'You know, it's bad manners to fold the page over instead of using a bookmark.'
Ron looked up. A bushy-haired girl was sat across the table from him. He had assumed he was alone. He had chosen a particularly quiet spot in the library that evening; he tended to get sneered at whenever he sat somewhere with more people.
'Er, sorry,' he said, awkwardly. 'I didn't realise.'
'No matter,' said the girl. She was wearing Gryffindor robes and had rather large front teeth. 'What are you studying for, by the way?'
'Transfiguration. McGonagall's been on at me about improving my theory.'
'Oh, I know just the book for that!'
Without warning, the girl rose up through the air, and picked a large leather-bound book off a high shelf nearby.
Ron's mouth fell open.
Come to think of it, he hadn't really registered that she was slightly see-through, or that her Gryffindor tie was several shades greyer than the norm.
Smiling widely, the girl handed the book to Ron, still hovering several inches above the table.
'Thanks,' Ron said, hoping that she wouldn't think he was weird for staring. 'I'm Ron, by the way. Ron Weasley.'
'Hermione. I imagine you've probably heard of me.'
That was true. Ron had heard tales about the ghost of a student who hung around the library. But all the people who talked about her gave the impression that she was miserable and irritating. Not anything like this girl, who seemed -despite her ghostliness- full of life.
'Little bit, yeah. Sorry, am I bothering you? You probably don't want people hanging around-'
'Oh, no!' Hermione exclaimed, shaking her head. 'I'm glad of the company. Everyone avoids me in here. Just because I shush them for talking too loudly. I mean, it is a library, after all.'
Hermione's cheeks turned a delicate shade of silver.
'You're not making fun of me, are you?'
'Oh… good, then!' Hermione exclaimed, happily. 'How is your Charms revision going?'
'Badly,' Ron groaned. 'This essay is due tomorrow, and I still have no clue what this essay is supposed to be about.'
'Let me have a look,' Hermione said, coming to hover next to Ron, staring over his shoulder at his parchment.
Ron felt gooseflesh erupt along both his arms. Normally, ghosts gave off a cold aura, but Hermione seemed to be emitting a sort of cosy warmth that took him by surprise. It was almost like being hugged by a very talkative jumper.
'Ooh, I've read about this,' Hermione chirped, now dropping a few inches to hover above the seat next to Ron. 'Would you like me to suggest some things?'
'That sounds brilliant.'
The next evening, Ron hurried into the library, his robes trailing behind him in that weird way they always did. The sun had been rather strong that day, and his freckles seem to have spread all over his skin.
Ron saw Hermione hovering a few feet over part of the Transfiguration section, and ran towards her, waving as he did so.
Hermione smiled at him, floating down and sitting primly on top of a table.
'So, how did it go?'
'Amazing!' Ron said, happily grinning at her as he pulled the essay out of his bag. 'I got an Exceeds Expectations!'
'Only a Exceeds?' Hermione said, almost looking disappointed. 'The teachers must have gotten harsher in their marking since I was in their classes.'
Ron rolled his eyes.
'Trust you to think that's not good enough,' he said, chuckling. 'Well, anyway; thank you, Hermione! You really saved my bacon there!'
Hermione smiled back, somewhat embarrassed.
'Really? I didn't do much. People don't usually like it when I try and correct their homework…'
'Nah, you're brilliant. Besides, you weren't being condescending about it, so why would I complain?'
Hermione's cheeks blushed silver again.
'No worries,' Ron replied, deciding to ignore that she looked rather pretty when she was blushing. 'Oh, you should have seen the look on Malfoy's face when McGonagall gave me the essay back; he looked like Christmas had been cancelled.'
'Malfoy? That Slytherin boy whose father is on the board of governors?'
'Yeah; both of them are gits.' Ron said. 'They're a bit… well, old-fashioned. You wouldn't believe what Malfoy said last week. Well, up until I punched him, that is.'
'Ron! You actually punched someone?'
The redhead shrugged.
'He deserved it,' Ron said, pulling his quill and ink out of his bag, plus a roll of parchment and a homework diary. 'He said house-elves were only good for slavery.'
Unable to argue with that, Hermione looked over Ron's shoulder at the diary he was flicking through.
'So, which subject is this for?'
'Defence Against The Dark Arts. It's… it's on vampires.'
'Oh, well, all that prejudice against vampires is silly, really,' Hermione said, matter-of-factly. 'They're perfectly alright as long as they regular supplies of blood, and they can get that from a butcher.'
'Those muggle people who carve up animals?'
'Yes. And –anyway- there have been some really good vampires in history. For example, there was Samwise Whiteheart back in the eighteen century. He helped the Ministry take down some dark wizards who were on a muggle killing spree…'
Hermione continued her recital about the various good vampires, as Ron continued to scribble away at his parchment. He smiled to himself, his own fangs sticking out under his lip. It was fine if she didn't want him to know that she knew; she simply wanted to highlight that she knew he shouldn't be judged just for his status as a non-human. He appreciated it in more ways that he could possibly explain.
Hermione was a very smart girl. But he already knew that. And he was liking her more and more.