Feeling Like A Girl

By lorelover

Disclaimer: Harry Potter, and all the characters associated there with belong to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and probably some other people. Also any similarities to any other work from here are unintentional. I make no profit from this story and I write this just for fun.

AN: "Feeling Like A Girl" is my first attempt at fanfiction, and is actually a small part of a much bigger story I currently working on. This part occurs in the middle somewhere, during fourth year. I decided to pull this chapter out, add just a bit, and post it as a one shot, hoping to get some feedback and maybe improve the rest of the story. Hopefully I caught all things that are non canon that you would know about if you had read the whole story. The rest I'll tell you about.

Neither Harry nor Hermione went to the Burrows during summer break. They also didn't go to the Quidditch World Cup. Ron and Harry are not quite back to there old friendship yet… that should do it.

Feeling Like A Girl

As the last week of November started, students were beginning to get excited about Christmas. Harry, Hermione, and Ron along with several other Gryffindors had just been enjoying one of Hogwarts fine breakfast meals, when Professor McGonagall stood form the staff table and walled over to the podium to make an announcement. "May I have your attention please" she began "It is part of the Tri Wizard Tournament tradition for the school that is hosting, to hold a Yule Ball" Pandemonium immediately broke out.

Most of the girls, all of them as far as Harry could tell instantly started talking excitedly amongst themselves, the boys on the other hand were deadly quiet, and some even had looks of terror on there faces. Harry looks over at Hermione who is talking to Ginny so fast, he was hard pressed to even understand every third word. Looking around at the rest of the table, it seamed only Ron looked as nervous as he himself felt. Maybe Neville a little too, it was hard to tell with him as he always looked a little nervous.

The Twins on the other hand didn't seem bothered at all. "Oye Harry, why the panicked look" Fred asked with a huge smile that told Harry he already new, but had to ask anyway.

Harry had good reason to feel the way he did, he and surprises normally didn't mix well. And here was yet another in a growing list, and the term wasn't even close to being over.

"Well for one thing, I've never been to a ball before, don't even know how to dance." Harry started "Most likely end up stepping all over my date's feet making a fool out of myself. Not sure who'd want to go with someone like that?" he finished, now feeling slightly down.

As the twins laughed, Ginny rolled her eyes and said "Your Harry Potter, The Boy Who Slew a Dragon, who wouldn't go with you."

Hermione with a small smile added "Yeah Harry, you're a Tri Wizard Champion, I'm sure you will find someone."

Harry clueless and a little frustrated mumbles "but who."

Neville looks over at Harry "I'd ask someone I know and like."

Ron jumps in with "I'm going to ask someone hot looking." While Hermione and Ginny just shook there heads in amazement.

The twins who had been watching all this with a smile on there face, burst out laughing "And good luck with that little Ronniecans." Ron glared at the famous pranksters, every one else laughed at the comment.

Harry glances back to Hermione who is talking to Ginny again and sighs "It's always something," not noticing the quick look she gives him right after he turns away.

Later that afternoon the trio find themselves back in the common room. Harry had spent most of the morning and all of lunch thinking about the ball and who he might ask. Cho a girl from Ravenclaw had caught his eye, she was quite pretty but he really didn't know her very well. That was Harry's problem, all the girls he thought about, he either didn't like, didn't know, or they were only interested in him because he was 'Harry Potter'. "Maybe I'm going about this all wrong" Harry thought "Who do I know, like and at least looks nice." As Harry sat staring into the fire from his spot on the couch, it finally came to him, a smile slowly crept up his face, "I've known her forever, of course I like her and she is certainly pretty." His mind made up, Harry decides he'll ask her after dinner.

Dinner came and went and again the trio are back in the common room. Ron and Dean are playing a game chess while Harry sits across from Hermione working on schoolwork. "Oye Harry your next."

"Sorry Ron, I think I'm going to try and finish this."

Ron looks over and lets out a long yawn "Okay, well I am kind of knackered, guess I'll head up to bed, when are ya coming up." Things were still a little cool between them and although Ron had apologized, he couldn't help continuing to feel a little angry at Harry sometimes. He didn't know why, but it was there, just below the surface… waiting.

Harry looking a bit nervous replies "Ah, in a bit Ron" glancing at Hermione "I'm almost finished with this and then I ah, wanted to talk to Hermione about something." Mentally crossing his fingers and hoping he won't ask what. Even though he had known Hermione for over three years now, this was going to be hard enough without Ron being there, who's knows what he might end up saying.

Ron gives Harry a weird look, then shrugs his shoulders before turning to the stairs "Alright mate, see you later, night Hermione."

"Night Ron" Hermione says while looking at Harry and wondering just what he might want to talk about. A short time later Hermione closes her book and starts to put away her things. "So you wanted to talk?" She begins looking back up at Harry. Harry, who was already nervous, starts to fidget and she can't help but notice. "Harry you alright?"

Harry takes a deep breath and tries to calm himself "Yeah, I ah…" Harry looks around to see if there alone in the room.

"Harry is everything okay?" Hermione asks, becoming a little more concerned.

Realizing he can't stall any longer "Ah, yeah, sorry" Harry turns and looks at Hermione "Has anyone asked you to the ball yet?"

Caught slightly off guard "No, not yet" she answered with a small blush. Hermione wasn't sure why she felt that way, but hoped the dim light of the room would hide the color in her cheeks.

"Well you know I can't dance, and my hair is always out of control, and," Harry starts while looking down.

Hermione cuts him off "Harry".

He looks up to see her smiling and regains some confidence. "Hermione, I was hoping you might like to go to the ball with me" he finished uneasy, sure that she would say no.

Hermione was dieing to go to the ball and couldn't wait to be asked by someone, even though she doubted anyone would think to ask the school bookworm. She had briefly though of Harry, but had little hope he would ask. It wasn't as if she fancied him, but she did kind of find him handsome. Plus she thought "We always get along so well together, we'd have fun." Hermione smiled "Of course Harry, I'd love to go with you to the ball" and now it was her turn to look down while blushing even more.

Harry looking surprised "Really, that's great, hey maybe I can even learn to dance a little". Both Harry and Hermione sat looking at each other with excited smiles, the moment seemed to last forever… until Professor McGonagall walked in.

"Ah Mr. Potter, I'm glad your sill up" she looked both angry and sad at the same time.

"What's up Professor?" Harry asked unable to keep the glee out of his voice.

She quirked an eyebrow at him for a moment, then became serious, "I'm afraid I have a terrible request to make of you Harry". Harry glanced over to Hermione who had a worried look on her face then back to his head of house. "It would seem that during the ball there will be a considerate number of members from both the Ministry and the international press."

"I don't see how that has anything to do with me Ma'am" Harry said slightly confused.

"Neither do I" said McGonagall letting a wee bit of her Scottish accent and anger slip out "But the Ministry is afraid that the foreign press will not understand your involvement and they are worried about there image."

"So let me guess, they don't want Harry to attend?" Hermione asked half jokingly, then seeing the serous look on her professor's face added "do they have the right?"

McGonagall wasn't surprised that her smartest student was able to figure it out so fast.

"No, but I'm afraid the Headmaster dose" she replies uneasily.

Hermione now clearly upset practically yells "unbelievable, what in the world is he thinking? That's not fair, Harry has more than earned the right to be there."

After a short pause McGonagall sadly continues "I know, and believe me, I feel the same way as you… But"

Harry interrupts "but Professor Dumbledore thinks they may be right."

Her face becoming red with anger, Hermione goes on "Harry has done everything they've asked of him, this is just wrong!"

Professor McGonagall turns to Harry "the Headmaster will not force you to stay away Harry but he will try to talk you out of it, so really it's up to you."

Harry glances at Hermione then back to McGonagall "well I would like to go, especially since I know who I'd be going with." Harry turns and gives Hermione a small smile. Then continues "but seeing as half the school still thinks I cheated to get in the tournament in the first place, and I sure don't want any more controversy." Both of them have a concerned look as they wait for Harry to continue. "If the headmaster thinks its best, I guess I'll do as he request." Looking back at Hermione "even though I can't dance I'm sure I would have had a great time going with you." He can see the disappointment on her face and it makes him at the same time both, mad at the injustice and sad for how this is affecting Hermione. Looking down Harry says softly "I'm sorry, Hermione I don't know what else to do."

Hermione can see the conflict in his eyes, duty versus desire. Although he hides his feeling well, she knows he wants to go, but also how much he respects the Headmaster. This is just another example of how life seems to treat Harry Potter. And Hermione is starting to get pretty tiered of it, moving to stands next to Harry she turns towards Professor McGonagall, her eyes flashing with anger "I can't believe this, its wrong, and we all know it, Professor Dumbledore knows it, and…and it's so unfair." Hermione's voice quivers a bit as she goes on "what's Harry supposed to do, just sit around up here while everyone else is having a good time." Hermione was definitely worked up now as she turned back to Harry and put a hand on his arm. "Don't worry Harry, if you can't go then I'm not going either, I'll stay here with you and we can have our own dance, right here."

"Hermione no" Harry says looking up suddenly, desperation in his voice. "I know you would stay and I really can't express how much I appreciate it, but you've done so much for me already. This ball is going to be very special, and who knows if there'll be another one before we graduate." Harry smiled slightly "and besides they're practically made for girls." Taking both her hands in his, "Hermione please don't pass it up because of me. I want you to go, I want you to have a good time, and then you can come back here and tell me all about it." Harry stares at Hermione while she is looking down, he doesn't have to see the sad look on her face to know exactly how she feels. After a few seconds Harry says "okay?" Slowly she looks up, her teary eyes finally meeting his. She looks at Harry with concern for a few more seconds then leans forward and wrapped him in a tight hug. Harry closes his eyes and hugs her back then whispers gently "Hermione, please."

Hermione didn't like the idea, she had really been looking forward to going with Harry. But she knew this wasn't easy for him either, so with her head still on his shoulder she reluctantly nods yes.

Professor McGonagall while looking at Harry puts a hand on Hermione shoulder giving it a gentle squeeze saying softly "I'm sorry," then slowly turns and walks away.

After a few minutes of silence Harry pulls back and says "well we better get to lunch or we'll miss it completely."

Hermione still angry says bitterly "yeah we better, before they ask you to stop eating as well."

Harry takes her hand and gives it a little squeeze to show he appreciates her support, and at the same time gives a short laugh and says "come on, let's go."

Down in the Great Hall they meet up with Ron, Ginny, Neville, and the twins. Ron seeing how they look asks "what's wrong with you two?"

Harry replies as he sits down "McGonagall had some bad news".

Hermione jumps in with "she told Harry that Dumbledore didn't think it was a good idea for him to go to the ball".

"What, why not?" Ginny says a little louder than necessary.

"He's afraid he might cause the school some kind of controversy or some such rubbish" Hermione huffed.

Neville shook his head "well that's just stupid, what are you going to do Harry?"

As Harry was about answer, Viktor walks up and nods hello to all. Harry nods back then turns back to Neville "what can I do, I'll stay away like he asked."

"We'll now at least you don't have to find the date" Ron manages to say between bites, not entirely sure if he should feel bad for Harry or not.

Victor who had initially come over to talk to Hermione, now turns to Harry "yous are not going to the ball, but vhy?"

Harry with a touch of sarcasm in his voice gives his one-word answer "Dumbledore".

The twins share a look before rushing over to Harry one on each side,

"Don't worry Harry" Fred starts

"Yeah, we'll take you" George continues

"It'll be a threesome" they finished together.

"Ah…Gee thanks, but no".

Victor not quite sure what to think of the twins decides to ignore them "Harry I'm sorry you're not going, as a Tri-Wizard Champion you should be there."

Harry who was also trying to ignore the twins looks back up at Victor, slightly surprised "Thanks."

Victor gives one a quick nod then turns to look at Hermione and in a slightly softer voice asked "Her_mi_o_ne I vas vondering if you had a date for the ball yet?"

Ron had been sitting quietly listening to the conversation about this latest development while he finished his dinner, at hearing this he started laughing looking first at Hermione then to Victor "It's only the first day are you mental?"

Hermione glaring at Ron said "As a matter of fact I had a date but he had to cancel".

"Right". Ron said still laughing.

"Shut up Ron." Ginny and Harry said at the same time.

While Ginny continued to glare at her brother Ron, Hermione looked at Harry silently thanking him with her eyes. By now, Neville, Ginny and the twins had figured out who had asked Hermione to the Ball, Ron of course was still clueless.

Victor was also fairly sure who Hermione was referring to as well "Her_mi_o_ne then I vas vondering since you don't have a date now vould you consider going with me?"

Everyone was now staring at Hermione who was obviously put on edge by the question. Hermione while looking back at the others noticed that it seemed Ron could not believe his ears. And Harry looked slightly depressed for a moment before quickly covering his emotions. The rest just seemed to be waiting to see what would happen.

Hermione while looking between Harry and Victor, then back to Harry a very concerned look on her face tried to answer "Well, Ah…I'm not sure…I"

Harry sees she's worried about hurting his feelings, they continued to stare each other for a moment until finally Harry gives a small smile and says "I'm sure Victor will be a perfect gentleman Hermione" with a look in his eyes that tells her its okay. She smiles back at him, but it doesn't quite reach her eyes.

Hermione and Harry both slowly stand up and turn to face Viktor. Hermione would've rather stayed back in the common room with Harry during the ball, but she also knew that if she forced the issue she would only make Harry feel guilty. So with a reluctant smile she accepts Victor's invitation who gives a quick nod before returning to his own table. Hermione glances back at Harry, it only took one brief look, he wasn't the type to get jealous but that didn't mean Harry didn't wish that he was the one taking her to the dance. She saw it in his eyes, and his shoulders slumped just a little, he tried to cover it up but she could read him like a book. Harry smiled and nodded one more time before turning and leaving for class. Hermione knew Harry was happy for her. The problem was, her own feelings.

The next couple of weeks seem to fly by, between classes and preparing for end of term exams there was hardly any time left, and if you happened to be going to the Ball, well then you pretty much spent that time getting ready. Harry stay busy by either studying or reading, anything to keep his mind off what every one else was thinking about. But no matter how hard he tried, the closer the Yule Ball got, the more he found himself thinking about the Hermione and the dance.

Harry was sitting in the common room he had just put away his charms book after he had found himself reading the same passage again for the third time.

"Hey Harry" Hermione said as she plopped down next to him on the couch.

Harry looked up and smiled "Hey you're self".

"You looked pretty deep in thought there, am I interrupting?"

Harry motioned around the room with his hand as if to show her something "Not much to interrupt… no I was just thinking."

Hermione smiled and tilted her head just a bit for effect, her eye's full of mirth but never leaving his "Does it hurt or do you feel well enough to talk about it?"

Harry laughed "Funny girl…actually if you must know I was thinking I might find someone to teach me how to dance."

It was good to see him smiling again, but the look on her face quickly changed from happy to curious "Harry, has something happened, are you going to the dance now" she asked hopefully.

Harry bright smile faded as he shook his head no "Afraid not, I just, well I just figured since everyone is all caught up in the Ball and everything… why not" Harry could still see the questions behind her eyes. "Look, there will probably be another one someday right, and if not here then somewhere else and I don't have a clue about dancing".

"So…you've been thinking a lot about the Ball" Hermione had been pretty sure that it had been on his mind lately and was one of the reasons he'd been so moody.

"No… I just"

"Harry please, you know you can't…" But Hermione didn't finish, she noticed he had a look that almost begged her to just drop it. "Fine, so who where you thinking of asking for help then?"

"Well…" Harry started rather sheepishly "I had thought of you, but then… well I thought you would feel kind of awkward plus your already so busy and all" Harry had been looking down and now turned away, so he didn't notice the small smile creping up her face. "Anyway I thought maybe, McGonagall?"

Hermione reached out and touched his arm gently "Harry" her voice was soft "McGonagall is a good start… but I think you'll need a partner" Harry head snapped back around catching her off guard making her jump slightly. She removed her hand and sat back a little "I mean, you don't really want to dance with her do you". Seeing she had thought of something he hadn't, she felt a little braver and continued "you know I've never been to a Ball either so I'm sure I'd be rubbish if I didn't get a little practice in myself". Now it was Hermione's turn to look uncomfortable.

Harry sat there just staring at her, she had already helped him so much and he knew Hermione could probably dance great. After a moment of awkward silence Harry chuckled and said "Hermione I doubt there's anything your rubbish at, but if you really want to, I think you'd be a great partner."

Hermione beamed, he knew she was only trying to help and yet he didn't make a big deal about it, and the best part was, she'd get to spend a little time with him learning something besides trying to stay alive in that blasted tournament, they'd be dancing. "Great talk to Professor McGonagall and let me know where and when, okay"

"Kay" Harry said as he watched Hermione practically bounce of the couch and make her way up to her dorm room. "Well, back to Charms" Harry thought, he certainly wanted to have his work done before asking his professor for help.

The day before the Ball Victor, Flue, and Cedric are called into McGonagall's office. "Ah, were all here, good, the reason you've been summoned is to discuss protocol for the Yule Ball." Cedric looks around again. "Is there a problem Mr. Diggory?"

"No ma'am, but where's Harry?"

"Mr. Potter will not be attending the Ball."

"Ah of course, he knows it iz for zee real Champions." Flue says as if it is obvious.

Cedric rounds on Flue, annoyed with her attitude. "Harry is a real champion." Remembering Harry's sense of fair play and the warning he'd received about the dragon in the first task, Cedric felt he should at least speak up for Harry in his absents. "He fought a dragon just like us, did he not? And as I recall he bested you."

Flue opened her mouth to argue but was cut off by McGonagall. "Enough! For reasons I can not go into, Harry will not be there, and there will be no further discussion on this matter, is that clear?" After receiving three acknowledgments she continued on letting them know both what to expect, and what was expected of them.

Leaving McGonagall's office an hour later, Victor pulls Cedric aside in a small alcove. "I don't know the reason vhy, but it is your Headmaster who is keeping your Mr. Potter from the Ball"

Cedric looks up surprised. "You're sure?"

"I am" Victor can see the doubt in his opponent's eyes. "I don't know how he became a champion, but he is… so he… like us… should be there."

"Right, I don't know how he got into this ether" Cedric said shaking his head a little "but your right, he should be there." Even with the language barrier, Victor could hear the determination clearly in his voice. Even after only one task, three of the champions were already beginning to form a camaraderie.

After announcing himself to the gargoyle, Cedric was admitted up to the Headmasters office. He already had a plan in mind, having just spent the last half hour going over the situation in his head. If he was honest with himself he knew he wanted to win the tournament. But he wanted to win fair and square, and that meant everybody got treated the same. Although this was only a dance, maybe next time Harry would be excluded from something more important. Maybe next time they would leave himself or one of the others out. No matter what, Harry had worked just as hard in the first task as anyone, so he should be allowed to join in the funs parts as well.

"Enter" came the business like voice of Dumbledore.

Pushing the door open, Cedric approached his Headmasters desk. Dumbledore was still looking down, apparently busy with some paperwork. Cedric stood tall waiting to be acknowledged, but he couldn't help feeling a little intimidated.

"Ah, Mr. Diggory, a pleasant surprise, lemon drop?" Dumbledore said while peering over his glasses.

"No thank you sir."

"Very well then, what can I do for you?" His eye's taking on there trademark twinkle.

"I don't believe you've been in my office in quite awhile."

Cedric didn't know how, but somehow he suspected this man knew exactly what he wanted. It might have been the light or maybe just his imagination, but as he looked Dumbledore in the eye, he was sure the man could see right through him. "Sir I've come to ask that you reconsider, and let Mr. Potter attend the Ball."

"I see, and what exactly did Mr. Potter tell you?"

"Ah, well you see… I didn't exactly talk to him directly sir… I found out at the champions meeting this afternoon." Dumbledore continued to just sit there and look at him with a slightly amused smile on his face, so he added "Professor McGonagall told us that he would not be there, later it was Victor who said it was your decision."

"Ah, I see…Yes that is unfortunately true." The smile faded and suddenly the Professor looked older than before. "And I'm afraid I must stand by that decision."

"Sir this doesn't have anything to do with the circumstances surrounding his entry into the tournament, because if it doses I…"

Dumbledore raised a hand stopping the young man's protest mid sentence. "No it does not Mr. Diggory, there are, "other" factors involved… and for the record I too believe Mr. Potter."

"That's good to know sir, but it doesn't make it right. Harry didn't ask for this, and yet he's done all you've asked him to do, and with virtually no help what so ever." Taking a deep breath, Cedric stood straight and looked his Headmaster in the eye. "It's not fair sir, and knowing that, bothers me. Therefore in good conscience, I don't think I can attend the Yule Ball either. I'm afraid Hogwarts will not have a representative." Cedric knew he was pushing his luck by playing that card, but right now he really didn't care. "Please understand sir, I'm not threatening you I…I'm just not comfortable with the way things are." Sensing defeat he finished in a quieter tone "I just felt you should know as soon as possible."

Dumbledore had been angry with himself every since he had backed down and let the Ministry talk him into keeping Harry away. Here stood a student, standing up for the rights of another. It seemed even he "The Great Albus Dumbledore", was not too old to learn a lesson, maybe it was time to rectify that decision. "I trust he will still be able to find a date at this late time." Cedric was suddenly at a lost for words and it must have shown as Dumbledore continued after a slight chuckle. "That is, if you can convince Harry to go."

"Ah…" Cedric was trying to catch up, trying to figure out how exactly, he had won. "Yes sir, I'm sure on both counts."

"Excellent," Dumbledore said, then peering over his spectacles, added with hint of amusement, "is there anything else Mr. Diggory?"

Two hours later, a frustrated Cedric left Harry to look for help. He had not been able to talk him into going to the ball as Harry was just not interested anymore. "Ron, hold up," the younger boy stopped and turned around, a surprised look on his face. Catching up, Cedric started "Hi, um you remember me from summer and all, right" sticking his hand out reintroducing himself.

"Yeah, of course, not to mention pretty much everyone knows who you are, being a champion and all." Ron smiled, still completely unsure why he wanted to talk to him.

"Look, I need your help with something."

Ron smile brightened, "really, sure" glad to be associated with the sixth year somehow.

"Your friends with Harry right."

Ron's smile fell, he should have known, it's always about Harry. Letting his frustration get the better of him, he answered bitterly "Not at the moment"

Cedric wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but really didn't have time to worry about it. "Oh, ah, I see," although he didn't "well is there someone you could recommend, I know a lot of people still aren't talking to him."

Ron shook his head once and with a huff said coolly "Try Hermione, she's his biggest fan," Then turned and walked away without saying another word.

Hermione stepped out of the portrait after being summoned by second year she didn't know. "Hello Mr. Diggory, you asked to see me?" Unlike Ron, she had a fairly good idea this was about Harry, why else would he want to talk to her.

"Hello Miss. Granger, and please, call me Cedric I'm not that old am I."

"No of course not, then it's Hermione"

Cedric smiled "Great, look I'll get right to it, I need your help with Harry, I've been told you are good friends with him, right?"

Hermione nodded her face now showing a little concern "is this about the tournament?"

Cedric noticed her look "oh no!" He said quickly holding up his hands to stop her from worrying anymore "well not exactly anyway, it's about the ball."

"The ball, but Harry not…"

"I know, Harry was not supposed to attend…"


"Yeah I, well me and the others didn't like the idea of excluding him, so I kind of talked the Headmaster into changing his mind"

Hermione couldn't help but notice his slight reluctance to take credit. "Talked… the Headmaster into changing his mind." Part question, part statement she replied smiling, glad that someone else felt the injustice.

Cedric smiled, he could see why Harry liked her. "Anyway, when I told Harry he could go, he wouldn't have any part of it. He all but flat out refused, not interested he said."

"So you want me to talk him into going." She said accusingly but with a smirk.

"Well yeah, you're about the only one he'll listen to, besides I already did the hard part." Cedric countered with a smirk of his own.

It was only a little while later as Hermione sat at her favorite table in the common room trying to work on a charms essay. She was having a bit of trouble concentrating, her mind keep drifting back to Harry. On the one hand she was glad Harry was finally able to go to the ball, but on the other hand… that meant he'd need a date, and for some reason, that bothered her. It wasn't an intellectual thing, more like a feeling. Something sitting in the bottom of her gut, churning, like a sour meal. She was just about to give up on her homework and go look for Harry when she heard the portrait open.

As soon as Harry entered the common room he felt her eyes on him, looking around he spotted her just starting to stand up. Harry new almost instantly she had something to tell him, he could tell by the way she stood… a slight nervousness in her eyes, her hands held together more tightly than normal. As he approached he briefly wondered when he had started to notice things like that. Harry gave a small smile "Hey… you all right?"

Hermione relaxed a bit and thought of how typical it was of him to worry about her, he must have seen how uncomfortable she was. "Hi Harry… ah, I wanted to talk to you, do you have a moment?" Harry raised an eyebrow as if to say "this ought to be good and don't dodge the question." "I'm fine Harry, really, please, let's sit."

"Okay, what's up?"

"Well um…" Not quite sure how to start, Hermione knew Harry could be very stubborn and she didn't want to anger him. Even though she had worked out what to say earlier, she now found herself stumbling.

Harry smiled "Hermione…look at me." She'd been looking everywhere but at him. As she met his eyes he continued "What ever is bothering you… you know you can tell me, right?"

Hermione sighed "Cedric came by"

Now Harry understood, "Oh did he now" Harry said as his smile grew.

Hermione was taken back, she had expected him to get upset for interfering "you're not mad?"

"Should I be, you're not conspiring against me are you?" Harry voice was serious but his eyes and smile gave him away.

"Of course not Harry, don't even joke about that." Hermione had been accused of helping Victor by Ron and it had hurt.

"I'm sorry Hermione, your right, it was a bad joke. I would never think that"

"Thanks… Harry why won't you consider going to the ball now that you can?"

Harry's smile faltered "I don't know, it feels… kind of forced… I'm sure Dumbledore didn't just change his mind to be nice." Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly "it's like I'm a pawn and he playing me, if I go… I'm kind of saying 'it's okay'."

Hermione was staring straight at Harry, but it was his turn to avoid eye contact, he sat still looking down at the table. "I can see how you would feel that way, but don't forget, he didn't want you to go in the first place." Hermione paused to let her last remark sink in "if you don't go, then he gets what he wanted originally anyway and no one can blame him for you not showing up."

"Yeah, that's a good point, but still I don't know… its tomorrow, where am I even going to find a date, there's no way… maybe I should just…"

Hermione cut him off, "oh no you don't Mr. Potter, your not getting out of this that easy." Harry looked up surprised at her tone. "You won't know till you ask around, I'm sure you find someone pleasant to go with… even this late." She had him and they both knew it.

"Hermione!" Harry whined

"Harry, you made me go… now I'm making you go… got it, good!" Harry gave a reluctant sad smile and nodded his head once. "Harry I just want you to have a good time, please go… for me?"

"Wasn't that my line… and I thought I was the only one who could pout like that."

Hermione smiled "What, this?" she pointed to her now mock sad face "well, I did learn it from a pro after all."

This time Harry laughed in earnest "fine I'll go if it makes you happy, even if I have to ask Pansy."

Hermione laughed too "Harry I said someone pleasant."

As they settled down Harry leaned forward "there is one condition though."

Hermione noticed the tiny smirk even though Harry tried to act serious. "And what would that be?" She asked cautiously.

The smirk went away and Harry reached over and took hold of her hands, and with a soft smile said gently "you have to save me the last dance."

Hermione was touched by his request, and the look of sincerity on his face almost brought her to tears. No one had ever treated her with such tenderness before. "Oh Harry… of course I will," she gave his hands a little squeeze "even if you hadn't asked, I still would have." Later that night when Hermione looked back, she would realize that this was yet another moment… Harry was slowly becoming more important to her.

Harry was in a near panic, the Ball was tomorrow and he still didn't have a date. "Can't you go stag Harry?" Ron asked knowing what was wrong, and feeling a bit smug knowing he had a date, some Hufflepuff.

"No Ron, not as a champion. I'm supposed to start the dance… kind of hard to do by you're self." Harry snapped. Ron tensed, he knew Harry couldn't go solo, but wanted to get a jab in anyway. He was still a little unsure about how Harry had become a champion, whether or not he had indeed cheated. Ron wanted to believe Harry, but he found it hard to do so. "Who wouldn't want to be a champion after all" he thought. However he didn't really want to alienate him either. Seeing Ron's look, Harry sighed then said "sorry Ron, didn't mean to take it out on you."

"Yeah… well its okay." Ron relaxed and looked back at Harry for a moment, then a thought occurred to him and he jumped up "hey mate, I just remembered something," Harry slowly stood telling Ron to go on with his hands "Padma's date had to cancel last night, something about a family emergency of sorts."

"Really" hope in his voice.

"Yeah, Ginny told me, don't think she'd make that up."

"No, I don't either… Look, thanks mate, I'd better go find her before some other desperate bloke dose."

Ron smirked "right, see you later then."

"Padma hi, thanks for meeting me"

"No problem Harry, what's on your mind?"

"Well I heard about Terry having to cancel, sorry about that." The disappointment on her face was clear to see after saying that.

"Thanks Harry that's nice of you to say." Padma started to turn away thinking that was all Harry had wanted to do, to console her.

"Padma wait!" She turned back slightly confused "have you heard about me and the Ball." He asked hopefully.

"You mean the 'can't go, can go' thing" she said almost laughing.

Harry did laugh "yeah that thing." And then he saw it, the moment she realized they both didn't have a date, a hopeful look in her eyes. "So it looks like you already know what I want to ask… How would you feel about going with me?" It never occurred to him to ask if she already had a second date. "That is if you don't already have another date… we could solve both of our problems." Now it was Harry who looked hopeful.

Padma smiled "It's a great idea Harry" then looking a little pensive adds "I can't believe the way Dumbledore has treated you." After a second Padma looked back up with almost a giddy expression on her face "I go with you Harry, and we… will have a wonderful time."

At first Harry was relieved, but slowly he was starting to become concerned and it must have shown on his face. "Harry, something wrong", He hadn't realized he'd let his feeling show so blatantly "having second thoughts already?"

Harry jerked his head up and saw the look of worry on Parma's face "oh no… nothing like that, really… it's just" Harry turned and took a step away pausing to gather his thoughts. A moment later he turned back "Well the thing is, before they said I couldn't go, I asked… well I asked someone else to go with me. I was really looking forward to going with her." Harry had started pacing a bit, but now stopped and faced Padma again "But then… well it all got messed up and now she's going with someone else."

Padma noticed a slight frown as he said this "This bothers you, her with someone else?"

"No, well maybe… I don't know… it's just".

"Harry do you fancy her'?

Harry froze, "What" panic in his voice "no… no it's not like that," Harry could see the emotions play across her face, amusement disbelief, even concern. "Look the truth is, I don't really know how I feel, or what to make of what little feelings I do have." Harry sighed "I know that she's very special, especially to me." Padma wasn't quite sure just who this girl was, but she was sure that Harry liked her… even if he didn't know it himself. Harry saw a small smile forming, "Please don't say anything… I only told you because I thought you should know before saying yes. I really do want to go with you to the Ball and all… but only as friends." Harry looked down slightly embarrass "nothing romantic, no kissing or things like that, I don't think it would be right." After a second of studying the ground he continued, "so if you'd rather have a real date you know with someone else, someone who can give you more… I'd understand, no hard feelings and such."

The smile on Padma's face had grown bigger by the second listing to Harry, the one thing she valued most, was honesty, and here was a teenage boy telling her he didn't want to use her. "Harry, look at me… Harry I think that's sweet, who ever she is, she's really lucky. Most guys wouldn't have said anything and just took advantage." She stepped closer "and I don't mind, I just want go and have a good time, dance a little… you know?"


"Yeah." Her opinion of Harry Potter was now a bit higher.

"Thanks Padma"

The following night as could be predicted, several boys stood nervously near the bottom of the girls' dormitory stairs. With the Ball nearly ready to start there dates were finally starting to make there way down. Padma even though she belonged to Ravenclaw House was given the option to get ready here in Gryffindor so as to make it easier to connect with her date. And was now the second out after Lavender, reaching the bottom she slowly walked towards Harry.

"Padma, hi you look great" Harry steps forward and offers his arm.

With a big smile and a hint of blush she takes his arm and slips hers thru "hello Harry, you look pretty great yourself.

All the couples had agreed earlier that they would wait for everyone to come down, and then go as a group.

Hermione was the last to come out. All her life she has always thought of herself as plain looking, especially so during times like this. She just wasn't one of those girls that had natural beauty, everything from her hair to her simple almost curve less shape, said plain, ordinary, and common. The fact that she hardly tried to do anything about it didn't help, she didn't even wear makeup…'what's the point she thought, like it would help… besides, who has time.' But tonight the other girls weren't about to let that happen. Secretly she was glad for the help, tonight she wanted to look good, she wanted to make an impression. Tonight she wanted to feel like a girl, it was her first Ball, first date, and maybe her first… kiss. That last thought sadden her a little… "Firsts should be with the right person." Standing at the top of the stairs, Hermione looked down at all the other couples and then Victor who smiled up at her.

Harry had been quietly talking Neville when a hush filled the room. Looking up Harry saw the reason, Hermione was at the top of the stairs and all eyes were on her. In a instant Harry was sure Blue had just become his favorite color. He couldn't help but stare. It was a sight he would never forget, nor would he ever be able to describe in words. He had always thought his best friend was pretty, but tonight she was… beautiful, and in his mind, perhaps the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen.

Hermione snapped out of her daze and found the one person see was looking for. The one who would unknowingly judge her. Harry was looking right at her and in that moment while there gaze was locked, she saw it. His eyes told her everything, it was worth it, the hours getting ready, the dress, the hair, the makeup. In that one brief moment he spoke volumes without saying a word, he told her… and finally, she let herself feel pretty. Relaxing a bit, she smiled and it lit the room. Slowly she started down the stairs, he smiled back, neither looking away.

At the bottom of the stairs Victor takes her arm and while starting to walk towards the portal begins to say "Her_mi_o_ne you…" but stops as he notices her take another quick glance at Harry, who is still watching her. Pausing he stops so Hermione is standing in front of Harry.

Harry while staring into her eyes says almost in a whisper "Hermione, you look… so beautiful."

Moved by the shear honesty in his voice and the sincere look on his face, she can't help but blush, and thru misty eyes she manages a choked reply "thank you… Harry." She wants to tell him how good he looks as well, but doesn't trust her voice so she leaves it at that.

Victor nods in agreement with a knowing smile and adds "Ves, Harry is right, you do look vonderful, no?" Looking around to see everyone agree, "vell shall ve make our vay to the Ball."

It was fairly easy to see that everyone was having a good time, well except maybe Ron. Neville was dancing like there was no tomorrow, the twins had somehow managed to spike the punch, even Draco had let his guard down and could be seen smiling and laughing. Ron on the other hand just couldn't settle down, and totally refused to dance, which of course made for a very angry date who was now considering going solo. As usual he had waited to the last minute and now here he was, with funny robes, not a clue as to how to dance, and to top it off his date was a third year witch he didn't even know!

Harry and Padma had danced most of the night together taking a few breaks to catch there breath, both would say later what a good time they had. Harry had even danced with her sister once and then later asked Ron's date to dance as well, which didn't help Ron's mood at all.

It was getting late, and the ball would soon be over. Padma could tell Harry was getting restless, it was becoming more and more obvious… the quick glances and stolen looks. "Harry, I've had a wonderful time, and you have been a perfect gentlemen… but now I think it's time you asked Hermione to dance" she said stepping back.

Padma wore a genuine smile, as a confused Harry asked "how'd you know"

"Harry it doesn't take a Ravenclaw to see the obvious, you have been looking at each other all night."

Worried he may have hurt her feeling, Harry started "oh… oh I so sorry…"

"Harry it's alright… really, now go… go." And with a warm smile, Padma nods once, turns and walks away.

Harry shakes his head chuckling, and heads for the band. After a few words Harry waits till the current song is almost over, then slowly walks up to Victor and Hermione. With just a slight hint of nervousness in his voice "may I please have the next dance" Harry asks softly.

Victor after a quick look to Hermione to insure she agreeable, even though he is quite sure, gives Harry a short nod, then tell Hermione "I'll be at our table", and walls off.

Hermione gives Harry one of her stern looks "I was wondering if you were ever going to ask me to dance." But the light blush and beautiful smile on her face gives her away.

Harry reaches out and takes her hands "I would not have missed this for the world." As the music starts, Harry takes her in his arms, and Hermione settled into his embrace.

She can't help noticing how much better they fit together than she and the much taller Victor had. The next thing she noticed was the song, it was one of her favorites, she had played it once while they were practicing and casually mentioned how much she liked it. "Harry you are dancing even better than I remember."

"Well even though I've had a little practice tonight…" He said as they gazed into each others eyes "I'm quite sure it's because of my partner." They continued to dance, happy to just look at each other without saying another word.

Hermione loved the feel of Harry arms around her while they swayed to the music, content, she leaned in and rested her head on his shoulder and Harry gently tightened his hold on her. There was no comparison, this was by far the very best dance, in fact, the very best part of the whole Ball. It had been fun with Victor, but this was different, it was so much more… real, and romantic… it was truly magical. And little did she know, but Harry was thinking pretty much the same thing.

All too soon the songs ends, they stop dancing but don't let go of each other, enjoying the warmth of there closeness. As the music starts up again, the beginning of a new song, Hermione reluctantly pulls back, and looks up into his eyes. Where she sees's a reflection of her own feelings, happiness, peace, and something else… She can't help it as her eyes mist up.

Still holding her hand, Harry softly smiles "hey you alright?"

"Never better Harry… thank you."

"Thank you, Hermione."

"Well…" after a glance towards her table "I best get back."

Suddenly there's a sadness in the air, and both can feel it. Harry is not surprised he can feel it, but wonders about Hermione. Was she not having a good time with Victor? Turning to stand beside her, he takes her arm in his and slowly leads her back to her table. "I think that will be my last dance tonight."

Hermione looks over for a moment, mirth in her eyes "oh, was I so bad, you've given up dancing."

Harry chuckles "Well…" Then stop and turns Hermione to face him "actually, that was my favorite dance of the night, and I'd kind of like to remember it… So why dance anymore."

Hermione gives Harry a bright smile "Yeah… Perfect."

Victor stands as they approach, "well Harry thank you again… I'll see you in the common room?"

"Sure, the common room," giving her a quick smile, he then turns slightly to Victor and nods "Victor".

After a brief search, Harry finds Padma dancing with a bunch of other girls whose dates have already left. As Harry walks up they stop and he calls to her. Taking her hand and while bowing, kisses the back of it. "Padma, thank you for such a fine evening," standing and gesturing to the others he adds "but I think its time for me to turn in, so if you don't mind I'll leave you with these lovely looking witches."

Padma was fortunate her completion hide it well, because she was blushing so bad she thought her face was on fire. A few seconds later she regained her composer and did a slight curtsy, and with a proper looking smile said "it was a privilege Harry".

He then turned and while smiling gave a nod to the other girls "goodnight ladies."

After Harry had left, a god smacked Padma turned back around to her very envious friends with the biggest smile she'd had all night. When the giggles died down, one of them said "Merlin, you are sooo lucky Padma".

Ron sat at his table a little tipsy from too much punch, he was watching Neville dance with Luna. Neville had drunk a fair amount of punch himself as well, and although he was a pretty good on the dance floor, he was starting to get really crazy. Of course being with Luna made it that much more fun to watch. Ron could only smile at the pair, he had always considered Luna kind of strange, but tonight she seemed different, there was something more about her. What ever it was he couldn't quite put his finger on it 'Damn punch, can't think', but Neville sure was having a great time, unlike himself. Ron had convinced himself that if he so much as put one foot on the dance floor, he make a fool of himself, so here he sat… miserable. His date had left him long ago "if you're just going to sit here all night, I'll be off," and that was the last he saw of her.

As the last song of the Ball came to an end, Luna spotted Ron sitting alone and looking down. Dragging Neville with her she make her way over to his table. "Hello Ronald."

Ron looked up "Hey Luna."

"You know, I'm very disappointed in you."

"And why is that" Ron managed without slurring too much.

"Well, while I came with Neville, and we were having fun, I still had hoped you might have asked me to dance… at least once."

The whole time she never took her eyes off of him. She had that typical dreamy look on her face that was so very Luna. Then, for a moment Ron saw something else. It was like she knew something only she could understand. Was he supposed to work it out? He wasn't sure, between the late hour and the punch, he couldn't focus, "whatever" he though.

About then Neville joined in and broke the thought. "Besides mate, being out there" he pointed behind himself with his thumb "has got to be more fun than being here… alone… you know?"

Raising his eyebrows, Ron had to admit Neville had a point, and even in his sorry state of mind, he was beginning to regret wasting the night away… 'I should have asked Luna to Dance'.

Harry not quite ready to turn in yet, stood off to the side of the hall thinking. It had turned out to be a pretty great night Harry had decided. As usual Hermione knew best, 'she always does', Harry thought, smiling at how his best friend was there for him yet again. Then with the thought of her, he seemed pulled out towards the patio. There standing in the moonlight alone by the railing was Hermione.

Coming up behind her he says softly "beautiful isn't."

She had wanted to be alone, but recognizing the voice she'd know anywhere, in an instant is glad she's not. "Yes very", slowly turning around grateful the night will hide her red eyes. As Harry moves to stand next to her, she turns back and they stand side by side looking up at the wondrous night sky. She shifts her weight and leans into Harry who puts his arm gently around her waist. A moment later she looks down and sighs then lays her head on his shoulder. She was diffidently glad she wasn't alone now.

Harry had known Hermione for over three years now, and while he couldn't read her as well as she could him, he knew she was bothered. Moving his arm up he give her shoulder a little squeeze while turning his head to look at her, "Hermione, what's wrong?" He asked barely above whisper.

Turning to look at him for a moment before she answered, she see's his concern. This was just so like him, but she felt her problems were so insignificant compared to his. "Oh it's nothing really Harry."

The silence only lasted a second before Harry replied, "you know, you're not very good at hiding your feelings… Did Victor do something?" the last bit coming out a little stronger. "Hermione, you can tell me anything, you know that."

"Victor… he… well he didn't do anything…" Hermione moved away to lean on the railing again, "that the problem" she whispered so softly Harry almost missed it.

Harry followed her to the railing and stood next to her but keep his hands at his side. He knew she would continue when she was ready, and it only took a moment.

"Victor left about a half hour ago, said he had a good time… thanked me for going with him… gave me a little kiss on the cheek and left." She had started out talking softly, but as she went on her voice rose in volume and become more cold sounding. "I just wanted tonight to be special, you know. It was my first Ball, my first date… maybe my first…" she stopped when she realized what she about to say. "After McGonagall announced the Yule Ball, thing were going great, but then Dumbledore ruined my first date before it even started. Ron yelling I'm trader because I'm with Victor wasn't exactly something I would have planned for my first Ball either.

Harry didn't know what was up with Ron, but he was sure going to have words with him later. But for now his only concern was Hermione, he knew there was more "Hermione…" Harry said softly while touching her arm.

Hermione looked away and Harry could feel her hurting. What had happened? Had someone said something to hurt her? They better stay clear of him if they had. Harry moved a little closer, she felt him by her side again but pretended she didn't. He was so patient, finally her shoulders slumped and she glanced up at him, tears slipping down her cheeks. Harry loved her eyes, it was one of his favorite things about her. They always told him how she was feeling, but tonight he hated what he saw… So much pain.

"Harry I'm not completely clueless, I know what people say about me when I'm not around. And I do have a mirror in my dorm." She could see he wasn't following, he didn't get it. "I know I'm not much to look at, I'm plain and… but tonight I really tried… Harry I'm almost Fifteen and I've never…" her voice hitched "he kissed me on the cheek Harry, am I that… hideous?"

Harry was furious, how could Victor not see how special and how beautiful she was. And judging by the looks she was getting by pretty much the whole school, it was not just his opinion either. Without another thought Harry pulled her into his arm and held her tight. Hermione had latched on to the front of his robes and buried her head into his chest silently sobbing. Harry kept one hand around her waist holding her and brought the other up to cradle her head. "Hermione you are the most brilliant witch I know, but I'm afraid as far as tonight is concerned… you must be blind, because you were far from being plain, I'm quite certain about that." Harry knew he had her attention as she tried to reason out his meaning "you were without a doubt, the prettiest girl at the Ball, didn't you notice how everyone was looking at you?"

Still holding on Hermione lifted her head to look at Harry "What do you mean," now she was the one who didn't get it.

"Hermione when I first saw you at the top of the stairs tonight, you… you took my breath away."

She'd forgotten that look, slowly her eyes moved back and locked onto his. Her heart started beating faster while her stomach began doing flips and slowly her expression changed from hurt and confused to hopeful. "Harry do you really mean that?" But she didn't have to ask, she could see the truth for herself just by the way he was looking at her.

Harry tried to answer, but he couldn't, the words were there but they wouldn't come. Perhaps it because she was so close, or maybe it was the little peek of her tongue as she wet her lips, He open his mouth to try again but it was no use.

Hermione, standing right in front of him, watched as he struggled. While he opened and closed his mouth, she couldn't help but glance at his lips.

Before he could think, before he could stop himself, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers. She gasped in surprise, but she didn't pull away, and slowly she closed her eyes. She felt wonderful in his arms with her lips against his, warm and soft, and so gentle. She was perfect.

When his Gryffindor courage started to fade, Harry began to pull back. To his complete and happy surprise Hermione stayed with him, keeping her lips locked on his. She had let go of his robes and moved her hands up around his neck and was now gently holding him there.

This seemed to bring out the Godric in him, so with only a slight uncertainty Harry parted his lips against hers and touched his tongue to her lips. She whimpered in surprise, but her mouth open and her tongue found his. She tasted of strawberries and tears.

All too soon it seemed they broke apart, both breathing heavily, again eyes locked on one another. Harry's hands slipped down to her waist, while Hermione's stayed on his shoulders, her fingers playing with the hairs at the nap of his neck.

They stayed like that standing still, and time stopped, the world around them ceased to exist. Hermione was looking deep into his eyes. They were bright and clear, full of kindness, honesty… the essence of Harry. Hers shown back with a new found understanding… he was there for her, he would always be there. They were drunk on each other, still high on the taste of there first kiss.

Neither said a word, there was no need. One always new when the other needed something, and one always seemed to find a way to give it. Hermione saw the tentative look on his face and flashed him a brilliant smile erasing his uncertainty. There would be plenty of time later to talk, but for now an unspoken agreement was made, not to spoil the moment.

It was fairly quite now, the Ball long over. Most of the students had returned to there common rooms. Knowing they should do the same, Harry and Hermione together turned and like a well practiced waltz began to slowly walk hand in hand back to there tower.

Hermione may not have had the most perfect "first ball", and the night may not have gone exactly the way she would have liked. But there was no denying it had certainly ended brilliantly, thanks to a special raven hair boy.

Passing into the common room they let go of each others hand. Hermione broke the silence, "thank you Harry" she said softly while chewing slightly on her lower lip. It was so completely Hermione.

Harry just nodded as his smile grew and just as softly said "you're welcome." She turned, took a step, then paused before heading up to the girls dorm. Then it seemed the decision was made, and she turned back and gave Harry a quick kiss on the cheek. With a shy smile, she turned again and hurried up the stairs.

"Good night Hermione" he whispered as he watched her go. Then headed up to his own room, and into his own bed. Thinking about strawberries, as he drifted off to sleep.

The End… for now.

AN: For my views on Harry Potter, and the status of the rest of my story, see my author's page. Thanks for reading and especially to anyone who reviewed!