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Harry should have figured that Dobby was nothing if not overly observant. Flushing red, he tried to come up with anything they could possibly say that would quiet him down and end his speculation, but he knew there was no point. Dobby was too clever for his own good.
[b "It's very new, Dobby,"] Harry tried to pacify the poor house-elf, who was practically vibrating with excitement. [b "We'd like to keep it somewhat qui-"]
Unrestrained joy would be the best way to describe the small elf's outburst. Harry froze and watched as Dobby bolted around the room, gathering whatever he could get his hands on to pile on to a serving platter until they couldn't see him behind the mountain of baked goods. [i "Happy days indeed!"] he sighed happily, hefting the tray onto the table in front of them. [i "A celebration must be had!"]
There was hardly any stopping him once he got started. Other house-elves joined in, bustling around them to add to the treats along the table with glasses of just about any beverage they could have imagined the castle had.
[b "Dobby, no, really, we don't need a big celebration,"] Harry grabbed the platter to help him before it toppled him backwards.
[i "But we must!"] the house-elf looked horrified to consider anything else.
Clambering on the table, Dobby stood at eye-level with them, his large eyes sincere and overwhelmed with emotion. [i "Dark days about the castle, more dark days than not! Sadness all around. Suspicion and sadness. But here is love! Love and joy must be celebrated when presented to us, Mister Harry Potter!"]
Dobby threw his little arms around their necks in a lopsided hug. It was hard to argue with that logic. Smiling, Harry turned to Hermione. [b "A toast to us?"] he laughed as two floating glasses of wine appeared by their hands.
Harry couldn't remember ever being as happy as he felt in that moment. He'd never had anything to celebrate for himself before; certainly not anything that was as important to him as she was. Dobby was right. Why shouldn't they enjoy their moment when everything was going to hell around them?
[b "Alright, I do think that's plenty of food though. Let's start in on this before they bring any more,"] he pulled a chair out for her before taking his own seat. [b "I'm also fairly sure this means Dobby will remember this date and make our anniversary a mandatory holiday every year."]
Their glasses weren't even empty before they were being refilled until Harry felt as giddy as he'd been in Hogsmead. [b "I think the elf got us drunk."]
There did never seem to be a dull moment at Hogwarts. The fact that she and Harry had become spectacles for the portraits that hung all along the corridor was proof of that. But what was even funnier, in one of those sad comedic ways was the fact that their little show had been viewed in the middle of the night. Truly there was no privacy in the castle that they called a school.
Brown eyes looked at the pictures as they all seemed to have expectant looks upon their faces and then she looked back to Harry. [b "I think that would be a brilliant idea. I don't particularly care to have them watching us."] Came her soft words as her cheeks had become a dark pink as she thought back to how embarrassed both she and Harry had felt when Sirius had caught them kissing.
When they discovered that the two teens had no intents to give them the show they so desired and Harry had tugged her around the corner and out of their view, a chorus of "boos" was heard. With the boing, Hermione could not help her soft giggle as she looked up at Harry. [b "I think we were going to kiss."] The girl said, finding herself leaning gently against the hand that rested upon her cheek. And with the softness of his lips against hers, Hermione's cheeks coloured even more so. They could have kissed just once or even a hundred times and she was sure it would always make her feel this way. That heat and the butterflies. And yet, she would have been more than content if they never pulled away. If they would have just stayed together in that dark corner all night.
[b "When are you ever on your best behaviour? Remember, we are known for breaking all sorts of rules. I think the words are 'we best be going before we're caught breaking more rules'.."] She corrected gently and affectionately.
And again, the nosy portraits were heard and she rolled her eyes at the comments made. [b "Right...they love to roam the halls and get any students out of bed into trouble. That is the last thing we need.."] She said, her hand taking his as they made their way to the kitchen.
Upon getting to the kitchen, the little house elf was more than excited for the visit. Dobby squeaked out his words and was immediately getting snacks and rushing another elf to get tea. She couldn't help her amusement as Harry was asked by the little creature as to why they were visiting and so late.
[b "Harry's right, Dobby. We were just looking to get a snack and to come and see you. It's been so long and we wanted to catch up a bit before we headed off to bed."] She said as she gave both Harry and Dobby a smile, as she took up Harry's story.
She moved to Harry's side and again her hand was in his. [b "It looks like that worked."] She whispered as Dobby dove into his story of what he had been doing. Though trying to pay attention, Hermione kept finding that she just wanted the chance for them to be alone again and looked up at Harry, wondering if he was having those same kind of thoughts. But she couldn't help squeaking as Dobby caught the look she had been giving.
[i "So it's true! Mister Potter and Miss Granger are a couple!"] The little elf squeaked in his excitement
[i "Kiss her, you idiot! She said yes!"] a girl called from one of the portraits while the others applauded and whistled.
Go figure in the middle of the night they still couldn't find privacy for themselves. Harry glanced sideways at the pictures on the wall before turning his attention back to her. [b "A definite yes to that mini-date, but perhaps we can move somewhere [i without] an audience before I kiss you,"] Harry smiled down at Hermione - bloody hell, she was actually his girlfriend now.
A chorus of boos followed them as he tugged her around a corner away from prying eyes. [b "Now, where were we?"] he stepped a bit closer.
His hand came up to brush a lock of her hair behind her ear. Testing the waters a bit, he left his hand to rest on her cheek as he leaned in to softly press his lips against hers. It didn't matter that they'd kissed before, heat flooded through him just as strongly as it had the first time. If they didn't already have plans to sneak to the kitchens, Harry would have been happy to stand with her in that dark corner for the rest of the night.
Pulling away, his eyes softened with pure adoration. [b "We'd best get down to the kitchen while I'm still on my best behaviour. You're making me want to break more rules, Miss Granger."]
[i "Shut up, if you're quiet we can still hear them!"]
[b "Stupid nosy portraits,"] Harry grumbled, pulling away. [b "We'd best go before they draw any attention this way. Filch and that damn cat will come looking."]
Just as they'd predicted, Dobby was over the moon excited to see them. [i "My own recipe, sir!"] he'd wasted no time shoving freshly baked scones into Harry's hand and ushering another house elf away to get tea. [i "Is there troubles? Mister Potter and Miss Granger are unexpected!"]
Harry certainly wasn't about to explain that they'd been having a romantic evening, lest Dobby alert the entire kitchen staff of it. [b "We wanted to come and visit you. We enjoy your company, Dobby, don't we Hermione?"] he looked to her for help.
That smile as dumb as others might have found it to be, Hermione found it endewring and something she loved seeing on his face. It beat out the frowns and lines of worry that she so often saw on his face. And she admittedly wished she could help keep him happy always because she KNEW what things were like for him. Not in the entirety but from he told her, which she knew was more than he told anyone else.
His next words made the girl let out an almost childlike giggle. She had not expected for him to ask her the way that he had. Her answer would have been yes, but Harry had groaned and been quick to cut her off. And quicker still to try and tell her to "run" as she would hear more bad lines and more bad jokes in the futute. That actually didn't bother her. This would be a first for the both of them and they could grow and learn together. So she was all in.
Again, Harry tried to ask and was even sweeter the second time and that smile, that soft smile was enough to make her heart melt. Her cheeks burned an even brighter pink and soft voices came from somewhere above them. Portaits of witches and wizards past who had come to enjoy the show of two awkward teens trying to figure out how to start a comitted relationship. Wow she had forgotten the potraits were JUST as nosy as their classmates.
[b "Harry I would be honoured to be your girlfriend and to go out with you. But only if you can deal with my constant nagging."] Her last words were meant to put a smile on his face as her hand moved into his and interlaced their fingers. [b "So..still want out mini date before we head back?"]
Heart racing and the dumbest smile stretching across his face, Harry tried incredibly hard to play it cool. He was well aware that he had precisely zero game when it came to girls, and he couldn't for the life of him figure out why she was interested in him romantically, but he wasn't about to lose this chance.
[b "Well then,"] he met her eyes. [b "Would you do me the honor of being the Chosen One's chosen girl?"]
Unable to keep a straight face, he scrunched his nose and groaned. [b "No, don't answer that. That was enitrely unacceptable and a horrible line. Run while you can because if you say yes, I promise that you will be in the unfortunate position of hearing awful lines and jokes from me for the foreseeable future."]
Stepping a bit closer, his grin turned soft. [b "Let me try again. Hermione Granger, prefect of Gryffindor and all around best person I've ever met, will you go out with me and all of my horrible lines?"]
Dear god, facing off against a dragon was less terrifying than this. Sure, they'd both just admitted that they'd like it to be an official relationship but asking someone [i officially] to be in a committed relationship was still a nervewracking when someone's never done it before. It was clumsy and clunky, but he was an awkward guy to begin with and she hadn't walked away yet.
[i "Well answer him!"] a voice joined the private conversation.
Harry looked to their right and nearly laughed out loud at the sight of several portraits huddled together in one frame, watching them closely and eagerly. [i "Don't make the poor dear wait!"] the aristocrat woman leaned forward and waved her hand at them.
Hermione was grateful that it had not taken too long to seemingly cheer Harry up. And that the boy who lived happened to agree to going to the kitchens with her. [b "We may have to stop all the elves if we're not careful. You know they hardly ever get to serve directly or see the students."] She said with a soft laugh of her own, having to wipe her hands on her own slacks.
With their fingers interlaced, the girl gave his hand a light squeeze. It was even more of a comfort than she wanted to admit and slowly she was getting lost in her own thoughts. Only was it his joking about the number of dates and commebting on them being in a relationship that seemed to draw her back. That was a very good question. What were they? Really? They had not spoken about the specifics...what titles they happened to hold to the other.
Slowly brown eyes fell on Harry as he seemed to freeze up and she gave a timid smile, cheeks pinker than usual. [b "Well...if we were in a relationahip..this would be my first.. And I would like for us to be..But only if you're sure about it."]
Her teasing manged to pull a smile from him. Harry couldn't help but think back fondly to the punch she'd landed on Malfoy's nose. [b "You know, I'm so glad I got to see that punch twice. I got to enjoy it so much more,"] he said.
Hedwig seemed to be satisfied that the two were on amiable ground and not actually fighting, based on their smiles and at-ease body language. She flew from Hermione's side to Harry's shoulder, nipping him on the ear affectionately before flying off to her little burrow above them.
[b "I'll be the first to admit that you are full of genius ideas, Hermione. A midnight snack sounds like something we could definitely use right now. And it wouldn't hurt to see Dobby. He'll probably be excited enough to make a feast if we don't stop him,"] he dusted his hands on his trousers to rid them of dust. [b "Shall we?"]
Extending his hand towards hers, he interlaced their fingers to walk side by side. He kept the cloak slung over his shoulder in the event that he needed to throw it on quickly to hide, should another prefect or professor turn the corner ahead of them. Glancing at his watch on his free arm, he pretended to sulk. [b "Looks like we don't get to add to our total number of dates in a single day. We've passed midnight. Though this is still the longest relationship I've ever had, so we're doing quite well,"] he grinned at her.
Realizing what he said, his feet locked up and brought him to a standstill. They hadn't really discussed official titles. Nor had they talked about how things were progressing. [b "Is this a relationship?"] Harry looked at her. [b "Because...I'd like it to be."]
He didn't look alright and in truth she had known the question to be silly. But she had asked because she wanted to hear his thoughts and his feelings. NOT just study him like she did so many others. He was her best friend..and well it seemed almost boyfriend. So she wanted the openess and honesty between them.
[b "Malfoy is able to do that to anyone, Harry. Remember what I did to him in our third year? Couldn't help punching him after he did what he did to Hagrid and Buckbeak.. And then Ron in our second year with trying to make him eat slugs..? So I think it is safe to say he isn't anyone's flavour."] Her words were meant to make him smile at least a little and to let him know he wasn't wrong for his temper when it came to the blonde slimeball.
Her head slowly shook to the next question that she had been asked. [b "No, none. He had believed it had been me and so was scared I would curse him."] She said with a soft laugh, her hair getting tugged on. [b "No, I think she just wants to make sure we're okay and not going to try and avoid the other."] She said and reached up now to pet the snow white owl who seemed to be eating the attention up.
Silence fell as brown eyes stayed on the dark haired boy before her. [b "We don't have to be back quite yet.. Maybe go and see the house elves? Get a snack from the kitchens before bed?"] Anything to make him feel better.
Harry looked up as he heard her voice. He wasn't altogether sure how to answer the question, if he was being honest. He'd have dodged the question as long as he could, but Hedwig flapped her wings and carried herself over to a perch by Hermione, leaving him with no defense.
[b "I'm just disappointed with myself,"] he sighed, turning to meet her gaze. [b "You had everything handled. I knew that, and I still lost my temper. Something about that bleach blonde slimy idiot just makes me - "] he cut himself off before a long-winded tangent followed.
Truth be told, he didn't quite know how he managed to unleash magic without casting any spells. He wouldn't know how to control it, either. His fear was that he'd end up hurting someone accidentally, and tonight that someone could have been her.
[b "Did you have much trouble during the rest of your patrol?"] he asked.
Dusting off his hands, he wandered over to her. Hedwig had grown impatient and was nipping at Hermione's hair, trying to get her attention. [b "I think she has a new favourite,"] he smiled, running a finger along Hedwig's chest feathers.
[b "You haven't got the choice in this. It is only Malfoy and you know I can handle him.
And I can take care of myself."] Her words were whispered because she didn't want it seeming as if she were talking to someone. But even as she said the words, there was the slightest hint of a tremor to her words. She did not trust the Slytherin boy anymore than Harry or anyone else did for that matter. Just she could not say that. Especially NOT in the moment.
Silence fell and as always, Draco had a smug look upon his face. One that said he was in control and he wanted to watch her squirm. Or that was the case until the shattering of glass could be heard. Just as quickly as Malfoy glanced to it, so did Hernione. Letting out a breath, the girl shrugged. [b "You honestly think I could or would do that? How do we know that you didn't? Or that another student isn't out of bed and trying to pull pranks?"] Oh she knew too well that it had been Harry. Especially after what he had done to his aunt in their third year and the rising temper he had at the moment. But she would NOT give any indications.
[b "It's okay.."] She whispered as she heard the soft retreating. And then again brown gaze was upon Malfoy. [b "Well lets get on with it. You don't want to be stuck with me any more than I do with you."]
It took another couple of hours before they were relieved by Ron and the Hufflepuff prefect. She did ask if he had seen Harry and he told her that he hadn't. So she knew where to look.
As she made her way up to the owlery. [b "Are you okay?"] She asked softly from the entrance, eyes on him as he pet the demanding snow white owl.
Despite her moving closer, he kept his gaze firmly on Malfoy. He didn't trust the slimeball to not take a cheap shot at her if she so much as glanced away from him. [b "Like bloody hell am I leaving you here with him,"] he murmured back to her, fists still clenched at his sides.
Anger was bubbling in his chest. The Malfoy family always had an air of superiority complex surrounding themselves, but giving Draco a false sense of authority was going to end with someone getting hurt. Harry would be damned if he let Hermione be on the receiving end of a Malfoy tantrum.
Not far from where they stood, the intricate glass surrounding one of the wall-mounted lanterns exploded into a thousand shards. Harry jumped at the sound, just as Malfoy spun to look for the cause. [i "What are you playing at, Granger?"] Draco's voice tremored as he tried to maintain stoic. [i "Using wandless magic against a fellow prefect?"]
Harry's heart was hammering in his chest. He knew without question that the explosion had come from him; the same uncontrolled magic that burst from him when he blew up Aunt Marge. Harry hadn't had a moment like that in ages. He usually worked hard at keeping his emotions as in check as he could, knowing what he was unintentionally capable of if his anger got the best of him.
Hermione was right. He needed to leave.
[b "I'm so sorry, Hermione,"] he backed up in a hurry, putting as much distance between them as he could.
What good was he if he couldn't even keep his emotions in check at the slightly provocation? Not wanting to go to the Gryffindor common room where he'd be surrounded by people, he headed straight for the owl conservatory. To Hedwig. She always relaxed him with her demand for attention.
[i "You make one move and I will tell Professor Umbridge. She has been waiting to get her hands on you and Potter again. And it would be even better if I was the one to gice you over."] Draco said, smirk on his lips. He was trying to get under her skin. Trying to get her to snap.
Hermione was very aware of the workings of one Draco Malfoy by now. She had seen him do this to others. Had him do it to her countless times. And she would be damned if she was going to let him make her make the first move. Lure her into it even. [b "Honestly, I thought you were smarter than that. Becoming a puppet. But then, you always did fawn over those with power."] The girl retorted, giving a quick glance to where she knew Harry to be.
The girl was slowly backing towards Harry but keeping her attention on Malfoy. The boy's face was red with clear indignation at the words she spoke. As always she seemed to push buttons with him. The bad part to this.. Umbridge would get him out of it IF he were to snap. And somehow put it on her.
[b [i "You need to get back to the common room...He is close to snapping..."]] Her words were soft and quick as her free hand moved behind her back and brushed the silky surface of the invisibilty cloak.
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.
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