Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me and I belong to nothing. The Harry Potter universe and all its characters are the rightful property of J.K. Rowling. I did buy her books, though. That has to be worth something.
Introduction: This longest of all my finished Harry Potter stories was the result of a plot bunny that unexpectedly came hopping through my head one night and wouldn't really give me any rest until I finally began writing it all down. It was quite a strange experience for me to have – literally from one moment to the next – pretty much the whole arc of a story in my mind; with beginning, end and something in between. Usually, many of my literary attempts (and attempts of other kinds...) either fall victim to my perfectionism, or miserably fail somewhere along the road due to an overflow of ideas for alternative ways of telling it and my inability to decide which ones to use. In this most lucky of cases I immediately knew what I wanted to tell in such detail, that filling out the few gaps my dear plot bunny left blank became surprisingly easy.
Writing it was a comforting experience; a most welcome reprieve from all things reality. Normally, comedy isn't even really my genre, but sometimes… I guess you just need it. I certainly did in this instance, and so I set out to finally write my very own, humble tale of some light-hearted Hogwarts romance, revolving around my two favorite fanfiction characters, as I so often have read them before (hopefully, not exactly like I read them before).
I did not plan on sharing it with anyone besides my sister while writing it, but now that I have started this whole thing, I might as well upload the story I'm probably most proud of – if only for the simple fact that it's the longest. It'll be five chapters and about 20.000 words in total, so I believe it can still be considered rather short. Well, for once I did not set out to write the most epic Harry Potter story since the time the first ape picked up a pen – and behold: I actually finished it!
With the way I handle my personal interpretations of the charcters, this obviously has to be considered AU. It does take place in Hogwarts, although during which year is never specified (it could be a somewhat different version of sixth year, or a very much AU seventh - it doesn't really matter in this case, I think). There are a few references to previous events from canon, however, so the way I imagined it is really a hybrid between what happened in the books and my own versions of the characters and their relationships. For example, Ron was never hot for Hermione in my playground and I simply write him the way I like him to be. It should become clear over the course of the story, I believe.
I hope some of you will find at least a little of the enjoyment in here that I had while writing it.
Amor Veritatis – Vero Amore
"So, what's our schedule for today?" asked a drowsy Ron, unsuccessfully trying to stifle the yawn that was escaping his mouth in that very moment.
Hermione rolled her eyes without looking at him.
"Probably less than my schedule and exactly the same as every Thursday," she said with an annoyance in her voice that had pretty much become habitual for her whenever dealing with Ron – a fact that might just have annoyed her even more.
"Jeez," Ron muttered between his mouthfuls of breakfast. "I was just asking."
Hermione sighed guiltily.
"Sorry," she said and turned towards him, watching him eat with plain disgust showing on her face.
The Great Hall was quickly filling with students from all houses, some more awake than others, and soon it was the usual, bustling scenery of teenagers eager for breakfast. The air was filled with busy chitchat, joining together from the four house tables into a completely indistinguishable culmination of noise. Something was missing though, and Hermione seemed to be the only one conscious of that, unswervingly watching the entrance to the hall. Ron did not seem to care, however, being way to busy with the huge pile of food in front of him.
"Where's Harry?" Hermione finally articulated the question out loud that she had been pondering over for the past few minutes inside her head.
"I don't know," Ron simply stated matter-of-factly.
"Why isn't he here yet?" she wondered more to herself and not even really taking any notice of Ron's answer, before turning around to ask him directly: "Why didn't he come down with you, as usual?"
"I don't know," Ron repeated, reminding Hermione of a broken record – that was eating.
Ron, though, suddenly had the presence of mind to realize that his current choice of answers would not be healthy for Hermione's temper and, thus, not for him in the long run, so he chose to elaborate further, even refraining from taking another bite before doing so.
"I haven't really seen that much of him today," he said. "But he was awake. When I asked if he was coming, he said I should just go on ahead."
"And so you did just that," Hermione stated flatly. "Without any kind of inquiry whatsoever."
Ron hesitated for a moment, apparently searching the truthful answer somewhere above him.
"Yes…" he slowly said, making it sound much more like a question.
Hermione simply groaned and turned her attention back to the doorway. Ron could live with that reaction and got back to his own tasteful business.
"Seriously, Hermione," he said again with a full mouth. "You worry far too much. Let the guy be late for breakfast, for Merlin's sake. Eat something."
The young witch turned around and shot him an angry look, which was enough to make Ron back off.
"Or not," he mumbled.
The moment Hermione looked towards the entrance of the Great Hall yet again, she finally saw what she had been looking for the whole time. Harry, amongst a few other latecomers, entered through the doorway and – much to Hermione's surprise – looked rather content; happy, even. When he finally arrived at his usual place at the Gryffindor table he practically beamed at them, which only increased Hermione's already higher-than-average confusion. Considering the mood he had usually been in for the past few weeks, such a drastic change in demeanor came rather unexpectedly, to say the least.
"Good morning," he greeted them cheerfully while taking his seat next to Ron and across Hermione.
"What the heck's going on with you?" Ron asked without looking up from his plate.
As far as Hermione was concerned, that settled it. If even Ron took immediate notice of Harry's sudden change of attitude – without so much as looking at him, mind you – something was definitely going on here.
"Nice to see you too, Ron," Harry said jokingly, his smile not faltering in the least. When he turned to face Hermione and saw her questioning expression under furrowed eyebrows, he raised his own in puzzlement. "What is it?"
"Nothing," Hermione slowly stated with a scrutinizing gaze, choosing not to reveal her suspicions yet. "You just seem to be in a surprisingly good mood."
"Well, yes. I'm feeling quite alright and see no reason not to," he answered, then put on an over the top hurtful expression and added: "Don't you want me to be happy?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, although she was unable to keep her lips from turning into a smile at his unusually playful behavior. It reminded her of a more innocent Harry she hadn't seen in quite some time.
"Of course I do," she said truthfully.
Harry and Hermione then joined Ron in actually focusing on having some breakfast, even if they were a little less enthusiastic about it. After a while, Hermione found herself forgetting about Harry's odd display of untroubled happiness, taking a comforting feeling of relief out of it herself. Seeing him like this after far too many days of downcast eyes and forced smiles made her not even want to ask where this abrupt change in his condition came from. Maybe he really just had a good day. If anyone deserved that much, it surely was Harry.
Their light-hearted round of enjoying breakfast and an easygoing chat about this and that and not much at all, with Ron rarely taking a break from eating to say something himself, came to a sudden halt in a rather peculiar fashion.
"Your hair looks nice," someone said, and that someone – to anyone's utter disbelief who could actually hear him – seemed to be Harry.
While Ron immediately stopped chewing halfway through a big chunk of bread, Hermione's head jolted up and stopped short, a disturbing mixture of both disbelief and horror showing on her features when she found Harry looking directly at her, which was in no way agreeable with what he seemed to have said a second before.
"Whose hair?" asked Ron, looking around in search of anyone Harry could actually be talking about. He even diffidently touched his own hair for a moment.
"Hermione's, of course, you cutup," Harry answered joyfully. He directly turned his attention back to Hermione, who seemed to be giving a spontaneous impression of some kind of statue.
Ron looked back and forth between the two, absentmindedly chewing on his bread once in a while.
"What?" Harry finally asked, honestly confused. "It does."
"What does?" asked Ron.
"Look nice, damn it," exclaimed Harry, rather exasperated by now. "What's wrong with saying it?"
"It's… not, I guess," Ron slowly contemplated. "But… you normally don't."
"You definitely don't. Never have, as far as I can tell", Neville chimed in, who was sitting next to Hermione and had only really taken notice of the conversation to his side when Harry said what he'd apparently never said before.
Harry looked at both of them in turn, utterly perplexed by the situation.
"So?" he challenged with the slightest hint of desperation in his voice. "Shame on me, right? Maybe I have never explicitly stated that pumpkin juice tastes good, but it still did all the time. And so does Hermione's hair. I mean… not taste good, but look good. It's always been rather bushy – which I did have nothing against, by the way – but lately it's been more, like… wavy, you know? Like waves."
He actually made a waving motion with his hands, as if to emphasize his argument, then continued:
"And I like the way it frames her face today. I noticed it just now, when she was looking down at her plate. And there is nothing wrong with saying it, right?"
He turned his head to each of them expectantly; part of him positively convinced that he had made his point.
"Right?" he repeated, that half-baked conviction rapidly fading. "Come on, guys."
He was met with raised eyebrows and expressions of total disbelief on both sides. Ron seemed to have lost every motivation to chew at all, his mouth actually standing slightly agape. Harry, giving up on any kind of support from his friends, faced Hermione again, who was still dumbstruck and didn't seem to have moved at all. Her wide eyes were fixed on a point somewhere in a far distance.
"I… uh," Harry stammered, the awkward situation finally taking hold of him. "I didn't mean to… to make you uncomfortable. I just wanted to say… what I said. So I did. I am sorry if that was wrong."
A few seconds of silence passed, with Harry waiting for some kind of reaction from Hermione; Neville and Ron waiting for a chance to get back to finishing their breakfast; and Hermione probably waiting for reality to set back in.
"It's okay," she suddenly said with a strangely distant voice and as if to reassure herself. "I'm okay."
"Really?" Harry asked, mustering her skeptically.
"Yes," she affirmed. "You just casually said something about my hair. That's okay. There's nothing to it, right?"
"I didn't just say it, though," Harry insisted carefully. "I meant it."
"Of course," Hermione hastily confirmed. "Of course you did."
Another silence set in between them, which was broken by a disturbingly loud crunching sound coming from Neville, who was eating cornflakes. Hermione actually flinched. Neville stopped short and looked at them apologetically.
"Well, that settles that," Ron chose to take the opportunity to declare the whole matter finished.
They all continued their breakfast in silence, some more contently so than others. Hermione practically tried to bury herself in her food from there on, although no one really noticed it. Harry himself didn't dare to look up from his plate that much either, even if he was still more confused than anything else. Why everyone was making such a fuss about something so harmless was beyond him. Had he given them the impression that he couldn't show his appreciation for his friends? They were acting as if he had never said something good about Hermione before. And, at any rate, he was simply stating a fact in his opinion.
A few minutes later, everyone was relieved when breakfast officially ended and the time arrived to get ready for classes; everyone except Ron, of course, who hadn't finished his pudding yet.
"They don't give us enough time!" he lamented loudly, throwing his arms into the air in hopeless resignation.
For once, Hermione found herself grateful for Ron's ability to just forget things that easily and not to make such a big deal out of them, getting back to everyday routine in a flash. She gratefully took the opportunity to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary happened and took on her usual "study mode", as Ron had come to call it.
"I am off to Muggle Studies, then", she declared with her most businesslike voice. "I'll see you guys later in Transfiguration."
And with that she hurried away, only half-heartedly trying to conceal her haste. Harry watched her go and sighed deeply. Her hair did look nice.
"Come on, mate," Ron said, apparently presuming that Harry was sighing out of reluctance to take on yet another day of school. "Time to get back to the future."
"You know that movie?" Harry asked, astounded.
And thus they walked off towards another two enlightening hours of Professor Trelawney's theatrically presented and, as Ron was still convinced, totally drug-induced mumbo jumbo.
"You know, I really would not have guessed that there is a whole lot of uncertainty in your future," Ron declared while they were descending the stairs down from the Divination classroom up in the tower. "Then again, I never did think of looking for it in a pool of muddy water with a drop of ink in it."
Harry laughed at his friend's dramatic display of admiration for Professor Trelawney's most respectable skills.
"Yeah," he said. "You still can't figure out how someone would be willing to pay her for that stuff, can you?"
Ron's performance came to an abrupt halt and his face turned more serious again.
"Nope. No idea."
They made their way down the corridor and through the throng of students from all four houses heading into every possible direction on their way to their respective classes. Luna Lovegood came up from behind, having overheard their exchange about Trelawney's class.
"You know," she began with her usual, airy voice. "You shouldn't talk about Professor Trelawney that way. There is truth in her teachings."
"Of course there is," Ron replied sarcastically. "Problem is she hasn't found it yet."
Harry bit his lower lip in order to prevent himself from laughing out loud. He always exerted himself to show as much respect for Luna's peculiarities as possible, which could sometimes be anything but easy.
"You'll see," Luna warned him. "One of these days, you will wish you had taken Divination more seriously, so as to prevent something bad from happening to you."
"Like… taking Trelawney's class?" Ron asked, then thoughtfully directed his eyes upwards. "If only I had looked into the future back then."
Harry couldn't help himself and snorted.
"Isn't that some kind of paradox?" he wondered. "Learning the art of Divination in order to prevent oneself from ever doing so at all?"
Luna shook her head at her frivolous friends.
"At least watch where you are going, Ronald," she said, walking with rather strange looking lunges herself. "You are stepping on those poor Gnarblewinks all the time."
Ron immediately faltered in his walk and, completely baffled by her unexpected statement, cast his eyes on the ground, checking for anything he was actually stepping on, which – as he found – was only the ground itself.
"What the…?" he began, but Luna cut him off and strode past them with a disapproving look on her face, every few steps seemingly dodging thin air.
When they finally reached the classroom for McGonagall's lesson, Hermione and a few Hufflepuffs, with whom they shared the course this year, were already there. Harry took his usual seat next to Hermione while Ron sat down at the table nearest to Harry's other side, waiting for Neville to fill the place next to him.
Hermione was so absorbed by the book she was reading that she was actually startled when someone suddenly sat down next to her.
"Hey," Harry greeted her warmly and nodded at the book in her hands. "Are you finished already with this term's lecture?"
Hermione playfully made a face at him. Two hours of distraction had done their part to help Hermione get over this morning's episode, although it had been nagging at her mind the whole time. Harry seemed to be as comfortable around her as usual, too, so she was more than willing to go along with it.
"Very funny," she said monotonously. "I am actually reading a novel."
Harry leaned towards her in response and took a more observant look at her book.
"I see. Emma. Jane Austen, eh?" he said smiling. "That's very… woman-like of you."
"Oh, please," Hermione retorted, being well aware that he was simply teasing. "Prejudices, Mr. Potter? Really?"
"Pride, Miss Granger?"
"Oh?" it came from Hermione, a hint of honest surprise in her otherwise playful reaction. "You know your literature, don't you?"
"I can read, you know?" Harry said jokingly.
They shared a laugh and Hermione gently closed her book.
"How was Muggle Studies?" he asked with honest intentions, although – considering the topic – it was impossible to ask without suggesting yet another tease.
"Well, I am reluctant to give you the satisfaction, but I did in fact learn nothing new," Hermione replied truthfully, earning a coy smile from Harry. "You do know, though, that I chose the course in order to study the – as it turns out – apparently endless number of misconceptions wizards still have to this day about muggle society. That course needs some serious overhauling."
"And you will be the one to do just that?" asked Harry without the slightest hint of sarcasm.
"Maybe," she challenged.
"You could," Harry said plainly. "No doubt about it."
Hermione was surprised by the honesty of his statement and didn't know how to respond. Luckily for her, Professor McGonagall chose that very moment to enter the classroom.
"Good morning," the head of house Gryffindor greeted the gathered students. "Today, as you made me promise, we will enjoy something less… serious than it seems to usually be the case in my courses."
She did look rather reluctant when she said that, but she instantly put on a warning look when she saw the satisfied smiles of her expectant students. "Which most certainly does not mean it is going to be easy. In fact, we will work on a rather advanced piece of magic and what could be called a hybrid between the arts of Transfiguration and Charms."
For whatever number of smiles faltered following that statement, Hermione actually smiled for the first time. She had not approved of her classmates' attempt to get Professor McGonagall to "loosen up a bit". These were no times to get sloppy on the development of one's magical skills. In the prospect of a challenge, however, Hermione did lighten up a bit.
"The Desiderium charm has the characteristic trait of working only through a transfiguration. What you see on the table behind me, now, are blocks of enchanted, never-melting ice. Quite fancy, I know, but I thought we could at the very least go about this with a certain style. What each of you will be trying to accomplish today, is to utilize the Desiderium in order to change a block of ice into a physical representation of one of, if not the most prominent wish you have."
There was some amount of murmuring going on as well as a few nervous glances thrown around following that revelation. Some might even have begun to question if it had been the best idea to convince McGonagall of deviating from her regular schedule.
"Yes, yes," she responded to the erupted disquiet, motioning her class to get back to order with an unmistakable gesture of her hands. "I know this could potentially get us all into a multitude of most compromising situations, considering all of you are still pubescent teenagers, but I do believe – hope, at the very least – that your truest desires are in fact beyond such vulgarities. Furthermore, you might have a slight misconception of how this spell actually works. You will not be able to consciously influence the spell by thinking about the desired result really hard. In fact, such meddling will only do its part to disturb the spell's more intricate workings. If you get it right, which is difficult enough all by itself, the Desiderium will work completely on its own and choose – or rather, find your most honest desire and thus, create its physical representation out of the object it is connected with through correct wand movement. Depending on the quality of its execution, the results may vary considerably. The physical form your wish takes might be of an abstract nature, leaving much to individual interpretation, and in order to actually reach your most inner wish, the spell will firstly have to be cast impeccably, and the caster will secondly have to cast it with a free, undisturbed mind; without preconceptions and such."
While this explanation did its part to calm the students down, it also lead to more than half of the class believing that they would still be sitting in front of an unchanged block of ice after two hours of wiggling their wands at it.
Professor McGonagall went on to explain the actual performing of the spell and emphasized how the movement of the wand, which she demonstrated multiple times, had to be most precise and in a certain, exact timing with the incantation of the spell's formula; desiderium detego. One had to begin with the first phase of the wand movement, then initiate the incantation, which had to be synchronized with the second phase of the movement, before finishing the spell casting with the final movement of the wand, directing its tip directly at the object that one wished to transform at both the starting and the ending point of the whole process.
"Also," she added as an afterthought. "While the ice is in fact unable to melt, it is fully capable of exploding. I ask you to keep that in mind, Mr. Finnigan."
Everyone agreed already that Professor McGonagall had evidently chosen the hardest spell they had yet to learn this year as an alleged "relief" from her regular, demanding schedule. At least, as the Professor pointed out in face of her student's dampened enthusiasm, they got to keep the results, for the ice would definitely never melt, as long as it wasn't exposed to a dragon's fire. It did not improve the general mood in the classroom.
Nonetheless, they all fetched their own block of never-melting ice from the teacher's table and returned to their seats to start trying their luck on them. Professor McGonagall strode from table to table to help everybody, correcting mistakes in wand movement and timing wherever she could; or, in the case of Neville, repeating the correct formula of the spell again.
Hermione, as it came as no surprise to anyone, seemed to be making the most conceivable progress yet again. After only a couple of fruitless attempts, her block of ice began to vibrate ever so slightly with every following try. Harry, eager to keep up with her, followed suit only shortly afterwards. Ron's block of ice made one believe that it might just actually melt despite everything McGonagall had said before it would turn it into anything else.
"Say," he pondered in earnest. "What if my greatest wish is to melt this never-melting ice? Would that work?"
Seamus Finnigan laughed out loud in the middle of an incantation and managed to blow a corner of his ice-block to pieces.
"Come on," his comrade Dean Thomas encouraged him. "You can do better than that."
Besides the progress Harry and Hermione were making, Ernie Macmillan managed to score the highest amount of attention during the first hour when he made his block of ice levitate nearly two feet above his table, with not even Professor McGonagall being able to explain how he did that without casting the appropriate spell. So the most striking progress of sixty minutes of exhausting attempts at magic was actually no progress at all, although Neville suggested his strongest wish might be to fly.
At one point, McGonagall finally agreed to demonstrate that the spell did really work and thus, performed it herself. With her very first attempt – if one might even be inclined to call it that with the experienced Professor – the block of ice turned into a little sculpture, which in its detailed form only those in the first row could hope to make out. Hermione's admiring smile at her Professor's skill faded into a thoughtful frown when she realized that the sculpture was apparently a representation of a human child. McGonagall herself – and quite uncharacteristically so – blushed ever so slightly and excused herself for not showing her result around, instead putting it away in one of the table's drawers.
The waggling of wands and the reciting of incantations of the spell's formula went on past the hour mark, with exclamations of both excitement and frustration constantly mixing into the general atmosphere. Harry had gotten increasingly focused on the task at hand and, after a while, unconsciously began to blend out his surroundings. He repeated the whole routine time after time with an astounding mixture of composure and intensity, which slowly but surely made Hermione shift her own attention from her own work to her friend in spite of herself, smiling involuntarily while watching his concentrated and fiercely resolute expression.
Then suddenly, after an increasing number of attempts that made the block of ice shrink and deform before returning to its original shape and size, a bluish glow emanated from the tip of Harry's wand out of which the finest tendrils of light came forth, reaching for the ice and finally enlacing it. Within the glowing net of tendrils, the ice began to slowly change its shape. It took a while before one could even hope to discern what form it took, but at some point, with the fading tendrils losing connection to the wand and coming together above the ice to dissolve into thin air, there finally stood a distinctively different sculpture on the table in front of Harry. There were more than a few pairs of eyes that watched the whole procedure with great curiosity and wonderment. The transformation had not looked like that when Professor McGonagall had performed it earlier, though hers had gone by much faster.
"It's… a hand," Hermione observed pensively.
"It's beautiful," vocalized an amazed Harry the only thought in his mind at that moment. He then abruptly became aware of where he was, cleared his throat and added honestly perplexed: "Did I really do this?"
Professor McGonagall smiled at him fondly. She couldn't conceal the pride in her Gryffindor student, although part of her was surprised that Miss Granger had not been the first to show success.
"A most remarkable display of magic, Mr. Potter," she complimented him amply. "And, if I might add on a purely aesthetic point, some beautiful work of craftsmanship, too. The quality of the sculpture does indeed correlate with the effort the caster puts into it."
Harry, still unable to tear his eyes away from the glinting ice sculpture, gazed at it in a nearly trancelike state.
"So what's it mean?" asked a more impatient Ron, coming over to their table to take a closer look. "You already got two hands of your own."
"I don't know," responded Harry dreamily, sounding as if he couldn't care less about its meaning.
"May I?" asked Hermione, indicating that she would like to inspect Harry's creation in more detail.
He nodded and watched Hermione take the shimmering hand of ice into her own hands, turning it around to look at it from all angles. While Hermione was far too concentrated on marveling at the skillful craftsmanship this flawless sculpture would have to be created with and Harry was simply revering the beauty of the thing itself, Ron was actually the first to be hit by lightning and to suddenly gape with eyes wide open.
"Hermione," he practically whispered. "That's your hand."
Quite uncharacteristically, it took Hermione a while to fully comprehend what Ron was saying. She was holding the hand in her hand, so what could he be talking about? She knew her hand was her hand, so…
"No," she stated disbelievingly, an expression taking hold of her features that was very reminiscent of a certain scene from earlier that day.
"Yes it is," Ron insisted. "Look."
And he took the sculpture, put it into Hermione's left hand and slightly adjusted it so that both hands were in a similar posture. All pieces falling into place, there were a few gasps to be heard in the classroom, while Professor McGonagall simply watched the whole scene unfolding before her eyes with subtle amusement.
Hermione's left hand was now holding a disturbingly perfect replication of itself. One of those hands started trembling first, and Hermione feared that everyone would know very well that it wasn't the one made of ice. Despite her shivering hand, though, she was unable to move and – even worse – unable to put together a clear thought. Feeling the blood rising to her head, she did not dare to look around – least of all towards Harry. There was no way this could get any worse.
"Oi, Harry," yelled Seamus from a few rows behind. "Whatcha want with 'mione's hand?"
A few giggles were heard while Ron eyed his best friend as if he were expecting a serious answer to this most serious of inquiries. Harry did the first thing that came to his mind, which – unluckily for him – was to start talking.
"So what?" he said, trying very hard to sound as casual as the most casual person to ever say something casually. He even shrugged his shoulders. "As you can see, Hermione clearly has beautiful hands. If you ask me, my wish was to create something beautiful. Since Hermione's hands were right next to me the whole time, it's only understandable that I… or the spell would choose them. It's easier to work off a model, right?"
If it weren't for the fact that everyone in the room knew that he was talking nonsense, his explanation might just have sounded plausible. If he was at a loss already, desperation took hold of him with full force once he looked at Hermione. She looked horrified.
Why did this have to happen? It seemed to him as if the last hour was completely blank in his memory. How had he even accomplished that spell at all? It felt as if he had not focused in the least, instead daydreaming the whole time. In his mind, everything had been okay the one moment, and then this whole mess of a situation suddenly manifested in the next. He couldn't make any sense of it, and seeing Hermione apparently so ashamed of herself filled him with guilt and regret. He simply did not know what to do and was sure of only one thing at that moment: he wanted to be somewhere else.
"Could I please… leave class early, Professor McGonagall?" he then asked in the very second when Hermione began to quietly speak out his name, thus not noticing it. "I appear to have finished the task, so maybe you would be willing to…"
"It is okay, Mr. Potter," agreed the Professor sympathetically. "You may leave."
He nodded gratefully and, with a last glance at Hermione, who appeared as frozen as the hand of ice she was still holding onto and was looking at him with an unreadable expression, left the room without looking up to any of his classmates.
No one was joking or giggling at this point and the course in fact continued in a rather subdued atmosphere. Hermione did the only thing she could do to get through those minutes and tried to focus on the remaining task with defiant diligence. Ron watched her from time to time with growing concern, noticing how hard she was being on herself. What concrete emotions roamed inside her he did not understand, but that they were taking hold of her he could see.
There were some to announce success after Harry had left and the general mood improved somewhat. For Hermione, all that was just more fuel for her uncontrollable and maddeningly irrational mixture of feelings. The two hours were nearing an end and another nine students had been allowed to leave early after accomplishing the spell. No one had exhausted himself as much as Hermione did. She never took a break; she never stopped for even a second. Attempt after attempt; again and again. Her ice block, by now, was constantly shaking, as if it were a physical manifestation of her inner turmoil.
"Miss Granger," a worried Professor McGonagall began carefully, a few minutes after the official end of her class. "Do you not think it might be more reasonable to call it a day? I have no doubt you will accomplish this spell with no effort at all once you are… feeling better again."
"Please, Professor McGonagall," Hermione spoke, trying hard to keep her voice steady. "I am fine. I have to finish this."
The older woman sighed heavily, knowing very well that Hermione had perfected the whole technical part of the spell many attempts ago and was only unsuccessful because of her chaotic emotions. She looked at Ron, who was the only other student left – even though he had given up to care about that damn block of ice quite a while ago. He nodded, understanding the Professor's unspoken question.
With McGonagall leaving the room, Hermione unhesitatingly continued with her routine, Ron keeping watch with a combination of patience and tiredness. After another five minutes of repeats, she stopped in the middle of an angrily spoken incantation, a tear forming in her eye and her lips trembling. She breathed heavily and Ron was about to say something, when she suddenly took an especially deep breath and, eyes closed, went through the routine once again. One last time.
With her eyes still closed, she did not see the glowing light, the delicate tendrils and the magnificent transformation of the ice, with the light slowly fading away. Only when she felt her heart-rate going down and a welcome calm spreading through her, she opened her eyes again and beheld the small, spherical sculpture, two wings protruding from it vis-à-vis.
She reached out with her left hand and picked the familiar object up, gazing at it thoughtfully. Hermione undoubtedly had no intentions at all to ever become a Quidditch player.