Hermione spent the rest of the afternoon stowed away in the library. Instead of her usual table, she chose one far back in the stacks away from the fires and prying eyes. She had to keep her scarf and cloak on as she worked through her Ancient Runes homework, but it was fine with her. If everyone stayed near the fires, no one would be around to gawk at her.
Of course that was the least of her worries. She stared at the runes willing the symbols to make sense, but her mind was elsewhere. Figuring it was late enough in the evening to head to dinner, she began to gather her things.
Her mind kept running over the same fact. Ron had read the note. Which meant he knew how she felt about him.
No, her mind corrected, he thinks he knows how you feel about him. It’s an undated note after all.
There was a bit of silver lining. There was no way to say whether she had written it yesterday or four years ago. Part of her knew they should be able to have an adult conversation about this. She could talk about her feelings, it was talking about them with Ron Weasley that was the problem.
She tried to consider the effectiveness of avoiding him altogether. Ron was a forgetful person. She could continue to ignore him as she had for the past few weeks and maybe it would blow over. But he was also stubborn, she reminded herself. He would likely try and approach her again when she was least expecting it.
Putting her face in her hands, she groaned. There was only one thing she could do really. She’d have to tell Harry what she had done and why she had done it. Would it be humiliating? Absolutely. He would never let her live it down. She could see it now.
“Has Uncle Harry ever told you about the time when your mummy lost her mind over a boy?”
It must be done. He’d likely got his letter by now and had already heard some part of the tale from Ron. And frankly, with all of the shenanigans Harry had gotten her into year after year, he owed her. She would explain to him what happened, forbid him to laugh at her, and instruct him to convince Ron by any means necessary that it was some sort of fantastical misunderstanding.
The sky was dark as she passed the windows of the corridor leading to the entrance hall staircase. It was so late she expected Harry and Ron would already be done with dinner. Eating dinner late and alone had become a common occurrence these past few weeks. She blamed it on her studies but knew it had more to do with Ronald than she cared to admit.
Tonight’s dinner would be different, though. She knew how rumors could travel around the school and Dean was on the radar of much of the Hogwarts’ female population. Her little episode would not have remained a secret for very long. As she slowed to a stop in front of the entrance hall, she took a deep breath.
You can do this. Calm and steady. With that, she entered the Great Hall.
As she had expected, most people had already finished dinner or were in the process of finishing it. It didn’t escape her notice how some of the remaining students leaned over to whisper to each other as she walked past. That was fine. Only a few students knew. She could handle that. It would pass. They’d forget about all of this once Ginny and Dean got back together, as they inevitably would.
She was surprised to see Harry still sitting across from Ron, who was looking particularly stony-faced as Lavender chatted animatedly and unaware. Harry’s eyes met her own and he gave her a questioning look that clearly said, “What in Merlin’s name is going on?” from the other end of the table. It was as she had thought, he’d heard about Dean. Ron had told him, no doubt. She wondered if they had discussed each other’s notes. The thought made her feel a bit ill, so she shook it away as she sat at the other end of the Gryffindor table.
After dishing herself some shepherd’s pie, she laid Wizarding International Trade and Migrations on the table and began to read the chapters Binns had assigned earlier that day.
“I thought she was dating Harry Potter, though.”
“Are you daft? She’s been seeing Viktor Krum for years.”
“Cormac McLaggen will be crushed.”
Whispers drifted to her from around the other tables. Her teeth were grit in a determination to continue with her studies. She refused to let any of this get in the way of her grades, especially in her first year of N.E.W.T. level courses. She may have temporarily complicated some things in the process of trying to divert her feelings for Ron, but there was no reason it should derail her whole year.
She had almost finished her shepherd’s pie when she felt someone plop down across the table from her. Irritated, she raised her head from her book. It was Dean Thomas. A sense of déjà vu came over her. His eyes were amused.
“I expected you to be happier to see me.”
She stared at him, clearly unamused. “I appreciate you coming over to talk to me, but it’s really not necessary,” she said. The sooner they could put the incident behind them, the quicker her humiliation would fade.
He raised his hands in surrender, chuckling. His dimples popped out in soft relief to his otherwise rather chiseled jaw. She snapped her eyes to his, knowing if she looked at his lips she would fall straight through the floor at the memory of her embarrassment.
“Hey, I come in peace.” He leaned in, clasping his hands together, resting his body weight on the table. In a lower voice he began, “My mum raised my sisters and me to talk through our problems. So, I think we should talk—“
Hermione rolled her eyes, “No.” With that she tried to go back to her reading, thinking the matter was settled.
Dean laughed incredulously. “So you think you can just write a dude a love note, snog him like there’s no tomorrow, and then not talk about it?”
She blinked at him in surprise. Not because he was being unreasonable, but at his use of the word “dude.” It was so Muggle, it almost seemed out of place in the Great Hall amongst the enchanted ceiling and magically refilling goblets.
“What? I—no. I didn’t write you a love note. And I didn’t kiss you because I wanted to.” Hermione’s face felt very hot. She could tell by the skeptical look on Dean’s face that he didn’t believe her. “I know it must appear very strange to you,” she paused, choosing her words carefully. “I said earlier that I wrote that as a sort of silly mental exercise and that was true. I wrote them to try and distract myself from the person I actually have feelings for. No one was meant to see them. And now it seems you have.”
At this, she surreptitiously glanced to where Ron had been sitting half an hour ago. He and Harry were no longer there, to her relief.
Dean leaned in further and something about the look in his eyes made her lean in as well. “What is this really about then, Granger? You don’t strike me as someone who would snog someone on a whim for the sake of a mental exercise.”
“It wasn’t a snog!” Then she sighed, suddenly feeling very tired. “I wrote other notes — for lack of a better term — and it seems the person I do have feelings for received his as well.”
His eyebrows raised in surprise. “So, you wrote to more than one of us then?” His voice sounded offended but the dimple that cut into his cheek told her otherwise. “Who is it then? Harry?”
Did he really need to know? Maybe she should just say yes and let him think it was Harry. He was easily the most popular amongst girls at Hogwarts. Between him being the Chosen One and having grown quite tall over the last year, it was a logical assumption. But it would be a lie.
It was beginning to feel like she was in the middle of one of the Muggle teenage dramas her old school mates would rave about. Ron had her confession. It had been her carelessness that got Dean wrapped up into all of this. The responsible thing to do would be to explain herself.
His brown eyes looked at her expectantly, waiting for her answer. So, she told him. She told him everything about Ron, the creation of the list, the mysteriously accidental sending of the pages, and the panic that followed. When she had finished explaining, Dean’s dimples had been replaced by frown lines.
“You know he’s been a real prat, the way he’s been going around with Lavender.” He looked almost like he was concerned for her, or perhaps he pitied her.
“He’s being Ron. He’s always a prat. And he’s my closest friend next to Harry. So you can see how this is a disaster.”
“Well, what are you going to tell them about all of this?”
“I’ll be honest with Harry. He’ll understand, he might even have a laugh, I don’t know. As for Ron, we aren’t speaking much at the moment, so I’m not really sure.” Before Dean could respond she added, “I’m sorry for using you that way this afternoon. I panicked. I promise, there won’t be a repeat.”
Dean blinked a few times, almost as if he had forgotten that their kiss was what had prompted this whole conversation.
She pushed her seat back to stand. Her plate and food had magically cleared themselves a while ago. It was getting very late, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for her, as a prefect, to get caught out past curfew on an off-duty night.
“Thanks for understanding,” she said before standing and leaving Dean at the table with his thoughts.
Hermione was shaking from their interaction as she walked through the entrance hall. She had never spoken about her feelings for Ron out loud to anyone. Sure, she suspected Harry knew. Occasionally, he’d make a teasing face when Ron would sling his arm around her or lean over her shoulder to read her notes. Lately, he mostly glanced at her in concern when Ron and Lavender were around. It wasn’t something they ever acknowledged out loud, though.
And yet she had told Dean everything. He does have uncommonly warm eyes, she thought to herself. Perhaps he was just one of those people who instantly put others at ease. She hadn’t even told her own mother about her romantic woes.
She was halfway up the first flight of stairs when she turned to see Dean running across the entrance hall. Once he made it up the steps to her, he motioned for them to continue up the staircase, apparently intending to walk with her back to the common room.
“You know, Gin’s pretty upset.”
Hermione felt her eyes widen. How could she have forgotten about Ginny? It was often joked that “Hell hath no fury like Ginny Weasley.” Hermione had never found the joke very funny. She knew Ginny pretty well and thought it was an unfair depiction. But still, she didn’t fancy the idea of being the target of her anger.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll clear it up with her tomorrow. I really hadn’t thought about—“
“It’s brilliant!” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. Glancing over at him, she could see he was in fact very relaxed. His usual laid-back and cool air seemed unchanged.
Unsure of how to respond, she began, “I did hear you broke up a week ago. I’m pleased you’re not taking it too badly.”
He shrugged. “I was pretty upset to tell the truth. After last week, hearing that she had gotten upset about us gave me hope. Isn’t that weird?”
“Gryffindors have a special kind of resiliency, I suppose.”
Dean laughed. “Yeah I guess you’re right. It just let me know she still cares. Maybe she just needs a little nudge. She thought I was being too chivalrous. Can you believe that?”
She didn’t know how to respond to that, so she stayed silent. Ginny was a fiercely independent person.
They made their way through the halls in relative silence, beyond the portraits who took to spouting reminders that curfew was approaching as they passed. Curiously, the silence wasn’t uncomfortable. Dean seemed lost in his own thoughts. It was strange to think they had never properly talked before. They had spoken a few times in the D.A. and had been partnered together in a few classes over the years. Now, though, they were speaking about very personal feelings with each other.
Perhaps that’s what happens when you snog someone, Hermione wondered. It opens you up to vulnerability.
“What if you didn’t clear it up with her? About the kiss, I mean?” Dean asked suddenly as they neared the portrait of The Fat Lady.
They stopped a few yards away from the entrance to the common room. His face was earnest, dark eyes bright.
“Look, hear me out. Gin’s jealous of what she thinks happened between us. Maybe if she sees me with you she’ll realize I’m not ‘overbearingly chivalrous’. It could be the nudge she needs.” Then he added, after seeing the look on her face, “Plus, you’ll have the distraction you were looking for and Ron won’t think you have feelings for him!”
Hermione looked around, worried someone might hear his ridiculous request. In a terse whisper she said, “Are you suggesting that I perpetuate a lie about our supposed romantic relationship so that your real relationship will fix itself?”
“No,” he said exasperatedly. “I’m suggesting we continue with a fake romantic relationship so we can help each other with our current romantic entanglements.”
He said that as if that was any better. Hermione laughed. The fact that he was clearly being serious made it even more ridiculous. This was the type of self-assuredness Hermione had come to expect from Dean. She distinctly remembered the time when they were having to pick courses for their third year. Dean had closed his eyes and picked at random, completely unconcerned with the implications of his choice!
“If Ginny likes you, she’s smart enough to figure it out on her own. Besides, this is our first year in N.E.W.T. level courses and exams will be here before you know it. We don’t have time.”
“Look, don’t say no. Just think about it.”
Hermione opened her mouth expecting to tell him no one final time. Instead, she turned away. “Goodnight, Dean.”
With that she left him behind in the corridor, approaching The Fat Lady and entering the common room.
The halls were quiet, which was a relief to Hermione. Of course, this was supposed to be Ron’s night for prefect patrol. However, no one had seen him since dinner. Instead of asking her to cover for him himself, he had sent a fourth year girl who had been so nervous to pass on the message, she avoided Hermione’s eyes, busying herself with admiring Crookshanks as she delivered the news. Skipping his responsibilities to spend time with his girlfriend really was a new low.
In an effort to avoid whatever empty classroom in which he and Lavender were skulking, Hermione deviated from their normal patrol route. Instead of walking the upper floors of the east wing, she chose to wander through the central portion of the castle, where they were less likely to be.
Huffing as she walked, she tried to stifle her irritation. Her mind was racing with all the things she would tell Ron when she finally saw him. This was it, letter be damned. Did he honestly not see how inconsiderate he was being, to her of all people? Had he really felt nothing for her over the summer?
She held her wand out, lighting the way. This part of the castle was home to the Astronomy Tower and as such, it was kept unlit to avoid interfering with Astronomy class observations. Usually, Hermione didn’t mind the dark. Tonight, however, it felt very empty. Even the portraits snoozed silently, unmoving as she passed.
Eventually, as she stomped her way down the empty corridors, her angry thoughts gave way to her heavy heart. As angry as she was, she missed Ron. She missed laughing with him as he pulled faces behind Mrs. Weasley’s back. She missed the lines of concentration that would appear in his crinkled brow as he played wizard’s chess with Harry after dinner. They hadn’t fought or bickered once over the summer.
A memory of a particular evening came to her unbidden. It had been late in the evening at the Burrow. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had already gone to bed. Ron and Harry had finished their game of wizard’s chess and retired to their room. Instead of joining Ginny in hers, she had grabbed her copy of Sense & Sensibility and headed out onto the wrap-around porch.
It had been another dreary misty day, like most days were as the dementors continued to breed. That night, the clouds had finally given way to the starlit sky. The rain had left the air moist and cool, heavy with the scent of wet earth. The breeze carried with it a little chill, but it hadn’t bothered her as she flipped through the book’s pages, consumed with the story of the Dashwood girls.
“You should get to bed.”
His voice had come out quiet, but it had made her jump. How long had he been standing there watching her? Ron was leaning against the frame of the back doorway. He didn’t roll his eyes at the sight of her with a book like he might have usually.
“I haven’t been able to sleep well lately, without reading something a bit more light-hearted before bed.”
To her further surprise, he nodded thoughtfully. He wasn’t holding back a snort or commenting on how it was the summer so no one was going to give her house points for extra credit. His gaze had drifted from her out past the garden. A darkness had come over his gaze.
“Dad says this is only the beginning.” His voice came out hoarse with emotion. He cleared his throat.
Hermione didn’t know what to say. She had never seen him this vulnerable. Embarrassingly, she had to admit that she didn’t think Ron usually paid much attention to the news. Yet, here he was, clearly as affected by the reports from the Order and the Prophet as she was. She merely nodded. They had been so focused on injecting fun into their days to keep Harry’s mind off of the Department of Mysteries and his looming fate, that she hadn’t considered it might have been an act for him, too.
A stronger breeze blew, tossing her curls across her face. Sheepishly, she had tucked her hair behind her ear. Suddenly she had felt very conscious of how unruly it must look, frizzing up as she sat in the moist air. His cerulean eyes watched her intently.
Without a warning he turned back into the house. Before she could wonder whether she had done something wrong to make him go away, he returned. In his hands, he held a fraying grey blanket. Wordlessly, he walked up to her and spread it across the bench, covering her legs.
She blinked up at him wonderingly. He gave her a lopsided smile as he straightened up. His ears began to turn very red. “Don’t stay up too late and don’t let Mum catch you.”
Before she could manage to find her voice, he had returned inside. She shifted her legs under the blanket and her face broke out into a big grin. How strange that had been.
As she now passed a paned window, her reflection looked back at her in the moonlight. She looked like Moaning Myrtle, withdrawn, pitiful. Why did she feel like this? One moment she would feel determined in moving forward, the next she was teary-eyed and wistful.
She remembered the look of concern that creased Dean’s brow after she had admitted her secret to him. He’s right to worry, she thought. She had never felt less like herself. Perhaps Dean could see that. She knew he was one of the more intelligent boys in their year, but she hadn’t realized how observant he was.
Her face became resolved, once again. Turning on her heel she made for the Owlery, which was only a quick walk from the Astronomy Tower, leaving the forlorn Hermione’s reflection behind.
After making it up the several flights that led to the Owlery, she was pleased to see Hedwig, dozing in her perch. Most of the owls were out, no doubt hunting.
“Hello, Hedwig,” Hermione said after slowly approaching her, stroking the soft feathers on her front.
Hedwig hooted pleasantly.
“Would you be willing to help me with a favor?”
Hedwig froze and her eyes seemed to narrow suspiciously.
Hermione quickly quipped, “I just need a note taken elsewhere in the castle. I would use a school owl but I don’t trust them to do the job properly.”
With a hoot, Hedwig nipped her finger affectionately. Hermione smiled at her and stroked her coat some more.
Once Hedwig seemed satisfied, Hermione pulled out a spare piece of parchment from her robes and a Muggle pen that she kept on her person in lieu of an ink and quill. She scribbled a quick note. After she addressed it, she tied it to Hedwig’s outstretched leg.
“Please deliver this immediately. It’s important Harry and Ron do not see you,” Hermione instructed before quickly adding, “I’ll do my best to see that Harry gives you extra treats.”
Hedwig hooted her acceptance and took off. Hermione took a deep breath and was surprised to find that she didn’t feel nervous.
Breakfast was a quieter affair than the previous evening’s dinner. It was Friday and many older students had a free-period for the first half of morning block. The remaining students were still too tired to resume their whispers. Hermione crunched on the bacon that was cooked just like she liked, extra crispy but not burnt. She supposed that was the magic of the house elves for which, she thought with a twinge of irritation, they weren’t getting paid.
Guilt began to fill her mind. With all of the dire news and now her own social missteps, she hadn’t given much thought to knitting for the elves. She promised herself she would make time before the holidays to knit something for Dobby and Winky.
She was finishing her reading for History of Magic about the Third Goblin Wars and their effect on wizarding trade routes, when once again she was interrupted.
She looked up the table. Dean Thomas was striding purposefully toward her. His expression was neutral and almost amused. Blinking at him as he grew closer, she responded casually. “Yes?”
He handed her the note she had sent with Hedwig last night. She looked down at her measured scrawl. I accept your proposal was the singular line that stood out from the parchment, bold and daring. It shifted oddly in the light, having been written in Muggle ink.
“Are you sure?” His voice was passive but his coffee colored eyes twinkled. They made her feel emboldened. She smiled slyly.
His face broke into a grin, his dimples accenting his cheeks just so. It was certainly not a wonder why so many girls had their eyes on him.
Without warning, he leaned down and placed his lips on hers. His hand gripped the back of her neck, pulling her into the kiss. She was surprised, but managed to respond as if it wasn’t a complete shock. He wasn’t snogging her like she had when she attacked him. It was soft but deliberate.
Not realizing she had failed to breathe through the encounter she gently pulled away, her mouth slightly parted in shock.
“Yes. Good. Alright.” Her voice was pitched a little higher than normal. She cleared her throat.
“Well, I’m off to the pitch to try and get in some extra practice before morning block. See ya.” He winked at her and turned around to walk down the row of tables.
The people around her had gone rather silent, she noticed. Ignoring her blazing face, she gathered her things and got up, abandoning her food. As she walked out, everyone averted their gaze, acting like they were never looking at her in the first place. Everyone, that is, except Ginny, who was sitting next to Luna at the Ravenclaw table and staring at her with her icy blue eyes.
Hermione knew she needed to speak to Harry before the rumors lingering from yesterday and fueled by the morning got anymore out of hand. However, she had found no time to talk to him in Herbology later that morning. The Snargaluffs needed pruning and it took the combined efforts of half the class to even begin pruning a single plant. Dean had to leave class early to escort Seamus, who had sustained some rather deep lacerations from the Snargaluff vines, to the hospital wing.
It wasn’t until they were walking to their next class that Hermione was able to get Harry alone and begin telling him the news of her “relationship.”
“So,” she began, uncertainly. “I can only assume you’ve heard about Dean and me.” That sentence felt odd coming out of her mouth, probably because it was a lie. But she figured it would be best for her to be direct and cut to the chase. If anyone could sense she was lying, it would be Harry.
“Uh yeah. I heard some things,” he said awkwardly, as he motioned for her to go ahead of him up the staircase. “What’s that about? Are you two—”
“Dating? Yes, it seems so,” she said.
“Well that’s rather…” he trailed off seeming at a loss for words, “Sudden?”
She tried to laugh it off. Could she really keep this going? Her palms were sweating and a pit of guilt was growing in her stomach. Of course their relationship seemed sudden, it was fake. This was why Hermione didn’t lie if she could avoid it. There were too many pieces to track.
Before Harry could ask anything further, their conversation was stopped short as they entered the Charms classroom. They were surprised to find the desks had been cleared out. Instead there were large piles of wood and other kindling scattered throughout the room.
N.E.W.T. level classes had indeed proven to be more advanced with more lessons stressing the advanced practical applications of what they had learned. Hermione imagined they were likely moving on to the practical application of Aguamenti.
“In pairs! In pairs, if you please Ms. Granger, Mr. Potter!” called Professor Flitwick as he bustled into the room, levitating more crates of wood and leaves behind him.
They moved to a pile situated towards the back, leaving the other students filing in to find spots further away.
“Dean,” Harry said incredulously to himself. He was still clearly processing this surprising piece of news. “Wow Hermione, I mean, I didn’t realize — have you both ever even talked?”
“We’ve known each other for six years Harry, of course we’ve spoken.”
Realistically, she knew she couldn’t keep dodging his questions about the sudden manifestation of her and Dean’s apparent affection. But what would she say? She made a mental note that they would need to iron out the details of their relationship later. If they didn’t line up their lies and truths they would be caught before they really started, and that would be more humiliating than just admitting to the note.
“I don’t disapprove. He’s a good bloke. It's just that you said he was still upset about Ginny. And I assumed that you liked—“ he cut himself off. “Well anyway. I’m happy if you are. You’re smart enough to know what you’re doing.”
She could have laughed out loud at the insinuation that she had any idea what she was doing, but before she could respond, Professor Flitwick took to the front of the class to explain the lesson for the day. It was as she thought. He would be lighting the wood piles on fire and they were tasked with using Aguamenti to put the fires out.
Her eyes drifted over the now full classroom. Ron looked almost back to himself compared to yesterday. He was joking with Lavender, who was trying to stifle her giggles at something he had said, as usual. Dean and Seamus still hadn’t returned, she noted with vague concern.
Professor Flitwick gave a great wave of his wand from the pile of books on top of which he stood, and all the wood piles lit simultaneously. Hermione went first on their pile. Her forehead creased in concentration. Hermione was already able to conjure a small wave of water, it was doing so non-verbally that was still challenging her.
Aguamenti, she thought to herself. Aguamenti.
“Also, what was with that note you sent me?” Harry’s voice cut through her concentration and her steady stream of water vanished. The flames which had been hampered by the water, began to increase again.
“What?” she asked, blowing some hair out of her face.
She was happy that he took that moment to take a turn at the fire, so he couldn’t see the panic in her face. His own face was taut with concentration, trying to get the non-verbal charm to work. Harry hadn’t been applying himself lately, all because he was too busy reading his Potions book and worrying about what Draco Malfoy was doing. He was amongst those who still hadn’t moved past their small jets of water.
How could she have forgotten the other notes? While her fake relationship with Dean might keep Ron at bay, the other people who had received a note would likely still have questions. Hadn’t she called Ernie insufferable in his? Everything had been too hectic in Herbology for her to notice whether he was acting any differently towards her. She shook that thought away for the moment.
“Oh, I had forgotten about that...” she stalled trying to think fast. What good was being ‘the smartest witch in her year’ if she couldn’t even come up with a good lie? “I was trying to prove my point about how easy it is to sneak notes and packages to you!”
Now she had broken his concentration. He looked at her, bewildered. “What?”
“I warned you that several girls have been moving to try and get you to ask them to Professor Slughorn’s party!” She couldn’t believe the words coming out of her own mouth.
“What does me receiving a note from you prove?”
“How easily accessible you are at all times, clearly. I’m just trying to remind you to stay constantly vigilant and to find a date!”
He looked at her over his glasses. The reflection of the flames in the lenses didn’t hide his skepticism. “OK, Mad-Eye. But what was that nonsense about compatibility?”
“Never mind that! I was just ensuring you remembered you needed a date and that I wasn’t available.”
“Ms. Granger, let’s see what you’ve managed to work up!” called Professor Flitwick as he ambled over to them.
Without another word on the matter to Harry, Hermione began swirling her wand in a stirring motion, eyes focusing on the flames. She imagined the cool slick feeling that water left on her skin and thought Aguamenti. A puddle began to pool and swirl at her feet, following the movements of her wand. With a smile, she directed it towards the burning wood pile and it was doused completely by the wave of water.
“Ten points to Gryffindor for excellent form Ms. Granger!”
Her grin widened, pleased with herself. She even managed to look unfazed when Dean then walked in with a heavily bandaged Seamus.
As the day wore on, the whispering had returned. There was a lot of speculation about how Hermione Granger had managed to snag freshly single Dean Thomas. Lavender and Parvati had even managed to corner her during lunch.
“Are you really dating Dean Thomas?” Lavender had asked incredulously. “We’re your roommates! How long did you think you could keep that a secret?”
“Erm—“ Hermione said. They giggled. That was all the confirmation they needed, apparently.
“You do like your Quidditch players, don’t you? First Krum, now Thomas plays and you’ve snagged him, too,” Parvati said, impressed.
At that moment, Hermione noticed Ron walking up the Gryffindor table, having spotted the three of them. He looked a tad confused and worried. Did he forget that they were roommates long before he began dating Lavender? As he drew nearer, she responded loudly, correcting Parvati, “I like really good Quidditch players.”
Ron’s face went strangely blank, clearly having overheard her statement. Before she could even feign a greeting, Lavender and Parvati immediately began whispering as they walked away, dragging Ron with them. She hadn’t been prepared to be accosted like that, but she was proud of herself just the same.
It had been a long day. The lessons in each course had been challenging even by Hermione’s standards. By the end of Arithmancy she was just relieved the day was over.
The bell sounded and she got up, heading straight to Dean’s desk. They hadn’t spoken much throughout the day, which would not be enough to keep up the charade of their relationship.
“We need to talk,” Hermione said, standing over him as he gathered his things.
He raised his eyebrow. Did he know attractive he was when he did that? Perhaps boys did these sorts of things on purpose. “Alright,” he said.
After he had gathered his things, she led him out of the classroom down the corridor at a brisk pace. They headed in the opposite direction of the rest of the students. Finally satisfied that she had found somewhere no one would stumble in on them, she wrenched open the door to an old unused classroom. Dean followed her in, shutting the door behind them as she set her bag on a desk and began searching for some parchment and a quill.
“So, are you backing out on me already?”
She turned to look at him, confused. He was leaning on the door with his arms crossed. “What? No, of course not.” He genuinely seemed surprised at her response. “Why would I be backing out?”
“I dunno. Maybe it was too much pressure.” He shrugged, pushing himself off the door. “I’ve been dodging questions about us non-stop today and that was just from Seamus.” He plopped down in the seat in front of her.
“Too much pressure.” She scoffed. “But that is why I brought you here. We need to get our stories straight. If we don’t, this whole scheme is going to fail.” She set her book bag on the ground and took a seat at the desk.
“Easy. You’ve always been attracted to, what was it that you said, my lovely dimples?” He was laughing, pleased with his joke. “You heard Ginny and I broke up and you took your opportunity.”
Hermione glared at him. “Absolutely not. You needed help on your Arithmancy work and I’d been tutoring you. We got close from there and after your break-up with Ginny, the moment presented itself.”
“Fine. But it wasn’t tutoring. We were studying as partners.”
His eyes flashed. He was challenging her. She nodded in acceptance and he whooped in celebration of his small victory.
“We’re also going to need some rules.” As she said this, she uncapped her inkwell and dipped her quill into it.
Dean groaned. “Oh no, you’re going to turn this into school work, too? Ron always complains about your militant study schedule, but I always thought he was being a baby.”
She didn’t dignify that with a response. Instead, she wrote at the top of the parchment, Relationship Contract. “Don’t make that face at me,” she said. “We just need to outline our expectations and boundaries so we know where we stand on things.” Without waiting for his response she wrote:
1. No kissing
“How is anyone supposed to believe we’re dating if we never kiss?” he asked incredulously. “May I remind you that you kissed me first?”
She didn’t need reminding. “I’ve never had a proper boyfriend before. There’s just some things I don’t want to do unless they’re real.” Except those two times we kissed before, those don’t count, she thought. It sounded so sappy, which Hermione typically was not. “Besides, as a prefect I should set an example. No PDA—“
“—is allowed in the corridors, yes I know. Your lot does like to dock points for that,” he said chuckling. “But alright. I understand. No kissing. What can we do then?”
“Well anything before that I think is fine — hugging, holding hands, putting your hand around my waist,” she said ticking the things off on her fingers.
“OK, my rule is, you have to come to all of my Quidditch matches.” Then he added quickly, “And none of this ‘but I have to study’ nonsense. All of my mates girlfriends go to their football matches.”
She busted out laughing. It was so bizarre to be sitting in an empty classroom with Dean Thomas at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry discussing football in relation to their fake relationship. She ignored his inquiries into “what was so funny?”
2. Hermione will attend all of Dean’s Quidditch matches
“Fine,” she said after writing the rule down. “But you have to go to Professor Slughorn’s Christmas Party with me.”
“I’ve never had the pleasure of attending a Slug Club event,” he said with interest.
“It’s formal, ‘fetching dress’ I think wizards call it, so you’ll need dress robes.”
After she jotted that down she looked up at him. He was deep in thought, leaning back in his seat with his arms crossed, staring into space. She noticed that his sleeves were rolled to his elbows, revealing ink smudges along his arms.
Suddenly coming to, he said, “I could draw you things, maybe a sketch a day.” His voice came out quietly. If she didn’t know any better, she would say that he was a little embarrassed. She knew he was artistic; they had worked on a Quidditch banner together their first year.
“Gin sometimes complained that I wasn’t romantic enough, which seems to go against the idea of me being overbearing or chivalrous, but whatever.” He shrugged, doing his best to seem unbothered. “Anyway, I’m not great with words and stuff but I can draw you something every day. If she notices it’ll drive her crazy.”
“Romantic,” she said sarcastically, writing that as the fourth rule. “Is there anything else?” She scanned the list, racking her brain for any more ideas. Before she could come up with anything else, Dean snatched the parchment and quill from her and began writing:
5. Hogsmeade weekends
“We have to spend Hogsmeade trips together.” Hermione opened her mouth to protest that they really had enough going for appearances sake, and even with the extra protections the Ministry was offering, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go, but Dean didn’t give her the chance. “Ron and Lavender will definitely be together for Hogsmeade trips and Ginny will be there. If you want them to think you’re unbothered, and if I’m going to get Ginny’s attention, we have to go.”
Begrudgingly, she nodded. She was uncomfortable with how much she would be doing to lie to everyone, but the alternative was unacceptable to her sense of pride. They were in it now. “Can you add that no matter what, we can’t tell anyone that this is all fake? It would be far too humiliating.”
Dean nodded his ascent, adding:
6. Tell no one.
Then, he added two Xs with lines next to them, signature lines.
“Wait, what about an end date?” she asked. They couldn’t keep this up forever. Even well thought out and planned lies were bound to catch up with them.
“No. Nope. You’re not going to get to control this,” he said, his face looking resolute. “Trust your instincts. We’ll know when it’s time, and we’ll end it amicably. Don’t worry.”
She sighed, accepting she wouldn’t win that battle. “OK, but it has to be over before exams. I’ll need all my time and focus to prepare for them.”
“Oh we’ll be over by then, for sure,” he said with a confidence that she wished she felt.
“Good.” With that, he signed the left line and passed her the quill and ink. She signed her name and then held the contract out for them to admire. “It’s almost time for dinner. I need to drop all this off at the common room. Are you coming?”
“Nah, I gotta find Seamus and check on him.”
She smiled. It was endearing how he truly cared about his friend. “Alright, see you at dinner then?”
They exited the classroom and parted ways towards their separate destinations.