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Ron groaned in relief, slapping a hand to his chest. [i "Never thought I'd say this, but I'm happy to see you,"] he declared to Ginny. [i "You're a life saver."]
The girls pushed over to make room, not even being subtle about leaving two narrow spots for Harry and Hermione to squeeze in beside each other; narrow enough that their thighs were practically overlapping. The Weasley sister looked far too pleased with herself. [i "I almost told Luna we should just keep the carriage to ourselves and head back, but I didn't want to miss any juicy stories. Why were you blabbering on to Umbridge?"]
[b "He was being our hero,"] Harry interjected. [b "We didn't want to see her today of all days, so he jumped in to distract her while Hermione and I hid out in the alleyway."]
He saw Ginny's eyes dart to Hermione with a wild glint. He groaned internally, knowing that she would corner the poor prefect later on for answers. [b "I thought she was going to jinx him, honestly,"] he spoke up first.
[i "Nah, that would ruin her public image,"] Ron didn't seem bothered. [i "She keeps her monstrous tendencies to the privacy of the castle, where she can torment students away from prying eyes."]
Harry glanced down at the scabbed over words etched into his hand. [b "You've got that right,"] he muttered.
The carriages rattled against the bump pathway. His shoulder bumped Hermione's more than once, making his heart race just a little faster each time. The wrapped parcel with her gift was resting on his lap. Ron must have gotten bored staring at the passing trees, as he reached across the middle of the carriage and snatched the book up. [i "This for Sirius?"] he asked, turning the package over in his hands.
[b "No!"] Harry jumped in surprise, bolting from his seat to get it back.
And ultimately toppled over the side of the carriage, right to the dirt path.
He landed on his shoulder and he felt the air leave his lungs. The liquor must have still been in his system. Either that, or his balance was entirely off all on its own. Groaning, he pushed himself to his knees and hurried off the pathway; lest he get run over by the next carriage.
[i "You alright?"] Ron called, looking concerned as their carriage was still moving.
Harry knew it wouldn't stop. The thestrals pulling the damn things listened to no one. They knew their destination and were set on getting there with zero interruptions. A passenger going overboard was an inconvenience they weren't going to acknowledge.
[b "I'll catch the next one!"] he called, dusting himself off.
For a good moment, he was alone as their cart disappeared around a bend in the trees. Silence, except for the birds. [b "Fantastic,"] he sighed.
The merpeople actually scared her a bit. She had heard what they had done to Harry and the others during the task. Frightful for sure and not those you would want to cross. [b "I'm sure we could always ask Hagrid how to charm them all. He would know and we would have an easy time."] She was half joking but half serious as well.
It wasn't long before Ron's heavy steps were heard and he was before them. He had a smirk on his face that would make the Cheshire Cat jealous. But that meant he had done his job. [b "We owe you for that save, Ron. Though couldn't you have gotten more creative or dull?"] Hermione said wirh a smirk.
Soon, her hand was being taken by Harry's again and they were heading back since Ron had checked the time and didn't want to be sat with "a bad bunch". Even her head wasn't getting THAT swelled. She actually rather hated being a prefect and having to judge the "good and the bad" of the otjer students. Ron on the other hand loved it.
[b "We don't watch out and we may have Percy 2.0 on our hands."] The girl muttered just loud enough to have Harry only hear her. And she meant it too..everyday it seemed Ron became more like Percy.
[i "There the three of you are. We were getting worried and about to come and search for you."] Luna said as she and Ginny were stood waiting on a carriage. It was clear the two girls had been saving the room for them.
There wasn't a doubt in his mind about whether or not he wanted another date with her. [b "Scuba diving in the Black Lake it is!"] he teased. [b "I'm sure the giant squid won't mind a few guests. Now the merpeople on the other hand, they might be a bit dramatic."]
Ron's heavy steps echoed against the brick, announcing his arrival before he'd spoken a word. [i "I'm telling you, it's incredibly satisfying to see her nearly combust with irritation. I just went on a tangent about Zonko's rising prices. She didn't know what to do with herself."]
Harry grinned. [b "Job well done, Mr Weasley. You can add 'Pestering Ministry Officials' to your resume."]
A quick glance around the corner reassured him that they were once again on their own. Ron checked his watch and gestured back to the main road. [i "We'd best be heading back. The carriages will be arriving soon to take us to the school. I'd rather not get stuck with a bad batch of students."]
[b "As prefect, are you actually allowed to have opinions on other students?"] Harry fell in to step beside them. [b "Aren't you supposed to be unbiased?"]
Ron snorted. [i "Eighty percent of being a prefect means judging other students' actions as good or bad. It's honestly the only redeeming quality of this job."]
Harry reached a hand out for Hermione to grab. [b "Uh oh, I think Prefect Weasley is on a power trip. All of this authority has gone to his head."]
[b "I'm sure we'll figure out something else dangerous. Scuba diving in the Black Lake or a picnic in The Forbidden Forest."] She said with a laugh of her own. Though mostly having sobered out it appeares perhaps they still weren't fully "normal".
Brown eyes slowly looked around the corner and she let out the breath she had not realised she had even been holding. [b "Chocolate frogs or perhaps a broom kit like yours.. We are lucky he can deal with that right troll."] The girl said with a shake of her head as Ron looked to be going on and on about something. The woman looked bored and like she wanted to hit him or something. BOTH emotions she had felt herself but she could not feel bad.
Her cheeks brightened with a blush when her hand had been taken. A small smile came to her lips and she nodded. [b "This was the most fun I have had in a long time.. what made it the best is it was with you.. So I would like to.. that is..if you still did?"] She whispered as dark gaze locked with bright green.
He snorted. [b "Maybe next time we'll go scuba diving in the Black Lake, or box the Whomping Willow. You know, keep things exciting."]
The brown packaging paper containing her present was slightly wrinkled from the running. Harry subtly checked it over. No tears to be seen, other than a tiny piece near the corner. He sighed in relief. Nothing would give the surprise away.
For a moment, he considered giving her the present right then. Something to make up for their suddenly being on the run from Umbridge. He fought himself internally before deciding against it. Best to wait until he'd had the chance to write a small message to her on the inside cover. A souvenir of their first date.
Harry risked a peak around the corner. Umbridge still stood with Ron in front of her, speaking animatedly with his hands. [b "Remind me to get Ron a nice gift, for taking one for the team,"] he grinned. [b "Maybe a year's supply of Chocolate Frogs."]
He'd never been so grateful for their friend. Ron knew how to handle Umbridge, judging by the way he appeared to be babbling on nonsensically to waste her time. The Ministry official looked torn between throttling him and rolling her eyes. Ron, ever the professional, appeared to be describing a Quidditch maneuver.
Turning back to Hermione, Harry took her hand once more. [b "You've enjoyed today, haven't you? I mean...are you still interested in seeing where we go?"]
Brown eyes had followed the blue of their friend and when she saw the devil in pink, it was suddenly like a weight fell upon her shoulders. The happiness she had felt of the afternoon was draining away . And the girl was frozen in her tracks until both she and Harry had both been nudged by Ron who began towards the woman. It looked like their redheaded friend was DEFINITELY trying to help them dodge a bullet and to have peace of mind for one day at the very least.
Her hand had never let go of Harry's and as quickly as the two could they darted for the alleyway. Her head was starting to feel like it was swimming as the affects of the alcohol were kicking back in. This would be the LAST time she drank if they would have to run after. [b "Yeah..next time lets just drink if we know we're not going to have to run."] The girl panted out as the two were against the wall, hands unaclasped.
The girl was still trying to catch her breath and laughed at Harry's look that he had given and his words. [b "No one can say dates with you are boring."]
Harry glanced her way, smiling softly. [b "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be gloomy. She didn't mean harm, I know. Just made me think that I could have done something more romantic for you. But, I can always save the romance for the second date. Right?"] he nudged squeezed her hand.
He was too lost in thought that he didn't even realize Ron was speaking to them, until her attention was drawn away first. [b "What? What's wrong?"] he turned to look.
The sweets and alcohol in his stomach churned. He was not about to let the pink devil herself ruin their day. His eyes darted around them, looking for somewhere they could go before she spotted them. [i "Duck into the alley, and round the corner at the back. Wait there until I come and get you,"] Ron ushered them off.
Without questioning the order, Harry pulled Hermione after him. The alley was likely the only place in Hogsmead that wasn't full of students. The nook at the back was just large enough to hide. He felt his head swimming. [b "Note to self, running after drinking is officially off my list of activities,"] he leaned back against the stone wall, dropping her hand to hold his own against his stomach.
He smiled wickedly at her. [b "Look at that. Adventurous and dangerous all in one day. Take that, Ginny Weasley!"]
Hermione gave Ron and anguished look at he announced to his sister and Luna just what she and Harry had been up to. Honestly it was none of their business and they really didn't need others to overhear them. [b "It wasn't all that much. And as you can see we are perfectly fine now. Aside from having flushed cheeks and dialated pupils."] The girl tried to explain.
But as she spoke, Ronald pulled his usual stunt and had dragged the attention back to Harry. And the youngest Weasley looked at the pair, eyes bright and interested. She even made it sound like a first date should be something out of novels she had read or movies she had seen. To be perfectly honest, Hermione had been the one who had chosen the Shrieking Shack and not Harry. And she had wanted to comment and save Harry from what had been said. However, the two younger girls were gone just as quickly as they had come up and Ron was all but ushering the pair of them through the crowded street.
Her hand remained in Harry's and she noticed how silent he had become. His eyes had gone to his feet and had not come up since Ginny had spoken her words. All signs that the younger girl had upset him. As they walked, Hermione gently nudged Harry and gave his hand a squeeze. [b "I didn't find it odd at all. It was something we needed and it was nice to get away. Remember we both chose it and not just you."] She whispered in an attempt to cheer him up. She wanted him to know that they could have done anything or gone anywhere and she would have been perfectly happy because it was together.
[i "Oi love birds. Are either of you listening to anything I've just said?"] Ron asked, giving them a pointed look. He had caught sight of Umbridge and had been trying to guide them in different direction. The last they needed was for the hag to catch them and find they had been drinking.
Ron clicked his tongue, looking as smug as Percy after exams. [i "I don't know if I like the influence this one's had on you,"] he told her, gesturing to Harry. [i "The Potter men are all scoundrels, I hear."]
Harry gave him a shove. [b "I can't be all that bad. Your mother's never sent me a Howler before. How many of those have you had again?"]
[i "Enough to know that he's nowhere near innocent,"] Ginny chimed in as she and Luna joined them. [i "What all the fuss about?"]
[i "These two have gone off the rails. Had a few too many drinks,"] Ron diverted attention back to Harry and Hermione.
Harry looked around to make sure no one was paying too much attention. [b "Keep it down, will you? No need for anything to get back to the school. We don't need any teachers hearing about it."]
Ginny grinned. [i "I think it's absolutely adventurous. That's how dates should be! Danger and romance all mixed into one. Where did you go?"]
Harry shuffled on his feet, bashful at the turn of conversation. [b "The Shrieking Shack."]
The girl's smile faltered. [i "Oh. Not exactly where I'd think to go on a first date, but we all have our own ideas of fun, right? I'm sure it was wonderful. We'll catch you lot back at the carriages. We've a few more stops to make!"]
Ron shuddered as they walked away. [i "I never want to hear my sister discuss her romance preferences again."]
Harry was lost in momentary thought. [i Had the Shrieking Shack been a bad idea? Was it too odd?] He barely noticed Ron urging them along the sidewalk, though he still gripped Hermione's hand in his as they followed their friend through the crowded streets. His eyes remained fixated on his feet, Ginny's words circling his brain.
Honestly she didn't want to go back to Hogwarts yet. The afternoon had been so nice and stress free. A day they had surely been needing since the stay of term which was sad because usually they liked being back in the wizarding world. She just wished her mind wasn't still so very muddled and that she could have given them more an excuse to avoid refinding the group that they had come with. Even so, Hermione was still able to find herself in high spirits. [b "That's a brilliant idea. We both know there is always something to see in the windows. Most the time not something either of us would have seen at home."]
And soon, the two were at the front counter and she was paying for the books she had found and the shop keeper was handing Harry a parcel with an awkward thumb's up. It had not been lost on her but she decided not to ask. [b "Thanks for all you're help, Mister Klaus. And thank you too Watson."] The girl said as she reached to pet the cat who happened to be lounging in his owner's arms. She then gave a nod to also reasure the man that he would indeed find them back in the shop any chance they got. She loved it and it felt absolutely like home to her.
It was when the exited the shop did she find Harry's hand taking hers and their fingers interlaced. Her own cheeks flushed but she didn't pull away. She quite liked the feel of his hand in hers. It was nice and a comfort she had never known before. What she didn't like was the eyes that followed them or the giggles. But that was to be expected with it being only the two of them and for them to be holding hands as they were. At one point she had almost let go, but Harry telling her not to mind them made her stop. [b "I dread to think what they'll come up with. So I'm sorry that this has gotten you even more attention."] She whispered, her hand giving his a squeeze.
A familiar voice soon came and told those oggling to stop or points would be docked. She had to admit that she had never been so glad to see Ron before. [b "You're learning quite well to be a prefect. Well done."] The girl said with a smile but then froze as he began to study them.
[b "You've no room to talk. Because back at Grimmauld Place you joined the twins."] Hermione said, cheeks a bright red as Ron had burst out laughing. [b "Besides we needed it."]
Harry was still feeling deliciously happy from the firewhisky and her company. He wasn't entirely ready for the day to be over. His brain, however, was too muddled to think of something to prolong their outing. [b "Let's walk the street and if we find them, we'll just stay together. We might see something in the shop windows we might want to see."]
Klaus handed Harry his parcel with a large smile and an awkward thumbs up. [i "Good day, then! Thank you for shopping with us,"] he bounced Watson in his arms, the cat lounging contently.
[b "We'll definitely be back. Consider us your first regulars,"] Harry assured him.
Feeling brave, he took her hand on the street as the door closed behind them. His stupid face still managed to blush. [b "How much junk food do you think Ron's managed to gather?"] he spoke, eyeing their fellow students whenever they passed by.
The looks were expected. Seeing two thirds of the Golden Trio on their own, fingers interlaced was sure to get the rumor mill started. A few Hufflepuffs even giggled behind their hands. [b "Don't mind them,"] he murmured to Hermione, worried that the attention would get to her.
[i "Oi!"] A familiar voice snapped, shouldering past the giddy students. [i "Quit your oggling and move on or I'll dock you lot points."]
Harry smirked as they scurried. [b "Nicely handled, Prefect,"] he greeted Ron.
[i "I'm getting the hang of it, aren't I?"] the redhead beamed proudly. [i "Did some shopping then?"]
[b "We could say the same,"] Harry gestured to the Zonko's and sweets bags.
Ron's eyes narrowed, taking in their flushed faces. [i "Something's off. You two look funny."]
Circling them like an inspector, Ron clicked his tongue. Harry felt like a bug under a microscope. [i "Your eyes are dilated,"] Ron leaned close, grabbing Harry's chin and tilting his head upwards to get better light. [i "Just like Fred and George's were after they found Sirius' cabinet of -"]
Ron froze and then barked a laugh. [i "You've been drinking! I can't believe you two!"]
Her eyes sparkled when he actually said he had read some of the books she had named. Quite honestly she was impressed that he had taken the time to read. That was something Ron would NEVER do. So yet another thing she found to adore about Harry. [b "So you actually enjoyed them? That makes me really happy."] She said, smile never faltering.
His words of the books and having found a few made her smile. [b "Maybe we could spend a night just sat in the common room and read. Have a nice quiet night for once?"] She asked, words almost more hopeful than she had meant. And when he mentioned the shopkeeper, a bright pink coloured her cheeks. [b "I just genuinely enjoy reading and books. It's nothing special.. but he probably would and I have to admit I wouldn't mind spending more time here."] She said, a soft laugh to her words as she gently bumped his hip back.
Brown eyes went to the cat who had found a new perch and lazily tried to swat at the two teens as they passed beneathe him. [b "I didn't think anyone cat nor person could give Mrs.Norris a run for her money. But Sherlock has seemed to manage. Shall we pay him as a prize?"] Hermione teased as they made their way to the counter so she could pay for her books. [b "Did you want to do anything else before we have to find our way back to the group and make our way back to school?"] She asked, head tilting as she glanced his way
Harry couldn't help the fond smile that appeared on his face. [b "All classic literature. Very nice selections, Miss Granger,"] he eyed the stack she'd accumulated. [b "I read a couple of those. They were assigned reading for Dudley's classes over the summer last year. Naturally, he left them in a pile and ignored them the entire time, so I spent most of the time reading them before we went to the Quidditch World Cup."]
It wasn't something he would have done before he'd met her. His previous summers were mostly spent outdoors, tending the gardens and trimming the lawn. After hearing Hermione recount books she'd read with such excitement and passion in her eyes, Harry had decided he was going to get through a novel in order to make more of an effort to bond over something she liked to do.
He hadn't expected to enjoy it as much as he did. While he wasn't quite the bibliophile that Hermione was, he'd developed a new respect for literature and the creativity that went into them.
[b "I spotted a few. Already put them at the counter and paid. Klaus was kind enough to bag them for me while I came to find you,"] he lied quickly. [b "You've made quite the impression on him, by the way! He appreciates your enthusiasm for books. I think he may hire you on the spot if you decide to drop out of Hogwarts to spend all your time here,"] he teased her, bumping her hip with his.
Sherlock glared from his new perch, on top of the mahogany bookcase. He lazily swatted towards them but was up much too high to actually reach his target. [b "It's almost impressive. He could give Mrs Norris a run for her money, in a judging contest,"] he joked.
It was nice to not feel different or like a freak. Others she had met thought her odd for her tastes and even said as much. To have the shopkeeper say he pretty much enjoyed the same and being so warm was nice. And in her mind, he even had a fitting name. All she did was smile and give the man a nod to acknowledge his words and kindess. Honestly, Hermione found she liked the man and that the new bookshop could very easily become her favourite shop in Hogsmeade.
The girl smiled as she began to walk with Harry and Watson through the shop and towards some shelves in the back. Brown eyes had gone to a shelf of bindings and she moved to them, fingers tracing over the books' spines gently. It was Harry's yelp that caused her to jump and let out a yelp of her own. It seemed he had found the other cat when she had turned to glance over her should to make sure that the boy was alright.
After a moment and seeing him pick up the book he had dropped, the girl went back to scannimg the shelves. She was looking through historical fictions as for the moment that seemed the genre she was drawn to. Honestly she had not even noticed Harry come up behind her until she heard him speak, jumping as she had become lost to the pages of the book she had just opened to skim.
[b "I...uh I actually found a few I liked. Or rather wanted to revisit. 'The White Queen', 'Katherine', 'Pride and Prejudice', 'Wutherine Heights', and 'The Great Gatsby..'.."] The girl said as she looked up from the book at the boy, cheeks a bright pink. She had just named books that were older and what one would find in a muggle's literature class. [b "Erm..what about you? Did you find any you liked?"] She asked, trying to quickly cover the bookworm in her.
[i "Mysteries are some of the greatest novels of all! I used to sit outside with a stack of Agatha Christie novels and just spend hours in the pages,"] the man clasped his hands fondly. [i "You're more than welcome to take Watson around the store with you. Little bugger will bask in the attention. I'll get back to the counter, but call for me if you need anything. Klaus is the name!"]
Harry grinned down at the fluff of cat in his arms, bouncing Watson a bit. [b "Alright then. Looks like we've got our own little tour guide. Come on, Watson. Let's go find Sherlock."]
The grumpier cat nearly caused the boy's heart to stop when they finally stumbled upon him. A large silver tabby was perched behind a stack of books, hissing at Harry as he pulled a copy of The Great Gatsby from the shelves. [b "Merlin's beard!"] he yelped, dropping the paperback to the floor where it nearly collided with Watson.
Sherlock hissed again, swatting out with a passive paw. [b "Klaus is right. Watson is the more charming of the two,"] Harry crouched to grab the book. [b "Though I think you would have more in common with Crookshanks. You're both cranky old buggers, aren't you?"] he huffed at Sherlock.
Coming up behind Hermione, he tried to look over her shoulder. [b "Find anything good?"]
He'd already disappeared once from her in the time they'd been browsing. A dusty volume of the Grimm Brother's Fairy Tales was perched on display. First edition. Safely secured behind a glass box, away from grabby hands. Harry waited until he was sure Hermione was sufficiently distracted before retrieving the shopkeeper from the counter to unlock the glass case for him.
He made sure to slip him a few extra galleons to wrap it in brown parchment, away from Hermione's potential gaze. A first edition book had to be a worthy birthday present for her, right?
Now, he was contented to watch her browse the shelves. It charmed him to see her delve into the different worlds each time she opened a new book.
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