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She had perched herself on the windowsill and as was her trademark seemed to have her nose buried in the book that she had brought with her. Not one of the ones she had bought that day, but one of the ones she, Harry, and Ron had gotten from the library and had been slowly going through. And as she suspected, the book held the same information as the rest had. It was brief and it was vague. All it said was "in times of great peril and hard times, the ministry will step in at schools. They will change the rules to make things safer for the students and for the instructors. Extra measures may be put into play that the representative may see fit. In these times, there is not much can be done and they have nearly free reign to do as they see best." [b "Rubbish. There has to be something we can do to stop this hag.. She is running our school..."] Hermione muttered as she snapped the book shut and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
It was when she heard the steps coming up the stairs did the girl shove the book back into her bag and stand up to face whoever it was. She knew that she was meant to be meeting Harry, but she had not expected for him to be early. Usually he was at least five minutes late and she had to scold him for it. And it was his boyish grin and words that made her smile and for the moment forget what she had been reading. She could always tell him about it later. Besides, it looked like there was something he was really wanting to do too. But before she could ask, his wand was out and the paper lanterns were hovering within the room, changing the atmosphere of the gloom that had seemed to settle into the room.
[b "I'll definitely give you points for being on time."] The girl said and went to him. And she again looked to the lanterns to appreciate them. [b "With the lanterns it is much better. It seems to really light up the place and make it feel...warm and comfortable."] She almost had said 'unlike the rest of the school' but she had managed to keep those words from slipping. All she was wanting for the time being was to enjoy the little bit of time they had.
[b "You did ask me to join you up here. So, what was it you had in mind?"] Came her soft question, eyes meeting his as she gave her best friend another small but real smile. As of later...he was the only one she was able to smile around and mean it.
His first stop was to his dorm to change out of the muddy clothes from his fall, and a little added effort of using the cologne he'd purchased for the Yule Ball but had kept stuffed at the bottom of his trunk. Truth be told, he'd been entirely lost while purchasing the bottle, but the woodsy scent mixed with a faint spice was fairly pleasant.
Next was the conundrum of her present. Harry wasn't about to give her the book wrapped in dull brown paper, with nothing special about it. It was a gift and therefore needed to be spruced up. Unfortunately, he was at a loss for how to make it happen. He could attempt to transfigure the paper into something more exciting but he didn't want to risk it backfiring and ruining the book.
Poking his head out of the boys' dorm, he quickly sought out the one person he could trust to help him. [b "Neville!"]
The boy in question looked up from the paper he'd been reading. [i "Harry? Everything okay?"]
Without answering, Harry waved him to follow up the stairs. It might have looked sketchy, but he couldn't risk the prying eyes of other Gryffindors - namely one Lavender Brown, resident gossip queen. Thankfully, Neville didn't raise another question.
Harry shut the door behind him and pointed at the book. [b "I need to make this look good!"]
Neville followed the pointed finger, and then he looked back. [i "I'm not really sure I know..."]
[b "I've seen you send your Gran nicely wrapped presents!"] Harry blurted. [b "Shiny paper, bows, the works. I need you to help me make this present look that good."]
Still confused but willing to help, Neville crossed the room to his bedside table. [i "It's not as tricky as it looks. It just takes patience. Look, come pick a paper pattern."]
From the drawer, he pulled out small squares of wrapping paper. Each one had various themes, from holidays to birthday wishes to generic patterns. [b "You keep all of these on hand?"] Harry asked.
Neville shrugged. [i "I'm a good grandson, Harry. If I don't coordinate Gran's gift with the wrapping paper theme, I'll get a Howler about etiquette. Best to be prepared. Now shut up and pick one."]
[b "Fair enough."]
It took several moments of weighing his options before finally selecting a pale blue with silver polka dots, and a white bow to top it off. Neville enlarged the square of paper to neatly wrap the book until it resembled a professional photo-worthy gift. [b "You're a life saver, really!"] Harry thanked him, carefully picking the present up.
[i "No worries, Harry. I'm sure Hermione will love it no matter how it looked."]
Harry froze with his hand on the door knob. He spun on his heel to look at Neville. [b "How much can I pay you to not mention this to anyone else, lest Lavender gets a hold of it and spreads it around the school like wildfire?"]
Neville snorted. [i "As if I want to be hounded with questions for the next month. Your secret is safe with me, Harry."]
Dobby was more than willing to accommodate him on his next stop to the kitchens. Pastries and drinks were bundled into a basket, almost to capacity. Harry professed his gratitude as he snatched the handle of the basket and hefted it out the door.
He had anticipated another fifteen minutes of preparation time for the tower, but upon reaching the top of the stairs he discovered that she'd beaten him there. [b "Do I get bonus points for being early and not late?"] he grinned boyishly.
Setting down her gift and the basket, he pulled his wand from his jacket sleeve. Muttering a transfiguration spell he'd been practicing all week, the rusted iron sconces pulled away from the wall and shifted into softly glowing paper lanterns, free floating above their heads. [b "Better,"] he took a moment to appreciate the change in atmosphere.
Harry's answer to Ron and Ginny when they asked what had been done that day almost made her let out a bark of laughter. It was so far fetched, but also sounded like something that could have been done if the pair were more reckless. And honestly, the girl was more than thankful that he had not spilled the way the day had actually gone. The pair of them were always sharing their lives with Ron and the others that ONE day would be nice to have to themselves. A day of memories that only they shared. Though lately it seemed like the two of them were doing that more and more. Not that she could complain because he was her favourite person.
When Harry went on to mention next time stealing the Hogwarts Express, Hermione really did let out a giggle and Ginny rolled her eyes and stalked away. The girl knew that she would be bullied into telling the truth later, but for not it was all good fun. And her hand did move into Harry's again when Ron had dropped the topic and motioned that they follow after Ginny.
All of those who had gone into Hogsmeade were returning and the halls were almost swarmed with students. Most of them were trying to juggle bags and boxes that they had purchased. To Hermione, it was almost like watching muggles in a mall during Christmas. She was almost distracted by that thought that she had almost missed what Harry had muttered to her.
[b "Two hours, and if you're late..you know I'll hunt you down."] She was half joking but half serious. And soon, brown eyes were watching as Harry slipped off through the other students. She was going to get a couple of her books and take them up to the Astronomy Tower with her. She could get some peace and quiet and reading done while she waited for Harry. She was also going to see if she could find out more about Ministry interventions in schools.
Harry shrugged, nonchalant. [b "You know us. Pretty standard day, really. Robbed a bank, destroyed some public property. Went and got matching tattoos of Hungarian Horntails on our backs. Typical day for Harry Potter and Hermione Granger."]
He glanced at her with a grin, remaining tight-lipped on what actually occurred. They shared most of their lives with Ron and the rest of their friends. He liked having something private, just between himself and Hermione. No outsiders. Just the two of them, with memories that only they will share.
[b "I think next time we'll do something a bit more grand. Maybe steal the Hogwarts Express and tour Europe,"] he smirked.
The Weasleys were unimpressed. Ginny rolled her eyes and turned away, stalking back to the castle. Ron shook his head with a raised eyebrow. [i "Sarcasm isn't an endearing quality, Harry Potter,"] he dropped the subject, motioning for them to follow Ginny inside.
[b "Sorry, I could have sworn that's what we did today,"] Harry feigned innocent. [b "I might be remembering things wrong. I've had a handful of concussions, remember? Must be making my brain go wonky."]
The halls were filled with students juggling bags, boxes, and other assorted treasures they'd picked up on their weekend shopping sprees. Harry clutched his own purchase tightly, afraid that an accidental bump into someone would send it out of his hands again. He leaned close to murmur in Hermione's ear. [b "Give me two hours, and then meet me in the Astronomy Tower,"] he let go of her hand and flashed her a grin as he disappeared into the crowds.
When he metioned keeping the secret as long as he had and saying he was actually surprised, Hermione did raise a broe. And when she thought about it, the girl too was really surprised. Usually he did tell her everything..well he did after their third year and she had been the one to get his Firebolt taken by Professor McGonagall. But in her defense they didn't know ANYTHING about Sirius and she had been worried about her best friend. [b "I trust you. And can't wait to find out."] Came her soft words when she was able to truly focus on what she wanted to say.
It was when they got back did Harry decide to tease their friends and tell them he was going to be cancelling Quidditch. And she couldn't even speak to try and help Harry in his little game. Before she could, the Weasley siblings had the raven haired boy all but pinned and all of them were laughing. All like siblings and for a moment she did feel the odd one out. But that was kind of a normal thing. She knew though to keep those thoughts to herself and did love the times that Harry was happy and he was free. The times like this when he got to banter and have fun.
[b "I did too. Was so much easier to think and to talk.."] The brunette said, returning a smile of her own to Harry's words. And when she heard Gunny's snarked comment, her cheeks lit up a dark red. She KNEW questions from the Weasley girl would be coming.
[i "So gonna tell us how the date went? The two of you were alone all afternoon."] Ron started, blue gaze going between his two best friends.
He rolled his eyes with a smile. [b "I promise, the secret won't be kept for long. Let's be honest, it's a miracle I've kept it for one afternoon. Give me until tonight, and it'll make sense."]
Truth be told, Harry had absolutely no idea what the hell he was going to put together in order to make the surprise work. Unfortunately, he didn't trust his friends enough to leave the present unattended in his room for longer than the few hours it would take to throw something together for her.
Looking up, he spotted those very friends looking rather smug and pleased with themselves. [b "I may have to cancel Gryffindor's Quidditch games for the rest of the month,"] he rolled his shoulder, feigning pain. [b "I think the fall jacked my arm up too much to play."]
The smugness left Ron's face. [i "That's a joke, right? You're not serious?"]
Ginny scowled. [i "Do we need to hold a mutiny for a new captain? I will elect myself, if need be."]
Harry forced a limp. [b "Tell them, Hermione. Tell them how you had to set my broken legs and carry me most of the way here."]
The Weasley siblings tackled him to the ground. Ron sat on his back to hold him down while Ginny rubbed her knuckles into his scalp in a noogie. Harry wiggled to get free, the lot of them laughing too hard to be putting much effort into the struggle. [b "Alright, alright! I give! You win! Quidditch is on!"] Harry tapped his hand to the ground in surrender.
[i "Knew you'd see things our way,"] Ron got to his feet, helping him back up.
Harry moved beside Hermione again, smiling down at her. [b "I knew I liked it better when it was the two of us in a field without them."]
[i "I bet you did,"] Ginny snarked with a knowing eyebrow.
[b "Both of those things sound absolutely terrible. But at least this time you are in one piece and haven't anything missing. That night I didn't sleep.."] She muttered with a small shake of her head. And after realising what she said, her cheeks became dusted in a light pink. She knew he had never known that..and she assumed because of the little bit of alcohol still in her system it was messing with her head and she would spill things.
[b "Hi there.."] Hermione whispered when he had come up to her and stopped in front of her. The last thing she had expectes were his words or the kiss to her cheek. Both made her incredibly flustered and had her cheeks even redder. [b "I...well I couldn't just leave you alone. Besides you know how they are...and the walk seemed a nice way to clear our heads."] She said with a small smile as she was TRYING so hard not to stumble over her words.
The walk back to school wasn't exactly long but it wasn't short either. A nice one all the same with the trees and the cottages along the way. Even the open grasslands too. But more than that, this gave them more time together. So all in all, Hermione could not complain. [b "No I don't think we did have this on our list of things to do today..so a very nice surprise. And I think with it being as nice as it is, we can count it as a second date."] The brunette said as she glanced to him with a smile.
Things were so easy and free now. It was like it had been all afternoon. And she couldn't help laughing at the fearher-light touch of the leaf as he tickled her. These moments were the ones she loved most. The ones they were free in. [b "I trust you and won't ask. But secrets do drive me mad."] She said, still laughing.
When they got back up to the school, the others were waiting for them. [i "Nice walk you two?"] They were asked, expectant gazes upon them.
Harry had slumped back against a tree when he spotted her walking back to him. Grinning sheepishly, he glanced down at his dirt-covered jeans. [b "I'd rank the experience somewhere between getting bitten by Cornish pixies, and Lockhart zapping away my bones. All in all, I'm in one piece."]
He pushed off the tree and approached her. [b "Hi,"] he murmured, coming to a stop in front of her. [b "You really didn't have to come back, I would have caught up eventually."]
Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to her cheek. [b "Thank you though, for rescuing me. My own knight in shining armor. Or, you know, knight in shining wizard robes."]
The school was at least a half hour walk away. Under other circumstances, he would have been groaning at the idea of hiking the rest of the way. But, it was going to give him extra time with her. Not a bad turn of events. [b "Does this count as our second date? I don't think hiking was on either of our plans for today,"] he teased, falling into step beside her.
It was peacefully quiet. Without the chattering of their friends, the tension from their questions had disappeared. It was back to being easy. Harry plucked a leaf from the overhanging branches, reaching behind her subtly to tickle the back of her neck with it. [b "I promise, I have a valid reason for my overreaction with Ron. But, I can't reveal my secrets just yet. It'll be worth it in the end though. I think. Hopefully."]
Brown eyes narrowed as Luna and Ginny had purposely left the narrow spots for her and Harry. Was everyone trying to push them together? She didn't have much time to ponder that because the moment they sat, the carriage began to move and Gin seemed bored. She began to ask questions, which Harry did answer. And brown eyes locked on her, causing the prefect to internally groan. She KNEW that the Weasley girl would corner her later thanks to what Harry had said. This was a thing with them. Ginny would hear something and then she would want Hermione to spill.
[b "Her detentions are...medieval in practice. Both Harry and I know that first hand. We just aren't allowed to say or it will get worse.."] Hermione muttered, agreeing with Ron's annalysis on Umbridge and why she would not torture the students in the open. Her eyes had gone to Harry's scabbing hand and the scabs on her own hand. How the nightmare in pink was able to do such things was still beyond her.
The girl was getting lost to her thoughts again when Ron got bored and took Harry's parcel and Harry all but jumped up. It was in slow motion and the boy fell out of the carriage. For a moment, Hermione wondered if it was still the liquor or the bumpiness of the carriage. She decided on bumpiness of the carriage as she was pretty much fine and the angle Harry had rushed to get up from had been awkward to say the least.
Brown eyes filled with worry as they were on their friend. [b "Harry, are you sure?!"] She called out as the carriage continued on its way. She really did wish that they would stop when these things happened. She then turned and looked to Ron, Ginny, and Luna. [b "I'm not going to let him do this alone..."] And with those words, the girl gripped onto a tree's branch over head and used it to dangle for a moment and then let herself fall to the path, rolling out of the way of the next carriage. The fall had stung, but it was NOTHING like their being hit by the Willow in third year.
Slowly she got up and began back to where they left Harry and gave him a small smile. [b "I thought maybe you could use a walking partner? It is a beautiful."] Her words were quiet as she spoke them and she gave a small smile. She had gotten Harry's parcel from Ron and it was in her bag. [b "You sure that you're okay after the fall?"] She asked as she was rubbing her wrist a little bit.
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."]
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