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[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."]
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
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