A Christmas Carol
Madam Pomfrey was tired. It had been a long week since they first task had completed and she had yet to get a good night's sleep. First, it was the Weasley kid and that bloody egg. She snickered at her own joke as she remembered the skin and blood that covered the egg where it came to rest. It took Molly Weasley fourteen cleaning spells to finally get it completely clean. 'Merlin! I must be tired, if I thought that was funny,' she thought. After the egg had been dislodged, she had taken her anti-nausea potion and set to work healing Mr. Weasley's buttocks. Though she had been able to repair most of the damage, it would still be a few days before he felt comfortable sitting down again.
Then there was Severus. She looked over at his bed were the blankets were billowing every time he took a breath. Fortunately, the oil in his hair had been too contaminated to ignite and had actually provided insulation for his hair and head. It had taken Madam Pomfrey two days to identify all forty-seven potions that had ignited in the Professor's office and had come in contact with him. Her fatigue had been proven when she had tried to reduce the swelling of his nose for the eighth time, until Albus finally reminded her that it always had been that large.
And the final one of the severely injured patients she had in her care was Draco Malfoy. Madam Pomfrey had had the unpleasant task of informing his parents that at most, he would regrow only about thirty percent of his hair. There had been just too much damage over such a short period of time. She had also pointed out that he might get his left eyebrow back, but the right one was gone forever. She had spent hours on his ear, and finally got it back somewhat in shape. It didn't quite match the other one, but it didn't look melted anymore, either. While Narcissa had cried over her son's unconscious body, Lucius had strolled out of the hospital wing, muttering something about having to talk to the Bulstrodes before this news got out.
The Weasley twins had been busy since the first task had been complete. They had been inspired by their brother's performance and in memory of it, they had created Canary and Horntail figures similar to the ones they had seen at the Quidditch World Cup. The dragon action figure would chase the canary until the little canary's tail caught fire, at which point the little bird would lay a golden egg. Their supply couldn't keep up with the demand. All over the school little Horntail dragons chased miniature canaries until the appearance of the golden egg.
Fred and George also had a brisk business going on their canary creams and a new product they created call Horntail honeys, which turned a person into a Horntail dragon complete with simulated fire breath. Students were constantly changing into one or another at every meal.
They had also created a blonde Veela figurine, complete with flame dispensing capabilities, but they were quickly withdrawn from availability when the twins were visited by the Beauxbatons champion. Rumor had it they had to make a visit to Madam Pomfrey to cure some burns in some sensitive areas shortly afterwards.
The morning he was released from the hospital wing, Ron was gingerly walking back to the Gryffindor Common room, proudly displaying his egg so everyone could see it. Most people he encountered remembered the last place they had seen the egg and quickly dashed off to the loo to vacate the breakfast they had just consumed. Ron was overwhelmed at the support he was receiving as they celebrated his victory by turning themselves into canaries and Horntails. The little Horntail dragon figurines that kept blowing flames at him where annoying, but heck, it showed the students loved him!
'People are probably lining up to join my fan club now,' Ron thought. 'I better talk to the Creeveys soon. They might need to take more pictures. Especially one of me and my egg.'
As Ron entered the common room, he saw Lee Jordon and several older Gryffindors gathered around the table watching their action figures recreate their favorite Triwizard event. As the canary once again had its tail feathers ignited and the golden egg fell to the ground, the crowd cheered. Ron never figured out that the cheering was for the Horntail, not the canary.
Harry found another note in his pocket later in the week and, again, he and Hermione were met by Daphne and Tracey later in the evening. But this time, there was a third Slytherin female joining them. The third person was large, square-jawed and resembled a hag.
"Thanks for seeing us," Daphne started as she tried to suppress her natural haughtiness. Ever since her eyes had stopped watering and her hair returned to its former silkiness, her Ice Princess persona had returned in full force. "Do you know Millicent Bulstrode?"
"Why is she here?" Hermione snapped. She remembered all too vividly the incident at the dueling session in the second year.
"She's the, uh, reason we need to see you," Tracey murmured. "She needs to be able to be around Malfoy. So we want to know if they twins can single out her or remove the jinx from him altogether?"
"Why?" Harry asked.
"My father and Draco's father have come to terms on our betrothal," Millicent said in her deep voice.
Harry looked at Hermione and they both mouthed, "Betrothal?"
"I thought Parkinson was betrothed to Malfoy?" Harry mentioned.
"Oh no," Millicent said. "She had her father cancel that after the cauldron incident. Now he's all mine." She said dreamily. "I promise I'll keep him in line."
"Uh...yeah. We'll talk to the twins, but I know they wouldn't want to…uh... stand the in the way of true love," Harry said. "I'm... uh... sure they would want you to be happy."
"Thank you…thank you!" Cried Millicent in her deep bass voice. Harry was very thankful she didn't want to hug him. He was sure his ribs wouldn't take the strain.
After the Slytherins had left, Harry and Hermione rushed to find the twins just in case they were thanked by an appreciative Millicent.
When Draco Malfoy regained consciousness, he noticed someone was sitting on his bed looking at him. It took a few minutes for his vision to clear. It was Millicent Bulstrode who stood five inches taller and was sixty pounds heavier than himself.
"What are you doing here, Bulstrode?" He sneered.
"Oh Draco, is that any way to talk to your future wife?" Millicent answered.
Draco missed what Millicent had said and replied, "Where's Pansy? Why isn't my betrothed here?"
Millicent looked hurt. "But Draco dear, she canceled her betrothal to you." Then she smiled. "And your father and my father reached our betrothal agreement."
Draco's sneer dropped in mid-lip raising. "An… agreement? A betrothal agreement? You...you and me?" Draco swallowed hard.
"Of course," Millicent replied and a sense of doom fell upon Draco's chest where most people's hearts are.
"They agreed to a short betrothal and for us to be married on Easter Break," Millicent replied smiling at her future husband.
"But…but…but," Draco sputtered, then finally was able to finish the sentence. "How..how…what…what.. do you mean? I'm only fourteen! I can't get married!"
"Of course you can," Millicent said, taking Draco's hand causing him to flinch. "Your father has already signed the paperwork. The headmaster is working on having our married housing ready for us when we return from our Easter honeymoon."
"But... but..." Draco could not process the information. The last thing he remembered was being betrothed to the very lovely Pansy Parkinson and watching the hilarious antics of Ron Weasley at the first task. 'It has to be a dream..It's a nightmare,' he thought. 'Just have to pinch myself.'
'Have to try again. OUCH!, again, OUCH!..' "Uh…FATHER!" Draco screamed as he realized he wasn't dreaming.
"Oh he isn't here love," Millicent said to her betrothed as she reached up and caressed his face. "Your mother had to take him home earlier. He had too much Firewhisky from celebrating our betrothal."
"You said married housing?"
"Of course, future husband of mine. We have to have married housing, don't we?" Millicent said. "It isn't like we can make love in your dorm room. The betrothal contract is quite specific on producing a heir as soon as possible; many of them in fact. It seems your father is concerned about how accident prone you have become."
"Oh dear," Millicent said to Madam Pomfrey as she rushed to Draco's bedside. "All the good news must have overexcited him."
Harry and Hermione were on their way to Care of Magical Creatures on an early December morning with trepidation in their hearts. Though they loved Hagrid, they hated the Blast-Ended Skrewts. At least the things had been kind enough to kill each other off. As of their last class, there had only been ten of them left. Unfortunately, those were the ten that were the biggest and strongest, having survived the battles with their brethren. As they neared the class area, Rita Skeeter made an appearance.
"Harry," she said. "I think you owe me that interview now."
Harry turned to Hermione and rolled his eyes, but he realized an agreement was an agreement and nodded sullenly at the Daily Prophet reporter.
"Ms. Granger, if you wish to join us you may."
Harry looked pleadingly at his girlfriend. "Okay," she said, then whispered to Harry. "Oh are you going to owe me for this one." She joined Harry and the reporter as they went into Hagrid' cabin for a quieter place for the interview.
Ron Weasley was still very sore in a tender area, so he was a little late for the Care of Magical Creatures class. When he got there, he noticed Harry and Hermione were not there. 'Probably off snogging somewhere,' he thought.
Since he wasn't in the castle, the smell lingered behind him and he soon found himself standing alone.
In the class, Hagrid wanted to find out if the skrewts were going to hibernate and had provided pillow lined boxes to find out. Unfortunately, the students who tried to lead the armored, stinging, and blast-propelling creatures into the boxes found out the skrewts were not interested at all in sleeping for an extended period of time. In fact, they distinctly did not like the idea, resulting in a smoldering wreckage of pillows and crate pieces strewn about the grounds.
Ron found himself face down in a muddy area, unable to get back up due to his 'injuries'. He didn't notice the very unhappy skrewt that was headed his way, but he did notice when the door to Hagrid's cabin opened and Harry and Hermione came out followed by his mother's favorite reporter, Rita Skeeter.
"Thank you for the wonderful interview, Harry," Rita was saying. "You two make a wonderful couple."
Unfortunately, the outburst from the redheaded champion happened at the same time the Blast-Ended Skrewt had initiated the event that gave it its name. It wasn't even close. Whereas the skrewt could propel itself six to ten feet, Ron Weasley, Blast-Ended Wizard, traveled at least fifteen before skidding to a halt in another mud pile. Unfortunately, the skrewt was caught in the backlash of the blast and smell and Hagrid now only had nine left.
"Weasley! Will you pay attention?" Professor McGonagall's voice rang out. Ron had his golden egg out on his desk and he kept moving it around, trying to catch anyone's eye with it. Ron himself was standing beside the desk. The skrewt incident had caused so much additional damage he still found it impossible to sit down.
It was the end of the lesson; they had finished their work; the guinea fowl they had been changing into guinea pigs had been shut away in a large cage on Professor McGonagall's desk (Neville's still had feathers); they had copied down their homework from the blackboard ("Describe, with examples, the ways in which Transforming spells must be adapted when performing Cross-Species Switches") and the bell was due to ring any moment.
"Now that I have EVERYONE's attention," McGonagall glared at Ron. 'I have something to say to you all."
"The Yule Ball is approaching - a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament - and an opportunity for us to socialize with our foreign guests. Now, the ball will be open only to fourth years and above - although you may invite a younger student if you wish – RONALD WEASLEY WILL YOU LEAVE THE EGG ALONE AND PAY ATTENTION!" Ron sat the egg back on his desk and turned back to the aged professor in a hurry.
"Dress robes will be worn," Professor McGonagall continued after getting the redhead's attention, "and the ball will start at eight o'clock on Christmas Day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall. Now then -" Professor McGonagall stared deliberately around the class. "The Yule Ball is, of course, a chance for us all to - er - let our hair down," she said in a disapproving voice.
Lavender looked at Parvati Patil and they both giggled with their hands pressed hard against her mouths to stifle the sound. Harry could see what was funny: Professor McGonagall, with her hair in a tight bun, looked as though she had never let her hair down in any sense.
"But that does NOT mean," Professor McGonagall went on, "that we will be relaxing the standards of behavior we expect from Hogwarts students. I will be most seriously displeased if a Gryffindor student embarrasses the school in any way," her gaze remained fix on Ron for several long seconds.
The bell rang, and there was the usual scuffle of activity as everyone packed their bags and swung them onto their shoulders.
Professor McGonagall called above the noise, "Weasley - a word, if you please."
Several of students were still packing up their bags as they heard the exchange between McGonagall and Ron.
"Ron, the champions and their partners -"
"What partners?" asked Ron suspiciously.
"Your partners for the Yule Ball, Weasley," McGonagall replied coldly. "Your dance partners, of course. Now the champions and their partners will be opening the ball, so make sure you have a partner and don't embarrass this school."
"Of course I'll have a partner," Ron said "I'm a champion! Who wouldn't want to date me?"
McGonagall stared at the ginger-topped Gryffindor as she pondered whether overeating could cause brain damage. "Very well. You may go." Once he left the classroom, the deputy headmistress uttered several Scottish curses and headed for the staff room where she knew Flitwick kept a bottle of Firewhisky hidden just for such emergencies.
Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil were two of the students who overheard the exchange and they stared at each other in horror. They rushed from the room and word went out. They told their fellow Gryffindor women, and the word continued to pass. First to Ravenclaw, then to Hufflepuff and finally Slytherin. Within one hour of the warning being sent, the whole school knew that RON WEASLEY needed a date to the Yule Ball.
Utter mayhem broke out in the halls of the school. Girls were tackling boys demanding they take them to the ball. A couple of dire need seventh year girls found themselves begging a couple of first years to be their dates. The Patil twins, seeing Ron headed down the hall toward them quickly begged the Creevey brothers to be their dates.
Ron Weasley was oblivious to what was going on. He waddled his way back to the dorm with his egg under his arm, wondering where the Veela was and how long it would take before she came to him to beg to be his date. He knew he would string her along for a couple of days until finally agreeing.
Immediately after the class with McGonagall, Harry noticed Hermione looking at him expectantly. He stopped and looked into her brown eyes. "M'Lady, though I must admit to not knowing how to dance, I would request that you accompany me to the Yule Ball. I promise to heal all foot wounds I might cause, if you but be upon my arm."
Hermione smiled. "Oh Harry, of course I will be your date. As long as I'm with you, it will be perfect." Of course Hermione Granger didn't account for Ron Weasley, Triwizard Champion.
A couple of nights later, Harry awoke with a start. He didn't know what awakened him, but he felt something was wrong. As he tried to think on what it could be, one thing, or one person as it was, came to mind; Hermione. He somehow knew something was wrong with Hermione. Without another thought, he jumped out of bed, grabbed his wand and glasses and rushed down the spiral staircase. He wasn't sure how he was going to get to the girl's dorm, but he knew he would, that he must find a way. As he entered the common room, he felt a wave of relief as he recognized her bushy hair in profile to the fireplace that still burned brightly. He cross the room and was about to say something when Hermione glanced up and Harry could see the tears streaming down her face.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked as he settled into a spot next to her. It was then he noticed she had a book in her hand. That itself was of no big surprise, but in this case, her body language suggesting she wanted to throw it in the fire was. Harry put his arms around her and pulled her closer to him for a thorough snuggle.
Hermione loved the feel of Harry's closeness. It brought a sense of comfort that attacked the helplessness she had felt since awakening from the dream she had experienced. Hermione leaned against her boyfriend, resting her head on his shoulder as she whispered. "I... I had a nightmare."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Harry asked as he buried his nose into her hair, smelling the vanilla smell he loved so much.
Hermione lifted the book she still held slightly. "I've been rereading this," she said.
Harry glanced at the title and read, 'A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens'.
"I've always loved the story, but…" Hermione started but her voice was strained and tears started leaking into her eyes again.
"It's alright, I'm here and everything is alright," Harry said soothingly. "You know I would never let anything hurt you if I can help it."
"I know," Hermione replied and she took a rattling breath to ease her sobs. Finally she continued. "But the dream was so real. You know this story?" She asked. "It's about someone who is visited by the three ghosts of Christmas. In my dream it was me...I was visited by the three ghosts and… and… it was horrible."
Harry tightened his hold on his girlfriend as he caressed her back. He said nothing as he waited for her to continue with her story.
"The ghost of Christmas Past was one of my classmates from school before I came here," Hermione explained. "She showed me the days where I was bullied and called names like geek and nerd and chipmunk at my old school." Hermione paused for a second to sniff but then continued. "I never had friends at school and it hurt when everyone kept talking about getting presents from this friend or that one and I only got presents from my family."
Harry knew how she felt. He didn't even get presents from family while his cousin got tons of them. He caressed her cheek with a finger and when she lifted her gaze into his, he smiled. "It'll never be that way again, I promise you. We have each other now. You're my best friend and now my girlfriend."
The edges of Hermione's lips fought their way up into a small smile as she nodded, but then the smile faded as she remembered the next part of her dream. "The Ghost of Christmas Present was next, of course," Hermione sniffled and swallowed before continuing. "It...it was Ginny. But... but it wasn't as it's supposed to be. She showed me the Yule Ball and...and... I was there with Victor Krum. You were the champion instead of Ron and had Parvati Patil as your date," she shuddered at the memory. "Ginny just laughed when I tried to scream out that it was wrong, but I couldn't move or say anything. I had to watch. I had to watch as Ron started yelling and making a scene as he called me a traitor and made a huge fuss. Why Harry? Krum? What was the dream trying to tell me? Why would I be there with Krum? You know I don't care about Quidditch. Why would I go to the ball with a Quidditch star?"
"It was just a dream, Hermione," Harry assured his girlfriend. "But I can probably tell you why Ron made a fuss. He was probably jealous that Krum didn't ask him."
A small laugh came through Hermione's sniffles.
"Now as for the real Yule Ball, I happen to know for a fact that Krum will not be your date, for it shall be me who has the most beautiful girl in the castle upon his arm. Besides, could you really see me and Parvati? I mean, exactly how would that have happened? I don't think we've said a dozen words to each other in almost four years."
Hermione wanted to laugh and smile, but the scene from the finale of her nightmare passed in front of her eyes, causing a shudder to run through her body. "The worst was...was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come," she said. "It was so terrible that it's what woke me up."
"What was it?" Harry asked gently.
"The Ghost... it was some middle-aged woman who called herself JK Rowking or something like that." Hermione found the words difficult to say as the horrible scene unfolded again and again in her mind. "It... it was horrible. I... I was married, married to Ron and we had two kids. One of them was named Hugo. You were there of course, but you... you were married to Ginny," again Hermione had to pause to sniff.
"Ginny?" Harry asked incredulously.
Hermione nodded as she continued. "You had three kids and... and even had named one Albus Severus."
"Now you know it was nothing but a nightmare, Hermione," Harry said with a little laugh as he wiped a small tear from Hermione's cheek, "Could you imagine me with Ginny? And to name one of my kids after Snape?"
Hermione sniffed again but her lips were moving back up to a smile.
"Albus Severus, huh? Albus Severus Potter? ASP like a snake? Poor kid, he'd be the first Potter ever to be sorted into Slytherin," He and Hermione lapsed into a comfortable silence as he held her. After a couple of minutes, a funny thought came to Harry's mind. "Speaking of initials, do you think Snape might have a first name that actually starts with an 'A' while Severus is actually his middle name?
"An A? Why..." Hermione started in a confused voice but then she started giggling as the joke fell into place. "You're terrible."
"Yes, but I can make my Mione laugh," Harry said. "Now are you feeling better? Or should I keep you here in my arms the rest of the night."
Hermione looked into Harry's emerald green eyes. "Much better Harry, thank you. But that nightmare really was so real. Maybe you better hold me for a while longer."
"I will hold you as long as you need me to," Harry said softly. "And to make sure that nightmare never comes true, promise me that if I ever have thoughts of dating Ginny or if I ever suggest that we name one of our children after that greasy haired git, you'll drag me to St. Mungo's for a full mental scan."
"Our children Harry?" Hermione asked looking up at him with a smile.
Harry blushed. "I... I can't think of anyone else I want in my life and hope... well, someday…"
Hermione smiled as she held Harry's gaze for several seconds. "Someday sounds extremely nice to me," Hermione said finally as she touched her lips softly to his. "And you must promise that if I ever have a romantic thought about Ron or suggest Hugo as a name for one of our," Hermione blushed, "children, you'll do the same and drag me off to St. Mungo's?"
"I promise," Harry whispered as his lips found hers.
Silence materialized again as the two of them sat and stared into the flames. No words were needed for several minutes. Finally, Hermione turned to her boyfriend. "Why did you come down?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it is the middle of the night. I don't think you normally come down to the common room at this time every night, do you?" A twinkle of mischievousness developed in Hermione's eyes as she continued. "Unless you secretly meet Ginny down here."
"What? No... of course not," Harry stammered, then seeing the mirth in Hermione's face, "I'll get you for that one."
"Promises, promises," Hermione replied as she waggled her eyebrows. "So why did you come down?"
Harry shrugged. "I... I woke up and felt something was wrong," He explained. "All I could think of was you. I got worried and..." he shrugged again.
Hermione smiled at Harry. 'How could I be so lucky to have this wonderful person for a boyfriend? He's right. It was a silly dream. Me with Ron?' She snorted in her thoughts. 'That is simply ridiculous.' She snuggled into Harry, holding him tighter. After several seconds of listening to his heartbeat, she realized something, something that she needed to say. "Harry, I... I love you."
Harry froze. For the first time in his life he'd heard three words that no one had ever said to him before. His heart skipped a beat and then started pounding even harder. As he looked at Hermione, he could see the care she had for him. In her almond brown eyes he found what he most desperately wanted. He knew without a doubt, if he were to look into the Mirror of Erised at that moment, who'd be staring back at him. Harry knew he loved her too.
"I'll understand if..." Hermione started but his lips upon hers stopped her words.
When the kiss ended, Harry ran his fingers along Hermione's cheek. "I love you too, Mione."
The fear that Harry might reject the idea of her love ceased and joy quickly spread throughout Hermione. The thought of that JK Rowking or whoever it was in the guise of Christmas Yet to Come disappeared for she knew who her future was going to be with. She smiled, but then she remember what he'd said and had ask. "Mione?"
"Just wanted a special name for you. If you don't like…" Harry started.
Hermione put her finger on his lips to silence him, "Harry, coming from your lips, almost any name you call me is wonderful."
Harry and Hermione talked some more but finally, they drifted off to sleep while holding each other.
Ron Weasley was one of the first people down the steps the next morning with his golden egg under his arm. He was feeling hungry and wanted a good breakfast. He also secretly hoped the Veela chick was there so he could give her the chance to come beg him to take her to the ball. As he stepped off the steps into the common room, he saw two people curled up together on the love seat. Harry and Hermione smiling contently as they dreamed of each other and future children not named Hugo or Albus Severus.
Far below in a partially rebuilt office, Barty Crouch Junior was pillaging supplies for his Polyjuice Potion when a small explosion ripped through the room. Fortunately, he was only stunned for a few seconds before stamping off down the hall in a most desperate search for a shower.
It was December twenty-first and Ginny Weasley was sitting on her bed crying. Pigwidgeon had just delivered a letter from her mother. She read it again and a shudder ran through her body. She wanted to throw up. Life for Ginny Weasley was ending in just four days. Slowly she collapsed onto her pillow allowing her tears to fall as they may. It was only after several minutes of crying and wondering how life could be so cruel that an idea came to her.
She sat up slowly and wiped away the tears from her eyes. 'Can I do it? Can I swallow my pride? Give up my dream? But that's all it ever has been a dream. If I don't face reality I will never be able to face anyone again." With a sniffle she made her way to the common room and waited.
The next two hours were the longest of her life. She would occasionally stare at the fire and then find herself rereading the letter again and again. Finally the portrait hole opened and the people she had been waiting for came through. Harry and Hermione were smiling and their laughter at some unknown joke rang out between the two of them.
Ginny swallowed and with a final sniff she got up from her chair and walked meekly over to them.
"Hermione, uh, Harry. Can I... uh, talk to you? Please." She asked nervously.
Hermione glared at her ex best friend, then seeing the tear stained face and the nervous expression, she looked at Harry and, with a nod, she turned back to Ginny. "We can talk. What do you need?"
"Can we... uh, go somewhere private?" Ginny asked as she glanced nervously around. "I... I... I, well, it's something I don't want overheard."
Harry looked at his friend's sister for a few seconds. "Sure Ginny, but it better not be some kind of trick."
"I promise, Harry. I need help and have no one else to turn to," Ginny replied. "We use to be friends."
Hermione nodded again and the three of them found their way to a deserted classroom. Harry and Hermione took seats next to each other and waited for Ginny to explain.
Ginny wiped another tear away and took a moment to compose herself, but finally started. "I... I want to say I'm sorry. Hermione, you were my best friend. I just got jealous. You know I had a crush on Harry. But I know it was just a crush and I can see you two are happy together. So I just want to say I am sorry for threatening you."
"Is that all you wanted to say?" Hermione asked. "I appreciate the apology, but it will take some time before I can forgive you. I need to make sure you are sincere."
"I... I know," Ginny murmured looking at the ground. "I really need help though, and I have no one to turn to. It's about Ron. Here," She said as she offered the letter from her mother to Hermione. "This might explain my problem better."
Hermione took letter and read.
Your brother needs a partner for the Yule Ball and he says everyone is conspiring to keep him from getting a date because they are all jealous of him. I tried to get his Aunt Muriel to be his date, but she already has other plans. Ginny, you are going to have to be his partner for the Ball.
Hermione handed the letter over to Harry who gasped after a few seconds of reading. She looked over at her ex-best friend and could see the tears welling up again in her eyes.
"I... I'll do anything you want me to do." Ginny said. "I'll give my witch's oath not to interfere with you two. I'll be your house elf for a week. ANYTHING! Just help me find Ron a date."
"Is it really that bad?" Harry asked.
"Worse." Ginny replied. "Every girl in the castle had a date or planned to go home within two hours of finding out Ron needed a partner to the Yule Ball. You do know the Patil twins are going with the Creevey brothers just so Ron wouldn't ask them?"
"But what can we do, Ginny?" Hermione asked, and then glared at her friend. "You're not suggesting I go with him are you?"
"No! No of course not," Ginny shuddered at the thought. As arrogant as her brother could be, she really didn't want him turned into a pile of dragon dung by the end of the Yule Ball and Ginny was pretty sure that would be the outcome if Hermione went with him. "I was hoping that maybe Harry could ask someone."
"I couldn't do that, Ginny. You already said all the girls have made plans."
Ginny looked down as tears started coming down again, "I know. Even Moaning Myrtle is refusing to come out of her S-Bend until the Ball is over."
Harry felt sorry for Ginny. He knew the crush she had on him was really a fantasy her mother pushed, but there wasn't really... then a plan came to mind. "Hermione, do you think you could enchant a crystal ball?" And he explained what he had in mind.
Hermione remembered the previous year and readily agreed to Harry's plan. Ginny looked up hopefully. "Do you think you can do it?" She asked.
"Most likely. But Ginny, what are you going to do about the Ball if you aren't going with Ron?" Hermione asked.
Ginny blushed nervously. "Neville asked me. I had said yes, but then I got the letter..."
"Don't tell Neville anything yet. We can't promise anything but we will try." Hermione said. "But it isn't that I don't trust you Ginny, normally. But when it comes to Harry, I really don't trust you. I will have to ask for that oath."
Ginny nodded, then looking sadly at Harry, she pulled out her wand and raised it over her head. "I swear by my magic, that I, Ginevra Molly Weasley, will never make any attempts to come between the relationship of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, so mote it be." A flash of light settled upon her.
Ginny looked solemnly at Hermione. "That is the best I can give. I can't swear not to want to be with him. I would lose my magic instantly. But I won't interfere."
Hermione nodded. "Now let's see what we can do about getting Ron a date."
Professor Trelawney came back from dinner the next day, after downing her fourth glass of her favorite cooking sherry. She looked over at the crystal ball which was glowing. 'One more gaze upon the - hic – future... before I rest my inner - hic - eye.' She wandered over to the ball and looked into it. She blinked as she tried to focus her bleary eyes and looked again. 'Oh my... but... One cannot refute the - hic - inner eye, but I really wish I – hic - hadn't looked tonight!'
Ginny came rushing over to Harry and Hermione the next day at lunch. "Oh, thank you! Thank you, both!" She gushed and then told the story of an extremely drunk Professor Trelawney cornering Ron in a hallway and, as she put it, "I offer myself to the future. The - hic - gods...are forcing - hic – this upon me. It's foretold - hic - I am to be your - hic - date to the Ball." Ginny said that then Professor Trelawney passed out at Ron's feet.
Ginny looked over at Hermione. "Thanks, you saved my social life."
Hermione nodded and took Harry's hand. "Just remember your oath and we can work toward being friends again."