Chapter Nine - Heartless Cripple

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     Short chapter, I'm sorry :( mostly dialogue ; I'm so tired and i'm so done and i'm so irritated

     Madame Pomfrey had told Harry that Ron would be okay. She had called Harry a hero. As did Mrs. Weasley, who still had the dullness of loosing her home coiled around her emotions. Mr. Weasley, as usual, was doing a superb job at attempting to keep himself contained, and protecting his family. Upon arriving to Hogwarts, both Mr. and Mrs Weasley  showered Harry with kisses and hugs, unable to express their thanks. Thanks for what, exactly? Harry thought. All he did was what Slughorn should have done as the adult in the situation.

     As the collapse of the Burrow had spread around school very quickly, Ron's poisoning did the same. Of course, accompanying the news were false accusations of how Ron had been unfortunate enough to be poisoned.

     "Perhaps Potter is actually turning evil. Maybe Granger will be next." Was the most popular, and currently Harry's favourite.

      As Harry needed a break from all of the chaos, and he had always loved the sound of rain against pavement, he chose to seat himself against one of the pillars in the walkway, his eyes closed in pure exhaustion, the thoughts of the Potions book, Slughorn, and even Ron persistent, but Harry did his best to push them away. Ever since the attack on Katie Bell, Harry had kept a close eye on Draco, but he disappeared as quickly as he appeared most of the time, making sure that he was never being followed. Harry wondered where he was now..

     "Harry?" churned a light voice from behind him. He felt a bubbly feeling in his stomach as he could not mistake the voice for Hermione's, but he also felt guilt intertwined with the bubbles due to his lack of effort to see her. Harry turned around completely, meeting the warm eyes of Hermione's, her full lips encased in a radiant smile, her wavy hair which was now well past her shoulders... "Are you okay?"

     "Yeah, I'm fine. I haven't been very focused lately." Which was partially true. Harry's mind has been on anything but his schoolwork lately. Literally, anything.

     "Is that why you've been ignoring me?" Hermione said with a sudden sense of anger, crossing her arms.

Harry's mouth dropped slightly, playing with disbelief. "What?"

     "I'm not an idiot, Harry. You know that by now. Ever since the Burrow, you've been treating me like I have cheese touch or something. I didn't even know something happened to Ron until last week." Hermione grumbled.

     "Have you gone to see Ron?" Harry said in attempts to change the subject.

     "No," Hermione said defensively. "Why? Is he awake? Is he okay?"

     "He's not in some medically induced comatose, Hermione. If you actually wanted to see him, you would have a long time ago."

     "Have you seen him?"

     "Of course. I just came from there. The Weasley's were there when I left, but they should be leaving soon. Did you want to see him?"

     Hermione pursed her lips and ignored Harry's persistent glance while he waited for a response. "I'm not sure if he wants to see me,"

     "To hell with that, he can't even see right now. Come on, we can go together." Harry suggested, gathering his belongings and beginning to stand. Hermione looked uncertain, nervous even, to see someone that was unconscious and had drool dribbling from their chin.

     "Harry," Hermione said. "Will you look at me?"

     "I am looking at you," Harry argued, his gaze trained on Hermione's eyes. "I've been looking at you this entire time."

     "Stop looking right through me. Look at me, and see me. I'd rather you look at me for real with hatred in your eyes than for you to not see me," Hermione said quietly.

"I could never hate you," Harry said softly. "You know that." Hermione sucked in a breath as the tension in an empty hallway increased. "I just want for us all to be friends again. It's hard to look at you and Ron the same when you won't even look at each other."

Friends. The word made the baby hairs on the back of Hermione's neck stand straight up. After all of this time, and that's all she was considered. A friend. "Fine, I'll go see him. If he tries to stun me I am actually going to strangle you to death."

     "Hermione?" Harry said.

     "Yes?" She answered, awaited a response.

     Do you love me?

     Will you kiss me?

     Hermione's eyes were fixed narrowly as the time progressed between Harry's last words. "Yes?" She repeated.

     "Never mind," Harry breathed, and noted the instant sag of Hermione's shoulders as she tightly closed her lips and nodded, ushering him to walk in front of her.

     "Let's just get this over with, shall we?" Hermione said, looking away so she could very clearly roll her eyes.

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