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Chapter 8 : Carnival
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Chapter 8- Carnival
“No! Stop! What are you doing?” Hermione was nearly crying from the amount of stress she was under, and the added pressure of the carnival set-up was threatening to push her over the edge.
Marie Lector, one of the sixth-year Gryffindor prefects, stopped moving immediately. “I’m sorry, Hermione!” she squeaked. “How are these garlands supposed to be hung?”
Hermione sighed, hurrying across the Great Hall to where her fellow Gryffindor stood waving her wand at the carnival decorations in question. “You don’t have to apologize, Marie. Just…drape them, you know? Don’t line the room with them; they shouldn’t look too posed. They’re supposed to look eerie, okay?”
Marie nodded and pulled down the black streamers that she had just hung. Hermione continued around the Great Hall, correcting people who weren’t doing things how she thought they should be done and monitoring the entire decoration-process. Finally, she took a seat at the nearest table that had been set up in the corner of the room and surveyed the progress.
The Great Hall had been transformed into an eerie haunted house with fake cobwebs and floating jack-o-lanterns. The house tables had been moved from the hall and replaced with the game booths and activities for the evening. A series of small, circular tables were arranged in one corner of the room with a menu on each for those who wanted to eat dinner at the carnival.
The game booths were each decorated vibrantly to fit the theme. There was a bobbing for apples stall as well as one for knocking bottles over with a ball. Stalls that were based on magical games were those like pass-the-exploding-parcel and pick-the-bowtruckle-from-the-twigs. Hermione couldn’t count the number of stations set up.
As someone had suggested, there was a magical petting zoo out on the lawns and a hedge maze with soft music playing for those who wanted a break from the festivities. People wouldn't be able to turn around without seeing more creepy and ghostly decorations everywhere they looked. It was sensory-overload for each new person who entered the Hall.
Hermione smiled; she knew they had all done well.
“You look pleased,” Theo interjected, pulling up a seat beside her.
“Everything’s falling into place,” Hermione replied, glancing over at him.
Theo grinned and nodded. “It looks like it's going to be a success. I know everyone is excited. I can’t wait ‘til we open the doors to the rest of the school.”
Hermione nodded and continued to survey the work that was coming to a close around the Hall. “Everyone really stepped up to make this happen,” she said, mostly to herself.
Theo nodded again, and a few minutes later when Hermione stood to leave and get ready, he followed her from the Hall.
“This is the best idea that anyone has ever had, ever,” Ginny repeated for the thousandth time as she skipped down the marble staircase beside Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “I can’t wait.”
Hermione smiled. “You’re being ridiculous, Ginny. It’s just a carnival, albeit a great one.”
Ginny rolled her eyes and took Harry’s hand in hers. “Well, we’ll just see who’s right at the end of the evening. I bet you’re going to have the best night of your life, Hermione Granger.”
Ron laughed along with Ginny and heartily agreed. “It’s going to be a blast, Hermione, just wait and see.”
Smiling with her friends, Hermione led the way into the Great Hall.
“Merlin,” Harry breathed, his eyes widening as he stopped in his tracks. “Look at this!”
Ron grinned broadly. “You see the cobwebs draped on the windows and the doors?” he asked excitedly. “I did that!”
Ginny and Harry congratulated Ron and Hermione, but couldn’t take their eyes off the spectacular scene around them.
“This is officially the coolest carnival that has ever taken place,” Ginny confirmed, “the coolest.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Well, my shift at the jack-o-lantern carving booth doesn’t start for a little over an hour; let’s look around for a bit.”
Hermione smiled widely and followed her friends towards the closest game.
As it turned out, Ron was quite good at Muggle carnival games, whereas Ginny was terrible. Harry made her feel better about it by winning a few games in her honor and giving her the simple prizes he won.
The prefects had decided to have small prizes as the reward for some of the carnival games and had, in turn, spent a few hours earlier in the week begging donations of simple knickknacks like plush toys, candies, and the like from places like Zonko’s, Honeyduke’s, and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Although a lot of the basis of the carnival was more “Muggle” than they had originally intended, no one could say that they weren’t proud of how it turned out.
Hermione continued to smile as she watched her peers try the games and marvel at the decorations. Before they knew it, an hour had passed, and Ron had to leave for his shift at the jack-o-lantern carving booth.
“I’ll see you all later,” he said, grinning lopsidedly and loping off into the crowd.
“This really is incredible, Hermione,” Harry insisted as they made their way to the corner of the room to gather refreshments. “I know everyone’s saying it, but you went above and beyond.”
Hermione blushed. “Thanks, Harry.”
The tables in the corner of the room had magical menus like those that had been at the Yule Ball three years previously. Harry picked one up and quickly scanned it. “One grape and apple fizzy juice,” he said clearly. The beverage appeared, and Harry grinned as he picked it up. “This is terrific,” he exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. “Don’t let me forget to compliment the house elves!”
Hermione’s smile stretched all the way across her face. “I won’t,” she assured him. “I have to go find Theo; is that okay? I want to check with him about how things are going.”
Ginny and Harry nodded quickly. “That’s fine, Hermione,” Ginny said, smirking. “See you!”
Hermione rolled her eyes, but turned and disappeared into the crowd. Barely ten steps away from Ginny and Harry, Hermione smashed into someone who stepped in her way. Stumbling backwards, she began to apologize, but stopped abruptly. “We just keep running into each other like this, don’t we?” she said coldly, looking up into Draco’s eyes defiantly.
“Seems so,” Draco grinned, running a hand through his blond hair. “How’ve you been, Granger?”
Hermione opened and closed her mouth several times. “What?” she asked, taken aback.
“It’s a simple question.” Draco rolled his eyes, his grin widening. “How. Have. You. Been?”
Hermione glared up at him and took a deep breath, his suspicious behavior getting on her nerves. “I’ve been fine, Malfoy, thank you. What do you think of the carnival?” She couldn't shake the feeling of how strange it was to make small-talk with Draco Malfoy.
“Oh, it’s great,” he replied, and Hermione couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic. “You did well.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said hesitantly, unsure if he was mocking her.
Draco smiled and raised a hand in farewell. “I’ll see you around, Granger,” he said, waving and disappearing into the crowd.
Weird… Hermione thought, standing still for several moments as her mind whirled. Finally, she shook herself from her daze and continued on her quest to find Theo.
“Ace!” a voice called from behind her a few minutes later. Hermione grinned and turned to meet Theo who was hurrying towards her from the bowtruckle booth.
“Hey, Theo,” she greeted, hugging him briefly and feeling butterflies flutter in her stomach. “I was just looking for you.”
Theo tossed an arm around Hermione’s shoulders, and she smiled widely. “I was looking for you too. How is everything going?” he asked cheerfully.
“People are enjoying the carnival,” Hermione replied, wrapping an arm around his waist and feeling her heart soar as her smile widened. “I’m glad.”
“Me too,” Theo replied, smiling. “Walk with me?”
“Of course,” Hermione hugged closer to Theo’s side as they navigated their way through the crowd. After a few minutes of observing the games and how people were enjoying the carnival, Hermione spoke again.
“I saw Malfoy earlier,” she said haltingly, her eyebrows knitting together. She felt Theo stiffen beside her.
“What did he do?” he asked suspiciously.
“He…he asked me how I’ve been,” Hermione replied, confused. “I don’t know why.”
“Hm,” Theo snorted, “he didn’t pull anything?”
“No, we actually had a pleasant conversation,” Hermione explained. “It was bizarre.”
Theo nodded, deep in thought. “Let’s check out the grounds,” he suggested, changing the subject. Hermione let him, and they left the castle together.
The petting zoo on the front lawns made Hermione smile the moment she stepped through the gate. Hagrid beamed down at her and immediately began introducing her to the many magical animals around the pen.
“See this li'l one, here?” he asked, pointing to a shy, spiny looking creature cowering against the fence. “He’s a knarl.”
Hermione inched forward slowly, but the knarl scooted further away from her.
“Oh, he’s all righ’,” Hagrid assured her. “He’s a bi' like a hedgehog, y’know?”
Hermione nodded and knelt down next to the knarl.
“Jus’ don’ offend ‘im, and it’ll all be fine,” Hagrid smiled.
“C’mere little guy,” Hermione urged, slowly extending her hand. Theo knelt beside her and watched as the knarl shyly approached Hermione. A moment later, the little creature nestled against her palm, and Hermione was able to pick him up. “Oh, Hagrid, he’s precious!” she exclaimed, grinning widely as she pet the knarl.
Hagrid beamed. “And he’s not all we have tonight,” he said excitedly. “If yeh have time later, be sure ta stop by.”
Hermione nodded and pet the knarl once more before passing him into Hagrid’s enormous hands. “Thank you, Hagrid. Have a great evening.”
Theo led the way out of the petting zoo and towards the hedge maze closer to the school. Shyly, Hermione reached out and took his hand. Looking surprised, Theo stopped and looked down at their intertwined fingers.
“Hermione…” he murmured.
She began withdrawing her palm. “I’m sorry, I just…” She felt her face flush with embarassment.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, she mentally scolded herself. Why would you do that?
“No…” Theo murmured. “C’mon.” He smiled and kept her hand in his as he led the way through the maze. The hedges were covered in enchanted orange roses and twinkling orange lights that lit the Halloween mood, but the cobwebs draped on the branches gave the maze a slightly eerie look. Hermione squeezed Theo’s hand and smiled a bit as he squeezed hers back. Finally they reached a bench right outside the exit to the maze, closest to the doors to the Great Hall.
“Let’s talk, Ace,” Theo murmured, pulling her to sit beside him.
Hermione bit her lip nervously and sat beside him. "Yeah?” she asked, her voice coming out as a squeak.
Theo smiled. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he assured her.
Hermione smiled at the unexpected pet-name.
“I just want to talk about this,” Theo continued, glancing down at their hands, “about us.”
Hermione nodded and cleared her throat quietly. “I like you, Theo,” she admitted sheepishly. “You know that…”
Theo nodded, grinning. “And I like you,” he responded. “With that out of the way…what do you think we should do?”
“Do?” Hermione asked, confused.
“I mean…do you think…where should we go from here?”
Hermione simply stared at him.
Theo sighed. “Hermione…” He closed his green eyes for a moment. “There’s so much going against this…I don’t want to hurt you.”
Hermione looked into his eyes seriously. “You won’t,” she assured him. “Why would you?”
Theo shrugged, but looked sad. “Hermione, we live together. If we started dating…people would talk. They would say things about you, about us. I don’t want to be the one to give you that reputation. Not to mention, if we broke up…I don’t want to ruin our friendship or our partnership. And…my dad…my future…”
Hermione’s eyebrows knitted together. “You don’t have to choose that, Theo…” she whispered fiercely. “And I don’t care what people say about me.”
“I care, Ace. I don’t want that hanging over you…”
Hermione shook her head. “I don’t want to give up before we even try,” she insisted, fighting him. She knew that she liked Theo, and she’d liked him for a while, if they just quit before they even tried…she didn’t want to give up that easily.
Theo took a deep breath. “Then we try,” he conceded.
Hermione grinned and squeezed his hand. “We try.”
“Hermione, would you like to go to Hogsmeade with me next weekend?”
Immediately, Hermione nodded enthusiastically. “I would love to,” she replied.
Theo smiled back at her and shook his head. He still looked worried, but he was happy. He stood and pulled Hermione to her feet. “Let’s see how things are going inside.”
Hermione hugged him tightly for a moment. Theo's arms encircled her small frame completely, and she sighed into his chest. “Let’s go,” she replied, glancing up to see a smile on his face. Theo shook his brown hair back into place and nodded, leading the way out of the maze.
As they walked away, the bushes beside the bench they had been sitting on rustled, and Draco Malfoy carefully disentangled himself. His eyes were narrowed as he brushed off his robes. “Incendio!” he snarled, lighting the hedge on fire as he swept away from the maze. Behind him, the orange roses blackened and fell to the ground.
Author's Note: Here's chapter 8! The carnival chapter! :D And it's got some romance! How'd you like it? What do you think? Hermione/Theo-- yes/no? What's going on with Draco? And who's going to die in the coming chapters (plot twist!)? Hope you like it! Please review and tell me what you thought, it only takes a moment!
Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered, please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums. There's a link on my author's page!
(edited as of 7-30-14)
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