Chapter Four

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"You all right, Hermione?"

Hermione turned her head that had been resting on her hand to the left. She forced a smile at Harry, who was watching her with a look of great concern.

"Yes, I'm fine Harry, thank you," she said, turning back to the book on her lap.

"I was just wondering," he said, "because it's autumn and you're sitting in front of the fireplace with a blanket over you."

She looked around her, evidently having not noticed her surroundings. Harry was right; she was seated in a chair right in front of the common room's fireplace, her legs curled up under her, with a blanket draped on top of her.

She flushed red. "I'm just feeling a bit cold, that's all. . . ."

Harry seemed skeptical. "Hermione, it's an incredibly warm day today, not to mention that you're almost directly in the sun."

She looked out the window to her left, and again, Harry was right. The only thing now blocking her from the full heat of the sun was Harry, who had stepped between her and the sunlight.

"Hermione, what's wrong?" he asked. "You've seemed not well for the past few days."

"Well, I ― oh, hello, Ron."

Ron had just appeared beside Harry. He also looked confused at the sight of Hermione.

"Blimey, Hermione, what's gotten into you?" asked Ron, glancing at the scene as if she was insane.

"I'm just not feeling well," she said. "That's all. There's nothing else to it."

"Yes, there is," said Harry. "You always complain about how warm it is in the common room. This isn't normal for you. Just tell us what's wrong."

She knew exactly why she was upset, and she knew that she couldn't tell them. She made a promise to herself the night before to leave everything that Malfoy said private. She couldn't find it in her to embarrass him in that way, even if he was still the same Malfoy that they'd known for years.

"It was Malfoy, of course," she said, truthfully, but she wasn't ready to give out the entire truth. "He — he was just being a bit of a bully last night, that's all. . . ."

She knew that this was hardly true. Sure, he was a bit rude to her when the shift started, but she didn't consider him to be a bully for what he said. She felt that maybe he just wasn't sure how to communicate with people, because he clearly didn't know how to communicate with his family. . . .

"Malfoy?" asked Ron. "I'm not surprised at all. . . ."

"Wait, why were you not with Ron?" asked Harry.

"Dumbledore wanted us to stay with who he partnered us with only," she said. "We can't go wandering off without them."

"I still would," said Ron. "At least Padma's not a total git, even if she's still a bit put off from the Yule Ball. . . . If I had been paired with Malfoy I'd've probably resigned from being a Prefect, even if mum and dad were so happy about it. . . . I couldn't stand that guy for that long. . . ."

"Thank you for your insight, Ron," said Hermione, flatly. She turned to Harry. "Anyway, since Malfoy and I were paired up, he naturally was going to be a bit troublesome . . . I knew it coming in. It was fine; I just ignored him. . . ."

"What did he say to you?" asked Harry, who pulled up a chair beside her.

"Oh, just the usual," she said, as casually as she could. "You know, 'mudblood,' 'how's that blood-traitor boyfriend of yours,' just stuff like that."

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