“A boy zone. Are you sure?”
“Boyzone. It’s an Irish Muggle boy band,” Hermione corrected Seamus, not for the first time.
“Okay and a boy band is…?”
“Mate, we’ve already explained it,” Dean said, not looking up from the letter in his hands.
“Right, a bunch of lads, singing without instruments. I just wanted to be clear…and Padma likes them?”
Hermione didn’t know whether to laugh or throw her toast at Seamus. They’d gone over this plan with him a dozen times. Being the originator of it, she was quite proud and didn’t want him messing it up. “Yes. Parvati and Padma love Muggle boy bands. Parvati is partial to the American variety, but Padma loves Boyzone. Ronan specifically. Which, like I said, Boyzone are Irish. It’s a piece of culture you can bond over! She’ll tell you about the concert she went to last year in Dublin and you’ll say ‘Oh, my grandmother lives in Dublin, I go there all the time. Boyzone is huge there.’”
Watching his cereal grow increasingly soggy, Seamus sat pondering her words for a moment. More chatter filled the Great Hall than usual. There had been more disappearances in the last week, some being relatives of their classmates. Earlier in the morning, Peter Davis had left school with his mother after it was reported that his father had gone missing.
Sighing, she glanced at Dean. Over the past week she had caught herself doing so often. The edges of his dark hair were freshly clipped, making him look even more distinguished. His dark eyes flicked back and forth across the page, lost in the contents of the letter. Without warning, he looked up, his eyes meeting hers. Quickly, she looked away, feeling a light flutter in her stomach.
“Alright, I’ve got it. But I don’t want her to date me just ‘cause I’m Irish like the boys in this band,” Seamus said.
“She’s not going to date you because you’re Irish. She’s going to date you because you finally got up the guts to start a conversation with her and it turns out you’re a good bloke. Plus it won’t hurt that you look like that Ronan guy.”
“A bit,” Dean said, quickly dropping his eyes back to his letter.
“I feel like you’re having me on.”
“Merlin’s beard, just go,” Hermione said insistently. She looked to the Ravenclaw table where Padma was now finding a seat. She was glowing, her dark hair pulled back in a long plait, a soft pleasant expression on her face.
Seamus was not intimidated by her prettiness, rather he seemed to be emboldened by it. He shot up from his seat, face pale but eyes blazing. Looking back at them, he gave them a final nod and was gone.
Hermione heaved a sigh of relief. “I don’t think I’ve ever talked about Boyzone so much in my life.”
“You don’t chat about boy bands with your friends very often then?” Dean asked jokingly as he folded up the letter and set it next to his bowl of oatmeal.
Chewing on her last bit of buttered toast, she chuckled in response. She washed it down with a tart swig of freshly squeezed orange juice. Often, she pondered at the magic of house-elves. Even when certain produce was out of season, they were always able to prepare food as if it were fresh.
“My family says hello,” Dean said, taking a bite of his oatmeal.
Hermione grinned to herself at the thought of his colorful family. “That’s nice of them. Tell them I said hello back.”
In between bites of oatmeal he added, “They’ve asked you to visit during the Easter holiday.” Hermione choked slightly into her goblet of orange juice. “Well, Mum asked. The twins have all but insisted. They apparently read some books you recommended to them and they’re dying to discuss them with you.”
Lying to his family in person had been hard enough the first time. They had been so hospitable, it didn’t feel right for her to spend another full evening lying to them.
“Dean, your family is lovely but we couldn’t possibly! What will they all think when we do break up? Or worse, what if they find out?” She ignored his eye roll and pressed forward. “Besides, I’m not going home for the break. I have a lot of schoolwork to be getting on with, which will be easier to accomplish here.” Schoolwork was one way to put it, further investigating Horcruxes was another.
“Sounds like it’s settled then. I wasn’t planning on going home either. It’s too difficult to get homework done in a Muggle house full of siblings. I just haven’t written yet to let them know.”
“Why didn’t you start with that?” Hermione asked in relief.
“Because I thought you’d be pleased to know they really do like you.” He looked at her for a moment as she bit her lip, nervously. Setting his spoon down on the table, he took her face into his hands, forcing her to look at him. “You need to stop worrying so much. Everything’s fine. No one is going to find out. My family will go on liking you just like they have been, if I have anything to do with it.”
The warmth of his hands masked the heat of her own cheeks that was only increasing as his dimples peeked out at her from his comforting smile. “Yes, but—“
“Stop. You keep overthinking this,” he said, cutting her off. “We have a contract only you and I know about. We have our goals.” At this he glanced down the table, where she knew Ginny was sitting. She was wearing the blue jumper Mrs. Weasley had knitted her for Christmas. It had a golden broom on it, which Ginny had stylishly enchanted to fly around the sweater. Coming back to his senses after a moment, Dean continued, “We’ll break up amicably. In fact, it’ll be so amicable no one will even be upset by it.”
His thumb gently grazed her cheek in a way that she knew was meant to be calming. Instead, his thumb felt as if it was searing her skin, leaving a trace of tingles in its wake. Trying to hide her embarrassment, she took a deep breath, and finally said, “Of course. You’re right.”
His smile widened as he dropped his hands, but not before pinching her cheek and saying, “That’s my girl!”
All of the heat left her face and the fluttering in her stomach dissipated as she swatted his hand away. “Watch it, or maybe we won’t break up so amicably.”
Holding up his hands in surrender at the sight of her glare, he laughed, “Got it. No cheek pinching. Might have to write that one down too, so I don’t forget.”
She shook her head and took another drink of her orange juice to hide her smile.
Seamus had both made progress and not made progress with Padma over the next couple of days. On the one hand, she didn’t seem opposed to his attempts to approach her. On the contrary, she had happily engaged him in conversation about Ireland and where the various members of Boyzone were from. On the other hand, she seemed more amused by his antics than she was intrigued. Dean and Hermione had decided to treat this as a net positive and to continue to encourage him.
Of course, others in their year had started to notice. Harry was walking with Hermione back from dinner on Thursday when he brought it up.
“What was up with Seamus attacking Padma in Potions?”
“He didn’t attack her,” she said defensively. “He just asked her if she wanted to study with him for the test on Monday.”
“More like screamed it at her.”
“He didn’t mean to. I imagine his ears were ringing from the loud pops that kept coming from his cauldron.” Thankfully, Seamus still hadn’t had any major accidents in class that would embarrass him in front of Padma. However, in Potions he had made a rather noisy potion that appeared to conduct something similar to electricity. Loud metallic cracks and pops kept issuing from the cauldron, eventually sending a couple of students to the Hospital Wing complaining of ringing ears.
Harry looked as if he was stifling a laugh with a look on his face that said “whatever you say.”
“At least, he’s trying to get to know her, unlike some boys I know when they like a girl.” She gave him a sidelong glance.
A flush crept up his cheeks. He diverted his attention to the portrait of an old man picking grapes, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, trying to hide the redness. “It’s probably more complicated for some guys than others.” He glanced at her and quickly looked away, embarrassed.
They rounded the corner into a large domed corridor. She was about to reassure him that if he just spoke with Ron regarding Ginny everything would work out fine, but before she could say anything of the sort, Harry suddenly grabbed her arm, pulling her into the nearest empty classroom. There were no torches lit inside, and no windows. But for the shaft of light pouring in from the crack at the bottom of the door, it was nearly pitch black.
“Harry! What on Earth–“
Lumos, she thought, with a quick flick of her wand. Her wand tip illuminated the room. It was a smaller classroom and had apparently been in disuse for many years. Only a few damaged desks remained piled in the corner. Cobwebs adorned the walls and dust crunched beneath her feet as she shifted her weight.
She turned back to Harry who had now pulled out the Marauder’s Map and was furiously unfolding it. Paying her no mind, he positioned himself next to the door, straining to listen. Curious, against her better judgement, she peered over his shoulder. On the map she could see their dots standing next to each other in Classroom 505. Outside, walking past in the opposite direction were Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle.
“Dammit, I can’t hear them. I should have brought Extendable Ears. It looks like they’re heading back to the dungeons,” he said mostly to himself.
“You can’t be serious. Even if they were up to something, do you really think they’d just discuss it in the corridors for anyone to hear?”
“Snape and Malfoy did at Slughorn’s Christmas Party.”
“But you had the Invisibility Cloak! This corridor isn’t that long. There’s no way they didn’t see us come in here. You aren’t going to catch anything.”
He wasn’t listening to her. Instead his focus was directed intently at the map, his brow furrowed.
She groaned in frustration. “I don’t have time for this. Move.” Her attempts to shove him away from the door were easily thwarted.
“You can’t just leave. Then they’ll know we were up to something!”
“We!?” Her voice came out in a shrill whisper. “I didn’t shove me into this dark classroom. You did!” She was prodding him with her lit wand to emphasize her point.
He sighed looking down at the map. The three Slytherins’ dots had now rounded the corner and were making their way towards the stairs at the other end of the corridor.
Frustrated, he tapped the map with his own wand muttering, “Mischief managed.” For a moment, he stood pinching the bridge of his nose. Hermione watched, incredulous at her best friend’s behavior. “He keeps disappearing. I just can’t figure out where he’s been going. You don’t reckon the map’s broken?”
She stared at him, her arms now crossed.
Not waiting for her to answer he continued, “Ron thinks he might be leaving the school. But he can’t be using the secret tunnels, I’ve been watching them.”
“Oh well if Won-Won is interested in your little investigation, why don’t you talk to him about it?” Hermione sniffed indignantly.
At the mention of “Won-Won” Harry looked at her, his expression now exasperated. “Hermione, couldn’t you just—“
“I’m not the one that needs to apologize, Harry.”
While Ginny seemed to be unaffected by her and Dean’s Valentine’s outing, Ron had returned to being just as ill-tempered as he was before the holidays. It wasn’t necessarily as mean spirited, but he had commanded a lot more of Harry’s time, while still resolutely avoiding her. If it had not been for Dean and Seamus, this would have left her nearly friendless.
With a wave of her wand she put out the light and reached to wrench the door open. Exhaling a resigned sigh, she looked at him. He was being absurd, but she was too tired to deal with it today. “Last I checked, Malfoy’s hair isn’t long enough nor red enough to command this much of your attention. Maybe try focusing on getting Slughorn’s memory instead, or on Quidditch, even.”
A deep cherry hue overcame Harry’s skin. She patted his shoulder as she moved past him and out into the corridor.
This school year she was spending more time irritated with Harry than not. At breakfast the next morning, she gave him a cold stare as he walked past them to join Ron at the other end of the table. Generally, this look would have been withering enough to at least make him a bit remorseful. Instead, he pretended not to notice. Fine, she thought, if he wants to be that way, then the Prince, Malfoy, and Ron can help him with his Transfiguration essay.
Thankfully, Dean had made it a point throughout their fake-relationship to stay out of matters regarding her friendship with Harry and Ron. He did pick on her for fancying Ron when he was such a prat, but about serious matters he stayed out of it completely. Instead, he took the opportunity to serve as a distraction from her irritation.
In other matters, however, he wasn’t so keen to take an inactive approach. Outside of Defense Against the Dark Arts, while waiting for Snape, Dean noticed a cluster of Slytherins a few feet away, Pansy and her cronies, giggling and whispering while pointing at them.
“What’s this lot on about, then?” he asked with a sneer on his face.
Hermione, who had noticed their behavior earlier on their way to Charms, merely shrugged, not looking up from her tattered copy of Hogwarts: A History.
“They keep pointing at us.”
“Leave it,” she said, almost bored. “If I had a Knut for every time Pansy laughed at me I’d be richer than Malfoy.”
“It doesn’t bother you?” He hadn’t taken his eyes off of Pansy and their group. They didn’t notice the intense glare he had fixed them with.
“Why would it bother me? She’s either commenting on my cheap shoes, laughing at my blood status, or speculating how anyone could possibly date me. Pansy isn’t particularly creative.”
“How anyone could date you?” he asked incredulously. Hermione shut her book, finally looking up at him, amused. Pushing himself off the wall on which he had been leaning he said, “I’m going to say something. They can’t just talk about my girlfriend like that.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Harry and Ron approach. Confronting them would cause a scene, and if Harry or Ron noticed, they would definitely jump at the opportunity to hex some Slytherins. Harry was looking for a reason to provoke Malfoy, who in this instance, was standing idly by, not listening to the chatter around him.
“Leave it,” she said firmly, placing a hand lightly on his forearm. Gryffindor couldn’t afford the points it would inevitably cost for Harry, Ron, and Dean to get into a duel with the Slytherins.
By the look in his eyes, she could tell he wasn’t going to drop it.
To her relief, Professor Snape arrived just a moment later, putting an end to whatever schemes Dean had for the snickering Slytherins. Gryffindors, she thought as she shook her head.
By dinner that evening, she had mostly forgotten the incident. A few Slytherins had smirked at her while whispering amongst themselves as they passed her in the corridors, but nothing else had come of it.
The enchanted ceiling overhead was full of shifting grey clouds. They churned above so vividly that Hermione thought she could almost feel the cold wind blowing in through the windows. Her mind was far away. She had spent her free period in the library, trying once again to find any mention of Horcruxes. Even after altering her search methods, she still turned up empty handed.
Between Harry’s inaction and the library failing her possibly for the first time, she felt stuck. She knew this must be important information and not having it made her feel vulnerable. Of course, Professor Dumbledore would surely reveal it in due time, but what if it was too late? Too late for what, she wasn’t sure.
“Did you hear me?”
Blinking, she looked away from the ceiling, almost startled to see Dean sitting next to her. Most of the Gryffindor table had cleared out or was finishing eating. The mahogany table was littered with crumbs and half-empty platters of food.
“I asked if you were ready to go.”
“Right, sorry. Yes. I was just thinking about my paper on British wizards’ arrival to the colonies.”
Nodding, Dean stood up from the table. His raised brow betrayed his skepticism, but he didn’t push it any further. Wordlessly, he held out his hand and helped her up from the table.
The corridors were fairly lively, with it being a Friday evening. Various portraits seemed to be hosting dinner parties to welcome in the weekend. Hermione stifled a giggle as they passed a portrait of what looked like two medieval jousters taking bets from the surrounding portraits for the upcoming Quidditch match—Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff.
Dean and Hermione’s clasped hands swung between them, fingers interlaced. It had become quite natural for them to hold hands, even when no one was around. Hermione had grown accustomed to his hand’s firm warm grip around her own. In fact, come to think of it, his hands were always warm. They were warm when he tucked an errant curl behind her ear, and they were warm that time on the way to Herbology when she had forgotten her gloves and he had taken her hands in his own and stuck them in his cloak pockets.
“It was like you said, by the way. Pansy isn’t very creative.”
The slight smile that had formed on her face while she was lost in thought, fell. “I told you to leave it. She’s really not worth your time,” she said knowingly.
“She and her friends found me. Well, me and Seamus. We were on our way back from the Quidditch pitch.”
“So which insult was it? Was I right?” she asked.
“Yes and no. I believe her words were ‘The Chosen Potty and his Mud—‘”
“Ah, yes. One from the vaults. Used to be one of her favorite insults and rumors to spread,” she said with an eye roll for emphasis.
They turned down a quieter corridor, a shortcut that took them away from the better trafficked halls. She couldn’t remember if it was her or Ron who had found it second year after a rogue staircase had shifted whilst they were climbing. The shafts of moonlight from the paned windows and the warm glow from the torches played against each other.
Dean was staring straight ahead, somewhat lost in thought. After a moment, he began nonchalantly, “You were also kind of right because she did call me ‘filth,’ a pure-blood classic.”
She nodded emphatically, “Mmm, an old one but a good one.”
“Specifically she said although I was ‘filth,’ she did feel a little bad for me. If it was her, she wouldn’t leave me and start sneaking around in deserted classrooms with ‘Pothead.’”
He was now looking at her with a raised eyebrow. There was no accusation in his voice, but he was acting strangely. The flickering light of the torches cast shifting shadows over his face so that she was unable to tell if he was serious or not. He had to know that she had never snuck around in classrooms with a boy like that, and certainly not with Harry. Maybe Pansy was more creative than she gave her credit for.
“You don’t seriously believe that load of—“ she began, before breathing an “Oh!” as realization washed over her. She had, in fact, spent time sneaking around in a classroom with Harry just a few days ago. Specifically, it was to unwittingly spy on Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle. Draco must have told Pansy he saw them. He might have even hoped for this outcome, knowing that Pansy might start a rumor, as a way to warn Harry to back off. She felt a twang of remorse.
“I mean, we did sneak into a classroom alone, but I swear it wasn’t anything like that!” It was beyond her why she even felt the need to defend herself. Of course, Pansy was lying. And besides, Dean wasn’t her real boyfriend and he knew full well at this point that Harry and she were nothing more than friends.
They passed through an arched opening at the end of the corridor, into a small moonlit breezeway. The wind whipped around them, throwing her curls wildly around her face. Dean walked up to the railing and leaned against it, turning to look over at her with a smirk.
“You don’t think I know that?” His robes flapped behind him in the wind. She came to lean against the rail next to him. He stared out onto the grounds as the moonlight brightened and dimmed, the clouds passing over it, obscuring it for moments at a time. “Everyone did seem to think it was a laugh, though. That really doesn’t bother you?”
She thought for a moment. Those rumors specifically hadn’t affected her in a long time, not since Harry had set the record straight with Mrs. Weasley. They were all made up and mostly based on Rita Skeeter’s original article on the matter. “To be honest, no. Anyone that matters knows they aren’t true. I suppose I could be more adamant in discounting them,” she paused, contemplating her next statement. As she did so, the moon emerged from behind a rather large dark cloud, illuminating the swaying trees of the forest in the distance.
“To be quite honest, I think I left that rumor alone partly because Pansy and Malfoy are going to say what they want anyway. But mostly, because it helped me hide the truth—that I liked Ron. I didn’t encourage them, obviously, but if people wanted to believe them, that was less people who were likely to find out my secret. It was a good cover.”
With a shrug she looked over at him, expecting him to crack some joke digging at Ron as he usually did when the topic came up. Instead she was surprised to find him staring at her, that telltale mischievous glint in his eye.
“Oh?” he said as he stepped towards her. Not fooled by his innocent voice for a moment, she took a step back, her back hitting the post behind her. “Is it a better cover than this has been?”
The moonlight highlighted his broad nose and the dimples from the smirk on his lips. He was staring down at her, daring her to answer. “No.” To her surprise, her voice came out soft and dazed.
Whatever answer he had been expecting, it hadn’t been this. Something in the air changed. It was as if all her nerves were standing on end. His smirk melted away, the glint in his eye was now gone, replaced by something else. She knew biting wind was whooshing past them, but her body was on fire. His bergamot scent swirled around her, making her brain buzz.
“Well then…” his voice was deep, barely above a whisper. She could feel his warm breath brush across her face.
Suddenly she was overtly aware of his hand on her hip, the other on the railing next to her. When had that happened? She busied her mind, trying to recall how many times he’d placed his hand on her hip and whether it had ever felt like this, whether she had felt this prickling anticipation before.
She watched as his eyes dark eyes searched hers, a question hanging between them. What question, Hermione didn’t know. She felt her breath catch in her throat as she realized he was leaning toward her. If he leaned any closer they would—
It was as if everything had snapped back into place. They jumped apart. The moon retreated behind the clouds. Her heart felt as if it was trying to escape from her chest.
“Hi Hannah!” she tried to say as casually as she could manage to the approaching Hufflepuff prefect. Her voice betrayed her though, shaking slightly.
Not noticing anything amiss, Hannah smiled at Dean in greeting before turning to Hermione. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Professor McGonagall has requested we head down early to her office before patrol. She wants to go over some new security procedures with us.”
“Erm, sure! We were just heading to the common room, but I can come with you now.” She turned to Dean for his approval and found him standing a few steps back from her, hands in his pockets, back to his casual relaxed self. She stared at him, bemused for a moment before saying, “I’ll, erm, see you later?”
“Of course. Do your duty,” he said, grinning at both of them, waving them off. He then turned on his heel, leaving the breezeway.
Hermione shivered and Hannah tapped her on the shoulder. “Shall we go?”
There were quite a few updates to the security procedures at Hogwarts, as recommended by the Ministry Aurors, in light of the increase in disappearances. Hermione had heard none of it, of course. Her mind was still reeling.
“What was that about?” Hermione whispered to herself an hour later. Her mind kept replaying the same images; Dean’s brown eyes boring into hers, searching for something she couldn’t figure out, his hand firmly on her hip, and the almost imperceptible shift he’d made to lean forward right before Hannah arrived.
Surely he hadn’t meant to kiss her. “That’d be ridiculous,” she said, scoffing to herself. She looked around, relieved to find herself alone. If Peeves had heard her muttering to herself, he’d be serenading the whole castle with a song about “barmy, brainy Hermione Granger babbling to herself” tomorrow.
The memory of how his smirk had fallen and his jaw had clenched, his mood suddenly serious, made her face hot. Detouring to the girl’s bathroom, she rushed to the porcelain sink and turned the knob to splash cold water on her face.
Slowly, she looked up, her reflection staring back at her, a mop of brown curls on her head. As if struck, a sense of déjà vu hit her. It was at a sink just like this that she had been trying to calm down about a different boy under different circumstances just a few months ago.
Laughter bubbled out of her. This year was proving to be far too dramatic, and she had The Boy Who Lived for a best friend. Hadn’t Dean told her specifically to stop overthinking things? It’s not like this was the first time he had teased her. That’s why she was so well attuned to the warning signs—the glint of his eye, the smirk.
Grabbing a paper towel, she patted her face, satisfied with her reasoning and a little embarrassed by how worked up she had been. She paused, remembering the look in his eyes after she had said “No.” Had that been teasing, too?
The creak of the door opening echoed across the bathroom, tearing her away from that train of thought. Panicked, she ducked into the nearest stall. As soon as she shut the stall door behind her, she began berating herself. Why was she suddenly acting like some sort of lunatic? She didn’t have to hide. She was a prefect. Prefects had every right to be in the restroom past curfew. Rolling her eyes at her own antics, she began to unlock the stall to let herself out when she heard voices.
“Shh, if you’re not quiet we’ll get caught,” said a high-pitched voice.
“I can’t believe Mary really pulled through for us!” said another, more mature sounding girl.
“I still don’t see why she couldn’t bring the Wizards Wheezes stuff to us rather than having us risk our necks down in the dungeons,” said another girl, her voice more nasally than the others.
“Let’s just be happy we have them. Have you thought about who you’re gonna brew yours for?”
“Anthony Goldstein has been looking quite cute lately.”
“If you’re going to brew a love potion, you should dream bigger than that,” said the more mature girl. “I heard Romilda Vane tried to slip one to Harry Potter!”
“Well, of course. He’s the ultimate catch! But we should think more practically.”
“I dunno about ultimate catch,” said the high-pitched girl. “That Dean Thomas in Gryffindor is quite fit.”
“Oh yes!” the nasally voice said emphatically. “Ever since he got on the Gryffindor team as an alternate he’s been looking right fit.”
More giggling. Hermione suppressed an annoyed groan. She supposed these were lower year girls who didn’t know he had a girlfriend. Again she moved to unlatch the stall door. It was her job as prefect to send these girls to bed and confiscate whatever Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes contraband they had.
“Ugh, but isn’t he dating that awful Hermione girl?”
Hermione froze, hand on the latch.
One of the girls gave a great sigh. “That’s right. What an odd match. She’s supposed to be really smart and she’s nice looking, I guess.”
“A right know-it-all I’ve heard.”
“It is strange that he went from Ginny Weasley, who is easily the prettiest girl in our year to her,” the mature girl lamented.
“She isn’t half as pretty as Ginny, for sure. You’re much prettier, Kat. Pretty as Ginny, I reckon.”
“Thanks,” the mature girl said to the nasally one. “I suppose it’d be a bit too cheeky to slip a love potion to a boy who already has a girlfriend wouldn’t it?”
Hermione was fuming. Who did they think they were? Love potions? They’d have to be mad to attempt something so reckless. Of course she was used to girls swooning over Dean. They had been all year. But that was her boyfriend, as far as they were concerned at least!
Without warning, Hermione wrenched the stall door open, letting it bang back against the wall. The girls jumped, spinning around to look at her. It was a group of fourth year Ravenclaws, as she had suspected.
“You would think that if a group of Ravenclaws were going to sneak around, they’d be smart enough to keep their voices down,” she said, her voice dangerously steady.
The one with a smattering of freckles and short brown hair spoke up, her voice high-pitched, “We didn’t realize…we thought the bathroom was empty!”
“I’ll bet you did,” Hermione said, now outright glaring at the girls. She turned to the one with the long black hair and blue eyes. She was, in fact, pretty, Hermione thought, amused. Holding out her hand to the first she said, “Hand them over.” As she held out her hand, she made sure that her golden bolo bracelet was poking from her sleeve, heart clasp clearly visible.
The girls groaned and one-by-one handed their three magenta bottles with the signature Weasleys’ Wizards Wheezes “W” embossed on them.
“We’re sorry i-if you heard, erm, anything,” the blonde one with the nasally voice said, finally.
Hermione ignored this. “Is that all?” she asked looking knowingly at the girls.
The pretty one, Kat, groaned and handed her an opened box from beneath her robes full of Fanged Frisbees, snack boxes, and other various Weasley goods.
“Well then,” Hermione said finally, after writing down a list of the items in her notepad that she always kept on her during patrol, “I’ll need you to write your names here. And I suppose your supplier was a girl named Mary, probably in your year, Slytherin?”
The girls nodded solemnly, looking thoroughly chastised as they wrote each of their names in Hermione’s notebook. After she took the notebook back from them, she noticed the blonde girl, Celia, subtly rolling her eyes to Kat.
“I’ll be turning this contraband into your Head of House,” they cried out in protest, “and I think I’ll take a point for each minute I had to listen to you lot plotting your use of love potions. So that’s about what, 10 points, each?”
“30 points!? Are you crazy? Our Housemates are going to kill us! Oh Anthony is going to be furious.”
“We can make it 15 each if you’d rather a nice 45 points?”
The mature girl immediately apologized on behalf of her friends and pushed them out the door, eager to put distance between them and Hermione.
Pulling the door open, she smiled ruefully to herself, as she stepped into the corridor. I wouldn’t mind this rumor spreading. Might teach girls to stop gushing over him in the bathrooms all the time like I’m not there, she thought. With that happy thought, she finished the remainder of her patrol route with a slight pep in her step.
The morning dawned late for Hermione. Staying out later than usual for a patrol night left her more tired than normal. She had to stop by Professor Flitwick’s office to hand over the information and contraband. It was only out of a sense of mercy for her naïve schoolmates that she convinced Professor Flitwick not to send the information to Mr. Filch. Their fates would have been worse had he been involved.
A fog of sleep still hung around her as she trudged into the Great Hall. The sounds and smells of breakfast overwhelmed her senses. The tantalizing scent of coffee wafted over to her. She needed coffee. Mindlessly, she moved forward towards the Gryffindor table, greeting people with empty “hellos” and “good mornings.”
She spotted Dean eating with Seamus towards the end of the table. They locked eyes. The memory of last night flooding her brain, a hand on her hip, his warm breath tickling her cheeks. Any haze of sleep remaining was cleared out. She took a steadying breath, reminding herself of his smirk and the glint in his eye. He was teasing you, like he always does, she thought, taking a step forward.
The nagging point of that shift in his expression before he had begun to lean in tried to enter her thoughts, but she shook it away. If she acted funny because of him teasing her, how would that look? No. Everything was normal. Nothing had changed. She just needed to be herself.
Before she could reach the pair, Padma Patil called to her, marching up the table.
“I heard about last night. Professor Flitwick mentioned it this morning,” she said as she approached, her brow looking stern.
“That was quick,” Hermione said surprised. “Sorry about all of that.” Some prefects felt disrespected when others outside of their House deducted points, preferring the issues to be worked out between prefects. Furthermore, it was rare they had to correct Ravenclaws in such a severe manner, much less older students.
“Oh don’t apologize! I was coming to thank you for being lenient with them. I would have taken double what you did.” There was a sly smile on her face as if they were sharing in some sort of secret.
Hermione laughed in earnest. She didn’t know Padma as well as her sister but they got along well enough. They had even studied together a couple of times third year before Hermione had become completely inundated with schoolwork and time-travel. “Well hopefully they aren’t getting piled on too much. I know how it feels to lose so many points in one go for your House.”
“I think they’ll be alright,” she said, glancing towards the Ravenclaw table, glaring at the girls in question. “Anthony and I talked to them this morning. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know it’s been taken care of.”
With that she walked back to the Ravenclaw table, her dark long hair swishing behind her.
“What’d Padma want?” Seamus asked, feigning indifference once Hermione had joined them.
“Nothing important. Just prefect stuff.” Reaching for the carafe of coffee, she grabbed a mug and poured a healthy amount.
“You slept late,” Dean said, glancing up at her over his goblet. His voice was casual, but his eyes were guarded.
Did he think she was avoiding him? Act normal, she reminded herself before correcting herself, thinking, everything is normal. “Yeah, it was a late night.” She indicated vaguely towards the Ravenclaw table. “Like I said, prefect stuff.”
She regaled them with the story of the girls in the bathroom, leaving out the parts about Dean specifically.
“Love potions? Are those even legal?” Dean asked aghast, the tension between them forgotten.
“I mean most wizards aren’t crazy enough to actually use them. Everyone knows it’s not real love,” Seamus said.
“They’re not illegal, but they should be.” Hermione said with a grumble.
“Where do Fred and George get off selling something like that? In the hands of teenagers, those are dangerous.” Dean was beside himself.
Hermione understood his perspective. In the Muggle world there were laws against rape and assault, and clear legal definitions of consent. In the wizarding world, there were some laws regarding the theft of agency in some instances (i.e. the Imperius Curse), but not in others. Early on, Hermione had accepted that you can’t always apply Muggle logic to the magical community.
A cup of coffee later and they were still debating the nuance of the crime and whether the severity of punishment should correlate with the strength of love potion.
Dean was laughing incredulously. “Wizards have no logic!”
Not knowing any other world but his own, Seamus took offense to this. Before Hermione could defend Dean’s position, a voice came from behind her, “Ms. Granger. Please come with me.”
She turned to see Professor McGonagall towering over her. Dean looked at her questioningly. She shrugged as she quickly got up to fall in step with Professor McGonagall. She wondered if this was about the incident last night. It was a case of contraband, which generally resulted in detention, but lately those were a dime a dozen with Fred and George launching new lines of products every few weeks. A meeting with the Deputy Headmistress seemed a bit severe.
They came to a sudden stop a few feet further down the table, leaving Hermione to almost stumble over her green tartan robes. “Ms. Weasley, you should come along as well.”
Ginny shot Hermione a curious glance, confusion displacing the recent coldness between them. Hermione shook her head, indicating that she didn’t know what was going on. Ginny’s face paled as she walked along with them. Hermione realized that the last time Professor McGonagall had pulled her aside was probably when her father had been attacked by Nagini. The slew of disappearances in the papers suddenly filled her mind and she felt a pit form in her stomach. As they stepped out into the entrance hall, that pit began to grow.
Professor McGonagall looked down at them, her pursed lips trembling slightly.
“I’m afraid it’s about Mr. Weasley. He has been poisoned.”