Hermione was studying in the library when a little memo, much like the ones from the Ministry of Magic, flew to her and unceremoniously landed in her ear.
Well, there goes my concentration, as well as hearing in my left ear.
The memo bore the Hogwarts crest instead of the Ministry seal and directed her to the Headmistress office.
Packing up her things, she made her way purposely to the stone gargoyle that guarded the passage to McGonagall's office, only stopping to help a first year escape the vanishing step in the staircase. Her duties as Head Girl always made her feel good about herself, helping her to feel like she was making the school a better place. Besides, lately she found herself in need of a distraction.
It had been a couple of days since she went to Godric's Hollow with Harry. While she had gone because she knew Harry wanted her there, she had had her reservations. She earnestly felt like he should have taken Ginny. That it wasn't her place anymore to share those intimate moments with him. Yet, she had found it impossible to tell him no when he had asked.
Truthfully, she was doing her best to move on from her feelings for Harry. He was in a committed relationship and Hermione had no desire to pine after what she couldn't have. Schoolwork and Head Girl duties could always push it to the further reaches of her mind, but it always came back.
She needed some other way to move on.
"You needed to see me Headmistress?"
"Please, take a seat. Potter should be along…ah there we are."
Harry took a seat next to her, his hair more disheveled than usual. The sight made her sick.
"I presume you posted the notices for the first Hogsmeade weekend?" McGonagall looked from Harry to Hermione.
"Yes Professor." Harry replied. "I mean, Headmistress."
"Not to worry dear. Well, I have something else I would like to share with you. After much deliberation, I wish to resurrect the tradition of the Winter Ball."
"'There hasn't been a Winter Ball here in a hundred years." Hermione exclaimed.
"It fell out of practice, but it has been the most commonly cited improvement listed in our exit interviews for the past few years. Particularly after the Yule Ball."
"What do you need us to do?" Harry asked. Leave it to Harry to make a dance seem like a duty.
"I need you to post the notices and coordinate with the Prefects and Professor McClellan to ensure that only fourth year students and above are allowed into the Great Hall. I'll also need you to help decorate when the time arises."
"Sounds simple enough." Harry said.
"Of course Headmistress." Hermione replied.
"There is one other small matter." McGonagall looked warily between them, "It was a Winter Ball tradition for the Head Boy and Girl to begin the dancing. I suggest you inform Miss Weasley, Mr. Potter; and whoever escorts you Miss Granger."
Hermione didn't look at Harry, but could feel his eyes on her. "Alright Headmistress. Anything else?"
"That's all for now. Thank you dears."
Hermione bolted from the room before Harry could speak a word. Any conversation about the Ball with Harry would tread on territory she didn't particularly want to cover at the moment. It made her feel slightly hysterical to simply run, but then again her heart was slowly turning her into a nutter anyways….
She was so lost in her own mind that she wasn't paying attention where she was walking, plowing headlong into Ginny.
"Oi! Hermione!" Ginny rubbed her forehead, "What in the name of Merlin where you doing?"
"Sorry Ginny, my head was in the clouds." Hermione breathed between putting books back into her bag.
"Obviously. Are you okay? You've been acting strange the past few days."
"I'm….I'm fine. Just been a little busy is all."
"You need a break. Hey! Why don't we treat ourselves to some girl time at Hogsmeade in two weeks? We can try out that new spa that opened up just passed Weasley's Hogsmeade branch."
"Er…sure. Sounds great."
"Wicked, see you around Hermione." Ginny walked around the corner, probably to seek the Head Boy.
She hated to admit it to herself, but spending time with Ginny wasn't exactly the most appealing prospect. Ginny would probably want to talk about Harry….
That was when it hit her. She had given some advice to a girl who had a huge crush on Harry that was unrequited years before. Granted, the idea then had been to gain the confidence to catch Harry's eye, but what if she took her own advice to simply get over Harry and leave it at that?
Therein was a problem: it wasn't like she had been beating away boys with a beater's bat. Besides Ron, Krum, and Neville no other guy had ever shown any interest in her and all of them were now unavailable.
"I'm doomed." Not realizing she was speaking out loud.
"What's all the moaning and groaning about?"
The voice caught her by surprise. She whipped around to see Luke Morgan come around the corner.
"Oh, hi Luke." Luke was a seventh year Ravenclaw of average height and build with straw colored hair and grey eyes. "I was just…" there wasn't any way to explain without embarrassing herself.
"Tell you what, how about whatever is bothering you; we just agree that you're smart enough to handle it?"
He gave her a genuine smile. He was handsome in a boyish way, with perfect teeth and smile. She had seen him around, but hadn't had any interactions with him before.
"Cleverness can only get you so far." Hermione answered.
"I think that depends, I for one value cleverness quite highly." He smiled again, not breaking eye contact with her.
"Well, I better get going. I have homework to do and Head Girl duties to see to." Hermione turned to go, "I'll see you around Luke."
"See you around Granger."
What was that?
Luke had appeared practically out of mid-air and if Hermione wasn't mistaken was at least somewhat interested in her. She swore there had to have been some kind of magic in the building that had been targeting her recently, though it was definitely sending mixed signals.
Now I sound like Luna. Making far-fetched theories about unknown magic.
Whatever it was that had made Luke appear, it made Hermione's insides twist uncomfortably. Everything inside of her rebelled against the idea of anyone besides Harry, but it looked increasingly like she was never going to have Harry. Why shouldn't she be happy to have another boy's attention?
She returned to her dorm and locked the door behind her. She pulled open her bedside drawer and took out a photograph of her and Harry. It was during their fifth year Christmas at Grimmauld Place. She had made Harry take the picture and had cherished it ever since, as it was the only one she had of just the two of them.
It seemed a cruel twist in fate that when she came to realize just how much she cared for the boy, he fell for another girl. Then again, at least fate had bypassed Harry for once.
A soft knock came at her door. "Come in." she waved her wand to unlock it, placing the photo back in the drawer. Aubrey walked in through the open door.
"Hey you, I was looking for you." Aubrey smiled, "Ginny said something about a girls outing next Hogsmeade weekend."
"Yeah, her idea. Sounded like fun." Hermione tried to sound cheerful.
"It also doesn't really sound like Hermione." Aubrey's smile faded.
"Hey, I can enjoy girl things."
"Not exactly what I meant, but a spa day?" Aubrey eyed her skeptically, "Why don't you just fess up to what's bugging you? You've been out of sorts for a few days now."
Hermione opened her mouth to start, but hesitated. She had never really had these sort of conversations with any girl other than Ginny. Then again, she couldn't exactly talk to Ginny about any of it.
"Well, there's this guy and I think he might be interested in me."
"I fail to see how that's a problem." Aubrey laughed.
"Well it wouldn't be, except I want to be with someone else."
"Okay, so why not go after this other guy?"
"Well I'm not really game for sharing Ron…"
"I'm kidding!" Aubrey laughed. "So who's Mr. Unavailable?"
"Tell me about it."
They sat in silence, Aubrey biting her tongue in thought.
"So let me get this straight." Aubrey broke the silence. "You like Harry."
"Right." Hermione hesitated.
"Oh….you love him don't you?"
"Okay, so you're in love with Harry who is unavailable, but you have this other guy who is interested in you and available?"
"Hmm. Well, what could it hurt to give this other bloke a go? Harry can't be any less yours."
That stung more than Hermione cared to admit. Her face must have shown it.
"I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but it's the truth isn't it?" Aubrey gave her a concerned look. "I know us girls hate to admit it, but sometimes what you need is the bare assed truth."
For some reason that made Hermione laugh, completely obliterating the tense air in the room. "You have a way with words Aubrey."
"One of many qualities dear Ron and I have in common." She smiled. "Look, I'm not saying you and Harry could never happen. I've got no dog in this, so take my outsiders opinion: I think you and Harry would be great together." Hermione smiled and blushed a little. "But, he's with Ginny now. I don't think you should sit around waiting on a break up that may never happen. You're worth more than that."
It was the sincerity with which she said it that did as much as the words themselves. Hermione had to brush a stray tear from her eye.
"What are friends for?" Aubrey smiled. "Now why don't we do something that Hermione Granger likes to do and go to the library?"
Thinking to herself that Ron had found a real keeper, Hermione smiled back.