"Harry, I don't suppose you could get something from Fluffy for me"
"What's that?" Harry Potter rose his head sleepily from the History of Magic textbook. He was still blinking away drowsiness from the last night's fit of insomnia.
"Remember, the assignment due two weeks from yesterday on the Wizarding War?" Hermione tapped Harry's shaggy head as she chided him, "We've got to make reports on the primary sources"
"I'll worry about it when I'm done with this paper I'm doing for next week" Ron grumbled, too busy concentrating on the paper, as if glaring at it would conjure an essay for him.
"What do you need, Hermione?" Harry blinked as he met her gaze
"I was wondering if you had anything among...um...your attic?" She hoped that she wouldn't have to say anything about Grimmauld place in public.
"Oh, I think I might have something around. I guess I can have Kreacher get it for me, but that old bastard's probably burned everything..."
"Kreacher's the number one argument against house-elf rights" Ron quipped.
"He's got a strong sense of honor, why shouldn't he get something for Harry?" Hermione put her fists on her hips and sat back.
"Honor? He was giggling, Hermione. He was giggling when his master-"
An iron grip on Ron's arm told him not to go too far. He didn't have to look at Harry's face to see what he wanted.
"Could someone get a seat for me? 'Arms are full"
Neville Longbottom staggered to the table, arms full of papers and books. Hermione pulled out the chair next to her, but he still covered the table with material as he stumbled into his seat.
"Sorry" Neville said with a grimace as he tried to get his work together.
"What's all this, then?" Ron broke out into a smile for the first time that day and turned to Harry, "I've always wanted to say that"
"Stuff for the history exam. I shouldn't have mentioned it to gran. There's stuff all over the place."
"Blimey, you're getting as bad as Hermione" Ron shook his head, "That's not for another two weeks"
"I know, but I just got these in the mail. Dunno what I'm going to do with them now" the other boy puffed as he struggled to sort the papers, which seemed to come alive in defiance.
"Those would be perfect!" Hermione's face seemed to light up as she saw the mountain of paperwork
"Huh? What's up?" Neville was confused
"Neville, could you let me look at those papers for the next couple of days? I want to get ahead on this"
"Oh, sure" he shrugged, "You all can use this. I really don't think I can read all this in two wee-"
He trailed off as Hermione snatched the papers and began to furiously sort them
"Yeah, I, um, hope this helps...There's this great article by Mrs Marchebanks on it. I only read the first page, but-" Neville stammered as Hermione somehow tamed the paper pile into a proper stack.
"Thanks, Neville, you're a big help" Hermione only stopped to say before running off with the paper pile.
"She's going to read it all" Neville smiled as he watched her hurry into the mass of students going to and from the hall.
"Wish she'd do the essay for all of us" Harry couldn't help but grin.
"You know she'd never do it" Ron shook his head, "Says its against her principles"
"Well, she's right. Responsibility and all that" Neville sighed and leaned back in his chair, "Harry, do you have those potions notes?"
Despite Mrs Longbottoms notorious rage and strictness, Hermione couldn't help but want to hug the old witch as she poured through the papers in the common room. Articles (usually involving the Longbottoms)...photos (one including the former Marauders that Harry would love to see)...posters (One insisting "OWLS CAN BE ENEMIES: DISGUISE AND BUY YOUR OWN BIRDS FOR MAIL")...Something caught her eye.
It was a beat-up looking book, a thin layer of dust on what was once a very pretty notebook. Hermione's curiosity got the best of her, and she turned to examine it as it lay sandwiched between a newspaper article from 1975 and a manual for a dark magic detector.
At opening the front cover, Hermione was surprised to find a curious title for the inside cover, written in a florid hand-
Property of Miss Alice L. Prewett
Prewitt? That was Ron's mum's maiden name. Who was Alice Prewett? Hermione turned the question over in her mind as she looked at the first couple of pages. It was a scrapbook, starting with pictures of numerous kids with odd names, each with subtitled nickname or note. Twins Fabian and Gideon (subtitled "crazy cousins"). Billy Creevy (subtitled "radio boy"). Halley Fitzgerland ("mum's a candymaker"). Tommy Marchbanks ("Head Boy").Godfrey McMillian ("pet fairy") Some she recognized; Arthur Weasley ("carries a muggle watch"), Andromeda Black ("Wonderful doll collection") Brian Finnegan ("Arthur's best mate"), Xenophilus Lovegood ("Friend of the Groundskeeper") and Molly Prewett ("Perfectionist") brought smiles to Hermione's face. Then she saw some that made a shudder of fear travel down her spine. Pire Flint ("probably part troll"). Jaden Crabbe ("rapist?"), Narcissa and Bella Black ("Gruesome twosome. Stay away)". She wondered why Harry's parents and their friends weren't there. Maybe this Alice was on a different year. Then she saw two pictures, both with hearts drawn on them with pink in. Belial Abbot, a tall, blond boy that looked like both a less-ugly Malfoy and a less-beautiful Cedric waved and grinned at her. The other one was a shorter but angular with dark brown hair, light blue eyes, and large teeth. This beaming figure, shifting his posture from one foot to another restlessly, had a more familiar caption; Frank Longbottom.
The realization of just whose scrapbook it was hit Hermione like a falling chandelier.
She read on, unable to tear her eyes away. Slughorn thinks I'm a natural. Prefect Trewlawny caught Cassandra Carrow and Rudolphus Lestrange fighting Arthur Weasley and Frank. Going to Glasgow to visit Belial. Ticket stub to Puddlemere United Game with Frank and Edgar Bones. Grimsbey promotes me and Frank with the twins to top in DADA. Naughty Diggory blows kiss to me and Sammy Holmes during house victory over Slytherin. Dumbledore gives recommendation for Auror training. The captions and pictures went on, showing a shy but very sweet and successful girl that overcame an apparently poor family to become a powerful and wise witch.
The book went on. Grimsbey sponsors pary. Frank asks me out, but Belial asks me out first! Lots of fun with Belial but poor Frank and Molly break up in tears. Should have gone with Frank in hindsight. Hermione couldn't help but remember the Yule Ball and tournament. It looked like what happened to Neville and Ginny happened to their parents. She felt a pang of sandness, like as if she had forgotten an assignment. She continued reading.
The scrapbook went on. Good grades in final exams. Going to miss Hogwarts. Frank and me invited to Arthur and Molly's wedding. Auror classes with Frank a very educational. Frank proposes! I've got one year to prove myself to his mum. The news soon turned black. Dumbledore sends letters of emergency. Frank, Edgar, and the twins meet me at Hog's Head. Dumbledore calls meeting. Meet new members-James Potter and his pals. They're rascals but they're brilliant. Severus Snape looks like a nightmare.
The entries grew more punctuated as the war went on. Saw Voldemort for first time. Frank saves Moody. I killed someone today in a battle. Cassandra Carrow. The other Carrows swear vengeance. Find that Lupin and Greyback both werewolves, but thankful Lupin is on our says Snape is on our side but I don't think so anymore. Pettigrew and Black find giants. Hagrid to negotiate. Belial betrays David Thomas. James' wife Lily pregnant at same time as me. Augusta wants Frank to name him Trevor. Action in Edinburgh. Lupin shows how to kill dementor. Took down a troll today in battle in Devonshire. Dumbledore wants to recruit Augusta but she says Frank can do all she can and more. Snape reports gathering. Barty Crouch Jr loose. I'm not afraid.
The pages became sparser and sparser. In the last pages, there were a few photos of her. Her and Frank. The Longbottoms and the Potters. The Longbottoms and baby Neville. The Potters with baby Harry. The two families with their babies. The last page was a grainy color photo of baby Neville giggling. Trewlawny says he might be target. Take care of him, Augusta. I love my boy.
"Thanks for letting us stay up late, Hermione!" Lavender Brown interrupted her tears, half-teasing, half-playful. Hermione didn't even notice the time or the fact that she was crying.
"Hermione? Are you all right?" Lavender noticed Hermione's expression.
"Sorry. Just studying. I don't want to talk about it right now. Let's go to bed"
"Spoilsport" Lavender quipped but Hermione didn't laugh as they went to the girl's dormitories.
"Dobby came as Harry Potter told! How can he help Miss Granger?" The house elf tipped an enormous stocking cap made of what looked suspiciously like what Hermione and Neville had been sewing.
"Well, can you recognize Neville Longbottom?" Hermione didn't want to use Dobby as an errand boy, but she had to admit he was the right choice for the job.
"Of course, Miss Granger. Mr. Longbottom is a decent wizard and any friend of Harry Potter is a friend of Dobby's" Hermione couldn't help but smile at Dobby's chipper enthusiasm
"Right. I want you to bring him to the Room of Requirements after Potions..."
"I don't understand how you do it, Harry. Hermione wasn't even here, and the elixir came out perfect. How did you ace that?" Neville jostled his cauldron as he tried to keep up with his friend.
"Oh, I've been studying. Maybe my mum's talent is finally coming up" Harry shrugged modestly.
"Gran said that my mum was good as potions, too. Think I'll get better?" Neville looked hopeful
"Maybe, if you get lucky" Harry looked directly ahead of him.
"Mr Longbottom?" Neville felt a sharp tugging at his sleeve
"Oh? Hullo Dobby"
"Dobby helped Miss Granger just as Harry Potter told him to, sir!" The house elf saluted at Harry, "Miss Granger wants Dobby to take Mr Longbottom to a place where she can teach him something very important"
"Do you know what?" Ron peered over Harry's shoulder, having noticed the elf.
"Dobby doesn't know, but Miss Granger wants Mr Longbottom to come and come alone. Follow Dobby, Mr. Longbottom" He gestured
"Probably potions" Ron said with a sigh, "It's not easy for us mortals, Harry. Why won't you just lend me that book of yours?"
"No, Ron. I think your book is just as useful"
Their argument trailed off as Neville followed Dobby down the winding halls of Hogwarts castle. Before long both elf and boy had stumbled into a room.
"The Room of Requirement?" Neville wondered aloud, "What's Hermione up to?"
"Dobby only knows what wizards tell him, sir. Best wishes to Mr Longbottom and Miss Granger!" Dobby bowed.
"Thanks, Dobby.. I'll probably owe you something-" He didn't get to finish, as the House elf popped himself away.
It was when Neville was alone that he realized what the Room of Requirement had become. It wasn't a library, or dueling range, or potions lab. It looked like a dance studio. Neville had only been to one for his dance classes for the Yule Ball, but poor Ginny could attest to his lack of progress. Mirrors and chairs lined the hall, the wooden floor looking freshly waxed.
"Hello, Neville" A familiar voice called to him calmly.
Neville turned to see Hermione standing there, with her finger anxiously curling a hair. And what hair it was. She had styled it and straightened it the same way she had done to the ball. She wore the same perfume that made Neville's chest tighten when he breathed it in. Her face had the same soft makeup that gently suggested her beautiful features and deep brown eyes. She wore the same long blue dress, fitting slightly smaller since she had grown more curves in the past years, but it still looked marvelous on her.
"Hermione?" He squeaked, "What-how-why-I don't understand"
"I owe you for giving me those papers. They really meant a lot for me"
"Well, what else could I do? They're what you needed, after all"
"It's not just that. I found your mum's scrapbook"
"You did?" Neville was shocked, "I didn't know Gran had it!"
"Yes. There's a lot of history about the war and what your parents did, but I found out all about your mother and what you meant to her."
"And what does that have to do with…with…" he gestured at the room's appearance
"Once she went to a dance with the wrong boy. I did the same thing. I owe you a dance" She said sincerely
"Ron wanted to go with you, too"
"He asked because he simply wanted to go. You asked because you cared for me." It was not a guess
Neville was just speechless.
"Do you still remember how to dance?" Hermione asked him as she walked to him.
"Good". The witch pulled her wand from her belt sash and pointed at the ceiling.
A violin melody echoed through the room, bringing a new form of magic into the makeshift hall. As Neville numbly watched, Hermione put her arms on his shoulders and began to dance with him. He couldn't help but dance along with Hermione's graceful movements.
Neville, to Hermione's surprise was a very good dancer. His dark blue eyes were focused on her gaze, never straying. As they danced, the wizard slowly became less hesitant and more graceful, moving in time to the music. They whirled and spun at a lively moment, then swept together. As the music slowed and quieted down, Hermione tightened her embrace and laid her head on his shoulder. This was unlike anything she had experienced before. Victor was truly affectionate, but she could feel a kind of warmth from Neville. She felt his breath steadily warming her bare neck and shoulder, in a steady but very calm tempo.
To Neville's own surprise, he found himself moving gracefully and ably, unable to keep from Hermione. He felt her energy, her vitality, her very self propelling him onwards, giving him the strength to dance like an expert. Somehow this lovely, brilliant witch made a stumbling troll than stepped on his partner into Fred Astaire. The scent of her perfume was intoxicating, and he could feel her warmth and life, the same life that could pull him out of the darkest abyss.
The music slowed and faded, leaving two teenage wizards in a warm embrace. They gently rocked back and forth until stopping, never breaking their clutch. Neville and Hermione stood still, not moving but simply holding each other.
"I love you, Neville" she murmured
"I love you, Hermione" He softly kissed her on the neck
"That means I owe you this, too" She kissed him back