Three months.

It hit him like a rogue bludger - right in the gut.

Three months.

Today was three months, thought Harry, as he looked at the empty seat across from him at the Gryffindor table. Glancing at the slumped, red- haired figure next to him, Harry knew that Ron had also noticed the inauspicious anniversary. December fifteenth. The third month that she had been gone, the last day of classes before the holidays, ten days until Christmas, five days until the Hogwarts Express would take them to the Burrow for the holidays - and yet one more day of not knowing.

Ron sat up straight, hastily wiped unshed tears from his eyes and reached for another drumstick - even though there were three uneaten on his plate. He cleared his throat and absent-mindedly peeled the skin from the roasted piece of chicken.

"So, anyway, Mum wanted to know if the Dursley's were getting you anything for Christmas this year," Ron said. Harry's answering snort of mirth answered the question for him. He wrenched his attention from his work on the chicken leg to look at Harry, with a smile that didn't quite make it to his warm eyes.

"I think it was her subtle way of asking what you wanted for Christmas," continued Ron.

Green eyes met brown as both young men realized that they only wanted one thing for their final Christmas as Hogwarts students .

They wanted Hermione back.


Hermione, Ron and Harry had been trudging happily back from Hogsmeade on September 15 when it happened. It was a fairytale day of silly fun, shopping and far too much butterbeer.

Harry and Ron had insisted on buying Hermione a new gown and dress robes at Gladrags in honor of her eighteenth birthday. Gryffindor crimson and gold, in the most delicate of silks, the gown accentuated curves that the boys hadn't realized their "other third" had developed. As Hermione modeled the outfit they were buying, two Adam's apples bobbed in unison and two pairs of eyes were opened. Their Hermione was a girl - no, scratch that - Hermione was a woman. Not beautiful by Muggle movie star standards by any means, but to those who knew her heart - a stunningly amazing young woman. She shook her head and smiled at the dumbstruck looks on their faces as she turned to step back into the dressing room.

"Whoa, Harry, did you -- ? I mean, she doesn't look like that all the ti - Well, what the bloody hell was that?" Ron stammered, as Harry began to chuckle. "Shut up, Harry! I saw you looking at her. You can't believe that she's a girl, either!"

"Surely we're not the only gits that didn't notice, are we?" said Harry. "Is it just because she's our friend, I wonder? Do you think that she's even -- you know? Done it yet? Maybe she isn't interested in a serious relationship, but still I wonder why she hasn't even dated anyone since Krum?"

Ron shook his head and opened his mouth to reply, but was abruptly stopped by a dangerously soft hiss at his neck.

"Perhaps, Mr. Potter, she hasn't had a chance to meet a wizard who can truly appreciate her talents and abilities," spat Professor Snape, harshly. "Sex and appearances are not the most important things in a relationship, you should know. In addition, having you two - heroes - as her unofficial honor guard can't be conducive to any potential se-"

"Potential what, Professor Snape?" said Hermione as she exited the dressing room, gown and robes in hand.

Snape stood silent and looked trapped for a moment, something the trio allowed themselves to briefly enjoy. Quietly, of course. Snape's eyes darted to the red and gold material Hermione held and then slid up to her eyes for a long, uncomfortable moment.

"Potential what, Professor Snape?" repeated Hermione, irritation and amusement warring for possession of her brown eyes.

"Potential romance, Miss Granger," snapped Snape. "Romance. I will leave you three to your shopping. Please take care not to be late for dinner."

Snape stepped aside with a small bow to Hermione and a flourish of his robes, then turned to examine a rack of men's waistcoats - black, of course. The trio paid for their purchase and moved to leave the clothing store.

"Miss Granger."

Hermione turned to look at Professor Snape, who stood stiffly with his hands in his pockets.

"Yes, Professor?"

"When you return to Hogwarts, would you please come by my office, I have something of importance I would like to discuss with you. Will you please -- remember?" Snape said, staring intently at some point in the distance, just above Hermione's left ear.

"Of course, Professor."

With a nod to their professor, the trio left the store, shaking their heads at Snape's very un-Snapelike behavior. After a few butterbeers and one accident with a Filibuster's Firework that left a rather embarrassing blast hole in Ron's jeans, they were walking home to Hogwarts, enjoying the fall sunshine and talking about Quidditch and food.

And suddenly, Hermione was gone. Not a sound marked the vanishing. Just a frightened sharp gasp from the three people left standing on the path to Hogwarts. Ron and Harry turned to look behind them into the stunned face of Professor Snape, before the three silently began to run to the castle and the Headmaster's office.


Stop it, thought Harry, shaking his head to clear it of the unwanted memories. Ron's hand briefly came to rest on his shoulder and the two young men smiled grimly at each other. It wasn't getting any easier without her, but they would survive. Somehow.

Two parts of the trio that was turned back to their lunches listlessly, relieved beyond belief when it was time to head for the coldness of the dungeons and Potions class. At least in Professor Snape's class, there was little time for introspection or the depressing thought that their Christmas dreams may not come true.

There was also something oddly comforting in the fact that although the world of the Dream Team had been turned upside down - Snape was still an utter bastard.

And for that, Harry was improbably grateful.