Harry, Ron and Hermione entered the Great Hall with the rest of the school, save the first years. After they were sorted into their houses, the start of the term feast would begin.
Harry took a seat next to Fred Weasley, who was busily trying to turn a large canary human again. George was standing next to him and Harry caught the words "Don't worry Lee, just a dysfunctional Canary Cream."
Ron was looking grumpily at the table. The train ride was less bearable than usual, because Hermione had been going on about some new spell that she read about, and he had snapped at her. She looked rather hurt, and hadn't spoken to him since except to ask him to hurry and get off the train. "When is the feast going to start? I'm starved."
"Oh Ron, you're always hungry. Just wait. The Sorting's about to start." Hermione turned away and looked up at the High Table where the staff sat, waiting for Professor Dumbledore to announce the sorting. She was still sore at Ron, and wondered why she was so hurt when he told her she was boring, as he had so many times before.
"Good evening students. Before we begin the sorting the first years, I'd like to introduce a new student. Her name is Cassidy Newman. She comes from a town called Salem in the United States. Miss Newman is starting her fifth year and we will be sorting her first." Dumbledore looked through his half-moon spectacles at the tall, curly haired girl standing at the end of the staff table.
The students followed his gaze and studied Cassidy. She was wearing her Hogwart's robes and looking as if she'd rather be anywhere but there. At the mention of her name, she looked scared out of her wits. Ron supposed he would be too if he didn't know anyone and was in a new country at a new school.
Professor McGonagall entered the Great Hall carrying the stool and the sorting hat. She set it down in its usual spot and motioned for Cassidy to sit down.
"I didn't know you could just start your fifth year here. Shouldn't she start with the first years?" Ron whispered.
"Of course not. She probably attended Salem Academy of Magical Prowess. I've read it's the best school of magic in the United States," Hermione interjected.
"Where'd you read that? Hogwarts, A History?" Ron muttered.
"No, in A Guide to Magical Schools in America. Honestly, don't you two read?" Hermione frequently asked them this question, and Ron came back with his usual wise-crack. Hermione wondered why their frequent arguments were getting to her all of a sudden.
Harry ignored them and looked back at the High Table. Cassidy was sitting on the stool with the sorting hat coming down over her head. It was taking a bit to decide, but then the hat shouted, "GRYFFINDOR!"
The Gryffindor table burst into applause, and Harry clapped loudly. It wasn't every year that they got a new student in the same year as he and his friends were. In fact, in the years that he'd attended, they hadn't ever got any new students aside from first years.
Cassidy took the hat off her head and replaced it on the stool, then hurried over to take a seat at the Gryffindor table. She took the empty seat across from Hermione, who was sitting next to Ron two seats down from Harry.
When the feast began, Harry filled his plate with all his favorites, and settled down to listen to the conversation. Hermione was asking Cassidy about why she moved here, and her previous school.
"Well, my father had a job at the American Ministry of Magic working on the, er, problem with You-Know-Who's lot in the US. Last year, after the Triwizard Tournament and…" she paused, looking for the right words, "that tragedy, Mr. Fudge wanted a representative from our country to help with the resistance effort. My father moved us here, and enrolled me at Hogwarts. I'm so pleased to be here; I've heard a lot of wonderful things about Dumbledore and all. When we went to Diagon Alley to buy my school supplies, I saw this book called Hogwarts, A History. It was really interesting, I was so glad to find such a thorough source. Have you ever read it?" she asked.
"Oh great. That's what this school needs, another Hermione," Ron whispered to Harry. Harry tried to contain his laughter.
"Oh, I adore that book. It's got so much information in it and it's proved to be quite useful." Hermione looked as if she'd just been made Head Girl.
"Hermione, could I ask a favor? I've had four years at my old school, but I'd really like it if you could go over some of the important things you've studied, in case the curriculums don't match. I've studied my course schedule and I've taken courses like the ones you take. Besides the usual, I chose Arithmancy and Care of Magical Creatures," Cassidy said in a brisk but friendly tone.
"Wonderful! That's what I take. Harry and Ron will help us too. This weekend we'll go to the library and work on anything you have trouble with." Hermione motioned to Ron and Harry.
"The only subject I'm really poor at is Potions. I just don't have the knack for mixing ingredients. I'm a terrible cook, too." Cassidy laughed.
"Then watch out for Snape," Harry said.
"Nasty git, Snape is." Ron shuddered.
After dinner, Cassidy followed them up to Gryffindor Tower. Dumbledore announced Hermione had been named a prefect after the feast had ended, and Ron asked why she hadn't told them before.
"Professor McGonagall told me not to say anything," she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"What's the new password, or are you not allowed to tell us that either, Percy?" Ron smiled at his joke, but Hermione just scoffed.
Hermione walked to the head of the pack of Gryffindors and gave the Fat Lady the password. "Happy Christmas," she said.
The Fat Lady's portrait swung open as she replied, "You too dear."
Their first week went by without incident, unless you count being bullied by Snape and trying to be supportive of Hagrid, even though his new favorite animal was the size of a desk and looked like a duck, but had four hairy legs and fangs the size of fingers.
As promised, Hermione dragged Ron and Harry up to the library on Saturday to help Cassidy sort through her lessons.
"I think I'm a little behind in Potions," Cassidy began.
"She kind of reminds you of Neville, eh?" Ron whispered to Harry. Indeed, it had been reminiscent of Neville to watch Cassidy fumble with her hair growth potion. She spilled some on her hand, which immediately was covered in brownish red hair, the same shade as the curly hair on her head. Snape had seen and come over to be his nasty self.
"Is there a problem, Miss Newman?" he asked coldly.
"I just spilled a little as I was draining it sir," she said meekly.
"Well, ten points from Gryffindor for your carelessness, and if you are as adept at making antidotes as potions, you should go to Madam Pomfrey to get that removed. After class," he added greasily.
"But I've already covered more than the class in Transfiguration. Other than that, I think I'm up to speed," Cassidy continued. She fumbled in her bag and produced her copy of Hogwarts, A History and involved Hermione in conversation.
Ron and Harry wandered over to the Quiddich section of the library to look for books on refining keeper moves. Ron was trying out for Oliver Wood's old position, and as Fred and George were the new captains, he needed to be on top of his game to impress the twins. Harry was sure Fred and George would choose Ron, but Ron wanted to look up a few new moves to try none the less. Harry chose a book at random, flipped through the index and opened it to the proper page.
"Look here Ron. This looks like a great move." Harry tipped the book so Ron could see the Keeper of the Leicester Leopards make a spectacular save while standing on his broom and using the tail to stop the ball.
"Hold it there, Harry. Let me grab a quill and some parchment to copy down the instructions." Ron jumped up from behind the bookshelf and proceeded back to the table they were sitting at.
Hermione wasn't there, but Cassidy was still sitting with her nose buried in Hogwarts, A History.
During the past week, Ron decided that he had a crush on Cassidy. After all, why else would he put up with such a person? He felt strange, like a million butterflies were gathered in his stomach. He wasn't sure he wanted to like her; after all, she was like another Hermione.
Ron didn't know where he got the nerve, but after he retrieved his quill and parchment, he cleared his throat. Cassidy looked up.
"Uh, Cassidy? You know that next weekend is the first Hogsmeade trip, right?" He gulped.
"Would you, er, like to go with me and maybe have a butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks?" Ron's legs felt like lead and the bottom seemed to have dropped out of his stomach.
Cassidy jumped up. "Ron! That's terrible! I couldn't do that to Hermione! She's been nothing but nice to me since I got here and—''
"What's this got to do with Hermione?" Ron asked. He was a little taken aback by her response.
"Well, she is your girlfriend after all. What a horrible thing to say." She crinkled her nose at him, imploring him to explain.
"Hermione is not my girlfriend! Did she tell you that?" It was an intriguing idea, Hermione telling someone she was his girlfriend. He was beginning to get the feeling back in his legs.
"No, I just assumed…I mean, you do like her, don't you?" At his expression, she continued, "Well you act like you do. And so does she. You might want to have a talk with her." With that, Cassidy picked up her books and walked past Ron. But she turned and said, "Anyway Ron, I promised Neville Longbottom I'd go to Hogsmeade with him."
Ron sat down in the nearest chair. Rejected for Neville? And she thought that he liked Hermione! And she thought Hermione liked him…
Hermione stood up from her spot in the stacks. She was looking for the recipe for a potion Snape assigned, and as a result, had overheard Ron and Cassidy's conversation. She walked out from behind the shelves and sat down next to Ron. She watched hi ears turn red.
"Do you want to go for a walk? I, uh, overheard your conversation. I was looking up a potion." She shifted nervously in her seat. Would Ron be mad if he thought she was eavesdropping?
"Yeah, I guess. Let me tell Harry. Meet you at the door."
Hermione collected her things and stood at the entrance to the library waiting for Ron. When he arrived, they walked down the steps, through the castle, and out of the great oak front doors. They got all the way to the lake before either one spoke.
"So Cassidy likes Neville, huh?" Ron looked at the lake to watch the giant squid. He looked like he was sunbathing. "Stupid git," he mumbled, referring to the squid. Who sunbathed in September?
"He is not! Just because she rejected you for him doesn't make him awful! Sometimes you are so—''
Ron didn't want to hear this. He turned to face Hermione. "I was talking about the squid sunbathing in September. So, do you like me?" He thought it best to just get this over with. He could feel himself blushing and wondered how red he was.
"Do you like me?" Ron's face was the color of the Gryffindor Quiddich robes. Hermione had to suppress a laugh.
"I asked you first," Ron countered.
Hermione sighed. Then she dropped her bag on the ground and grabbed Ron's shoulders. She pulled him close and kissed him. His lips were warm and when she let him go, he looked like he just got electrocuted.
"Hermione!" he managed to choke out.
"So, does that answer your question Ron?"