"Hermione, you're going too fast! Where's the dragon, anyway?"
Startled, Hermione Granger broke stride and looked back at the younger girl. "Don't you mean, ‘Where's the fire?'"
"The fire is in the dragon, silly" Ginny said. "Especially when it's angry enough to chase you." She put her hands on her hips and waited. It was a Hogsmeade weekend and they were among the first out of the castle, so Hermione couldn't be worried about the shops running out of merchandise.
Hermione opened her mouth, and then saw the twinkle in Ginny's eyes. "I never know when you're joking," she complained. Impatiently, she pushed her bushy brown hair out of her eyes.
The redhead grinned. "That's what I like about you."
Hermione snorted and turned. "Come on, I'm running late as it is."
"What's the rush?" Ginny asked again, hurrying to keep up. "And where's Har… I mean… Where are Ron and Harry?"
Now it was Hermione's turn to grin.
"Oh, don't smirk," Ginny growled good-naturedly. "You're in the same ship as I am. How to get HIM to notice that I'm a HER. So, where are the hims??"
"Harry is still asleep," Hermione reported. "Actually, according to Ron, Harry is finally asleep. Ron stayed behind to work on his Charms essay."
Ginny gasped… "Ron, doing homework instead of…" She stopped in mid-sentence and shook her head. "You mean he's keeping an eye on Harry, don't you? Because he's worried that Harry might have another nightmare. The homework is a cover so Harry won't realize that Ron has taken up Harry-minding."
Hermione nodded. "Couldn't have put it better myself." She started to hurry off again.
"Make one move and you'll live to regret it," said the dark, throaty voice from behind her.
Hermione whirled around in surprise.
Ginny coughed, and then switched from her ‘Let's Impress Trelawney' voice back to her normal voice. "So, where are we going?" she asked for the third time. "And if you say ‘Hogsmeade' I will be forced to hex you."
"We're going shopping…"
Ginny's eyes narrowed.
Hermione finished hastily. She didn't want to get on Ginny's bad side. Six Weasley boys and a Malfoy prat couldn't be wrong about those Bat-Bogey Hexes. "I need to get some shampoo… and… "
Hermione sighed. "And something that will make Ron notice that I'm a girl before Valentine's Day."
Ginny goggled at her watch. "I can't believe you, Hermione! It's only two weeks, three days, four hours and nineteen and one-half minutes until Valentine's Day! Why have you put it off so long?"
Hermione shot Ginny a dirty look. "Not funny."
Ginny had the grace (and good sense) to look sheepish. "So, what did you have in mind?"
Ginny raised an eyebrow, but refrained from making more negative comments. (‘Do not annoy Hermione, for she is subtle and knows more hexes than thee.') "You want my advice, then?"
"You want to catch Ron's eye and remind him you're a girl. On the other hand, you don't want to look like you're trying to catch his eye, right?"
"So, there are certain ways that a girl can get a boy to notice her. First and foremost, is the Bat-Bogey Hex."
"Ginny! That's so sticky!"
Ginny giggled. "Very well, less subtle methods, then. You can catch a boy's eye with clothing, jewelry or makeup."
"The makeup would be a dead giveaway that I'm trying to attract Ron's attention," Hermione sighed. "We all wear the same clothes, so that's out." She muttered something under her breath about school uniforms.
"Which leaves jewelry… oh... and there's always perfume, of course," Ginny added. "Scent is a good way to attract a boy's attention without looking like you're trying to catch his attention."
"Well, Ron gave me that perfume last Christmas, so there's no point in me buying any," Hermione said. "Besides, I think he'd get upset if I wore a different scent."
"Ah, good point. So, we're back to jewelry, then. Oh, wait, you can get a new hairstyle, of course. No witch sticks with the same hairstyle all her life."
"Ginny, my hair is impossible! There is no way to style it without using three bottles of Sleekeazy's."
The red-haired witch eyed Hermione's flyaway locks. "Hermione," Ginny said, perplexed. "Where on Earth did you get that?"
"I was born with it!" Hermione snapped.
"Nobody is born with hair like that," Ginny asserted. "You just haven't been treating it right. Come on, I'll take you to a proper witchly beautician. No more of this Muggle shampoo nonsense. That stuff is obviously bad for your hair."
"It's a new hairstyle or the Bat-Bogey Hex," Ginny said, without specifying who would be on the receiving end of said hex.
Hermione was left speechless. Ginny took advantage and grabbed Hermione by the wrist. "Come on! Stop dawdling, we're running out of time."
Later that afternoon, Hermione sat next to Harry to assist him with his Potions essay. Ron was sitting across the table from them, lost in a miniature forest of Charms texts. Evidently, he was no closer to finishing his Charms essay than when they had spoken that morning.
Ron slammed a book shut and shoved it out of his way, pushing Hermione's inkwell almost out of reach. Normally, Hermione would have been annoyed, but she knew that Ron had been having a bad day… both of the boys had been having a bad day.
Harry had dark rings under his eyes and Ron's eyebrows were singed. Clearly, neither sleeping nor Charms homework had gone well.
Harry wrinkled his nose. "What is that smell? Hermione, are you using a new perfume?"
Ron dropped his book on the floor. "Harry, you sound like Lockhart," he growled.
"It must be my new hair potion," she said. "I still have that lovely perfume Ron gave me for Christmas."
"Sorry," Harry said. "I was just curious. She smells nice, don't you think?"
Ron lifted his head and sniffed. "It's okay," he grunted. "I hope you didn't spend too much money on it, though. Ginny's hair always smells fine and she uses the cheap stuff. Can we get back to homework, now?"
‘Oh, no! Wrong boy!' Hermione thought, too upset to wonder at Ron's sudden insistence on doing homework.
"Is the new hair potion how you managed to get your hair to behave?" Harry asked. "It looks nice that way."
‘Oh, help! Harry can't be flirting with me!'
Ron slammed shut another book and shoved it aside, knocking over a sloppy pile of books. The falling books toppled Hermione's inkwell.
"Oh!" Hermione yelped, jumping to her feet to avoid the growing puddle. "I need… I'll be right back. Clean that up, Ron Weasley or... or things will get uncomfortable!" she fled without waiting for an answer.
Behind her she heard Harry complain, "Don't push so hard… ow…"
She ran to her room and grabbed her new bottle of hair potion. Then she scurried to Ginny's room. "Ginny? We've got a potential disaster on our hands. Time for a change of plan," she said.
"Hermione? What's wrong?" Ginny asked, wide-eyed.
"Harry likes the smell of my new hair potion. Ron said he likes yours," Hermione explained.
"Oh…" Ginny said blankly. "Right, then. I guess I'd better go wash my hair, again." She accepted Hermione's hair potion bottle and smiled to herself.
Hermione put her new potion on her bedside table and returned to the common room. Ron and Harry had changed seats. The ink was not cleaned up and both boys had ink stains on their hands and faces.
"Honestly!" Hermione huffed. "Can't you boys manage a simple cleaning spell?"
"We were getting to it," Harry said blandly.
If Hermione hadn't known better, she could have sworn Harry was trying to hide a smile. "Let me get that smudge on your cheek…" she trailed off and her eyes went wide. "That's not a smudge, that's a bruise!"
Harry sighed. "Yes, I know. It goes with my eyes," he muttered. His mouth twitched, and he shot Ron a sideways look.
Hermione remembered the scuffle that she'd heard as she left and she was about to ask Ron why he'd hit Harry, when one of Harry's eyelids drooped in a wink.
She hadn't been mistaken. Harry was amused. She began to add things up. Harry had complimented her, twice. Moreover, he had drawn Ron's attention to the fact that he was complimenting her.
"Well, let me just clean this up, then," Hermione said, waving her wand at the boys.
"Stop that!" Ron laughed. "That tickles!"
"I told you that would happen if you didn't clean that up." Hermione smiled affectionately at him. Ron had hit Harry, but Harry was amused about it. Harry's actions indicated that he had been deliberately baiting Ron. Ron's reaction indicated that, yes, he was aware that Hermione was a girl! She felt a laugh bubble up inside her.