Author's Note: Sorry about the wait! I just couldn't think how I wanted to do this. And yes, I am thinking Hermione's long dead great-uncle will be important...
Chapter 25: Yule Ball
Hermione had gone upstairs to dress for the ball, leaving her boyfriend desolate in the common room. She had promised she'd come down in time, but that had been four hours ago. Harry didn't know what to do. Should he brave the girls' stairs, even though his father had warned him two years before that they turn into a slide and set off an alarm if a boy set foot on them?
Should he bribe a girl to go up for him? Hmm, that idea had some merit... But no girls were in the common room for him to bribe.
Chronos woke up from a nap and checked the pool out of habit. He'd gotten a premonition of what would've happened if he hadn't erased the time line: Ron Weasley, the youngest son of the no-good Weasley family, would have been the one waiting for Hermione Granger, and he would have showed his extreme stupidity by going up the girls' stairs to find a girl he could bribe into finding out what was keeping his girlfriend.
Luckily that hadn't had a chance to happen.
“Can you imagine if the fate of the world were in Weasley hands?” Odin asked, stepping into his friend's office. “If you hadn't gone back far enough to take them out of the picture, things definitely would have changed, I think. I think Harry Potter never would have gone to Hogwarts this time around, and he'd most likely be wearing a pillowcase with some family crest the Dursleys made up to make them look important.”
Chornos jumped in some surprise at Odin's accuracy. “Two things,” he began. “Were you reading my mind, and what kind of family crest could the Dursleys make up?”
“Of course I wasn't reading your mind,” Odin assured him, but his assurance didn't quell Chronos' suspicious look. “I talked to Merlin. And I imagine the Dursley 'family crest' would look similar to the Malfoys' crest.”
Chronos roared with laughter.
Hermione stood before the mirror in her room, swishing the skirt of her dress. She thought the pale cream color would go well with the robes Harry had bought.
“Merlin, Hermione, you're just going on a date,” Lavender said, surprising her. “You're going even more all-out than those of who care what we look like.”
“I just want to look beautiful for my boyfriend,” Hermione retorted, attaching the clip her grandmother had lent her.
“You look like you're a bride getting ready for her wedding,” Parvati said, slightly enviously.
Hermione turned to her more fully. “I love Harry, and I fully intend to marry him when I'm a little older. So, you're a bit early on that.”
Both girls looked impressed.
Harry paced around the common room, waiting for Hermione to come down the stairs. She had been up there for a long time, getting ready, and he was starting to get impatient. When he heard footsteps on the stairs, he looked up and saw her.
She was absolutely beautiful. Her shimmering waves of chestnut were up in a bun and held by an antique-looking clip. She seemed to float down the stairs in a dress of the palest cream color. The neckline was of a bright emerald that matched Harry's robes, as were the cuffs. She also had a necklace with a ruby and an emerald that matched the clip in her hair.
“Do you like it?” she asked shyly. “My grandmother lent me the necklace and the clip.”
“You're beautiful, Hermione,” Harry breathed in awe. “Absolutely gorgeous.”
She blushed and took his arm. “Shall we?”
“We shall,” he agreed, already thinking of the looks on the other guys' faces when he walked in with her.
“I see you have the Potter crest on your robes,” Hermione mentioned, looking at it carefully. “It looks similar to the Gryffindor crest. I wonder why that is.”
“Oh yeah, that reminds me of something,” Harry said. “Seeing you walk down the stairs pushed it right out of my mind. My mother gave me this to give to you.” He held up a ring on a chain. “She said you wear it outside your robes and it tells other people which family you're betrothed to.”
“It's beautiful!” Hermione gasped as he put it on her. “Oh, Harry, thank you! And thank your mother, too, for me.”
“I know we're not officially engaged, because I haven't gotten down on one knee yet,” Harry said, turning slightly red, “but I've considered you my fiancée since McGonagall and Dumbledore's wedding, when the bouquet went to you.”
“When the priest said we would marry before a year had passed after I turned seventeen? Yeah, I've been considering us engaged since then,” she answered, blushing prettily.
They were waiting outside the Great Hall for their signal to open the ball with the other Champions. Harry nodded to Cedric, who had brought Katie Bell. To Harry's surprise, Cho Chang had her hand lightly on Viktor Krum's arm. Fleur Delacour stood with Roger Davies, who had drool dripping down his chin. Before the door opened, Harry said to Fleur, “Excuse me, Fleur, you might want to turn down your charm. He's turned into a zombie.”
She looked in surprise at her date, and then smiled at Harry. “Merci beaucoup,” she said.
“Where did you learn about zombies?” Hermione asked, stifling a giggle.
“My Dad likes to put on scary movies so Mom will curl up in his lap,” Harry said.
“My parents don't do that sort of thing,” Hermione said. “They show their love in other ways.”
The door opened at that point and they filed in. To open the ball, Harry put his arms around Hermione's waist and swayed with her to the music that had just started in a slow song. He noticed the looks that Cedric and Cho shot each other, Cho's jealousy and Cedric's sadness. The other dancers joined them on the floor, and Harry saw Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. To his amusement, Draco was wearing the same frilly robes he'd been seen picking up at Madame Malkin's and which he had tried to claim were for his mother.
The song changed into a more exuberant number, and Harry and Hermione were forced to leap out of the way of several seventh years. “You alright there, pup?” Sirius called as he swept a pretty brunette with long, curly hair past them.
“Isn't that...?” Harry asked Hermione.
“Yeah. That was Penelope Clearwater,” she answered in surprise. Harry grinned.
“I guess soon I'm going to get another aunt,” he remarked. “But what are they doing here?”
“I guess your uncle's on the job, and he was allowed to bring a date,” Hermione said.
Dumbledore swept McGonagall up to Sirius and said, “I thought I told you to leave the bridesmaids alone, Sirius.”
“You did, because Penelope was still in school at the time,” Sirius answered. “And even then I still wrote to her. But now she's not a student anymore, and I have a question I've been meaning to ask her.”
McGonagall stifled a squeal as Sirius turned to Penelope. “Penelope, will you marry me?”
“Yes! Oh, Sirius, of course I'll marry you!” Penelope squealed, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him.
Angelina Johnson tapped Harry on the shoulder. “Your uncle had better treat my friend right, Harry,” she said severely. “Do you have any more uncles I need to worry about?”
“Nope, sorry,” Harry said. “Just Uncle Sirius and Uncle Remus. My Dad's last friend decided he liked snakes better.”
“That's fine, then,” she said, walking away to rejoin Lee Jordan.
“Hey, Harry, wait!” Cedric called out, running to catch up with the younger boy. Katie Bell was behind him, and she waved at Hermione. “Listen, I know you didn't enter the Tournament, so I'll help you out. Does your egg wail when you open it?”
“I actually haven't tried yet,” Harry admitted.
“Well, if it wails, take a bath,” Cedric advised him. “Take the egg and take a bath.”
“Alright, thanks,” Harry said slowly and turned back to Hermione.
“I thought you were dating Cho Chang,” Hermione remarked to Cedric.
“I was,” he said with a grimace. “Then I caught her kissing Krum. Just between us, I still intend to beat the crap out of him, but I want to do it when his Headmaster isn't hovering like a mother hen.”
“Is it his mission in life to break up couples?” Harry asked. “You love Cho, don't you? Er, sorry Katie.”
“That's okay,” Katie said brightly. “He does love Chang, even though my nickname for her is Bitchy McBitch.”
Cedric looked at her strangely.
“Oh, relax, I know you only asked me because you needed a date pronto, and you want to make her jealous,” Katie said. “I'm cool with it. So, anyway, Harry, why do you believe it's Krum's mission in life to break up couples?”
“Because he'd also like to break up me and Hermione,” Harry answered.
“I think you two are too tight for that,” Cedric said. “Cho and I weren't, though I thought we were.”
They reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, and Hermione gave the password while Neville ran up. “Sorry I'm late,” he panted. “I was walking Luna back to Ravenclaw.”
“How did your first date go?” Harry asked.
“She's the best! She's probably even better than Hermione!”
Harry stopped himself from flexing his fists.
“No offense,” he added quickly.
“None taken,” Hermione declared, grabbing Harry's arm to pull him in. Cedric kissed Katie on the cheek and thanked her for going with him.
Once the four Gryffindors were enclosed in their common room, Katie turned to her younger housemates. “Okay, I lied! I'm not okay with it! He's so hot and I want to be the mother of his children! Just please, please don't tell anyone!”
Katie then went upstairs to her dormitory, and Hermione turned to Harry and Neville. “Who here didn't already know that?”
“Last year during Quidditch I could see the sparks flying,” Harry said. “But then, I noticed that Alicia and Angelina also went weak in the knees when Pretty Boy Diggory turned on his mega-watt smile. So, Katie's definitely not alone.”
“She's just the only one to come out and say it,” Neville concurred. “And besides, Luna says Cho is a right bitch. You know, taking her stuff and hiding it.”
“But for a Ravenclaw, Cho really is an idiot,” Harry continued, earning a smug little smirk from Hermione. “She hasn't figured out yet that we know exactly where she hides Luna's stuff. When something goes missing, it's just a matter of going down to the mirror on the fourth floor. The passageway behind it might be blocked, but there's still room to hide things.”
“So, Cho is an evil bitch who doesn't deserve Cedric,” Hermione said. “But, we already knew that.”
“If you ask me, Cho and Krum deserve each other,” Neville said. “They can be the next Bellatrix and Rodolphus Lestrange.”
“Don't tell Snape, he might give them some pointers,” Harry warned him.
“He might introduce them to their predecessors,” Hermione added. “Hell, Karkaroff might do the same thing!”
“No, I doubt he'd last long enough to get out the first word before they killed him,” Harry disagreed. “He betrayed their master, didn't he?”
“You mean sold them out, as well as several of the buddies?” Neville asked. “My Gran said he sold out Snape, as well. I'm surprised he's still alive.”
“What's worse, betraying Voldemort or betraying Snape?” Hermione asked.
Neither her boyfriend nor their friend had an answer for her. And that was the frightening part.
* * * *
So how did you all like the Yule ball scene? And what do you all think about Sirius and Penelope Clearwater? Review! And thanks for reading.