Chapter 1 : Decorating Dilemma
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This story is based on the Harry Potter books (and the people and situations found therein) created and owned by JK Rowling and various publishers, merchandisers, and movie makers. I own nothing but a copy of the books and the plot of this story; no money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Should the sparkling red satin ribbons or the green pine garlands go over the portrait hole? Should she use a bubble or a fairy lights charm to decorate the Christmas tree? And should it be never-melting icicles or frost flowers for the windowpanes?
So many choices and so little time.
Why, oh why, had she ever agreed to the suggestion that Gryffindor should decorate their common room? Whose brilliant idea was that anyway? Oh yeah—Ron’s. Because a couple of homesick first years had to stay at school for Christmas, and he had thought it might help cheer them up for the duration. And then Harry had said that it might be more fun to try to do as much as possible without magic, and– and – everything was just a big mess! It was a nice idea, and it seemed to be working as said first years were happily decorating the girls’ staircase and had yet to shed a tear over the fact that they were not to be going home with the others in two days, but that didn’t mean she was enjoying the experience. It was going to give her a headache, never mind the fact that she loved organizing groups to handle different parts of the room, or that she enjoyed designing pretty decorations for the walls, or…whatever. She wasn’t having fun. No. Because she was stuck helping the genius who had thought this all up.
Hermione sighed, looked up from the numerous boxes of ornaments and decorations surrounding her, and glanced around the common room. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Most of the boxes she had been digging through were more than half empty, their contents littering the floor in haphazard heaps and piles or spread out across the tables, couches and chairs which had been pushed back against the walls. Or caught in Ron Weasley’s tousled hair, she noticed with a smile, her gaze frozen on the tinsel hanging from his ears and tangled very noticeably on the top of his head. Very little of it, anyway, was hanging where it was supposed to be. She cocked her head to one side with a smile, still looking at him. The silver of the tinsel compliments the red of his hair nicely, she thought, watching him fondly, unable to help noticing how well it brought out the gold highlights within all the red. And though he might look a little foolish, it was just so cute, she added with a little mental laugh. Then she frowned when she realized what she was doing. Her gaze was instantly diverted back to the safety of the ornaments and her wandering thoughts quickly contained. She’d been having far too many like that lately…
“Is this centered?” A deep voice smoothly directed her attention back to the redhead on the ladder, and she obliged somewhat reluctantly. But only somewhat.
“A little to the left,” she told him after a few seconds’ careful examination. He moved the red and silver bow a few inches in the direction she’d indicated and paused, thumb pressing the center of the bow to the wall.
“No, a little more,” she said. “A little more…perfect.” Ron carefully fixed the bow to the wall where she’d indicated and leaned back to examine it.
“How’s that look?” he asked.
“Just the way it should,” she replied, keeping her eyes focused solely on the decoration rather than the boy who’d put it there. Even so, she could see him grin in satisfaction out of the corner of her eye when he started back down the ladder and reached to move it. Muscles built in daily Quidditch practices rippled under the fitted blue jumper she had bought him for his birthday as he lifted the ladder and swung it to the left, and she congratulated herself again on her excellent taste. Very nice, she thought. The jumper, that is, she clarified quickly, then sighed. Maybe I shouldn’t have bought him that jumper. Maybe I should have gone with the orange Chudley Cannons sweatshirt. Ron turned around, grinning brightly at her, and the brilliant blue of his eyes, complimented by the sweater, made her breath catch in her throat despite the good ten yards separating them. And they made her want to stare.
And kick herself. Definitely should have gone with the sweatshirt.
“What?” he asked her, grin still in place, but with one eyebrow raised in teasing question. She realized then that she had been staring.
“Nothing,” she answered quickly, feeling heat rising in her cheeks. His grin widened and he held out his hand.
“Next!” he ordered; she just rolled her eyes and handed him the next branch of holly tied with red ribbon. He took it from her, and she tried not to notice when his fingers brushed hers. It didn’t work. Thankfully, he was up the ladder with his back to her before her blush fully manifested itself and he didn’t notice. This is ridiculous.
Hermione looked around the room again, searching for a distraction, and found it in the form of two third year girls trying unsuccessfully to hang mistletoe above the center of the portrait hole. A couple of boys in their year were preventing them from accomplishing their task by attempting to steal the mistletoe before it could be hung. She chuckled to herself when, in the midst of their full-scale battle, they finally collapsed in a laughing heap on the floor, with the mistletoe landing ten feet away.
“What’s so funny?” asked a voice by her ear. She turned and smiled at Harry, who was just settling himself beside her after a run to the kitchens, and she indicated the four teens untangling themselves several yards away.
“Remind you of anyone?”
“Not that I can think of,” he told her in response. “We were certainly never that rambunctious.” He grinned mischievously, despite his words, and handed her a mug of hot chocolate. She gratefully accepted, wrapping her chilled fingers around the warmth of the mug and sipping delicately.
“Where’s mine?” Ron had finished moving the ladder for the umpteenth time and plopped down on Hermione’s other side, looking expectantly at their black-haired best friend. Harry took one look at him and burst into loud laughter, passing Ron’s mug quickly to Hermione before he spilt it.
“What? What’s so funny?” Wordlessly Harry pointed and laughed some more. Ron glared at him, then at Hermione when he saw that she was grinning too. “What is so funny?” he demanded hotly, and Harry finally calmed down enough to speak.
“You’ve got tinsel all tangled in your hair, Ron,” he gasped out.
“Not to mention hanging from your ears, and falling down your back,” added Hermione helpfully.
“You knew about this and didn’t say anything?” Ron glared at her irritably.
“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” she told him teasingly. “I didn’t say anything because it was cute, but if it really bothers you so much, I’ll get it out. Come here.” He continued to glare, but he leaned his head forward for her. Working quickly, so as not to get flustered by the fact that Ron was so close she could smell his shampoo beneath the warm scent of the cologne he always wore, Hermione removed all traces of silver from his back and neck and moved on to picking it out of the silky red of his hair. She was always surprised, whenever she came in contact with Ron’s hair (which wasn’t often, unfortunately), at just how soft it was. And it was getting long, she noticed thoughtfully. When he bothered to mess with his hair at all, Ron had a tendency to cut it short so that it would be a long while before he had to mess with it again. But Hermione preferred it a bit on the longer side, just enough so that it curled over his ears and the nape of his neck, just enough so that you wanted to run your hands through it. Ron thought it looked messy, but really, he had no idea how much female attention he attracted when he wore his hair that way. In truth, he attracted a lot of attention anyway, with his big blue eyes, handsome features, and lazy grin, but it was worse than ever this year, as Quidditch workouts had provided the opportunity to fill out his lanky 6’3” frame. All in all, he really was good-looking, and this, added to his proficiency on the pitch and his incredible sense of humor, had made the sixth year a great favorite with all the girls. And of course, he had no clue.
Next year, she thought, give him until next year. That should be enough time for him to realize his popularity… His ego will probably rival Malfoy’s when it happens, too.
Sifting out the last of the tinsel with great care and some reluctance, Hermione sighed, irritated with herself. Perhaps it would be better, after all, if he were to cut the stuff.
“Your hair wants cutting,” she told him softly, lifting a few thick strands between her fingers. He sighed.
“I know. It’s getting shaggy.”
“It only needs a bit of a trim though,” she assured him, giving in to the voice in her head that cried for the loss of his hair. “You don’t need to cut it all off.” Weak! Shaking her head, she ran her fingers through the loose ends at the nape of his neck one last time and reluctantly pulled away.
“I’m done,” she told him. He sat back, taking both his warmth and the wonderful boy smell of his cologne with him. She had trouble containing a sigh of disappointment. Snap out of it, Hermione!
He ran his hand through his hair once, and she noticed he was looking a little red in the ears. She frowned; what we he blushing for? Taking a look around the room, she caught sight a couple of fifth year girls smiling and throwing flirtatious looks his way, and figured that must be it. Then her eyes caught Harry’s. Her other best friend was grinning at her in that knowing way he sometimes got that she never understood. Her frown deepened as she looked at him questioningly, but his only response was the lift of one suggestive eyebrow and a glance at Ron. She shook her head; she didn’t understand. He rolled his eyes but his grin only widened, and she was suddenly struck by how good-looking he was, too. The last few years had been good to him as he grew up, she realized, and with a grin of her own, she thought about how ironic it was that her two best friends, who had both been very clumsy, somewhat goofy-looking eleven-year-olds, had grown up to nearly completely monopolize the attention of Hogwarts’s female population —“nearly completely” only because Malfoy hadn’t done too badly in the looks department either and had his fair share of admirers. But Harry and Ron, together, far outstripped him. She really did have two very beautiful friends. Feeling somewhat inadequate all of a sudden, as she sometimes did when she remembered that they were very attractive males as well as her best friends, Hermione stood up.
“Leaving?” Ron asked. She looked down at him.
“Momentarily,” she replied, wondering how they never seemed to notice that every female eye was on them. Not for the first time, she thought, They’re probably all wondering why Harry and Ron hang out with someone who looks like me when they look like they do. Ginny makes sense — she’s beautiful — but me?
Speaking of Ginny…
Hermione pointedly turned her gaze to Harry. “I’m going to go find Ginny,” she told him imperiously. “She’s supposed to help me decorate the fireplace. I tell you this so that you are aware that you may not come over and interrupt us. We have agreed that this is to be our no-Harry-no-Ron time for the month, as it’s been at least that long since we’ve had a chance to say two words without one of you interrupting us. So stay here,” she pointed to the floor where they sat, “and finish putting up the holly, okay?”
Harry, whose face had lit up at the mention of his girlfriend’s name, now scowled playfully up at her. “Oh sure,” he said, “monopolize my girlfriend’s time. Never mind the fact that I’m in love with her and that it’s almost Christmas and there’s a convenient number of mistletoe sprigs lying about. See if I care. I’ll just sit here with Ron.” And he made a face as he flopped back on the floor, right on top of her pile of holly. She blinked at him, trying to decide how to respond to that, but Ron beat her to it. He was staring at Harry with a look of mixed disgust and amusement.
“Who says I’d be letting you anywhere near mistletoe with Ginny anyway? I don’t mind you dating her, mate, but that doesn’t mean I want to see you kissing her. You may be my best friend, but she’s still my sister, and that’s just gross.” A pause. “And what are you trying to say, exactly? My company not good enough for you anymore?”
“Don’t get me wrong, Ron, I still love you and all, but it’s just not the same when I’m with you as when I’m with your sister. I think it’s because I’m really just not attracted to you.”
“Oh, I see how it is. It’s the freckles, isn’t it? You’re repulsed because I don’t have delicate little freckles like she does, aren’t you? Well, that’s fine. That’s okay. I don’t think you’re pretty enough for me anyway.” Hermione winced as this hit a little too close to home.
“Are you calling me ugly?”
“As a toad, Harry.”
“So now I’m a toad.”
“You heard me.”
“That’s it.” And with that, Harry launched himself at his best friend. Hermione, chuckling softly, was quick to make her escape.
“You fancy him.”
Hermione looked up from the garland she was magically sticking to the mantle and gave Ginny a questioning look. “What?”
“My brother.” Ginny huffed, exasperated. “You fancy him. Why won’t you just admit it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hermione sniffed, returning her attention to charming the garland in place.
“Uh-huh. You’ve been sneaking glances at him when you think no one’s looking for the past half hour.”
“I haven’t. And I don’t see how you would know, anyway. Your eyes have been glued to Harry since the moment we walked in the door.”
“Except for the times when I was watching you watch my brother,” Ginny agreed.
Hermione glared at her. “I wasn’t watching Ron.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Right. And I’m not in love with Harry.”
“You’re not?” came a hurt voice from behind them. Hermione’s eyes narrowed at the sound.
“I told you,” she said, words forced through her tightened jaw, “that you were not allowed over here.” She turned around slowly, her face deceptively sweet as she looked up at her black-haired friend. “So what do you think you’re doing?” The question was as innocent as the look on her face, but Harry wasn’t fooled. Actually, she noted gleefully, he was suddenly rather nervous.
“No! You’re leaving!” she exploded, and stood up, heedless of the decorations in her lap. Grabbing him by the shoulders, she turned him around (allowing herself to pretend that she hadn’t only managed the feat because he’d let her), and pushed him away. “Both of you!” She added, noticing and glaring at a cowering Ron.
“But Hermione, he’s a terrible partner!” Ron exclaimed defensively, pointing an accusatory finger at Harry. “He sits there and purposely messes things up and makes them off center—”
“I already told you— I don’t do it on purpose!” Harry protested. Ron ignored him.
“I can’t work with him! I need you!” he pleaded.
Ignoring the increase in her heart rate, she glared even more. “Go!” she told them, pointing at the ladder on the other side of the room. “I’ll come straighten up your mess when I’m done here.”
“But why won’t you—”
“No! I am with the two of you all day long, every day. Every day! But I am not a boy; I am a girl. I know you often forget this, Ron, but it’s true nevertheless, and sometimes I just need a break— just a little time away from boys. Like now! Go!”
“Okay, okay,” he told her hastily, and then he muttered, so softly under his breath that she wasn’t sure she really heard him, “and I most definitely know you’re a girl.”
Had she heard that right?
She gave a little mental shrug and turned back to Ginny who was grinning ear to ear.
“You fancy him!”
Hermione’s fists clenched. “Ahhh!” and with that, she half-jokingly tackled her friend and playfully began a fight much like the one she had witnessed between Harry and Ron not twenty minutes earlier. A fight that only ended when Ginny laughingly called out:
“Are you sure you’re not a boy after all? I mean, only my brothers try to beat me up like this…” At which point Hermione back-pedaled about three feet and sat glaring at her.
“I hate you.”
Ginny just laughed.
“Why? Why oh why do I allow myself to give in to these things? If I had just followed my instincts I would have stayed up in my room and studied today, and then not only would I be that much closer to feeling ready for our NEWTS next year, but I would not be stuck cleaning all of this up…”
Hermione paused and looked around the common room. It was covered in everything from red and silver bows and multicolored Christmas ornaments to tangled piles of ribbons and garlands and discarded magical decorations. Multitudes of pine needles and torn holly leaves had been ground into the carpet, tinsel literally covered the floor, and there were five or six escaped fairies wreaking havoc with the glittery stuff up near the ceiling. And aside from herself, the room was entirely empty.
“I hate you, Ron Weasley…”