Summary: After being tricked by a supposedly nervous Ginny, Hermione is forced to face her own anxieties in addition to final exams and most importantly Fred Weasley. She is reminded that everyone should feel special sometimes. Fred/Hermione post-Deathly Hallows.
AN: Thanks to my beta Johnathan and my friend Jia who inspired the Ginny in this fic (yes, I was the Hermione doll, and yes it was fun).
And I'm not saying that a girl has to wear make-up to be noticed or look beautiful. I'm just saying that it's nice to be reminded that you are attractive and special, and that a boost to your self-confidence is never a bad thing.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. And I am not responsible for Ginny's actions once she has an idea in her head.
"I don't understand why you are so anxious, Ginny," Hermione attempted to comfort her best girl-friend.
Ginny's muffled reply, "This is different," more accurately sounded like "hisdiffent" spoken through her pillow.
Hermione rose from her bed and landed on Ginny's mattress. She forcefully rolled Ginny onto her back and pried the pillow from her fingers.
"This is different," Ginny repeated before returning her lips to a pout that Hermione knew had been perfected over many years.
"You've taken final exams every year and done well on them," Hermione insisted.
The words whooshed out of Ginny's lungs as if she were a balloon whipping around the room. "But these exams are final; they are the last ones to take, and they determine whether or not I graduate. They determine the rest of my life. I don't know what I'll do if I fail. What if my mind goes completely blank? What if they make me re-take my 7th year? What if I have no future?" Hermione watched the words land all around her—surrounded by her friend's worries.
Hermione placed her hands on Ginny's shoulders. "Take a deep breath Ginny."
Ginny complied, but moved her hands down to rest on her stomach. "I'm even feeling queasy."
Hermione stood and reached a hand out for Ginny. "You just need to get up and moving. Come down to breakfast with me now and eat some toast."
Ginny ignored Hermione's hand. "No, what I need is a distraction, something to take my mind off the exams for just a little while."
Hermione warily followed Ginny's eyes as she scanned the room, finally landing on a dressing table. The wheels inside Ginny's mind were clearly turning in a dangerous but yet unknown direction.
Hermione tried deflecting her. "I still have some last minute studying to do over breakfast. If we don't go now, there won't be time."
Ginny sat up and turned her gaze back to the now helpless girl. "You know the material for every subject better than any other 7th year, even though you were out of school last year."
Hermione subconsciously started backing up to the door.
A smile formed on Ginny's face that reminded Hermione of a character from one of her favorite children's books: the Cheshire cat.
"I know just the thing to keep my mind busy for a few minutes."
"And what would that be?" Hermione asked as she calculated the distance between her position and the exit.
"Please, Hermione, just let me put a little bit of eye shadow on you, and maybe some mascara."
"It would do wonders for my nerves, Hermione." Ginny walked towards the table.
Hermione used her last chance. "Harry will be waiting for you downstairs."
Without a pause she replied, "He can wait for a little bit. This won't take long."
Hermione bit her lip, knowing now that she would lose. "But I never wear makeup."
Ginny patted the seat next to her. "All the more reason to try now. Besides, I would do it for you if you asked for help."
Hermione could only whimper as she accepted her fate.
Twenty minutes later, and many mutterings of:
"You've never been this nervous about an exam before."
"You weren't nervous before a single Quidditch match."
"I don't know how you fought in a war but can't take a test without a distraction."
"Can't Harry distract you?"
Finally, Ginny announced that she was finished.
With a great flourish, she turned Hermione around to face the mirror. The girl who thought of herself only as the class nerd could hardly recognize the face staring back. The wide brown eyes matched her own, but the lashes framing them were longer and darker. A delicate shade of blue rested on her eyelids. Her skin was smooth, with only the palest of pink blush highlighting her cheeks.
She remained there, speechless, until Ginny handed her a tube. "Here, your own lip gloss will look perfect."
"Ginny, how did you do this?" The shock in her voice was more obvious than she had intended.
"It's easy when you have great stuff to work with." Ginny grinned as Hermione applied the gloss. "You've always been really pretty, but now, well, just watch."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"No problem. Now let's get to breakfast. I'm starving and the tests start in a half hour."
As they raced down the stairs, Hermione couldn't help but wonder how Ginny had foundation and powder that perfectly matched Hermione's skin tone, or why the girl's anxiety had suddenly disappeared.
"What if they stare?"
"Then smile back." Ginny tugged Hermione closer to the hall.
"They will think I look ridiculous."
Ginny laughed. "No, they won't."
Hermione pulled Ginny to a stop outside of the doors. "I can't do this. I feel silly."
Ginny looked at her friend's furrowed brows and the lip she was biting. "You really are worried, aren't you?"
Hermione's exasperated glare answered for her.
Ginny squeezed Hermione's hand. "Have a little self-confidence in how gorgeous you are and try to enjoy today. Walk with some pride for who you are and how you look. Now, come on."
Hermione trudged behind Ginny as they walked toward the mostly Gryffindor table. The house divisions were not quite as separate now as before the war, and she saw members of all the houses at the lion's table.
Hermione was still hidden behind Ginny when Harry waved them over to the saved seats. She refused to look at anything except Ginny's back, but could already feel the eyes of students on her.
She had a brief moment of respite while Harry kissed Ginny good morning and Ron's girlfriend quizzed him on charms between bites of toast. Although Ron and Hermione's short relationship had ended on good terms, seeing him with another girl had been awkward at first. Now, she was happy that both of her best friends had found someone, and that Ron had someone else to go to with homework questions.
For once, she was sorry to see her moment of solitude end so soon. True to form, Ron took notice of Hermione's new look by stopping mid-chew, mouth open, to point at her. Much to his sister's dismay, his carefully chosen words were: "What did you do to yourself?"
"Ronald!" Ginny defended her before a clear thought had formed in Hermione's mind.
Harry leaned behind Ginny to meet Hermione's eyes. After a quick glance around her face he smiled. "You look really nice, Hermione."
"Really?" she whispered, as Ginny continued to berate her brother.
"Really," he assured. "And it looks like other people are noticing, too." Before her face could completely scrunch into worry he added, "Noticing in a good way."
"Alright." She moved towards her plate.
"It was Ginny's doing, wasn't it?" Harry asked.
"Yes. She claimed that she needed a distraction from the stress of final exams."
She stabbed her fork towards a potato. Her eyes returned to Harry's in time to catch a secretive glance he shared with Ginny and an unmistakable twinkle in his eyes.
"Well, thanks to you she seems stress-free now."
Hermione's eyes narrowed, "Indeed."
The conversation turned back to the exams as Luna and Dean joined their group. Most of Hermione's class who had missed school last year returned to finish and receive an official Hogwarts diploma. She, Harry, and Ron had been offered honorary degrees but opted to attend classes. Hermione told people that she wanted to be properly prepared for any of her career options. That was true, but the greater reason was that she did not know what her career should be. Sometimes she felt as if she were drifting while her friends were solid in their life goals and relationships.
Now, as she observed everyone on one of their last days together at Hogwarts, she couldn't help feeling that something was missing. This was something that had often crossed her mind over the past year when things were too quiet. Though she would never admit it, she missed the bit of mischief that a certain pair of red-heads once brought to this place, one in particular whom she had not stopped thinking about since his voice on a radio had made her laugh.
After breakfast, the day was a blur of questions and frantically written answers for everyone. For Hermione, there was a seemingly endless stream of compliments from her friends and approving glances from others.
At the start of the day, she tried hiding behind her locks of hair or books or whatever was handy. She walked hastily with her head down. As the day progressed, the self-proclaimed bookworm began straightening her back and meeting the gazes that found her. Her continuous blush faded into a slightly embarrassed smile.
"I told you," whispered Ginny before dinner.
"This is crazy. I can't believe that I'm getting this much attention from a little mascara."
"My dear Hermione," Ginny draped an arm around her shoulder, "people have always looked at you. It's just a little more obvious today. And besides, you deserve to look special sometimes."
Hermione's suspicions returned. "Are you sure that your nerves are the only reason for my make-over today?"
Ginny smiled. "Just grin and bear the burden that is your beauty."
They had barely begun eating dinner when Ginny nudged Hermione. "Hurry up—we have to get ready for the party."
"The post-exams but pre-graduation party," Harry answered.
"And how long has this been planned?" asked Hermione.
"A few weeks now, I think. Ever since Harry got Aberforth's permission to use the portrait passageway," Ron replied.
Ginny quickly tried to throw a wrench between the wheels turning in Hermione's mind. "All of the 7th years will be meeting at the Room of Requirement at 8:00. Some alumni will be there too, like Neville and Seamus."
Hermione's eyes remained narrowed. "It will be good to see everyone."
Ginny continued with a sly grin. "And I hear that the old Quidditch team is having a reunion."
The wheels were effectively halted. "All of the old Quidditch team?"
"I believe so."
Hermione picked at her dinner as her friends finished eating. Her stomach had dropped at Ginny's news and refused to recover. Suddenly, Hermione had become the bundle of nerves in need of a distraction.
The last time Hermione had seen him was at the most recent Hogsmeade weekend over a month ago. Although he ran the London location, Fred always dropped by the Hogsmeade branch of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes when he knew the students would be in town. She had gone with him to the Three Broomsticks for a bit of quiet—just two friends sharing a butter beer, it seemed.
"Come on, Hermione." Ginny provided a much needed interruption. "Let's go get dressed."
For once, Hermione didn't argue as her best girl-friend dragged her up the stairs to their room. Ginny sat Hermione down on her bed and started going through their wardrobes.
"You should wear blue, you look great in that color. Remember the dress you wore to the Yule ball? Wear your skirt with the swirling lines of blues, white and silver." She tossed the skirt into Hermione's lap. "Oh, and you should borrow my blue top, it will look perfect."
As the girls changed, Hermione's wheels began turning again. She looked at herself in the mirror and had to admit that the outfit looked nice on her; the face staring back had even grown on her. But still…
"Ginny, it's an amazing coincidence that the eye shadow you chose for me this morning happens to match this shirt exactly, don't you think?"
The red-head didn't bother trying to deny her plan.
"Look, I don't know how it happened or when or why, and I don't really want to know. All I need to know is that you're lonely and obviously have an interest in my brother. And he's been looking at you the same way. So here is a chance for both of you. You look amazing and your self-confidence is at an all time high after passing the exams and receiving compliments all day. Use it to your advantage and let loose a little tonight. The rest will work itself out. But I warn you now that if something doesn't happen eventually, I'm trapping you both under the mistletoe at Christmas."
"You really are like your mother sometimes."
"You're welcome." She shoved Hermione out the door. "Let's go."
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Hermione had never considered herself to be a fidgeter. She didn't chew on quills while studying or tap her fingers on tables. She certainly did not twirl her hair. But after an eventless hour at the party she was playing with her skirt like an old pro.
She wandered by Ginny for the thirtieth time. "Where is he?"
With some effort Ginny held back a sigh. "He'll be here."
"George has been here for over a half-hour." Her eyes swept the room again.
"I just spoke with George. He said that Fred had to pick up Verity on his way over. I bet she's just running late." Too late did Ginny realize the possible implications of her words.
"Pick her up? Like on a date?" Hermione's already knotted stomach tightened.
Ginny recovered quickly. "No. Not a date. They are just friends. In fact, I have a feeling that he's bringing her for George."
Hermione took a deep breath. "Okay."
"Why don't you go talk with Neville and Hannah?" Ginny suggested.
"They're dancing. I don't want to interrupt." Hermione's vision drifted back to the portrait passageway.
Harry joined the ladies, oblivious to his fate. Ginny's eyes lit. "Harry, you should dance with Hermione."
A twin chorus of "What" replied.
"But I'm a terrible dancer," Harry insisted.
"He doesn't need to," agreed Hermione.
"You were dancing fine with me only a few minutes ago, and Hermione needs to have some fun. Now go."
This was a battle they could not win.
After they found a place on the dance floor, Harry confessed, "She really is a lot like her mother."
Hermione laughed for the first time that evening. "That same thought crossed my mind earlier today. Think you can keep up with her?"
Harry paused for a moment, a small smile on his face, "I think I can spend my life trying."
A slow song came on and the two friends struggled to find an appropriate position.
Just as their hands had settled, Ginny caught Hermione's eye. A grin filled her face. She nodded at Hermione.
A voice from behind startled Hermione, but made her heart skip for an entirely different reason.
"May I cut in?"
She hardly noticed Harry slipping away as Fred took his place. There was no awkwardness between them. Fred's hands confidently took their natural place at her waist as hers fell over his shoulders.
"Hello," he said, staring down at her.
For a moment she was overwhelmed with everything: the sight of him in front of her, the feel of dancing with him, the scent of his cologne.
"I was beginning to think that you weren't coming," she finally replied.
"I was only running a bit late. I would never miss this." He deftly tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear.
Fred pulled away to gently spin her, and quickly returned her to his arms.
"You look nice, Mione."
"You think so?" She couldn't hide the doubt in her voice.
"But to be fair, I've always thought you look beautiful no matter what you're wearing."
Hermione's cheeks filled with her blush. She leaned into him and felt truly content for the first time in years.
"Hmmm?" she answered with her head resting on his shoulder.
He took a deep breath. "Would you like to go to dinner with me next week?"
She looked up at the man who had unknowingly captured her heart long ago.
"I thought you'd never ask."
And then, deciding not to waste any more time, she pulled him down to her for their last first kiss.
As the cheering around them died down, Hermione whispered into her boyfriend's ear, "Remind me to keep Ginny away from the mistletoe at Christmas, just in case."
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The end. Hope it made you smile.