Under the Weather
- Story Summary:
- 'Oh, don't start acting as though you understood Quidditch,' snapped Ginny. 'You'll only embarrass yourself.' (HBP, p.496) Hermione's reaction to (and my own way of dealing with) Ginny's sudden vixen-like behaviour in HBP.
Under the Weather
- Author's Note:
- I realized later on (this was written a year ago, dear me!) that Hermione had actually been snogged by force at Christmas, by the guy she took to Slughorn's party. Let's pretend she managed to avoid his mouth.
You say you feel like a natural person/You haven't got nothing to hide/So why do you feel imperfection/Cut like a sword in your side? (KT Tunstall, "Under the weather")
Hermione sat alone at her table in the common room, nose buried in a book even though she was still so hurt at Ginny's words that she hadn't taken a single word in. The noise of a door slamming shut brought her head up and she blinked to see she was all alone. The silence wrapped her up like a blanket and left her feeling queasy, unwanted. Without thinking, she left her books and quills scattered on the table and trotted to the girls' stairway, taking the steps two at a time.
She caught up with Ginny on the third floor and stepped in front of her, blocking her way. Before Ginny could so much as blink, Hermione had whipped out her wand, cast a silencing spell on the stairway, and pocketed her wand again. She hadn't even realized she wanted to speak to Ginny, but now that they were face to face, all the resentment bubbled to the surface, leaving her eager for a fight for the first time in her life.
'I'd rather other people didn't hear us,' she said coldly in answer to Ginny's raised eyebrows.
'And why would that be? I have no intention of talking to you,' Ginny replied just as coldly, stepping around Hermione to get to the stairs.
'What is wrong with you?' Hermione hissed, grabbing her by the arm and roughly turning her around.
'What the hell are you talking about?' Ginny snapped back, trying to shrug her arm free. 'Let go of me!'
Her eyes were hard as steel and her jaw was set, and anyone else would have taken a step back, but not Hermione. Her grip firm on Ginny's arm, she took a step forward.
'I'm talking about the way you act, Ginny! The way you talk to me, and to others!'
'You're off your rocker.'
'No I'm not!' Hermione exclaimed. 'Listen, I know I told you to act like yourself around Harry, but I didn't mean for you to act like a slut!'
It took her several seconds to understand that the sudden blistering pain on her cheek had been caused by Ginny's hand, which was now back at her side, curled into a fist. She stared at Ginny, mouth opened, her fingers gingerly prodding her red-hot cheek, and she knew her eyes were filling with tears, and hated herself for it. After a while she had to blink and a few tears rolled down her cheeks, their shameful coolness divine against her abused flesh.
To Hermione's surprise, Ginny seemed to lose her countenance. She wavered, clearly torn between insulting Hermione and apologizing, before looking away, once more trying to shake her arm free. Hermione held on. Desperately trying to keep her voice from trembling, she went on: 'You snap at everyone. You seem to think it makes you cute and funny to be horrible to people. It doesn't,' she said, shaking her head, chin starting to wobble. 'And you'd never spoken to me like that before! If that's...if that's what you call "seducing Harry", then I'm...I don't think...I wish I'd never told you to stop being shy,' she ended in a broken whisper, finally letting go of Ginny's arm.
Ginny hadn't looked around, but her head was tipped slightly down so that her hair was half shielding her face from Hermione's eyes.
'Everybody else thinks I'm cool,' she finally mumbled.
Hermione blinked. 'And so? Does that make it all right, if people suck up to you? All the Slytherins think Draco's cool and I don't see you defending him, do you?'
'Are you comparing me to Draco?' Ginny turned back to Hermione, frowning.
'Well it's becoming a smaller and smaller stretch, yes.'
'Yes? What? Got another smart come-back, have you? Am I going to embarrass myself again?'
'You're just jealous!' Ginny exclaimed, flinging her arms in the air.
'Jealous! As if! Oh, yes Ginny, I'm horribly jealous not to be the kind of girl who would use Dean in the hopes of making Harry pine for me! That's really something I envy about you!'
'I didn't use Dean!'
'Right! So it was completely not planned to kiss him in the exact corridor Harry always takes to go back to the common room, the day of the Quidditch match! Completely innocent! You just had an irresistible urge to snog him, all of a sudden!'
'What would you know,' Ginny hissed; 'I bet Krum only ever kissed you on the cheek.'
'He did not!' Hermione exclaimed, flustered. 'And what if he did, why would that matter?'
'Because if you had ever looked up from your books you'd know there are other things in life, that's why!'
Ginny turned and glared outside the staircase's window in exasperation, as if looking away could make Hermione disappear.
'Is that your only come-back?' Hermione spat, crossing her arms. Ginny's head turned imperceptibly. 'Oh yes, don't think I don't know that it's your fault if Ron keeps snogging Lavender, either!'
'How would that ever be my fault?' Ginny exclaimed, whipping round to glare at Hermione.
Hermione glared right back. 'I heard Dean talk about it with Seamus,' she hissed. 'He said he'd lagged behind the day after the Quidditch match and that he heard you and Ron fight about how inexperienced he was! And the very next day, Ron is snogging Lavender, out of nowhere! Why did you have to make fun of him anyway? Why do you always have to put him down?'
'Put him down! You're one to talk! You're so flustered by him that the only thing you do is snap at him all day and lavish your attention on Harry instead!'
'I do not!'
'You do too! And if you don't realize it then you're as thick as...as Goyle!'
'I don't trip him when he tries to kiss Fleur!'
'Ha! Like you didn't want to! So that's it, isn't it? I'm mean to Ron because I say out loud what everyone's thinking? Because I dare make fun of him when he acts like a lovesick moron with Phlegm? Because I have the guts to open his eyes to the fact that if he wants to get some kissing action he'd better not wait for you to stop acting like a five-year-old?'
The last words died away in the leaden silence, their echo bitter and cruel. Hermione's eyes had grown wide as saucers and her mouth was half opened in shock.
Ginny abruptly turned around and flopped down on the top stair, bending her head low so that her hair was hiding her face from view once again. She tapped her foot nervously, but still Hermione couldn't talk, couldn't move, could barely breathe.
'You're just mad because I'm no longer that little girl you could boss around,' Ginny finally spat, leaning her arms on her knees.
It was the catch that Hermione had been waiting for. Suddenly the words were rushing out of her mouth, her voice almost shrill. 'When did I ever boss you around? You were my friend! And then suddenly you turn into this Pansy-wannabe and make fun of all your friends because you think it's cool!' Tears had started flowing down her cheeks again and her voice was getting choked up, but she went on, uncaring. 'And the most disgusting thing is, Harry is so obviously smitten with you, so congratulations Ginny, you guessed what nobody knew, Harry is drawn to little red-haired sluts!'
In the space of a second Ginny got up and walked to Hermione, pinning her against the wall with the sole force of her glare. She was still a little shorter than Hermione, but right then she looked ten inches taller, and Hermione felt herself cowering away, fingers fumbling inside her pocket for her wand.
'Stop. Calling me. A slut,' Ginny hissed in clipped tones through clenched teeth.
Hermione hesitated, but her rage was still burning strong under the layer of fear and she hissed back: 'I'll stop calling you a slut when you stop acting like one.'
Ginny snorted. 'You're just jealous--' Hermione opened her mouth but Ginny continued, raising her voice, 'You're just jealous because I'm popular, and I'm pretty, and you're not the only teachers' pet anymore!'
'As if I cared a...' Hermione's mouth closed. 'You think I'm ugly?' she squeaked out.
Ginny looked her up and down, shrugging. 'I don't see any boy dying to carry your bag, do you?'
Hermione knew she shouldn't, but the look on Ginny's eyes as she had given her the once-over stabbed its way through her chest to her heart, and the teenage girl inside of her crumpled to the floor, curling up in the hopes to disappear. Her brain helpfully supplied retorts, about how looks weren't going to get her through school or how she didn't care about boys who would stare at her breasts, but she could not voice them.
Ginny stepped away, her face unreadable, but the anger seemed to have evaporated from her body.
'I think this might be the meanest thing you've ever said to me,' Hermione distantly heard someone whisper, and then she was climbing the stairs, up and up till she reached the safety of her dormitory, door slamming shut, blurry eyes making out shapes of brown wood and crimson cotton as she let herself slide to the floor, taking desperate gulps of air that did nothing to alleviate the weight pressing on her chest.
Hermione woke up with a start, heart racing. Her eyes only met darkness at first, but her body was insisting that there had been a hand on her cheek a mere second before and she pushed herself to a sitting position, reaching through the curtains for her wand. Something sprung out and grabbed her arm and Hermione cried out, her free hand instinctively reaching forward to push the intruder away.
'It's me,' a very familiar voice whispered, fingers relaxing their grip on Hermione's arm. 'And if you don't mind, I'd like you to stop squeezing my breast.'
Hermione's hand fell to her lap as if burnt. She felt her cheeks heating up and blinked, trying to assemble the shadows into a Ginny-like pattern. 'What are you doing here?' she whispered accusingly.
'Just thought I'd come over and share some more insults with you.'
Even without seeing her face, Hermione could well hear the smirk in Ginny's voice. Her lips twitched, unsure whether to smile or to pout. Then she felt cool air on her face, and there was the soft light of Ginny's wand, going back down in a smooth swoop as she placed it on the mattress.
'Hey,' Ginny whispered, a hesitant smile playing on her lips.
'Hey. ...what time is it?'
'Around three in the morning.'
'Wh-Ginny, is there something wrong?'
'You mean apart from the insult-sharing?'
'No, then.' Ginny sighed. 'Look, I came...I came here to apologize. I'm sorry I said all those things to you,' she said, looking down. 'Although,' she suddenly added, glancing up at Hermione with a soft smirk, 'you deserved some of them.'
Hermione felt her lips twitch again but schooled her features down.
'And you had to wake me up at three in the morning to tell me this?'
'Yes. I couldn't sleep! Look, who cares about boys? You were the one to talk to me when Harry still looked right through me and nobody in the school would so much as cross my path because they thought I might curse them or something! You've been my friend for three years. I'm not ready to just throw this away because I might have a chance at snogging Harry!'
This time Hermione didn't try to hide her smile. 'Snogging?'
'Well, yes,' Ginny said, sounding a trifle embarrassed. 'I mean...you know. I don't know. Before he was like...my knight in shining armour, and now...well, he's damn good-looking, you have to admit. As for something more meaningful...I highly doubt it. He only ever talks to me to make jokes or talk about Quidditch or stare at my breasts.'
Hermione laughed. 'Well, he is a sixteen-year-old boy.'
'Exactly. A sixteen-year-old boy who is supposed to defeat Voldemort. What are the chances he'll ever want to bring me along?'
Hermione looked down. 'True,' she said softly, wondering if Harry would even let her and Ron come with him, when the time came, which, she feared, would be very soon.
'But it's okay,' Ginny continued, voice softer. 'I don't mind it that much,' she added, fingers playing with the crumpled covers on Hermione's bed. They splayed out and closed, trapping waves of soft fabric between them.
'Yeah. I mean...we'd have to date for him to split up with me, anyway!" she said with a titter. Silence fell on the bed, cosy and unhurried, with Ginny still looking at her fingers and Hermione looking at Ginny, wondering if she was supposed to say something. She wasn't even sure what had been said, exactly. Or whether they had made peace.
'All that to say, I'm sorry,' Ginny finally said, grimacing. 'I didn't mean...I didn't want to...'
'I know,' Hermione kindly cut in, smiling at Ginny's sheepishness. 'I didn't mean...either. You know.'
Both girls sighed in unison, and Ginny scooted towards the edge of the bed, shaking her head.
'It's late. I should go to sleep. ...although...Look,' she suddenly said turning back to Hermione with one leg dangling off the bed. She seemed to hesitate, biting on her lip, then reached out and brushed her fingers against Hermione's cheek. Her hand fell back to her side and she scooted forward, leaning so close that Hermione could feel her breathing fan out against her cheek. Ginny looked down at Hermione's lap, seemed to brace herself, and looked back up, eyes vibrant. 'I also meant to say that I don't think you're ugly. I...I think you've very pretty. Much prettier than me.'
And, with a flutter of the curtains, she was gone.
Hermione sat frozen on her bed, dumbfounded. The teenage girl inside of her got up and dusted herself off, glowing. Her brain pointed out that Ginny was completely insane, she was prettier than Hermione could ever hope to be, but Hermione shushed it.
She realized with horror that she had let Ginny walk away and found herself running down the stairs before she could think about what to do, naked feet protesting against the cold stone steps. She caught up with Ginny on the same landing they had fought upon that very evening and gripped her arm, forcing her to a halt.
Ginny remained still for a long time and then slowly turned around, looking torn between anger and embarrassment. Hermione desperately groped for something to say, something to do, but remained empty-handed. Ginny peered into her face through the staircase's shadows and sighed, tucking a strand of her hair back behind her ear.
'I think it's getting a bit much for just one day, don't you?'
Hermione nodded, but didn't let go. Ginny grimaced nervously.
'Look I don't...I don't feel different! I'm not...I didn't wake up one morning and decide to act the way you say I'm acting, you know?' she said, desperately trying to slip free of Hermione's grasp. The scene was oddly familiar. 'I'm just me. Maybe...maybe I don't know when to stop, sometimes, but I don't...' She took a deep breath and looked up, seemingly looking for support in the staircase's ceiling. 'Maybe it's because Harry wasn't the only one I wanted to impress.'
Hermione's 'Who else did you want to impress?' died on her lips. That was good for other people, who used their mouth before using their brains. Hermione's brain laid Ginny's words out, linked them together, and presented the blaring results to her heart, which sped up accordingly. Her hands turned moist and she dropped Ginny's arm, not wanting her to feel it.
Ginny's eyes snapped back to her, her gaze the one of a startled deer ready to run away if the intrusion smelled like danger.
'I...' Hermione said, not wanting to leave Ginny time to skip to the wrong conclusions. Or right conclusions. Hermione wasn't yet sure about that. Wasn't even sure she could form words any longer. 'I...You snapped at me,' she deadpanned, looking lost.
Ginny's lips curled up, and she looked down, cheeks pinkening in a way that made Hermione's fingertips tingle. 'I know. Told you, I don't really know how to go about things.'
'You humiliated me in front of Harry and Ron.'
'I know. I didn't mean to.'
'You made fun of me in th-'
Ginny leaned up and kissed her full on the lips, putting a stop to any more protest.
'Krum did only kiss you on the cheek, didn't he?' she asked a few seconds later, raising her eyebrows.
Hermione turned beetroot red and took a step back, not meeting Ginny's eyes. But Ginny quickly stepped forward, fingers gently coming to rest on the nape of Hermione's neck.
'No, no,' she whispered, leaning up once more. 'I'm glad.' Her words were half-muffled against Hermione's lips as she kissed her again.
Hermione knew she was supposed to kiss back, and she tried, but she felt clumsy and out-of-place and Ginny's teasing wasn't alleviating her fears. When they parted again, she didn't dare look at Ginny, sure that she would laugh at her, or call it a day.
The soft caress of Ginny's fingertips on her neck eventually registered and Hermione looked up, biting her lip and ready to apologize for her awful kissing skills. Maybe Ron was in the right. Maybe she should just find someone to practice upon...Although she wasn't sure she was ready to deal with someone calling her "Herm-Herm". It would sound like that sound Umbridge kept making, too, and this was not something one wanted to-
Hermione's thoughts were cut short by Ginny's lips, a soft peck on the lips before Ginny's hand slid away from her neck.
'There,' Ginny whispered, and Hermione couldn't have agreed more. 'A kiss is worth a thousand words, isn't that what they say?' she added, eyes mischievous.
'...actually I think it's a picture is worth a thousand words,' Hermione softly said. 'And I don't know why I thought this needed to be pointed out.'
Ginny giggled. 'Because it's who you are.'
'Is that a good or a bad thing?'
Hermione knew she was beaming and couldn't have cared less.
The moment dwindled away, however, and soon the two girls were wavering on their feet again, breaking in nervous giggles from time to time.
Ginny cleared her throat, making a show of checking her watch. 'Gee, it's late. We really ought to...'
Hermione took a deep breath. 'I...I know it's probably not what I should ask right now, but...I'm sorry, I just...'
'Ask away,' Ginny whispered, fingers reaching out and fluttering against Hermione's hand before retreating.
'Well...You...You still like Harry, don't you? I mean, obviously you would, I mean--'
'Yes, I do like Harry,' Ginny said, shrugging uneasily. 'I liked Dean, too. Is it forbidden to like more than one person?' she softly asked, looking genuinely embarrassed.
'...I guess not. But...' Hermione hesitated, eyes scanning the floor. 'But what...what are we, now?'
It seemed an eternity before Ginny's voice cut through the silence. 'Do we have to be something?'
'...I...no. For now,' Hermione added, looking at Ginny with pleading eyes.
They nodded, looking round for something more to say. It was Ginny who finally had the nerve to bring out the late time of night once more, and suggest they go back to their dormitories. Hermione nodded, wondering why it felt so much harder to part with Ginny now than it would have the day before. She turned to the stairs, hand gripping the banister to refrain from holding Ginny's hand.
'Oh, Ginny?' she asked, twisting round to see Ginny halfway down the spiralled staircase, almost out of sight. Red hair and inquisitive eyes peered from the bend in the stairs as Ginny leaned to the side.
'With...with Harry?' Hermione stammered, feeling her cheeks flush. She knew it was the right thing to do, and she wanted to do it, but her heart was screaming at her and it was hard to focus when her insides were swinging from side to side. 'You should...you really should make the first step, you know? Because...Harry's really slow sometimes.'
She could barely see Ginny's smile in the shadows. 'I will remember that,' she said lightly, and the giggles in her voice were like twinkling lights in the dark.
'Good-night then,' Ginny said softly, before disappearing down the stairs, footsteps light and quick on the stone steps.
'Good-night...' whispered Hermione to the deserted landing. She remained standing there for a long time that night, frozen in place, gazing at the blackened stones and wondering whether one's life could change so much in so short a time without a price to pay.