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It was Saturday evening and George was in the flat above the joke shop, sitting at the kitchen table that was covered in mounds of parchment. The dancing hearts were beginning to make his head spin. He looked up as Fred came up from the store, which he had been closing for the night.

“How’s it coming?” Fred asked warily.

George just glared. “Remember the time we blew up the garden shed while Percy was in it and Mum took away our brooms for the entire summer?”

“Yeah,” Fred said with a chuckle.

“Times that by ten,” George sighed. “Yeah, well, I’ve got them all sorted, guys over here and girls in this stack,” George continued as he pointed to the two separate piles.

“That’s a start,” Fred said brightly. “I figure we should sort put all the Hogwarts students in a pile,” he suggested.

George nodded in agreement and with a wave of his wand the applications rearranged themselves. Much to George’s surprise, putting an advertisement in The Daily Prophet had shot For the Love of Pete’s membership sky-high, just as Fred had predicted. So high, in fact, that the twins were feeling rather overwhelmed by the sheer number of dates they had to arrange.

“Alright, here’s my idea. The Hogwarts kids start school Monday. We need to find out when the first Hogsmead weekend is so we can plan all the dates for that day,” George said in a businesslike manner.

“Yeah, well I doubt ole’ McGonagall is going to be to willing to offer us that information. I’ll never understand why she didn’t like us…” Fred joked.

“We don’t have to ask McGonagall anyway dummy. Just ask Hermione or Draco, after all, they’re bound to know being teachers and all.”

“Alright alright, you win. I’ll send Hermione an owl,” Fred said hastily as he dug around for a clean sheet of parchment and a quill.

“And for all her trouble, we should arrange her date first,” George said as his grin lit up his entire face. “I have the perfect match in mind!”

He rummaged around in the stacks of applications and finally found the one with Hermione’s name on it. After a few more minutes of sifting through the papers, he found the second paper he was looking for and clipped them together as he let out a rather malicious laugh.

Fred just rolled his eyes. “I’m staying out of this one and you’d better not come running to me when Hermione hexes you into the next century.”

Fred finished the note to Hermione and sent it off with Eule, their tawny brown owl, being careful to keep the letter short and sweet so it wouldn’t arouse Hermione’s suspicion. The twins spent the remainder of the evening arranging dates.

“Hmm…here’s one. He’s sixteen, likes playing Quidditch, keeper for Slytherin. Likes to…beat up first years in the hallway?” read George. “Who actually writes that? Must be a Malfoy,” he said grinning.

“Perfect. Put ‘im with this girl. She’s sixteen too, Hufflepuff, shy, never been snogged,” Fred read and snorted at the last bit as he clipped the two applications together.

“Brilliant,” exclaimed George sarcastically, feeling a bit sorry for the girl, but only for a moment. As the night wore on, the twins had begun to care less and less about who they paired together. All they really paid attention to were the ages.

“Free spirited witch, thirty-two, never been married. Enjoys painting and baking yellow cakes with chocolate frosting.”

“This guy could stand to loosen up a bit. He’s thirty-five, divorced twice but no kids, and works for the Department of Magical Transportation. Looking for a serious, goal oriented witch,” Fred said laughing.

“Hey, didn’t you fill one out for Draco? We should find him a nice date,” Fred said awhile later. “Poor bloke, seemed a little down lately.”

“Don’t worry about Draco. I’ve got his date under control,” George answered casually, and quickly began reading the next application while at the same time masking a rather devilish look on his face. Fred was used to his brother’s suspicious behavior by now and decided it would be safer not to ask any question that he really didn’t want to know the answer to. Sometimes it was better not to know, especially when dealing with George Weasley.

The last time Fred could remember seeing his brother with that look on his face was when he ‘accidentally’ lit Marcus Flint’s (Slytherin Quidditch captain) hair on fire. This was during a second year Charms class while learning the Incendio spell. Of course, if George had known that Flint used large amounts of hairspray, he would never have done it. (Well… never mind.) Fred chuckled as he recalled Flint with a bonfire on top of his head. Lee Jordan even managed to roast a marshmallow over the flames before Professor Flitwick could douse the fire.

“Blimey, its Penelope Clearwater!” George exclaimed as he held up a particular application.

Fred looked up in utter surprise at his brother’s exclamation. “No. Way.”

“Oh yes.”

“You know what this means.”

“Percy is going down.”

The twins stared at each other for a few seconds, relishing the moment. Identical gleams of mischief lit up their eyes in the flickering candlelight. Poor Percy. So much for brotherly love. Penelope Clearwater had been Percy’s Hogwarts sweetheart, but for reasons unknown to the twins, they had broken up about a year ago. Percy absolutely refused to discuss the details with his family.

“Yeah! What’s it say?” Fred asked excitedly, breaking the spell of silence. The twins would never dream of passing up an opportunity to bug their perfect older brother.

“Ambitious witch, twenty-four years old. Head of the International Magical Office of Law,” read George.

“Awww…how cute. They even work together!” Fred said.

“Yeah, so they must spend a lot of time together. But they broke up a few months ago. I wonder why…” George trailed off.

“Wait a minute…” Suddenly it dawned on Fred. “Cause she’s his boss!” he shouted. “Remember awhile back when Percy was so angry about not getting promoted to head? Well, she’s the head of the department, so she must have gotten the job he wanted! Knowing him he couldn’t stand working for his girlfriend. You know how Percy is,” Fred said with a smirk.

“Poor Percy. Well, we’d better do him a favor and get them back together before they both work themselves to death with all of that paperwork,” George said in a sweetly sarcastic voice.

“After all, what are brothers for?” Fred said jokingly.

“You know Fred, I think we’re getting pretty darn good at this matchmaking thing!” George replied as they burst out laughing.

***

The brown owl flew in the open window of the library and landed on a teetering stack of books on a table hidden behind rows of shelves. The young witch sitting at the table was oblivious to the bird, so absorbed was she in her reading. Finally it let out an impatient hoot, and Hermione’s head jerked up in surprise. She quickly took the roll of parchment off of the owl’s outstretched leg and it flew back out the window into the fading afternoon sunlight.

She unfolded the parchment curiously and scanned the messy handwriting.

Hermione,
Hope Hogwarts isn’t too boring without us there to cause some trouble. If I were you, I’d check your seat before you sit down. (Just an idea. We’ve just released a new product and we think it will be quite popular.) Pass the word along to Draco if you get a chance. When’s the first Hogsmead weekend? We were thinking about coming down for a visit.
Gred and Forge

Hermione had no intention of warning Draco about anything, but she appreciated the advice. She pulled out a clean sheet of parchment and scribbled a quick reply before turning back to her book. Hermione had managed to avoid Malfoy ever since their late night encounter on Thursday. She had passed away the time in her classroom organizing things or in the library catching up on her reading. Frankly, she would have been perfectly happy if she never had to look at his disgustingly arrogant face ever again. She looked up from her book and stared off into space. Ok, so maybe she’d be sad if she never saw him again. After all, his face was rather…attractive. But only from a distance.

Luckily, just then Madame Pince reminded her that it was time for dinner, before Hermione had the chance to think any more about Draco. Hermione closed her book and followed the librarian down to the Great Hall. She didn’t want to risk another meal with Draco; but then again there would be other teachers there too. And besides, she couldn’t go around avoiding him all year long. Sooner or later they would have to learn to ignore each other.

Most of the other staff members had just sat down when Hermione and Madame Pince came in. Hermione purposely sat at the opposite end of the table as Draco. She concentrated on eating and listened halfheartedly to the other teachers talking.

“Oh I know! I simply adore Madame Malkin’s latest robe!”

“The mauve one?”

“The collar is a bit low cut for my taste though,”

“I agree. Scandalous…”

Down at the other end of the table, Draco snorted into his pumpkin juice. Hearing old ladies discuss popular fashions was high on his list of Extremely Annoying Dinner Conversations. He would much rather have been arguing with Granger instead. Seeing her angry face always made his life feel more worthwhile.

“…and so then I told him that there was no way I would pay three Galleons for such a small teapot, even if it could sing opera. Why in heavens name would I want to listen to my teakettle singing?”

Hermione felt her spoon slip out of her hand and plop into her soup bowl. This conversation was growing duller by the moment. And she had thought it was boring to listen to the teachers during class; this was ten times worse. The sad thing was everyone seemed to be enthralled by the conversation with exception of herself and Malfoy, who looked like he was about to explode.

Finally everyone had finished eating and Hermione was getting ready to escape to her room. Suddenly McGonagall directed a question at Hermione. “You’re certainly welcome to join us up in the common room Hermione. We always work on our knitting after dinner,” she said brightly.

“It’s an old tradition,” exclaimed Professor Binns.

“I’d”

“And it gives us a chance to catch up on all the gossip,” added Madame Hooch.

Gossip. If there was anything she couldn’t handle right now, it was more gossip. Hermione was willing to do about anything to get out of listening to gossip. Not to mention the fact that after all the elf clothing she had knitted during the duration of SPEW, she now hated knitting. The evening was getting progressively worse. She didn’t want to be rude by refusing the offer; but then again she didn’t know if she could handle an entire evening listening to the old ladies gossip. Dinner had been bad enough.

“Eh, well, I’d love to join you, except I’ve already got plans,” Hermione lied, trying not to sound like she was making it up as she went, which was in fact exactly what she was doing.

“Really? Not much goes on at Hogwarts. What are you doing?” Rolanda Hooch asked curiously. Hermione got the impression from the way all the teachers were staring at her that none of them believed her one single bit.

Draco, on the other hand, was enjoying this immensely. He leaned back in his chair as a smirk flashed on his face. He amusedly watched Hermione’s discomfort increase. To be honest, he was relieved they hadn’t invited him to join them since he had no desire to die of boredom.

Uncomfortably, Hermione shifted in her seat and blurted out the first thing that popped into her head. “Malfoy, that is, uh, Draco and I were going to go, ah…go look for the giant squid,” she finished in a rush. “You know, see if we could spot her,” Hermione added halfheartedly. AHHHHH! Why hadn’t she simply said she had some letters to write?!? Go read a book. Work on lesson plans. Take a bath. Sit in her room and sing lullabies. Something, anything that didn’t involve Malfoy. But no, she was horrible at lying.

Draco let the front legs of his chair crash to the floor in shock. What the bloody hell was Granger babbling about? And just when he had thought the evening couldn't get any worse. He didn't even have a chance to deny that he, Draco Malfoy, had agreed to spend the evening alone with Granger.

“Ohhh, so that’s what it’s called these days,” Pomona Pomfrey said with a knowing smile. “Well, don’t let us delay you two,” she said and laughed.

The other teachers chuckled and smiled as Hermione’s face turned beet red. Draco kept his face cold and expressionless. Glaring at each other, the two had no choice but to leave, since all the teachers were watching them with amused expressions. Draco strode ahead of her as they made a beeline for the door. Hermione could hear the teachers back at the table chuckling.

“What the hell were you thinking Granger?” Malfoy exclaimed as soon as they were out of the Great Hall. “Sorry, but I’m gonna go look for the giant squid with Draco,” he said in a mocking voice. “Great excuse Granger, just brilliant. You’re an amazing liar. An amazingly BAD liar!” he finished loudly.

“Listen Malfoy, I said the first thing I could think of. Trust me, I’d rather Peeves come pound me with Dungbombs than spend my evening with you,” she retorted icily. Fuming, Hermione spun on her heel and headed towards the staircase.

He figured that as long as she was already in a rotten mood, he might as well take advantage of it. Draco had never been one to pass up opportunities. “You can’t go to the common room you know,” Draco called out lazily.

“Don't even try to tell me what I can do Malfoy,” she retorted.

He leaned calmly against a pillar and crossed his arms. “Well then I’d brace yourself for a night of old ladies’ gossip. You know though, you’d probably fit right in with the lot of ‘em,” he said in a teasing tone of voice. “You can tell them about all the charms you know of to keep their hair from turning gray,” he added.

Before Hermione could think of an insult mean enough to hurl back at him, the rest of the teachers came out of the Great Hall.

“I thought you were going outside,” Pomona said, surprised to find the two still in the hallway.

“You can still join us if you’ve changed your mind Hermione,” McGonagall offered kindly.

“We were just heading out actually,” Draco interrupted in a smooth voice. “Miss Granger wanted to get her sweater and I was assuring her that it is still quite warm out.”

Hermione stood awkwardly on the stairs as everyone stared at her, waiting for her to do something. Finally she gave up and retreated down the stairs, shooting Draco a look that would have frozen Voldemort in his tracks.

“Have a nice evening ladies,” Draco said as he wrapped his arm around Hermione’s waist and headed towards the door, the older teachers smiling after them.

“Don’t worry about us. Just make sure you two don’t have too good of a time out there,” Madame Pince said with a disapproving sniff.

Draco smiled; knowing it would infuriate Hermione even further. Then he calmly opened the door and held it open for her. “Ladies first,” he whispered with a smirk.

As soon as they were outside out of sight of the teachers, Hermione exploded. “I always knew you were a stupid git, but now I’m beginning to wonder if you’re just completely off your rocker! Honestly, who acts like that? Now they think we came out here to…” she trailed off in embarrassment as she felt her face flush.

“What was that Granger? I missed that last bit. Oh, did you say that we should take Madame Pomfrey’s advice?” Draco egged her on a bit more. Boy was he enjoying this!

“Oh shut up. Just shut up! And while you’re at it, why don’t you go climb the Whomping Willow,” Hermione shouted and stormed off towards the lake.

“Honestly, can’t you take a joke?” he yelled after her. “You don’t always have to be so serious!”

This was getting ridiculous. He wasn’t about to waste any more of his evening chasing after Granger. Not that there was really anything more interesting going on at the castle. He was stuck here with a bunch of old ladies and a few other professors that had died of boredom but had nothing better to do even in the afterlife, so they just kept right on teaching. To make matters worse, tomorrow hundreds of annoying kids would be arriving and Draco would have to put up with the lot of them for the next nine months. A fantastic start to a horribly long year.

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