Title: The Bracelet
Disclaimer: JKR owns anything that is obviously hers. I own the rest.
Characters: Blaise Zabini, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Pansy Parkinson, Ron Weasley, Theodore Nott
Genres: Drama, Friendship, Hogwarts Years, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Alternate Universe, Profanity, Sexual Themes, Unrelieved Sexual Tension
Overall Rating: R
Summary: Hermione is a stuck-up know-it-all; Draco is a sadistic prat; Theo has a scary way of knowing everything; Harry is too busy with his girlfriend and his hero status to pay much attention; Ginny really isn't very interested in anyone beyond Harry but unfortunately does pay attention; Pansy wants what's hers; Ron doesn't know how to get what's his; and Blaise definitely has both his hands in the cookie jar. Or maybe that's not how it is at all...
Extra Note: It is set in the 7th year at Hogwarts with some minor changes having been made to the end of their 6th year as well. It's amazing how differently everything can turn out if just a few things change...
Length: This chapter: 2486 words.
Another rotten day in another rotten week. This was becoming pathetic. Hermione slammed her book shut and got up from her chair. The library wasn’t empty, but it was far from crowded. Only the occasional bookworm – usually Ravenclaw – was present. It wasn’t before midterms that people generally remembered that they ought to get some more studying done and flocked to the library. The notion would have amused Hermione if she hadn’t been in such a bad mood.
Grabbing her bag, she decided to leave for the common room early to catch up a bit with her friends. She did that so rarely these days. It wasn’t that she was really all that busy, it was more that she was ashamed that she wasn’t all that busy, and so stayed away a bit more than she perhaps should. It was stupid, really. Her friends probably wouldn’t even notice if she wasn’t as busy as she ought to be, and, instead, she robbed them of her presence, and vice versa, in order to just sit around and be bored. And she was bored. She had probably already studied enough to pass her NEWTs, which of course didn’t mean that she couldn’t study more, but she certainly didn’t need to put in this amount of hours all semester.
A few minutes later, she stepped into the Gryffindor common room. She spotted Harry first and then immediately felt discouraged. He certainly didn’t look like he felt like talking to her right now. In fact, he didn’t look like talking was much of an option, with his face firmly plastered to Ginny’s. Hermione was a little bit uncomfortable with their blatant show of… well, she supposed it was affection… not to mention surprised that they were being so obvious. Last she knew, Ron had been playing the part of overprotective brother to perfection. Of course, maybe Ron wasn’t around at all.
Except, she realized, he was. He seemed to be ignoring the fact that his best friend was snogging the life out of his sister, which was remarkable, to say the least. He was involved in a game of wizard’s chess with Dean Thomas. Wizard’s chess was Ron’s favorite pastime, and one that Hermione loathed, but was he actually engrossed enough that he hadn’t noticed what was going on? Hermione hesitantly went over to him.
“Hey, Hermione,” he greeted. “Didn’t think you’d be back so soon.” He nudged his knight and Hermione almost jumped as it viciously attacked Dean’s rook. Dean himself winced.
“Hello, Hermione,” Dean mumbled, frowning and scratching his head, trying to figure out how to beat Ron.
“Hey,” Hermione replied, ignoring the game. She really had no skill for it and hence she had long since deemed it silly. She took a seat. “So, um, Ron… Did you notice…”
“Yeah, I did,” he said. Hermione noticed a frown formed on his face. “I was told in no uncertain terms to stay out of it, so I am. Sort of.” He glowered at the couple.
She blinked. “Wow, Ron. That’s… That’s so mature of you.”
His lips tightened. “Yeah? Wait till I tell Mum. Or possibly Fred and George. I haven’t decided yet. Maybe I should just let them all at her.”
Hermione sighed. She supposed it had been too much to hope that Ron had gotten over this. “Why don’t you just let them be? They aren’t harming anyone.”
Ron flushed a little and she realized that it was from anger rather than embarrassment. “That’s my baby sister he’s currently defiling. I don’t care if she wants him to or not, I can’t just allow it.”
“Oh, Ron…” It was barely more than a sigh. She guessed she sort of understood his sentiment, but Ginny and Harry had been going steady for months now and they weren’t doing anything terribly inappropriate.
“I give up!” Dean suddenly exclaimed. “There’s no playing with you when you’re in this mood. I forfeit the game while some of my pieces are still whole!” He got up and collected his battered pieces.
Ron looked just petulant enough for Hermione to realize that Dean’s complaint was legitimate. She supposed that having an enchanted wooden army viciously beat up another enchanted wooden army was better than bloodying your best friend’s nose. Still…
“Hey, Harry!” she said, twisting in her chair. “Ginny! Break it up! At this rate, one of you will suffocate soon.” She didn’t miss the appreciative glance that Ron shot her. Well, she wasn’t head girl for nothing.
Ginny blushed and Harry grinned sheepishly as they finally came apart. “Hey, Hermione,” he said. “Didn’t see you there.”
“Of course you didn’t,” she archly replied. “I only entered fifteen minutes ago, and since nothing short of an act of God seemed to be able to pry you apart…”
“Hey, that’s not fair,” Ginny interjected. “We stopped as soon as you told us to.”
“Which is more than they’ll do for me,” Ron grumbled, gaining a frigid stare from his sister.
Hermione noticed that Harry was glancing at Ron with a vaguely uncomfortable expression on his face. Ginny seemed to notice, too, because she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at him. His discomfort seemed to deepen as he ran a hand through his hair and this time directed a sheepish grin at Ginny.
Had this really been going on right under her nose? Apparently Ginny was less than sensitive to Ron’s and Harry’s plight. Not that she was unaware of the strain, she seemed very much aware, but she seemed to be of the firm opinion that Ron should get over it and was demonstrating it in a way that only a sister would. In her efforts to express to Ron just how little she cared about his opinion, she was effectively driving him and Harry apart. That wouldn’t do at all. In the end she’d only mess up her own relationship with Harry with her petty sibling rivalry. Hermione severely doubted she’d listen to her, though. Although Ginny was generally an intelligent and sensible girl, she seemed to have a blind spot when it came to bothering the youngest of her brothers.
“Maybe you should tone it down a bit,” Hermione suggested.
Ginny’s eyes narrowed. “Who are you to ask us to—“
“I’m not asking,” Hermione interrupted. “I’m telling.” And I’m the Head Girl and this kind of behavior is against the school rules. She didn’t have to add this. Ginny knew the rules as well as anyone.
Ginny’s eyes narrowed some more and then abruptly she grabbed Harry’s hand. “Come on, then. Let’s go somewhere where people aren’t against kisses just because they aren’t getting any themselves.”
Hermione flushed. That had been a low blow. She was feeling hurt and angry. Yet, out of her respect for the Weasley family and her desire to keep her friendship with Harry, she held her tongue. Ron had no such scruples. “Wait a minute—” he began, but Harry beat him to it.
“I think I’d like to stay,” he quietly said, disentangling his hand from Ginny’s.
Ginny coolly assessed her boyfriend, but soon arrived at the conclusion that he wasn’t siding with her this time. She turned and walked to the entrance with a dismissive wave of her hand and a “You know where to find me.” Harry gazed after her with a wistful and slightly lost expression on his face.
“You can go after her if you want,” Hermione softly said. “We won’t hold it against you.” She shot a glance at Ron that said, “YOU won’t hold it against him!” but Ron deliberately ignored her and just stared down at the chessboard.
“No, it’s ok,” Harry said with a sigh as he lowered himself into the chair that Dean had vacated earlier. “She’s usually great, but sometimes, when it comes to Ron, she can be a little single-minded. I know I shouldn’t let her do this, but…” He shrugged. Hermione understood. It was probably hard for him to be in the middle of a dispute between the two Weasley siblings that he cared about the most, and Ginny could be formidable when she chose.
“It’s not your fault, mate,” Ron said, surprising both Hermione and Harry. “What?” Ron continued. “Don’t look at me like that. It isn’t his fault, even though I’d prefer it if you’d snog her less.”
Harry’s lip quirked into a lopsided grin and his green eyes had a wicked gleam. “I can make an effort to snog her less… in front of you.”
Ron scowled at Harry but mumbled “That’ll do.” And then the two of them agreed to play a game of wizard’s chess.
Hermione shook her head, not quite understanding her boys.
By the next day, Hermione was back to her little scheme. She had enjoyed spending the extra time with Ron and Harry, but at the same time, she had had a nagging feeling that she was skulking from what she ought to be doing. It was perhaps silly, but she actually felt better sitting at the library, reading. She felt more available this way. Everyone knew where she was at, and if there were any problems, they knew to come and get her.
But there were never any problems. It was rare that anybody came.
She stayed until ten o’clock and then she collected her things and left, hugging the books that wouldn’t fit in her bag to her chest. If she hurried, she might still have a couple of hours with her friends. She sped up and turned a corner at a half-run, just to bump into someone coming from the other direction and drop all the books she was holding. She would have ended up on her bum on the floor herself if an arm hadn’t shot out to steady her.
“Easy, Granger, where’s the fire?” Malfoy mumbled in a slightly annoyed voice.
Hermione closed her eyes for the briefest of seconds, just willing him to go away. What was he doing here at this hour, anyway? She crouched down to pick up her books. “Did you need something?” she asked.
“Need?” he asked, looking a little confused.
She looked up at him. “You’re alone on fifth floor after curfew. It isn’t too far-fetched to think that maybe Nott sent you to find me at the library.”
He grunted. “He didn’t.”
“Oh, ok,” she said, frowning a bit as she tried to stack her books in a way so she wouldn’t drop them again as soon as she straightened. The fact that her bag was weighing heavily on her one side wasn’t making the task easier.
She noticed that Malfoy hadn’t budged and looked up at him again. He had a pained and annoyed expression on his face. “I’m being punished,” he groaned.
Hermione blinked, fending off amusement at his statement. “How?” she asked. “And what for?”
He scowled. “Theo told me to do rounds for three hours each night by myself for a week, independent of the schedule, for leaving you alone.”
Hermione was hard pressed to keep a burble of laughter back. “What?” she choked, her eyes tearing up at the effort she was exercising in keeping it back. Watching Malfoy getting his just desserts was just too enjoyable by half.
He grimaced. “I thought you might enjoy knowing that.”
“Then why did you tell me?” she quipped.
He pursed his lips. “Perhaps the fact that you don’t seem very threatening while squatting on the floor?”
“Oh!” Hermione straightened so quickly that she dropped one of her books again. A pretty hefty volume on wizarding history. She really should have gone twice.
She shifted her books a bit, so that she might be able to pick it up without dropping anything else, but before she could bend down again, Malfoy rolled his eyes and bent to scoop up the book. He didn’t give it to her straight away, though. Instead he took a look at the title and frowned.
“It’s a book,” Hermione supplied helpfully after a minute. “It has little black things in it called letters that form words, which in turn form—oof!” He had thrust the book at her so hard that she momentarily lost her breath. Fortunately, she managed not to drop anything this time.
“Stop patronizing me, Granger,” he growled.
“Well, you did look rather perplexed,” she defended herself, wishing she had a third hand, so she could rub the sore spot where the book had hit.
“I was just surprised that this book would be part of the History of Magic NEWT syllabus, was all.”
“I don’t think it is. I don’t take History of Magic.” Too late Hermione realized that she’d just laid herself wide open to at least a hundred insults about her not having a life. She steeled herself.
His facial expression didn’t change. “I should have known. If I were you I’d get third edition instead. This one, same as first edition, is filled with minor factual errors that the first editor didn’t catch.”
Hermione stared. Since when did Draco Malfoy know enough to teach her anything about books? He shifted and she realized that he was walking away.
She shook her head. “Uh, thanks, but I think that if they have it here at Hogwarts…“
He stiffened. “You may think you know a great deal about everything from your books, Granger,” he coldly interrupted. “But when it comes to the wizarding history, my family lived it. It’s in every nook and cranny of the manor. We have an entire library just filled with journals written by my ancestors. You may have read some things over the past six years and think that makes you qualify as knowledgeable, but I knew everything you will find in that book before I could even walk!”
Hermione found that very hard to believe. “If you say so, Malfoy.”
That fired his temper. “Don’t patronize me! This is one area where you will never beat me!”
Hermione shot him a cool glance. “Want to bet?”
A very unpleasant smile spread across his features. “I’ll be your slave for a month if you can best me in this.”
That took her aback. “What?”
He studied his fingernails. “Of course, it goes both ways.”
“You’re insane,” she all but whispered.
“Quite possibly. So, are you taking the bet?”
Hermione shook her head.
He snorted. “Too much of a coward, are you? I thought Gryffindors were supposed to be brave.”
“We are!” she snarled. “Just not stupid! You’d never hold your end of your bargain.”
He looked at her for a few moments, mulling this over. “Meet me at the Head Students’ office at this time in three days,” he said and then walked away.
Was he really assuming that she’d just do what he told her to? “I didn’t say I would!” she yelled after him.
“You will!” was the only reply she got.