Harry found himself in a bind, experiencing a dilemma similar to Skyler’s.

The day after the Yule Ball announcement, a curly-haired Hufflepuff third-year girl with whom Harry had never interacted took the initiative to invite him to the ball.

Being an orphan who grew up in the house of an aunt who despised him, Harry had never received any education about the opposite sex as a child.

Consequently, he straightforwardly rejected the girl.

The girl left, appearing hurt. Throughout the History of Magic class, Harry had to endure the sarcasm and ridicule from Dean, Seamus, and Ron. This pattern repeated itself several times.

With the Yule Ball drawing nearer, Harry felt an escalating pressure. Although he had someone in mind that he wished to invite, he struggled to gather the courage.

He and Ron were akin to brothers. Not having invited a dance partner, Ron didn’t feel as much pressure. He wasn’t a Champion and wasn’t obligated to participate in the dance.

Simultaneously, numerous changes unfolded within the castle.

The teachers and students of Hogwarts continued to express their eagerness to impress guests from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.

They seemed resolute in showcasing their best during the Christmas festivities at the castle.

The school was adorned with radiant lights and vibrant decorations. Icicles that would never melt adorned the handrails of the marble stairs.

The usual twelve Christmas trees in the auditorium were decorated with a variety of ornaments, ranging from sparkling holly berries to lively golden owls that emitted continuous hoots.

The armors lining the hallways were enchanted to burst into Christmas carols whenever someone passed by.

It was particularly amusing to hear an empty helmet attempting to sing “Oh, come, ye pious men.”

The armor only knew half of the lyrics, and the caretaker Filch had to pull Peeves out of the armor multiple times, as the mischievous poltergeist enjoyed hiding inside.

When the armor couldn’t sing, Peeves would improvise his own lyrics, often filled with rude and unseemly words.

On that night, Skyler completed his magical research and discreetly headed to the kitchen for some midnight snacks.

Truth be told, due to his dance partner’s invitation, he hadn’t enjoyed a proper meal in quite a while.

The house-elves, aware of Skyler’s status as the heir of Hufflepuff, treated him with great enthusiasm, preparing numerous exquisite delicacies for his enjoyment.

Before he could make a move, the kitchen door unexpectedly swung open, revealing an unexpected visitor – Hermione.

“What a coincidence, Miss Granger,” Skyler said, a bit embarrassed.

After their falling out, he and Hermione hadn’t found themselves alone together again, even though their current encounter couldn’t exactly be considered private. Did she believe that house-elves didn’t exist?

Hermione’s response caught Skyler off guard. She fixed him with a determined gaze and took a few deep breaths before stating, “It’s not a coincidence. I borrowed a magical item and tracked your whereabouts, so I came here to find you.”

Skyler was aware that the “magic prop” she referred to was Harry’s Marauder’s Map, which utilized a tracking charm known as the “Homonculous Charm” to display the movements of individuals on the map.

In reality, the functionality of this item was somewhat exaggerated in the original work.

Due to the vast size of Hogwarts Castle, the small map could only represent each character as a dot smaller than an ant. Monitoring everyone’s actions unless focusing on a specific area or individual was practically impossible.

(Note: The term “Homonculous” is derived from Pottermore’s Marauder’s Map.)

This implied that Hermione had been scrutinizing him on the map for an extended period to locate and intercept him here successfully.

Skyler maintained a poker face, pondering silently about the significance of Hermione going to such lengths to find him.

This semester, he found himself increasingly distanced from the Harry trio. Except for the shared Potions class, Defense Against the Dark Arts class, and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures class, where their paths crossed, he devoted most of his time to various plans and research, creating a minimal intersection with Hermione.

Out of politeness and a sense of courtesy, he inquired, “Did you seek me out for something specific?”

With a slightly raised chin, Hermione exuded a blend of stubbornness and pride in her eyes.

Her hands hung on either side of her wizard’s robe, fingers tightly clenched into fists. The sight left Skyler feeling a bit bewildered.

It was almost as if he glimpsed the determined lioness from three years ago in the library, the one with an unyielding spirit declaring her intent to surpass him in academics.

“Skyler Malfoy,” her voice carried a hint of hoarseness, yet her eyes sparkled with an unprecedented radiance. “I came here to tell you one thing—”

“I like you. I want to invite you to be my dance partner!”

“Huh?

Ah?

What was happening here?” Even Skyler’s composure was significantly rattled. Was he being confessed to?

As for honey traps, conspiracy plots, and the like? Skyler had never considered such possibilities.

Harry wasn’t inclined towards such schemes, and Hermione, with her own strength, was highly unlikely to resort to such tactics.

Skyler quickly regained his composure. Observing the girl’s now much more mature face, he realized that Hermione had indeed undergone significant changes.

Unbeknownst to him, her signature front teeth had subtly reduced in prominence, and her hair appeared neatly arranged, lacking the previous disarray.

Upon closer inspection, Hermione had blossomed into a much more captivating beauty.

The once girl-next-door charm had transformed into the grace and allure typical of a young woman.

Skyler, accustomed to the sight of beautiful women, couldn’t help but marvel at the transformation.

Though her beauty was undeniable, Skyler felt no inclination to reciprocate.

Despite the allure, their fates had taken divergent paths.

He couldn’t help but think of Meredith and the three girlfriends who had silently sacrificed for him, reiterating the stern warning in his heart to avoid accumulating more emotional debts.

With a composed expression, he cleared his throat gently. “Miss Granger, I appreciate your interest, but I must apologize. I am already in a relationship, and it’s more than one…”

Looking into Hermione’s eyes, which were starting to dim, he continued, “You are indeed a wonderful person. Intelligent, adorable, and perhaps a tad bit arrogant at times, but your kind heart compensates for everything. Your loyalty to protecting friends and your courage to uphold truth and principles are commendable. However, matters of the heart cannot be forced, and no matter what, I cannot deceive you about this…”

“However, we… are not suitable for being together.” Skyler continued.

Hermione smiled, even though two lines of tears fell from her eyes.

“Skyler,” she said with a smile, “please allow me to call you this name for the last time. I am very grateful for your honesty with me. You don’t have to worry about anything, really, because, before coming here, I had thought about this outcome…” Her voice began to choke, “But… deep down, Avada Kedavra!”

Skyler easily repelled the deadly curse away with a stroke of his wand, enveloping his whole body with a variation of Shield Charm that Hermione had never seen in her entire life nor learned of—the Divine Aegis.

Before Skyler could even talk or reciprocate Hermione about what just happened, Hermione raised her hand.

She sniffed and used the back of her hand to wipe her tears, looking at Skyler with red and swollen eyes and showing a forced smile. “If I can see by my self that you survive the deadly curse, that’s enough. I hope you can win the Triwizard Tournament, and… and… I hope you will agree to be with someone else… maybe, one day, you will agree to be with me, maybe after the Tournament, we will never have the chance to meet again, but as long as you can remember-“

“Avada Kedavra, Avada Kedavra, Avada Kedavra, Avada Kedavra, Avada Kedavra, Avada Kedavra…” Hermione’s voice as she cast the deadly curse lingering inside Skyler’s heart, echoing with a painful, bittersweet tone, repeating over and over again…

Skyler felt a pain in his heart for no reason, but his face remained expressionless. Sure enough, have I ever been moved by you?

Skyler sighed and said solemnly, “Hermione, I… I am sorry things turned out this way, I never meant to—“

Hermione finally couldn’t bear it any longer. Her emotions seemed to have reached their limit, and she burst into heart-wrenching cries out of control.

Tears surged out like water with a missing embankment. She quickly covered her face, turned around, and cried with the last breath, running out of the kitchen quickly.

Skyler’s heart still feels like being stung by a thousand pain as he watches the crying Hermione disappear. Hermione in this world he was in is suffering with too much of a problem that never occurred in the real time line of Harry Potter’s story…

Though his heart skipped a beat when Hermione caught him off guard with her confession, right now his heart is beating to the other women’s presence. It’s a shame it’s not Hermione…

 

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Published On: February 19, 2024

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