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His heart stuttered in his chest when he heard Malfoy mention the two of them dating. He must have seen them in Hogsmead, alone together. Either that, or someone was following them and reporting back to Malfoy, likely so he could then pass information to Umbridge. As soon as the panic came, it was gone when Hermione defended him and their relationship, even if she didn't confirm it out loud.
He found himself smirking as Malfoy's scowl took over, never liking being insulted by someone he considered lesser than himself. Hermione knew just how to push his buttons, all while retaining her own calm and cool demeaner. She was a force to be reckoned with.
The second Harry saw their wands drawn and aimed at each other, he saw red. Every ounce of his Gryffindor blood was pumping angrily in his veins, screaming at him to take Malfoy out before he even had the chance to utter a curse. The rational side of his brain, however small it might be, was the only anchor keeping his feet in place and his mouth firmly shut.
[i Hermione knows almost every curse and countercurse found in every book within this castle,] he forced himself to think. [i She can out-duel Malfoy with her eyes closed.]
Still, just because she was eight levels above Malfoy in skill and intelligence didn't mean that he was comfortable with her on the receiving end of an angry Slytherin. Especially one with a bloated ego and newly granted authority under Umbridge's command.
God, what he wouldn't give to know wandless magic already. It would take barely a muttered curse, and he'd have Malfoy in the air, upside down by now. [b "Come on, Hermione,"] he spoke lowly, barely a whisper.
He wasn't sure what he was begging for. To let him intervene? Or maybe it was urging her to make the first move to disarm Draco before he could do real damage to her with a botched spell.
She had fallen into step beside Malfoy, but did not at all like it. As was usual, the blonde Slytherin male was running his mouth. Saying how the Ministery was cracking down on the filth it should have cleaned up years ago. And how he wondered who would be sacked next. It truly was grating on her nerves but she had to let ig pass in one ear and out the other. If she didn't, then Hermione would be punching him in the face again. It wouldn't be the first time, but with him being one of Umbridge's pets, the girl knew that she would would get into deep trouble. Curses or something again.
[b "You don't need a wand for everything, you know. It was only the wind. You're even jumpier tonight than usual."] The Gryffindor prefect muttered with a roll of her eyes as the Malfoy boy happened to reach for his wand for what must have been the dozenth time. It was unnerving that he was so quick to want to use magic. And she felt bad for whoever or whatever happened to be on the recieving end. Draco was not known to take the spells he used lightly and loved to make others pay.
Her eyes did go back over her shoulder. She couldn't see him, but she knew that her best friend was still there. And she did offer a weak smile. It was her way of saying how much she truly did hate this and wanted it over with.
[i "If you're so clever, why don't you prove it?"] Came the retort to her own words. [i "And it looks like you're slacking in being a prefect. Sneaking away and using the power to get other students out of trouble. Particularly Potter. You know it's going around the school that the two of you are dating. That you are only doing it for his fame."] Draco said with a smirk.
[b "Shut up, Malfoy. We all know half the rumours are started by your mouth. And for the record, I wouldn't be ashamed at all to be dating Harry. He's ten times better than you'll ever be. A lot smarter and braver. Oh yes and compassionate too. And I would NEVER use him in the same way other girls would. You're still just the pathetic and foul boy you've always been."] The girl hissed out, watching as Draco's face turned bright red and he drew his wand.
And in a second, her own was drawn. She really was praying Harry wouldn't do anything stupid. But more so, the girl was hoping Malfoy wouldn't start this duel and then tell Umbridge that she did.
Harry's smile immediately vanished upon hearing the Slytherin slime ball taunt her. He could think of at least eight spells he'd love to hurl at Malfoy to shut him up and/or traumatize him for life, but he forced himself to behave. No sense in giving up the game just yet.
He allotted them a good ten seconds head start, to ensure his footsteps wouldn't draw any unwanted attention. The cloak was great for invisibility but unfortunately lacked any sound muffling capabilities. For now, he'd content himself with watching from a distance to make sure that Malfoy didn't do anything stupid to warrant his interference.
Hermione could handle herself if a situation occurred in which Malfoy needed to be put in his place. It wouldn't be the first time she'd punched him in the face, and it likely wouldn't be the last, given the fact that Draco Malfoy was famous for running his mouth. She didn't need Harry to run in and save her. No, he'd trust her to take care of herself unless she absolutely needed assistance.
Unfortunately, Harry was worried that Malfoy's new ego inflation as an Umbridge minion would make him believe he could get away with whatever 'punishment' he deemed necessary. It wouldn't be surprising if he felt superior enough to curse another student under a false pretense of self defense. Luckily, Hermione was far more intelligent and less likely to rise to whatever obvious bait Malfoy would lay out.
The castle always was creepy at night. Flickering shadows left you confused if one of the resident ghosts had merely passed by a doorway, or if you were being followed. Harry's eyes narrowed as he noted Malfoy's particularly jumpy reactions to any noises; most specifically that the Slytherin boy's hand would immediately go for the wand tucked into his waistband if so much as a gust of wind whistled outside of the window. It was unsettling that he was so quick to respond with a spell to something that could be as minor as a cat scurrying by.
It made him more nervous that Hermione could be on the receiving end of a poor judgment call in which Malfoy fires off a spell out of adrenaline-fueled fear.
It was terrible for her to be encouraging Harry to sneak out. She was usually the logical and good one in their group of three. So what was wrong with her? And as soon as she put the idea into his head, Hermione did feel guilty. He was her best friend..maybe even boyfriend and here she was suggesting he do something that could get him into MAJOR trouble if he was caught.
But before she could voice any of those thoughts, Harry and she were agreeing to meet outside the tower's entrance. And he was off to get his cloak. But even with as guilty and bad as she felt for what she had done..what she was asking for him to do, Hermione could at least admit she was thankful for not having to face Malfoy alone. The platinum blonde Slytherin just got under her skin. He had since their first year and it had just gotten worse over the years.
Her mind was wandering and so the grabbing of her sides made her squeak and turn to face where Harry's voice had come from. [b "Who could ever be ready to face Malfoy? But as long as I have you there, I think I can live."] The girl replied with a faint smile slipping to her lips as her hands were at her sides. As much as she wanted to hold his hand, she couldn't or she would give him away.
Hernione couldn't help her snicker when Harry asked about stuffing Malfoy in the closet if he got to be too much. [b "Honestly we could. He is one of Umbridge's favourites..so he would go straight to her. But the idea is very tempting."] The girl whispered as soon they came upon the self-proclaimed "Slytherin Prince".
[i "Certaintly took you long enough, Granger. Was almost thinking I would have to tell Professor Umbridge that the Gryffindor prefect was slacking off."] He sneered, brushong against her shoulder, walking past her to start their rounds.
[b "And so it begins.."] She muttered to where Harry could only hear and she began to follow her "partner".
Harry laughed. [b "I'm not sure there's anything about dancing I'll feel comfortable with. Give me a broomstick a hundred feet in the air, and I'm golden. Ask me to dance without tripping over myself and I'm a lost cause."]
Any chance he could get to ensure she wouldn't have to suffer around Malfoy alone was an opportunity he was going to take. [b "I like where your head is at. I'm always on board with keeping Malfoy in check."]
With a plan to meet her outside of the portrait, he dashed upstairs to get the invisibility cloak. Everyone in the common room was far too engrossed in their own activities to notice him sneak back down the dormitory stairs and disappear out of the door. Unable to help himself, he had thrown the cloak on before exiting the portrait hole. [b "Ready?"] he announced himself by grabbing her sides to scare her.
Prefect rounds were never fun, and he didn't envy the sheer amount of night rounds she was assigned. The silence of the castle made the job seemingly never ending. [b "Think we can lock him in a closet if he gets too annoying?"] he asked, adjusting to make sure he was fully covered by the cloak.
Hermione huffed and had to stop a snort from escaping her. He had been handsome but never the sort she would consider and not her type. [b "To be fair, I think the Bulgarian 'bon-bon' as he was commonly referred to would be more Ron's type than my own. I prefer boys who are not overly broody and have a charm about them. A way of getting into trouble too."] She teased softly. She couldn't help that she was still in a good mood and was just going with things for the moment.
Ron caught her words and his head did shoot up as he looked to them. [i "Oi!"] Their red haired fried huffed and the older Weasley boys laughed. They had immediately gone back to how much Ron had idolized Krum during the Quidditch World Cup and so had begun their little song to terrorize him a bit.
So it had been a little mean, but she knew her words would get all the Weasleys off their backs for a few moments at least as they were soon closer to the middle of the floor space. Her hand in his as she gave him a smile. [b "You know dancing doesn't have to match the music. It's what we're comfortable with..and to just have fun."] She said with a smile, looking him in the eyes as she fell into step with him quite easily.
Dancing still was not her thing but she happened to enjoy it when with him. She didn't have to pretend to be something or someone she wasn't. [b "Feel like taking the cloak out and coming with me and Malfoy on rounds? I really can't handle another night alone with him and his mouth.. He is the most arrogant boy in this entite castle."] She whispered.
Harry feigned flattery, pressing his free hand against his chest. [b "Are you saying that plain old Harry Potter is a better date than the Bulgarian bon-bon, Viktor Krum?"]
[i "Well, you don't stand around brooding with a scowl half the time, so that's a point in your favour,"] Ginny joked.
He pulled Hermione to a bit more open space. [b "I'm just saying, the papers were all about his - how did they phrase it? Right, his 'chiseled marble' good looks. How could I ever compete with the Quidditch dream boat?"]
[i "Merlin's beard, don't fish for compliments. It's not becoming of a gentleman,"] the Weasley sister rolled her eyes. [i "Shut up and dance already."]
Harry was halfway to a waltz step when he hesitated. [b "Knowing how to swing dance would be really handy right about now,"] his feet moved a bit awkwardly as they searched for a rhythm to the big band playing from the record. [b "McGonagall's ballroom lessons won't do me much good right now, I'm afraid."]
Despite the clumsy shuffling, the smile hadn't left his face as he held her right hand in his left, while his own right rested on her waist.
The laugh that came from Harry and that bounced around the stonewalls was a nice sound to hear. A rare sound as he didn't laugh that much. So she would definitely try and remember the sound of it. [b "How about we try and make that our goal by the end of the term? Up to the challenge?"] The girl asked with a laugh of her own as the two of them made their way up the last staircase that would lead them into Gryffindor Tower.
When they entered, Hermione could only picture those television shows she would watch every once in awhile with her mum and dad. The music and the dancing and just everyone being strung about doing their own thing. It made her think for a moment that they were more in a muggle setting than in a mgical school. And just for a moment their was really no reason for them to be the odd ones out.
A hand moved into Harry's that had been held out and a smile crossed her lips. [b "Three it is. And I think I'm a little better now than I had been too..might be easier with someone you actually like."] Her words were soft as she spoke them. Only meant for his ears. But Ron's comment brought a fire to her eyes and she had to literally bite her tongue to not retort. She would NOT ruin her last free hour or two before patrolling with a troll arguing with their red haired friend.
[b "Shall we?"] She asked, turning back to Harry with a small smile.
His laugh bounced off the stone walls. [b "So two dates in one day is the high score to beat. Soon enough we'll have to have a date every hour on the hour. I'm sure we could manage twenty four dates in a day."]
Surprisingly, the Gryffindor common room was still fairly lively upon their return. Someone had brought out a charmed record player that was filling the air with an upbeat jazz number, with Ginny and a few of her friends dancing along. Small groups of classmates were scattered around the room; some bobbing along as they did their homework, others focused intensely on card games and chess boards in front of them.
[b "Did we not get invited to the party?"] Harry raised an eyebrow.
[i "It was dreary around here. We needed to liven things up a bit,"] Ginny answered. [i "It's Saturday night, why should we leave the fun in Hogsmead?"]
It was hard to argue with that logic. Harry put the basket on a table and held a hand out to Hermione. [b "What do you say? Want to raise the high score to three dates? I promise I dance a bit better than I did at the Yule Ball."]
[i "You're nauseating,"] Ron chimed from his place by the fire, not even taking his eyes off the chess board as he faced off against Neville.
[b "Harry, you took on a troll in our first year to save me...Third year let me take you back in time to help an innocent man AND took one easily a hundred dementors. And last year had the Tri Wizard...someone who isn't brave would have never been able to face all of that. So I think you have filled the name and more. And you could never disappoint me."] The girl said with a soft smile as she explained the true reasons behind the name that she had chose. Ever the shy one..but this was something she needed for him to understand. AND something she was more than sure that he needed to be hearing to help get him through the times ahead.
Her own cheeks flushed when he mentioned "when you're head girl" and she couldn't help her small and almost timid smile. [b "You know there is no one else I would rather do that for or with.."] Came her soft words as she watched the blanket and food pack itself back into the basket. He really had become better with his magic.
Soon her hand was taken by his and she nodded. [b "We should perhaps make a game? See how many dates we can go on at a time? Because I do know I loved the two today."] She said as the walked the mercifully quiet and empty corridors. Her mind was starting to wander and the moment Harry stepped closer was the moment that she unconsciously had done the same. The warmth for one...and just she found the closeness a comfort.
Harry nudged her shoulder. [b "You made a very adorable cat. The prettiest in all the land,"] he teased in good humor.
Puffing out his chest, he donned a superhero pose. [b "I was thinking something humble for myself. The Golden Boy, or Prince Charming. Are those too obvious?"]
He hadn't been expecting the title she went with. His head tilted in thought. [i Fortem]. Ever one to be bashful at even the slightest compliment, his face flushed red. [b "You think I'm brave enough to earn that name? Seems like some big shoes to fill. I'd hate to disappoint you."]
The boy who lived scowled and pouted when she pointed out that it was time to head back. [b "Wait until you're Head Girl. Then we can stay away as long as we'd like. So long as you sneak me out late at night on your rounds to join you. It'll be our own stealthy adventure."]
A wave of his wand saw their food and blanket packed back into the basket. Without hesitation, Harry reached down to take her hand for their walk back. [b "Two dates in one day. We've got quite the record to beat next time around. You up for the challenge, Miss Granger?"]
The corridor was mercifully empty this time around, with only the distant noise of portraits chattering to each other on the walls. Late September had put a chill in the air, made worse by the poorly heated stone hallways. For more reasons than one, Harry stepped a bit closer to her so their shoulders practically touched as they walked.
A smile crossed her lips when Harry had said he wanted to let her mum and dad know he was on their side and didn't like getting her into the trouble they got into. But the truth was she didn't mind. She would ALWAYS be there for him and she would always help him. He was her bestfriend after all. This time she didn't voice it, but she was sure he knew it.
[b "New marauders.. You know that's actually kind of the case."] Her words were thoughtful as she fell silent again and listened to his next words.
[b "If you want to call me Whiskers, it would make sense. And it is fitting with Crookshanks and our little Poly Juice mishaps. Still can't believe I had been so stupid. I should have realised the difference between human hair and cat fur."] The girl muttered with a shake of her head. Every now and again Ron did like to tease her and say how she looked good with ears and a tail. Of course no one really knew what that meant but the three of them.. But she STILL hated that it had happened and even was embarrassed of it. [b "For you, your name could always be 'Fortem'.. It's Latin for brave.."] And she had chosen it because he was the bravest person she knew. It was one of the things that drew her to him in the first place. One of the things she had found so very endearing.
Her hand soon moved into his. [b "Come on..we best be getting back. The others will probably start a search party or something if we're not careful. And I do have...prefect duty too.."] Those last words were quiet as she was inwardly cringing. Draco still wasn't much better about it. Still pigheaded and still made her do most of the scolding or telling off when they needed to do it.
[b "I'll make sure they're aware that I'm on their side, and wish we could keep you out of harm's way,"] he grinned. [b "I know better than to boss you around though. No one can tell you to do anything you don't want to do, and no one can deter you once you've set your mind to it. Hence helping me break out an escaped criminal and now helping me start an underground rebellion."]
As a matter of fact, he adored her for it. Some of their classmates were quick to brush her aside as a straight-laced teacher's pet, but were simply ignorant to see how she could be headstrong and determined like the rest of them. Broken school rules were no longer an oddity, in fact they were becoming more and more common for them. The wild side of Hermione Granger was entirely too endearing for his own good.
[b "It's always good to know I have a permanent partner in crime, should I find myself in mountains of trouble. Because let's be honest, I don't even have to look for it for it to find me. We can be the new generation of Marauders,"] Harry looked quite amused by his own suggestion.
[b "We'll have to come up with catchy nicknames though. It's a tradition, after all."] He looked at her from the corner of his eye, a playful smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. [b "Let's see...what about Whiskers? You know, since you have a cat. And the whole polyjuice potion mishap."]
Brown eyes watched out the great arch before them as the owls swooped in and out of the night sky. It was peaceful and almost freeing in its way to be watching them. It was like a calmness overtook her as she and Harry sat in the others company. Up here there was no school to worry about. No Ministry officials who seemed to want their heads. And there certainly was no Voldemort or the threat of a rising army. It was simply them and a bit of a reprieve. [b "Once a week doing this would be nice..It would give us a much needed break..."] Her words were as soft and thoughtful as ever as she spoke them.
She actually felt guilty saying how she had wanted to keep this a secret. Them a secret. Or she did until she knew that they were on the same page. Sometimes...having privacy and ONE thing for them could be nice..and this was that one thing she wanted.
[b "Mum and dad like you Harry...they aren't fond on the danger I get into..But they don't blame you. They know that I choose to do it because I want to help. And they know it is just me doing what they always taught me..Stand for the things I believe in."] The girl said, slowly turning her gaze to meet his as her hand gave his a small squeeze. She needed him to understand that she meant EVERYTHING that she had just said.
He stared out the open archway, at the stars littering the night sky. Reality would eventually come crashing back in - with a sociopathic Ministry spy stalking their every move, and Voldemort's return promising an influx of his followers, it was lining up to be another year of chaos for them. Not for the first time, he longed for a normal school term. [b "We can make it a weekly thing; disappearing for a few hours, just the two of us so we can get a break from everything."]
For now, Harry was content to just be in her company. It was reassuring that they were on the same page regarding just how much they were willing to share with their friends. He was fearful she'd think him a jerk for not wanting to divulge much information, or that he wanted to keep her some kind of secret out of shame. Knowing that she felt the same about their privacy put his mind at ease.
That is, until his brain took a detour and considered something more terrifying.
[b "Is your father going to kill me?"] he blurted out, twisting his head slightly to look at her. [b "Do they even like me? Oh god, are they going to be angry about the harm you've been in for my sake?"]
Harry couldn't recall any conversations he'd actually had with her parents that didn't involve just routine small talk. It was always polite, but the matter was certain to change with his new status as potential boyfriend, and not just her friend Harry.
The thought hadn't even crossed his mind about what her parents would think. He certainly wasn't going to mention anything to the Dursleys, and therefore had neglected to consider what Mr and Mrs Granger would think of the situation.
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