On Teenagers & Love

a story by anamatics

part three - the fog

Chapter Ten - On Uneasy Alliances

They move Katie Bell to Saint Mungo's after a few days and Hermione spends most of her free time during the following weeks in the library, researching her extension charm modification. She's pretty sure that she's got the arithmancy down correctly and has sent Fleur at least twenty-four inches of parchment on her other research project. Memory charms are ghastly, but Hermione knows that she has to learn how to use them this year. She hesitates to think of why she feels so compelled to master them, but with each letter from her parents that sits beside the news of attacks and dire warnings in the Prophet Hermione can see few options beside that one.

Fleur has sent back helpful suggestions, but she is still convinced that Hermione's parents will leave of their own accord if Hermione asks them to. Hermione isn't sure. She's already worked out with Harry and Ron that she's going to spend Christmas Eve at least with her parents and then go to the Burrow on Christmas Day. Fleur is going to attempt to talk to Dumbledore about helping her arrange a permit to apparate home for the holiday. They've determined that it'll probably be the best way to at least calm Fleur's mother's worries.

After the Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch Match, Hermione finds herself watching in horror as Lavender Brown attempts to suck Ron's tongue out of his mouth, victorious keeper that he is. Harry'd tricked him with his bottle of felix felicis that Hermione still thinks he cheated in winning from Professor Slughorn. She rolls her eyes as Ginny makes helpful gagging noises beside her and Harry stares at the pair of them, bewildered.

"That's nasty," Harry groans. "Does she need to do that here, in the middle of the common room?"

Hermione shrugs and goes back to the letter she's writing to her mother regarding Christmas plans. She's grateful that Harry's given his Draco-Malfoy-is-a-Death-Eater theory a rest for the night, instead choosing to act appropriately horrified at Ron's first (very public) snog.

"Ugh, and I thought Slughorn's parties were bad," Ginny mutters and Hermione shakes her head. She's been going in body over, her mind stuck on memory charms and arithmancy equations to alter the very base nature of a spell to render it untraceable and execute on a much wider scale than she'd initially intended. She's met some interesting people at the parties, but mostly it's just Slughorn fawning over all the well-connected prats in their year.

There is, also, a good deal of nicked fire whiskey punch-spiking and snogging going on amongst her peers. Hermione's caught Ginny and Dean a few times and is having quite a hard time adjusting to the fact that Ginny apparently likes kissing just as much as Hermione does. She doesn't dare as her if she's gone further than that, if she's being safe. She figures that Ginny should know the charms. She's nearly sixteen, after all.

Hermione sets her quill down half-listening to Ginny tell Harry that there's no way he can dodge Slughorn's Christmas party. She doesn't suppose that she can get a special pass for Fleur to come with her to the party and she can't very well go stag. She sighs loudly, thinking that Slughorn's enough of a newshound to recognize Fleur's name and her losing finish in the Triwizard Tournament. He'd never let her come, no matter who she was.

"I don't have anyone to go with, Gin," Harry's saying. "Are you?"

"With Dean," Ginny says curtly. Hermione can hear the hurt there and inwardly sighs. Harry's too wrapped up in Quidditch and Voldemort and Draco Malfoy to realize that Ginny would drop Dean in a heartbeat for him. And Hermione feels really bad for Dean about it.

"Are you going, Hermione?" Harry asks hopefully.

"Yes I am," Hermione replies, and then adds quickly. "But before you ask, I'll be going alone. It isn't proper to have a girlfriend and go to a party with someone else as a date. You'll just have to find someone else."

"Could bring Ron," Harry mutters, glancing over to where Lavender is now sitting in Ron's lap, her tongue still in his mouth. "On second thought..."

"Quite," Hermione agrees and picks up her quill, going back to her letter.

The following week the weather starts to turn for the worse. Rain and snow pelt the windows and the castle becomes cold and drafty. Hermione casts warming charms on her warmest socks and wears gloves as she and Pansy Parkinson do their rounds during the evening.

"Are you going to Slughorn's party?" Pansy asks one evening about a week before the date of the event. She's shivering beside Hermione in a deserted hallway on the fourth floor near the prefect's bathroom. They've been checking classrooms for nearly an hour, noting students studying and breaking up a few skirmishes and snog sessions. Hermione's freezing and is bouncing from toe to toe to keep herself warm, watching Pansy with one eye out of habit.

"Yes," Hermione replies. "Why?"

"I haven't got an invite," Pansy grouses, folding her arms across her chest and scowling at the floor somewhere three feet to Hermione's left. "Draco doesn't seem to want to do much of anything these days and I don't even know if he's going."

"I'm sorry," is all Hermione can think to say. She doesn't know what she's supposed to do about it, anyway. "It didn't seem worth it to ask for a pass for Fleur to come," she adds in what she hopes is a sympathetic tone.

Pansy's smile becomes wicked, "Spare her the embarrassment of having to defend her poor performance because she was too busy snogging you to properly prepare for the Triwizard Tournament?"

Hermione bites the inside of her lip so hard it starts to bleed, and she manages to control herself when she responds. "Something like that, yes," she says, scowling at Pansy. "She's really busy at this time of year, what with Christmas and all."

"Everyone just has to get their best cursed dinner plates out of the vaults for Yule," Pansy rolls her eyes. "I don't envy her, mucking around underground all day."

"She seems to like it," Hermione shrugs.

Pansy sticks her nose up in the air and says haughtily, "I figured, Granger, it's not the sort of work one does if one minds getting their hands dirty."

They continue up the hallway in silence, checking the bathrooms quickly before heading towards the stairs. Hermione eyes a secret passage that she'd usually take to get to the next floor near the classrooms, but she doesn't know if Pansy knows about it and resolves to keep her knowledge to herself despite the cold.

"Could I go with you?" Pansy asks when they reach the top of the stairs. "Strictly to get in the door, don't want to be seen with you, naturally."

Hermione stares at her. Of all the nerve... She folds her arms across her chest and glares at Pansy defiantly, refusing to even acknowledge the question outside of the irritated look she now wears. Still, it is an interesting concept. It would mean that Pansy Parkinson would owe her a favor, and Hermione knows that Slytherins rarely offer such things without considering the repercussions for their actions. Hermione thinks of her arithmancy questions and Pansy' knowledge of the subject in relation to her own and her brow furrows.

"It's highly improper to ask someone who is in a relationship with someone else to a party," Hermione says loftily, inspecting her nails in the cold corridor. The wind is howling outside and rain is lashing against the narrow windows that line this particular hallway.

Pansy's eyes narrow and she stares at Hermione for what seems like an eternity before she finally nods imperceptivity. "I am aware of that," she begins, her tone haughty. She looks down at her feet and then at the rain and sleet outside. "I happen to believe that it is probably better to be there than to not be there, however, and am willing to ask for certain favors in order to be there."

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, Hermione says, "And you'd leave me at the door and not speak to me again?"

"Just say you're my arithmancy partner and Delacour couldn't make it because of her job," Pansy shrugs. "She doesn't strike me as the jealous type, Delacour."

Hermione sighs, because Pansy really doesn't know Fleur very well at all if she thinks that she's not the jealous type. It's not Fleur's rational side that Hermione's worried about, at any length. It's the veela side, the slightly wild aspect of Fleur's nature that Hermione's never quite managed to get a good handle on. Hermione is already planning her owl to Fleur, explaining her arithmancy problem (Fleur personally loathes the subject and only keeps her skills up because it can be handy in curse breaking on occasion) and how doing this favor for Pansy might get her the second pair of eyes that she needs on the spell before she attempts it.

"I'll think about it," Hermione announces, and walks up the hall and checks the empty rooms carefully, not caring that Pansy is staring after her, a curious expression on her face.

The next morning, during her free period opposite ancient runes, Hermione writes Fleur a short note explaining the situation. She spares no details and sends the letter off before hurrying down to the library to sit with Harry and Ron as they work through some of Professor Snape's incredibly complicated homework. Harry's knowledge of defense is coming in particularly handy, and as they practice the spells in the assigned chapter, Harry tells them about his most recent meeting with Professor Dumbledore.

He's been sharing memories with Harry that have apparently been painstakingly collected, regarding the childhood of the boy who would grow up to be Voldemort. Not for the first time, Hermione wishes that she and Ron would be invited along to see the memories as well, instead of having to get their information second hand from Harry. There's still a great deal of insight that Hermione's gaining with every session Harry describes.

Voldemort, apparently, placed a great deal of value on objects that bore meaning to him. Hermione finds this endlessly fascinating, because explains a lot about the diary that Harry destroyed during second year that had caused all that trouble.

They've just about mastered a complex counter jinx when the bell tolls in the distance and they have to head to class. Hermione's pretty sure that Snape won't take points for weak attempts, so long as they can actually defend against it. With him though, nothing is certain. The man's moods are notoriously foul.

The following morning, Hermione has a note back from Fleur telling her that she shouldn't worry about stupid fits of teenage jealously and that Hermione is free to manipulate her classmates however she sees fit. Lavender Brown watches her from her place next to Ron across the table and asks why Hermione's grinning. Hermione shrugs, "I just got some good news," she says excitedly and glances over her shoulder.

Across the Great Hall, sitting beside two small-looking first year Slytherins, Pansy Parkinson is sipping a mug of tea and eyeing the Gryffindor table. Hermione gives the smallest of nods before turning back to Lavender and adding, "What are your plans for the hols?"

"Mum's family's going to be in town," Lavender replies, eyeing Ron with a look that speaks volume about Lavender's disappointment on not being invited to the Burrow for Christmas dinner. This has been the subject of several tearful rants to Parvati that have had Hermione sitting on Harry's bed in the boy's dormitory just to get some peace and quiet while she studies.

Ron stiffens beside Lavender and shoots Hermione a reproachful look. Hermione's sorry to have brought it up, but she knows that she has to cover her glance towards the Slytherin table somehow, and a pensive scan of the Great Hall usually works for things like that. Harry, to her right, nudges her with his elbow and Hermione shrugs. She's not about to start this up again, so she quickly adds, "That's nice, your cousins too?" Lavender comes from a large family, so a full house is something she's familiar with.

"Think just a few," Lavender replies, picking up a piece of toast. "What with You Know Who and all, they're afraid to travel too far from home."

Hermione nods, because she understands that feeling rather well.