Actions

Work Header

Binding Darkness

Chapter Text

Author's Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

Any dialogue you recognize comes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Most is changed at least a bit though to fit right. This story will follow most of the events of the books fairly closely with some notable deviations.

I'm not J.K. Rowling, so I don't own anything.

~

Ch 6: Return

Hermione woke with a start, though blackness creeped in at the edges of her vision. It felt as though she'd been forced to wade through quicksand to wake, and still it clung to her, trying to drown her. Sweat coated her body in a light sheen, and her legs were hopelessly tangled in the covers. She must have been twisting and turning for hours. Fuzzy moonlight filtered in through the window, casting the room in ghostly light and ominous shadows.

Rapid, shallow breaths failed to fill her lungs and she couldn't slow them down. Her whole body hurt. Every inch of her. Muscles that weren't used to extreme physical exertion felt as through they'd been put through an iron man without any advanced preparation. How long had her muscles been straining and cramping?

Hazy air clouded her head, leaving it stuffed full of thick cotton. What time was it? Why -

"Mhh," she whimpered, the throbbing in her core intensifying painfully as a cramp seized her middle. She doubled over, clutching her stomach tightly.

She needed Snape. Now.

Without really thinking about it, she staggered out of bed and began the trek down to the dungeons. It was slow and agonizing. Twice, Hermione found herself needing to lean against the railing and force herself to breathe through her clenched teeth.

She was crossing the Entrance Hall, the first grey lightening of approaching dawn visible through the high windows, before it even registered that she'd not put on a robe or grabbed her wand.

Foolish. Reckless. The bloody spell really had made her lose her ever-loving mind.

All she could think about was the pain and the ever increasing slickness damping her panties. Fire lashed her, whipping her with blow after blow. Another cramp doubled her over, and she kneeled on a step until it waned enough to allow her to continue. Two more hallways.

Oh, Merlin. It was excruciating.

She'd felt the initial stirrings just before she'd gone to bed, but it had been nearly ten at that point the night before, and she'd seen him only a few hours beforehand. If she were truthful, she'd been feeling the effects all evening and just not realized. She'd hoped it was just the memory of how she'd somehow, she still wasn't quite sure how, talked him into letting her use her mouth to bring him off that was arousing her, and not the spell.

Obviously not.

True to his word, Snape had contacted her shortly after lunch five days after they'd last been together. He'd sent an owl requesting that she come to his rooms if she were available. Right. As if she'd not make time to help him after he'd honored his promise. Besides, it wasn't as though she had anything else to do beyond consider all the things she could have done differently recently.

He'd been sitting on the sofa when she'd entered, his eyes tightly closed, and his head tipped back. Hermione had slowly approached him, wondering how to ask if they could try oral gratification to see how it worked with the spell, possibly discovering that it satisfied the requirements.

Maybe asking was the wrong way to go about it. Asking would mean giving him the opportunity to say no.

That thought had her moving to kneel between his spread thighs. Her nearness captured his attention, drawing his brows together in silent question as he looked upon her. She could tell from the heat in his gaze that the spell had completely taken hold of him. Slowly, she reached out and unfastened his trousers, scooting closer.

"What are you…" he trailed off, his Adam's apple bobbing.

He watched her carefully, a calculating gleam barely detectable when her hands caught him, stroking the smooth velvet of him softly as she leaned up over his lap. It was thick and dark with veins protruding like little ridges along the surface.

Then he was groaning, all traces of resistance and thought vanishing.

"Please tell me if I do it wrong," she requested, flicking her tongue out to experimentally swipe it over the head of his cock.

He tasted salty and musky, an interesting combination. Intrigued, she tried it again, gently running her fingers over the rest of him as she did. This was something she'd been thinking about trying for a few days, fantasizing more like, and was thrilled to actually be able to.

"Grip the base harder," he rasped, instructing her on what he wanted. She did as told immediately, and was rewarded by his guttural groan. "Yes, perfect."

Then she'd taken him into her mouth and sucked, swirling her tongue all around the head. Bobbing, she'd tried to swallow more of him, but couldn't fit more than half of him inside her mouth.

"Do that again, and stroke me - harder," he begged, tipping his hips up towards her mouth. The needy plea in his voice rocked her. Never had he sounded quite like that before. And she was the one responsible. The encouraging reaction prompted her to keep going.

He spoke more as she continued, and she relished his words of praise and the way his fingers had threaded through her hair, cupping her head lightly. His face had been entirely open, letting her read precisely how much he was enjoying her attention.

When he'd erupted in her mouth, she'd swallowed every bit of the thick, salty liquid while he panted above her, clarity and reason returning to his face. He was once again Snape.

Hermione stood, saying, "We should see how this impacts the spell," before he could say a word. She'd realized he was always the most testy with her immediately after they were intimate, and she wanted to head off whatever retort he planned to make.

"Experiment with it, you mean?" he asked wearily.

"Sort out the limits and constraints of it."

"If we must," he said irritably.

"Better now than after classes resume," she explained, justifying her reasoning, though they only had another three days until that happened.

Snape reached down and fastened his pants. "Very well then, Granger."

"I'll just be going - better we not accidentally touch and reactivate it again."

"Yes," he murmured, but she was already on her way out, heart still pounding at her own daring.

Using her mouth had worked, but it had only provided a short term, temporary reprieve. Apparently, no more than a few hours before the spell was active again. Probably because she'd touched him intimately without having sex.

And now, on top of that, she was suffering the effects of letting it go unfulfilled for too long.

So this is what it felt like if someone tried to ignore the urgings for more than half a day.

Hermione forced herself up on trembling legs, and shuffled forward, one foot after another. The door was just there. She forced herself to hurry forward, tugging off her shorts and panties the second she entered his suite.

Proximity made it easier to move, and she was beside his bed between one heart beat and the next. Snape was shifting restlessly, deep grooves marring his face as he slept. He appeared just as uneasy as she'd been.

Desperate need drove her to climb atop him. She roughly shoved the covers out of the way and pushed his sleep pants down, sighing in relief that he was already erect, though she wouldn't have minded putting her mouth on him any other time - when her body hurt less - and moved to straddle him, sinking down on his shaft with a shuddering sigh.

Instantly, the pain diminished and welcome relief pumped through her body with every beat of her heart. The easing of her muscles was quickly followed with a heavy dose of arousal. It drove her to her lift her hips, and ride the length she'd impaled herself on.

She'd barely managed a breath before she was rolled onto her back, Snape's obsidian eyes locked on hers. He was as consumed by lust as she. Probably didn't even know if this was real or a dream seeing as he'd woken so suddenly. Rational thought and true speech impossible.

Snape captured her hands. Their fingers tangled together, interlocking pieces of a whole, and he pressed them flat against the bed by her head. He kept her hands pinned as he thrust quickly into her, slamming their hips together and driving her into the mattress.

"Yes!" she cried, her eyes rolling up at the electric feel of him rapidly sliding in and out of her swollen channel.

After a couple more thrusts, he slowed, tormenting her by lazily pulling all the way out only to bury himself inside her completely, time and again. She squeezed his hands, using him to anchor herself lest she fly apart too soon.

"I need...please...Snape! Oh!" she rambled, near incoherent.

He didn't let up, his breath fanning her neck, and he nipped the tender skin lightly when her head lolled to the side. She was a mess, practically sobbing as she begged and pleaded for more. It was exquisite. Each movement sending her higher and driving her wild.

Hermione strained against his restraining hands, seeking to grip him tighter, pull him close, use her body to beg him to push deeper inside her, but his grip was unrelenting. It was strangely exciting, seeming to heighten every reaction within her body, making her keen and writhe beneath him. Moreover, from the way he squeezed her hands briefly and chuckled against her neck, he knew the effect it was producing.

Her heels dug into his firm bum and she tried to rock her hips up, meeting him thrust for thrust, but her body shattered, every joint coming undone, an earthquake rumbling through her. Then he was coming too, squeezing her hands just as tightly.

The satin of her sleep tank was soaked with sweat, and clung to his bare chest. Awareness seeped into Snape, and he averted his eyes, peeling himself off her and collapsing back to the spot he'd recently vacated. His breathing was every bit as labored as hers.

"Apparently, the spell prefers full intercourse," she said dryly, seeking to break the rapidly mounting tension.

He seemed unable to look directly at her, but she'd felt like her limbs were a heap of goo, so it didn't bother her as much as it might have under different circumstances. Hermione thought she might prefer him like this, just woken and recently sated. He was noticeably less tense than normal even if he was staring intently at the ceiling, processing what had just happened.

"Are you all right?" he asked quietly several minutes later.

"That was bloody brilliant," she exclaimed, the words spilling out before she could think better of saying them.

His head turned so fast, she heard his neck pop loudly. Hermione's lips curled in an assumed smile at the shock she saw carved into the little lines around his eyes and mouth.

"Indeed," he finally drawled slowly, though he continued to search her, seeking answers. "And before that?"

"The spell started just before I fell asleep last night," she admitted, wondering if he'd felt her distress as she'd felt his previously, but not understood the cause. From the way he'd just touched his navel, she suspected that he had, even if he'd not identified the cause.

He raised an unimpressed eyebrow, and asked, "Weren't you -"

"I know!" she huffed irritably, though it lacked any real heat. She was too relaxed after the climax he'd just given her. That didn't seem to stop him from glaring at her for interrupting him though and sitting up to recline against the headboard. Hermione followed suit. "I didn't realize it was the spell," she admitted in explanation.

"You mistook the stirrings of the spell," he stated dully. Something dark and foreboding lurked beneath his words.

"I thought I was just aroused from what we did yesterday afternoon," she said frankly, determined not to be missish about it. Their circumstances were difficult enough without her behaving as a child and reminding him just how young and inexperienced she was - a fact she knew still bothered him a great deal.

"You are telling me you enjoyed that," he asked skeptically.

The truth was, that it made her feel powerful. In control. Two emotions she'd not felt much in the last two weeks, and now welcomed gladly. To have someone like Snape praising her, and reduced to begging her for more. To know she was the one responsible for unraveling the always cool and collected professor. The combination was a heady mixture. An addictive one.

"Yes," she said bravely, steeling herself for whatever unpredictable reaction it would draw from Snape. His jaw visibly clenched, and his brow furrowed.

She wasn't sure if she should have admitted as much or not, but he'd been very worried over feeling like he was forcing her before. Hopefully, her words would alleviate some of those concerns.

"The spell. The effects were severe enough to wake you?" he asked, declining to acknowledge or discuss what she'd confessed, but she could tell he was slightly troubled by it.

"It hurt," she said simply, nodding.

"How badly?"

"I nearly collapsed on the way down here," she said, flinching at the memory.

Snape glanced at the wall, and following his gaze, Hermione noticed a clock she'd not seen before.

The realization that she was getting a rare glimpse into the man behind the billowing cloaks and snark hit her all at once. She was in his personal rooms. His sanctuary away from nosy children.

Hermione looked around, checking for photos or keepsakes - anything special or meaningful enough to be displayed. Anything she'd been in the right mind to notice last time. There was nothing. What did that mean? Was he truly so self-contained and isolated?

It was a sad fate to contemplate. Nobody deserved to be entirely alone. Was that part of why Dumbledore had pushed for a binding between them? Did he -

"What time did it start?" Snape asked, mentally filing this new information away.

"Around ten," she replied, then, recognizing the importance of the information, added, "possibly earlier." The clock showed that it was just after six in the morning now.

"Was it earlier or not?" he demanded.

"It was," she answered quietly, the need to answer questions posed to her ingrained into her very soul.

"How early?"

"Maybe four?" she tried. It was difficult to be precise. She'd been replaying their encounter on repeat since it happened. Right up until the moment she fell asleep.

The look he leveled her with was sufficiently chastising, and guilt came over her. He'd told her to come to him immediately, and she hadn't. She knew from when he did the same, that it wounded her pride. She wasn't sure what he'd make of it, or if he'd consider it a slight, but she doubted it would be anything good.

He again chose not to comment. Probably because she'd already explained earlier. She wished he'd be more open with her, instead of always leaving her to guess at his motives!

"I was feeling the effects when you woke me as well," he murmured.

"Oral is a stop gap, but actual sex is required if we wish to go several days in between," she concluded clinically. At least now they knew. "I can't believe couples perform this spell voluntarily," she grumbled, recalling the pain. Who'd willingly accept that they might have to experience that on a regular basis? It was insane!

"Most don't try to push the limits or avoid intercourse in between compulsions," he reminded her drolly. "I would imagine they only ever feel the positive effects and believe it an exciting extra element, or motivation to work through a tiff."

"Right. Did you see the reference in the book you loaned me?" she asked, suddenly recalling the other book she'd been interested in getting her hands on.

"Yes. I ordered a copy from Flourish and Blotts, but it is back-ordered," he said, pursing his lips in displeasure.

"Oh," she sighed. It'd be nice to be actively trying something - anything really - rather than letting the spell completely control various aspects of her life.

"I should have a better idea of how to create something to counter it, if it can be, once the book comes in," Snape said, sensing her shift in mood at the news.

"You sound as though you have a bit of practice messing with spells," Hermione said, blinking at him. It reminded her of Harry's book and all the little crossed out versions of newly invented spells in the margins.

"I have created a fair number of spells over the years," Snape informed her modestly. She'd never have guessed. Not with the way he talked about Charms.

"You have?" she gasped, conveying her surprise.

"I just said I did," he said crisply, and she winced, knowing how he hated to repeat himself.

"How is it done?"

"For starters, you don't merely regurgitate what you have read in a book. Anyone can do that. Creating a spell means you have to actually apply the theory involved in wand movement, the art of language, and true, innovative intelligence," he said cuttingly, reminding her that he'd always found her lacking as a student, and scoffed when others praised her school work.

The pointed barb didn't so much hurt as provoke her. She wanted to understand why he stubbornly clung to this opinion, then prove him wrong. One day she would.

"What sort of spells?" she inquired eagerly, curious to know something more about him.

"The kind I teach you to block in class," he drawled, a black scowl coming over his face.

The reminder of his position had him glancing at her revealing top and uncovered sex. Hermione imagined it would be easy to deduce what she'd just done if someone saw her. Especially if her hair was as wild as she thought it might be after how he'd pounded her into the bed.

"You must go before you are seen leaving my rooms," he said, getting up from the bed, and gesturing her into the other room ahead of him.

"I expected you to be more of a prude," Hermione announced, the unbidden thought verbalized as she too stood, only to remember she'd shed the remainder of her clothes in the other room.

Hermione gasped and quickly covered her mouth, horrified that she'd let the stray thought slip out.

"Did you?" he asked, humor thickly coloring his tone.

"Yes," she said, brushing past him to collect her clothing. After their shower together, she'd gotten over any lingering bit of self-consciousness she possessed.

"I hardly see the point. Already we have been intimate. The few places we have not yet touched or seen on the other person will undoubtedly be in the coming weeks given our situation. These are my rooms, and I prefer to be comfortable within them," he volunteered, shocking her by offering up the rare insight into his actions.

"How very practical of you," she murmured, biting back a smile and trying not to make a big deal of what his sharing meant to her.

"Does it bother you?" he asked seriously.

Hermione's eyes raked slowly over him. His body was everything his nose, teeth, and attitude weren't. And she was even coming to find she liked his dry, sarcastic retorts. The verbal sparring they seemed to be engaging in on occasion kept her on her toes, and was slightly thrilling, even titillating.

"No."

"Granger," he said solemnly, all humor gone as he waited until he had her complete attention before he continued. "I am aware this is your first foray into a sexual relationship."

When he said nothing more, only watched her carefully, a deer ready to spook, she acknowledged, "Yes."

"It is easy to mistake the emotions involved when people are physically intimate as something they are not," he said, clearly casting about for the right words as he spoke.

She nodded, urging him to go on. To get to the heart of what he was trying to tell her, instead of dancing tentatively around whatever had him so on edge all of a sudden. That ominous foreboding she'd sensed earlier seemed to be surfacing, floating up and breaking the surface after being submerged these last two weeks.

"I can't ever love you," he said hoarsely, the words only barely suppressing a bone-deep grief.

Instantly, Hermione knew that he'd been hurt deeply in the past, and she didn't doubt his sincerity in warning her of this now. She appreciated how upfront he was being with her. It displayed just how real the consideration he'd been showing her was.

"I won't ever ask you to," she promised, trying to allay his concerns, and knowing love wasn't the their interactions.

Hermione thought of all she knew of him, and all she didn't. Of everything his actions hinted at. There was a very real possibility that they would be stuck together for the rest of their lives, with him incapable of giving her more of himself than just his body and possibly, someday, friendship. Would it be enough? Probably not.

So why did his warning make her want to look after him? Protect him. Spare him from the lonely existence he was leading. Why did it make him all the more intriguing to her?

And why hadn't it escaped her notice that she'd not said a word about not ever loving him?

"Then we understand one another?" he asked softly. She could practically see new walls being erected between them even as the current ones were fortified further.

"Perfectly," she said, offering a small smile to suggest there were no hurt feelings on her part.

He released a heavy sigh of relief and gave her a brief nod.

"Oh, and see that Potter gets this when he arrives tomorrow. The Headmaster has left it for him," he grumbled, picking up a scroll from the coffee table and handing it over, then returned to his bedroom, trusting that she'd see herself out.

~

The next day, Hermione frowned at the Fat Lady. She'd just stepped out to head to lunch, and the Fat Lady had stopped her to relay the new password.

"What did you just say the new password is?" Hermione asked shrilly, horrified at what the busty woman was implying she knew.

"Abstinence," she huffed, repeating precisely what Hermion thought she'd heard. The robust woman wrapped so tightly in pink satin that she resembled an under-cooked sausage, looked pale and sickly from her adventures with Violet, but no less disapproving in spite of her hungover state. "You needn't shout at me, particularly in light of what you've been getting up to lately. Don't think I haven't seen you coming and going at all hours this break. It's not been hard for me or Violet to suss out what's happening."

"If you've a problem with me, I suggest you take it up with the Headmaster," Hermione barked, hurrying away before her burning face literally caught fire.

"I think I'll do just that!" the Fat Lady called after her.

The next two hours passed in a blur of food and a quick trip to the library in preparation for the following day. Hermione had discovered that keeping busy and focusing on school helped her forget everything else that had overturned her life.

Then she heard the sound of Harry's disgruntled voice saying, "But we've been away, how're we supposed to - ?"

"Harry! Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed, hurrying down the hall towards her friends and barely sparing a surly-faced Ron a glance.

The sight of him was a punch to the gut. All of her self-directed resentment seemed to view him as a more appropriate target. The urge to smack him, or at least conjure another flock of canaries to attack him abruptly rose up within her. It took all of her willpower to contain the bubbling, boiling anger.

Hermione rushed on speaking before the Fat Lady could explain her personal reasoning for the new password, and hurriedly asked, "Did you have a good Christmas?"

"Yeah, pretty eventful, Rufus Scrim -"

Hermione cut in, talking over Ron as if he'd not been speaking at all. "I've got something for you, Harry. Oh, hang on - password. Abstinence."

She shot the Fat Lady a reproachful and quelling look as she said it, shoving the others inside and slamming the portrait shut before the woman could tattle on her. She bet inspiration for the change had been a result of the prior morning when she'd returned before breakfast wearing only her skimpy night clothes and had wild sex hair. Or maybe because she'd left before dawn.

Ginny's questioning look prompted Hermione to add, "Overindulged over Christmas, apparently. She and Violet drank quite a bit of wine over break. Anyway…"

Hermione searched through her bag for the scroll Snape had given her.

"Great," Harry said, scanning the contents quickly. "I've got loads to tell him - and you. Let's sit down -"

"Won-Won!" Lavender cried, hurrying down the dormitory stairs and rushing over to throw herself on Ron.

Hermione felt her face contorting at the sight, her vision turning briefly red. How was it fair that he got to be happy after he'd made her so miserable? Her future was gone, but he could still have any he desired.

The haze quickly cleared when Harry dragged her to the opposite side of the common room. He was watching her with the worried expression she usually gave him, and she forced a laugh to indicate it was no big deal. It sounded hollow and screechy to her own ears, but she smiled and laughed again to sell it.

Even if it was the biggest lie she'd tried to perpetrate before.

Harry, clearly unconvinced by her efforts, tentatively asked, "So how was your Christmas?"

"Oh, fine. Nothing special. How was it at Won-Won's?" she asked, redirecting the conversation. Hopefully, he'd chalk up the strain in her voice to seeing Ron and Lavender together and referencing their relationship.

The last thing she wanted to do was get into the truth with Harry. He'd completely overreact and automatically assume it was entirely Snape's fault. He'd never believe that the man had actually saved her. He'd wrongly view the spell as a way for Snape to have a willing witch at his beck-and-call - just as Lucius intended.

"I'll tell you in a minute. Look, Hermione, can't you - ?" Harry started, shooting a pointed look at Ron.

"No, I can't. So don't even ask," she snapped, shutting him down cold.

The very idea of trying to be friends with Ron right then seemed a Herculean task. One she was up to tackling. Even thinking about it was painful.

Harry gave her an imploring look, trying a different approach. "I thought maybe, you know, over Christmas -"

"Break only made it perfectly clear why Ron and I aren't currently friends. Do not push me on this, Harry," she insisted fiercely, and Harry nodded rather reluctantly.

Then Harry proceeded to tell her all about what happened before break when she'd left Slughorn's party early - to escape Cormack's wandering hands. As Hermione listened to him talking about Snape offering to help Draco, and Draco doing something on Voldemort's orders, she realized the position her new "relationship" put her in.

Hermione knew things she shouldn't. Thinks she'd have to hide from Harry. Because when it came to Snape and Malfoy, Harry was completely irrational.

The whole time Harry spoke, Hermione debated what to do. How much should she say? How much should she try to redirect the leads he was following? Harry was the most tenacious person she had ever met in her life - herself included. He could put himself at risk if he kept on trying to figure out what they were up to.

Or he'd discover what had happened to her. She couldn't bear considering that. Not right then, at least.

From Dumbledore's comments that night in his office, Hermione assumed he was already very well informed on the matter. And he was meeting with Harry regularly. If he'd chosen not to divulge the details to Harry, then it was probably with good reason. That realization determined her course of action.

"Don't you think - ?" Hermione began indulgently.

But Harry finished in a defeated voice, saying, "- he was pretending to offer help so that he could trick Malfoy into telling him what he's doing?"

"Well, yes," she said, infusing the words with boredom. Hopefully, he'd see how little she believed in his theory, and give it up. "You've already shared your suspicions with Dumbledore, and he didn't seem either surprised or worried. Snape is probably acting on his orders."

"Hermione, you didn't hear them. This was -"

"I feel like we go through this every year, Harry. You suspect Snape, gather evidence and spend all year trying to convince me and Ron that he's guilty, then it turns out Dumbledore knew all along and Snape was secretly trying to help you. This is just more of the same."

They debated a bit more, with Hermione pointing out the gaps and flaws in his arguments or just playing Devil's advocate, until Harry finally sighed and seemed to give up, deflating in his chair by the fireplace. For now, at least. Hermione doubted he'd let it go for long. He wanted too desperately to believe the worst of each Slytherin, and they were doing a pretty good job of making a case for him to do so.

Hermione would have to warn Snape to be more careful in the future. And let him know Harry knew a bit too much.

The jury was still out on Malfoy. Hermione kept seeing fleeting glimpses of his horrified expression as he'd watched the events of the night her whole world changed. Dumbledore seemed convinced that he could be saved still. Was he correct? Or was it naive, wishful thinking?

She wasn't sure.

Sometime after dinner, Ron approached her after a pointed nudge from Harry.

"Lavender said you came back early over break," he said, an inherent question in the statement, but Hermione refused to acknowledge it. Just having him standing so close and mentioning the fact that she'd had to come back early set her on edge.

Hermione subconsciously knew it wasn't Ron's fault. She knew that it was irrational and unfair. She knew she was displacing her guilt, but knowing didn't stop it from happening. And she was already so angry with him over everything with Lavender, that her mum's death just magnified everything she was already feeling.

"Yes," she agreed flatly, not inviting him to continue the conversation.

As so often happened with Ron, he failed to pick up on the cues she was sending his way. Instead, he quite tactlessly asked, "What? Did your parents not want you along with them when they went on holiday?"

"Of course they wanted me!" she cried, jumping to her feet to glare at him.

Her mind was screaming at her to calm down. To know he'd not meant it the way it came out. Ron had always been in the habit of saying the first thing that popped into his head, unkind or not. He never meant any harm by it.

But right along with that voice was another - this one reminding her that she'd lost her parents, and that they'd never have the chance to want her around again.

"Oi! Don't yell at me," Ron said defensively, staring at her as though she'd gone mental all of a sudden or like she'd suddenly become a slimy slug he should avoid.

"Just because you don't want me around doesn't mean others feel the same way," Hermione hissed through gritted teeth, balling her fists and focusing on taking even, measured breaths.

"Is it any wonder I asked when you go all barking mad at a simple question?"

It hurt so much, despite her anger with him, that he didn't immediately deny that he didn't want her around. He was such a bloody prat sometimes!

Even right then, she knew he was only talking to her because Harry had insisted. Because Harry wanted them to make up so that things would return to normal between the three of them. Hermione wasn't entirely sure that they could ever go back. Too much had happened.

"Sometimes you really are a prat, Ronald," she announced, sharing her mental assessment and leveling him with the nastiest look she could manage.

"Don't know why I bothered. You're about as prickly as those pods from Herbology - as liable to squirt foul sap when poked as well," Ron muttered, scowling darkly.

"Oh! Just leave me alone!" Hermione fumed, feeling her face burn with mortification at the insult.

Ron waved a dismissive hand at her and stalked back over to where Harry and Lavender were waiting for him.

Turning on the spot, Hermione stormed upstairs, ready for the day to be over already. It wasn't as though the next day could get any worse. Could it?

~

I don't normally beg for reviews, but I stayed up most of last night to finish this, and the next chapter in each of my other fics since today is my birthday (my gift to anyone reading). If you feel up to taking a moment to let me know what you think, I'd consider it the greatest birthday present ever! Thanks :)