Author’s Note: This scene is actually an outtake from a different and longer story in which I finally decided it didn’t really belong. I liked it for its own sake, though, so here it is on its own. Thanks to Gretchen, Beta Reader in Chief this time around.
Hermione Granger lay awake at long after midnight, on the night following Horace Slughorn’s Christmas party, assailed by bleak and bitter thoughts. She had been patient and been rewarded with ridicule. She’d had her revenge, and it tasted of ashes. She had not the slightest idea what to do next. Sometimes, she reflected, being universally acknowledged as the brightest witch of your generation was very little comfort indeed.
The cruel irony of it all was almost too much for her to bear, and something between a laugh and a sob escaped her, excruciatingly loud in the nighttime stillness. Mortified, Hermione looked out and opened her bed curtains just a fraction. Sure enough, someone was moving towards her in the darkness. It wasn’t Lavender; that at least she was spared. Lavender Brown, as Hermione knew from years of common living, slept like a log—an exhausted, sated, and endorphin-soaked log these days, one that made disgusting little moaning noises in its dreams. No, it wasn’t Lavender, and that left only one other possibility, and so it was that Hermione Granger found herself reaching out to clutch the hand of a girl she had never thought of as a friend and uttering words that even in her darkest dreams she would have never thought to say.
“Parvati, what should I do?”
If Parvati Patil thought it odd to be so solicited by the vastly superior Hermione Granger, she never let it show. Instead, she took it as an invitation to climb up on Hermione’s bed. A few brisk and wordless wand movements ensured privacy and light. Another wand flick and a pink puffy cushion materialized on which Parvati sat. Hermione watched this performance in silent fascination, wondering if her roommate, whose proclivity for turning any event into a party was legendary, was going to follow it up by producing almond biscuits and mint tea. In the event, Parvati did neither. Instead, she sat quietly, as if all of this was perfectly natural, as if looking poised and elegant while sitting in a dressing gown on someone else’s bed moments after being pulled out of a sound sleep at two in the morning was nothing special. With each passing moment, Hermione grew increasingly conscious that she had flung herself into bed without brushing her hair, that her subsequent sleeplessness had no doubt left yet more and darker circles under her eyes, and that the Greenpeace T-shirt in which she slept—a gift from her parents—had greater sentimental than aesthetic value.
“How do you do it?”
“Look like that.... It’s the middle of the night, for God’s sake!”
Parvati gave the question the serious consideration it deserved.
“Tell me this, Hermione, how do you get top marks in all of your classes?”
“I work at it! I know everyone thinks it just comes naturally, but that’s not true. I study really hard, and I organize my time, and... oh... I see.”
Parvati’s answering smile mingled genuine kindness with smug self-satisfaction. Both vanished quickly enough, though, to be replaced with concern and a certain brisk efficiency.
“That’s not your problem, though, is it?”
The good thing about relationship advice from Parvati, Hermione realized, was that you didn’t have to explain anything. You just assumed she already knew, and invariably you were right. She shook her head ruefully.
“No. If he’d taken up with you, at least I’d understand, but her!”
That earned her a frown.
“Lavender is my friend, Hermione. I know she’s being stupid just now, but she still has a name.”
“I know that, and I’m sorry. It’s just when I see them together, when I see what they’re doing... I... I can’t stand it!”
This probably wasn’t a good time to tell Hermione that she had not, in fact, seen the half of it. Parvati herself earnestly wished that she hadn’t. Another kind of vision, however, was more pleasant to contemplate.
“Would it help if I told you that I have the Inner Eye and see the future... and that Ron and Lavender don’t have one?”
“Tea leaves never lie.”
“Now you’re making fun of me.”
“I wasn’t, actually... but Hermione... this morning in Transfiguration... I’m sorry I laughed at you, I really am. That was cruel. I should have apologized before.”
Hermione gave a resigned shrug and a tired wave.
“Don’t bother. I’m sure it was very funny. I’m pathetic, I know it.”
“Don’t say that. No one here is pathetic. You aren’t, and neither is Lavender. You’re just both... confused.”
“I certainly am.”
“Look, Hermione. I know Lavender, all right? I know her really well. Whatever you may think of her, she’s been my best friend ever since we all got here. I know what she thinks she wants, and she isn’t going to get it from Ron.”
“What? What does she want? Looks to me like she’s getting plenty.”
“She wants to be first with someone, to be the person who matters most... but she’ll never have that with him, will she? If it isn’t you, it will be Harry. The next crisis will come, and you’ll all be off. Can you possibly imagine that he would take her with him?”
“You really think so?”
“I know it.”
“Tea leaves never lie, right.”
They both laughed, then, and Hermione’s heart felt lighter than it had in weeks. Not that she was ready to forgive Ron, but at least she could begin to imagine, however dimly, a future in which she might have the opportunity to Make Him Pay.
“Do you suppose you could conjure us up some of those biscuits you had before?”