The Sugar Quill
Author: Doctor Aicha (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Honestly, Ron!  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

***

A/N: Ginny and Harry are together. It is the result of a story I didn’t yet write. It is in my head, and you’ll simply have to trust me. As a result, Ginny and Hermione are closer than before, and Ginny is very confident- she’s blossomed now AND we don’t see her blushing and stammering.

****

Hermione Granger leaned back in her favorite chair in her favorite corner of the Gryffindor common room. Heaps of books formed a very effective barrier to the rest of the chamber, and she had her 1001 Dark Curses and How to Defend Against Them propped against two of the larger piles. Despite the large amount of homework she needed to do, she simply wasn’t concentrating.

Her hand went to her forehead, rubbing her temples and pushing her bushy bangs back. She exhaled slowly, her eyes shifting to the tower window to her right, the one that overlooked the Quidditch fields.

None of that, Granger,” the voice inside her head said sternly. “You have work to do! Midterm exams are only a few weeks away! And you’ve Potions homework! Don’t think about anything – anyone - else!” Hermione frowned, and told herself she’d manage it – she always did. She was the cleverest witch in her year, wasn’t she? “Apparently not very clever with boys, are you?” the voice asked. Hermione felt as though someone had punched her. Darn him anyway. Boys are silly!

Just then several fourth year students burst through the portrait hole, laughing and jostling each other. Evidently some joke or another was making the rounds. Ginny Weasley was giggling along with her classmates as she glanced toward Hermione’s corner. Her brown eyes took in the older girl’s stormy expression, glancing at the books before shifting to the window. Hermione watched the girl with the familiar shade of red hair make her way over as several students headed into the bedchamber towers.

“Hello, Ginny,” she began, as her friend reached her.

Ginny grinned as she returned the greeting. “What’s going on, Hermione? I figured you to be in the library, since Harry and Ron are at Quidditch practice.”

The older girl’s eyes shifted almost imperceptively to the window. “I, well, I decided that I would study here tonight. It’s closer to my books, of course. I wasn’t sure which ones I might need.”

One red, perfectly groomed eyebrow shot up. The look out the window was indeed almost unnoticeable, but Ginny was very astute. “Hermione, the library has any book you could need... and I saw the look out the window. Come on now, I of all people know the signs.”

“What signs?” Hermione asked innocently, as her stomach bottomed out. I shouldn’t have had that trifle at dinner, she thought, blaming her stomach butterflies on the dessert.

Ginny rolled her eyes in an achingly familiar, achingly Weasley way, and looked pointedly at the window. “Do you suddenly care for Quidditch, Hermione? Or has my silly brother’s position at Keeper got something to do with you wanting to keep an eye on the field? Come on now. I’ve had years of experience with silent longing.”

Hermione had the good grace to blush, and she closed her eyes briefly. Just talk to her. She knows anyway. What are you going to do, pour your heart out to Parvati? Opening them, she said, “Ginny, I don’t know what to do.... I....” her hand went to her throat as if to help clear the lump that had suddenly attached to her larynx, making further speech nearly impossible.

Pulling out her wand, Ginny pointed to a blue armchair and commanded, “Accio.” The chair drew itself up near Hermione, behind the mountain of books that had been so carefully constructed. Ginny put a comforting hand on Hermione’s arm, knowing exactly how she felt. Sympathetic eyes found tortured ones. “Hermione, my brother is an idiot, like Harry.”

Hermione chanced a quick look at Ginny, something akin to anguish in her eyes. “But Harry,... well... and, this summer... you know, but Ron...” she trailed.

“Yeah, I know,” Ginny grinned at a sudden memory of a silent, prone Harry pushing a lock of hair away from her cheek as she bent over him. After years of angst, Harry had finally noticed that Ginny was a girl, and a very cute one at that. It had taken getting knocked off of his Firebolt by the fiery fifteen year old to make him realize it, however. “But Harry is different from Ron. He’s more damaged, sort of. But stronger too. And not such an idiot. I don’t know why you like my brother, really Hermione, but you’ve got to take matters into your own hands! He’s oblivious to the fact that he’s crazy about you.”

Hermione’s eyes widened. “You can’t really think that’s true, Ginny. I … he doesn’t... I mean, he hasn’t ever... he’s never done anything that would give me that idea....”

“Nothing? What do you call that outburst at the Yule ball? And his whole attitude about Viktor?”

Hermione pulled a wry grin. “But he’s never said that he...”

“But nothing, Hermione, trust me. I live with the git. I know him rather well.”

Hermione brightened slightly, thinking for a moment. She screwed up her mouth, wrinkled her nose, and seemed to come to a decision. She exhaled a long breath. “So, what should I do, then?” she asked, blushing, because she was afraid Ginny would think she was too eager. A sudden thought plagued her. “You wouldn’t tell Ron, would you? Or even Harry? I would die of humiliation.”

Ginny grinned conspiratorially. “Are you kidding? We witches have to stick together. What you need to do is go that extra mile, you know, get some new robes and maybe paint your nails or something.”

“But, you knocked Harry off his broom, you didn’t try to change yourself for him. I don’t want to look too obvious...” Hermione began, looking skeptical. “That sort of thing just isn’t me, Ginny....”

“It was you at the Yule ball! Look, I don’t mean to say that you ought to be someone else. Just do something that calls attention to yourself without making you uncomfortable. I know you’d never ask him out, but it wouldn’t hurt to walk next to him, would it?”

 

“Or perhaps send him a Valentine?” Hermione teased.

“It’s not Feb- Hermione!” Ginny squealed, blushing. “That is so embarrassing.... then again, it kind of worked, in the end!”

Laughing, the girls almost didn’t hear the portrait swing open, but they couldn’t mistake the deep voices as the boys in question stepped through the hole. Ginny grinned at Harry, who smiled back easily – a familiar smile that was coming less often, now that Voldemort was back. Hermione, meeting Ron’s eyes, blushed furiously, sure that he knew what she and Ginny had just been talking about. Can he read it in my eyes? Can he see we were just talking about him? Oh no, oh no, her little inner voice squeaked. Say something. She looked down and began to gather her books. “Nice practice?” she mumbled.

It was Harry who answered her query. “Great! We’re going to win the Cup this year! I’m sure of it!” He slung one arm around Ginny and ruffled her hair.

Meanwhile Ron was staring at his shoes, the tips of his ears bright red. Hermione thought it was quite odd, but she decided that Ron was embarrassed at Harry’s pronouncement.

*****

“We at Hogwarts like to move with the times,” Dumbledore was saying, as Ginny rushed into the Great Hall. She was late for breakfast again, and she squeezed into the Gryffindor table across from Hermione and between Harry and George. “We have always had a Halloween feast; this year, the feast will have a bit of a twist. Since it is a Saturday night, and we’ve no classes on Saturday, we’ll have the traditional feast followed by a Halloween party – costumes required.” Over the groans of several students, he continued. “Muggles have for generations worn disguises at Halloween,” he glanced briefly at Professor Snape, who looked disgusted, “and I think it sounds like a bit of fun.” Slytherin table began to murmur and groan, and Dumbledore turned toward them with narrowed eyes. “I intend to go to the party as Wade Fraley, who won the Nobel Prize in Magic last year – students who do not wish to participate may choose to take dinner in their common rooms.” With that he sat down, a cue for the students to begin breakfast.

Hermione could almost hear Malfoy’s smirk as he spat out, “Better that than follow Muggles in anything.” She herself, being Muggle-born, was quite familiar with the custom of dressing up for Halloween. It wasn’t as popular in England as she knew it to be in America, and in Scotland it was a popular holiday, if not quite for children. But a large number of Muggles tended to dress as witches, and wizarding children who dressed up on Halloween tended to go to parties as Harry Potter – and that was certainly out!

“Bit old, aren’t we,” Ginny stammered. Hermione barely heard the youngest Weasley as her mind raced – it was only two weeks to Halloween! How would she ever come up with a costume in time?

Harry grinned. “At least it isn’t a ball. It’ll be fun. Never got a chance to dress as I pleased on Halloween. Always got Dudley’s hand-down costumes,” he finished, stuffing a forkful of steamed tomato into his mouth.

Hermione chanced a sidelong look in Ron’s direction, a couple of chairs down the table from her. He was looking at Harry. Hermione guessed why, and laughed, “Oh, honestly, Ron!”

He caught her eyes, grinning ruefully.  His shrug told Hermione he couldn’t help being protective, she was his little sister, no matter how old or happy she was. Hermione grinned, and it was like old times, raeding Ron’s mind. Then Ron suddenly flushed, and looked away.

Hurt, but all the more determined, Hermione picked up a slice of toast and her bulging bookbag. “Ginny,” she said, “would you meet me in the common room after your Potions class?” Ginny nodded her agreement as the brunette continued, “I have to go, I’ve got double Arithmancy this morning, and I don’t want to be late.”

Ron looked at his pocket watch. It was at least twenty minutes too early for her to leave the table. Guess she caught you staring at her. But damn it! Why’d she have to be so cute when she grinned? This is all her fault. Can’t act normal anymore. She’s just Hermione!  He sighed. Maybe I should try to find out what she and Ginny were on about. Wait… Ginny’s Potions ends half hour after Quidditch practice starts. It looks as if I won’t out find today, anyway – Katie’d kill me if I were late to practice! Ron picked up a piece of toast and slathered it with marmalade. He took a big bite, and glanced at Harry and Ginny. They’re happy enough. Nice to see Harry smiling

Ginny intercepted his stare this time. “Why the long face, big brother?” she asked.

Ron flushed, grumbling, “Goes with the long body.”

George laughed. “Don’t you know what’s wrong with him, Gin?”

“I do, but I don’t think he does,” the youngest Weasley told her brother. “Now shut up, you prat.”

*****

Hermione lay stomach-down in her bed, waiting for Ginny. Her head was propped in her hands, and she was actually daydreaming about Halloween. Lavender and Parvati were sprawled on Parvati’s bed, talking about something – Hermione simply wasn’t listening to them.

A tall red-headed boy approached her, wearing a musketeer costume from seventeenth-century France. She was wearing a long, ice blue gown, rich with decoration – like something a princess would wear. They were both masqued in those elaborate, feathered concoctions usually reserved for Carnival in Venice. The red head took her hand – perfectly manicured – and led her toward a long table. He handed her a drink, and touched her chin softly. “Hermione,” he whispered, and it wasn’t a question.

“How’d you know who I was?”

“I’d know you anywhere,” he answered. The musketeer took her goblet from her hand, pulled her close, and –

“HERMIONE!” Lavender shouted, breaking her reverie. She looked up, finding her two roommates and Ginny standing there staring at her. Lavender started giggling.

“No use asking you where your mind was, is there?” Parvati grinned. “Although I could guess.”

Ginny was smiling. “Come on, Hermione, scoot over.” Ginny scrambled up onto the bed and asked the fifth year girls, “So, what are you going to be for Halloween?”

Parvati and Lavender sat on Lavender’s bed, which was nearest to Hermione’s. “I’m going as Shiva,” Parvati said. “That’s a Hindu goddess. She’s the Destroyer of Worlds. It’s going to be fantastic. My Mum has the gear at home as she used it a few years ago for her Halloween costume.”

“That’s a lovely idea, Parvati, you’ll look fantastic – and you might be able to teach us all something about your culture. I haven’t been able to come up with anything really good. What are you going to be, Ginny?” Hermione asked.

“Well, it was Harry’s idea, really. He’s going as the Mad Muggle Martin Miggs and I’m going as Muriel Miggs.” Ginny colored sweetly. “Uh, you know…”

“His WIFE!” Lavender was laughing again. “Oh. I don’t mean to make fun at all, I think it’s sweet! I don’t know what I’m going to do, either. I thought about going as a bottle of butterbeer. That would be really unflattering, though, so I’m trying to come up with something else.”

Hermione flopped back on her back. “I don’t have time for this! I’ve got an Arithmancy essay to finish and I really should be studying memory potions for our N.E.W.T.s. I just want to choose something and be done with it.” She pressed a hand to her eyes and made a disgusted sound with her mouth.

“How about…” Ginny trailed off, thinking.

“Pirates. No, how about… a vampire? Or a veela?” Parvati interjected. Hermione sat up.

“That would be a miracle! How could we pull off being veela?” Lavender snorted. “But I could see the vampire idea working. Oh, Hermione, can I have that one!?” Lavender had jumped up, excited. “Please?”

Hermione shuddered. She’d avoid anything that involved huge teeth. She’d enough of that, thank you. “Go ahead, Lavender, I’ll think of something. Maybe…”

“Marie Antoinette!” Ginny had nearly shouted.

Suddenly Hermione’s vision came back to her. She could see it! A long golden dress, very tight on the top, with a corset-like shape, a large skirt, lots of decorations, very rich fabric… powdered, tall white wig, masque, heavy make-up …

“Perfect!” she smiled, jumping off the bed. “Ginny, let’s go to the library and look for some pictures of her.” She grabbed Gunny’s hand and pulled her up. “I’m sorry to rush off, girls, I’ve got some research to do.”

******

Hermione found just the picture she needed in a book called Magic and the History of France. She decided to owl her mother right away. “Mum’s got a dress she used to be Queen Elizabeth, and my Gran sews, so maybe they can come up with something,” she commented to Ginny.

Ginny grinned. “You’re going to look beautiful!… This is the perfect opportunity, Hermione… I mean, to make Ron notice… You know, without being uncomfortable…”

Hermione smiled. “But do you think it will really work?”

“He’ll never know what hit him.”

******

Hermione had gone to the owlery, back to the tower to get her schoolbooks, and had headed to the library to do some homework by the time Ron and Harry made it back to the common room after practice. Harry sat down near the chair that Ron had taken; both boys were exhausted.

“Stupid idea of Dumbledore’s, eh, Harry?” Ron grumbled for approximately the 999th time since breakfast.

Harry grinned; he had a good idea why Ron was in such a foul mood, and it had nothing to do with the announcement at breakfast. “Ginny and me are going as the Mad Muggles. What are you going to come up with?”

Ron groaned. “I’ve NO idea. I haven’t got anything that would do for a costume. Maybe I’ll go as Percy.”

Harry laughed. “Just borrow his big-head boy badge and you’ll be set.”

Ron sat up in his chair, elbows on his knees and chin propped in his hands. “No, I want to do something really good… Maybe I’ll go as Jack the Ripper, that’s good and terrifying.”

“Yeah, but no one knows who he was, and no one knows what he looked like.”

“Harry, you don’t believe that bloody rot! You haven’t read any wizard history, have you?”

Harry looked confused. “Only when we were doing that research first year, and what we’ve done in Binns’ class.”

“You ought to check out Mass Wizarding Murderers from the library,” Ron commented, a kind of maniacal smile on his face. (A/N: Honestly, boys are so bloodthirsty! I couldn’t help him saying it, he just did, I promise. And that look was on his face!)

“Was Jack the Ripper a wizard then?” Harry asked.

“Of course! Why do you think the ridiculous Muggle police never caught him, but yet he stopped killing? He was a nutter, that one. Name of, oh, what was it… Oh yeah, William Graves, if you can believe that one. Mental. Wizard police put him in St. Mungo’s and kept him there. He was dangerous, but completely crazy. Ate one of his victim’s kidneys. Even if they were Muggle street walkers…” Ron broke off, and shuddered. “I think he’d had some kind of romance with a Muggle woman who’d broken it off when he told her, you know, about his being a wizard… he went mad, seriously. Started cutting women up, not even magically killing them, wanted to do it with his own hands. Then he’d just apparate, and leave the police to figure out the mess he’d left.”

Harry had looked really fascinated with the story. “I have to go get that book. Meet you at dinner, then?” he said as he looked at his watch and started for the portrait door.

“But I still don’t…” Ron began, trailing off as the portrait closed behind Harry, “…have a costume.”

Maybe the Ripper costume would work… but would people know who I was? I guess the Muggle-borns wouldn’t. Or maybe if I dressed with that top hat and a long cloak, kind of dapper…

Ron was still thinking about his costume, wondering where he was going to get a butcher knife, when Hermione came through the door, carrying her heavy book bag.

“Hello Ron,” she said, sitting down in the chair Harry had vacated. She put her bag on the floor and propped her feet on it. “Er… where’s Harry?”

Ron’s ears turned a lovely shade of rose. “’lo, Hermione. He went to the library. You didn’t pass him on your way up?”

“Honestly, Ron,” Hermione rolled her eyes, “there’s more than one way to get to the library. Maybe if you went there more often you’d know it.” Hermione blushed suddenly. That’s nice, Hermione, insult him..

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “Just because you spend all your time down there doesn’t mean the rest of us want to be boring,” he returned. That’s right nice, Ron.

Hermione turned her head away, hurt. She knew she’d started it, but still… she wasn’t really boring him, was she? As tears welled up, she picked up her groaning bookbag and hoisted it onto her shoulder. “As I am so boring, I think I’ll go up to my room.”

Ron rubbed his temple with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. “Not coming to dinner?”

“Boring people don’t need to eat. We just study!” On the last word, her voice broke, and Hermione fled up the girls’ staircase.

“Damn it,” Ron said to no one in particular.

Up in her room, Hermione let the tears come. The frustration over Ron and the strain of everything poured out of her. She reckoned she was overreacting, but she didn’t care. Why was he such a, such a boy? She lay on her side in her bed, Crookshanks curled up next to her, and let all the hurt of the past three years fall onto her pillow.

*******

Ron stirred his soup absentmindedly. Girls. What a disaster.

Harry watched Ron through speculative eyes. “Where’s Hermione, Ron?” he asked, curiously.

“How should I know?” his best mate exploded. “I don’t keep up with her, and I don’t care where she is!”

Harry’s eyebrow lifted. Mischief replaced the speculation, and Harry commented, “Oh, really? I was just asking, but… you know what they say. ‘Methinks thou dost protest too much.’”

Ginny giggled. George guffawed, and Fred fell laughing to the floor. Several other Gryffindors watched as the Ron’s ears turned red. “I don’t know what you are on about, Harry, but you can forget that idea.”

“What, that your girlfriend is mad at you again?” Fred asked through his laughter.

“My girl- Fred, you’re mad!” Ron looked astonished. Imagine! My Girlfriend! That’s just... that’s just silly!

“Oi Ron, admit you fancy her!” George demanded.

“Shut up, the both of you, or I’ll tell Mum about the Wheezes.” Fred and George had been selling their wizarding jokes all year at school, despite Molly’s express command that they cease until they’d left school.

“Oh Ron,” Ginny sighed, “Please, can’t you just put us all out of our collective misery? And just where is she anyway? She said she’d see me at dinner.”

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “Last I saw her she was going up the stairs to her room. Now let me alone.”

And remarkably, they did just that.

*****

For the next week, Ron and Hermione refused to speak to one another. Harry thought it was worse than third year, when they were fighting over Scabbers’ supposed death, because it was so obvious that they were both miserable about whatever had happened. They refused to even talk to Harry about it; but that didn’t stop them trying to get him to take sides. “She’s awful, Harry, she has been since first year,” and “Really Harry, he’s just so lazy and hateful, honestly I don’t know how you can still be friends with him.” They were going to drive him nutters; never mind Jack the Ripper.

The Monday before the Halloween feast, two great grey owls dropped a large, lumpy package near Hermione’s breakfast plate. “It’s arrived!” she exclaimed, talking animatedly to Ginny. “Oh, I wish we had time before classes…”

“We do. Take your toast and let’s go back to the tower!” Ginny said as she stood. “See you later,” she called over her shoulder to Harry as she hustled Hermione out the door.

Harry exchanged a glance with Ron, who had been pretending not to notice the package or the exit of his sister and his… his friend. Harry shrugged; Ron gave him a lopsided grin.

Taking advantage of Ron’s good mood, Harry took the opportunity to ask, “When are you two going to make up?”

“What, Hermione and me?” Ron asked, although he knew the answer. Without a pause, he continued. “I guess I’ll try to patch it up today or tomorrow, if she gives me a chance. It’s hard work, ignoring Hermione. More trouble than it’s worth.”

“That’s brilliant, Ron, really, it’s a pain when you two fight,” Harry grinned. “And you miss her, so you’re grumpy.”

“Harry, shut up,” Ron groaned.

 

*****

Meanwhile, in Hermione’s room, the girls had the package unwrapped and the contents lay across the bed. The dress was a good approximation of a 18th century Muggle gown; it had a bell shaped skirt, a very tight bodice, and long sleeves. The velvet fabric was a rich golden hue, with touches of pale gold and white. It was trimmed with beads that looked like amethyst. Mrs. Granger had also sent a powdered wig she’d bought in a Muggle shop and a golden half masque that would cover Hermione’s face between her hair-line and the tip of her nose. Hermione’s own cloak and a lace fan she’d gotten in Belgium on a vacation with her parents would complete the look.

The girls squealed with delight, oohing and ahhing over every detail, until it was time to go to class.

As they went down the stairway, Hermione said, “It will be perfect.”

“Ron won’t be able to resist you,” Ginny added.

“Oh, him. Well… I suppose I will have to start talking to him again, if I’m going to try to, well, make him notice me,” she replied, logically.

Ginny just shook her head.

********

It wasn’t until after dinner in the common room that Ron and Hermione had a chance to patch things up. She was doing a Potions essay; Ron was talking to Harry about the first match of the year. Ginny came in – she’d had detention with Snape – and sat in Harry’s lap.

Ron, wincing, said, “Can’t you take that elsewhere? I don’t care if you date my sister, Harry, but do you have to… you know… nearly snog in public all the time?”

Hermione tutted from behind her Arithmancy textbook.

“What are you on about, Hermione?” Ron asked, moving to the chair next to hers.

“Harry…” Ginny mumbled, nodding toward the portrait hole. She slid off his lap and dragged him up by the arm.

“Uh, right. Uh, Ron, uh… we have to go,” Harry murmured, although Ron wasn’t paying them the least attention.

Hermione put down the book and looked at Ron. “What do you care if they snog? Don’t you want Harry happy?”

“Course, I do, Hermione… but… and it isn’t that I mind he and Ginny being together… but there is just an ick factor, you know, she’s my sister.”

She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Ron, I misunderstood… I…” she broke off, and looked at her hands. “Maybe I do that too often, lately.”

“I’m sorry too, I shouldn’t have said that about, you know, studying. I don’t know…” His ears were a delightful shade of magenta as he tried to find the words. “I don’t know why I explode all the time, anyway I’m sorry.”

Hermione rewarded his effort with a broad smile. “Oh Ron! I hate to fight with you!” she exclaimed.

“So,” he began.

“Er,” she said.

“Erm, are you going to the feast, then?”

“Yes, I am. How about you?”

“Reckon I will. Harry’s going as the Mad Muggle.”

“That’s what Ginny told me.”

“What’s your costume, then?”

“I want to surprise you and Harry. So I’m not telling.”

“Oh, come on, you can tell me! I won’t tell him,” Ron pleaded, curiosity lighting his eyes. “Please?” he put his hand on her knee. She almost told him then. He was hard to resist, and every rational thought seemed to have fled.

Ron’s. Hand. Is. On. My. Knee. Hermione flushed, her heart swelled so that it might burst if he didn’t remove his hand. Or if he did remove it.

Er… How’d that get there? Ron thought. Um… how can I leave it there? No! I did not just think that. Must …remove… hand… now.

He casually sat back, his hand leaving her knee. “Well? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

“No, Ron, really.”

“Mine’s really good. Come on, give us a hint.”

“Ron! Honestly!

They were grinning then as several seventh year students came in.

*****

By Thursday, the entire school (except Slytherin house) was abuzz with thoughts of the costume party. Ron and Hermione had reverted to short, stammering sentences and blushing whenever they got within fifteen feet of one another. Harry and Ginny simply shook their heads, glad they, at least, had gotten the point. In the common room, a scant forty-eight hours before the Big Event, Gryffindors of all ages were speculating on costumes. Most people were keeping their costume choices quiet, as Dumbledore had hinted that there might be a contest worth fifty Galleons and a case of butterbeer to the best costume.

Ginny and Hermione were in Ginny’s room, trying on costumes and gossipping.

“Ginny, you look…” Hermione broke off, unable to put what she was thinking into words. “You’re… priceless!” Since she was Muggle-born, she found Ginny’s costume particularly funny. The younger girl was dressed in a brown plaid skirt that was at least two sizes to big, a hot pink halter top, and a pair of yellow sneakers.

“Wait ‘till I get this wig on,” she laughed, holding up an electric blue wig. She flipped her head over and pulled on the wig over her short copper curls. She righted herself, looked in the mirror, and burst out laughing. “Oh, my god, this is awful! It’s perfect!” she squealed.

Hermione was laughing so hard she was in tears.

Once they’d regained their composure, Ginny prodded Hermione to try on her costume.

Hermione pulled the golden dress over her hips and turned around for Ginny to zip it up. Turning back around, she smoothed the velvet over her flat stomach, admiring the fit in the mirror. “It’s remarkable,” she pointed out, “that my Gran can make alterations only knowing my measurements. I mean, I wasn’t there to try it on, but…”

“It’s perfect, Hermione,” Ginny breathed, very pleased. “Oh, you’d going to be the belle of the ball!”

Hermione pulled the tall white wig on over her bushy brunette hair. “Oh, it’s just what I imagined!” she exclaimed.

“You need some jewelry, though,” Ginny commented. “A necklace, a really elaborate one, and a tiara.”

“Do you think I can get a fake one in Hogsmeade Saturday?”

“Probably. There is that accessories shop there, they’ve always got lots of fun things.”

“Great.” She paused. “Um, Ginny… do… Do you think Ron will like it?”

“Are you mad, Hermione? Of course he will.”

*****

Saturday dawned fair and cold, and the first Hogsmeade weekend of the term was a fantastic way to divert the students from the impending evening. The Three Broomsticks was full of Hogwarts staff and students. Harry, Ron and Hermione, and Ginny shared a large table with Lavender and Seamus. It was nearly three hours until feast time when Lavender stood up, saying, “I think I’ll head back. Lots of preparation to do if I want to win.”

“Wait, we’ll come with you,” Hermione added, glancing at Ginny.

*****

The Great Hall looked fantastic. The starry ceiling cast a pale glow over the hall, the castle ghosts provided a bit of ambiance, and the hangings had been changed to orange and black in honour of the holiday.

Harry was wearing a pair of tartan pants and an orange polo shirt. He looked the part of a mad Muggle. Ron, on the other hand, had borrowed an old black half-coat and top-hat from his Uncle Finnius via owl-post. He wore a plain white shirt and a pair of black trousers; he carried a dragon-headed cane (borrowed from Bill) and a large stainless steel knife that Professor McGonagall had charmed to be harmless when she’d given him permission to carry it around. Both boys’ costumes were very good, but Ron thought secretly that he looked rather more dashing than Harry. Especially in that awful costume.

When they arrived in the Great Hall, they were astonished to find that the usual large House tables had been replaced with a number of smaller, round tables. The hall was draped in black, lights twinkled from the star-lit ceiling, and roaring fires made it warm and inviting. Harry and Ron took a table. Harry’d seen Ginny’s costume, but when she arrived with it on, he was glad to be sitting down. He’d had the breath knocked out of him. She was, her – well, those robes sure covered a lot of Ginny!

But it was Ron who was stunned. Ginny had arrived with a goddess, and it wasn’t Shiva (who was obviously Parvati, Ron thought). Which fourth year was that golden vision of a girl? It was hard to tell in the mask and wig. But… she was heading his way.

“Hello, Ron,” Hermione’s voice came from the goddess.

“Er… Hermione?” he replied, a bit dumbfounded, grateful to be able to even catch a breath. She was beautiful.

“Yes, Ron… What do you think of Marie Antoinette?”

“That’s who you… wow, it’s an amazing costume.”

Her face fell a bit. Somehow, he’d said the wrong thing. “Er, Hermione, you look fantastic, Different from the usual.” That wasn’t right either! Now she looked really upset.. “I mean, you always look nice but tonight you look great…”

Hermione smiled, letting him off the hook. She could see he was trying, and after all, he was only a boy.

“Thanks, Ron, er, I think.” She sat down.

Harry had pulled Ginny into his lap. “Hey, I have to have my own chair. I have to eat!” Harry responded by feeding her a strawberry.

Ron and Hermione were trying very hard not to look at each other. Without meeting his eyes, Hermione murmured, “Um, nice costume Ron… who are you?”

“William Graves, Hermione,” he answered.

“Um…”

“Don’t tell me you don’t know who he is! Wait Harry, mark it down. Hermione doesn’t know something,” Ron exclaimed.

“Ron! Just tell me who it is. You can gloat later.”

“Muggles call him Jack the Ripper.”

Hermione’s eyebrows rose. “You had to pick something horrible! A murderer! But why’d you call him, what was it?”

“Will Graves. Wizard. Muggles never caught him.”

“Really? That’s fascinating. I never thought of all those unsolved Muggle crimes that wizards might have done. I really should do some reading…” Hermione caught Ginny’s eye and recognized that perhaps, right now wasn’t the moment to be talking about studying. “Er, well anyway you look nice. Rather smashing actually.”

Ron grinned.  “I look good! And since you’re the best looking girl in the room, we make a good pair.”

Hermione’s eyes were big. What did he mean by that remark? Us, a pair? What does that mean? She was saved from a reply by the appearance of plates of food in front of them.

Ron was dying. I cannot believe I said that to her, he thought, blushing slightly. He was saved from meeting her eyes by the arrival of the feast, but Harry, sitting across the table, caught his eye and raised a brow inquisitively. Ron looked down as his ears turned red. Luckily, his top-hat covered them, or he’d have given himself away.

******

Ron leaned back and put his napkin on the table. “That was brilliant, nearly better than Christmas,” he commented.

Harry grinned. “You keep eating like that and you won’t be able to fly!

Ginny giggled. “All of the Weasleys are blessed with fantastic metabolisms. You won’t have to worry. Besides, Ron’s awfully skinny. I should think he should gain a few pounds so he could take a Bludger to anywhere other than his hard head.”

Ron picked up his napkin, throwing it at her head. Harry caught it easily as Hermione primly laid her napkin on the table. “Now what?” She asked.

“Well, I guess maybe there will be some music?” Ginny proposed as the empty plates disappeared.

Dumbledore stood at the front of the Great Hall in a very odd cloak. His long hair was neatly cropped close to his head, and he had no beard, but it was obvious that he was dressed as some kind of Muggle scientist. “May I have your attention, please? If you would all remove yourselves from your table, we will rearrange the room for a bit of dancing and some other activities.” Students moved quickly to comply. The round tables transformed into much smaller  tables, arranged themselves with two or three chairs against the walls. Music began to filter through the Hall (magically, of course). The students took new seats, and Harry and Ginny were among the first on the dance floor (mostly because Ginny liked dancing. Harry was reluctant to repeat the Yule Ball episode, but he’d do just about anything to please Ginny).

Ron and Hermione found themselves alone, at a small table for two near the back wall of the Great Hall. Ron didn’t know why, but Hermione sort of did. After all, it was her plan.

“So,” Ron said. Hermione was staring at the dance floor. Ron thought, she sure is cute. Wait. Did I just think… yeah. Yeah, I did. Hermione is cute. No, she’s pretty, really pretty, and smart. And she looks great. And

The girl in question had screwed up her face into a look Ron had learned to fear. It was her determined look.

Well, here goes. Just remain calm. He’s your friend. It’s perfectly logical that you might… “Ron, would you like to dance?”

Ron was stunned. That certainly was a bit different from what he was used to hearing from her when she got that look.

Hermione died a thousand deaths as the seconds passed. Ron’s mouth hung open and he had a sort of glazed look on his face.

“Never mind then, it wasn’t…”

“No.” He finally managed to squeak out. “I mean, no, not never mind,” he said, a bit more forcefully. “I’d… I’d love to dance, if you still want to.”

Hermione smiled, a smile that met her eyes and made Ron feel like – like the only guy in the world. And then he stood up and extended his hand to her, and led her to the dance floor. Somehow, he knew just what to do. One hand settled on her waist and one held her hand. Her other hand settled upon his shoulder. They danced in silence for several minutes until, “I didn’t know you could dance. I mean, you didn’t last year…”

“Didn’t want to dance last year, Hermione. But Mum taught us all to dance. Made us learn.” He grimaced at the memory. “Worked out, after all… I guess Mum was right.” He smiled. “You dance as well as you do everything else, don’t you?”

Hermione smiled that smile again. And then the music changed, slowed… He dropped the hand he was holding and pulled her closer with both hands on her waist. She made a small noise, and her free hand found his shoulder, then crept round to meet her other hand at the back of his neck.

Ron tucked her into the crook of his neck, her forehead against his collar, and put both hands around her back, pulling her nearly flush with his body. Suddenly thinking that might not be a good idea, he set her back away from him for a moment, looking down into her eyes. “You seem different tonight…” he said. “No, no you don’t. I just,” he looked, unseeing, to her left, his face flushed like he’d been at Quidditch practice a little too long. He took a chance and met her eyes again, and decided that if he didn’t kiss her now, he’d go as mad as Martin Miggs.

Hermione met Ron’s eyes as he stumbled around for words and knew her plan had worked. What she didn’t know was whether Ron knew it had worked. At that moment, his eyes changed. His pupils dilated, his breathing became a little shallow… and then he leaned in, an inch closer, an inch closer, as she stood nearly on her tiptoes, and he kissed her.

She kissed him back. The sensation was like flying, only better… This she could do forever, this kissing Ron, Hermione thought. His lips were softer than she imagined they might be, and she was shocked to find that she was kissing Ron in the Great Hall and she didn’t want to stop.

Ron raised his head and looked at her. “Hermione…” She’d disentangled one hand and was now touching her lips. He nearly groaned aloud, he wanted to be her fingers so badly. “Hermione,” he tried again, “could we… could we maybe go, you know, somewhere else?”

His eyes pleaded with her, and she knew it was right. She followed him out the doors and up toward Gryffindor Tower, where, if they couldn’t be alone, at least they could be slightly less public.

When they reached the portrait, they found the Fat Lady having a Halloween snack of pumpkin juice and chocolates. “Password, dears?” she asked, between bon-bons.

“Hob knobs,” Hermione breathed, having found her lungs were quite shallow.

Ron was simply glad he didn’t have to try and talk. No one was in the common room, by some stroke of luck. They sort of drifted toward a sofa near the fireplace, chancing small glimpses at one another as they sat down.

Hermione didn’t allow Ron to sit too far away from her, but they weren’t close enough to… to whatever, again, either.

Taking a deep breath, Ron shifted ever so slightly to the left, toward Hermione, and places his hand over hers on the sofa. He was rewarded with that smile, again, and she turned up her hand and laced her fingers with his. Unbelievable, he thought. She … I … we fancy each other… Yeah, I reckon that will do. He grinned at the thought.

After a few speechless moments of staring at the fire, Ron let go of her hand, leaned toward Hermione, and put his arm around her. Once again, he tucked her into the crook of his arm, and tried to figure out how to kiss her again.

“Er, Ron…” she began, “um, what was that down there?”

“Well,” suddenly he wasn’t so sure. “Um, well, I, I just wanted to, you know…”

“Kiss me?”

“Glad to,” he said with relief, purposefully misinterpreting her.

Some time later – it might have been twenty minutes or an hour, they didn’t know – several people came in, laughing, from the ball. Ron’s hat and top coat were abandoned on the floor, and he was straightening his vest as Harry popped his head over the sofa. “All right there?” he asked, smiling at his two best friends.

“Just fine, Harry,” Hermione answered, her tiara sitting crookedly on her head and her dress twisted slightly sideways.

“That’s fine, then,” he mumbled, turning away, “Just thought you’d like to know Ginny won the costume contest. She’s gone up to bed. I’m going up too.” He’d blushed, and stammered, “Er, to my bed. See you up there.”

As other students filtered in and out, Ron and Hermione sat on the sofa staring at the flames of the fireplace and holding hands, low, murmured conversations about everything and nothing filling the time. It was after midnight when Hermione stood reluctantly to go to bed.

Ron stood with her, still holding one hand. He walked her to the dormitory entrance and kissed her goodnight. “Will you have breakfast with me?” he asked.

She smiled that smile, the one Ron now knew he’d never tire of seeing turned on him. “I’d love to,” she answered. “If you really want me too.”

“If I…” He looked astonished that she’d ask him that. “Hermione, I… well. I like you. You know what I mean.” He blushed then, for the first time in hours.

She hugged him then. “Oh Ron, honestly,” she murmured.

 

//
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