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Hermione’s Date

By Mena Baines

It was quite a normal day in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, or at least, it WAS until Hermione Granger was abruptly and unexpectedly thrown into the twilight zone. And it all started with Draco Malfoy…

Hermione was sitting, innocently enough, at the Gryffindor table for lunch, trying whole-heartedly not to notice how Harry Potter’s arm was touching hers as she read Arithmacy with the Experts. Across from them sat Ron and Ginny Weasley, who were arguing animatedly about Ginny’s relationship with her boyfriend, Seamus Finnigan. To Hermione’s right was Rosa McNally, who was gazing over at the Slytherin table in a way that made Hermione suspect that there would be trouble before too long. Of course, it was a general rule that where ever Rosa went trouble followed, as Hermione had come to know in the week since she’d joined their class at Hogwarts.

“ He’s too old for you, Ginny,” Ron was insisting to his younger sister. “ Don’t you know what boys have on their mind at that age?” he asked, his cheeks flushing red.

“ THAT AGE?” Ginny exclaimed, losing her temper with her brother, “ Ron he’s YOUR age. And, only a year older than me! Stop being ridiculous!”

Harry and Hermione exchanged a look. This was an argument that they were all too familiar with.

“ I’d like to see what George and Fred would do if they were here.” Ron said with a scoff. “ I’m sure they’d have a fit.”

“ Oh, rubbish!” Ginny said, “ They’d stay out of my business. Maybe if YOU had a girlfriend, Ron, you’d stay out of mine!”

Her words seemed to hit Ron hard, and even Ginny seemed surprised with herself. Hermione shrunk behind her book. She’d never known Ginny to be so cross with her brother...or anyone—she must have really had it…

“ Hey, guys!” came a friendly voice, that they all recognized as Seamus. “ What’s going on?” he asked breezily. Hermione shrunk further behind her book.

“ YOU!” Ron said, jumping up, “ Are a horrible influence on my sister!” he shouted, taking his anger at Ginny out on poor Seamus.

“ Whoa, Seamus,” Rosa said, grinning, “ GREAT timing.”

“ Huh?” Seamus asked, confused.

“ You MANIAC!” Ginny screamed at Ron, “ Stop trying to ruin my life!” She grabbed the arm of a befuddled Seamus and yanked him away from the table with her.

“ Good riddance,” Ron said, falling back into his seat. He still looked awfully downcast, and Hermione was afraid that it had something to do with Ginny’s comment about Ron’s love life (or lack thereof..).

“ Hey,” Hermione said carefully, putting down her book without moving her arm away from Harry’s. “ What are you so worried about, Ron? Seamus is an okay guy…we’ve known him for years.”

“ Um, yeah.” Harry said uncertainly, “ And Ginny’s smart enough to handle her own affairs.”

Ron’s head jerked up and he glared at Harry, who bit his tongue and cringed. Rosa snorted.

“ Nice choice of words,” she said, getting up and slapping Harry on the back. “ Ron, what they’re trying to say is that you should just leave your sister alone. Family quarrels are fun to watch, but we’re sick of witnessing the same one over and over.”

Hermione groaned and rolled her eyes. “ Very sensitive, Rosa.” She said. Rosa shrugged.

“ No, she’s right.” Ron said, “ Ginny can fend for herself from now on, if that’s how she wants to play it. See if I care!” he added huffily.

“ Great, then it’s settled.” Rosa said cheerily. “ And on that note, I have a favor to ask of you, Hermione.”

Hermione tried to hide her scowl. Rosa was not her favorite person in the world—any favor of hers would surely result in one or both of them getting in trouble.

“ What?” she asked flatly, hoping the favor didn’t involve moving.

“ Come talk to Draco with me.” Rosa said with a huge grin.

“ What….?” Hermione whined, “ Why do you need me to go with you, Rosa? Draco hates me.”

“ Oh, I’m sure he doesn’t,” Rosa said, grabbing her arm and yanking her away from Harry, “ I need the moral support!”

“ The only moral support you’ll get from me is going to be me getting sick at the idea of someone, anyone—YOU having a crush on DRACO.” Hermione announced. Harry laughed.

“ No, go ahead.” Ron mumbled, “ I…uh….need to talk to Harry about some things.” Hermione was puzzled. Usually Ron was a great advocate of getting Rosa away from the influence of Draco.

“ Don’t forget your book,” Harry said sweetly, handing Hermione her copy of Arithmacy with the Experts as Rosa pulled her toward the Slytherin table. Hermione grinned at him and tried not to swoon.

“ All right, now.” Rosa said as they approached the table that housed most of Hermione’s enemies. “ Stop drooling over Harry and pay attention,” she said with a wicked grin. “ Watch me in action! It’ll be like a lesson...in boys! Yes. I’m just like a snake charmer when it comes to this stuff…” Rosa was muttering all of this very quickly and Hermione had her doubts about the snake charmer theory.

Rosa walked up behind Draco and put her hands over his eyes. Hermione stood awkwardly beside her, trying to ignore the suspicious glances of the other Slytherins.

“ Guess who?” Rosa asked, as Draco struggled under her grip.

“ McNally!” Draco said spitefully, yanking her hands off his face. “ Great Wizards—you’re like a curse!” he exclaimed. Rosa giggled nervously. Hermione used to think that Rosa had a crush on Harry, but she realized now how wrong she’d been—she’d never acted this foolish around him.

“ Aren’t you going to ask us to sit down?” Rosa asked Draco, petting his hair while he swatted at her hand. Hermione rolled her eyes, embarrassed to involved in this endeavor. She glanced back at Harry and Ron at the Gryffindor table, and saw them watching her, whispering to each other. When they saw that she was looking back they quickly spun around. Hermione frowned. They were behaving rather strangely….

“ Hermione!” Rosa was saying, as she leaned on the table near Draco, practically in his lap. “ Why didn’t you tell me Draco was the Seeker for the Slytherin team? That is like so cool!”

Hermione just raised an eyebrow. Normally she was jealous of Rosa’s cool and easygoing personality, but not now. Around Draco Malfoy she was a total mess.

“ McNally,” Draco said with a sneer, “ Where’d you learn to talk like that? What a horrid accent! Every time I turn around you’re screeching DRRAAIII-CO in my ear. You can’t even say Hermione’s name right. HER-MIONE. It’s a disastrous voice you have, McNally.”

Rosa just grinned at him. “ I know you like me screaming in your ear. Or would you prefer whispering?” she teased, leaning down near his ear and cupping her hands around it. Draco listened for a moment, and then shoved her away, his face burning red. Rosa was laughing. Hermione wondered if she’d notice if she slowly inched back toward the Gryffindor table.

“ Quit being such a pest, McNally.” Draco muttered, a bit more timid than before. Rosa smiled and winked at Hermione.

“ DRACO MALFOY IS SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH ME.” She announced loudly, causing the entire student body to turn and stare. Draco’s mouth fell open. Hermione saw that Ron and Harry had forgotten whatever they had been whispering about, and were now rolling with laughter. Rosa beamed proudly about at the scene she’d created.

“ How sweet of you,” Rosa cooed at Draco, “ To be infatuated with me after all. But a girl must play hard to get!” she shouted through a fit of giggles as she ran to avoid the sandwich Draco threw at her. Rosa grabbed Hermione’s arm and they scrambled out of the lunchroom laughing.

“ Excellent.” Rosa said, completely satisfied with what had just taken place. “ He won’t be able to get me off his mind all day after that!” she said, “ Man I’m good at this! Do I know boys, or do I know boys?”

“ Oh, poor Draco,” Hermione said, shaking her head, “ He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into with you.”

“ Hermione,” Rosa said grinning, “ He doesn’t have a choice.”

*********************************************************************

The rest of Hermione’s day was too busy to keep her thinking about Rosa’s strangeness, but she couldn’t forget the odd way Harry and Ron had been whispering that afternoon in the Great Hall. They had, in fact, behaved strangely all day, Ron giving Harry purposeful looks, and Harry appearing as though he may have gotten violently ill at any moment. Hermione didn’t understand him. He kept dropping things all day in Potions, earning them extra maltreatment from Snape.

By the time the Gryffindors had convened in the common roomat the endof the day, Hermione was too exhausted to move. She fell down on the couch beside Harry, cursing herself again for taking so many classes. One of these years I’m going to learn, she told herself for the umpteenth time, maybe next year I’ll… She stopped herself, realizing sadly that there was to be no next year, no more chances to sign up for every class and tell herself again and again that next year would be different, next year she would relax, and cut back. She glanced at Harry sullenly, and as he peered back at her, looking uncharacteristically nervous, Hermione took him in and thought for the first time in awhile that this could be the last year she ever spent with him. What will I be to the great Harry Potter once we’ve graduated? Hermione wondered sadly, How could I have fooled myself into imagining that we’d stay together?

“ What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice unsteady. Hermione swallowed. There were a lot of things that she should say to Harry…it terrified her…they might leave school never knowing how they felt about each other…

“ What’s wrong with me?” Hermione asked, “ You look a fright!” she said without hesitation of Harry’s uneasy state.

Harry sighed. “ I know…I’ve been having these dreams….never mind.” he looked at her with eyes that pleaded with her for something…what? Hermione could tell he had some things on his mind. “ I need to talk to you.” He said quietly, as if on cue.

“ I know.” Hermione said wistfully. “ I mean…I was just thinking about…” she swallowed something that could have been a sob. “ Never mind.” She whispered.

“ Hermione,” Harry whispered her name in a way that made her shiver. He looked around the common room, filled with students laughing and carrying on, and Hermione suddenly had a horrible feeling. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but the way Harry looked at the other kids…like he felt so out of place…like he didn’t belong with them… Hermione had an awful feeling then…like there was something horrible he was preparing himself for. Stop scaring yourself, she inwardly scolded.

“ Hermione,” Harry said, “ We need to be honest with each other.” Hermione nodded. Harry stood suddenly, and Hermione followed him without a word, as he walked to the portrait hole and climbed out. “ I…wanted to talk to you…alone.” He said once they were outside. Hermione nodded, speechless. She hoped Harry couldn’t hear her heart beating like mad against her chest. The sound filled Hermione’s ears as she followed Harry silently through the halls.

As kids they would have been afraid to wander the halls at night—afraid of getting caught by Snape, by Filch or Mr. Norris. But by their seventh year at Hogwarts, they’d all gained some nerve, felt the end drawing near, felt nothing could stop them from doing some of what they pleased inside the walls of the school.

Hermione followed Harry up the stairs toward the Astronomy observation tower. She flinched a bit—this was where the vampire Lywellyn had taken her only last month, to try and drink her blood. But Harry had been there to stop him. Harry…and Ron.

“ Harry, I’m worried about Ron.” Hermione said quickly, to break the awkward silence. “ He’s…so upset with his sister…and, I think he’s kind of lonely.”

“ No more lonely than us, I guess.” Harry said, pushing open the door to the observation deck. As they stepped outside the stars bathed them in a supernatural, dream-like glow. Hermione covered her shoulders with her hands in the as the chill in the air hit her. Harry reached over and rubbed her bare shoulders with his hands. Hermione’s body was filled with warmth at his touch. She was afraid to look into his eyes…afraid to realize the dream she’d been keeping for seven years…had he brought her up here to kiss her? She didn’t want to get her hopes up but…

“ I’m stupid, I, I should have brought a jacket,” Hermione muttered, avoiding his eyes. Don’t be a fool, she thought to herself, this is your…chance. She thought about Rosa’s silly crush on Draco and hoped she hadn’t been acting like that all these years, like a moron, only to end up with Harry anyway. She swallowed her nerves and looked up at him. Their eyes met like an electric shock. Hermione was frozen in his gaze. “ What do you mean?” she whispered.

“ About what?” Harry asked, his voice still unstable.

“ Um.” Hermione half-wished he’d take his hands off her shoulders so she could think straight. “ Before, when you said--you said, Ron was no more lonely than us.”

“ Isn’t he?”

“ I don’t think so,” Hermione said, desperately, “ I mean…you and me…we’re-- we’ve got something Ron doesn’t, I think.” Hermione could barely hear herself talking over her deafening heartbeat.

“ What’s that?” Harry asked, his stare burning with some impassioned glow. Maybe I’m imagining all of this…Hermione thought, he’s probably brought me up here to talk about Astronomy homework or something…

“ Oh, you know, Harry.” Hermione said, forcing a laugh, and still a long way from admitting how she cared for him. “ Don’t be thick. You and me…we’re apart from Ron, different.”

“ How?” Harry asked, his grip on her shoulders tightening. He suddenly seemed so innocent on the matter that Hermione became aggravated with him.

“ Well, I don’t know, Harry—I guess I can’t put my finger on it.” She said, fed up with playing around with loaded glances and half-finished sentences.

Harry sighed. “ I’m going about this all wrong.” he said, “ I have something to ask you.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows. “ What is it?” she asked slowly. Harry drew a breath. Oh, Harry, why are you messing around with questions? Hermione wanted to shout. Just put those arms around me and—

“ Ron wanted me to ask you if you’d go on a date with him.” Harry said all of this very quickly, like the words were a nasty-tasting medicine he wanted to spit out.

Hermione was so excited—she didn’t know what to say! A date! Who would have thought….wait….had he said…?

“ RON?” Hermione exclaimed, shattering the serene atmosphere. Harry’s arms fell from her shoulders. He laughed nervously.

“ I’m as shocked as you!” he said, “ He asked me to tell you—I mean, to ASK you, this morning at lunch.”

“ Oh, what rubbish.” Hermione said, frowning, “ He’s just trying to get back at his sister for dating Seamus—as if she’s going to care if he goes out with me!”

“ I know.” Harry said, “ I don’t know what he was thinking, he was acting rather daft all day. I’ll tell him you said no—“

“ Oh, don’t,” Hermione said, biting her lip. She wanted to kill Harry for this—he had dragged her all the way up here, on this perfect starlit night, and led her on like mad, only to tell her that RON, in his most desperate hour, wanted a date with her. Hermione had never heard anything more ridiculous. There was nothing left to do but call Ron’s bluff. “ He’s feeling rather sorry for himself lately, I think.” She said, “ If I don’t give this a go I think he’ll be upset.”

“ Well, you know Ron—“ Harry said, sounding uncertain about the whole issue.

“ Sure I do,” Hermione said, “ And this is totally out of character. There has never been anything between us—ridiculous! If this is Ron’s cry for help, then we might as well play along.”

“ Um…yes.”

Hermione groaned. “ I…just don’t understand this.” She said huffily.

“ Well…Ron is…going through some stuff right now…” Harry told her shakily as she walked away.

“ I don’t even mean that.” Hermione said, angry with him. She was almost sure Harry had been thinking the same thing she had, standing there under the stars, holding onto her in the chill of the evening. How could he let Ron ask her out? How could he allow himself to be the messenger? And foremost in her mind—what was Ron THINKING??

********************************************************************

Their “date” was set for the next evening. Hermione had gone straight to bed after she’d talked to Harry, avoiding he and Ron for most of the next day as well. As they’d gone back into the common room that night, Hermione had heard Ron whispering to Harry: “ Did you tell her? What did she say?” Hermione could have puked. The whole thing was rather sneaky and odd, and she planned to get to the bottom of it the next evening.

That was, if she ever got the nerve to come out of the bathroom.

“ Hermione come, ON,” Rosa pleaded, “ Stop making a big melodrama out of this. It’s no BIG DEAL—normal people go out on dates all the time.”

“ Thanks.”

Rosa groaned. “ Am I going to have to break this door down?” she asked, sounding ever like Hermione’s mother. “ Come on,” she prodded, “ You’ll break Ron’s heart.”

“ Ha!”

“ Is she still in there?” Hermione heard the voice of Lavender Brown at the door, and heard two people enter. She assumed that the other was Lavender’s constant sidekick, Pavarti. Sure enough, she heard Pavarti’s bossy voice from the other side of the door.

“ Hermione, don’t be a brat!” she barked, “ Come OUT, everything’s all ready.”

“ This has got to be some bizarre nightmare.” Hermione muttered to herself, getting up and looking at herself in the mirror, disgusted with the reflection. Rosa had INSISTED on making Hermione up for her “ big date.” She had dressed Hermione, almost against her will, in a short little silver dress that looked more suited for a working girl in Times Square than a seventeen year old on a date with her friend. And Hermione was convinced that Rosa had used the entire container of purple eye shadow on her poor eyelids, as she inspected her messy handiwork in the mirror.

“ I can’t believe you guys are doing this to me!” Hermione shouted back through the door as she turned on the faucet to wash the makeup off her face, also trying to scrub the too-strong scent of perfume off her neck and shoulders. The girls were completely in love with the idea of Hermione dating Ron, as long as that meant Harry was available. He had become quite popular at Hogwarts in the eyes of young ladies, which was inevitable, Hermione supposed, because he was the Quidditch captain, awfully good-looking and naturally polite and kind. Harry hardly knew it himself, but Hermione was rather familiar with the idea, and she had a good mind to let Pavarti and Lavender hear that she knew why they were so into planning a candle-lit dinner for she and Ron. As for Rosa, Hermione didn’t know why she was participating, other than for the sheer joy of seeing Hermione in misery.

Reluctantly, she finally stepped out of the bathroom. Lavender, Pavarti and Rosa gave her a once over. “ Oh, Hermione, what did you do to your face?” Pavarti automatically blurted out. “ It’s all red.”

“ Like I care.” Hermione said flatly. “ This whole thing is a—“

“ Nonsense!” Lavender cut her off before she could finish. “ Give Ron a chance. He’s been your friend for years, only to hide his burning, passionate love for you! (Hermione thought she heard Rosa snort.) Isn’t that romantic?” Lavender cooed. Hermione gave her a death stare.

Hermione laughed darkly at the irony of Lavendar’s statement. She hoped Harry wasn’t in on this…but her hopes were smashed as the girls pushed her out of the dorm and into the hall. There stood Harry, trying fruitlessly to pry open a bottle of sparkling cider with his hands.

“ Hermione,” he said, eyeing her dress, “ You look…um—“

“ Shut up.” Hermione said, still thoroughly angry with him for not even attempting to thwart Ron’s twisted plans to court her. “ This is all your fault.”

“ Hermione!” Lavender said, valiantly rushing to Harry’s defense, “ Harry didn’t have anything to do with this.”

“ Lest we forget.” Hermione said sardonically, causing Harry to drop the bottle of sparkling champagne. Pavarti shrieked as it shattered on the floor. Rosa, who seemed to have caught what Hermione meant, was glancing at her sympathetically.

“ Oh, gosh--s-sorry,” Harry said, stooping to clean up the broken glass.

“ Ah, well.” Hermione said, “ The first thing to go wrong tonight. It won’t be the last.”

“ Stop talking nonsense!” Pavarti shouted. “ Come and see how we fixed up the common room!” she said proudly, shoving Hermione past the curtains they’d hung over the entrance.

Hermione had to admit that the common room did look beautiful. There were dozens of enchanted candles floating gracefully about the room, with it’s low light and roaring fire. In the center stood a small table, covered in an antique-looking pink table cloth, on which the girls had set out silverware and fine china. Hermione noticed that they also must have set loose an Elfman in the room—they were tiny little creatures found in the woods who had very beautiful voices. She recognized the soft, enchanting sounds that Elfmen were known to produce filling the air of the room sweetly. And then, there was Ron.

Like Hermione, he looked like a wreck. He was wearing a borrowed suit and tie, (which, coincidentally, she recognized as Harry’s), and sitting at the table, visibly uncomfortable as he tucked a napkin into his shirt.

“ Go on,” Lavender whispered, shoving Hermione further into the room. “ It’s….destiny!” Hermione heard she and Pavarti laughing. She felt the urge to turn around and smack them, but repressed it.

“ Um, Hermione.” Ron said, tugging on his collar. “ I mean, wait—“ he stood suddenly, as if someone had instructed him to do so, ran to her side of the table and yanked out her chair, knocking two forks to the floor. “ You look lovely.” He said evenly, like he was reading from a cue card. Hermione checked back over her shoulder to see if he actually was—she wouldn’t have put it past Lavender and Pavarti. Instead she saw Marcus Reily, a jubilant little first year, rushing excitedly into the room. He was wearing a suit that had obviously been designed to look like a waiter’s uniform.

“ Pardon me, young lovers!” he said, grinning from ear to ear, “ This won’t take but a moment from your precious time together!” he declared loudly, rushing to the table and bending to pick up the forks Ron had knocked off the table.

“ Marcus,” Ron said, rolling his eyes, “ What are you—“

“ Ah, the problem is resolved!” Marcus proclaimed as he set the forks back on the table. “ Adieu!” he said, rushing out of the room. When he brushed back the curtains, Hermione could see four or five other nicely dressed first years, all giggling and trying to peek into the common room.

“ Great Wizards.” Hermione muttered, falling gracelessly into her seat.

“ Heh, heh,” was all Ron could manage, as he pushed in her chair for her and then fleeted back to the safety of his own. “ Kids,” he said, taking a big gulp of water.

“ Ron!” Hermione barked through clenched teeth, “ What on Earth is—“

“ Good EVENING, my dears!” now Yvette Simon was bursting in through the curtains, wearing a black dress that was too big for her, and carrying her wand. “ Let’s see,” she said, walking to the table, and holding her wand up above the candles. “ Rumus!” she proclaimed proudly, and something green shot from the end of her wand.

“ Ew!” Ron squealed, retreating from the table, “ What IS that?”

“ Um, nothing,” Yvette said, scooping up the slime and shoving it into the pocket of her dress. “ Wrong spell, I guess—“

“ Don’t you mean Lumos?” Hermione asked boredly, leaning on her elbows and watching as Yvette apologetically lit the candles.

Once she had gone, Hermione looked up at Ron, “ As I was saying…” she said, “ What on EARTH is the meaning of this?”

“ Um, I’m sorry?” Ron asked nervously.

“ Ron, you’re not fooling anyone.” Hermione said, “ Lavender and all those other girls are just trying to get me away from…um, never mind. And Harry, I don’t know what his problem is, but I’m sure he doesn’t believe for a moment that you’re interested in me.”

Ron rolled his head backwards and stared up at the ceiling for a moment, and then looked back at Hermione. “ Don’t.” he said, his voice sounding normal for the first time all day.

“ Don’t what?” Hermione asked, and before Ron could answer, in came Marcus, now followed by Tippy Cates and Gerald Saint, and all of them were carrying trays of food. “ Well?” Hermione asked Ron again, as the first years busily began setting food on their plates.

“ Um, yes, the, um, decorations do look…great.” Ron blubbered, his eyes darting nervously about the room, “ Honey.” He added, and all three first years snickered, Marcus dropping a basket of rolls on the floor.

“ Ron if you say anything like that again I’m going to come over there and tie your tongue in a knot.” Hermione threatened, evoking more giddy laughter from Marcus and his friends.

“ Get out of here!” Ron barked at them, dropping the façade. Tippy and Gerald stumbled on each other as they ran from the room, and Marcus gave Ron a dirty look before retreating himself.

“ Stupid kids.” Ron muttered, “ Didn’t we have better things to do when we were that age?”

“ Stop trying to change the subject!” Hermione said, aggravated. “ Why are you being so mysterious? What’s going on here?”

“ Look,” Ron hissed, leaning over the table, “ I can’t talk about it here, okay? So just eat your…whatever this is—oh, gross—and I’ll tell you later.”

Hermione was totally confused. She sourly ate her dinner—some attempt at cooking from either the first years or Pavarti, (Hermione wondered briefly if it was poisoned) and waited until Ron gave her the signal to get up and leave.

“ Ho, ho, what a pleasant evening!” Ron announced in a loud and phony voice. He kept looking at the curtains over the entrance to the common room, “ Shall we step outside for a bit, MY DEAR?” he practically shouted. Hermione rubbed her ears.

“ Whatever you say.” She muttered, following him out through the portrait hole. Ron dragged her all the way to an empty classroom on the first floor before he would explain what was going on.

“ Well?” Hermione said, “ Will you please tell me what’s happening tonight? And who are we hiding from?”

“ Harry!” Ron said, still whispering, though the entire first floor was empty. “ He’ll kill me…” he said, and he began to pace back and forth across the empty classroom.

“ Huh?” Hermione said, “ Why would Harry…?” “ He’s got those first years listening in, see, reporting back to Lavender and Pavarti, who’ll tell him everything. Oh, Great Wizards he’ll kill me…”

“ What?” Hermione asked, “ You’re not answering me, Ron? Was this…Harry’s plan?”

“ Okay, okay.” Ron said, still talking to himself, “ This is for his own good. And mine.” Ron added, rolling his eyes. He finally looked over at Hermione, who was standing, baffled, in Rosa’s stupid dress, as confused as she’d ever been for as long as she could remember. “ I’m sorry Harry,” he muttered, “ But…I can’t take it anymore.”

“ Can’t take what anymore?” Hermione asked, her voice small.

“ You.” Ron said, and Hermione reeled backward. “ Oh—that’s not what I mean!” Ron said, slapping his forehead, “ I mean…hearing…about….yooouu.” he said, as slow as humanly possible, wincing after he finally got the sentence out.

“ What?” Hermione squeaked, wondering if he meant…

“ Ok, let me start from the beginning,” Ron said, sitting atop an empty desk. Hermione’s knees felt shaky, but she didn’t sit. “ Yesterday afternoon, at lunch. Remember I was in a bad mood? I said I wanted to talk to Harry about something?” Hermione nodded slowly. “ Well, I…had to give him a piece of my mind!” Ron sighed. “ You can’t just expect your best friend to be your….um…psychiatrist? No, that’s not the right word…”

“ Harry…talks about me?” Hermione asked timidly.

“ Yes!” Ron said, his face brightening, “ There! You said it! Not me!” his face fell slowly, “ Man, he’s still going to kill me….you’re not supposed to know that. If Harry knew the Secret Keeper spell he would have preformed it on me!”

“ I…” Hermione didn’t know where to begin. “ You mean, he says…good things?”

Ron sighed. “ Hermione,” he said, “ Grow a brain. Harry Potter has been in love with you for years.”

********************************************************************

Hermione finally made her way back to the common room when her stride had grown steady enough. Ron had made her swear not to tell Harry what he’d said—but it didn’t matter. Hermione knew. She KNEW. Ron had told her that Harry had even been planning to tell her how he really felt about her the other night on the Astronomy deck, but he’d lost his nerve at the last minute and blurted out the nonsense about Ron wanting a date with her. Hermione was beside herself—not only did Harry have feelings for her, but he was as scared of them as she was. Now what was she supposed to do?

The first years were cleaning up the common room they got back. Another set of furious giggles erupted as she and Ron entered the room.

“ That’s enough of that!” Ron ordered, and they silently bustled out of the room. Lavender appeared in the doorway as they took the curtains down. She was wearing a huge grin.

“ Well it looks like you two hit it off.” She said, “ I’ll tell Pavarti the good news when she gets finished crying—one of the first years filled the pockets of her dress with slime—“

“ Lavender,” Ron said darkly. “ It’s over between Hermione and I. Sorry.” Lavender’s face fell.

“ What? B-but the candles! The music!” she tried to reason, but Ron just groaned and walked away. He bumped into Harry on his way out, and jumped back as if he’d seen a ghost.

“ Oh-heh, hey Harry!” Ron said, nervously fingering the sleeve of his shirt. “ Um, lovely, evening, eh?” he blurted out before running away.

Harry frowned. “ What’s his problem?” he asked. He looked at Hermione and she froze, petrified. She didn’t know how to act around Harry now that she knew the truth. It was wonderful, it was terrifying.

“ The date didn’t go very well.” Lavender muttered, “ I can’t imagine WHY.” She said, giving Hermione a mean look. Hermione glared back at her and she scurried off, leaving Hermione alone in the common room with Harry.

He walked across the room to her. Hermione realized she hadn’t moved since he’d entered the room. She felt like she had about a thousand Peppermint Toads throwing a party in her stomach.

“ You didn’t have fun?” he asked, pretending to look disappointed.

“ Come on,” Hermione said quietly, looking down, “ You knew I wouldn’t.”

“ What’s the matter?”

“ Nothing.” Hermione answered quickly, “ I-I’m just tired, from this…ordeal. I, uh, just want to go to bed.”

“ You don’t have any homework?” Harry asked, hopefully.

“ I…I don’t remember.” Hermione said. Harry laughed.

“ That’s a first. Listen—I’m sorry about all of this…I feel sort of responsible.” He said. SORT OF responsible?? Hermione couldn’t believe him. Why didn’t he just come out and tell her that he had a crush on her—didn’t he know that any witch in her right mind would kill for a date with Harry Potter? Maybe Ron was lying to me…Hermione thought, her mind racing, maybe he was just embarrassed…

“ Are you sure you’re okay?” Harry asked her again, frowning. “ You look…worried. Or something.”

“ I’m not worried.” Hermione breathed. “ I’m just tired, well I’m off to bed now goodnight!” she said all of this very fast, and hurried away before she made more of a fool of herself.

“ Hermione,” Harry called as she was rushing off. She turned back to him, and he looked kind of fretful. “ You-you know you can tell me anything, right?”

“ Sure I do, Harry.” Hermione said, turning again to go. She walked quickly to her room, and slammed the door behind her. Rosa was sitting on her bed, drawing pictures of a blond-headed boy and a girl with long black hair with little red hearts over their heads.

“ Hey look—“ she began, and stopped when she saw Hermione’s face. “ What’s the matter?” she asked.

“ Harry Potter!” Hermione shouted, “ Needs to learn to take his own advice!” With that she fell, exhausted, onto her bed, wondering what on earth she’d think about if it wasn’t whether or not Harry Potter was in love with her.

THE END (for now…;)