Even though Ive read Flying with the Cannons more times than I can count, I dont particularly care for reading. I believe that there is always a better way that I could be spending my time, rather than sitting down with a book in front of me. Hermione, on the other hand, is a different story entirely. Give her a book, and shell be occupied for hours. Well, half an hour anyway.
Sometimes I wonder if she even really enjoys it. I watch her in the library occasionally, and no, I dont stare. But, Ive seen the way her brown eyes fly across the page, brow furrowed, and her mouth set in a tight line, churning through chapter after chapter. Its almost as if she is afraid that if she doesnt read them quickly enough, the words may disappear from the pages forever. This intensity that she reads with, I assume that it isnt new. Definitely not something that she picked up at Hogwarts.
Ive never seen her bedroom at her parents house, though Ive imagined what it must look like. Not that I care so much what it looks like. Anyway, I see bookshelves lining the walls, just loaded to the point of breaking with books of all kinds. Books with the absurd pictures that dont move, but books just the same. Shes probably read them all, a good lot of them more than once. Books must have been the candy of her childhood, as her parents never let her have any real candy growing up. They are both dentites, or something like that.
At any rate, its Hermiones love of books and reading that brings us to the story. Last night in the Gryffindor common room, all I wanted to do was take a nap.
--- --- --- --- ---
The warmth radiating from the fireplace enveloped me as I worked my way deeper into the soft comfort of my armchair. Hermione was sitting in another chair to my right, and to no ones surprise, had her nose buried in a book. Harry and Ginny sat on opposite ends of the couch across from me, both looking as worn out as I felt.
Katie is brutal, said Ginny, sharing my opinion on the matter, but using much less colorful language than I would have used.
Wood was pretty obsessive, started Harry, but I dont know that it was ever this bad. Was Angelina-
No, mate, I interrupted. Once you and the twins got booted last year, she eased way back.
To my surprise, Hermione looked up from her book.
You know, she started, shes probably just feeling a lot of pressure.
Why? asked Harry. Weve played one match, and we won it.
Ginny laughed. As long as Malfoy is the Slytherin seeker, I dont think theyll be beating us.
Hermione smiled at Ginny and continued. Yes, but both Oliver and Angelina won the Quidditch Cup in their seventh year. For that matter, Gryffindor has won the Cup the last two times that the matches have been played. Id imagine that she doesnt want to be the captain of the team that loses that streak.
No, I replied, well leave that to Harry next year.
The girls laughed as Harry delivered a well-aimed seat cushion to my face.
At any rate, said Ginny, were going to need to get her to back off.
Agreed, responded Harry.
Come up with a plan, and count me in, I said, as I closed my eyes.
I had just gotten into a comfortable position, and felt sleep starting to overtake me, when an annoying little voice in my head broke the blissful silence.
Ron, have you finished your homework?
I ignored the little voice, hoping it would go away.
Ron, Im talking to you! I know you arent asleep.
I grunted softly. Of course Im asleep.
My conscience started gently poking my shoulder. I tried to inch over to the other side of the chair, but it wasnt far enough away. The poking became more incessant. Sleep would never come at this rate.
If I show you my homework, will you let me be? I asked, still not opening my eyes.
You did it? she responded.
I forced my spent body out of my chair and started slowly towards the boys dormitory. I looked at her as I walked by. I dont appreciate the tone.
She smiled at me. Yes, youll have to excuse my disbelief.
Hows the preparation for O.W.L.s coming along, Ginny? asked Harry.
She stopped laughing. Nice one, Potter.
I made it up to the room and dug around in my bag until I found the roll of parchment with my essay on it. I smiled to myself as I imagined the stunned look I expected to see on her face when I got back downstairs. Shell be mighty bored tonight without me to nag, I thought.
I crossed the common room and dropped the parchment in her lap as I passed. Harry and Ginny, still stretched out at the ends of the couch, both looked extremely close to falling asleep. I felt a little jealous. Falling back into my chair, I turned to watch Hermione unroll my essay. Her eyes started moving rapidly across the page in her unique, but easily recognizable, method of absorbing written information.
This is good, she breathed.
I sounded a little too surprised.
It is, she repeated softly. Its perfect.
She beamed as she passed the parchment back to me. I dropped it on the table and settled back into my chair. The warmth was just starting to surround me again when she spoke.
Are you really just going to fall asleep?
Only Hermione would think that sleep is wasted time.
I opened one eye. I thought that I might, yeah.
The look of disappointment on her face was so obvious, I think that even Harry would have picked up on it. If he wasnt too busy snoring, that is. He never seems to pick up on the little things like I do.
I rubbed my eyes and sat up a little straighter. Okay, Im up. But seriously, Hermione, I dont have any more homework to do.
I know, but I thought that maybe youd like to hear about this book that I just finished.
I raised my eyebrows.
And maybe read it? she added softly.
Times like these made me wonder if she actually knew anything about me. The likelihood that I wanted to read a book fell just ahead of my wanting to discuss my personal life with Snape. There is a part of me, however, that finds it harder to avoid doing these types of things when shes involved. So I found myself saying, Okay.
Her eyes lit up as she held the book aloft for me to see, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Its a classic, she said.
It is? I responded. Ive never heard of it.
She waved me off. Ill give you the really short version, as I dont want to spoil it for you. Its about a man named Ebenezer Scrooge, who needs to regain his Christmas spirit. Hes visited by three ghosts who each take him on a journey to enlighten him as to what Christmas should mean.
Who are the ghosts? I asked, my interest rising ever so slightly.
The Ghost of Christmas Past-
No, I interrupted. What were their names?
She frowned. Im telling you. The first is The Ghost- A look of understanding broke across her face. Oh, right. They dont have real names, Ron. Its a Muggle book.
So, Muggles dont know that ghosts are people that decided not to move on?
She sighed. Maybe you should be taking Muggle Studies.
I held out my hand. Give me the book.
Her face brightened. Really?
Yeah, Ill check it out.
I flipped it open and began to read.
The chair was soft and comfortable. The heat from the fire became overwhelming. The dulcet tones of Harrys snoring were as calming as the sounds made by the ghoul in the Burrows attic. The words began to swirl together as I felt my head begin to bob.
My head popped back up, and I stole a glance out of the corner of my eye to see if Hermione caught me dozing, but she wasnt there. I looked up. Harry and Ginny were gone as well. Gits! The three of them went to bed and just left me there. I got up, dropping Hermiones book on the table, and stretched. My back was a little stiff from sleeping sitting up.
I was thinking that I should probably go upstairs and turn Harrys eyebrows purple for leaving me down there, when a deep voice sounded behind me.
I spun around. Whos there?
Its me, Mr. Weasley.
A shiny silhouette moved from the shadows, the details coming into focus as it moved into the light.
What are you doing in here? I almost shouted.
Im here for you Mr. Weasley.
I froze. The silhouette wasnt walking, it was floating. It moved in front of me, appraising me with its beady eyes.
Im the Ghost of Christmas Past, said the ghost of Professor Snape.
I rubbed my eyes. It didnt make the ghost go away.
Im here to take you on a journey, Weasley, said ghostly Snape. Perhaps this journey will answer the questions in your mind.
What questions? I asked.
Come, Weasley. Take my hand and see for yourself.
I blanched. Take your hand? I dont think so.
The ghost sneered. The thought of holding your hand hardly gets me all tingly inside, Weasley. Now, lets go!
It moved on me quickly, its hand flying out and catching mine in its icy grip. The common room started spinning, becoming a blur. I closed my eyes as I felt my stomach lurch. The third helping of dessert I had eaten that night threatened to make a repeat appearance.
Snape released my hand. First stop, Weasley.
I opened my eyes to find myself looking at, oddly enough, me. I was sitting cross-legged on my bed in mine and Harrys room at twelve Grimmauld Place. All of the Christmas presents that I had purchased for everyone last year lay spread out in front of me.
All right, Ghost of Christmas Past, why are we here? I asked.
Thats Professor Ghost of Christmas Past, growled Snape. And we are here to investigate your Christmas purchases.
I turned to watch my fifth-year self pick up, and begin to wrap, a large box of Every Flavour Beans.
Who are those for, Weasley?
One can only hope that there is a high ratio of vomit-flavored ones in that box.
It happened much too quickly for me to be sure, but I thought I saw the ghost smile.
We followed the same procedure as we watched me wrapping gifts for George and my father. Then I picked up a small box containing a bottle of perfume.
For your mother, Weasley?
I felt my face get hot. No.
Your sister, perhaps?
Hermione, I said quietly.
Ah. He leaned forward to get a better look at the box. Yes, a splendid choice, Weasley. I see you got her Insufferable, the preferred scent of the know-it-all.
I had been wrong. My face was only warm before, now it was hot.
The ghost turned from watching the perfume being wrapped to look at me.
Perfume for Miss Granger? An interesting gift choice for the bookworm, wouldnt you say? In fact, he continued on, stopping me from answering his question, a book on Numerology would be something more to her liking, dont you think?
He regarded me with his beady eyes. I wonder what your thought process was when picking out this gift. Assuming there was any thought at all, of course.
Perfume is a suitable gift for a guy to give a girl, I protested.
To give to just any girl, Weasley?
Hermione isnt just any girl.
Indeed, said Snape, with a knowing smirk on his face that I would have loved to hex off. Unfortunately, he snatched my hand and sent the room spinning again.
I wasnt sure I cared for the direction that this journey was heading.
Next stop, Weasley.
I opened my eyes to find us located outside Ginny and Hermiones bedroom at twelve Grimmauld Place. I started to ask when this was, when myself and Harry started coming down the stairs. Just as they reached us, the bedroom door opened and Hermione emerged.
Thanks for the new book Harry! she said happily. Ive been wanting that New Theory of Numerology for ages! (Told you, said Snape.) And that perfume is really unusual Ron.
No problem, I heard myself say. Whos that for anyway?
Kreacher, she answered brightly, as the trio continued down the stairs.
I moved to follow them but the ghost stopped me.
Were done here, he said.
We are? What was I supposed to learn here?
I just wanted to make sure you knew I was correct about the book, the ghost sneered as it grabbed my hand.
I closed my eyes, waiting for the journey to end. This trip seemed to be taking longer than the others. The ghost broke the silence.
Now, we may get some answers for you, Weasley.
I opened my eyes. We were standing inside Ginny and Hermiones bedroom. Both girls were asleep.
I looked up at the ghost. This is a little awkward.
Why is that, Mr. Weasley? the ghost raised its eyebrows at me. Surely youve seen Miss Granger in her sleepwear before.
I turned back to look at the sleeping girls. Scratch that, I replied, this conversation is much more awkward.
After a moment, Ginny began to stir. She sat up, stretching her arms back over her head. Her face lit up when she saw the pile of gifts set at the end of her bed.
Hermione, she said, wake up. Presents!
From somewhere beneath a pile of blankets, her voice sounded. Im up.
She sat up, running her hands back through her hair, pulling the curly masses back from her face. She beamed at my sister. Merry Christmas, Ginny!
Merry Christmas, Hermione!
Both girls scooted down to the foot of their beds. Ginny picked up the package right at the top of her pile and began tearing it open. Hermione carefully sorted through her packages, inspecting them, until she reached a small one wrapped in shiny green paper.
An interesting choice, eh Weasley? asked Snape.
I didnt answer as I continued to watch my friend. I wasnt going to make anything of her selecting my gift first. For all I knew, Hermione liked to open her presents based on size, from smallest to largest.
She pulled the wrapping paper off gently, revealing the light blue box containing the perfume. She turned it over in her hands, examining the box on all sides. She placed it down in front of her and picked up the wrapping paper, flipping it over to look at the tag.
Hard to understand how she can do so well on exams, when she can hardly remember the name on a gift tag for more than thirty seconds, said Snape. Perhaps she had a hard time believing it was from you?
I looked up at the ghost, but didnt respond. I really didnt know what to say.
Hermione picked up the fairly large package from Harry next, thusly shattering my package size theory. She tore off the paper, revealing the book, an enormous smile breaking across her face. She flipped through a couple of pages before placing it down beside her. She made to reach for another package, but hesitated, instead picking up the small light blue box once again.
What have you got there, Hermione? asked Ginny.
Perfume, answered Hermione, a light pink coloring her cheeks.
Ginny, still holding one of her packages, swung herself out of the bed, moving to get a closer look. Whos it from?
Ron, she answered softly, her cheeks decidedly darker than pink.
Ginny dropped her package.
The ghost snapped its fingers, freezing the girls in motion.
Mmmm, said the ghost, even a sibling is stunned by your gift. Is it any wonder that Miss Granger doesnt know what to make of it?
I hated not having a snappy comeback.
The ghost regarded me for a moment, as if it expected me to say something. Then it shrugged, snapping its fingers, setting the girls in motion once more.
Ginny took hold of Hermiones wrist, pulling her arm closer so that she could take a better look at the small box.
Oooh, she said, this is nice.
It is, Hermione replied. She bit her lip, pausing to think. But this really isnt what I expected. Why would he get me this?
Why indeed? answered Snape, making a big show of rubbing his chin between his thumb and forefinger.
Maybe he knows youre a girl now, responded Ginny, a devilish grin on her face.
Do you now? asked Snape. It wouldnt surprise me if it took you a few more years to figure it out, Weasley.
Shut up. I responded.
Now you know, Mr. Weasley. The information is yours to do with what you will.
The ghost sighed. Unusual does not equal crap, Mr. Weasley. Unusual equals unexpected.
A small smile fought its way across my face as I watched Hermione open the box and remove the small bottle of blue liquid.
So, the gift is okay? I asked.
The ghost rolled its eyes. I assure you, Insufferable does not smell like otter dung.
We watched in silence as Hermione sprayed the perfume so she and Ginny could smell it. They chatted and laughed as they worked their way through the rest of the gifts. From time to time, Hermione would regard the small bottle of blue liquid with a smile, and it would make my stomach jump.
I still dont like you, I said without looking at the ghost.
Likewise, it answered, as it grabbed my hand.
When the spinning stopped, the ghost and I were located in the Great Hall. The ghost snapped its fingers and a plate of chicken wings appeared on the Gryffindor table.
Eat, said the ghost.
I sat down and started eating. The wings were quite good and a little spicy. My mouth burned a little, and a glass of pumpkin juice appeared. I picked it up, draining half of it in one swallow.
The ghost looked down at me. Once I leave, you will be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Christmas presents? I asked, spraying a little food as I spoke.
It wrinkled its nose at me. Not Christmas presents, Weasley. Christmas Present. Past, future, present. How you received any O.W.L.s remains a mystery.
I ate another chicken wing, the spice causing my face to grow warm. My forehead started sweating, and my mouth was on fire now, but I didnt want to stop eating.
Goodbye, Mr. Weasley, the ghost said.
I looked up to watch the ghostly image of Snape fade. Surely this incident would be the root of many nightmares to come. The room started to spin as I considered what the Ghost of Christmas Present (surely it would be Lockhart, the wanker) would show me. My stomach lurched painfully causing me to moan in agony. Maybe I shouldnt have eaten so many chicken wings.
The room spun faster and the heat in my head became close to unbearable. Just as I thought that I might pass out, what felt like a cool breeze reached my forehead. It was cold and soft, and I leaned towards it, hoping that it wouldnt stop.
I turned my head, looking for the ghost.
Ron, are you okay?
The room stopped spinning and I was sitting in my armchair in the common room. A Christmas Carol lay open on my lap; Hermione stood above me, her cold hand pressed up against my forehead.
Are you okay? she repeated, concern in her eyes. You were groaning a bit.
Im all right, I answered as she withdrew her hand. Stomach is a little jumpy though.
She smiled. Perhaps two desserts tonight would have been enough?
She stepped back as I stood up from the chair. I glanced around the common room, not only were Harry and Ginny gone, the room was completely empty.
Where is everyone?
Bed, she answered. A while ago actually. Its well after midnight.
Is it? I smiled at her. Then let me be the first to say Merry Christmas, Hermione.
Her face lit up. Merry Christmas, Ron.
She stepped forward and pulled me into an embrace. I put my arms around her and squeezed gently. I breathed in deeply. There was something familiar about that sensation.
As she released me she stepped back, eyes searching my face. What is it? she asked.
You smell nice, I said, the heat rushing right back to my face.
She smiled, her cheeks flushing as well. Thanks, its called Summer Breeze. Comes in light blue box.
She looked at her feet. Good night, Ron.
Good night, Hermione.
I watched her walk across the common room and up the stairs to the girls dormitory.
--- --- --- --- ---
Ive gone off my nut, right? I asked. I was not visited by Snapes ghost last night, it was just a bad dream caused by too much food and Hermiones crazy Muggle book. Right?
He regarded me with his bright eyes, tilting his head to one side.
Not much help, are you? I asked.
Crookshanks jumped off of the couch and headed towards the stairs to the boys dormitory.
Stupid cat, I muttered.
Up kind of early, arent you?
I jumped up from the chair I was sitting in to see Hermione and Ginny walking towards me.
Who are you talking to? asked Hermione
No one, I answered, feeling a bit stupid.
Was it a good conversation? asked Ginny.
Hermione laughed. Merry Christmas, Ron.
Merry Christmas, Ron, said Ginny.
Merry Christmas, I responded.
Hermione crossed over to me, reaching up to put her arms around my neck. I returned the embrace, breathing in deeply, and smiled.