The Sugar Quill
Author: Tracy (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Spirit of Halloween  Chapter: Default
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The Spirit of Halloween

The Spirit of Halloween

 

            Hermione Granger hated Halloween.

            It was odd, she knew, since she was a witch, but when she looked back on her time at Hogwarts, her Halloween experiences really hadn’t been very positive. There had been that troll in her first year, then the awful Deathday Party her second. At the third year feast the Slytherins had charmed her food so that whatever she ate turned her skin orange, and at her fourth year feast the Goblet of Fire had spat out Harry’s name. Then, in fifth year, they had started with the bloody balls. Each ball had a different theme: in fifth year it had been ‘Dress As A Muggle’. In sixth year it had been ‘Come As Your Favorite (Or Least Favorite) Hogwarts’ Professor.” This year it was going to be a plain old Masquerade Ball.

            Hermione despised them.

            Here they were, in their seventh year, about to leave school and become productive members of society. And yet everyone was still behaving like children, dressing up in costumes and eating an alarming amount of sweets. And no one was acting more like a child than the boy who was currently sitting in an armchair near the fireplace.

            “Hermione!” Ron called out, waving her over with one of his long arms. “Come here and look at what I’ve made!” Rolling her eyes, she carefully picked her way through a group of first years that were busily working on their costumes, and walked over to stand beside him. His cheeks were rosy from the fire and his red hair was tousled about his face, presumably from the wind outside. He had his long legs stretched out in front of him, and was wearing a black sweater that he had outgrown years ago. In fact the way it now stretched across his chest and the muscles in his arms was almost obscene. He looked ridiculously fetching, and Hermione was annoyed at herself for thinking so.

            “I happen to know you have Potions homework to do,” she said, wincing even as the words left her mouth. He rolled his eyes, which she happened to notice were catching the light of the fire and gleaming like sapphires. The fact that she noticed annoyed her almost as much as her reaction to his sweater.

            “God, Hermione, lighten up! It’s Halloween! I’ll do my homework later.” A group of girls in the corner, that Hermione and Ginny had taken to calling “the fan club”, giggled, presumably at Ron’s devil-may-care attitude. Ron flashed them a grin, and Hermione felt herself grow curiously warm underneath her clothes.

            “Didn’t you want to show me something?” she asked. He reached behind him and pulled out a Quidditch uniform that was a horrifying shade of orange.

            “Harry leant me one of his old ones, and I put some charms on it to change the color. I’m going as a Chudley Cannons player! Isn’t it brilliant?”

            “I thought the point of the ball was for it to be a masquerade? For people to not know who you are?”

He grinned again, and Hermione felt her heart flip. Damn heart irregularities.

            “Oh, well, I’m going to wear a mask, sure, but Harry pointed out that there’s really no way that people won’t know who I am, because of my hair. So it doesn’t really matter what I go as.” He pulled a piece of the uniform on over his head, leaving his hair even more dishevelled, and stood up for inspection. “Well? How do I look?”

            Even with the orange of the uniform clashing horribly with his hair, he looked good, very good. Hermione swallowed quickly. 

            “You look fine. I’d better go and get started on my homework.” She turned to walk away, and Ron reached out and caught her wrist. Hermione immediately felt a flush creep up her neck and onto her face as she turned around again to look at him.

            “Aren’t you coming to the ball?” he asked. She shook her head.

            “I’ve got so much work to do ... and well, you know how I feel about Halloween.” And I don’t really want to spend all night watching other girls throw themselves at you, she thought to herself. Ron frowned.

            “I really think -“

            ”I’d better go,” she interrupted, and quickly crossed to the other side of the room. She didn’t want to hear about how he thought she was no fun, or how he thought she needed to lighten up. She knew that he had stayed friends with her over the years mostly out of duty, since prissy Hermione was certainly no match for fun-loving, carefree Ron.

            “Are you alright, Hermione? You look like you just ate an earwax flavored jelly bean.” Hermione looked around for the source of the voice, and found Ginny sitting at a table beside her, in front of a piece of cloth.

            “I’m fine,” she answered. “What are you doing?”

            “I’m trying to come up with a costume. I want to be something really exciting, something no one would expect me to be. But then I heard Harry mention to Ron that everyone would know who he was because of his hair, and I realized that it applies to me as well. And now I can’t think of a costume, because no matter what I come up with, everyone will still see me as Ginny Weasley.” She sighed discontentedly, and pulled at a piece of her chestnut hair. Hermione laughed.

            “Oh Gin, I can fix that easily. What color do you want your hair to be?” Ginny wrinkled her forehead in concentration for a moment, then her face lit up.

            “Blonde. I want it to be blonde.” Hermione took out her wand and muttered a quick charm, and Ginny’s hair instantly changed from red to a sandy blonde. It was a startling difference, but looked nice. Ginny looked at it in one of the mirrors hanging on the wall, then jumped up and hugged Hermione tightly. “Thank you! I know just what I’m going to be now!” Hermione smiled as the younger girl sat back down to work on her piece of cloth.

            “I’m glad you like it, but I just don’t understand it Ginny. You’re one of the most intelligent girls I know. And you’re sixteen years old! So why are you participating in this...this child’s game?” Ginny glanced up, startled, and searched her friend’s face.

            “You really don’t understand?” Hermione shook her head.

            “That’s not the point Hermione, the dressing up. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you choose to be. It’s the spirit.”

            “The spirit?”

            “The spirit of Halloween. It’s the idea that, for one night, you can be someone else. You can do things that you would never be able to get away with on other nights. On Halloween, you can take chances that you’ve always wanted to take, but have never been brave enough to. The costumes are liberating.” Hermione frowned, and glanced over at Ron, who was laughing as he showed Harry the Cannon’s uniform. Ginny was making sense. And she could certainly think of one chance that she had always wanted to take. Ron’s eyes met hers, and she quickly turned away.

            “I guess I could see how that would be nice,” she said to Ginny distractedly. “I’d better go get started on my homework. Just because all the students seem to have gone insane doesn’t mean that the teachers are going to as well.”

            Waving a quick goodbye, she headed up the stairs to her dormitory, away from Ron and his tight sweater, away from the giggling girls who all thought she was a prude, and away from Ginny’s knowing eyes. Determinedly, she sat down at her desk and began her homework, resolving to put Ron and Ginny’s words out of her mind.

            Hours later, she set her quill down. Her fingers were stained with ink, and her hand was cramped from all the writing. She was finished, but for once she didn’t feel that her homework was excellent. She had been too distracted by what Ginny had said to pay much attention to her work.

            She stood up, stretching her legs, and walked over to the mirror. She studied the reflection that was staring back at her. There was an ink smudge on her cheek, and her brown eyes look tired and dull. Her bushy hair was pulled back in a no-nonsense bun, and underneath her robes she wore a pristine brown jumper. All in all, she looked like a fussy, albeit young, librarian.

            Tonight I could be someone else, she thought to herself, as Ginny’s words worked their way into her mind once again. I could be the kind of girl that Ron might want. She walked over to her closet, and sifted through the racks of jumpers and button-down blouses to find what she was looking for, a beautiful red dress that her mother had bought her for her birthday.

            “To wear on a special date,” her mother had said when she had given it to her, not knowing that her daughter had no special dates to go on. Hermione shrugged out of her clothes and slipped the dress on. It fit her perfectly, giving her curves that she hadn’t known she had, and making her look like a vixen of sorts. It wasn’t exactly a costume... but it was as far from her normal attire as she could possibly get. She glanced at the clock on her bedside table. She would be late, but it didn’t really matter. Tonight, she was going to be brave. Even though everything would go back to normal tomorrow morning, tonight she owed it to herself to take a chance.

            She walked back over to the mirror, and freed her hair from the bun. She brushed it out gently, then said a few charms, leaving her hair in soft curls that framed her face. She reached over to Lavender’s make-up box, and pulled out a lipstick - she would thank her later - and lined her lips in a deep, dark red that matched the dress. With a shaking hand, she applied mascara and eyeliner, making her eyes look huge, and then a tiny bit of blush to lighten up her cheeks. She murmured another charm, and transfigured her sensible brown shoes into a pair of sexy black pumps - very non Hermione-like. As a finishing touch, she transfigured her reading glasses into a small, red mask, the same shade as dress, and slipped it on. She stepped back to survey the final result, and was shocked. The person in the mirror was ... not her. She looked wild and beautiful, and seductive, and... brave. She looked like someone who could tell the man she loved how she felt about him. Taking one last deep breath, Hermione headed down to the Great Hall.

            By the time she got to the Ball, it was already well under way. Couples were holding each other on the dance floor, girls were comparing their costumes with each other, and the teachers were watching their students with amusement. Hermione immediately searched the room for Ron. He wasn’t hard to find. As usual, he stood head and shoulders above everyone except for Hagrid, and in the dimly lit room his red hair was like a beacon. He was standing in the corner with another boy who she guessed was Harry, and a group of adoring girls gathered around him. For his mask he was wearing just a thin black piece of cloth with two holes for the eyes, so Hermione could see every one of his freckles, every curve of his face that she knew as well as her own hand. One of the girls said something and Ron threw back his head and laughed, and Hermione was struck by a sudden, aching need to be the one who could do that to him, to be the one who was the receiver of that boyish grin.

            Suddenly, Ron said something to the girls and Harry.  He peeled himself away from the wall and began to make his way over towards her. Hermione felt her mouth go dry, and all the courage she had felt when she looked at herself in the mirror drained away. Who was she fooling? She was a bookworm, a priss, a teacher’s pet. Ron would never want to be with someone like her, not matter how she was dressed, and he would see right through-

            “Excuse me,” he said as he reached her side. “Would you like to dance?” And then he grinned in a way that was much less boyish and much more ... something else. But whatever it was, it made her knees feel a little bit shaky. Not trusting her voice, she just nodded. His large, warm hand wrapped around her small, cold one, and he pulled her to the dance floor.

            Hermione had always considered herself to be of average height. After all, Ginny was almost a whole head shorter than her, and she was the same size as most of the girls in her year. But when Ron took her in his arms, she suddenly felt very small. Even with heels, she barely reached the middle of his chest, and she had to tilt her head back at a sharp angle to look up into his eyes. As the music started up, he pulled her much closer than Hermione thought was proper to do with a complete stranger, and she felt her heart begin to race. He rested his forearms in the small of her back, and Hermione felt the heat of his body seeping through her dress. Sighing, she rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes, inhaling the scent of grass and soap that was somehow uniquely Ron.

            “What’s your name?” he asked, but instead of answering, she just shook her head and made a non-committal noise, fearing that he would recognize her voice and the charade would be ruined. He chuckled, and she heard it echo through his chest, right below the steady throb of his heart, which seemed to be beating a little faster than normal. “Going to be a woman of mystery, eh?” he prodded, but Hermione just closed her eyes again and tightened her grip around him, trying to imprint the memory of being in Ron’s arms on her mind forever. They stayed like that for what could have been hours, or minutes, Hermione wasn’t really keeping track. In fact, she didn’t open her eyes again until Dumbledore announced that the next song the band played would be the last.

            “You came to the ball pretty late,” Ron murmured, looking down at her, “We’ve hardly gotten a chance to talk at all.” His blue eyes were a darker shade than she remembered them usually being, and the expression on his face reminded her of the eleven year old boy she had met on the train to Hogwarts’, dressed in hand-me-down robes and trying unrewardingly to perform magic. Take a chance, she reminded herself. He won’t even know that it’s you. And with that thought, Hermione raised herself up on her tiptoes and pressed her lips against his.

            The kiss wasn’t like any of the kisses she had read about in books, or heard about from other girls. There was no bolt of electricity, no sudden surge of need, no fiery passion. Instead, there was just one, perfect moment of pure contentedness. For once, she wasn’t thinking about anything except for the feel of Ron’s lips on hers, and the way his arms were tightening around her. For the rest of her life, when she had returned to being serious Hermione, and Ron was left to wonder who the mysterious girl at the Halloween Ball had been, she would be able to return to this moment and savour it, as the one time in her life when she had been truly, perfectly happy.

            Ron pulled back first, but didn’t remove his arms from around her waist. She looked up into his eyes, which were now slightly dilated and wide with shock, trying to find what he was feeling. With a sigh, he reached up and pushed his mask away, leaving it scrunched up on his forehead.

            “Hermione,” he breathed. “I can’t believe you just did that.” Her heart hit the floor.

            “You ... you knew it was me?” she asked, trying to wriggle out of his grip before she embarrassed herself further. But he only tightened his grip.

            “I thought it was you ... I recognized the curve of your neck, and the way you carry yourself, and a thousand other little things. But when you kissed me, that’s when I knew for certain.” Oh god. He had known by her terrible kissing methods? This was what came of being brave and daring. Now he knew how she felt, and he would never be able to look him in the eyes again. She felt him reach touch her face, and realized that he was pulling off her mask. Without it, she felt naked, exposed, as his blue eyes stared intently into hers.

            “No kiss could ever be that perfect unless it was with you,” he said, and then she didn’t have time to think because he was kissing her again, raining kisses on her forehead, on her cheeks, kissing away the tears she hadn’t known she’d been crying. “I can’t believe it, Hermione,” he whispered, resting his forehead against hers. “All these years, I’ve been trying to get up the nerve to tell you how I feel, and then you’re the one who’s finally brave enough to do it.” Hermione’s mind was going a mile a minute, and for the first time in her life she was actually having trouble thinking rationally.

            “How - how do you feel about me, Ron?” she asked hesitatingly.

            “Are you daft? I love you! I thought I had made that pretty clear!” She let out a sound that was somewhere between a sob and a laugh, and then, because she couldn’t seem to stop herself, she kissed him again.

            “No, you hadn’t made that clear at all,” she finally responded when they came up for air. “Just so that everything’s clear, I love you too.” Ron smiled, and he reached down and cradled her cheek in his hand.

            “I had always told myself that someone like you, someone so smart and hard-working and accomplished, would never want to be with a screw-up like me.”

Hermione laughed. “I had always imagined that you thought I was a priss.”

            “Well, you kind of are.”

            “I am no-“ But before she could finish protesting, he was kissing her again, and she was too busy to care whether he thought she was a priss or not. She smiled against his lips. Hermione Granger had finally learned the true spirit of Halloween.

 

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