When Hermione woke the next morning, she was thankful it was the weekend. Many exams, including the one in potions, were set for next week due to winter break being just around the corner. Hermione was a bit saddened by the fact that it would be the second year in a row she's spent without her family even knowing of her existence.
She lingered in bed longer than normal, feeling the warmth of Crookshanks' rather large body curled up between her legs by her ankles, pinning the blanket in place. She had a habit of going to sleep on her side, only to wake and find herself on her back. Often times, Crookshanks would be cuddling with her, sometimes even laying on top of her feet or legs. She even woke a few mornings to him trying to climb up on her chest, effectively startling her awake and mildly crushing her at the same time. He was far too large and heavy for such a thing, though he insisted on laying with his beloved human. She remembered the day she got him, so young and full of excitement, wandering around and admiring all the things in Diagon Alley with her parents.
They had been so supportive of her, so proud. They wanted nothing more than for her to succeed, even if they had not the slightest clue about the wizarding world. They knew she was special, they knew she was brilliant, and they reminded her of that any time she felt down about herself. She really could use that right about now, she felt so lost without them.
She stretched and caused Crookshanks to stir, though he remained in his spot, trapping her legs. Sitting up, Hermione wiped the sleep from her eyes, then looked down at the cat-kneazle hybrid with a fond smile. She was so relieved that Ginny had agreed to take care of him while she was out chasing down horcruxes. She had been even more relieved that he was so happy and affectionate when they finally reunited. She had worried that he'd grow to resent her for leaving him and in turn, form an attachment with her red headed friend, forgetting all about Hermione.
He was a clever one though. She'd talk with him about things she didn't feel comfortable telling others. She'd tell him all sorts of things really, and it truly felt like he understood her, as silly as it may sound. The way he ran to her when he heard her voice for the first time in nearly a year truly reaffirmed that to her. She told him where she'd be going, what she'd be doing, and that he'd have to stay with Ginny. She told him to wait for her, and he did. Then, she came back and he truly ran to her. She was so overjoyed, the sight brought her to tears. He remembered her and he loved her. Crookshanks was the only family she had left that did.
Slipping her legs out from under the covers, Hermione shifted and laid back down, now face to face with Crookshanks as she pet him. He yawned and stretched himself, causing Hermione's smile to grow.
"Good morning my handsome, clever fellow," she murmured.
He blinked several times and squinted at her, then yawned again, clearly not yet ready to wake. Chuckling to herself, Hermione continued to speak lowly to him, "You've become rather lazy, Crookshanks. Perhaps I should look into getting you some new toys. Have you tired of the ones you have now? Are they not up to your standards?" she joked.
Yawning again, the cat pushed himself back slightly and raised his paw to Hermione's face. He lightly placed it against her cheek, and held it there as her smile grew. He wanted her to be quiet. She felt like laughing, though she contained it. Satisfied that his human stopped speaking and would let him rest, Crookshanks lowered his paw and repositioned himself, ready to go back to sleep.
Just then, the dormitory door flew open with an exasperated, "There you are! You're still in bed?"
Leaning back and looking over her shoulder, Hermione grinned as Ginny ushered in, a look of worry on her face.
"Are you ill?" the red head asked, moving to sit behind her on the bed.
"No, am I not allowed to sleep in?" the older girl questioned back, rolling over to properly face her friend.
Ginny playfully glared down at her, "I didn't mean it like that, it's just that you never sleep in this late."
Sitting up instantly, worried of squandering the day away, the brunette rushed out, "What time is it?"
She felt movement behind her, and soon she felt the tell tale patting as Crookshanks walked across the bed.
"A little after ten," the younger girl replied with a grin, clearly amused by her friend's sudden change in demeanor.
A small thump, then she saw him strutting out the door, not even looking at them as he left. He had more attitude than she knew what to do with.
"After ten already? Goodness..." Hermione looked around the room, trying to remember what all she wanted to do that day.
She decided she would find Crookshanks later and be extra sweet to him, he had a habit of being quite grumpy when woken before he wanted to be. She also had more studying to do. Plus, she had decided in bed last night that she'd knit Luna a matching set of gloves, hat and scarf for Christmas. She deemed it a very personal, time consuming gift that could be given to balance out all that the girl had recently done for Hermione without being weirdly over-personal. At least, she hoped so. Luna may decide to give her a gift as well, and then where would she be? She knew it wasn't a competition or anything, yet she felt the need to doing something truly special that was greater than what Luna had already done for her.
Unable to hold it any longer, Ginny began to laugh as she watched the older girl who was deep in thought, sitting in her nightgown on her messy bed. Narrowing her eyes, Hermione grumbled, "I have quite a lot to do today. Weekends are the only time I can get much of anything personal done. I need to get ready for the day."
Scooting out of bed, the brunette made her way towards her trunk and began rooting around for clothes. Ginny remained seated and the humor was clear in her voice as she said, "You're rather grumpy when you wake up."
"I am not!" Hermione shot back indignantly, tossing a sweater onto the bed.
"And argumentative," the red head continued, her grin widening.
Glaring at her friend, the older girl threw her balled up undergarments from her fist next to the sweater after slamming a pair of khakis down, "Is there any particular reason why you've decided to grace me with your presence this morning, Ginevra?"
"You weren't at dinner last night," she replied easily, leaning back on her hands behind her.
Hermione flushed slightly, a little embarrassed to admit why (though she couldn't quite place the reasoning), but did so anyway as she muttered, "I was in the library studying with Luna."
"I figured as much, you two spend an awful lot of time there together anymore," Ginny stated, her tone just as light and easy as before.
Hermione on the other hand only felt more embarrassed by it, awkwardly standing up straight and raking a brush through her hair. She brushed a bit more forcefully than she should, but she was so flustered over the fact that Ginny noticed how often she disappeared with their odd little blonde friend, absorbed in their own little world. Something about it just felt like she needed to hide it, like she didn't want anyone else to know. She didn't want anyone intruding on their time together and wasn't sure how to put into words why she felt that way.
"Do you have plans with Luna today?" the younger girl asked, startling Hermione who had grown quiet and contemplative, wondering why she didn't want Ginny to talk about her and the blonde's studying as if it were sacred.
Suddenly nervous for reasons she couldn't understand, Hermione responded with, "Why do you ask?" After a moment's hesitation, she added, "I need to change you know."
Shrugging, Ginny flopped back to lay on the bed. She turned and faced away, propping her head up with her hand, "I didn't want to just assume, but I thought it was highly likely that you'd see her today before I would. I got a letter from my mum at dinner last night and there's something she wanted me to ask the both of you."
"Oh?" was the only response as Hermione tried to dress herself quickly, waiting for the red head to continue.
"Yeah, so, she invited you two to spend the Christmas holiday with us." Ginny started with, instantly warming Hermione's heart. Molly had always been so very kind to her and Harry both, treating them like her own children. She appeared to be reaching out to Luna now as well it seemed, the girl's home not yet fully repaired. Her father wouldn't be there either. After his time locked away at Azkaban, he didn't return the same man.
He was, in truth, a rather fragile man who felt as though he had lost everything. His wife, his daughter, his home, everything that mattered to him. And that sadness, that darkness in his heart, the dementors fed on it. That feeling festered in him, blaming himself for everything he lost. It drove him mad. Luna doesn't talk about it much, usually only talking about the man he used to be. Xenophilius was now a permanent resident at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, and that was about as much as Hermione truly knew about it.
"I know our Christmases aren't much, and it'll be even less this year since we still haven't fully recovered from everything, but you're welcome to come. So is Luna. She said she'd invite Harry as well. I'm not really sure where mum plans on fitting everyone, but you know how she is. She likes to surround herself with people to mother," the red head said with a fond sort of amusement.
"We'll find room, I'd love to spend Christmas with everyone," Hermione said earnestly. It had been on her mind a lot recently. She knew Molly would more than likely invite her to stay and she had been looking forward to it. Having all her friends around her and the busyness of the Weasley family home would help take her mind off the fact that she couldn't spend the holiday with her own family. She missed Harry dearly and wanted to talk with him as much as she could while there. Knowing he and Ginny would be together often, she'd have to find a way to get him alone so she could talk to him about Luna and the confusing thoughts and feelings that came with the eccentric blonde.
Speaking of, the thought of spending any real time with Luna outside of school after becoming so close was both exciting and terrifying. Most of what they talked about were academics and with that element gone, Hermione was nervous that Luna wouldn't find her as interesting to talk to anymore. She knew so much about the younger girl, yet at the same time, she felt like she knew so very little. Just silly, inconsequential things like... What was Luna's favorite food? Her favorite book? She liked draw and paint, make jewelry, but did she have any other hobbies? What sort of taste in music did she have? The list goes on and seems so irrelevant, yet Hermione pondered these things regularly.
"Great, I'll write mum back as soon as I know whether or not Luna's coming too. She might try to shove the two of you in my room with me, and if so, I apologize in advance. My bed is barely big enough for me, so you'd probably be on the floor and I left my room in a bit of a mess before leaving for school. Mum will probably have cleaned it up herself before we get there, but she'll be sure to fuss," Ginny said, her voice showing a bit of fear of her mother's wrath.
"Don't worry about it," Hermione said, remembering the panicked terror on Ron's face when he saw the Howler from his mother. The whole dining hall was silent expect for Molly Weasley's shrill voice bouncing off the walls as she screeched at him for his misbehavior. It was a bit intimidating to Hermione herself who had absolutely nothing to do with it, yet there was still this feeling of a smug satisfaction to witness him being reprimanded. It felt good considering how many times she herself had yelled at him for his stupidity.
In that moment, she felt a bit like she was perhaps something like Ron's "mother" while he was at school with the way she'd fuss at him and clean up after him. It's probably why Molly had liked her so much, knowing Hermione would take care of her son when she couldn't. The girl wasn't entirely certain how she felt about that, though it was amusing in a way.
The last bit of clothing Hermione had left were her socks, so she sat down on the edge of the bed to pull them on. Feeling the bed shift, Ginny rolled over to face the brunette's back and idly studied her bushy mane. Grinning to herself, the younger girl quickly clamored off the bed as an idea came to her. The movement startled Hermione who looked to her friend's retreating form who suddenly announced, "Wait here!"
"What? Why?" came the confused response.
"Because I said so!" the red head shouted humorously, disappearing out the door.
Huffing to herself, Hermione grabbed her shoes and began tying them, deciding she would look for Luna after getting something to eat. She knew she should start on the girl's gift and she would, it was just that her excitement for the holiday break was getting the better of her. She wanted to find Luna as quickly as possible and tell her that she was invited to the Weasley's with her. That they could spend time together somewhere other than the library, maybe even leave the Weasley's to go somewhere and do something like wander shopping strips or go for coffee or anything. She could learn more about Luna that way too. She could learn what types of places the girl liked to go, what she liked to see, maybe even find something she could buy her to commemorate their first time truly "hanging out" with one another.
She was certain now, she had to find a way to go out and do something with Luna over the break. She didn't really care what they did or where they went, she just wanted that time with the other girl.
Just a few short moments after Hermione had finished tying her shoes, Ginny came rushing back into the room and bounced onto the bed, a large grin on her face. The motion caused Hermione herself to bounce a bit and she turned with a smile to look at what her enthusiastic friend brought back with her.
Thrusting her hand out to show off the item, the younger girl said, "Here, I thought this would go nicely with your sweater."
Looking down, the brunette realized it was a decently sized hair clip. It was rectangular in shape, though it's edges were soft and just slightly rounded. It had swirls of deep reds in various shades all blended together with no apparent pattern. It was simple, though very attractive and appealing to Hermione due to it's simplicity.
"Turn around," Ginny lightly demanded, "I'll put it on for you."
Trying to resist a smile, Hermione turned to give the other girl access to her hair as she softly said, "Thank you."
She'd never say so, but she liked a certain level of pampering. From time to time, Ginny would take to doing simple things with her hair and she always found it enjoyable. It may sound a tad vain, but it made her feel very pretty that day and she'd glance at her reflection on a few occasions, wondering where her awkward eleven year old self that first came to Hogwarts disappeared to.
Pulling around the top front of Hermione's hair, the red head shuffled to the girl's side, holding the hair in place. She inspected how it looked, pulling a little free to frame her face here, adjusting and pulling a bit back with the rest there. Once satisfied, Ginny clipped the hair in place on the back of the older girl's head with a solid, "There you go!"
"How do I look?" she asked cheekily.
Ginny pretended to literally be blown away, leaning far back and placing her hand to her chest, turning her head from side to side as she gushed, "Beautiful, truly! So very stunning, I am in awe!"
Hermione tried fighting her smile as she reached over and lightly swatted the other girl's knee, "Oh, shut it."
Scooting off the bed to stand, the younger girl grinned and said, "I imagine you're probably hungry by now, soon you'll start growing bitter, so I'll take my leave before that happens."
"I don't become bitter," the brunette said in mock offense.
"You actually made Ron cry once when you hadn't eaten in several hours," Ginny teased.
"I apologized!" Hermione exclaimed, "He can be trying for anyone's patience, and you know he was being exceptionally frustrating that day and I was terribly hungry and it simply got blown all out of proportion. He barely cried, maybe three tears, and he accepted my apology."
During her whole defense, Ginny watched her become more and more frantic about it, causing the red head's smile to widen to the point that she began laughing once the older girl was through.
"It's not funny! I felt awful," Hermione whined.
"Looking back, it was funny," the other girl countered.
Scowling, the brunette slid off the bed and began grabbing a hold of the sheets. The elves there at Hogwarts would make her bed for her, but she didn't like the idea of that. She had come to understand that there were many who were truly happy to serve and they weren't mistreated at Hogwarts, but she still didn't want them doing anything for her that she couldn't do herself. She simply didn't like the idea of "servants" as it didn't sit right with her. She had always made her bed every morning growing up, her parents (mainly her mother) insisted, and that was never going to change. It was part of her routine.
Sensing that her friend was in fact becoming bitter due to hunger, Ginny decided to get out of there quickly. Hermione could be a little scary at times.
"I'll see you at lunch I suppose," the red head stated, inching for the door.
"Maybe. If I'm eating breakfast this late, I may end up skipping lunch," Hermione said while shaking out her sheets, looking up at the other girl.
Nodding, Ginny reminded her with, "Make sure you tell Luna about Christmas break."
"Of course," the older girl sounded slightly irked, as if that were clearly obvious.
Grinning, the red head couldn't stop herself from one last tease, "Give her a hug for me too."
With a wink, Ginny turned and practically ran out the door. Hermione stood there dumbstruck with a pillow in her hands. Ginny joked about many things and was always so full of energy, so that wasn't odd. But...
Why on Earth did she wink?