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When Hermione entered the common room, her ears were met with the sounds of screeching first and second years, laughing manically and chasing each other around with frogspawn, so she headed up to her dorm only to find that it was barely 3 o’clock and the feast didn’t start for another three hours. She decided to curl up on her bed with a nice thick book for awhile, but her mind kept straying back to what had just occurred in the Astronomy Tower.

Gods, Draco Malfoy was a good kisser.

Even though she had only experienced about 3 seconds of it. Then a sharp pang of guilt hit her – it should have been Ron she was kissing. She wondered what he was doing now. Had he tried coming after her? Or did he even care? She needed to think of something fast.

She had to accept Malfoy’s offer or else she’d get nowhere with Ron. She immediately reached for a piece of parchment and her quill and scribbled down a quick note.

I have decided to accept your offer. Write back.

She folded the parchment and went down into the common room and out the portrait hole to head for the owlry. It was so stupid that she had to make a trip all the way up there just to send a stupid note to someone located in the very same building. She pondered this as she made her way up a flight of stairs. As she rounded the corner, she bumped into someone. It was Ron.

“Ron!” she gasped in utter surprise.

He glared at her and said stiffly, “How’s the essay coming?”

Hermione looked at her feet and said guiltily, “Oh, um really good, I uh just finished it.”

“Brilliant,” he said, and stormed off.

“Ron…” she started, but he ignored her and continued sulking down the corridor.

As another wave of shame washed over her, Hermione took her quill out and added four letters to the last words of the note: ASAP.

* * * * * *

The Great Hall was all decked out for Halloween. Thousands of candles and jack-o-lanterns floated eerily under a starry sky and a full moon. The Hogwarts ghosts performed their annual dance above the students, their silvery bodies occasionally plowing through a bat or two. There were also many delectable foods and candy waiting to be devoured on golden platters – roast beef, mashed potatoes, spiced apples, apple pie, pumpkin pie, cockroach clusters, and of course, candy corn.

Hermione, however, was not so hungry. She was sitting next to Ron, who still wasn’t talking much to her, and stared determinedly at his plate as he shoveled food into his mouth. Harry, who was seated next to Ginny, gave her a questioning look across the table, and she just shook her head sullenly and continued to pick at her lamb chop. She wasn’t very hungry, and was not taking the lack of conversation very well.

Ginny tried her best to make light conversation by asking what Harry’s latest Quidditch plans were, and commenting on Professor McGonagall’s robes. There was just a bit of feeble conversation, before the four fell into awkward silence again. Hermione appreciated Ginny’s efforts nonetheless.

After only about 20 minutes into the feast, Hermione got up and said, “I think I’ll go back to the common room.”

Ron looked up for a moment, almost sadly, but then returned to his plate. Harry frowned but Hermione just gave a small smile and said, “It’s okay Harry, I’m just a bit tired.” And with that, she turned and left the Great Hall.

When she arrived in her dormitory, there was a large eagle owl waiting for her on her bed. It had a small scroll of parchment tied to its leg. She reached out and untied it, and gave the bird a few small strokes before opening it. It really was a beautiful owl. She read.

Tonight, Astronomy Tower, 9:30. Just skip it.

9:30? But she had Prefects duties at 9:30! She reread his last words – just skip it. She hesitated. It was her responsibility to patrol the halls from nine to ten tonight – she’d be neglecting her duty as Prefect if she went to meet up with Malfoy. Then the image of Ron’s face on the way up to the owlry came to her. Then again, she couldn’t lose Ron. She just couldn’t. Perhaps some sacrifices had to be made…

She made up her mind. At nine o’clock, she left Gryffindor Tower on her regular patrolling duties, intending to end early.

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