"WAKEY, WAKEY, LITTLE LIONS!" Peeves zoomed around the Gryffindor common room, grinning. Why, the weekend had barely begun, and he was already wreaking havoc on Hogwarts! Normally he had to wait for the ickle twerps to get up and come outside their common rooms, but someone had kindly left the portrait of the Fat Lady open for him. After hearing Filch's tired cry of "Peeves! I'll get you kicked out this place for that racket," he flipped upside down and barreled back out the room.
While most Gryffindors were trying to get back to sleep, Harry wiped his hot forehead. Peeves had snapped him out of a nightmare. Voldemort had been planning something, something involving…Crouch? He frowned. No way did that make sense, not with how strong Mr. Crouch's vendetta against anything even remotely related to dark magic ran. He rubbed the pained sleep out of his eyes and decided to nick some food from the kitchen. After receiving a plastic container stuffed to the brim with rolls, muffins, donuts, and other breakfast treats, he returned to the common room to do a distinctly "not Harry" thing: Homework on a Saturday at 8:30 A.M.
"Still," he thought wearily, "Professor Binns' essay on "The Great Goblin Rights' Case of 1593" will probably be a piece of cake compared to solving that egg. Or finding a date for the Yule Ball." Having been shot down by Cho the day before, Harry had literally no ideas who to ask now. He'd thought about seeking out Katie Bell, thinking she'd be good company, but one of Fred or George had already asked her. He knew that quite a few girls wanted to go with him-Like he couldn't notice how conversations about the ball magically filled the air when certain people spotted him. But those types of girls only wanted to go with him because he was Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived. He just wanted to go, get the dancing over with, and have a good time (okay, maybe aiming for "not miserable" was a tad more realistic). He pushed the issue to the back of his mind, allowing himself to be bored senseless for the next half hour as he scribbled nonsense about how the case of Eldrick the Excitable was a setback in the goblins' quest for increased rights.
The desolate common room gained a few tired, yawning souls, then surrendered them to the dining hall for breakfast. Ron had sleepwalked down there around 9:15, and Hermione passed through a bit after him.
"Coming to breakfast?" she asked.
Harry shook his head. "No, thanks. Trying to get some work done," he answered.
"Well, I'll be. Choosing studies over food at this hour? Do I need to fetch Madam Pomfrey?" she joked.
"Not exactly. I've got a few things here." He grinned and slid the Tupperware treasure chest out from under the couch, then explained the circumstances that had led him to acquire it in the first place.
"That Peeves. I thought I heard a bit of a racket this morning." She appreciatively inhaled the scent of baked goods. "Would you mind sharing?"
"Nah, go for it." She grabbed a roll and a pastry.
"Oh, we can have a homework party while everyone's at breakfast. We'll be so productive!" She smiled dreamily at the prospect of essay writing, then dashed back to her dormitory to retrieve her books, some parchment, and a quill.
Harry chuckled, bemused by his friend's love of academics. No one else could ever get that excited about homework. He imagined Hermione gleaned almost as much enjoyment out of the activity as he did Quidditch.
"Speaking of Hermione…" A stray thought of the Yule Ball drifted back to him, his thoughts acting as an Accio spell.
"What, ask her? No!" The idea was off putting, like the concept of a mean spirited Dobby or a rule breaking Percy. Still, it made at least a bit of sense.
Ron returned to the common room shortly after she did. "What are you two doing?"
"Homework," Hermione smiled brightly. "Want to join?"
"What, this early on a Saturday?" He pulled a face and backed away from the pair as if they were surrounded by a minefield of Dungbombs. "No thanks. Gonna give Seamus a go at wizard chess." He shifted uncomfortably, hands jammed in his pockets, then blurted at Harry, "You find a date yet?"
"No luck. You?"
"Nope." He scowled. "It's hard enough finding a good looking girl-" Hermione gave an almost imperceptible "hmpfh," but Harry privately found Ron's assessment to be painfully accurate- "And then, even if you manage to do that, you have to get them alone to ask them."
"Yeah." He shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "Guess we'll just have to do it, though."
"Yep. Hey, what do you say to this: How about we make absolutely sure to get dates by the end of the weekend at the very latest?" Ron suggested.
"Alright," Harry agreed.
Ron then went off to challenge Seamus, leaving only two in the common room once again.
"Better do it now." Harry glanced around, making sure the coast was clear. "Hermione?"
Her hand snapped out, fingers curled. It was a reflex she'd developed over the past three years whenever she was doing homework with either one of her friends and that "I don't want to ask you for something, but I really need to" voice came up. He stared.
"Oh, sorry. It's just…habit. I've gotten pretty used to looking over your and Ron's assignments whenever you say my name with that tone." She blushed. "What is it?"
"Will you go?" he blurted, nerves erasing the back half of the question. He gulped and pressed awkwardly forward. "To the ball? With me? Like, just friends, cause…you're not…it's just-
"Since Cho's going with Cedric, you don't want to go with someone who'll gawp at your scar all night, you want to go with a friend who actually knows you." An expert summary of his dilemma.
He ran through a mental checklist of his earlier thoughts. "Err…yeah. How'd you know all that?"
She sighed. "Harry, boys are easier to read than books. You are simple creatures."
"Well, I don't think I'm THAT simple…" a voice in his head argued.
She pierced him with a steely McGonagall look that said, "No, even you are not exempt from this particular set of rules, Mr. Potter."
"Right." He blundered on. "Cause if you don't, or you're waiting for someone else to ask, that's…that's good, too, it's fine…"
Another sigh, this one steeped in pity. "Tact. Noun. Definition: A quality that both Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley are severely lacking." Still, she managed a small smile. "No, it's fine. I'll go with you. I sort of thought Krum would ask me, as we had been talking a bit lately, but then he told me he's got a girl back home. And he didn't think going with me would be fair since…" She blushed, and was glad Harry had the sense to pretend to study a paragraph of his essay until the flush disapparated from her cheeks. "Well, anyway, yes. I'll go with you."
"Alright. Thanks a million," he beamed.