A/N: This is for all the Harmony fans, Nerd Herd fans, and especially for fans who are cool enough to love both series!
Also, a million zillion thanks to J.K. Rowling, P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. Of course. I practically worship you guys.
WARNING: There's a little tiny bit of swearing in this chapter. Beware!
Hope you enjoy reading!
Chapter One - The Yule Ball
Okay, I'll admit I was really excited to go to the Yule Ball. For one thing, I had the most beautiful dress in the world to wear. As Luna helped me unwrap the large parcel, stamped with the name of the lovely little shop we'd bought it at in Hogsmeade, I couldn't help but let a little girlish squeal erupt from inside of me.
Luna smiled as she put the wrappings aside and held up the dress, saying, "I told you we made the right choice." Admiring the dark, silky material, I totally agreed with her – I couldn't remember not loving this dress. At first glance it looked like a piece of the beautiful, starry night sky. But the dress also had a glossy undertone of the darkest blue, and it glistened mysteriously like the deepest ocean, making my eyes widen and my heart flutter. Luna held it up in front of me in the mirror. I sighed as I imagined what Harry and Ron and all the Gryffindors would say when they saw me in this.
Another thing I couldn't help feeling happy about was that… well, okay, I don't really have a second thing. This year had been pretty rough so far, what with the Death Eaters showing up at the World Cup, Harry somehow being entered in the Triwizard Tournament, and Ron being outrageously jealous even though Harry was stressed out beyond his usual saving-the-world-and-combating-evil stress limits. Plus, the only person other than me who cared at all about my campaign for the House-Elves, in all of Hogwarts, was Luna.
To top it all off, I was getting more than a little sick of the way we learned magic at this school. I absolutely loved magic, and could not seem to learn to use it fast enough. While my classmates were whining about homework and struggling to make things move by pointing at them, I was learning more spells outside class and practicing my magic powers whenever I could - often without my wand, or even spoken incantations – and I loved every moment I got to use my talent.
As for now, my master plan was:
1. Go to the Yule Ball and avoid disaster – namely, snotty bullies, insane headmasters and good old-fashioned teenage drama.
2. Help Harry not get killed (again) in what I call 'the Tournament of Death.'
3. Hopefully figure out why I have this nagging feeling that I don't belong here.
Before the Ball I met Luna on a big carpeted landing about halfway down the staircases, at the middle point between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw common rooms. Yes, I hated that my best friend and I had to stay in different sides of the castle. All I had wanted when I came to Hogwarts was to be sorted into Ravenclaw. I'd looked up the House's history and decided it was the perfect place for me before I got to the castle. I even tried to tell the Sorting Hat my wish, but he obviously had other plans. Don't ask me why that miserable hat took requests only from Harry. He's special. I know. I've gotten pretty used to his overall 'special-ness' hanging around with him so much.
So, I finally had on my night-sky dress, and I have to say, I thought I looked really, really good in it. The hem of my dress just brushed the stone floor, and the soft fabric rested flatteringly on my waist. Not to mention that a good amount of cleavage could be seen above the wide neckline. I felt, well, gorgeous in it. I'd reluctantly agreed to let Luna help me with my makeup, and was pleased to find that she'd done a great job without overdoing anything. My lips were a silky plum color, and my eyes were framed lightly with black and decorated by tiny sparkles to match my dress.
I looked at Luna's dress, which she had been waiting to show me since the Yule Ball was announced. It was made of sheer, pale pink material, was knee-length and sleeveless, had ruffles around the collarbone, and had a few violet flowers decorating one shoulder strap along with a thin violet belt around the waist. Luna is very thrifty, and I knew she must have bought an old dress cheap, then altered it and sewn on the details. Though her outfit would probably have looked tacky on a hanger, Luna pulled the look off effortlessly, with her pale blonde hair in a semi-messy up-do and her huge eyes sort of enhancing the weird outfit.
I started telling her how cute her dress was, but I stopped when I realized she was staring at me distantly.
"Luna? Is something wrong?"
Her eyes rose to meet mine and I realized she was smiling faintly, as if in awe. "You look amazing," she said softly, then tilted her head to the side slightly. Her hands reached for my auburn hair, which I had spent ten minutes wrestling into a tight bun. I have pretty much the thickest, bushiest hair ever, and, sadly, it is even harder to control than my grumpy cat Crookshanks at bathtime.
I flinched a little when she touched my hair, afraid that the slightest contact would undo all my hard work."Would it be all right if I changed your hair just a bit? I promise it won't look bad," Luna said cautiously. I sighed and squared my shoulders. "Sure. Go ahead."
She unclasped the back of my hair, and it immediately sprung outwards and fell to my shoulders in bouncy waves. Luna carefully pulled half of my hair back and fastened it at the back of my head, then pulled a couple shorter curly strands out to frame my face. She stood back as I took my pocket mirror out of my tiny handbag to look.
"You're a genius, Luna." I really did look even better, and now my head didn't hurt. I shared her smile and gave her a quick hug before starting down the stairs toward the main hall.
Our heels clicked on the smooth stone steps and sent echoes through the otherwise silent tower we were leaving. It looked like most of the school was already down at the Ball, so we would be arriving, as Luna called it, "fashionably late". Harry and Ron had gone down a while ago to meet Parvati and Padma Patil, their dates for the dance. For some reason, I felt slightly hurt that he hadn't asked me out, even though we were just friends. I pushed this weird feeling to the back of my mind with a deep breath.
Somehow, a rumor had got around the student houses that Victor Krum, the hunky Durmstrang student and Quidditch pro, had asked me to the dance, and I had accepted. The truth is that, although he had clearly been stalking me a little in is free time, Krum had never asked me to go with him. I've never heard a single solitary word from that creep. Anyway, Luna wasn't going with a boy either; we had decided to just accompany each other to the dance and lay low, watching the drama from a safe distance.
I could now hear the sounds of voices, ballroom music and general commotion coming from the Great Hall. Soon, Luna and I made the last step off the grand marble staircase and turned to walk through the ginormous wood doors of the hall, into the big room where the ball was being held. I silently hoped that for just one night Harry could relax and not get too worked up about the Tournament, and that Ron could tone down his stupid, burning jealousy for just one night. Please, let there be no crazy incidents.
The Great Hall looked incredible, and I wondered aloud how it wasn't cold in there with all the icicles and frost decorating the walls, floor and furniture. Plus, it was literally snowing from the magic ceiling. I reached up to touch a falling flake, and when it touched my fingertip it dissolved into sparkles, landing on my hair. Luna and I giggled. Students were milling around, talking, eating at tables, and ballroom dancing in the middle of the floor. Teachers and staff looked on contentedly and talked amongst themselves merrily. I breathed a little sigh of relief when I saw Harry and Ron calmly dancing with their partners, and not scheming or getting into mischief as usual. It certainly didn't look like anything was about to go horribly wrong.
As we approached the dance floor, the waltz that was playing came to an end, and the dancers shuffled around while they waited for the next to start. Luna and I had just found a decent spot to stand and scope the scene while Harry danced, when suddenly Neville Longbottom appeared in front of us. He nervously stuttered, "L-l-una? Um, would you… care to d-dance with me?"
Luna smiled kindly, and said, "Of course, Neville. I'd love to." She gave me an apologetic look and then whispered quickly, "be back in a jiffy." Neville eagerly took her hand and led her into the crowd.
I wasn't alone for two seconds before Harry strode up to me with Parvati at his side. "Hi, Hermione," he said casually, then did a double-take. I was grateful that Parvati was looking away at someone else for that moment, because Harry was staring at me like I'd grown an extra head. "Hermione… you look…"
I raised an eyebrow at my second-best friend. "Different?"
"Uh, yes, very." He smiled at Parvati when she looked at him, then his eyes darted around the room briefly. He pointed toward a group of tables where some students were clustered and muttered something to Parvati, then she walked off quickly in that direction.
I watched her leave to join the other group in conversation as a voice I didn't recognize said, "You look totally sexy." I quickly looked back at Harry, who was grinning at me.
"Hermione, I mean it. You look really hot," he said honestly in a voice that was lower than usual, and I felt my cheeks getting warm.
"Harry!" I was about to ask what had come over him when he took my hand and kissed it softly. "I apologize, how crude of me. I meant to say, 'you look lovely tonight.'" He bowed to me, still holding my hand, and I just turned more red. "What do you think you're doing? Parvati's right over there!" I quietly screamed at him. People are staring at us! Harry looked up at me with an expression of the utmost seriousness. He said with complete honesty, "Parvati who?"
Instead of scoffing at him, amazingly, I found myself giggling as he stood. When I looked into his familiar emerald-green eyes, I saw the past three years reflected back at me. Sharing his gaze like this always felt incredibly comfortable. Sounds of laughter and merriment echoed around us, and I swayed in time to the beautiful ballroom music as it lifted my spirits. I could feel my teensy-weensy crush on my friend blossoming into a little something more as he smiled reassuringly and let me lean closer to him.
Okay, I know, hanging around with Harry Potter got me into trouble way more often than I should have. I'd been put in danger countless times in the last few years by associating with him and joining him in his quest to stop a psycho who killed his parents. I'd gone through a perilous series of trials to confront a possessed professor with him, faced a giant deadly basilisk for him, heck – I'd even gone back in time to save a supposed mass-murderer with him. This year he was stuck in a tournament that was, unsurprisingly, extremely dangerous, and for a second I wondered what made me stick around this crazy kid who everyone seemed to want to kill. Then the answer came to me as he took both my hands: I loved the danger and excitement, I loved learning magic to combat evil and save people's lives at the risk of my own… and I definitely loved how hot he was, all tall, slim and just slightly muscley with his jet-black messy hair and emerald green eyes.
I didn't notice just how close we had gotten until someone cleared their throat, loudly, inconspicuously, right behind me. Harry broke off our steamy staring contest to look up, and I turned around to see Ron standing there with his dress jacket folded sloppily over his arm, while he skewered us in an unattractive stare of jealousy. He was sweating quite a bit, and he shifted uncomfortably while we stared back at him.
"Well, the pair of you are getting along just bloody fine, looks like I'm not wanted." A few heads turned in our direction. As dancers twirled by, Harry stood tall and undaunted, and I stood frozen still facing him, but looking anxiously over my shoulder at Ron.
He was almost troll-like, standing there in his undeniably hideous dress robes, staring at us in confusion and screwing his face up, like he was trying to decide whether to bludgeon Harry to death with a candle holder or have a pathetic breakdown. It looked like he was just going to go for more drama, though. I decided I needed calm him down, before testosterone levels between my two friends got dangerously high.
"Ron, please don't-"
"No, no. I can see what's going on. I'm not blind, dammit!" He spat, then opened his mouth to continue, but seemed to change his mind. "You know what, whatever. Do whatever you f*cking want tonight Harry, 'cause you'll be dead in a week or so anyway."
"Ron, cut out the profanities and stop making an idiot of yourself. I've told you many times - I didn't want at all to be in the Tournament. If you know what's best for you you'll keep your mouth shut and just butt out. And if you wanted to ask Hermione out, well, you should have."
Before Ron could get another nasty reply out, and before I could ask Harry why he hadn't asked me out himself, he ushered me into the crowd of dancers as the song ended again and the Weird Sisters rock band started up a new, more energetic tune. As I danced with Harry into the middle of the dense crowd, where Ron couldn't possibly find us and have another scene, I felt my nerves unclench a little. Harry was pretty good at dancing, and I couldn't help smiling when he grabbed my arm and twirled me around and around, making my dress glitter and shimmer as it lifted around my ankles. In no time I found myself relaxing and actually having fun. Harry smiled widely, and I thought, this must be the most happy I've ever seen him, as he moved to the beat with me. I winked at Luna when she danced past with Neville, and she happily responded with a not-so-subtle kissy face. Harry saw and laughed, and I smiled back while silently vowing to yell at her later.
When the song was over both Harry and I were breathing hard, and I actually had to lean forward with my hands on my knees while I got back my breath. When Harry gave me a naughty little smirk, I quickly straightened up in mortification, realizing he must have seen down my dress front. Under normal circumstances I would have embarrassedly scolded him, but for some reason I just laughed and pushed him playfully in the chest. Through his black dress shirt I could feel his warm chest - toned, but not hard and over-muscled like some guys are.
I looked up at Harry's familiar face, still breathing deeply, and had a weird impulse to grab him and give him a big, stupid hug. No no no! I told myself inside my head, and frowned while Harry asked, "You all right?" Uh, yeah, I'm all right! ...You're really hot. And my best friend! I added quickly, trying to get a hold on my out-of-control thoughts and changing emotions. I furrowed my brow as I had a frantic mental debate over what to say to my crush. I wanted so badly to tell him something... but I didn't know what. Standing there awkwardly and holding both his arms for balance (and to reassure myself I wasn't having a crazy dream), with my mind racing, I finally got a single word out.
"W-water," I blurted. Ugh, just kill me now.
"Sure, I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere," he said, then hesitated and, before I could do anything, leaned down and kissed me lightly, right smack in the middle of my lips.
My heart squeezed uncontrollably as a little voice inside my head squealed with delight. Harry squeezed my hands and smiled in a way that told me he was as shocked -and pleased- as I was.
As Harry walked off to get some water (so I wouldn't pass out right there on the dance floor), the next song started, and I just stood there dumbstruck with my hand pressed to my face. I could hardly think, so I just watched other people dancing to the rock music and waited. Neville was now dancing with Ginny, who looked like an adorable doll in her pastel-blue dress. Luna was dancing with Dean Thomas, waving her arms above her head like a hippie. I laughed softly at her silly dance. There was Hagrid with Madame Maxime, shuffling around and looking like a big teddy bear in his shaggy fur suit. I caught sight of Dumbledore, who, oddly enough, wasn't dancing. I moved to get a better view of him, and saw he had raised his wand in front of him, and was shouting over the music to someone.
That someone had a dark hood over his head, and was roughly the same height as Dumbledore. The Headmaster's wand followed the hooded person as he paced back and forth, trying to see above the crowd, and obviously ignoring the headmaster as he searched for something - or someone. I heard Dumbledore's voice rumbling ominously above the noise: "This is my last warning, young man. You have no permission at all to be here, and I will use all means necessary to disable any attempts you make to harm my students…"
My heart skipped a beat. Did this guy have a weapon? Whatever he was trying to do, it was seriously against Hogwarts rules; Dumbledore hardly ever had any reason to threaten anybody. I glanced around nervously, and saw teachers rising from the staff table and moving through the crowd toward the cloaked intruder. That guy was in big trouble, but he didn't seem to care as he tried to weave in between dancing students, still looking for someone. He didn't respond to Dumbledore at all, and he was getting closer to me.
I backed away, glancing around for Harry. The hooded guy was walking directly toward me. I started to dart through the crowd of people semi-hysterically, trying to calm down while nobody else seemed to notice this guy. When I finally found Harry again in the middle of the crowd, I careened into him and made him slosh some of the water out of the cups he was holding.
"Hermione, what's up? Something wrong?" he shouted above the clamor as he tried to shake the water off his hands. Before I could warn him, I saw my stalker again over Harry's shoulder, closer than before.
"There's a guy - I don't know - have no idea who he is, but he's following me – " I backed up as I pointed at the hooded person, and Harry turned to look. Before I knew it I bumped hard into someone behind me. I whirled around to find Ron – just what I needed at the moment! - who was practically steaming from the ears with rage. I expected him to explode at Harry then, but instead he shocked me when his expression turned to utter sadness. One look and I knew he'd seen Harry kiss me earlier. He seemed unexpectedly lost for words.
"I thought you… liked me." His eyes were instantly watery.
"I do," I lied.
"I…" he croaked. My heart sank as I realized how much Ron was in love with me. And how much I just couldn't return that feeling.
But before I could say anything to try to comfort Ron, another voice called out my name.
I turned around again, dreading whatever turmoil was still waiting for me.
The hooded guy was no longer hooded. He had pulled back his billowing black cloak to reveal a handsome face with dark hair. He was inhumanly gorgeous, and I found myself gasping as my eyes flew to his forehead. Perfectly centered above his eyes was a sapphire-blue crescent moon tattoo. No, it couldn't be a tattoo – it was too precise, too elegant for mere ink. The tattoo extended in the same deep blue from both sides of the moon, branching out and down to frame his dark eyes in curving latticework and spirals.
Then he lifted his hand toward me, and it was like someone had put the mute button on the music and the sounds of the Yule Ball, and amplified his deep voice for only me to hear.
"Night has Chosen thee; thy death will be thy birth. Night calls to thee; hearken to Her sweet voice. Your destiny awaits you at the House of Night!"
And that is when I fainted.
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