bTitle:/b So that's a date
bAuthor:/b Darth Gojira
bCharacter(s):/b Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom, Minerva McGonagall
bGenre(s):/b Romance, fluff, humor
bSummary:/b For Neville and Hermione, Valentine's Day at Hogsmeade is a new kind of experience
bWarnings:/b Very sugary
bDisclaimer:/b The characters, places, and overall world belongs to JK Rowling. No money is being made, and the events are strictly non-canon.
bAuthor Notes:/b At first, I wanted to do this as a dramatic, angsty, character-building story, but it turned out a real marshmallow of a fic. I wanted to post this on Valentine's Day, but I didn't start writing until afterwards. I hope you enjoy it
Hogsmeade and Valentine's Day went hand in hand for centuries at Hogwarts. Hearts were broken, promises were made, and kisses were exchanged all over the town. Every interest could be catered to, and the entrepreneurs of Hogsmeade catered to them enthusiastically. It was a tradition handed down from one year of students to the next. Merely overhearing a conversation around that time would reveal dozens of plans to go to Hogsmeade. The time and place were the premier ones for first dates especially.
Neville Longbottom knew this. That wasn't the problem. He knew how to get there. He knew who he wanted to go with him. He knew how much he wanted to go with her. It's just that he didn't know if she would say yes or no. It was the night of the week before, and he could only talk to his best friend in the solace of his bed. The other boys had gone for the night, and he had to speak to his closest confidante.
"It's not like I don't want to go. I do! It's just...she's said no before, and she goes with Ron and Harry. What am I supposed to do? I can't just do nothing, but I can't just go up to her. I just don't know what to do. I think I'm in love with her. She means so much to me, and this is my only chance" The words spilled out in staccato bursts as the wizard struggled to articulate his feelings.
Trevor the toad blinked at him, with his typical inscrutable look of I can't talk, stupid.
"I know you can't talk, and you don't even understand, but I had to tell someone about it. It's not like the other people understand. I could go to the other guys, but they're never very supportive. I could go to Luna, but she's more likely to understand you than me. Who else can I turn to? I don't think McGonagall can give me advice, and Harry wouldn't understand."
Neville had often confessed to Trevor secrets over the years. He didn't expect a response, of course. He just someone to listen, even if they didn't understand him. Just like mum and dad. The very thought almost made him give up hope. It would have, except for the fact that he had been aware of that fact for years.
"Oh, I think I'm not that hopeless, Longbottom".
The boy jumped, rolling off the bed and collapsing into a pile of tangled robes. From the stairway, the old teacher raised an eyebrow and gave one of her elusive smiles.
"I was wondering was Ron Weasley was, Neville. I'd like to talk with him and he's not in common room with the other boys. I was hoping you would know", she explained.
"Ron? He's with Harry. Hagrid needed to see them so they're probably at the hut" Neville said.
"Thank you. I couldn't help hearing your...conversation and if you're talking about what I believe you were talking about, then I can help you."
"What is it? I'll do extra transfiguration homework. I'll take up an extra class. If Sprout needs anything done in-" Longbottom blurted excitedly, his hopes overcoming the embarrassment and fears.
"Nothing like that, although I would appreciate a bit more practice. I know you put in a great deal of effort, and I think you work wonderfully with Hermione Granger. And that's why I'm going to help you."
"You...know?" The wizard's round face turned white as a sheet.
"I think all of us teachers know, Longbottom. Professor Snape complains about it, Professor Trewlawny says she's a bad influence on you, and Professor Sprout thinks the two of you can teach the class yourselves. Your grandmother already told me about it."
"Oh" He flushed from white to bright red.
"Yes, and while I think she's wrong about many things about you, I have to agree that you establishing some sort of ground with Granger is much better than spending class daydreaming. I do wish she'd quit sending letters, though." She couldn't help but let out a grumble as she remembered her old schoolmate.
Neville didn't speak. He just looked stunned, immobile on his bed.
"The best advice I can give you is simply go and ask her. She's your friend, for Merlin's sake. I personally know someone who insisted on keeping his distance while trying to impress a girl he liked. He wound up turning to the dark arts and things went very badly for him" The peering eyes behind the half-moon specs darkened at the account.
"That's it? Just ask her?"
"It's not advanced magic, Neville." she chided, "everyone does it. If she says no, it won't mean you're a bad wizard"
"I'm not afraid of being a bad wizard. I don't want to look bad in front of her"
"Let me ask you something; do you feel that fail to impress her most of the time?"
"In that case, you have nothing to lose"
Neville had to smile. "Thank you, professor"
"I care about my students, Longbottom, and you're a promising wizard. As long as Augusta doesn't gloat about it"
The great hall was as busy as ever that day. It was cold and clear as usual, and the Scottish fog had dissipated for the time, but it seemed as if clouds were gathering nonetheless. It was the time when every amorous student wandered over to their target's table, blurted or mumbled out a request, and turned red no matter what response they received. It was a ritual, as part of the school as the classes themselves. It did not take magic for this cycle to continue eternally, just human nature.
Neville wished he could help his situation with magic, but then he considered his proficiency as a wizard and reconsidered. All he could do is get up from his chair and walk over to her seat. He was too focused to notice Harry's questions, or Ron's taking the opportunity to steal a slice of cucumber from his plate. All he could hear is the blood rushing around in his head and his heart pounding.
Hermione Granger was talking to Parvati and Ginny on the other end of the table. It had been a good enough day. She had already passed two surprise quizzes easily, McGonagall had given her a perfect score on her last exam, and she managed to find three books for the next project in Ancient Runes. At that moment, she was listening to Ginny describe a potions disaster from her class. Alicia and Angelina were gossiping about Qudditch scores, and Lavender was reading a magazine with the cover story on decorating spells for robes.
"Um, Hermione?" The girls all turned to look at the speaker and suddenly Neville felt very small. He froze, unable to speak more, only able to stare at Hermione. She had put down her asparagus and stared back at Neville. Her brown-eyed gaze always pierced him, and she petrified him without raising her wand. There was a brief moment where it was all awkward stares.
The muggleborn broke the silence.
"Oh, hello Neville. What is it?" That managed to snap him out of it.
"Oh, uh, hello. Are you going to Hogsmeade this Valentine's day?" he managed to articulate.
"I am. I always enjoy going there." Her smile almost distracted him completely, but Neville managed to keep his thoughts together long enough to explain.
"Well,, uh w-would you like to go...with me?" He stuttered, unable to say another word as his throat suddenly became dry.
Another pause settled. Hermione pursed her lips in thought, looked at Neville thoughtfully, and then finally spoke.
"I would. That is, I wouldn't mind if we went there together. Let's meet up before we go, and we can spend the day together". It looked as if Hermione was realizing what she was saying only after she spoke.
"You would? I mean, you want to? Um, thank you" And after squeaking out his thanks, the teenage wizard quickly returned to his own seat.
He started at his half-empty plate, tapping his fork nervously against the table, not looking at Harry wipe off the water he had spat out in surprise, or at Ron frozen with the mouth open and Neville's biscuit halfway to his mouth.
"Good on you, Nev" Seamus said to him. Neville didn't look up.
"We've all had our first times, and I'm glad you finally got up the nerve" Dean added.
Still no response.
"Did I just see what I think I saw?" Harry asked the other boys. They shrugged, then turned back to Neville.
"Did you do what I think I saw you do?" Harry asked the other boy. This time, Neville nodded.
Harry sat back down and pushed his plate away, thinking hard. Ron had closed his mouth and put down the biscuit, but he made no move, just staring straight ahead.
Meanwhile, the girls were much more talkative.
"I knew Neville liked you, Hermione, but I didn't see that coming" Parvati said with a grin.
"If I had known about this, Hermione, I would have told you about this. I just hope he doesn't want to dance" Ginny added.
The two girls giggled.
"Well, what's wrong with going with Neville? We've been friends since first year" Hermione shrugged.
"It's just that, well, I think he really likes you" Parvati put an emphasis on the word likes in order to make it clear.
"I know" Hermione said quietly. She had known it for a while now. She didn't let Neville know, and from the way he acted, he thought it was still a secret. They had known each other for years, and Hermione spent all those years carefully observing her friends. She watched Harry mature and struggle with responsibility. She watched Ron's feelings for her, and saw him unable to tell him how he felt. She couldn't say she had the moral high ground, however, and she had to admit that she had the same problem.
The facts lay before her. Neville liked her, and he had asked to go to Hogsmeade with him. She had gone there many times before with her friends. She always enjoyed the stores, the people, and simply being with Ron and Harry. She had seen Neville there, but what he was proposing was new. Was it a date? It sounded like one, and the looks the other girls gave her suggested it was so.
A date would be a completely new venture for her. She had gone to the Yule Ball with Victor Krum, and while she certainly enjoyed it, an actual date would be very different. She chided herself, What's so scary about it? It was Neville, not a Death Eater. It's only Hogsmeade, not the Forbidden Forest. It's only a date, not a fight. Her misgivings continued, however, in spite of her internal dialogue. It was less the date itself, she realized, but it was the implications that frightened her. If Neville really felt for her in the same way she suspected he did...
"Herm, are you all right?" Alicia woke her up and broke her spell.
"I'm sorry. I'm just thinking"
"I think you think too much" Lavender quipped. She and Parvati giggled uncontrollably.
She never thought of their laughs as ominous before.
"How do I look?"
"For the last time, Neville, I wouldn't know" Harry rolled his eyes.
"And don't ask me again. I said my piece. I don't give second second opinions" Lee Jordan preempted Neville's question.
"I want to look nice for her". Neville checked one last time at the mirror in the dormitory.
"Look, she's Hermione. She wouldn't notice. She doesn't care about that" Harry explained.
"You're right, Harry" He sat down with a sigh.
He looked over to Ron, who was sitting on the edge of his bed staring at the ground.
"Don't worry about him. He wouldn't care about you if it was him going with Hermione" Dean assured. He flinched when he felt Ron's wand held against his neck.
"Shut. Up." Ron snarled through clenched teeth.
"Don't start with me, Harry. Just piss off. You wouldn't know what it's like, would you? I still don't understand why she said yes to you" At the last statement, he turned to Neville, but the other boy was no longer in the room.
"Is my hair alright?"
"This is a first. Are you finally going to let us do your hair?"
"Is there time?"
"Oh. There isn't, no." Parvati put down her wand in resignation.
"I don't think he cares, anyway" Ginny shrugged.
"Why do you say that?" Hermione spun around from her mirror.
"He asked you out to the Yule Ball, right? And you didn't make yourself up until the day of the Ball, right? He doesn't care. He likes you for other reasons"
"I still want to look good" Hermione turned back. Parvati picked up her wand.
"I don't want to just be the girl who helps him with homework" she admitted.
"You like him, too?" Parvati asked her as she began fixing Hermione's hair.
Hermione just looked at her reflection, not saying another word
Hogsmeade was covered in snow that day, just like every Valentine's. Of course, that just made the shops even cozier and more comfortable. It was as popular as ever, and the town was busy with wizards and witches, teachers and students, locals and out-of-towners. The snow seemed to be a decoration rather than smothering; a white blanket, the icing on the cake.
Neville scanned the crowd. He knew he should have asked her to meet in the common room or outside the castle. Now he'd never find her. There was Harry and Ron with butterbeer in their fists, leaving the Three Broomsticks to join Lee Jordan and Ginny outside Flyballs & Sprintwitches sporting good. There was Ernie MacMillian and Hannah Abbot pointing at a store clothing display at Gladrag's. There was Cho Chang and Michael Corner walking into Dominic Maestro's Symphonic Store.
Now, where would Hermione be? Neville chose the obvious option. Eric Studeberry's Tomes and Scrolls was the most popular bookshop, and the only one he knew about anyway. He had been there once or twice, but was often scared out by some of the books (if not by the words, images, and magic within, then by the intimidating titles). He looked in the windows. No sign of her. He waited to see her leave. Still nothing. Just as he was going to give up, he felt a gloved hand on his shoulder and he jumped in the air.
"Sorry about that. I thought you were at Honeydukes, and when I didn't see you there I thought you would be waiting for me at my favorite store. I was right", Hermione explained as Neville got back to his feet and brushed the snow off his coat. She couldn't help but both laugh at his flustering and be touched that he thought of her interests.
"Well, shouldn't we go in? It's getting cold?" Neville tried to break the awkward pause.
"Do you have any book in mind?" He asked as they entered the bookstore.
"No, but I like to browse" Hermione explained, "Hello Mr. Studeberry" She nodded at the elderly wizard at the front desk. "Hello, Ms. Granger" he smiled at her as they passed by.
"You come here often, don't you?" Neville grinned at her.
"It's my favorite place at Hogsmeade, and that's saying a lot. Have you been here before?" Hermione stopped to pick up a copy of The Life and Exploits of Julianus Stingblench.
"No", he admitted, looking down the long shelves, "I was too scared. I never saw any other wizards in here."
"They're just books. There's nothing to be afraid of", and with that, she took his hand and led him down an aisle.
"If you see anything that looks interesting, just pick it up and read it." She was explaining the obvious, but she felt is was appropriate since Neville looked nervously at the books as if they had escaped from Hagrid's class.
His hand was warm in her grasp as she slowly toured him around the shop. Sure enough, he finally started picking books off the shelf and paging through them. Hermione, seeing him start to relax, began to relax herself, browsing her way through the store. They took almost an hour in the store, paging through book after book. They even found a book that both wanted to read. And it was this book, 1001 Uses for Common Magical and Nonmagical Botanicals by Guthwine H. Roule, that they took to the front desk and purchased, splitting the price between themselves.
"Here, Hermione, I don't want to lose it" he handed her the book with a smirk, "You know how to take care of books"
"Don't worry, I'll finish it by the end of the week and then I'll give it to you", Hermione said, "Oh, and since we've gone to my favorite place, we should go to yours."
"You don't have to"
"Well, I don't know about you, but I want some candy" And it was off to Honeydukes.
They left the place with peppermint lollies in their mouths, enchanted to give off a continuous warmth, and bags of sweets in their hands. Hermione had made sure the candy was in separate bags from the book. Trips to Dogwood's (Neville had wanted to buy some plant food), Scrivenshaft's (Hermione had broken three quills in the past month), and surprisingly Weasley's Wizard Wheezes (Neville had been told that their new "Tupac Amaru Torches" could outshine any magical source and overcome even Peruvian darkness powder, while Hermione just wanted to arm herself but also try to find illegal items that she could confiscate). .
The last stop was Madam Puddifoot's on Hermione's suggestion. As usual, it was crowded with magical couples, decorated with all sorts of pink Valentine's frillary, and they could hardly find a seat. They finally got one by a steamed up window, and thankfully the place was free of cupids.
At least, until the cherubs showed up with the menus.
"Pumpkin spice is very popular this time of year"
"May we suggest the warm buttermilk with that?"
"We have five different varieties of Chai"
Neville buried his face in his hands.
"I know you're only trying to do your job, but all I'd like is a normal green tea. No additives, nothing else. My friend wants the strawberry. If it needs sugar, there's a cup right here. THANK YOU" With that last firm remark, Hermione finally got them to go away.
As they fluttered away to bother someone else, Neville had to ask a question
"Hermione, what are cherubs, exactly?"
"Smarter fairies, basically. Magically modified from the original fairies, and this is the only kind of job they can do. They have very short lifespans, so they have to find quick work for their families"
"So they're doing it of their free will?"
"I'm afraid so. They have no choice"
"Do you think the house elves have that same kind of ancestry"
Hermione's jaw dropped.
"Neville, that's it!"
"What's it?" he scratched his head.
"The house elves ARE doing work voluntarily, but they've been enchanted into do so, so they don't have free will to begin with. I was almost going to give up S.P.E.W.!"
"Never thought of it that way before" Neville pondered.
"You're a genius!" She hugged him just as the cupids came with their tea.
"It's about time." One of the cupids commented
"They're the only ones today that took that long. Most start kissin' once they're at the door"
In the blink of an eye, the Gryffindors separated themselves and nudged their chairs away from the table. Neither of them spoke until after the cherubs have left. Even then, Hermione had a nagging question.
"Neville, are we on a date?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing" He blushed.
"Well, I suppose we'll have to think about the definition. What is a date?"
His expression was blank.
"First, we can eliminate the fruit and the period of time-" She got a laugh from him for that, "-it's just a social appointment or meeting. With that definition, I would certainly say this is a date"
"All right, then what's the definition of love?"
"Attachment. Desire. Strong liking" Hermione began to breathe heavily and stare into his eyes.
"I was wondering about that. I was wondering for years" Neville said quietly before drinking his tea. He never broke the gaze.
Hermione was on a date. She had come to that conclusion back at Madame Puddifoot's, but as they walked down the main street, the significance grew on her. Their free hands stayed entwined the entire trip back to the train station. She noticed people look and overheard their comments.
"Good on her"
"She's going out with HIM?"
"I didn't see that coming"
"Ron, are you all right?"
"It's appropriate. You can't get lower than either of them"
"That's a good one, Draco. A mudblood and a squib are a perfect pair!"
Neville didn't notice them. His head was spinning as if he had taken a firewhisky. He had feelings for this wonderful witch for years, but now he had finally told her. He didn't even need to say a word, but now she knew. She even seemed to return his feelings. It was unlike anything in his dreams. He had dreamed of gazing into her brown eyes, of kissing her, but this was stronger than a dream, stronger than a cheering charm, stronger than any magic he had ever seen or used.
From the inside of Rosmerta's bar, Minerva McGonagall saw the two students together, glowing with warmth in the February chill. She smiled to herself as Pomona Sprout finally noticed.
"Granger and Longbottom? That's lovely!" Sprout appreciated the students as they walked out of sight.
"I'll let the boy tell Augusta himself. I can't admit to her being right again." McGonagall said wryly.