy to realize that this was not a regular morning for Hogwarts. There was a buzz in the air full of gossip and scandal, of heart break and rumor. Students of all Houses were teeming in the wake of the school's latest break up, and right on cue, as Hermione walked through the great double doors, all eyes were flung in her direction, plastered there and unmovable. Determinedly, Hermione flipped her hair and walked between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables, apparently unbothered.
"Is it true?" Ginny said immediately, who had appeared suddenly at Hermione's side, as if out of nowhere.
"Is what true?" Hermione said innocently, while piling scrambled egg onto her plate.
"Don't try and play dumb, Hermione, we all heard the two of you shouting at the top of your lungs last night."
"Because you all stuck your greedy ears to the empty classroom door. I heard you whispering," she added ruefully.
"We did not!" said Ginny indignantly. She looked around as if distracted and added, "We used Extendable Ears."
Hermione glared at Ginny who smiled apologetically but managed to press on.
"Now stop avoiding the question. Is it true? Besides, the whole school is wondering as well."
"I thought it was just you, Harry and Ron who were listening to us argue!" Hermione said in scandalized tones.
"Oh please, haven't you noticed, the entire school is hanging on every word of this conversation."
Surreptitiously, Hermione looked around her and saw, indeed, that everyone was fidgeting in their seats to bear witness to Hermione and Ginny's conversation. She glanced over at the Slytherin table as well, but did not find the face she had been hoping to see.
"Well that took absolutely no time at all," said Hermione indifferently, turning back to her food.
"What do you expect? It's Hogwarts," Ginny said bluntly. "Now just tell me, I'm one of your best friends. Did you and Malfoy break up last night? For good?"
Hermione dropped her fork and gazed sadly at her food, determined not to meet Ginny's eyes which were searching her face for an answer. Hermione let out a shaky, slow breath and nodded.
"Oh no!" Ginny moaned, putting an arm around Hermione's shoulders. Hermione shook her off and covered her face for a moment, collecting herself before proceeding in the conversation. She could feel the school breaking out in whispers, as if Ginny's consoling actions were confirmation of the break up.
"You know, I always knew you'd go there with Malfoy, but I never got far enough to picture how you two might break up."
"Is that so?" Hermione said in a quiet voice.
"Well, of course, the sexual tension between you two was thicker than a pewter cauldron."
Hermione winced and resignedly rested her head in her hand. "Is everyone staring? Oh no, this is a nightmare."
"Um… they're not exactly staring… just whispering, and occasionally glancing in our direction." They both looked around and then up and down their bench, and they could see Parvati and Lavender looking positively agog at the two of them in the middle of conversation. Clearly her words were an understatement. A few Slytherin girls even entered the hall and threw smug looks in Hermione's direction which she expertly ignored.
"They're going to take sides, aren't they," Hermione said without question. "I just know it."
"Of course not," Ginny said unconvincingly. Hermione stared at her. "Fine, they probably will, but at least you know I'm on your side. The insensitive, tactless, thoughtless git. " She looked at her friend hopefully, as if this would cheer her up, but it had no positive effect on Hermione at all. In fact, she looked a little torn at the prospect of insulting Draco.
"I'm fine," Hermione said stonily. "Really, I'm… glad to be shot of him," she said weakly.
Ginny raised an unbelieving eyebrow. "And you're not upset in the least?"
"Not at all."
Ginny stared at her, unconvinced.
Hermione shook her head. "Alright, I'm a mess, but if anybody asks…"
"I'll spread your lies with pleasure."
Hermione picked up her fork again and began to eat, though it all tasted like rubber to her. "Thanks," she mumbled, and swallowed the last of it as the figures of Ron and Harry approached. While she was sure they were fully prepared to comfort her, Hermione felt fully prepared to go back to bed, and not wake up for the rest of the day.
"So tell me again why you and Granger finally broke it off?" Blaise said to Draco after they were paired off in Transfiguration. He received the matchbox he was supposed to be transforming into a badge and feigned moving his wand in random directions as McGonagall walked passed them.
"You're asking me as if you haven't already heard why," Draco said tiredly as his matchbox was set aflame at the wave of his wand.
"I've only heard bits and pieces this morning in the Great Hall. I noticed you missed breakfast today, by the way. How convenient."
Draco gave his friend a sideways glare before extinguishing the fire, and McGonagall handed him a new matchbox with a reproachful look. "Was… was she there?" Draco asked hesitantly, as soon as she disappeared.
"Of course, surrounded by the usual."
"How did she seem?" Draco said, attempting to add a hint of casualness in his voice.
"The same way you seem. Sad but not admitting it, fine but absolutely faking it."
Draco nodded and breathed in deeply, pretending to focus the assignment at hand.
"But I want to hear what happened from you, at least your story will be the truth."
"Why, what have you heard?"
"That she transfigured you into a baby ferret and set a dog after you, that you accidentally left a crater in the wall after you were through arguing, and that you both hexed first years out of your way when they chanced to bump into you in the halls."
Draco snorted. "Not true."
"The most normal of these rumors were that she chucked a jar of dried dragon dung at you."
"Oh," said Draco, trying to sound casual. "It was actually dried Doxy dung."
Blaise's mouth twitched suspiciously but Draco's glare immediately quieted whatever laugh or retort that might have escaped his lips.
"But you still haven't said why you've broken up," he said instead, in his attempt to quell Draco's murderous look.
Draco slashed his wand in the air furiously. "I don't know. She had just confiscated a Fanged Frisbee from a third year and when I told her to ease up on the kid, we started arguing in the empty classroom about how I don't support her or something. Then I said something about not being Potter or Weasley, who're too gormless to stand up to her when she's being too strict, which made her mad that I was offending her best mates, and you know… it just escalated."
Blaise raised his eyebrows. "Badluck, mate."
"You're telling me," Draco said quietly. "But I'm a free agent now, aren't I? I'm a free man."
"Right," Blaise said sarcastically. "And you'll never think of her again. In fact, I bet she's not on your mind right now."
Draco made a noise similar to that of a growl, but it was also a bit of a sigh.
"That's not fair, we're talking about her right now! Maybe later on I might miss her less. What?" he said irritatingly. "We only just broke up last night, don't expect me to be over her just yet, alright?"
"Okay, okay," Blaise said, surprised at his friend's strong reaction. "And what will you do when Potions comes around? You may have managed to avoid her at breakfast or in the halls, but you definitely can't avoid her come tomorrow's class. Will you skive off?"
"I'll have to suck it up, won't I? There's no use skiving, we go to the same school. I can't dodge her forever."
"That's the spirit," Blaise said in mock positivity. "And our classmates will be thrilled. They're on the verge of dying just to hear more about what's happened. In fact, I think they've already taken sides."
"Have they?" Draco said sardonically. "Wonderful. That's exactly what I need, people taking sides in a matter that doesn't involve them. Who's sided with me, anyway?" he added casually.
Blaise shrugged. "I'm not sure. If only there was a way we could find out."
Draco sniffed. "Yeah, another thing I need – to see my romantic failures paraded around Hogwarts for all to see."
As McGonagall came across them once more, Draco successfully managed to turn his matchbox into a plain, black badge. She nodded approvingly and left after Blaise imitated Draco's wand movement but only managed to give his matchbox a circular shape. The bell rang around them and as if preparing himself for battle, Draco picked up his things and stalked out of the classroom. Blaise watched him go, and with a slight tinkle in his eye, picked up the black badge Draco left behind. He smiled and followed the rest of the students out of the classroom.
As students made their way to class following day, the news of Draco and Hermione's break up was still fresh in the air, and the most popular topic of conversation among them, even ghosts, staff members and Peeves, who sang tales of their break up with embellishment.
Hermione, Ron and Harry all walked past the Great Hall, for they had agreed not to go in there should she receive any more questions and taunts concerning her failed relationship with Draco. As expected, both she and Draco were bombarded with questions and exaggerated stories surrounding their break up, and Hermione was beginning to wonder whether or not she would be able to survive the coming week. As they made their way towards the dungeon, they all noticed a new, very large poster on the general bulletin board.
"What's that?" Hermione asked suspiciously.
"Dunno," said Harry. Together, the three of them approached the bulletin board, and with every step, Hermione's eyes widened in horror as she read the large words that went across it in bright, flashing colours.
"You're kidding me," Ron said, bewildered.
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON, ANYWAY?
Break-ups are such confusing things! State your side, make it easier for everyone!
Green Badge = Draco Malfoy
Red Badge = Hermione Granger
PICK YOUR SIDE TODAY!
In smaller print, Hermione squinted to read the remaining letters.
Badges available in the Great Hall through Blaise Zabini, every day of the week. Two sickles per badge, no refunds or exchanges.
"This is absolutely…" said Hermione, mortified.
"Brilliant!" exclaimed Ron.
"What?" Hermione said, completely affronted. "This is not brilliant, Ronald Weasley! This is a nightmare, a bloody, never ending nightmare!"
"Wow," said Harry. "It's like the Tri-Wizard all over again. You've got to admit, this is pretty clever." Hermione glared daggers at him, and Harry quickly shut his mouth, pretending to re-read the poster.
"People won't actually waste their money on this, will they?" she asked desperately.
"Let's find out, come on," Ron said, re-directing the both of them to the Great Hall. Harry and Hermione followed hurriedly as Ron stormed to the Slytherin table, where already there was a line queuing up in front of Blaise Zabini, who was jingling two boxes full of badges, and a pouch full of gold.
Ron budged his way to the front of the line, ignoring the indignant and protesting cries. When they saw that Hermione was with him however, they immediately stopped yelling and instead alerted the crowd around them to her presence.
"One badge in support of Hermione Granger," Ron stated confidently, pulling two sickles out of his pocket and slamming it on the table behind Blaise.
Blaise, looking positively relieved that he wasn't being yelled at, took out a red badge with Hermione's initials and handed it over to Ron. Hermione crossed her arms, and only just noticed Draco eating breakfast silently beside Blaise, with a murderous look on his face. She blushed furiously, while he immediately straightened up and turned around the bench to face the trio.
"Morning," he said quickly, mostly aimed at Hermione.
Hermione nodded but looked away quickly.
"I'll take another badge for Hermione as well," said Harry. Her mouth gaped open, outraged.
"Are you kidding me?"she demanded.
Harry merely shrugged and pinned the red badge beneath his Quidditch one. "Don't you want supporters?"
Hermione ogled at him. "Of course not! I don't care and nor does Draco! Do - do you?" she asked hesitantly.
Draco's head snapped in her direction and he quickly shook his head. "No, I don't care for this at all!"
"What are you talking about?" Blaise said smoothly. "He hasn't stopped me selling anything since I came down here."
Draco threw Blaise a vicious glance but immediately looked apologetic as Hermione's jaw dropped in disbelief.
"No – no! Come on Hermione, I did try!"
"How could you let him do this?" she hissed.
"What?" Draco spluttered. "I didn't put him up to this! I've just said didn't I? I've tried putting a stop to this nonsense, I even wrestled him all the way down the stairs until the crowd separated us!"
"Now everyone's butting into what isn't their business at all!" she continued angrily without having heard a word Draco said. "And you!" she said to Blaise authoritatively, stretching out her hand. "Think this is funny, do you? Hand the badges over, I'm confiscating them."
"Sorry Granger, but these badges aren't against any school rules, you know that." He put the pouch of money behind his back. "Besides, you can't make people return them either, I said on the poster no refunds."
Hermione was at a loss for words and instead huffed on the spot.
"Can I offer you a badge yourself, Granger? Advocate the cause, for once the school is rallying about something other than Quidditch!"
"Please," she spat. "I'd rather taunt a Blast-Ended Skrewt."
Blaise smirked. "Shame… Draco's already bought his."
Forcefully, he pulled Draco to fully face Hermione, who was indeed sporting a green badge with his own initials on them. He looked down and tumbled over his words, trying to explain the presence of it pinned securely beneath his Prefect badge.
"I – I – it was a joke! Blaise put it there – I mean, I just forgot—"
Hermione glared at him, her eyes taking in the sight of Draco wearing his own badge, believing that he was right and she was wrong, and the break up was all her fault and not his.
"So you think it's my fault we're not together anymore, do you?" she said in a shaking, infuriated voice.
"Well – no! But, I mean – so sensitive – the Fanged Frisbee – I was just…!"
"Have it your way then," said Hermione. She reached down into the box full of red badges and snatched one. "I hope you're keeping count of your sales, Blaise. We'll see who's right."
Blaise, who up until now had been staring between the two of them as if watching the passing of a Quaffle back and forth, just like the rest of the students in the Great Hall, nodded and held up a paper listing how many badges had been sold.
"Take it free of charge, Granger! I'm rooting for you!" A round of cheers greeted his words and a few Slytherins jeered and gave a thumbs down.
"What?" Draco said, highly offended.
Blaise nudged him in the side and said out of the corner of his mouth, although everyone could hear, "Marketing tactic. Don't worry, Draco, I'm obviously on your side."
Hermione, looking deeply disgusted at the two of them stalked off, and with satisfied looks, Ron and Harry followed, leaving behind them a renewed sense of gossip, and a very confused Draco Malfoy.
Potions the following afternoon became a very exciting and thrilling prospect at the thought of Draco and Hermione being in the same room together, especially since what happened that morning in the Great Hall. Admittedly, everyone, even those who never really cared about Hogwarts gossip, were participating in what was named the Break-Up Battle of the Year. Blaise had had to enlist the help of other students to sell badges in the halls as they were so popular, and staff members were getting annoyed at the line up at the Slytherin table, and he was getting richer by the moment.
As Draco approached the Potions line up with Blaise, who was received with a polite round of applause while carrying the two boxes of badges around his neck as if he were a vender selling goods, he glanced to see if Hermione had arrived yet. She was at the front of the line to get into the room, and looking anywhere but at him. Draco turned furiously on his friend, who still acted taken aback every time Draco lashed out on him about the badges.
"You know, I could very well kill you right now," Draco whispered furiously.
"Come on! Aren't you loving this?"
"No! She might never talk to me again because of this stunt you've pulled!"
"You'd deserve it," said Blaise testily. "It's shameful how you splutter and titter when she's around, if you could've seen yourself as she was yelling at you this morning! It's a wonder you managed to have a yelling match with her the night you broke up."
"Shut up," Draco said angrily. "She was caught off guard and I knew she'd be upset. You could have warned her, or me for that matter."
"What are you talking about? You said so yourself you wrestled me down the stairs all the way until we reached the Great Hall and I put up the poster."
"I didn't think you would actually go through with it!"
"How little you know me," Blaise said, as if scolding a five year old. Draco would have liked very much to hit him around the face but Snape opened the dungeon door at that very moment, letting them all file in.
They walked together in silence and took their seats at the front of the room like usual. Blaise made a show of setting down the boxes of badges and his pouch of jingling money, at which Snape did not take kindly to.
"Zabini, this will be a very long Potions class unless you put those things away."
"They're just badges, sir," said Blaise innocently.
"Badges?" Snape said, with mild interest in his voice. "About what?"
The classroom immediately quieted down, and Draco saw Hermione sulking in the corner with Harry and Ron, eyeing the boxes with disgust. She was still sporting her own red badge along with her Prefect one, but she didn't seem pleased whatsoever.
"About the Break-Up Battle of the Year!" Blaise said proudly. "Can I interest you in purchasing one? I've only got regular badges right now, but I'm thinking of creating ones that flash if you press them down, when I've got the time tonight."
Snape tipped the lid of one of the boxes aside with his wand and gingerly picked up a green one. Silently, his eyes flicked from a stony Draco and a seething Hermione, and understanding flooded his mind. He sneered and the class waited for his response with mingled anxiety and excitement.
"That will be ten points from Slytherin for thinking of the most useless business venture ever introduced at Hogwarts." Blaise's face sagged significantly at his words. Snape's sneer however, seemed alight with pleasure. "And, did you say two sickles for this badge I'm holding?"
Grinning once again, Blaise accepted his two sickles, Draco smacked his forehead, and Hermione groaned in frustration. This was going to be a very long Potions class indeed.
Hermione stabbed angrily at her dinner some days later since the badges began to sell. It seemed almost everyone at Hogwarts had purchased one, to Hermione's dismay. Though she had worn hers every day, it was not to encourage its purchase, but to show Draco how much the break up was not her fault. If he'd only had the tact to be more sensitive, to even do what he was meant as Prefect and helped her confiscate the bloody Fanged Frisbee…
"Hermione, great news!" said Ron, sliding into the bench beside her. "It's been three days now and you're in the lead! It's three hundred something badges for you and two hundred something for Malfoy!"
"Is that so?" she said uninterestedly.
"Come on, that's got to be great news, isn't it?"
"Actually," said Ginny, sliding in to sit opposite Hermione, "it's a very small lead. If you think about it, you and Draco are tied up."
"That makes me feel so good," she said sarcastically.
"And look at the new badges Blaise made," said Ginny, pulling out another radiant and attention-grabbing red badge with Hermione's initials. She pinned it next to her old, regular one that she had purchased on the first day the sales began, and then pressed down on it. Hermione's smiling face had appeared, and written across her the top it said Team Granger – Game on!
Her jaw dropped. "Game on? Game on? I would never say that!"
"It's great, isn't it?" Ginny said happily.
"No," Hermione said in a low voice. A loud raucous of giggling had entered the Great Hall, and instinctively, everyone turned to see a gang of Slytherin girls walking in together. Immediately they began to chant "Team Malfoy!" while smirking over at her.
On the other end of the hall, a timid but angry looking group of Hufflepuffs began to boo and chant Hermione's name. Hermione groaned.
"You've got to be kidding me," she said in exasperation.
Ron and Ginny joined in on the booing immediately, as the cries of Team Malfoy increased in loudness.
"Stop!" Hermione hissed angrily, patting Ron on the arm. "Quit it! I mean it! Oh for Merlin's sake!" she said in horror as Draco entered the Great Hall and applause from the Slytherin table erupted.
He looked around, confused at the mix of noise that welcomed him. When he had cottoned onto the fact that a yelling match was taking place, he began to walk in Hermione's direction. The Hall began to 'oooh' and 'aaah' immediately.
"Hermione, I need to talk to you."
"Do you?" she said wearily, as the noise around them continued. She could no longer distinguish boos from applause, or Team Malfoy from Team Granger.
"Yes… outside. Away from here," he said pointedly.
"Yes, alright," she said shortly. Together they left the Great Hall in the wake of new found noises that they could not make out the words of. When it had all died down and they were in an empty room, Draco looked apologetically at her.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly.
"For what? You didn't start this."
"I thought you were still upset at me."
"I am, but not at this," she said softly.
"Then at what?"
While talking, both had walked towards each other slowly, and were now very close to one another. Draco was tempted to put his arms around her like he was so used to whenever they were this close, but he was painfully reminded that they were no longer together, and it wouldn't be right if he did.
Hermione seemed to be thinking the same thing, for her hands were placed awkwardly beside her, as if she were preventing the itch to hold Draco's hand from overcoming her. Instead, she became very silent and instead gestured wordlessly between the two of them.
"Are you upset about us?"
"You know I am."
"But I didn't break up with you, you broke up with me," Draco reminded her.
"What? How can you say that, you didn't even try to stop me from doing it anyway. It was entirely mutual."
"I didn't see the point; I thought you'd made up your mind!"
"How little you know me," said Hermione, involuntarily reminding him of Blaise.
"See!" Draco exclaimed, remembering why they had had problems in their relationship in the first place. "You expect me to know every little thing, as if I'm a psychic or a mind reader. Why can't you just tell me things, instead of wait for me to cotton on? If you didn't want to break up with me then you shouldn't have, and that's that."
"Well you left me little choice, didn't you? What else could I have done?"
"How did I leave you with no choice?" Draco challenged.
"You keep telling me how sensitive I am, how I always over react, but have you ever considered that maybe you've got zero emotional range and poor tact? Maybe you should have changed!"
"After being with you for six months you thought I didn't know how to take your bloody fits in stride?"
Hermione stared at him and he returned the glare unwaveringly.
"Will you take that thing off?" Draco said angrily, pointing at her badge.
"Speak for yourself!" she said indignantly. "And will you stop telling me what to do? You always do that!"
"I do not! And I was going to take mine off after Blaise pinned it on me that morning, but you kept wearing yours voluntarily!"
"Then why haven't you taken yours off since then, it's been days!"
"Because you haven't!"
"And you're fooled if you think I'll take it off and concede to the fact that this is my fault entirely and not yours!"
Draco's jaw dropped as she stalked off and wrenched open the door to leave. It revealed a dozen students including Ginny, Ron and Blaise who had followed them and shared Extendable Ears to listen in on their conversation.
"Um," spluttered the three of them and the surrounding crowd. "We were just – I mean…" Hermione glared down at all of them and a growl escaped from her lips. She turned around, absolutely livid.
"And for your information, Draco, I happen to be winning. I'll see you later."
Blaise watched her stalk off and gave Draco a very weak smile in response to his scandalized face. "Game on?" Blaise said questioningly. And even though Draco shook his head furiously, the crowd around outside had all heralded the words with applause and echoing it happily, they agreed on the fact that especially now, the game was on.
"Get your badges, over here, get your badges!" said Blaise's booming voice.
"Flags, banners and other merchandise over here!" cried another avid participator in the middle of the Great Hall, which was teeming with movement, colour, and noise.
The days had passed and the Break-Up Battle of the Year showed no signs of slowing down. The argument between Draco and Hermione had prevented all hope of it dying down in popularity, for it only increased with every angry glare and nasty word the two of them had exchanged. And although teachers tried to put an end to the Break-Up Battle by deducting points and confiscating badges out of annoyance, all attempts proved futile as every confiscation produced a hundred more new badges, and point deducting induced very little fear.
"Will this ever end?" Hermione begged, as she hung her head low at the Gryffindor table.
"Not likely," Ginny said cheerfully while brandishing the stick of her Team Granger flag.
"And will you put that way for Merlin's sake!" Hermione hissed furiously, as Ginny waved it happily to a group of Ravenclaw girls sporting the latest red badges.
"Not until it's clear you've won," Ginny said firmly. "Until then, the battle rages on!"
Hermione groaned and slumped in her seat. Even in the library and Gryffindor common room, there was no escaping it. Every day, it followed her, taunted her, and never left her alone. It seemed her biggest mistake had both been dating Draco Malfoy, and breaking up with Draco Malfoy.
"This is madness, this is," Harry said bracingly at the sound of boys roaring for the approval of Draco's entrance into the Great Hall, who didn't even glance in Hermione's direction. "It's like a never ending parade."
"More like a circus," Hermione said in an undertone.
"It's entirely your fault, really," Ron said to her.
Hermione looked at him, outraged. "Whose side are you on, anyway?"
"Yours, of course, but when you told Malfoy you were winning, it's like all of his supporters rallied twice as hard to even the count, and that's why it's still so busy, and that it's all tied up. Entirely your fault," he concluded.
"He's got a point," Harry said in annoyance as someone reached over him to high five a Granger supporter.
"Maybe you should talk to Malfoy," Ginny suggested. "You realize that this will all end if you two get back together?"
"Talk to him?" Hermione said acidly. "After the fiasco that you listened in on the other day? Somehow I think I'll pass."
"Well it's up to you," said Ginny. "But you miss him."
"No I don't," Hermione said, a little too quickly for her liking. "I don't miss him, Ginny… nor does he miss me," she added, while furtively glancing over at his back at the Slytherin table. And it was probably this, above all things, above the badges, banners, flags and taunts that saddened her the most.
To avoid a crowd of Malfoy supporters asking him for the details of the break up, Draco had dashed into an empty hallway and leaned on the cold stone wall, shaking his head in disbelief. He was becoming more and more disturbed by everyone wanting to know every detail that went on between him and Hermione. How had it gone this far? He felt that besides Hermione, he was the only one who felt how truly wrong and trespassing the entire thing was.
"This can't go on forever," he said to himself, though he was unconvinced. "It has to end one of these days, right?"
"Oh, I don't know about that, Draco," a voice had simpered in what he thought was an empty hallway.
Draco jumped and clutched at his heart at the sight of Pansy Parkinson strutting towards him. "I said I'd come back later," he said quickly, for Pansy was one of those people he avoided most.
Her vivid green badge with Draco's initials was pinned proudly above her heart, and Draco backed into the wall, a little discomfited by her presence.
"I hear you're catching up in numbers," Pansy said happily.
"Am I? I haven't been checking to be honest," Draco said.
"Well I've been. I really want you to win," Pansy said fervently. "That Hermione Granger is awful, isn't she? She must be horrible to break up with someone like you. I don't know what you ever saw in her."
Draco rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you'd never understand."
"No, I don't think I would, she's so horrible," she said, as if that settled the matter. She had cornered him at the wall now, and Draco was absolutely miffed as to how it had happened. He drew himself to his fullest height to further the distance between them, but it helped very little.
"Pansy, really, I'd rather not do this," he said reasonably. "Don't embarrass yourself."
She glared at him. "There was a time I thought you would have enjoyed this."
He patted her on the back. "Well Pansy, there was also a time I thought you were alright. Excuse my poor judgment."
"Don't tell me you actually still like her, Draco."
"What does it matter? All that does matter is that I don't like you, Pansy. Now get out of it, 'cause this is the last place I want to be."
He placed his hands on her shoulders to gently extricate himself from her firm embrace around his waist, but before he realized it, she had tip-toed and was kissing him, and he was trapped in unrelenting arms.
"No, no," Hermione said quickly as Zacharias Smith followed her. "I'm not talking about Draco, I don't care whose side you pick, but I should really get to class…"
"You know, I might have picked your side right away, but you're so unwilling to say what went on between you and Malfoy, I might have to pick his," Smith stated seriously, and Hermione knew full well that he was. He was one of the few undecided students who could not take a side, and he was hell-bent on receiving both ends of the story before choosing Team Granger or Team Malfoy.
"Zacharias, how many times have I told you I don't care which bloody side you pick? This is all a debacle of the wildest proportions and I would have expected someone with your maturity to be smart enough and stay out of it."
"But you know," Smith continued, apparently not having heard a word Hermione said as they hurried along the hallways to their individual destinations, "I don't think I want to side with Malfoy, he's such a prat."
"A prat, is he?" Hermione said coldly. "I don't think he was a prat when his leniency saved you and your team from detention after a late night Quidditch practice."
"No, I suppose not," he said contemplatively. "But still, I suppose I should be on your side. You are, after all, a wiser mind than he is and would have good reason to end things."
"Alright, thanks," Hermione said through gritted teeth.
"I'll grab a Granger badge at dinner tonight."
"Uh-huh," Hermione said unenthusiastically.
Hermione smiled at him with a mixture of unease and weariness as he walked away from her. She shook her head once he was gone and walked without direction through the hallways. She had lied, after all, for this was her free period. She had learnt in the last week or so that taunts and parades were best avoided when she was a moving target, and so she walked along aimlessly, hoping to avoid anything to do with the Break-Up Battle of the year. As she turned into the next empty hall, her heart immediately sank at what greeted her eyes.
Draco was up against the wall, holding Pansy Parkinson by the shoulder, and she was holding him by the waist – both were locked in a firm embrace. Hermione's gasp of mingled fury and hurt pulled the two of them apart.
"Hermione!" Draco exclaimed in embarrassment. He pushed Pansy away from him, but Hermione had already begun to walk away. He stared at Pansy. "Stay well away from me, Parkinson."
She smirked. "You're a good kisser, Draco."
He glared. "Thanks. You're not."
He left her there looking most insulted, but he didn't care in the least. When he finally caught up with Hermione halfway down another hallway and pulled her around by the elbow, her eyes were already glistening with unshed tears.
"Hermione, listen to me—"
"No! Why should I?" she yelled.
"Because you know I'd never kiss Parkinson! She cornered me, alright? It just happened, I was going to push her away -"
"Clearly you didn't try very hard," Hermione said coldly.
"And even if I was kissing her out of my own free will," Draco said, ignoring her last words, "it shouldn't matter to you, we broke up. You broke up with me, alright?"
"Well you never stopped me, did you?" Hermione said. Already, both could feel their last argument dredging up between them, and exasperation etched into Draco's forehead.
"Hermione, come off it now. Don't play games with me. I want to be with you, but not like this, not when you're acting this way!"
"There you go again, blaming everything on me! Why is it that every time we get into an argument, it's because I'm too sensitive, or because I'm never straight-forward? News flash Draco, I've been honest with you since the moment we started dating. Perhaps you never considered that you just don't know how to handle anything!"
"You can't say I never tried!"
"Of course you didn't, or else we would be together right now, and not facing our gossip-mongering classmates who wear badges everyday showing whose side they're on!"
"You know, you started this whole thing, you've been so intent on wearing your bloody badge, you won't take it off for a second! Do you realize what that means? You're right, I'm wrong, and it's never in between. Why can't we just own up to what we did to ruin us instead of wear these silly little things?" Draco said.
"This badge tells me I was wrong in loving you," Hermione said coldly. "It's there to remind me why I can't ever be with you again. Because we don't work, you and me. You may think otherwise but it's true. And I'll never make the mistake of loving you again."
Draco was silenced. A tear had escaped from Hermione's eyes, which she swiped at furiously. When she had finally left him standing there and the bell had gone to let students out of class, Draco mechanically made his way through the crowd, unsure if he had ever felt this hurt in his entire life.
"I'm an idiot, Ginny." Hermione rubbed at her swollen, red eyes and let her head fall back onto her pillow.
"No you're not," Ginny said kindly. "You caught him in a bad situation, and you lost your temper."
"But do I always lose my temper? And was he really in a bad situation? Or was he actually kissing Parkinson in that hallway?" she said stonily.
"Now, you know she just sought him out and pinned him there. And it's not like Malfoy can complain, he knew full well that by dating you he'd have to put up with your moments – but that's not say you're not girlfriend material!" Ginny added hastily. "Come on, Hermione, don't give yourself anymore reason to be upset right now!"
"Fine. Maybe he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. It doesn't change what he said – what I said. I'm an idiot," Hermione howled.
"Look, you can stay up in your dormitory crying like always, or you can come down to the Great Hall for dinner, it's up to you."
"Stay here, away from the hordes of team-taking idiots or eat dinner while having to hear stupid jeers and cheers? What a mind boggling question."
Ginny shrugged. "Have it your way then, but I'll be in the Great Hall if you need me."
As Hermione watched her go, she allowed herself to continue wallowing in her own self-pity. She deserved it, after all. Draco had said so himself that he wanted to be with her, words she had been hoping to hear for days, but she had simply plowed on, throwing insult after insult, even telling him she would never love him again. How could she have possibly said that when she knew, even now, she had not stopped loving him in the first place?
He could have said something, Hermione thought bitterly. Every time we argue, he always gives up. But that did not mean he deserved what she said. Hermione knew that whether provoked or not, Draco would never say such hurtful things to her. How would he ever forgive her? Unless she confessed she missed him too, wanted to be with him still, and put an end to the silly Break-Up Battle. That would make everything right, Hermione knew it.
As she made her way downstairs to find Draco, Hermione was, as was usual these last few days, followed by teasing insults or bouts of applause. She noticed however, that something else was following her today. Cormac McLaggen, in his wiry and tall build, was tailing her in a very obvious way. He had stood up from an armchair in the Gryffindor common room and hurried after her, but not saying a word. When finally Hermione could take it no longer after going down three flights of stairs under the shade of his shadow, she purposefully led him to a private corner and hurled around to face him.
"Cormac, I know you're following me."
He halted to a stop right in front of her and attempted to look around innocently. "I was just going – going – for dinner?" he had guessed.
"You mean you were going nowhere in particular because you were following me," Hermione said instead. "And if you're here to interrogate me about Draco then you can just turn right around because for the last time, I'm not talking about why we broke up!"
Cormac stared at her. "That's not why I'm—"
"And I've actually got some business to do downstairs so really—"
"Granger, I'm not here to talk to you about Malfoy," said Cormac smoothly, as if he found her excessive talking cute, even playful.
"Then why are you here?" Hermione said suspiciously.
"To see how you were?" Cormac said, a little unsure of himself.
"Erm, I suppose."
"Oh. Well, I'm fine, thank you. If that's all…"
"No, that's not all," Cormac said quickly. "I mean, now that I know you're alright, as in, not missing him or anything…"
Hermione raised a skeptical brow. "What does it matter to you?"
"Listen, Granger, I always thought it was a big mistake to see you hanging around Malfoy. Sure, we were all waiting for you two to finally start going out, but I might have been the only person to be waiting for you two to break up, too. And now finally, you're single again and I – I – come on, Hermione, give me a go."
Hermione tried very hard not to wretch at his words. "You mean, go out with you?"
"Is that a yes?" he said eagerly.
Lost for words, and unable to see how McLaggen took her silence as a "yes," Hermione simply backed away from him, accidentally knocking over a knight in the process. It jumped away, and as Cormac approached (or rather hounded) her so that she was forced to back into a table, she knew to onlookers that this could be misinterpreted as a very compromising position. She had to put one hand in front of her, holding him back, and one hand on the table, to help pull her away from his face, which was approaching hers at an alarmingly fast rate.
"If it helps," she felt Cormac breathe, "I'm on your side." He brought himself closer towards Hermione whose lower back was already being pressed painfully to the table's edge.
"Ew!" Hermione whispered to herself. "I'm not interested McLaggen, get off me, you filthy little—"
But before she could finish her sentence, someone had pulled him off of her, thrown him into the knight that had just jumped away from the scene, and grabbed Hermione by the arm.
"McLaggen?" Draco said in disbelief. "Are you serious?"
"What? No! He was being a prat, he cornered me there—!"
"Hey! I was having a private conversation with Hermione if you didn't notice—"
"Get out of it," Draco snarled in his direction. "Or I'll hex you."
McLaggen, seeing that it had been Draco who pushed him so aggressively out of the way, looked rather alarmed and immediately backed out of the large hallway to give them privacy.
"So is that how it is? Parkinson plants her lips on mine and you run off with McLaggen?" Draco said fiercely, the second they were alone.
"I wasn't running off with anybody, I was on my way to the Great Hall to–!"
"First you tell me you can never love me and now this. Is it your goal in life to completely ruin me, Hermione? Go on, keep wearing that bloody badge of yours, keep trying to convince yourself that you did nothing wrong."
He turned around to leave her there but Hermione wouldn't let him do so without contributing her own two knuts. "You're a big fat git, Malfoy!" she yelled.
Draco turned around roughly to face her again. "What is it? What have I done now? Have you come up with your excuses, found a way in which to blame everything on me now?"
"No," Hermione said angrily. "I came downstairs to find you and tell you everything you probably wanted to hear. I was going to rip off this God forsaken badge and take the blame for all of this if that's what it took. But I guess you're too busy jumping to conclusions to spare any time for it, aren't you."
Draco, who had been on the verge of retorting the entire time she had been talking, suddenly was at a loss for words. His mouth gaped like a fish out of water, but Hermione would not hear it.
"You want me to keep on wearing this badge? Fine, I will. But now you know I have every reason to leave it on, because you can't blame this one on me. This time you can't blame me for over reacting, or being too sensitive – this time, it's your fault, Malfoy, and not mine."
She turned, waiting to hear Draco call her back, to feel his hand over her elbow, because he couldn't simply let her walk away… but no such thing happened. Stiffening her upper lip, Hermione stalked out of the hall, knowing full well her heart would fail her and let her consume herself in sadness when in the dormitories once more.
Draco spent the next few days extremely subdued, as if he were a zombie amongst a sea of living students. Everyone had noticed, and was aware that something had taken place between the feuding exes, but no one dared ask either of them directly why. The only good thing about his absence of self was that people took pity on him, and the badge wearing, flag brandishing and cat-calling had died down. Indeed, many people still chorused Team Granger or Team Malfoy in the Great Hall or corridors, but at the sight of an absent-minded Malfoy and a murderous looking Hermione, it was now easy to prevent.
"What happened?" Blaise asked for the millionth time.
"Shut up," was all Draco said, while playing with his bacon.
"Come on, I'm your best mate. I'll give you a twenty percent off Team Malfoy t-shirt if you tell me," he said encouragingly. A hint of extreme dislike flashed on Draco's face momentarily. "No? Okay fine, fifty percent, that's all I'm offering."
He held out the t-shirt in front of his best friend and Draco stared at it blankly. He took it slowly from Blaise's hand and proceeded to soak it the jug of pumpkin juice at his side. Blaise let out a cry of protest and hurriedly pulled it back out, sopping wet.
"You owe me five galleons!" he flared.
"And you owe me the next two weeks back that I could have spent in peace, or even with Hermione if we'd just been given the damn privacy to talk things over and not this bloody mess of a circus."
For once, Blaise looked apologetic at the sound of his friend's resigned voice. He set the wet t-shirt aside and patted Draco on the shoulder.
"Listen, this is going to die down, and soon you can talk to Granger without the whole school staring at you. This was just a momentary money-making opportunity, and I think I've milked it as far as I can… in fact, get a head start, talk to her now!"
Blaise pointed encouragingly in the direction of Hermione who took a seat facing away from the Slytherin table. Draco merely glanced in her direction as a usual shout of Team Granger greeted her, as well as some boos. He saw Hermione's shoulders droop at the sound of the latter and immediately he wanted to be with her and make sure she was alright.
"No chance," Draco said dejectedly. "She told me herself, we'll never get back together. And when she wanted to talk to me, I made a complete fool out of myself… I never even called her back."
"Well, that's because you're an idiot, but I know she's lying about not being able to love you anymore," Blaise said firmly. "She's trying to convince herself that, but it's not true. She loves you."
"Well it's not like I can make her get back with me, not after what she said."
"'Course you can," Blaise said reasonably. "Just do something drastic. She's bound to get back with you afterwards."
"Something drastic? Like what?"
"I dunno, declare your love to the whole school or something."
"Please, that's for a cheesy romance novel."
"But not beneath you. I dunno," Blaise said again, fingering his badge. "Take her side."
Draco stared blankly at his friend. "What?"
"Take her side. You know, everyone's been doing it for the last two weeks, I think you can as well. Whether it was your fault, her fault, or both your faults, at least it'll decide a clear winner for the Break-Up Battle of the Year."
A million ideas flooded Draco's mind at once, from the most subtle ways to end this, to the most extreme. The last two weeks had been completely filled with uncontrollable chants, on-going taunts and never ending sales for Team Granger and Team Malfoy. It was the most unendurable two weeks of his entire life thanks to his classmates, and somehow he knew that this could not end in subtlety. He would have to resolve this in the most embarrassing, crowd pleasing way possible. Taking in a deep breath, Draco convinced himself that at least he would be staying true to form, and that his classmate's participation might help him get his girlfriend back.
"Do me a favour," Draco said quietly, as a single idea latched itself into his mind, "start a chant."
"A chant? What for?"
"You owe me," Draco reminded him. "I dunno, say something about Team Malfoy."
Blaise's face dropped significantly. "Draco, are you about to embarrass yourself?"
With difficulty, he swallowed his pride. "Don't ask. Just start a chant, okay?"
Blaise nodded. "If you say so." He stood up from the bench and cupped his mouth. "Oi! All supporters of Team Malfoy! Three cheers! Hip-hip, hoorah!" he had yelled this at the top of his lungs, to the annoyance of the staff members, but those on Draco's side immediately hollered the cheer, while the sound of disapproval from Hermione supporters followed in its wake.
Draco took this momentary distraction to his advantage. Thinking quickly, he stood from his seat at the Slytherin table and sped to the front of the Great Hall, where everyone's eyes had turned to him.
"Oi! Oi, everybody!" he said recklessly. "Over here!"
He found Hermione's face in the crowd, who looked both puzzled and embarrassed. A low buzz had followed in the wake of the Team Malfoy chant, and everyone was aware that Draco was certainly about to do something drastic. He paused momentarily to look Hermione full in the face before continuing.
"I've got something to say," he said, once all eyes were on him. "The thing is, that this has got to stop. This whole debacle has eclipsed being silly and now it's plain outrageous. Wouldn't you all agree it's getting old? I mean, aren't you tired of his? Two weeks of Team This or Team That. I want to throttle you all for having no lives and caring this much about two people breaking up!" A round of booing greeted him but he ignored them.
"Because you know what? There should never have been a question of whose side you're on, anyway. For all the Team Malfoy supporters out there, I'm sorry to say you're on the wrong side. And if you're on Team Granger, I suppose you are too, but for the sake of getting my girlfriend back I'll say you're on the right side." No one had anything to say to this, so Draco plunged on, losing all nerve as he did so.
"Me? I'll always be on her side, if she'll have me back. We fight a lot about silly things, we don't understand each other sometimes and it gets hard every once in a while – but in the end, I'll always come around. To her side, or whatever side. I'm just hoping that we can learn to meet in the middle one of these days."
With those words, he ripped off his badge and took out the one he'd purchased for Team Granger, pinning it there proudly.
"Me? I'm Team Granger. Whose side are you on?"
There was an embarrassing silence in the wake of his speech, in which eyes darted between him and Hermione. She was blushing furiously and no one dared speak until she made her move. Gingerly, she finally rose from her seat at the Gryffindor table and, with a timid but firm voice she said, "I'm on his side."
And slowly she took a badge from inside her pocket coloured entirely in vibrant green and pinned it there.
Raucous applause worthy to that of a Quidditch match had met her words, while some people raised their eyebrows, too uncomfortable to react. But to Draco, it hardly mattered, and immediately he rushed to her side at the Gryffindor table. He held her at arms length.
"Shall we take a walk?"
Smiling widely, Hermione nodded. As they left the Great Hall together, they were sure they noticed the shedding of badges, the exchanging of gold as bets were won and lost, but most of all the sound of an uproarious applause, containing no shouts of "Team Granger" or "Team Malfoy" at all.
"I'm going to disown you as a friend if I ever have to hear another cheesy speech like that ever again," Blaise said to Draco as they made their obligatory stop at the Gryffindor table some days later.
"Wasn't it your suggestion that I do something cheesy and drastic?" Draco said amusedly.
"Yes, well," Blaise said distractedly.
When they reached Hermione and her peers along the Gryffindor bench, Draco sidled comfortably beside her and wrapped an arm around her waist. He kissed her softly on the forehead.
"Blaise here was just saying how he doesn't want me to say another speech like the one I did before."
"Well I wouldn't mind so much as long as it wasn't because of a Break-Up Battle of sorts," Hermione said pointedly.
"It was a money-maker!" Blaise said defensively.
"Look, it's Cho Chang and Michael Corner, it looks like they've had a row!" Ginny whispered quickly to the table in general.
"I heard they broke it off," Ron added through mouthfuls of porridge.
"No way," Blaise said amazingly. "Maybe—"
"No," Hermione and Draco said together. "No badges, no flags, no bloody t-shirts or anything of that sort, alright?" Hermione said strictly. "Leave the poor lovebirds alone."
"What?" Blaise whined. "It could be a real—"
"Money-maker, we know," said the table together in loud, aggravated tones.
"Draco, I'll let you share in the profits if you help me make the badges, you're so much faster than I am at charming them anyway."
Hermione looked at him crossly. "Don't you dare."
"Not even for the money?" Draco suggested.
"Hey, he's my best mate, he can do it if he wants!"
"But he also knows what it feels like to have zero privacy, don't you?" she asked pointedly.
"But think of the galleons!" Draco said, knowing full well that he was egging her on.
"Uh-oh," said Harry in an under tone and, knowing that another fight might happen next, imitated the group around him and averted his eyes from Hermione's irate glance.
"Whose bloody side are you on, Draco?"
"Oh yeah," Blaise interrupted. "If you're wondering who won the Break-Up Battle, I've got the list right here…" his face contorted for a moment as his hand rummaged furiously in his cloak pocket. "I don't remember the final tally for all merchandise sold but – ah, here."
He pulled it out and began to unfold it. "If you really want to know—"
"No!" bellowed half the table.
Draco and Hermione looked round at all of them in surprise. "What? Why not?" Hermione frowned.
"I wouldn't mind knowing who won," Draco shrugged.
"Nu-uh," Ginny said firmly and taking the parchment with the final tally. She laid it on the table and quickly set it alight with the wave of her wand. Draco and Hermione stared at her with scandalized faces. "It's the right thing to do, trust me."
"Fine. It doesn't matter, anyway. I'm on his side. I always will be." Hermione turned around to smile at him. "What about you?" she asked Draco playfully.
"Yours, of course. I'm always on your side."
And as if to remind her, he pressed the badge pinned over his robes, displaying Hermione's initials and smiling face, which he always wore above his heart.
A/N: Wow, that took me longer than I thought! Are you dying to find out who won the Break-Up Battle? I have an idea in my mind who won, but I'd rather you all just believe, like I do, that it was both of their faults for breaking up! Hahaha. Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed it and that you find it worth reviewing! I'd certainly appreciate it!
Your feedback is forever important to me!