It was the day before the party.
Hermione had had a few days to think about what had been transpiring and she had finally come up with a conclusion. He liked her. And not the like as in a friendly like. An actual attraction. So these past few days she had been walking around the house with a smug look on her face. More than one person had asked if she was alright. Of course she was! She had the boy-who-lived attracted to her! She couldn't have felt better if she tried.
Of course, it wasn't really a surprise. She usually attracted the opposite sex like flies, hence why she was so talented at what she did. Hermione had something most of the other Death Eaters didn't have: Attractiveness. She had used it to lure more than a few victims into the clutches of her master and never hesitated to use it to her advantage. She wasn't one to sleep around, though. In fact, Draco had really been the only one she had shared that with. Well, him and the occasional pick-me-up when she went out. But really, it wasn't as if she had shagged all of Great Britain. It was only a smidge.
So, she had come up with a plan. Now that Harry was basically putty in her hands, she could use in her favor. The kiss was only the beginning. The initial shock had now worn off and she finally came up with a conclusion about why she had acted so odd. It had been her first time not initiating contact and he had caught her by surprise. Of course, she didn't know why she was so surprised in the first place. Sure, he had a girlfriend, but really, they were still in school so it wasn't as if they were going to last. Besides, Ginny struck her as one of those people who would be easy to manipulate. She still considered her a friend, but friends don't last. They never last. So why worry?
Today was the perfect day to initiate her plan. It just so happened that yesterday Fred had announced to the dinner table that the annual Weasley Snowball Fight was to take place this afternoon. Hermione had been excited from the beginning, but now she was glowing. All of those days of training would finally be put to good use. She hoped that they wouldn't hesitate to go full out. A challenge on her first go would help her from being easily distracted. Seducing Harry seemed too childish, something that was entirely to clich� for her to even attempt. No. She was going to make him fall for her the old fashioned way. It seemed that he liked who she was being now, so all she had to do was keep pretending. It seemed so easy that she considered concocting a new plan entirely on more than one occasion. But it would make for a nice break.
The only thing she had to keep a monitor on was her emotions. She had acted so silly last time! Her hormones had gone wonky. That had to be the reason. Her heart racing, palms sweating… it was all a normal reaction to the kiss. She was a teenager; she was bound to make the mistake of letting her emotions run wild. But now that she knew what to look out for, it would be easier to prevent it from happening again. She couldn't kiss him. Not until she had all of her emotions in check. If he tried to pull one on her, though (which he was highly likely to do… that kiss was pretty intense, so he was bound to want more) she would avoid it. Run, make excuses, do something to avoid it. Easy as pie.
“Hermione, dear, are you going to come down for lunch?” Mrs. Weasley's voice sounded from the door.
She had cooped herself up in Ginny's room for most of the day, reading a book she had borrowed from the school library before they had left. It was a fiction novel about a witch falling in love with a troll. Quite the epic love tale, if she did say so herself. It was nice to know that love existed in a fictional world, making her feel better about her loveless life in the real one.
“Sure, Mrs. Weasley. I'll be down in a second.” She placed a scrap piece of parchment on the page where she left off and placed the book beside her on the bed.
Hermione made her way down the stairs and saw everyone already eating at a fast pace. It was as though they didn't even care about their digestive systems at all. Well, when they were in the middle of the snowball fight and got a cramp, she wouldn't be there to help them, but rather in a corner laughing to herself. So with that humorous thought, she sat down next to Ron and piled a small serving of bacon sandwiches and salad onto her plate. She was strategizing to win, and win she was going to do.
“So, who's ready to get smoldered?” Fred asked with a grin.
The whole table let out a slur of comebacks and colorful comments that Hermione couldn't catch. She smiled and got back to eating, fully focused on the game. The sound of apparition interrupted the conversations around her and a man with a ponytail of red hair tied about his neck stepped through. Mrs. Weasley let out a loud squeal of “BILL!” and Hermione recognized him more clearly now. Harry had said that he was a curse-breaker for Gringotts and recently got married. She could see an earring on his left ear that resembled a large fang and observed that his clothing was very grungy. He looked very different from the other Weasley's and she admired him for that. It was nice to know they weren't all clones of each other.
Behind Bill was a strikingly beautiful woman with long silvery blonde hair, pale blue eyes, and when she flashed Mrs. Weasley a smile, Hermione could see a pair of white, even teeth. Hermione assumed this must be Bill's wife.
“Molly `ow wondervul it iz to see you again.” She said in a throaty voice, thick with a French accent.
“Fleur, it is always a pleasure.” Mrs. Weasley answered, giving her a hug as well.
“So mum, has it started yet?” Bill asked, taking off his leather jacket and tossing it atop one of the chairs.
Mrs. Weasley looked a tad annoyed at his statement, “No, it starts after lunch. But really Bill, you're a grown man, you shouldn't be gallivanting about playing silly games.”
“Oh come on mum, you're only young once.” He said with a lop-sided smile.
“Well, either way, have some food before you brave the cold.” Mrs. Weasley said, motioning to the table.
Bill nodded and placed a hand around Fleur's back, guiding her to the seat next to his. They both began eating and Hermione had to wonder to herself how they could have ever found each other. They looked to be complete opposites of each other. Bill, with his tattered leather clothing and tooth-shaped earring and Fleur with her pale blue sweater and matching pants. A literal picture of fire and ice. Hermione was so busy observing the couple that she jumped when Bill's eyes met hers.
“I don't believe we've met.” He said.
Hermione shook her head, “No, we haven't. I'm Hermione Granger, Ron and Harry's friend.” She left out Ginny's name on purpose.
Bill stuck out his hand, which Hermione took without hesitation. “Nice to meet you Hermione. I'm Bill and this is my wife, Fleur.” He motioned to Fleur and she smile at her as well.
“It iz a pleasure to meet you.” She said politely.
“Same to you.” Hermione replied, taking her hand from Bill's grip
“How's business bee going, George?” Bill asked.
“Stronger than ever.” George replied.
“Brought a new product with us.” Fred chimed.
“Don't know if it works yet…” George trailed off.
“Haven't had any testers?” Bill asked.
“No we—” Fred's eyes flickered towards Hermione and stopped himself. “Yeah… we were hoping to test it out at the party.”
“Well what is it?” Bill asked curiously.
As Fred and George explained their newest product, Hermione dared a look over to where Harry was sitting. He looked to be fiddling with his napkin with his eyes completely focused on it. If she didn't know better, she would think he was trying to hide a blush. No, he couldn't be. He was just bored and waiting for everyone else to finish. But as Hermione looked at his plate, she saw that he wasn't finished with his food. In fact, it looked as though he had only taken a few bites. Odd.
She didn't realize she was staring at him until she felt a pair of eyes boring into her. Flicking her eyes next to Harry for a moment, she saw Ginny's bright brown eyes narrowed in her direction. She wouldn't let Ginny's obvious jealousy affect her. She glared right back and leaned back in her chair, daring her to do something. Apparently, Ginny hadn't thought this all the way through and she just focused her attention back on the main conversation. Hermione smirked in triumph and turned her attention to the conversation as well.
“So where's Charlie?” George asked.
“Yeah, where's good `ol Dragon Breath?” Fred added.
Mrs. Weasley glared at Fred for a moment before answering, “He'll be here in time for Christmas.”
“That's real specific, mum.” Fred said.
“Yeah, right on the dot.” George added.
“Oh hush you two.” She said in a strained hiss. “He had some last-minute things to take care of in Romania before he can get here.”
“Charlie was always a workaholic.” Bill said breezily.
Within the next half an hour, the conversation stayed light. Hermione noticed that Fleur tended to stare at Bill a lot. She didn't really see the point in that. If you knew someone was sitting right next to you, what was the point of looking at them as if the seat was vacant? Honestly, it was a waste of time. If you were going to tire out your pupils, you should at least do it on something worthwhile.
“Get your coats on, ladies; it's time for some action!” George called as he sprinted up the stairs.
Hermione rolled her eyes as everyone leapt out of their seats and followed his lead. Hermione casually scooted her seat back and followed behind them at a slower pace, making sure to distance herself from the traffic of people trying to make it to their rooms. She heard Mrs. Weasley say some suggestive words including some mentions about how stupid and childish the game was. Hermione had to agree, but it sure was fun to hit people in the face with freezing cold slush balls.
Ginny was already fully dressed by the time she entered the room. The red head pushed past her with her eyes focused on the opposite wall and Hermione held back the urge to punch her in the stomach as she passed. She would get her in the fight. So, without further ado, she pulled on her heavy winter coat, wool gloves and thick leather boots. Taking a final look around the room, she exited.
When she reached the living room she saw everyone already down there. They all were in light conversations and Harry was the first to notice she had arrived. Even Fleur was there, bundled up in a bright white coat with fur around the neck and matching gloves. “There you are. We were waiting for you.”
Hermione was surprised, “You didn't have to do that.”
“We know.” Ron said.
“But we wanted to.” Bill added.
“Besides, it wouldn't be fair game if we left you in here now would it?” Fred asked rhetorically.
Hermione smiled at the group and followed them out the back door. They took her past the garden and into an open field. It looked like an orchard covered in a fresh blanket of snow. It was surrounded by trees and was about half of the size of the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. In short, it was perfect.
Fred and George went in front of the group and George cupped his hands over his mouth like a megaphone. “Line up, me and Fred are going to pick teams!”
“Oy! Who made you two captains?!” Ron yelled at the pair.
The two looked at each other before answering in unison, “We did.”
“Now line up, runts!” Fred screamed.
They all formed a line and Hermione was squished in-between Harry and Bill. Harry's shoulder collided with hers briefly and she took a sharp intake of breath. Stay calm; he doesn't affect you like this. You are in control, not him. She chided herself. Within a few seconds her body relaxed and she stood tall, proud of herself for her conquest over her hormones. Now, all she had to do was become numb to them and she'd be ready for anything.
George scanned the group with his eyes for a moment, “Ginny.”
Ginny bounded forward with a wide grin and gave her brother a high five. She gave Hermione a sly grin and Hermione returned her look. If she wanted to play games, she would get one hell of a fight.
Fred scanned the group for a moment like his brother and his face brightened as an idea came to him. “Harry.”
Harry walked forward to Fred and gave him an odd look. Apparently, he wasn't expecting to be picked first. Hermione took her focus away from Harry and focused on George, who had his chin gripped between his thumb and pointed finger in thought.
“Ron.” He called.
Ron jogged over to George and went to stand next to his sister.
Hermione looked back over at Fred and could swear she saw a twinkle in his eye. “Hermione.”
Hermione's stomach plummeted as she walked slowly over to where Fred and Harry stood. She was really hoping she and Harry would be on opposite teams. That way, she could go after him without being questioned. Flirt without flopping. But no, apparently Fred had other things in mind. She tried not to show her displeasure as George and Fred made their final picks. In the end, her team got Fleur and George's team got Bill. Both teams went into a huddle as they started to plan out their strategy.
“Alright” Fred instructed, “I want Harry with me in front, and Fleur and Hermione in charge of our fort. Make it about waist high and sturdy. Work on extra ammo once you're done and then join us. The name of the game is to destroy the opposing team's fort. No charms to make it impenetrable, but you can use some to make building it faster. Everyone ready?” Everyone nodded, “Alright, on the count of three. One… two… three!”
Hermione sprinted to a nearby tree and began to make a base for the fort. Fleur wasn't far behind her and she helped hand her snow. Hermione cast a simple sticking charm to make the snow pat easier as she smoothed out the base. She didn't like being ordered around. In fact, she detested it. It was all she had not to waltz up to Fred and give him what he deserved. But, alas, she knew she couldn't. Oh, how she longed for this mission to be over soon so that she could stop holding back all of these repressed urges.
They were about at knee-length when Fleur spoke up. “Iz zis your first time playing?”
Hermione didn't let her gaze falter from the fort as she answered, “No.”
“Oh… well Bill thought I should play thees year. Said eet would be fun.”
“The only fun part is when you get to hit people in the face with the snowballs.” Hermione commented, patting in another handful of snow, and then smoothing it over with her wand.
“Why would you be amused by zat?” Fleur asked.
Hermione shrugged, “Because it's entertaining.”
“Well eet sounds barbaric to me.”
“Never said it wasn't.” Hermione said lightly.
“You are not like other girls, are you?”
“Nope.” Hermione answered, “But any normal girl wouldn't be able to get this fort done in half the time now would she?”
And, sure enough, with one final wave of her wand, the fort was finished. Hermione eyed it proudly and turned to look at Fleur behind her. She seemed to have a passive look on her face as she looked back at her. Hermione shrugged and started to make a surplus of snowballs like she was instructed. Truth be told, she didn't like Fleur very much. She struck her as the kind of stuck-up snob that tried too hard to fit in where she didn't belong. Hermione hated phonies like that.
Fleur helped her with the snowballs and when they had made around fifty, they called it quits and went to join Harry and Fred. Hermione was quick to find them and molded a snowball in her hands, coming up behind Fred. He felt her presence within a few seconds and turned to face her with a smile.
“The fort ready to go?” He asked.
Hermione nodded, “Yeah.”
“Excellent. Now you go over with Harry and try to take on their fort. Me and Fleur will stay back and play defense.”
“I really don't think—”
“Hermione, listen. You and Harry are friends, right? Well, one kiss shouldn't change all of that. But keep in mind that mine and George's inventions don't have a habit of malfunctioning often.” And with that, he sprinted over to Fleur.
Hermione stood there, dumbstruck, as she watched him depart. Just what had he meant by that? Hermione looked over to her right and saw Harry picking up a handful of snow and forming a snowball. Remembering the plan, she walked over to him and forgot about Fred's advice. For now.
When she reached Harry, he was already looking at her with an odd look on his face. She tried not to let her true emotions show (annoyance, anger, and some unnamed feeling that she still hasn't distinguished) as she spoke up. “Fred wants me and you to take on their fort.”
Harry nodded, “I figured as much.
“So what do you propose we do?” Hermione asked.
“Wing it.” He answered simply.
Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but Harry was already running over to where the other team's fort was on the opposite side of the field. She let out an aggravated grunt and followed behind, her snowball pressed tightly in her hand. She regretted bringing wool gloves; the snow was leaking through and making her hands numb.
The fort was being guarded by Bill and Hermione wondered vaguely why Harry was still racing full speed towards it. In an instant, she realized. He was being the distraction. She made a quick scan of the field and saw the Ginny and Fred were in the middle of a wrestling match and Ron had Fleur trapped against a tree with a snowball raised in his right hand. Quickly, she snuck around the tree closest to their fort and saw as Harry taunted Bill away from it. She waited until Harry had Bill a few yards away before striking. She got within shooting range of the fort and shot a Reducto at it, blowing the fort apart and spraying wet snow all over the place. Hermione hid behind the tree and barely escaped the cold shower.
“VICTORY IS OURS!” Fred boomed.
Hermione came out from behind the tree to see Harry and Fred running at her at full speed. She barely had time to brace herself before she was crushed in a team hug. She could hear the other team moaning and groaning behind her and smirks. It felt good to win it for the team. Oh, how she'd missed this.
“That was brilliant, I can't believe you knew exactly what to do!” Harry acclaimed.
Hermione had to bite back the cocky response on the tip of her tongue. Harry like the “innocent” her. If she wanted to take advantage of him, she would have to act exactly the way she was when they kissed. But oh, how she wanted to brag about how she had learned to read signals like that! It had taken her years to perfect it and the one person who compliments her on it (well, aside from Draco, but he didn't count, he was a suck up if he wanted a shag) she couldn't even tell. Irony sucked.
Hermione decided to be bashful, “Thanks! It's just a gift I guess.”
“Well it was bloody brilliant!” Fred exclaimed.
“Oy!” Bill's voice sounded from afar.
The group looked over at Ginny, Bill, George, and Ron. Ron chose to speak up next, “We want a rematch!”
Fred raised an eyebrow, “Call all the rematches you want, we're still going to beat you!”
“We'll see about that. Game on in five minutes.” Ginny said with a dangerous look. Well, what she thought was a dangerous look. Hermione thought it made her look constipated.
And so they had another game. And another… and another one. Every match had the same result, Hermione destroying the opposing team's fort and everyone basking in her excellence. It was all she could do not to scream at the top of her lungs. The “new” Hermione had to be modest. Oh well, she had a pillow for later.
It was the last official game and Hermione was at her usual post, by the opposite fort. It was heavily guarded and she was having a bit more of a challenge getting a good aim. Harry and Fleur were being good distraction, but Fred kept on giving her hand signals that were both atypical and obvious. She had to change her position five times because he kept on giving it away with his stupid techniques. So, she remained hidden from everyone and saw Fred searching the grounds for her. Perfect. Ginny was guarding the fort and Hermione resisted running towards her, knocking her down into the fort and winning the match yet again. That would look a bit odd.
She had a feeling Ginny had elected to take the position of guard. Of course she would try to take the glory for herself. But there would be no glory for her or her team. Hermione was a highly trained killing machine! Specialized in raids and torture. Ginny didn't stand a chance. And if things didn't go her way, there was always the route of killing her and hiding the body.
Whoa! Slow down there, Hermione. Remember, you need to be inconspicuous.—I could just knock her unconscious, and then bury her… then technically I won't kill her. Her lungs will just give out from lack of oxygen and it'll all be by cause of nature—Uhh, wrong answer. You need to calm down and focus on the game.—Game?—Yes, the snowball fight you're supposed to be winning for your team—Team?—Oh shut up! You know you couldn't do this on your own.—Yes I could.—Just forget it…
Hermione aimed her wand a few inches from Ginny, avoiding her thoughts of homicide for now. A wordless Reducto and the fort was kaput. Ginny turned around and her face was as bright as her hair. Hermione chuckled out loud for once as her team cheered and enveloped her in another hug. She was coming to like these; she might just pitch them as the new victory march of the Death Eaters. It would make for a good change from burning down people's houses and stomping on the ashes.
Harry was the closest to her in the huddle and she was proud to say that she didn't feel anything this time. She was completely numb to his body contact. Step one: Complete. Unfortunately, he had to ruin it by squeezing her tighter, yelling congratulations in her ear and ending with a kiss on her cheek. Yeah, that's right. A kiss on her cheek. Her face was turning red but it was masked by everyone else following his lead and giving her many more kisses. Fleur did the double kiss on both cheeks and Hermione had to admit that all of this attention was making her feel uncomfortable. Sure enough, they called it quits after that last game.
Hermione followed behind everyone and rubbed the excess saliva off of her cheek. Or, that was what she was telling herself she was doing. In reality, it burned from the exact spot Harry had placed that first kiss. And she was convinced this would be easy. Harry still made her feel funny and she couldn't move forward until she stopped. But if he kept on pulling stunts like this, it would never happen. Damnit.
It was a warm relief when they walked into the kitchen. It smelt of hot cocoa and biscuits. Hermione took off her snow-covered gear and placed it by everyone else's near the steel stove. Everyone gathered by the warm fire in the living room and she found a seat on one of the armchairs. Harry and Ginny were on a loveseat, his hand around her waist again. Honestly, couldn't they not act like a couple for ten minutes so her nausea could pass? Ginny shot her an evil smile and she knew that wouldn't be the case. She'd just have to deal with it. Besides, the more she saw it, the more she would get used to it, and the number she would become. Really, it was all working out to her benefit.
So with her hot chocolate in hand she gazed into the fire. She heard the smack or a chaste kiss like a cannon and tensed. She wouldn't look back, it would only get a reaction out of her, and that's the last thing she wanted. No, she would just stare into the fire like this didn't have any effect on her at all. Practice makes perfect after all. By the time she was numb to it all, she would be a pro. It would all be perfect.
The tickling sensation at the roof of her nose said differently, but she chose to ignore that.
A/N: Thanks so much for your amazing reviews! Keep 'em coming =] I'm so glad you guys like the story enough to leave over 100 reviews so far, WOHOOOO!!!!
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