Disclaimer: I don't own anything that belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Claimer: I own my work—plot, writing and all.
Usually, when I walk down into the common room in the morning, it's quiet. People are just stirring awake, and it'll take at least half an hour before my friends groggily trudge down the stairs and accompany me to breakfast. I take this time to check notes, do some last-minute reviewing, and make sure that I have everything I need for the day.
Today, however, is different. Even though I'm right on schedule, I can already hear morning chatter, loud and clear, as I walk down the stairs. The Gryffindor common room is a commotion of yelling, laughter, whispers, sobs, cries, and gasps.
I spot Ron's hair amongst the mob of people, and make my way towards him. "What's going on?" I ask, looking around for Harry.
"I'm not sure," Ron answers. "Harry went to check. He's…" he looks around, "somewhere."
"How specific," I say. I look around as well, but Harry is much harder to find. A moment later I see Ginny, running up to me with the biggest grin I've ever seen plastered onto her face.
"Hermione!" she calls. She greets me with a suffocating hug, and continues on smiling. "I have a two-hundred and forty-eight!"
I furrow my brow. "That's… um, great." I give her a confused look. "Care to elaborate?"
Ginny gives me a strange look. "You weren't here earlier?"
I shake my head. "I arrived a minute ago."
Ginny's eyebrow rises. "Well, that's a first. Anyway, it's really early, but no one could hold the excitement in. Well, no one but you, it seems. It's George's latest product!"
I nod. A memory begins to flood back to me… Ron and Harry had been talking about this the other day. "What is it, anyway? I remember Ron told me it was going to be a huge deal."
Ginny nods, her ecstasy still intact. "It is! It's called Destiny's Digits. It's… well, come take a look."
She takes my arm, and hauls me to the very center of the mob. "Head Girl, coming through!" Ginny calls out, pushing between people. "Make way!"
Eventually we reach the center, where none other than George Weasley is seated on a rug. He has a steaming cauldron of… something, placed over a fire next to him. It's some sort of white, dense liquid; a creamy concoction of sorts. "Hermione!" he greets me. "So good to see you. Ready to discover your destiny?"
I bite my lip. "What is this?"
"This, my dear Hermione," George says in his best merchant's tone, "is pure magic. Took months and months of work to figure this one out, I'll tell ya. Even Fred had some input onto this one." He goes silent for a moment, as does the crowd, but then continues. "In short, I'm going to place a drop of this stuff on your palm—it's hot, so you'll feel a sting for a moment—and then a number will imprint itself on your skin. That number has a twin. Whoever has the same number is your soul mate!"
I raise my eyebrows. "That isn't possible," I say calmly, ignoring the groans that go about around me. I think someone even has the gall to say 'here she goes…' but I ignore it. "Things like this fall into the area of Divination, which is an extremely imprecise—"
"Imprecise," George cuts me off, "but not impossible. Look at Harry here! Prophecy was accurate, and so is this stuff." He leans in to whisper in my ear. "Between you and me, the one OWL I got an O on was actually Divination. But shh. If the public knew that, my reputation would be ruined! I could barely tell my mum!"
I laugh. "So you're saying this thing is accurate?"
The crowd answers for him. "Yes!" "Yeah!" "I hope not…"
I don't know why I find this situation funny, but I do. I'm not even worrying over how George got into the castle. Instead of that, I simply laugh once more and stick out my palm. "I'll be the judge of that," I say.
George grins up at me. He takes a small silver spoon, dips it into the creamy liquid, and lets a drop fall onto the palm of my hand.
I wince at the sudden heat, but the sensation fades almost immediately. I watch as my skin sucks up the liquid, and a small, white, cursive number appears. I stare at it for a long time, wondering if anything else is supposed to happen. Nothing.
"What'd you get?" Ginny asks me, excited.
I show her my palm. "One-hundred and twenty-three."
Out of curiosity, I turn to George. "How is the number determined? There are billions of people in the world—why are we getting small numbers?"
George shrugs. "I'm not really sure. That lady over there," he points to Lavender Brown, "got herself a seven-digit number. And some guy down in Ravenclaw got number one; or so my informant tells me."
"You've got people in the other houses doing this?"
George nods. "We won't all get paired up with Gryffindors, eh? I have some workers down in the other houses, some at the Ministry—took ages to convince Shacklebolt to agree to this—and a few at Diagon Alley, giving free samples. This is a king-sized revolution!"
I'm about to say something, but George continues. "Of course, I know that doing this is a wee bit dangerous. Public uprisings and stuff like that are a possibility. So this is optional—if you don't want it, don't get it. However, so far we've gotten zero bad press on this stuff, so it's all good."
Ginny takes my arm. "C'mon! I want to see who you got!" She turns to her brother. "Continue with your business. If you get another one-two-three, I want to know."
"I have a list," George says. He pulls out a small square of paper and hands it to Ginny. "Just jot down your number onto this and, if your other half already got marked, his name should appear below your scribble. I have plenty more, so you can take it."
Ginny smiles up at her brother. "Thanks, George!" She takes my arm, and hauls me back into the crowd. We stand near Ron and Harry, and Ginny pulls out the paper, excited. "Anyone have a quill handy?"
I pull one out from my bag, and suddenly I hesitate. Do I want to know? What if it's someone I don't know? Or worse—someone I do know. What if… oh, dear Merlin, what if it's Ron?
Even though our little romance never went farther than the kiss during the war, I know I always considered him a special part of me. Now, I cannot bear the thought of us together without letting out a groan.
"Wait," I tell Ginny. "Do Harry and Ron first, it's only right."
Ginny's eyes light up. "Harry already found his match. I can do Ron, though. You sure?"
I nod, and then turn to Harry. "Who did you get?"
He looks at me, confused. "She hasn't told you yet?"
"Who?" I ask. I hate this being in the dark thing.
Harry laughs. "I got Ginny, of course." He says it as if it's the most natural thing in the world… which, come to think of it, it kind of is.
I grin up at my best friend. "Good for you!" I laugh. Then I give myself a mental slap—why didn't I think of that?
Still laughing at my own sake, I look down at the paper. Ron and Ginny are staring at it, and their mouths form perfect Os. "Who is it?" I ask, curious.
When I get a better look at the paper, I can't hold in a gasp. "Luna?"
"Wow, mate," Harry says. "Looks like you've got a whole workload ahead of you."
"Blimey," Ron mutters. It's all he says.
Ginny shakes her head. "Never mind. Let's do Hermione now, and quickly. We need to get to class soon…"
I gasp. "Class!" I check my watch, and realize that Potions is starting in less than two minutes. "We need to go!"
I grab Ron and Harry by the arms, wave goodbye to Ginny, and quickly make a run for the dungeons. "Stupid… stupid…" I mutter to myself. I cannot believe I let myself lose track of time like that!
A few moments later, I can hear rushing footsteps behind me. That would be the rest of Gryffindor…
When we arrive at the dungeons, the Slytherins are already inside. I take a deep breath and walk in, leading the other twenty Gryffindors.
"Ah, Miss Granger," Professor Slughorn says with a small smile. "So glad you could join us. I take it you were also dealing with this new… fad?"
Fad…? "Yes, professor. We lost track of time."
"Understandable, of course," he says. "I can only imagine what an impact this must be having on you all. Modern magic and whatnot… yes, of course. Well, take a seat, take a seat. No matter."
I take my usual spot next to Malfoy, and take out my textbooks. "Those papers I gave you yesterday," I say quietly, "do you have them?"
He nods, but his gaze doesn't turn away from Slughorn. "Check them over, though," he says. "I was working late last night." He reaches into his bag, and pulls out a stack of papers, covered in scribbles and notes. His handwriting is as neat and detailed as always, perhaps a bit smaller than usual.
I take them and nod my thanks, and place them inside my bag, making a mental note to check them in the afternoon before the meeting. Then, I turn my attention to the front and resume with my daily work.
Two hours later, as I exit the dungeons, Harry and Ron catch up to me. "Did the ferret behave today?" Ron asks.
I laugh. "Stop calling him that. And yes, he behaved just fine, as always."
"I can't wrap my mind around him being… good," Harry says. "I still have a feeling he's plotting something."
I shake my head. "Harry, you say the exact same thing every single Tuesday after Potions. So I'll say the exact same thing I always tell you: You're paranoid, you're wrong, and you should really learn to live in the world after the war."
"She has a point, mate." Ron says. "We're in October. The conversation is getting annoying."
"You're not completely innocent, Ronal," I say. "You sometimes bring the conversation up as well."
Ron shakes his head. "Whatever. You never told us, by the way." He gestures to my hand. "Who did you get?"
"I don't know," I say. "I haven't checked. All I know is—"
I turned to look at Malfoy, who was walking towards me. "Merlin, you walk fast," he mutters. "You left this," he hands me my textbook.
I look down at it with wide eyes. I finger my bag, and feel the heavy cover of my textbook. I pull it out, and open it to the first page. "Oh," I say when I see Malfoy's name neatly written at the bottom-right corner. "Sorry. My mistake."
I hand him his book, and take mine. In the fraction of a second that our fingers touch, I feel static between them. I quickly pull my hand away, look down, and place my book in my bag. "Thanks," I say, "I'll see you later at the Prefect's meeting."
He nods, and turns around. I avoid an awkward conversation with my friends, and say nonchalantly as I fiddle with the strap of my bag, "As I was saying, I got number one-hundred and twenty-three. I—" I pause as I hear a small screeching sound, the type shoes make when squeaking against the floor. Looking up, I only see Malfoy walking away. I furrow my brow, and continue: "—haven't checked who it is, though."
Harry and Ron nod. "Ginny has the paper," Ron says. "We can ask her later at lunch."
"Right," I say. I still don't know if I am comfortable with the idea—now that I think of it, I'd much rather not know. "For now, though, we need to go to Charms."
It turns out, I didn't get to ask Ginny at lunch. Professor McGonagall (I have a hard time calling her Headmistress in my head) requested me in her office, to ask me about the response towards George's new product. Malfoy had been called in earlier—he was the one that looked for me to pass the message.
"I can't say I approve of this," she told me, "but I don't really have a say in it. It's modern magic, I suppose. I really just wanted a younger, yet sensible, second opinion."
I nodded. "One can't say it's a new sort of thing—Divination has been around for ages, of course. I do think this is a bit… err… over the top. It is receiving a positive opinion, for the most part anyway. A few people aren't particularly happy with whom they ended up with—drama will undoubtedly be around for the next few weeks."
She nodded. "I agree. What about you, though? What's your opinion?"
"Well," I started, unsure of what to say. "I haven't checked who I am paired with, though I do have a number. So I really can't say. In my opinion, I can't let a number dictate my life. But I am willing to consider whomever I get as a… possibility." Did that sound as stupid as it did in my head?
"I see," Professor McGonagall said. "And this number of yours… May I enquire?"
"Oh," I said, caught off guard. "Sure. It's… uh, one-two-three." That's about the dumbest response I've ever given to my Headmistress. Brilliantly done, me. Seriously.
Her eyebrows rose. "Well… that's certainly interesting. Best of luck."
I furrowed my brow. "You know who I am paired with?"
McGonagall nodded. "Indeed, I found a student with that same number earlier today." Shock was still written all over her face, perhaps in a less obvious way. It was there all the same, though, and I didn't know how to interpret that without becoming worried.
I pursed my lips, and nodded. "Umm… alright. Is that all you wanted to discuss with me, then?"
She nodded. "Yes, you may leave."
And so I did.
Later on throughout the day, I didn't see Ginny.
Okay, huge lie. Truth is, because of McGonagall's expression earlier, I suddenly became terrified. Maybe it'd be best if I didn't find out? After all, the product could still be very, very unreliable, maybe it wasn't even the final product—maybe it was just a prototype.
Those thoughts were my internal mantra for the next few hours. I avoided Ginny at all costs, and managed quite well. At least, I did until the Prefects meeting, where I am now situated at.
Ginny is a Gryffindor Prefect. I never expected it—much less did she, but it's the truth. Ron decided to let go of his position as Prefect when we returned for our final year at Hogwarts, and so Neville took up his place. I became Head Girl, as expected. And Harry… Harry just keeps on with his life, living it appropriately. You know, the whole no-danger sort of thing.
The one thing that caught everyone by surprise was the Head Boy. Personally, I was sure that Draco Malfoy would not be coming back to Hogwarts. But he came back alright—Head Boy badge and all. When I asked McGonagall, she told me it was Dumbledore's decision, and not hers. His marks were appropriate for the position—his behavior record not so much—and overall he could've been a good candidate if it had not been for his… past.
A lot of people protested. He didn't care. A lot of people pranked him, hexed him, and sent him hate mail. He didn't care.
I respected him for that. He also did his share of work appropriately, and sometimes even took up some of my own duties. I didn't appreciate that last bit—I actually came to enjoy my duties—but he continued doing it all the same. The one time I asked him why he bothered to do that, he just answered plainly: "Why not?"
And that was that.
Point is, in the end, I can't really complain about him. He does the work, can do teamwork (though I know he avoids it as much as possible), and isn't such a bad person. The war changed us all—now I know that it changed him, too.
I'm off track, though, so now we're back to where we started: Ginny.
I avoided her all day, but now I'm paying the price for it. "Hermione!" she calls.
I bite my lip, and pretend not to hear her. I sift through the load of papers in front of me, and try to concentrate on them. When she calls my name again, I know I can't continue pretending. I look up. "Hey," I say in a calm tone. Well, as calm as I can manage.
"Listen," she says. She won't look at me straight in the eye, and she's fiddling with her fingers. "I… I need to confess something. You have to promise you won't get mad, though—I couldn't help it!"
I raise an eyebrow, and look at her suspiciously. "By the look you're giving me, I wonder if I can actually promise that."
She bites her lip. "Just… just don't blow up on me. Do it later. In fact, blow up on Ron—in a way, it was his idea!"
So now we're playing the blame game. "I'll do my best."
She nods. "It's just… well—uh… us Weasleys are naturally curious, you see? And…"
I cut her off before she once again lets her sentence flow someplace unknown to us both. "Ginny, just spit it out already."
Her gaze hardens slightly; I rarely use that tone, and she knows it. "I may have checked who your significant other is."
It takes me a while to process what she means, but once I get it, I glare. "There's something called privacy," I say slowly, "I'm not sure if you're familiar with the term. Currently, thanks to you, I own none."
Ginny sighs. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? Ron and I were talking during lunch about how hard it would be to find a perfect match for the great Hermione Granger—that's a compliment, mind you—and you could say curiosity got the best of us. So we checked. At first, we couldn't believe it—it was all too strange. We actually called George over and asked him if his registry could be wrong. But the more we thought about it, it actually made sense because—"
"Stop," I say in a dangerously low tone. "I don't want to know, okay? I'll find out on my own, when I want to know. I'll ask George later, or I'll let fate or Merlin or something like that tell me. Can you respect that?" When I see the hurt look on Ginny's face, I sigh. I know I should be angry at her—I am angry at her—and chastising her, but I just can't. "Look, just… don't go spreading the word, alright? Tell Ron to do his best and shut up, too. The meeting will start in a minute, so just forget about it for now and we'll discuss it later. Deal?"
She nods, hesitantly. I know she feels bad, in her own Ginny-like way, and that's why I feel so compelled to forgive her. She walks towards her spot at the right side of the table, next to Neville, and I stand up to call order. Malfoy is seated opposite to me at the other end of the table, and he stands up when he sees me do so.
Once I have everyone's attention, I nod to Malfoy and he sits down. "This meeting will be brief," I say, taking my seat as well. "First of all, we have Halloween coming up. Preparations for the feast have been made, and are already settled. However, our Headmistress would like to do something a bit different this year. What, exactly? That's up to us."
Eight voices speak up at the exact same time. I let them chatter amongst themselves for a couple minutes, knowing ideas are forming inside their minds and amongst the general conversation. Malfoy stays quiet, as do I.
Finally, Luna speaks up for everyone. "What exactly does Headmistress McGonagall want us to do? A special event, a presentation, an activity… did she give any specifics?"
I smile, knowing my answer will excite them: "No specifics—she just wants something new… something special." I raise a hand to stop everyone from speaking up. "You can discuss your ideas amongst yourselves later on. During next week's meeting, we'll compare ideas and come to an agreement. Alright?"
Everyone nods, and so I continue. "Secondly—and lastly—we got some pretty interesting… developments, let's call it, today. These Digits of Destiny—"
"Destiny's Digits," Ernie corrects me.
"Yes, that," I say, blushing at my mistake. "Our Headmistress thinks that they may bring unpleasant consequences. Keep your houses in check, and report any problems. So far, we've got mostly positive reactions—I'd like to keep it that way. Any questions or comments?"
Blaise raises his hand. "Is the product permitted inside Hogwarts, or does it fall under the usual 'Weasley's Wizard Wheezes' protocol?"
I shake my head, recalling my earlier conversation with Professor McGonagall. "They'll be permitted for what's left of this week. After that, they're just like any other Weasley product."
Blaise nods and the room is quiet for a moment. "Anything else?" I ask. No one answers, so I turn to Malfoy. "Draco, any comments?"
He shakes his head, and doesn't look at me in the eye. I frown at his strange behavior; now that I think about it, he's been far too quiet throughout the meeting. And he didn't come up to discuss it with me earlier, either. He didn't even make some remark about my hair or… focus, Hermione. "Alright, everyone," I say. "Remember: Ideas for Halloween next week. Patrol schedules have no change this week, so that's all for today. Dismissed."
Everyone nods, and chatter breaks out. They all stand up, and one by one wave goodbye to me. "I'll talk to you later," I tell Ginny when she walks over to me. "I have to do something right now, but I'll see you later at the common room."
She nods and walks away, her guilty expression still in place. I notice how she hardly spoke up throughout the meeting. I sigh, knowing that she's partially trying to guilt me into forgiving her. However, I decide not to let that bother me now, and walk over to Malfoy.
He's still in his seat—hasn't moved an inch, in fact. I stand before him. "Alright," I say, my hands on my hips. "You're resembling more of a mute than usual." I sit down in Ginny's seat, pulling it closer to him, and turn his face with my hand, forcing him to face me. "What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing," he says, and he pulls my hand away. "I'm fine."
"No," I say. "You're obviously not." He hasn't let go of my fingers just yet, but I don't make any movement to pull them away. "Seriously, Draco, you were fine this morning. No offense but you look kind of…" I study him, looking for an adjective. He's unnaturally pale, which is saying a lot, and his gaze is downcast and weak. "Well, you look kind of dead."
He ignores that last bit. "Who did you get?" he asks me, gesturing to my hand.
I want to pull on my hair. "Is that what it's all about? Are you against this whole 'revolution', as George so quaintly puts it? Or did you get someone you didn't want?"
He rolls his eyes. "Sort of, no, and no."
I sit up straight. "Care to elaborate?"
"Just answer me," he says.
"I don't know who I got," I say. "I haven't had the opportunity to check."
Malfoy nods and I hear him sigh almost imperceptibly. "I see."
I'm starting to get fed up with him. "Draco, cryptic has never looked good on you."
His lips turn up slightly. "I disagree. I think the whole mystery look goes quite well with me." He sighs and sits up to face me. "You're an annoying bookworm—did you know that? Terribly infuriating."
I roll my eyes, knowing there's no malice in his words. "Yes, you've said so before. Don't change the subject."
"Look," he says, "I'm fine. Just… startled. Maybe. I don't know." He starts to stand up, but I push him back onto his seat. His chest is warm, and for a second, I can feel his heartbeat under the tips of my fingers. It's fast.
"You're not going just yet," I say as I sit back down. "Fess up."
He hangs his head. "You're not going to let it go, are you?"
"Of course not," I say.
He chuckles. "Of course not," he repeats. Sighing, he holds out his right hand to me. "Go on, take a look."
I frown, but take his hand in mine, and turn it over.
I don't gasp, and I don't scream. Instantly, I drop his hand as I see the three digits clearly imprinted in a clear whitish color. "You're… I'm…"
"Mine," he says. He's still looking down, but I can see the corners of his mouth turning up slightly. "You're mine. Funny how fate loves to play tricks on us, eh? Head Boy and Girl… the whole cliché. It's a Hogwarts classic—I bet it was planned out from the start."
He's rambling, and we both know it. He's trying to ease up the tension in the room, and we both know it's not working. I don't retract my hand from where it hangs in midair—I can't, actually. It's frozen in place. I bite my lip. "How… how can you be so sure?"
"Well I was hardly surprised," he says. When he sees my confused expression, he sighs and looks away from me. "I already knew I'm… well, attached to you. I just didn't know—I didn't think—it was actually meant to work."
I don't know what to say. He's finished speaking, and I know that those last few words took a toll on him. So we sit there in silence, until I finally speak up what seems to be years later. "In a sense," I say in a paused tone, choosing my words carefully, "I'm not all that surprised, either."
When he looks up at me, his eyes are gleaming. I try hard not to smile, but I end up doing so anyway. However, it fades when I think this over a bit more. What is George's product is a faux? Or malfunctioning? What if we're just kidding ourselves?
I mean, come on. There's a reason why our repressed feelings stayed that way—repressed, that is—for so long. At least, mine. I don't know how long his have been present.
Besides, who are we kidding? Who's to say it'll work? Moreover, who's to say it'll even start? Neither of us has taken a decision yet, and I can honestly say that I'm scared out of my wits—but I'm not completely sure why.
Neither of us is speaking up, but I have a feeling we're both thinking the same thing. I know voicing our thoughts isn't necessary, but something about thinking out loud has always cleared my head. I'm about to speak up, but he presses a finger to my lips before I can articulate a single sound.
"Don't," he says. "Just… don't. I know what you're going to say, and we both know it won't do you any good to speak up right now. So just… don't."
In that moment, I'm about to protest. I want to say that he can't be completely sure of what I'm thinking about—even though I'm pretty sure that he is. I want to say that he's being irrational—even though I know that so am I. I want to say so many things, but I suddenly find myself unable to speak.
Maybe it's because his lips are obstructing mine.
It lasts a second—less than that, really. Still, I can easily label it as the sweetest kiss I've ever received. His lips hardly brush mine; just a light pressure. But I find such a small thing means so much.
Many silent words are exchanged in that fraction of a second, but at the same time, plenty goes unsaid. Even though he's already pulled away from me, our noses are touching and my eyes have yet to open back up.
When I open my eyelids, his are still closed. He's breathing deeply, slowly. He's so close, I can almost hear his heart's erratic beating—matching my own. We stay in that position for a while, until his eyes open back up. Neither of us moves.
His fingers entwine very, very slowly with my own, giving me time to pull away. I don't. Instead, I let him connect our hands, and then I fold my own into his. My voice is hardly a whisper, but he's so close, he can probably hear the vibration of my vocal cords. "So you're going to let a number determine your life?"
His usual smirk is suddenly plastered back onto his face, but it's not mocking me the way it usually does. His eyes glint, maybe in happiness, maybe in amusement. I can't tell. His right hand squeezes my left one as he speaks, very slowly, in the sweetest, nicest tone I've ever heard him utter. "As long as you're in it, I don't really care."
I dreamt something like this the other day, except the dream was rather disturbing (mind out of the gutter, please). However, I figured it would make a neat plot for a simple oneshot, and so here it is. Like it? Don't? Review with your opinion?
Hope you enjoyed this—I had fun writing it. Much more fun than I had dreaming this, might I add. Bleh.