THE BALLAD OF RON AND HERMIONE
"For goodness' sake, Ron, he's only a Quidditch player…"- Hermione Granger, HP and the GoF
"Right," Harry said to Ron as they sat down at the Gryffindor table. "What do we have first?"
It was their first day back at Hogwarts in their fifth year. Ron was studying the timetables he shovelled down breakfast.
"Herbology first…then a free period." he said, "Urgh, Divination after lunch…nothing else today. But tomorrow's Transfiguration, Charms and Care of magical creatures. Hope we're not still with the Slytherins." Harry nodded in agreement as he poured maple syrup over his porridge. He looked up and down the table. "Isn't Hermione down yet?"
"I guess not," Ron said, still looking at the timetable. He glanced at Harry. "She was acting very oddly on the train yesterday, wasn't she?"
"She was a bit," said Harry vaguely.
"No I mean, really odd," Ron said. "She was so quiet. All she did was stare out the window. She didn't even read a book, or…anything…"
Harry turned as Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown came and sat opposite him and Ron.
"Parvati," said Harry, "Have you seen Hermione this morning?"
"She was still in bed when we came down," Parvati supplied, as she pulled Ron's timetable towards her and studied it. Lavender Brown gave Ron a narrowed-eyed stare.
"You haven't been bullying her again, have you?" Lavender said, "She's been acting very quiet."
"Bullying?" Ron repeated. "What's that s'posed to mean? I haven't done anything to her!"
Lavender's answer was cut off by the arrival of Fred and George Weasley. "'Morning," they said in unison. Fred gave Harry a friendly slap on the back as he pulled up a chair. "Happy to be back, harry?"
"Yeah," said Harry, grinning. Lee Jordan, who was sitting next to Ron, passed down a seventh year timetable to George and the Weasley twins shared a rare moment of silence as they studied it. Lee turned to Harry and Ron. "Where's Hagrid?" he asked.
Harry looked up at the teacher's table. There were a few empty spaces. The defence against the dark arts teacher wasn't there of course- Dumbledore had announced the night before that Defence against the dark arts lessons would be put off until later in the year when they could find someone willing to take the job. But Hagrid's chair was empty too. "I guess he's out preparing lessons," Harry said. "I hope we don't get more blast-ended skrewts this year…"
Just then, Hermione Granger scurried into the hall. She was slightly pink and a little breathless as she sat down next to Parvati. "'Morning," she said, brushing her curls hurriedly out of her face.
"Where've you been?" Ron said. "You'd better hurry up."
"I don't want any breakfast," Hermione said. "I'm not hungry." She poured herself a glass of orange juice. She had a nervous air about her, and she glanced quickly over at the teacher's table. "Hagrid's not here yet?" she said furtively.
"Nope," Harry asnwered. Ron caught Harry's eye and raised his eyebrows.
"What've we got first? Care of magical Creatures?"
"No," said Ron, giving Hermione a slightly suspicious look. "It's herbology first…Look, Hermione…"
He hesitated, an expression of ambivalence on his face. Curiosity got the better of him. "Er…is anything wrong?"
"Wrong? No, no," she said quickly. "I'm just fine." Parvati and Lavender exchanged a dubious glance, making it clear that they didn't believe her. Harry now looked up from his breakfast to look at Hermione. She was blushing- why, Harry didn't know, but she did look very odd. She did not touch her glass of orange juice but instead kept swiveling around to look at the entrance to the Great Hall, as if expecting someone to walk in at any moment. Perhaps she was watching for Hagrid's arrival? Harry wondered. But that was odd. They'd seen Hagrid yesterday, at the Start of term feast. Why was she so anxious to see him?
"Interesting," said Fred, putting his face a few inches from hers, "She's been frozen in time."
"A bizarre phenomenon," agreed George. 'She's probably only just realised how bad Ron smells."
Lavender and Parvati giggled while Ron frowned at his brothers. Hermione gave them a furtive smile but then immediately returned to her fascination with the teacher's table.
"Anyway chaps, we're off. Got to get our things for Divination." Lee said, pushing back his chair. The three seventh year boys left, jokingly shoving each other around.
"Hey, there's Hagrid," said Lavender suddenly, spotting the enormous, bearded man stride into the hall. But there was someone else walking beside him. Someone who was instantly recognisable…
"Hey!" Ron gasped. "What HE doing here?"
"Viktor?" Harry said in amazement. Indeed, Viktor Krum, the famous Bulgarian seeker, competitor in last year's Triwizard tournament, and former student of Durmstrang, was striding into the hall beside Hagrid, chatting to him amiably. Hagrid was nodding and smiling as they strode towards the teacher's table. Dumbledore stood up to greet them. A slight hush went through the hall as Krum reached the teacher's table, as people started to realise what was going on and who Krum was. Harry watched as Dumbledore shook Viktor Krum's hand, and bade him sit down. Ron, Harry, Lavender and Parvati stared. Hermione suddenly looked interested in the patterned tablecloth. And explosion of whispers accompanied the Krum's and Hagrid's entrance, and the students craned their necks, the better to look at Krum. Harry stood up on an impulsively. "Hey, Hagrid!" he called across the hall above the student's chatter. Hagrid looked up, spotted Harry, grinned and waved back. Krum looked Harry's way too, and a smile crossed his face. He walked over to where Harry, Ron, Hermione, Parvati, and Lavender were seated at the Gryffindor table. The Gryffindors whispered excitedly. Hermione knocked a spoon off the table and disappeared under the tablecloth to retrieve it.
"Hey Viktor," Harry said as he drew closer. "What on earth are you doing at Hogwarts?"
"Hello," Viktor beamed, clearly very pleased at the look of amazement on Harry and Ron's faces. "You are surprised to se me, yes?"
"A bit, yeah," said Harry, grinning back. Viktor Krum extended his pale hand to Harry, and Harry shook it. Then he did the same to Ron. Ron still had his mouth hanging open.
"So, what's up then?" Harry said, once Viktor had seated himself beside Harry. "What are you doing here?"
"Don't tell me you're a teacher here now," Ron said. Viktor shook his head.
"No," Krum said in his thick Bulgarian accent. "Your gamekeeper Hagrid…vell, he has agreed to take me on as a student teacher."
"You're kidding," said Harry. "Wow. I didn't know you were so interested in Care of Magical Creatures."
Krum nodded his head vigorously. "Yes, yes, it is my favourite subject. I am liking it here in England very much." He smiled across the table at Hermione as she reappeared, looking very flushed.
"Herm-own-ninny," he said softly. "You are looking vell nice this morning."
"Thank you Viktor," Hermione said in a higher voice than usual. Parvati and Lavender watched her face with interest. She looked highly embarrassed. "So…" she said quickly. "You were able to find a place to stay in Hogsmeade?"
"Yes," said Viktor, still smiling. "Madame Rosmerta is very nice. She has agreed to let me lodge in the Three Broomsticks."
"That's good," said Harry. He noticed with interest that, while Viktor still had a very strong Bulgarian accent, his English showed a marked improvement. Hagrid came ambling up behind Viktor and placed a burly hand on his shoulder. "Alrigh' harry? Ron? Hermi'ne?"
"Hi Hagrid," the three of them chorused. Hagrid gave Parvati and Lavender a friendly nod.
"You girls have a good holiday? Good…we're goin' ter have a busy year, I cin tell you," he said, giving the five Gryffindor students a wink. "Come on Viktor…third years got their first lesson today, and I want it to be interestin'…you're goin' to help me set it up."
"All right Mr. Hagrid," Viktor said, getting to his feet as Hagrid looked bemused at being called "Mr Hagrid". Suddenly, Viktor leant across the table and gave Hermione a swift kiss on the cheek. She flushed redder than Harry had ever seen her. Parvati and Lavender both clapped hands over their mouths and gasped. Next to him, Ron choked on a mouthful of toast. Harry banged him on the back a couple of times as Viktor and Hagrid left the hall. Ron was purple in the face. He put a hand to his chest, still gasping for air, and stared at Hermione in amazement. She seemed to be trying to hide behind a curtain of her bushy hair
"Ooh, Hermione!" Parvati squealed, clutching at Hermione's arm. "You never told me you and Viktor had gotten so close!"
Hermione muttered something incomprehensible under her breath as Lavender seized Hermione's hand.
"You lucky thing! You're going together with Viktor Krum!" She and Parvati let out shrill giggles that made Harry wince and want to block his ears. At Lavender's comment Ron looked quickly at Hermione's face. Her expression was more than a little annoyed. "We aren't going together!" she said hotly, "we're just good friends."
"Oooh!" Lavender and Parvati squealed together. "That is so cute!" Parvati tugged Hermione's arm. "Come on, tell us about it while we go and get our Herbology stuff!" She glanced back at Ron and Harry (Ron was still quite red), with a cry of "See you in Herbology!" and Hermione, squeezed between Lavender and Parvati still making weak protestations, was frogmarched up to the girls' dormitories. Harry gave Ron a grin. "Guess Hermione went to stay at Krum's over the summer after all, eh?" he said. "Come on, we'd better go get our Herbology stuff too."
Ron was still staring in the direction Hermione had gone, speechless.