Harry’s breathless exclamation, from across the yard, startled Hermione out of her brooding about Lily and Father Christmas.
She looked up from her feet to the sight of the panting raven-haired wizarddraped across a large snowball that came almost half way up his chest.
“We’re trying to put the middle part on our snowman, but it’s heavy, so we can’t reach,” he explained.
“But you’re taller than all of us and really strong for a girl!” Neville piped in, grinning up from where he’d collapsed on the snow-covered ground, halfway between Harry and a second, even larger, snowball.
Hermione eyed the two snowballs dubiously. The bigger of the two was taller than Colin, who wasslumped against it—probably even as tall as she was. How the boys had managed to roll it was beyond her. The second ball was about a third smaller, but even at that… “Snow is heavy,” she scoffed, “We’ll never be able to lift that monstrosity over our heads… And, even if we do manage to lift it, how are we going to get the head on?”
“We can lift Colin, and he’ll put it on,” answered Harry, undeterred.
“Colin is going to lift the head, all on his own,” Hermione answered, her voice dripping with skepticism, “when the three of you together can’t lift the middle section?”
“But the head will be smaller,” Neville insisted, pushing himself up off the ground.
“It won’t bethatmuch smaller.” Hermione shook her head, refusing—so soon after her disagreement with Lily—to admit that he was probably right about the head. Judging from the size of it, the middle section had to weigh at least fifteen stone. Even with the four of them working together, there was no way they’d be able to lift it. So really, the weight of the hypothetical head was a moot point.
Still, moot point or not, she refused to back down. “Do you really expect the three of us to be able to lift Colinandthe head?”
For almost a full minute, nobody answered.
“Maybe we should call Lily to help us?” Colin suggested hesitantly. “She can use magic to—”
“Not unless you want her to burn the biscuits!” Hermione cut the younger boy off abruptly, still smarting from being outmaneuvered by the older witch. She would have said more but Harry and Neville fixed her with matching glares, effectively cutting her off.
“He was just trying to help,” snapped Neville, “no need to be rude.”
“Yeah!” Harry took a step towards her, hands on his hips. “What doyousuggest Miss Smarty-pants!?”
Hermione sighed. The truth was that she didn’thavea solution, short of reducing the snowman’s size to something more manageable—if they shaved nine inches off the bottom, they could shave six inches and eight stone off the middle… But she wasn’t going to tell the boysthat.
Instead, frowning in concentration, she cast her gaze over the yard, desperately seeking inspiration.
The half-collapsed snow-fort from the snowball fight the boys had dragged her into last weekend—useless.
A couple of snow-covered trees, too slippery to climb—also useless.
Three child-sized snow-shovels, abandoned in the snow, too small to be of use lifting a two-and-a-half-foot snowball—useless.
The Potters’ crimson red sled, which Neville’s Gran refused to let the boys use because she considered downhill sledding dangerous, propped up against the fence—usele… no, wait, not useless! Hills went both ways!
Her expression morphed from frown to grin. “We’ll build a ramp!”
“A ramp?” asked Colin.
“Yes, yes, a ramp,” she repeated, nodding enthusiastically, “it’ll have to be a pretty long one, but this yard is huge and we have plenty of snow, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“But how’s a ramp going to help us?” asked Harry, echoing Colin’s confusion.
“Simple,” Hermione answered, suppressing a sigh, “It’ll be easier to roll the ball up a ramp than it would be to lift it. And the longer we make it, the less steep it’ll be, so the easier time we will have pushing it.”
Foralmost a full minute all three boysstarted at her dubiously, still uncertain how making a ramp would make things easier. If they rolled the snowball on more snow it would get bigger, wouldn’t it? Besides, it had been a lot of work to roll the two big balls that they already had, andnowHermione wanted them to build alongramp?
For her part, Hermione took their silence as acquiescence, and not as reluctance, and proceeded to start barking orders, “Neville, Harry, go get those shovels.Colinyou grab the sledge; we’re going to need it…”
Harry opened his mouth, as if to object, but Neville’s hand on his shoulder cut him off, and he shut it again, reluctantly. Neville was probably right. There was little point in arguing with Hermione when she was in one of her bossy moods. Best do exactly what she'd said; even if it didn’t make much sense…it was easier in the end, and more often than not, she ended up being right.
Firstthey fully collapsed the dilapidated snow-fort into a relatively level inclined plane… then one sled-full at a time, they slowly built on their base till they had a four foot tall shallow ramp, ending slightly higher than level with the largest snowball.
Finally, the four of them, working together, heaved the second ball onto the crimson sledge and start tugging it towards the ramp.
But even with the shallow incline, and the four of them pulling on the sledge’s rope, it took all their strength to move it so much as an inch. And since, to save time and effort, the boys had refused to make the ramp much wider than the sledge, it was so narrow that each time one of them overbalanced, they ended up tumbling off the sides.
The third time Colin wound up collapsed by the side of the ramp, he refused to get up. “This is never going to work,” he whined, “It's too heavy. Can't we just go get Lily?”
“No!” Hermione climbed down to give him a hand up. She’d had her doubts at first, but after all the work they’d put in, it was now a matter of pride to follow through to the end. “We’re almost there. We can do this!”
Colin eyed the sledge dubiously. They’d been pulling for almost ten minutes, and it had barely budged.
“Tell you what,” Hermione said, smiling encouragingly, “you and I can push while Harry and Neville pull. That way we're all less likely to fall off the snow ramp…”
The younger child took a deep breath, staring at his feet as he contemplated his options, but when he finally looked up, he smiled back at her and nodded. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
Inch by inch, with two pushing and two pulling, they moved the sled up the shallow incline, with no further incident, until finally, with one final heave —and possibly a touch of accidental magic —they rolled the middle ball clear off the sled to a perfect landing dead-centre on the snowman’s base.
“Yes!” Harry pumped one fist up in the air “We did it!”
But they’d made the balls rounder than they should have, and despite the force of the impact of one ball on the other, the words of delight had barely left his mouth, when the precariously perched upper ball started to wobble slowly.
“No!” Hermione shouted.
She jumped down from the ramp and started to shove snow into gap between the two snowballs.
It had taken what felt like hours to get the snowball up the ramp. “We arenotstarting over!” she exclaimed. “Quick! Fill the crack with snow, before it falls!”
Despite her efforts, the ball continued to wobble, and the boys scrambled to follow her lead.
It took several close calls, but they eventually managed to securely fuse the balls together, and move on to rolling a new ball for the head.
At just over one foot in diameter, it was a lot easier to build and roll, than the middle section had been, but it still weighed in at just over two stone, and it took most of their combined might to lift it onto the middle section, from their perch at the edge of their ramp, without sending it tumbling to the ground below.
Then, Hermione, as the master-mind of the ramp system, and the tallest of the four, was given the honour of placing the finishing touches: button eyes, a carrot nose, and a liquorice mouth for the face, branches for arms, and stone buttons down the middle section…
Finally, perched on the edge of the ramp, she reached up and placed an old hat of Lily’s on the head, then took a step back to admire the finished product, a snowman twice —
Hermione jumped down from her perch as Neville, brandishing a shovel like a sword, came barrelling into the ramp—missing thesnowman’s base by less than a foot
She took another hurried step back, as Harry and Colin barrelled past her and joined him, with the flourish and enthusiasm of young boys engagedindestruction, intent on destroying all proof of the ramp’s existence.
Hermione found a spot to sit a safe distance away from the destruction and watched on, arms crossed, and exasperation barely reined in —cringing each time they got dangerously close to their masterpiece —until the three boys collapsed to the ground, as short of breath as they had been when she had first come out, and giggling madly with uncontained mirth.
They lay there for several minutes, catching their breath as they stared up at their creation, a snowman twice their size...
Finally, Harry found the breath to speak. “Wow! We did it! All by ourselves! Without any help...” Because Hermione didn’t count as help —she wasn’t a grown-up no matter how much she pretended to be. Still he should probably acknowledge her contribution…
He turned to where she was sitting, arms still crossed, and a frown beginning to form on her face. “Thanks, Hermione. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
“You’re welcome!” Her frown morphed into a smile at the unexpected validation. “That was actually pretty fun...”
The four of them were still laughing when Lily called them in for milk and biscuits. It was a day to remember...
A/N: Many thanks to all of you that have stuck with me.Alsomany thanks to my beta, Arnel, for sticking with me after all these years, and for the quick turnaround on this chapter.