Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine.
Hermione settled herself into a deserted section of the
bleachers and spread out all the necessary items. One set of brand new
double-pointed needles, seeming impossibly small and slender in a neat case,
and two skeins of wool sock yarn, one called “Bordeaux Red” and the other
She could hear the sounds of the Quidditch practice far
below, but it was distant. Harry and Ron and Ginny would be out of her hair for
a little while, at least, she’d taken quite enough teasing from the three of
them about her hats and scarves, she didn’t need them hovering around asking
questions about her first attempt at socks.
She set a bag of chocolate on the seat beside her, and
spread out the parchment Mrs.Weasley had sent her across her knees. One basic
sock pattern, as requested, handwritten and complete with thoughtful
There were quite a lot of directions, actually. It wasn’t
long before Hermione was chewing on her lower lip in intense concentration and
growling “What in the world?” at frequent intervals. Two needles she could
handle, but four just seemed... unreasonable. They shifted about in her
hands like a tiny porcupine bent on escape.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs behind her barely took
her mind from the page.
“Hi Hermione,” said a familiar voice.
Hermione tried not to sigh outwardly. Part of her was almost
glad for even a moment’s distraction, but the part of her that wanted to sink,
bulldog-like, into the project and not let go until she’d shaken all the
answers out of it, was not so thrilled.
“Oh, hi Neville.”
“Mind if I join you?”
She found that she didn’t, really. “Of course not,” she said
gently. “Do you mind if I keep reading this out loud, though?” she asked. “It’s
rather complicated.” She hoped that was a tactful enough way to explain she
didn’t want to have a conversation.
He shook his head, and dropped onto the bench a short
She nudged the bag toward him. “Have some chocolate. Mrs.
Weasley sent them.”
Neville picked up one of the foil wrapped candies, propped
his feet up on the toe rail, and settled in to watch the players swooping in
the field below.
Hermione returned to her daunting task.
Neville was quiet, at least, except for one of those
occasional comments guys couldn’t seem to help making while watching sports, of
annoyance or concern or appreciation.
“....14, 15, 16,” she murmured. She paused to check the
parchment, and then had to look and see if she was due to knit or purl, and
then realized with a horrible sinking feeling that she’d lost count. The
prospect of unraveling all her work loomed ahead of her like the maw of some
sheep-eating dragon. “Umm...uh....”
“Seventeen,” Neville supplied absently, eyes still on the
The time passed by quickly for Hermione, before she knew it
practice was over, and the bag of chocolate between them had morphed into a
litter of shiny, empty wrappers.
“Thanks for the company, Neville,” she said sincerely as
they stood to leave. In a rush of sudden optimism and gratitude, she found
herself saying, “If I ever get these made, I’m giving them to you!”
Neville could tell that Mrs. Weasley had presented Hermione
with something even Hogwarts had not ~ a genuine puzzle, and it was obsessing
her. He did what little he could to help, including threatening his dorm mates
with bodily harm if they made any disparaging comments about her efforts.
Mostly he just tried to keep quiet whenever she was working, and to keep Trevor
out of her tote bag.
Hermione, however, was not used to confuddlement, failure,
or second-rate results, and he could see it was beginning to take its toll on
her nerves. He wasn’t entirely surprised when she finally snapped one day at
the Common Room study table.
“I can’t do this!” she cried, after performing some strange
ritual called ‘frogging’ that Neville had been relieved to learn had nothing to
do with actual amphibians, but rather, involved unraveling yarn. Apparently
Hermione had been doing rather a lot of it.
“Of course you can,” he called over from the couch, turning
to look at her.
“I can’t. I give up, I just give up.” The words sounded as
if they had tasted quite bitter coming out of her mouth, he stood up in concern
and walked over.
“You are not giving up.”
“I just don’t understand... it’s all about mathematics, I
can do Arithmancy in my sleep. Why doesn’t this make any sense?”
“I’m sure it will later, Hermione, after you’ve made a
couple. You just need practice.”
“The stripes don’t meet up in the back!” she wailed, holding
them up in his face and bursting into tears.
“Hermione,” he began awkwardly, pulling a handkerchief out
of his pocket and offering it to her. She disappeared behind it. “Just because
you don’t get something perfect on the first try does not mean you should just
throw it out the window. I mean, I know this must be a new experience for you,
but trust me, if you stick with it, it will sort out.”
“Besides,“ he added, “the weather’s turning colder. What am
I going to wear to the big game next week?”
“You’d really want to be seen in public in this?”
She held up the lumpy little parcel of wool on the end of its tangled string.
It rotated quietly, bristling with needles like some bizarre Christmas
“Oh, absolutely,“ he said with conviction.
She sighed. “All right,” she sniffled grudgingly. “I’ll
He dropped onto the sofa again and leaned back into the
cushions with mock exhaustion.
“Now I know what you went through trying to keep me from
quitting Potions,” he exclaimed.
“The sock is on the other foot now, isn’t it?” she
laughed a little, tearfully.
The day of the game approached. Neville now knew more about
the anatomy and construction of socks than he’d ever expected (or wanted) to.
He knew that turning a heel was a big deal, and that there was such a thing as
a gusset, and that when Hermione was muttering under her breath about ladders
she was not talking about the things you used to get to the top shelf of
One evening in the Common Room, despite the fact it was
rather crowded, he managed to procure one of the armchairs. He was reading over
a homework assignment when he sensed a nervous presence.
He looked up to find Hermione standing in front of him with
the now familiar sock-in-progress.
“Um, Neville?” She colored a little. “Since I don’t know
what I’m doing, I kind of need you to try this on.”
“Uh, OK.” He took his shoe and sock off and propped his foot
up on the ottoman. Hermione carefully eased the ring of wooden spikes into
place until it came to rest around the top part of his foot. His toes were
bare, but his ankle, heel, and most of his foot were warmly encased in rows of
knitting. “My goodness,” Hermione breathed in wonder. “It... it is starting
to look rather like a real sock, isn’t it?”
“It is,” he agreed, pleased. In truth, he felt rather
proud, that he was going to be the recipient of a handmade pair of socks. Not
that he’d ever thought to mind that all his clothes were shop-bought,
especially since his Gran did tend to purchase things on the higher end of the
scale. (She said that quality lasted longer, but he’d always suspected it was a
bit to do with image.) It just made him feel special, somehow, that someone
was going to all the effort to make them, and that they were being made to fit,
and on top of it all they were in his house colors.
“Only eight more rows or so and I can start the toe
decreases!” she exclaimed happily.
He had no idea what toe decreases were, but Hermione seemed
excited about it, so he nodded sagely as he’d learned to do and said, “Great.
Wonderful. Good job.”
The second sock, to Hermione’s intense relief, had gone much
faster than the first, although it was only marginally better crafted. She’d
come to think, however, that Neville might be right, that this would get easier
with practice, until one day she might even look back on this first pair and
laugh. Well, perhaps not. But they were done, and on the last practice before
the game, Hermione met Neville in the stands holding two burgundy and gold
items that were no longer attached to needles.
“Are they finished?” he asked eagerly.
“Well, yes, sort of, but...”
“I can’t give these to you, they’re dreadful!” she blurted
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m sure they’re fine.” He reached out
but she clutched them to her chest.
“I’ll make you new ones, Neville,” she promised fervently. “Better
“Give me my socks, Hermione,” he said firmly.
She saw there was going to be no way out of it; he was set.
“What are you, a house-elf?” she demanded irritably.
“Miss cannot promise someone a pair of socks and not deliver
them. Sir would be most disappointed,” Neville teased.
She handed them over meekly ~ dropped stitches, jogged
stripes, and all.
“Thank you,” he said, face lighting up in a genuine grin.
She watched with a combination of delight and mortification as he dropped onto
the bench, kicked off his shoes, and began replacing his neat black socks with
her misshapen, lumpy creations.
“They’re perfect.” he declared, wriggling his toes.
Remarkably, he made Hermione feel that maybe they were.