Professor McGonagall called above the noise, “Potter—a word, if you please.”
Assuming this had something to do with his headless rubber haddock, Harry walked gloomily to the teacher’s desk. Professor McGonagall waited until the rest of the class left, and then said, “Potter, the champions and their partners—”
“Partners?” Harry asked curiously.
McGonagall looked at him suspiciously, as if he were messing with her. “The Yule Ball, Potter. Your date.”
Fear immediately overcame him. ‘Date?!’ “But I don’t dance,” he said quickly, feeling as if a Dementor had him pinned.
“You will have to,” McGonagall said sternly, “for it is a tradition for the champions. You are to open the dance with the other three champions with your date. No excuses, and have someone to teach you how to dance before the ball. You most likely won’t have to worry about finding a date to the ball.” She said in a ‘That is Final’ tone.
Harry nodded grimly and walked out of the classroom, wondering who to ask to the dance. The first person he thought about was Cho Chang. He thought if he should wait or just get it over with, so he could spend the rest of his time learning how to dance. After a few seconds of thinking, a voice was sounding in his head.
‘Just get it over with. It may help you in the future. You should use the map to find out where she is.’
He eventually decided he should just get this over with. He pulled out a blank parchment and his wand. “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good,” He said nervously.
He watched as the parchment slowly filled up with a map of Hogwarts and looked over it, looking for her. He saw Hermione in the library reading at her familiar table. He smiled at the thought of her frantically searching for the biggest book on the shelves to absorb information from. He then started looking for a certain Ravenclaw…only to find her with a certain Hogwarts Champion. He saw them walking together in the hallways. Now that he thought about it, he had seen Cedric and Cho a lot together recently. Whether he was carrying her books, chatting and laughing together, holding hands…
And then it hit him. Cho and Cedric were dating.
He was crushed. He didn’t know what to do. He liked Cho. He didn’t know Cedric did, too. Apparently Cedric got to her first, and Harry was left without a date.
With his head down, he trudged on to his dormitory.
When he came back to his room, he quickly sat on the edge of his bed to think. The first thing he thought of was that he was glad that he listened to his conscience and didn’t wait until the day before. It had saved him a lot of time. But then the negative thought came. He didn’t have a date.
He knew that it wasn’t the biggest of his worries; he was almost positive that almost any girl in his year would ask him out if the girls could; they would most likely say yes if he asked one of them out. But he knew he couldn’t do that. He knew that he didn’t want a partner who would run around the entire castle screaming to the top of her lungs that the Harry Potter is going to be her date to the ball. His stomach twisted at the thought.
‘Then who?’His voice asked him.
Harry furrowed his brow for a moment before thinking of the necessary qualities that came up in his mind for his ideal partner.
Pretty, smart, funny, won’t stare at his scar during the whole Ball, won’t scream to the heavens that Harry asked her out, has a few things in common with him, able to talk to him without giggling madly (or put their elbow in a butterdish like a certain ten-year-old redhead), who knows him well and looks at him as a regular wizard (that decreased the list of girls by a lot), actually believed him when his name came out of the goblet, and possibly…can help him dance.
He started thinking of the notoriously short list in his mind that had at least a few of these qualities. Right off the bat, he mentally scratched Ginny off the list, as she would definitely think that they were going as more than friends. Besides, he noticed that Neville gave her a nervous glance every now and then.
He then thought of Parvati or Lavender. They were both pretty, both smart, both believed him, but according to the class that he had some five minutes ago, they would most likely giggle madly and boast about who’s going to the ball with them. Both were mentally scratched off.
Harry realized that there was one more person on the list, and he had to scratch that name off. He then sighed. He might have to ask one of his fangirls…
‘Why?’ asked the familiar voice.
‘Er, because I need a date.’
‘I mean why did you scratch off that name?’
‘Oh, because she’s my friend,’ Harry’s thoughts conversed with his conscience.
‘You’re going to scratch off her name because she’s your friend?’
‘Is she pretty?’
‘Is she smart?’
‘The smartest, but—’
‘Did she believe you when your name was taken out of the goblet?’
‘She was the main one,’ Harry said, understanding the voice’s point.
‘Does she giggle when you talk to her?’
‘Do you think that she would yell at the whole school that you asked her to the ball?’
‘Of course not!’
‘Then why do you think of her as only your friend?’
Harry did not have a reply for that. It did make sense. He started picturing her in a different way. He noticed how pretty she was in his mind. She was pretty. He couldn’t believe that he’d never seen her that way before. Now that he had, it was pretty hard to miss. The way she bites her lower lip and puts her index finger on her chin when she’s thinking about something…the way she twirls her finger around her bushy hair whenever a particularly hard question comes up on a test…The way she nibbles on the feather of her quill when she is frustrated about her not knowing an answer quickly enough…
Then the thought struck him. He likes Hermione Granger. As more than a friend.
But…how? This was Hermione, Harry’s best friend, one of the guys. Okay, she is a girl, and a very pretty girl at that, but…
Harry had no retort.
‘Tell me again,’ the amused voice said, and Harry thought it was starting to get annoying. ‘Why won’t you ask her to the ball?’
‘What if it ruins our relationship? I saw Ron staring at her a few times. Maybe I should just—’
‘Make a choice?’ The voice interrupted. ‘Who would you choose? Ron’s hormonal problems or a great time at the Ball, possibly with the girl of your dreams?’
‘I…’ Harry started, already knowing which answer he would choose, but not willing to admit it himself, ‘I don’t want to choose.’
‘But you must! You know it is Hermione. Why did she stick by you and believed you when you told her you didn’t put your name in the cup?’
‘That’s only because she’s my best friend.’
‘And why did Ron not believe you?’
‘Well…that’s only because—’
‘—Because he’s your best friend, right?’ The conscience said in a mock accent.
‘What if she doesn’t like me back?’
‘What if she does? Are you going to take that risk?’
Harry thought long and hard about what his conscience said. He surely didn’t want to lose her friendship, why would he try to make it something more? Their entire friendship, three and a half years in the making, could collapse in one, stupid question.
‘Why don’t you ask her as a friend?’
‘I don’t want to do that. It just won’t feel right for me to go with her as friends.’
‘Just ask her to go to the ball with you. She’ll decide on her own if she wants to go as friends or more.’
Harry sighed. He had nothing to lose, and she wouldn’t break her friendship with him for asking her to the ball. He knew their relationship was much stronger than that. He knew what he had to do. He knew who he chose. He stood up from his bed and slowly walked out of the dorm, still holding the activated map.
He didn’t have to walk far, for when he was about to look at the map again, he noticed a brown and bushy-haired witch in her favorite chair in the corner of the Common Room reading a book in one hand and writing on parchment with the other. The Common Room was empty. ‘Thank goodness,’ he said as he whispered the map’s deactivation and put the once again blank parchment in his pocket. He slowly walked down the rest of the stairs and walked over to her. She looked up as he was walking towards and smiled a little, causing Harry’s stomach to do funny things. He returned the smile and looked at the parchment as he sat down next to her.
“How many weeks ahead are you in you work, now?” Harry asked with a grin.
“Oh, just a few,” Hermione said, not noticing that Harry was joking. She realized a second later and tapped him on the back of his head with her book.
“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” Harry laughed as he rubbed his head. “I thought you were in the library a few minutes ago.”
“I was, but I saw Mr. Krum looking at me strangely. It’s kind of creepy, really.”
“What’s a guy like Krum doing in the library?” Harry asked.
“I’m not sure,” Hermione said, putting her quill in her inkwell and leaning back to read the book while listening to Harry.
Harry inaudibly gulped. “Do you think…that he’s trying to…you know…ask you to the ball?” he asked, his throat getting drier with each word.
Hermione didn’t seem to notice. “I don’t think so. I mean, Krum has half the girl population belonging to him, while the other half are to you. Why would Krum want to ask me to the ball, of all people?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” Harry asked curiously.
“Because, well, he’s a popular Quidditch player. Girls line up to ask him to the ball, some actually asking to marry him. And he looks like the type who will lead you to a broom closet after the ball. And I don’t ever want to picture myself with Krum in that image. I don’t even know the guy.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “So you want a guy that you’ve known for a while to ask you to the ball?” He asked, trying to take the hopefulness out of his voice.
“Well, I don’t know that many guys,” She said with a resigned sigh as she looked back down at her book, her long brown hair covering her face. “All I know well is you and Ron. Ron’s been a prat so far this year, and now he’s begging Fleur to go with him, which I’m sure is not going to happen anytime soon, and you’re going to ask Cho to the Ball, no doubt…” Her voice broke off quietly and sniffed a little, and she half-hoped that Harry didn’t notice. The other half was in luck, for he did.
“So…if I asked you…right now…if you would, er, you know, go to the ball with me…would you say yes?”
Hermione’s heart stopped for a full two seconds before beating rapidly. She dropped her quill on her parchment, and smiled brilliantly. Harry could not see her reaction, but he swore he heard a small gasp… of surprise? Hermione decided to slow her breathing by meditating so Harry could not figure out the reaction by hearing her hyperventilate.
Trying to act normal, she looked up into his eyes after a moment with a bright blush and said, “You’ll have to ask to find out.”
Harry took a deep breath, his heart pounding. This is it. The moment he asks her, their relationship as friends would completely change and Ron would become mad at him the moment he finds out. Before he opened his mouth, a wave of calmness swept over him, and he realized that he shouldn’t feel nervous anymore. She pretty much asked him would he ask her, and that bolstered his spirit a bit. He almost smoothly asked, “Would you go to the ball with me, Hermione?”
Hermione’s smile went wider and her face went a little pinker, and Harry found that unbearably cute. “I’d love to go to the ball with you, Harry…but what about Cho?” She hesitantly asked. “Did she say no?”
“I didn’t ask her,” Harry easily said, grinning like mad, “and now I don’t plan on asking her.”
Hermione’s eyes widened in shock and disbelief. “Why did you ask me first and not her?”
“Alas, I do not know,” Harry said in a slightly raspy voice, mimicking a certain Headmaster. “It is one of life’s little mysteries we may never know about, such as why some pretty girls weren’t asked to the ball such as yourself, Miss Granger.”
Hermione’s smile faltered. “Harry, first of all, today’s the first day the Ball was announced. Second, I’m not really known as one of the prettiest girls at Hogwarts. They all expect me to be in the library during the ball. I’ll even bet that boys will start to ask me to the Ball the day before in desperation.” She sighed and looked back at Harry, who was frowning. “What?” She asked with a frown to match. Was he having second thoughts about taking her to the Ball? ‘Bloody Hell, Granger, you’ve almost had Harry and you lost him just as quickly with your big bloody mouth!’
“Why do you say that about yourself?” Harry asked.
“Because it’s the truth,” Hermione said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. ‘Might as well just get this over with now…’ She took a deep breath. “Look, Harry, I understand if you want to take someone else, I mean, I wouldn’t blame—”
“Hermione, stop,” Harry interrupted, having enough of this. “I will never have second thoughts about asking you to the Ball, and the only thing that I’m not looking forward to at the Ball is me dancing…which I can’t do. The only thing that I’m worried is that you’ll regret it when your feet are in pain.”
Hermione blinked a few times, searching for the truth in him. She could always see it in those emerald orbs. He was telling the truth. She finally spoke. “Harry, I would never regret going to the ball with you, and I’ll make sure you fix the dancing problem. I could teach you after each ‘training session’. But why were you frowning?”
Harry sighed in relief, and then looked serious. “Because I don’t think you’re right.”
“Not right about what?”
“About you not being pretty.”
Hermione laughed a dry, humorless laugh that made Harry sick. “Harry, I think you need your glasses checked.”
Harry smirked and pulled off his glasses. “I think you’re pretty,” He said. Even with his blurry vision, he could still see Hermione’s face and the pink on her cheeks. He put back on his glasses and looked at her. “Still pretty, and I can see a hundred percent clearly. Have to be to win Quidditch and out-fly a dragon,” he said. Hermione’s face was almost at full bloom, and Harry had the powerful urge to kiss her on the spot. He relented, and narrowed his eyes at her. His face came closer to hers, until their noses were separated by mere inches.
Hermione started breathing heavily. She had never been this close to a boy before. He was invading her personal space…and she really didn’t give a damn. This was Harry, her best friend, her crush for a year and a half, inches away from her lips. She knew he wouldn’t try anything on her, but honestly, she wished he did.
Harry smirked at her after staring at her for a few seconds. “No. No ugly anywhere.” She blushed a bit more, but she was determined on making Harry see the truth.
“But, my hair, it’s—”
“It’s very unmanageable. It will take the most expensive stuff in the world for it to act right for only a few hours. Remind you of anyone?” He said with a cheeky grin.
Hermione had to admit that he had a point, as he had a raven bush on his head. “But, my teeth—” she stopped herself from saying the rest. Her teeth were fixed, so they weren’t a problem anymore.
Harry, seeming to read her mind, said “Your teeth were never a problem to begin with. I thought that they were cute.” He then pondered for a moment as he scooted back, unaware of the small sigh of disappointment from Hermione. In his mind, it seemed that she was trying to make up excuses of why she shouldn’t go to the ball with him. “You know, you’ve been thinking of excuses for me to not take you to the ball or make me change my mind. What’s wrong?”
She gave another resigned sigh and placed her book on the floor, not bothering to bookmark the page. She looked back at Harry and said, “Harry… look, I’m not trying to change your mind, honestly, I’m not. And I’m really, really glad that you’d ask me to the ball. It’s just that… well, you’re the savior of the Wizarding world, and—” she raised her hand before Harry could interrupt, “Even if you didn’t want to be, you still are, Harry. It’s just that with all that stuff from the Daily Prophet. What do you think they’ll say if they found out you’re taking me to the ball?”
Harry just shrugged. “Since when did the Bloody Prophet control my life? I really don’t read it anymore. It’s just toilet paper. Sure I’ll use it once in a while, but only to wipe my—”
“Harry!” Hermione said, laughing. “I hope you were going to say ‘nose’.
Harry pretended to be in deep thought before he said, “sure, let’s go with that.” He then turned serious. “Okay, but honestly, I really don’t care. I can take anyone to the ball I want, I can date anyone I want, I can—”
“Date?” She asked, her eyebrows raised.
“Oh, umm,” He started with a sheepish grin, “well, technically this is a date, isn’t it? I mean, do you want it to be…?” He waved his hand around, as if letting it linger in the air.
Hermione’s eyes widened at this. ‘Is he really asking…?’ “I- I don’t know,” she said nervously. Part of her thought that if she was nervously talking, Harry might think she would be thinking that the whole thing was uncomfortable. Tentatively, she scooted closer to him. “Do you want it to be… you know…?” She waved her hand in the air as he did.
Harry put his head down to unsuccessfully hide his blush. “Well…honestly…yeah.”
“Oh,” she said, smiling.
They sat there for a while, thinking. Hermione, thinking of the beautiful thing she had just heard, and Harry, thinking of what he just said. Finally, Hermione spoke.
“So, are you going to ask me to be your girlfriend, or are we just going to be platonic friends in denial?”
Harry, shocked, shot his head up to see Hermione smiling. “Are you really asking me to ask you to be my girlfriend?”
Hermione toned her smile down to a playful grin and said, “Well, I could just go back to the library and see if Mr. Krum—”
“Alright, alright,” Harry said, smiling as brightly as Hermione did moments before. He then cleared his voice and tried to sound official. “Hermione, Granger, would you like to be the girlfriend of one Harry Potter?”
Hermione laughed again, this time out of sheer joy. It was like the sound of a Phoenix to Harry. “Hermione Granger accepts, and Harry Potter must make this official within the next ten seconds.”
Harry smiled even brighter, if possible. He moved closer to her once again, this time moving closer than before. Hermione’s eyes fluttered closed and leaned in the remaining distance.
Their lips touched.
A few minutes later, they broke apart. They were slightly dazed, but they were completely aware of what just happened. They were amazed that no one had walked into the Common Room yet. “You,” Hermione stuttered, “are a much better kisser than I thought.”
Harry came back to reality and grinned. “Are you telling me that you thought of how good of a kisser I am before?”
Hermione looked away and said, “Well…yes. I mean what girl hasn’t?”
She scoffed. “Yeah, right. They started making a Harem for you, third years and up.”
Harry looked at her incredulously for a few seconds, then waggled his eyebrows. “And how would you know that, Miss Granger?”
Just when her face was fading from her tomato red, it came back full-force. “They have meetings in Madame Puddifoot’s.”
“How many meetings have you attended?” He asked, trying to sound stern, but the grin failed it.
Hermione went scarlet. She really shouldn’t have said anything. “I…er…only purebloods can enter it.”
“Something I should look for and hide from then, huh?”
“Yes, I imagine so. Harry?”
“Should we tell Ron, or anyone, about…you know…us?”
Harry thought about this for a few seconds before slowly nodding. “Well, I think we should. I don’t want to keep it a secret. Do you?”
“Well, not particularly. But you do realize that not only every girl in the school is going to try at least one curse – not hex, but curse – on me. And Rita will probably claim that I gave you a love potion. I swear I’ll find her if it’s the last thing I’ll bloody—”
“You know, Hermione,” Harry tried to calm his girlfriend as he once again pulled out the blank parchment, “We could just look for her name. For once I could use the Boy-Who-Lived image to threaten her. I mean, I just faced a dragon. I didn’t battle it, but she doesn’t know what I can do with a wand. And if anyone tries to hex you…let’s just say Madame Pomfrey’s gonna have more company than just me this year.”
Hermione giggled and kissed him on the cheek. “Normally, I would tell you not to, but I’m in too happy a mood at the moment.”
“And I would be too happy to argue back,” He said as he pecked her on the lips and sat back on the couch, Hermione scooting closer to him and snuggled in. Harry put his arm around her and put his map in his lap, while Hermione put her head on his shoulder. She wished she could stay like that forever.
“Should we tell Ron first?” Harry asked as he looked over the map at all of the names.
Hermione nodded, even though Harry couldn’t see. “Of course we should. He’s our best friend.”
“What?” She asked with concern and curiosity.
“Well… I um, think he fancies you.”
Hermione was silent for a long moment, and Harry was starting to get worried. He finally turned his head to her to see that she was in tears. He was even more worried than before, now. ‘What if she liked Ron? What if she decided to go with me to make him jealous? What if—?’ He stopped his panicking questions as he took a closer look at her face. Those weren’t tears. It was mirth. She was biting her lip. Hermione was trying not to laugh.
“‘Mione?” He asked curiously. This apparently set her off the edge, as she burst into a fit of giggles. Apparently, she thought that the whole thought of Ron fancying her was rather comical. Harry was relieved and sad at the same time. Hermione obviously didn’t like Ron, but Ron…
“H- Harry…” She stuttered through her laughs, “…are you out of your mind?”
Hermione stopped laughing and looked at Harry’s completely confused and concerned face. He wasn’t having her on. After regaining her composure and wiping the mirth from her eyes, she softly said, “A-are you sure?”
“Well…he has been looking at you lately.”
“Oh, well it’s probably hormones. Should we wait until he finds a partner for us to tell him?”
“No. He’ll probably feel even more betrayed. I think we should tell him at least that I asked you to the ball. We’ll just say that we became a couple during the Ball. Might have to visit a broom cupboard afterwards for an alibi,” Harry smirked.
“Harry!” Hermione said with a indignant look, “I just said that Viktor would most likely take his date into a broom closet.”
“But you said you didn’t know the guy,” he said with a grin. “And this school has a lot of broom closets, I’m sure we won’t open the door on him.”
Hermione smirked and shook her head. “You are truly incorrigible, Harry Potter.”
“Is that a yes?”
“I’ll think about it.”
Before they could say anything else, the portrait opened and they grudgingly split apart. “Um, so,” Hermione said as a group of younger Gryffindor girls walked in, “did you figure out the egg yet? We could try to figure it out while I teach you to dance.”
“Among other things,” Harry added in a whisper. Hermione blushed and chuckled.
“Yes, among other things.”