Out of Season
Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were destined to be together. Everyone knew it, from Professor Dumbledore in his office to Severus Snape in the frigid dungeons; from Dobby the house-elf in the kitchens to Mrs. Norris in the hallway; from Stella Sinistra in the Astronomy tower to Gregory Goyle in detention. For heaven's sake, even the pathetically unsociable Sibyll Trelawney, holed up in her incense-filled Divination chamber, knew it.
The only slight problem was that both Ron and Hermione refused to admit their little attachment to each other.
Which made life quite trying for people who regularly bumped into the pair.
"For heaven's sake, Ron!" scolded Hermione one evening, momentarily pulling her head out of a particularly engaging tome about the guarding enchantments Hogwarts used in its defenses. "Will you stop that? You're a prefect, you need to set an example for the younger children-"
Ron glared at her. "Merlin's beard, Hermione, lighten up!"
Ron had been tossing Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans into the air and attempting to catch them with his mouth; a particularly uncooperative, frighteningly pink one had gone astray and plopped directly into Hermione's bushy curls.
"I don't need to lighten up! I just don't see why you have to be so immature as to play around with sweets when everyone else is trying to study!"
Ron guffawed. "You don't need to lighten up? Hermione, look at yourself. Give the homework a break." He tossed an oddly olive-colored bean into his mouth and promptly gagged and spat it right back out again.
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"Rotten spinach," groaned Ron, who was holding his throat and making an assortment of odd faces.
Hermione buried her nose in her book to hide the fact that she was amused.
"Well," she said loftily to Ron (who was now darting around the table, searching for his water), "if you hadn't been playing around in the first place-"
"Oh, lay off it, Hermione!" snapped Ron, frustrated. "Where is the bloody water? Oh-"
Ron's large hand had met with the water a second before his eyes had, and the glass crashed to the table, spilling a puddle of water on everything.
Hermione jumped up instantly, pulling her bulging bag along with her. Ron let out a stream of swear words that were decidedly contrary to anything his mother had ever taught him as he pulled his Potions essay off the table.
"Ron," Hermione panted as she finished hauling Hogwarts, A History off the desk. "Do you think it remotely possible that you could settle down and do something productive for a mere hour, instead of causing a ruckus wherever you go?"
Ron turned a shade of red that would have put the Gryffindor common room carpet to shame. "Stop being so bloody insufferable, Hermione!" he scowled. "It's bad enough that exams are coming up without you pestering me every five seconds-"
"Why, do you actually care that exams are coming up?" accused Hermione shrilly. "You're not studying, you're just fooling around, and you expect me to lend you all my notes-"
Ginny Weasley sighed and shook her head, not only at the relentless bickering of her thick brother and her good friend, but at the fact that, since the Yule Ball in her third year, they had been dancing around the fact that they obviously were infatuated with each other. She heard someone else sigh next to her, and turned to see Harry Potter.
"I'm beginning to wonder if they'll ever let up and admit they like each other," she sighed, finishing the last sentence of her homework and putting it into her book. She tossed the book into her bag and started to stand up. She paused before slinging her bag over her shoulder, though, and sat back down, looking thoughtful.
"What is it?" asked Harry.
"D'you think," she mused, "that we should hurry them along a little?"
Harry frowned. "What do you mean?
"Well," she continued slowly. "Their arguing gets a little trying sometimes, and I think that they need some help figuring stuff out."
He shrugged. "Count me in. Can you think of anything to do?"
She paused for a moment, turning a possibility over in her mind. "I understand you're on speaking terms with one of the house-elves?" Ginny said finally.
"Yes," answered Harry. "But what-"
"I think I have a plan." Oh, yes, her eyes were definitely gleaming now. "And it involves Dobby."
She grabbed his hand unblushingly before he could ask anything again and began to pull him out of the common room. They both ran to the portrait hole to make their way down to the kitchens before curfew.
Ron and Hermione saw them go and stopped arguing for a minute.
"Now, where are they off to?"
Hermione Granger couldn't sleep.
Well, it wasn't so much the fact that she couldn't sleep as that whenever she dozed off, she was abruptly jerked awake again.
The fifth time this happened, she sat up in bed and scowled darkly, trying to figure out what had awoken her. She tried to listen closer, but the unfortunately timed midnight murmuring of Lavender Brown put a damper on any hopes that she would find the mysterious disturbance.
So, still scowling, she flopped back down onto her bed and shut her eyes tightly, trying to drift off again. Merlin, she needed her sleep, what with the usual post-Easter homework load the Hogwarts teachers saw fit to bestow on the students, plus the fact that the end-of-the-year exams were a looming priority.
Her eyes snapped open less than ten seconds later. There it was again- a slight rustling noise, coming from the common room. Hermione groaned quietly and, her patience rapidly slipping away, rolled herself out of bed. She shoved on a pair of slippers and pulled on a bathrobe speedily before padding to the door of the dormitory and heading down to stairs to the common room.
She entered the common room sleepily, and cast her eyes around to see-
-absolutely nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary, at least. The embers of the once-roaring fire were dying, to be set alight again by the Hogwarts house-elves in the early hours of the morning. The chairs, couches, and tables sat innocently where they were supposed to be, and the room was strewn with the various bits and pieces that two hundred students had left lying around before going to bed.
She paused at the foot of the stairs, casting one more look at the vermilion common room before heading back to bed.
"Hermione?" muttered a sleepy voice.
Her eyes flicked up from examining the floor to see Ron crossing over to her side of the room, rubbing his eyes.
"What are you doing up?" she asked tiredly as he reached her.
"Heard something," mumbled Ron.
"Oh? Me, too," said Hermione, surprised. "Wonder what it was?"
"Yeah, well," yawned Ron. "Doesn't matter-nothing's here. Let's go back to bed, Hermione. I'm bloody tired."
"Mmm," was her answer as she stretched her arms exhaustedly, and then stretched her neck. Then she stopped mid-stretch. Ron, wondering what she was gazing at, looked up also.
Hanging above them, quite innocently, was a sprig of mistletoe.
"Mistletoe?" asked Ron, confused.
"Mistletoe?" echoed Hermione. "But-but-it's May! It's out of season!" Then she blushed a delicate shade of pink as the significance of standing with Ron under the mistletoe registered with her. Unluckily for them, it was curiously nargle-free.
Apparently, Ron realized the same thing she did, because he turned an alarming shade of red.
"Um..." Hermione started.
"Yeah..." he muttered.
"Well," she sighed. "Let's get this over with." Under her breath, she added, "Blasted tradition."
Ron looked slightly crushed. Hermione didn't notice. He leaned closer to her, taking a deep breath. And then their lips touched.
Everything around Hermione melted into a hazy sort of-well, haze-as she melted into his kiss, and then she registered only one thing.
Kissing Ron wasn't half bad.
They pulled apart, and Hermione noticed that Ron looked a bit the same as she felt-pleasantly surprised. However, the feeling quickly melted into awkwardness.
Hermione looked around the common room distantly because she didn't trust herself to meet Ron's eyes. He didn't say anything, either, until their eyes settled on the same thing at the same time.
Sitting inconspicuously near a pile of unfinished homework and looking quite innocent was a luridly decorated sock. Both Ron and Hermione knew of only one creature that would possibly consider wearing something that gaudy.
Ron's eyes traveled from the sock (which had rainbow-colored hippogriffs flapping their wings) to the mistletoe above their heads. "Dobby?!"
His eyes widened as he struggled for coherency. "That little bugger--sorry, Hermione-- put the mistletoe here?"
Hermione felt a smile slowly creep up her face. Their eyes met, and they stood staring at each other for some time before Ron leaned in again, and gently pressed his lips to hers.
Somewhere in the depths of James Potter's Invisibility Cloak, Ginny and Harry crouched, staring with delight and victory at the results of their plan, chuckling quietly. And somewhere behind one of the crimson velvet chairs of the Gryffindor common room hid a strangely clad house-elf, nearly chortling in glee.
But the young witch and wizard under the mistletoe knew none of this, and as Hermione's tongue lightly traced Ron's lip, he couldn't help but feel a surge of gratitude towards Dobby, and house-elves in general.
By all accounts, though, this didn't mean he was going to join S.P.E.W.