When the stars are out
Setting: Hogwarts, Harry and Hermione's sixth year.
Time: Winter break.
Hermione hated the bitterness of the wind in the winter. It would sting right to the bone, chill her warm tea in the morning, and leave behind a mess of papers it scattered. She felt it was too much of Dumbledore to require the students to remain in school for winter break. Only a few, whom prepaid and scheduled vacations, were allowed to leave. Dumbledore had a wonderful idea for Hogwarts – Yuletide Friends Club. He coined the phrase, most likely, overnight, and now it became an all-powerful, huge, super-big deal.
Well, I personally couldn't give a care, Hermione assured herself in her mind, and I'm too busy with my studies to take advantage of the Club.
Yuletide Friends Club worked in such a way that the Sorting Hat would pick out random couples through the students, searching mainly through compatibility. These picked couples were sent on a date of sorts to see if they could strike up a friendship, or even a romance. Chances were, Hermione would get paired with a boy. Yet, she hoped that some girl, alike to her, would be paired with her. Then she wouldn't have to embarrass herself, for she knew no boy would be romantically interested in her.
Book worm. Teacher's pet. Go home and study. Hateful taunts and cruel words echoed in her mind. She pushed them away with a new thought: Must get my essay written! Snape won't be tolerant if I give my paper in late!
Some people already found out their pairs by begging Dumbledore into releasing some information. Ginny was immediately paired with a close girlfriend of hers and they planned to go to Hogsmeade for butter beer, where they could find some nice boys for a double date. Hermione could have bet that Harry and Ron would also end up being paired for Yuletide Friends Club. A lot of people would get surprise partners, though. Lavender was paired with Draco Malfoy, which was surely a mistake or some sort. Or maybe they did have something in common – a favorite book or color?
Silly to bother myself with this Yuletide Friends garbage, Hermione's mind buzzed. Yet, her heart insisted to surface the strange fluttering feeling of being paired with a boy. Maybe finally some boy would emerge from the crowd of Hogwarts students, so alike with her that they'd fall for one another immediately. No such boy seemed to come into mind for Hermione, however.
The assembly the next morning was truly an awful mess. Hundreds of misplaced students rummaged through a few parchments listing all the chosen pairs. Groans and cheers ran amok from the mouths of students. Some swore in the foulest of ways, others seemed to weep in joy, and then a very few had already taken the hand of their chosen partner and sat down at a table of their choice.
Hermione ducked under some girl's swinging hand and then grasped a tattered paper to read the names off. She got the P list, and was about to put it down, when she realized she should check whom Harry was pared with. Her eyes scanned down the list of names and found Potter, Harry. She traced her finger to the other side, but just as she readied to read the matching name, someone jerked the paper from her.
Padma Patil exclaimed: " There it is! Parvati, come here, I found the P's!"
They both crowed over their picked partners and Hermione sulked away, trying to glimpse a few other sheets over people's shoulders. The D's, the Q's, the K's…
Suddenly, Dumbledore's booming voice sliced the noise in two. A stunned silence followed as he spoke: " It has gotten far too noisy for my liking; I would like everyone to sit down so that we can begin breakfast. Those that haven't found their partners, see me after breakfast."
Oh great, why did I have to be singled out? Hermione wondered, miserably, as at least ninety percent of the population of Hogwarts sat down at a table with a chosen partner. She found a small empty spot at one of the two tables that were up against the wall of the dining hall and then sat in silence as everyone else clamored and exclaimed about Yuletide Friends Club.
I wish I could go home… she thought, and the painful stinging in her stomach verified the truthfulness of her words.
Hermione approached Dumbledore once the dining hall was emptied of students. A few others, also without partners, made their way towards their headmaster. Dumbledore stroked his long beard for a few minutes and then said: " Well! Seems that I should have made more then one copy of the list!" He took out an ancient-looking wand and then tapped it slightly on the table. The complete list appeared before them.
As Hermione searched for her name, she felt a tap to her shoulder. Harry stood behind her, his green eyes questioning.
" Hi, Harry." Hermione said, glad that she found a friendly face.
" Hey. Can you believe it? Just as I managed to get Parvati to let go of the list, it disappeared in my hands. Too bad that Dumbledore didn't wait just two more seconds." Harry leaned forwards. " Is that the G's? Well, I'll just go look for…"
" Wait." Hermione pointed at her name, then moved her nail across the parchment to the other side. Granger, Hermione______________________Potter, Harry.
Oh, thank heavens I'm with a friend! A relieved look crossed her face. She turned to him and exclaimed: " Guess we're together, Harry. Where do you want to go?"
A very slight red tint filled Harry's cheeks. He glanced at the paper again to be sure. " I… I don't know. Some nice restaurant?" He grinned.
" Uh, you're kidding me, aren't you? No need to spend money on me. We'll go on one little date, someplace cheap. Maybe we can check out the joke shop in Hogsmeade. That's always fun." Hermione's face, completely devoid of any hope of a romantic relationship, studied the lipid pools of green that were Harry's eyes. " You look upset."
" No, no, don't get me wrong." Harry shook his head. " The joke shop sounds perfectly fine to me." He tried a grin. He seemed to be incredibly taken aback, though.
No wonder, nobody wants to be paired with me. All I do is study. I'm not even pretty. Hermione's chin quivered very slightly and she faked a laugh. " Don't worry, I'll be studying most of winter break. You're free to hang out with anyone you like after the required date is over."
Harry grinned lopsidedly right back. " Sure." Something wasn't right, though.
He doesn't even want that one date. Poor Harry, I bet he wishes he got Cho. She'd probably know the best places to hit for the dating scene. Hermione turned her back to Harry so she could place the paper down on the desk. She hoped he didn't see the sudden wave of tears in her eyes. He doesn't want this date. I won't be a dead weight to him, then. I want Harry to be happy, even if it's not with me. Very carefully, she turned back, keeping her eyes down to avoid having him see the glossiness of her eyes.
" Let's go." She held out her hand to him, then wavered halfway there and put her hand flat at her side like a soldier. Now I wish I got a stranger for a partner. At least then it wouldn't hurt as much.
Author's note: Poor Hermione… a lot of misunderstandings there.