Tender is the Night

The night was, in fact, tender, cool with a slight nibbling frost to edge it out, the kind of night just perfect for packing a thermos full of hot chocolate and a bag full of graham crackers, bundling up in a nice warm jacket and heading outside to stargaze for a bit. If you enjoyed that sort of thing.

Hermione Elizabeth Granger did not enjoy that sort of thing. Actually, she hadn't any idea whether or not she enjoyed that sort of thing, as it had never occurred to her to do anything so trite and utterly pointless as stargazing. Frankly, it reminded her too much of that horrid class she had dropped in her third year - what was it called again? "Look at Things and Pretend to See the Future"? Oh, right. Divinations.

No, Hermione's mind was buried in something much more down to earth - namely, next week's Potions test. She knew very well how to make a simple Sleeping Draught, but what if she got flustered come the real examination and added a full two roots of Ipecac instead of the required one and nine-tenths? She'd fail, that is what would happen. And Hermione Granger did not fail. Ever.

Hermione Granger also did not sleep. Ever. It felt that way to her, anyway. The words on the page of her Potions test began to blur, fade, and darken, until she finally realized it was because her eyes were closed. She opened them again, found that it made little difference, and closed the book with a sigh.

"Tomorrow," she mumbled. "Tomorrow, I'll study more."

She took a look around the Gryffindor Common Room. Much emptier than she remembered it being. It had been quite full the last time she'd looked up from her book, and that was only - she checked her watch - 3 hours ago.

Three hours?

How on earth had she managed to study for a piddling Potions test for three hours?

Resigning herself to the fact that she was, in fact, a nerd, she picked up her things and started up the stairs to the dormitory.

She was greeted midway up by a becloaked Ronald Horatio Weasley, who was holding a thermos in one hand and his lighted wand in the other. A parcel of what looked like graham crackers stuck out from one of his pockets.

Hermione jumped when she saw him. "Ron," she whispered angrily, at once getting over her shock, "where do you think you're going?"

"Er.." Ron stuttered, not quite looking her in the eyes. "I was just...going for a walk outside...it's actually quite nice out, and Fred and George showed me an Intangible Wall the other day that leads into a nice clearing..."

"Oh, and I suppose you think this is a good idea?" Ron shrugged stupidly in response, unsure of what Hermione would consider a good answer. "Are you insane? Going outside - alone - when there's all those - those things out there - and do you have any idea what time it is?" she finished, exasperated and at a loss for words for only the second time in her life.

Ron looked down at his watch, and then shook it angrily. "No, I haven't any idea what time it is, as my watch has chosen this opportunity to stop working. Mind telling me?"

Hermione huffed a loud sigh, then said, "That's not my point! What are you doing?"

Ron smiled at her words. "Worried about me, Hermione?"

She scoffed at his response. "Me? Worried about you? In your dreams! Just that Gryffindor can't stand to lose any more points right now - what if you get caught?"

"So then you come with me, and if we get caught you can pretend you woke up worried about your Charms grade, and you just had to see Professor Flitwick to be sure you're not...getting an A-!" Ron threw a hand across his forehead and made a noise he thought dramatic. "Then I can sneak away while Flitwick assures you you've still got your 314% average."

"First of all," Hermione began, her voice getting bossy, "my Charms average is only 147%, and that's only because I do all my extra credit. Second, I will not tolerate your - dear God, Ron!" For he had taken to doing an impression of her, tossing his long, imaginary hair and sticking his nose in the air.

"Loosen up, Herm-own-ninny," he said, in a dead-on impression of Victor Krum. "D'ya wanna come with me? Is that it?"

Hermione wanted desperately to stomp her foot, but thought better of it. "Oh yes, Ron, that's it. See, I was just misleading you; I really want to risk a day in detention for a chance to look at a bunch of...well, stars! With you, no less!"

"Actually, Sinestra told me there's a comet tonight," Ron said. Ron was actually quite good at Astronomy - better than Hermione, though the difference was only marginal, very marginal.

"Oh, it's for school, then?" said Hermione, skeptical but a bit interested.

"Well, why else?" Ron shrugged. "So, are you coming or not? Only my hot chocolate's getting cold."

Hermione groaned, grumbled, sighed, but followed him down the stairs, through the portrait hole, down the other stairs, to the tapestry room, behind the one with the night sky embroidered on it, and through a wall that seemed quite solid, into what was quite possibly the most beautiful piece of land Hermione had ever seen.

Not quite as beautiful as, say, a perfect score on a Potions test, but close enough for nature, anyway.

It was surrounded by a circle of huge pine trees, reaching up towards the perfect clear inky blue sky dotted with twinkling silver stars. The ground was a perfect carpet of fresh delicious green, the middle housed a beautiful fairie ring of violet and indigo flowers, complete with shimmering multicolored fairies fluttering from blossom to perfect blossom.

"Oh, Ron..."she gasped, "it's so lovely..." Then, reality hit her. "Fred and George showed you this? And they didn't destroy it? Impossible!"

"Yeah, okay, whatever. Anyway, the comet should be here soon." Ron whispered "Nox" to turn off his wand, put it in the empty pocket, took out the graham crackers, and lay on his stomach, propped up by his elbows. Hermione reluctantly mimicked his position.

"Hot chocolate?" he asked, offering her the thermos. She accepted it and took a small swig. It felt absolutely magical in her stomach.

"So Ron, what - oh." Her sarcastic remark was cut short by the appearance of the comet above their heads. It was blue, quite bright blue, with a long smear for a tail and a large lump for a head. Despite the terribly unflattering description, it was strangely beautiful.

For nature, anyway.

The pair watched the sky for a long moment, then turned to each other and smiled.

"Quite nice, eh?" Ron commented. Hermione smiled.

"Quite," she responded impishly. And kissed him.

It was very much unlike anything she'd ever felt before. Ron wasn't a bad kisser, as far as she knew, but the whole process was a bit messy and somewhat uncomfortable, lying on the ground and all, and altogether extremely enjoyable.

Something she'd definitely like to try again. Permitted it didn't get in the way of studying. A girl needs to have her priorities, after all.

A/N: I can do dialogue! And action! Aren't you proud? D'ya like it? I do. And if you don't like the whole Hermione/Ron deal, replace every Ron with Harry. Or Draco. Or Snape, if you're into that...
Everything is still J.K.'s. Dangit, I was hoping she'd leave them to me. Apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote the book Tender is the Night. I don't even like it much, I just happen to think the title is killer.