Hermione had never felt so nervous in her entire life. McGonagall coming meant that Dumbledore knew Sirius was hiding here. But of course he did. He was Dumbledore. Confronting McGonagall, however, was something else entirely. For a moment, they just stared at one another, the three of them, and then Buckbeak was suddenly making a noise at the cave entrance, and Harry swore. They burst into action, then, tugging Buckbeak back into the cave and throwing some meat for him to content himself with while Sirius motioned them deeper into the cave, into the shadows, before he whispered a simple concealing charm. They sat there, huddled against Buckbeak (who had been silenced), fear thrumming through their hearts as McGonagall finally appeared, walked past the mouth of the cave a few times, and then sighed before leaving. They waited ten minutes until Hermione went to check if the coast was clear.
“Next time, we’re taking the invisibility cloak,” Hermione grumbled on her way back in, “That was way too close. I don’t think we should stay much longer.”
Harry agreed, and, soon, they were saying their goodbyes and heading back down the rocky slope. As they went, a sudden thought struck Hermione. “Hey, Harry,” she began, smiling, “I know who you can ask to the ball.”
“Really?” he exclaimed, looking more than thrilled, “Who?”
“Her name is Luna. She’s a third year Ravenclaw, and she’s friends with Ginny. She’s a really sweet girl. Quite weird, but really nice. I think you’d get along with her. I’m on my way to meet her now; you can come along and see if you like her.”
“Wow, Hermione, that would be excellent.”
And so they travelled off through the village until they found Luna staring in at one of the shop windows. Hermione quickly set about introducing them before they went off to find somewhere to dress shop. They were just entering when Harry touched Luna’s elbow and, quite awkwardly, asked her, “I know we don’t really know each other, but Hermione said you really wanted to go to the ball, and I don’t have a partner, and so I was wondering if you’d want to come with me?”
“Of course!” Luna exclaimed, “Oh goodness, that means I get to pick out a dress, too! I’m definitely going colorful.”
And Luna tugged Hermione off into the depths of the store, leaving Harry to mull about in the lounge waiting for them. It wasn’t long, however, before his attention was stolen. The bell atop the door dinged and in walked Ron. “I thought that was you,” he mumbled, going to sit next to him on the couch, “What’re you doing here?”
“Impatiently waiting while the girls dress shop. Hermione and her friend, Luna,” he elaborated.
“Ginny knows Luna. They’re in the same year. Who’s she going with?”
“Er… me,” Harry finished rather softly, and he was right to. Ron’s ears went pink, and he frowned, clearly put off. He didn’t say anything for a few minutes until there was a knock on the window behind them, and they both turned to find Lee Jordan’s face smashed against the window unattractively.
Harry laughed and immediately went outside, Ron bemoaning as he followed him. The twins were behind Lee, each leaning their hands against his head, though they jumped back when Harry and Ron appeared. “We need you,” George said, grabbing both of them by the shoulders and turning them around the corner of the shop and into an alley. Fred came up behind them, rifling in Lee’s backpack until he let out a happy noise and pulled something wild-looking out.
“Here you go,” he said, tossing Harry and Ron each one. Harry lifted his and looked at it, puzzled. It was spiky and green, though it looked edible. “Go on, pop ‘em in. We want to see if they work.” Harry shrugged and dropped it into his mouth. He always trusted Fred and George, probably more than he should, though Ron was glaring skeptically at them. Harry chewed and chewed, and it was only when he swallowed that he felt it. His whole face felt like it was on fire, and he nearly gagged.
Fred hooted, clearly pleased. Harry’s skin had turned bright red and smoke had started to whistle out of his ears, nose, and mouth. Harry gasped, releasing a rather large bout of steam, and the twins howled with laughter until Lee rolled his eyes and reached into his backpack. Ron had started to chew his when nothing happened to Harry, though, seeing now, he looked horrified as he swallowed.
Something entirely different happened to Ron. Instead of red, his skin turned blue and icy puffs of air came from his mouth and nose while icicles grew from his ears. Lee gave them each separate things; this time, they were a yucky grey and completely smooth. Harry immediately felt his skin cool while Ron felt his warm again.
“That was wild,” Harry complimented, “Another get-me-out-of-class idea?”
“Yea, though it’s rather obvious it’s from us. We were thinking more for pranking people, in the long run, at least,” George said with a wicked grin.
“So, why were you two in a dress shop? Not trying to pick up girls, I hope,” Fred laughed.
“Harry’s already got a date,” Ron said furiously, and Harry rolled his eyes.
“Lay off it, Ron,” he said with a sigh, “Have you found someone George, Lee?”
“I’m going with Katie Bell,” George said, puffing out his chest rather proudly.
“Lavender Brown,” Lee said with a shrug, “She’s in your year, but she was practically begging people to take her, and I couldn’t find someone, so I said yes.” Fred and George nodded solemnly until Lee glared at them.
“—who are you going with?” Fred finished, nudging George.
“Luna Lovegood. She’s—”
“Ginny’s friend,” the twins said at the same time.
“Speak of the devil,” a voice said from behind them, and they turned to find Luna standing there with Hermione behind her.
“We were only gone for a half hour or so,” Harry said in disbelief, “How could you possibly be done so fast?”
“Luna jumped into the row of dresses, screamed, and was running off to pay,” Hermione laughed, “And I found mine a few minutes after. Hey, I want ice cream, d’you wanna go to Honeydukes?” she asked of Luna, who immediately nodded, and the two girls disappeared around the corner.
Harry, Ron, and Fred were all baffled. Ron was even more furious than when he’d started off, especially because Hermione was steadfastly ignoring his existence ever since their blowout yesterday. Fred couldn’t believe how seriously she’d taken her sentiment of laying low and not making each other even angrier. After a rather nasty bout of snide remarks, they’d decided to just take a few days break from each other. The remarks hadn’t been serious, even, Fred reckoned, which surprised him most. They were just on edge about always being careful and hiding, and, though he would never admit it out loud, it hurt him to hear that she’d accepted Viktor Krum’s proposal to go to the ball. And then there was Harry, watching Hermione retreat without a backward glance. He instantly knew something was wrong.
December fourteenth. 1994.
Hermione sat in the common room that night, scribbling away at her two foot essay due next week in Potions. She’d been looking forward to writing this essay since they’d been assigned it this past Friday, though tonight was the first free moment she’d had. All her other time had been eaten away with helping Harry and forcefully mending her friendship with Ron, and if she wasn’t doing that, she was with Luna; their friendship, at least, seemed to have skyrocketed, seeing as they loved spending time with one another. She was strange, Hermione was the first to admit, and she sometimes got on her nerves, but she liked her overall.
She was on her second piece of parchment, nibbling on the end of her sugar quill (she loved these especially because she always caught herself doing this) when the couch dipped suddenly, and she looked up, took in Fred’s presence, and went back to staring at her essay. He sat there for a full minute in silence before sighing when Hermione leaned forward to continue adding. He reclined into the couch and let his arms fall on either side of him, his feet propped up on the small coffee table Hermione was writing on. She knew she shouldn’t be writing hunched over like this, but all the good desks were taken, and she’d just wanted to start this.
When he sighed for a third time, Hermione straightened and lowered her quill, making sure to place the tip away from her parchment in case it dripped. “Is there something I can help you with, Fred? I’m kind of busy, in case you hadn’t noticed,” she said rudely, even though she knew he didn’t deserve it.
“Really? You’re still angry with me?”
“You hexed Ronald, Fred. Not only that, you and George have been singing at me everytime I’m around about how I’m so in love with Viktor. Why can’t you just give it a rest?”
“I thought you weren’t on speaking terms with Ron still, so I thought you might get a chuckle out of that.”
“Even if I weren’t, I still would be mad. He’s my friend, and you can’t just go hexing people in the middle of the hallway for no good reason. Honestly, Fred, you’re such a child.”
“Why didn’t you just let me ask you to the ball?”
“You’re as thick as your brother!” Hermione yelped, moving to gather her things, but Fred stopped her with a closed hand over her wrist.
“Do not compare me to Ronald and his thickness. He’s about as bright as a monkey.”
“Monkeys are almost smarter than us!” Hermione shrieked; honestly, were they really fighting over this. “Look, Fred,” she snapped angrily, “I don’t know what your problem is, but—”
“My problem is that I want to go to the Yule Ball with my girlfriend, but she’s too fucking afraid to admit to the world that she’s dating me! I don’t care what Ron thinks, Hermione! He’s a goddamn git, and his opinion shouldn’t mean anything!” Hermione stared at him, eyes wide. He seemed to have forgotten they were in a crowded common room, but that didn’t appear evident as he stood and started to storm away.
“Fred, really,” Hermione began, standing, but he turned on her again.
“No,” he said, dangerously quiet as he stopped in front of her again, “No. If you want to go to the ball with Viktor, then go. Date him for all I care. Because, as far as I’m concerned, you don’t have a boyfriend.”
And Fred walked off up the boys’ staircase, leaving Hermione to fume a second before sprinting after him. “Fred Weasley!” she shouted, banging right through his door, “You can’t break up with me!”
Lee choked as George spilt the water he was carrying everywhere. Fred spun around to face her, livid. “I can break up with you, actually! I mean, are we even really dating? No one knows except my brother and Luna Lovegood! I don’t even know her!”
“Luna is my friend!”
“But don’t tell Harry, someone we all trust!”
“Harry is Ron’s best friend! That’s not exactly trustworthy, now is it? What does it even matter? Fine, tell the world we’re dating!”
“WE’RE NOT!” Fred roared, storming right up into her face, “Or are you too dumb to understand that? Ron wants you, so fine, he can have you! Because I don’t want you! You’re selfish, Hermione! All you can think about is yourself!”
“And you’re not? All that matters is whether you’re happy or not! How do you think I’ve felt these past months, pretending I’m not absolutely giddy on the inside?”
“I don’t even know what I was thinking. You’re Hermione Granger, better-than-everyone know-it-all.” That did it.
Hermione swallowed, staring at him in shock. Fred didn’t even seem to register what he’d done until she blinked furiously, trying to push away her tears. “I’m sorry I ever cared about you,” she whispered before hurrying out of the room, shaking.
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.