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[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.
To her, Harry was not at all a boring date. He was actually the sort of date she had always dreamed about. A best friend and someone who took an interest. What more could a girl want? But he was right.. If she didn't tell the other girls that he was boring, then they would never let her sleep. And she hardly got sleep as it was with her classes and the prefect duties being added. The last thing she needed was to add a bunch of daft school girls to her list of reasons.
[b "You're not boring. At least not to me. But you are right...telling them otherwise and I won't hear the end of it. So know whatever they say because of their loose tongues and gossip isn't the truth.."] She was practically begging the boy.
And the mention of Ginny and Ron made her sigh. They were their other best friends, but he was right.. They had NO idea what privacy even was. She, like Harry knew it was due to the size of their family and not having any themselves. [b "Give them basics. Enough to keep them off our backs, but enough to where we don't have to share this side of the other with them.. To be honest...it would be nice to have something just for us. So I don't think you selfish at all.."] She said with a small smile, her hand moving into his and giving a small squeeze.
And once more she was leaned against him. The silence that had fallen between them was a comfortable one. And it was more than peaceful. [b "I wish we could stay like this forever..."] She found herself whispering.
[b "Careful now, I may take you up on that offer right now,"] he teased. [b "You'll have to read me your favourite one, when we get the chance."]
It was peacefully quiet with just the two of them. The food was delicious, with the flaky and fresh pastries and sweet cider making the perfect dessert to end their day. Every few moments an owl would pass by one of the large arched windows, going to and from the observatory in the next tower. The whole day had gone better than he could have ever expected, topped with a perfect evening.
[b "We should just stay up here until classes on Monday. I can almost guarantee the second we get back to the dorms, we'll be hounded with questions,"] Harry mused as they ate. [b "Ginny's probably already recruited Lavender and Parvati to get answers out of you. You'll have to tell them all about how Harry Potter is a boring date, or else they'll never let you sleep."]
He knew his own interrogation was waiting for him in the dorm rooms. Ron wasn't good at leaving things alone, and he was most likely betting that he'd get more answers out of Harry without the others being around. He loved their friends dearly but boundaries were not a thing they were worried about.
[b "I'm not sure how much information I want them to know. We already share so much of our lives with them, I kind of like having something that they aren't involved with,"] he admitted. [b "They mean well, but coming from such a big family means that privacy isn't something they think about much. Call me selfish, but I'm not sure I want to share you with them. At least, this side of you."]
She had been watching Harry as he handed her the wrapped goft and he had seemed nervous. VERY nervous, which she hated him feeling. Especially when around her. The truth was, she would have loved anything he had chosen because it came from him. It really was more the thought that counted than anything else. But when she unwrapped the book she really was happy with it. Loved it even and that was one reason of many she had hugged him, her cheeks flushing when he returned the embrace.
She had soon sat back against the wall again amd was flipping through the pages as she was listening to him speak his words. Ramble, but it was adorably him. And when he called her a young rebel before she got into trouble with him and Ron, the girl looked up at him and gave an almost skittish smile. It was the ONLY thing she disobeyed her parents on. But she REALLY had wanted to read the stories. [b "I guess you could say so. But in my defense I had read all the Disney versions and wanted to see the tales from another perspective."] She explained as she went back to the book and was trying to decide which tale she would be reading first. It literally had been years since she had read any of them.
And again her eyes came up. [b "You really are amazing for getting this.. I honestly didn't have a copy and had been thinking to get one.. So thank you again."] Her cheeks flushed even more when he mentioned reading him a bedtime story and perhaps even liking it in her voice. To her, that was embarrassing to say thr least as she was more than sure she came across as annoying. But the nudge made her smile and she shook her head. [b "You got the book for me.. So the least I can do is read you a story and if you want even tuck you in."] The last part to her words was teasing him just as he had her and she nudged him back gently, taking one of the glasses of cider that he had reached to pour.
There was a tidal wave of relief as he realized she didn't hate the present. His face flushed and a stupid grin grew on his face as he returned the embrace. [b "I remembered that you'd told me before about how you liked the Grimm Brothers books when you were little. You said you used to check them out of the library without telling your parents, because they thought they'd be too scary. Little Hermione was quite the rebel, even before she got sucked into my web of trouble,"] he bumped her shoulder with his.
[b "I saw it at the shop today and thankfully Klaus was more than willing to wrap it up while you were browsing. I don't even know if you already have copies of their stories or not, but if you do, this can just sit on a shelf or something like a souvenir. The display said it was a first edition, so it's got history to it as well."]
Harry was fully aware that he was rambling. Unfortunately, his brain never knew when to shut up and enjoy the moment. The fact that she seemed to sincerely love the gift was the only thing keeping him from doubting himself. Settling back against the stone wall, he watched fondly as she skimmed the pages. [b "You'll have to read me one of the stories one day. I've never heard any of them, and I think I'd enjoy them a lot more if it was in your voice."]
More than once over the course of their friendship he'd noticed that she'd occasionally get so swept up in whatever she was reading that she'd murmur the words under her breath. It was usually when the common room was deserted; late at night when the only sounds were the crackling fire, his quill scratching out last-minute homework, and her quiet voice speaking the words on the page in front of her. It nearly lulled him to sleep with how relaxing it was.
[b "You can be the first person to read me a bedtime story. I'll expect to be tucked into bed, as well,"] he teased, reaching to pour them each a glass of cider that Dobby so graciously added to the basket.
When the finger was wagged at her, Hermione gave him a look. She knew that he was teasing her, but usually the saying to be patient was her job. So in this moment it appeared that her impatience and curiosity matched what his and Ron's was usually like. But she had to take into account that he had been acting a bit odd all day. Or rather he had since they had left the bookshop.
But she did decide to "behave" and let him finish. And even she was a bit shocked at how much thought he had put into everything. The way the drinks and pasties had been set oiut and even the blanket. Definitely something the Prefect could appreciate and would consider a second date.
[b "This...it really is amazing, Harry."] Came her soft words as she sat beside him and a neatly wrapped package was set in her lap. Brown eyes went to it and then she looked to him. [b "For Ron's sake...I hope he didn't. I might have to break him even."] It was a weak attempt at a joke, but she really was grateful to Harry.
The moment she unwrapped the book, a gasp slipped from her and she hugged him. [b "Thank you! I love it! How...how did you know that I wanted this?"] She asked him as she pulled back, beginning to gently flip through the book. Now she knew what she would be reading when she had classwork done.
He wagged a finger. [b "Patience, Miss Granger. I'm not quite finished."]
With the perfectly wrapped present safely on the floor, he spread out the warm flannel throw blanket from the foot of his bed. It was cozy enough in the Tower for them to not need it to wrap up in, but the stone flooring was a bit too chilly to be comfortable.
The basket of food was next. Harry dished out the pastries and goblets of drinks between them. Once he was satisfied that everything looked as presentable as he could make it, he held out his hand for her to join him. [b "Now it's perfect,"] he grinned at her.
He reached for her present, careful to not accidentally tear a corner or edge in his excitement. [b "I don't boast myself to be great at getting people gifts, but I really did try hard with this one. Thankfully, Ron didn't break it or I would have had to break him."]
His heart picked up its pace, thrumming against his chest. Hermione loved books more than anyone he knew. He'd hate to pick something that didn't fall under her particular tastes. If she hated it, he'd step his game up big time for her Christmas present.
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.
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