Moonlight

And the moon is bright

..::Chapter 2::..

Hermione woke up grasping at something, though she didn't know what it truly was. Her hands were tightly wrapped around her down pillow as her eyes snapped open to take in the bleary image of a bleak-faced dawn cascading through the window by her bed. She pulled back the covers, the Gryffindor emblem merrily sewn dead-center of the quilt, and then studied herself in the mirror. Her hand moved upwards, sliding across her left cheek, feeling the softness, still wet from tears. I've been crying at night. Why?

She couldn't truly remember, she did have a faint ghost of a memory of waking up from a horrible dream, but all she recalled was the feeling of waking up and realizing it was not true. She remembered the feeling very well, but not the act itself. Hermione sighed and then wiped at her eyes again, from pure habit. Her night gown's sleeves were too long, the squared tips of her fingernails just barely peeked out from under the lace.

Her eyes scanned all the beds around her and saw they were empty. That's funny, usually the girls choose to sleep in. Then, realization dawned on her, as quickly as the orange orb in the sky, and it burned through her eyes and into her heart. " Yuletide Friends Club." She mimicked her voice to sound like the delighted croon of Parvati's voice.

All the girls were probably in the bathrooms, caking on makeup in layers, trying to look stunning for their smashing dates. Hermione wondered if she should buy a Ton-Tongue Taffy for a good laugh with Fred and George Weasley. It was their last year, and she hoped they spent it in delight. Besides, a date in the joke shop had to be good for something.

Hermione took out an old ebony hair pin that her grandmother had once worn, in an old faded picture that had become part of the family portrait album. Her grandmother had been so beautiful when she was her age! Hermione studied her mottled skin, red blotches standing out from her crying on the pale skin. Then, she grimaced at her muddy brown eyes and dark, completely wild hair. At least when she pinned it up, it stayed out of her way so she could get on with her life. Hermione took a sideways glance at the bureau standing a few feet away from her bed. She couldn't remember the last time she took out her party dress.

" Now, dear, don't cry. Pinch your cheeks, it'll make them rosy." The mirror chided happily and the two gilded eyes carved over it blinked a few times. Hermione sighed.

" I have a date today." She began.

" Oh dear! Fancy you'd have to wear something nice then!" The mirror's eyes slowly turned towards her bureau. " Don't mind me watching, hon, I want to see what you pick."

Hermione couldn't really mind the mirror. She slowly slid open the very bottom drawer and saw a glimpse of red silk. She raised the gown upwards. It was a very simple cut – tight-fitting and slinky, with a small slit to her knee on one side. It was sleeveless and very red. It had been her mother's prom dress, and now Hermione would wear it, since Hermione refused to go out with her mother to buy a fancy dress of her own.

" I suppose I could wear this old thing." She murmured to herself.

" That? It's far too red, dear. It'll mute your natural beauty." The mirror put in her two cents.

" My beauty?" Hermione asked, amused. " You must mean my brains, that's what's beautiful about me." Her fingers found her wand beneath the bed, and with a few words, the dress became black. " I like it this way!" She exclaimed.

" Much better. Black is always in style." The mirror was now a bit disinterested. The eyes slowly closed and it fell into a deep sleep again.

Hermione grinned, thankful for the mirror's few but friendly words. She slowly slipped out of her nightgown and tried on the dress. It was slightly long, but once again her wand fixed that. The area in the bust was far too large for her, she was embarrassed to have to lessen the cut in that area as well. Hermione was glad the other girl's weren't around. She was sure she'd be the talk at breakfast the next day for such a humiliating thing.

Hermione turned back to the mirror and looked at herself critically. At least she could still fit in the tightness of the dress, though it did tug a bit. She took a deep breath and the tug stopped. She walked out, the air sucked in, to face the panicked crowd of girls in the bathroom.

..::..

Harry adjusted the black bow of his suit. Ron stood behind him, trying to figure out whether Percy's broken watch would make him look more intelligent or more poor. Harry turned around, tugging at the black collar, trying to loosen up a bit. " What do you think, Ron?"

Ron smiled and gave him a thumb's up. " Looks great."

Harry didn't look convinced. He bit his lower lip and then wiped avidly at some invisible dirt on his pant leg. " So, where are you going?" He asked, softly.

" I'm thinking of going all out… butter beer, then a hayride in the park, just like Muggles do. I hear it's pretty fun. It's educational too, McGonagall says it's always good to understand Muggles." Ron shrugged and then added: " Where are you taking Hermione?"

" The Joke Shop." He replied.

" The Joke Shop?" Ron began to laugh. " Come on, Harry, this is serious."

" I am serious. Hermione wants to go there." Harry frowned, his black brow furrowing behind his glasses. " I just don't get it. I thought she'd want this one time where she can be herself, a real girl. I thought the only reason she was so reserved and uptight is because of school. Even now, when she's free of school for winter break, she's still so worried about everything!" He threw his hands upwards.

" Maybe you can stay at Hogwarts and sit by the fire together, reading a book… together… your arms around each other…" Ron gave him a sexy tiger growl. " Try it, Harry, take the expert's advice." He shot him a wide grin.

Harry rolled his eyes. " Right then, Mr. Expert."

" I don't think Hermione wanted a date with me, to be honest. She sounded as if she wanted to get the required date over with so that she could leave me alone. It's almost as if…" He paused for a second. "… she hates me."

" That's nuts, Harry. She's your best friend, and mine too."

" But so far this year, she's been sort of distant, even more then before. I don't know what's going on." Harry looked worried.

" I think she's playing hard to get." Ron teased.

" Our Hermione? Playing hard to get?" Harry shook his head.

" Girls are funny business, Harry. Best not to try to understand them, it's a whole lot safer that way." Ron murmured wisely.

..::..

Hermione waited in front of the Joke Shop in Hogsmeade. Her black dress was covered with her robes because she didn't have any fancy coat to put over herself. Hermione's eyes were concentrated on her black lace-up shoes, trying to move Harry out of her mind. So far this year, she'd given him his space. It was best not to notice how he'd somehow evened out a bit, gained muscle and grown taller, his eyes taking on a very handsome sparkle… her mind stopped the string of thoughts and feelings. I'm not going to get hurt, It's been bad enough before, having to try and compete with Cho Chang. I don't know what I was thinking, kissing Harry before we parted at the end of the fourth year.

She looked up and through the gently falling snow, she saw the dark shape of Harry in front of her. She heard his voice, soft and faltering: " Hi… Hermione."

Hermione's eyes studied him and then she replied: " Hi, Harry." She could see that he looked genuinely glad to see her, which surprised her, to say the least. Her eyes moved across him, taking in his clothing and his large grin. There was something about Harry was charming and sweet, but beyond normal earthly charm and sweetness, it was almost a spiritual thing. He simply radiated a warmth and joy if he was feeling happy.

" Let's go inside." She offered, motioning at the door with her hand.

" Sure." Harry took her arm and then they walked into the Joke Shop. It smelled like rubber and cut grass inside, though Hermione wasn't sure why. They looked around for a while, then Harry got bored and turned to Hermione, hoping that she would accept his offer to go back to Hogwarts and read.

" Hey, Hermione, I was thinking… do you want to head back to Hogwarts?"

" Oh." Hermione's mind buzzed feverishly. I knew it, he just wants to go back before people see him in public with me. Enough with all the talk last year thanks to Rita Skeeter, he probably doesn't want people to think we're boyfriend and girlfriend. I should have been giving him more space all year! How embarrassing it must be, to have every girl assume you're taken!

" W – we can sit around, read a little, if you'd like." Harry grinned slightly. " We'll be alone, so you can relax."

Of course, once we're alone, he wouldn't care if I want to hug him or anything, nobody would see.

Hermione almost felt a wave of explosive anger inside of her. This is so unlike Harry! Hermione's eyebrows raised in suspicion. " I suppose we can go back, then." She grinned cheerfully, bashing down her worrisome feelings. " Sure, let's go back." She feigned a happy exposition. At least when we're alone, I'll tell you, Harry. I'll tell you that I'm willing to leave you alone.
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