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Harry couldn't even stop himself from jumping in surprise when he heard her voice. [b "Uh, I just um..."] he stammered over a sentence, feeling his brain immediately turn to mush.
It took a moment before her question registered. [b "Right! No, I didn't sleep well, I'm afraid. Brain was on rapid fire. Plus, Ron and Seamus both snore,"] he forced a laugh. [b "I should have used a silencing charm, huh?"]
Clearing his throat, he gestured to the portrait hole. [b "Should we head to breakfast then? Wouldn't want you to have class on an empty stomach."]
Harry forced his hands to stay firmly at his sides. No casual bumps or nudges that morning. His eyes, however, strayed to the spot on her cheek where his lips had been less than twelve hours ago.
[i Stop staring, you idiot!] he scolded himself. He faced straight ahead once more, both hands grasping at his backpack strap across his chest.
Hermione laid in bed, keeping her eyes closed as she listened to the pattering of the other girls' feet as they scurried about to get dressed and ready for class. After the night before, she didn't want to face any of them. When the last of the shuffling was heard and the door clicked shut, the girl finally got up and dressed for class. She was quick to get her books and to even use a glamour charm on her hair so it wasn't as bushy and more managable for the day's classes. The last thing she needed was to get one of Snape's ingredients in her hair again. Last time had taken ages to get it out.
When she was sure she had everything, Hermione finally made her way down the stairs and into the common room. It was pretty much empty, which she had expected. But she had not expected to see Harry standing there all alone. She would have thought him to have headed down to breakfast with Ron by the time she had finally decided to leave the girl's dormitory. Honestly after last night she wasn't hungry and had planned to spend breakfast in the library doing some work on her assignments.
[b "Harry, is everything okay? I had expected you to have already gone down to breakfast with Ron."] She found herself saying as she walked over to him and gave a small smile. Her head tilted a little as she studied the boy. [b "Didn't sleep well either?"] The words left her lips before she could stop them.
The next morning, Harry dragged his feet getting ready to put off seeing Hermione as long as he could. Ron had already gone down to breakfast, and the other boys had long since left the dorm. Harry stood in front of the mirror, almost messing up his tie repeatedly on purpose.
[b "Just act natural. Don't bring it up. Nothing happened,"] he spoke to his reflection. [b "For the love of all things, don't bring it up."]
Upon entering the common room, he noticed Neville sitting alone with a book. [b "You're going to miss breakfast,"] Harry announced.
Neville looked up and smiled. [i "Not quite hungry. I was waiting for you, to be honest."]
Harry froze. [b "Me? Is everything okay?"]
Neville rose and marked his page. [i "I was awake when you went to bed last night. You seemed frazzled. I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help."]
It momentarily threw Harry for a loop. Neville seemed to pick up on it. [i "I just mean that you're always watching out for everyone else. And I figured it was about time one of us started looking out for you too. Besides Hermione and Ron. Gryffindors look out for each other. At least, we're supposed to."]
Harry was touched, but there was no way on earth he was going to admit that he was halfway in love with Hermione. No matter how much he trusted Neville, saying the words out loud made them more real. [b "That means a lot, Neville but really, I'm okay. I was just restless after the past few days."]
The Longbottom boy didn't seem to buy it, but thankfully didn't press the matter. [i "Whenever you're ready to talk about it, you'll know where to find me,"] he nodded to Harry and grabbed his bag to head downstairs.
[b "Get it together Potter, or everyone is going to notice something is wrong,"] Harry muttered to himself.
Her cheeks darkened when he had leaned in and kissed her cheek with the briefest of kisses. She honestly had not minded and only wished he would have let her return it. But as it stood, Harry shot to his feet and again seemed to be overly flustered. [b "Good night, Harry."] Hermione whispered as she stayed for a couple moments more, or rather until she could no longer see him upon the stairs.
Only when the boy was gone, did the girl get up herself and make her way to the girl's dormitory. And when she had gotten to the room she shared with the other fifth years, Hermione was surprised to see some of the girls still up and it appeared waiting for her. Quickly she went to her bed and pulled the curtain around it so she could dress for bed. Once she had, the bushy haired prefect girl settled upon the bed and pulled a book from her bedside table and tried to read. But she could still feel the eyes of the others upon her.
[i "Are the rumours true, Hermione? Are you and Harry actually dating?"] It was of course Lavendar who broke the silence and asked her. Brown eyes were locked on her and the eyes of the other girls were also on her.
Her cheeks betrayed her and she had to look down. [b "No, of course not. Harry is only my friend...best friend but there is nothing between us. Though..."] But she had to snap her mouth shut. If she said more it would be all over Hogwarts by the morning because Lavendar and Parvati were two of the biggest gossips in school aside from Malfoy and his gang.
[i "Though what?"] The other girls pressed. It was clear they wanted to hear what she had been about to say.
[b "I lost my train of thought.. It's been a long day and I think I am going to bed. You best do the same. Don't want to fall asleep in Snape's class do you?"] She asked as she lay down fully and turned over on her side. The girl could hear the others whispering, but didn't care. And it was to rushed whispers did she fall into a very unrestful sleep.
It was a blessing and a curse when she decided to call it a night. On one hand, Harry was glum to be losing her company. On the other, he was immensely grateful for the tension to be gone. [b "Yeah, I suppose you're right. See you in the morning, Hermione."]
And just then, because he was dumb just like his father, he felt himself lean in to give her a brief kiss on the cheek. Harry shot up from the couch. [b "Goodnight,"] he repeated with a stammer, hurrying to the stairs.
In the privacy of his own bed, he allowed himself to bury his face in the pillow to groan at his pathetic self. [b "Stupid, stupid, stupid,"] he grumbled into the fabric.
[i "Whatever you're on about, deal with it tomorrow. Some of us are trying to sleep,"] Ron slurred through his sleep, throwing a pillow in Harry's direction.
[i If only this problem would be resolved by then,] Harry thought to himself as he changed into his pajamas and collapsed back on to his bed. Unfortunately, he was doomed to a sleepless night of staring out the window at the stars, cursing himself for not knowing how to make himself a sleeping drought.
[b "The constant company when it's you would be very welcome. You know I wouldn't even dream to try and have you leave. Perhaps you'll finally get the chance to have me play wizard's chess.. or as you suggested all the time in the garden and teaching me how to take care of it."] The girl said with a soft smile. It was the smile that only was ever seen by him.
A small laugh came from the girl as he tried to lighten the mood the slightest. [b "No, don't think you can."] She teased back, returning his tentative hug. She did find herself wishing it was not so tense as she did like being in his arms and close to him.
Brown orbs were met by green as he started to say something. And it did make her so very curious. She was about to ask him to go on, but Harry seemed flustered and was quick to look away. Did she want to know what he had been about to say? More than anything. But would she press him for it? Not at all. The girl had learned by now he would tell her if and when he was ready to talk.
[b "You know...when all of this is over you and I still have our week of muggle fun to have. We could even try a...."] But she had to stop herself, snapping her own mouth shut. Hermione had been about to suggest a date. And her cheeks heated up with a dark blush with her heart seeming as if it were pounding a mile a minute.
[b "Erm...it's getting late...and like Ron said..we have early morning classes. Snape I believe is first thing."] She was trying to change the subject and give them both an out for the night. And if she were honest, the girl was starting to already tire down and it was only their second day back.
His smile turned slightly sad. [b "I hope I get to. And if I do make it, then expect me to be at your house constantly, because I like your company too."]
He liked her company a little too much.
Harry sat up and moved to sit next to her, with his back leaning against the couch. He tentatively wrapped an arm around her shoulders and tugged her for a brief hug. [b "I can't let Prefect Granger down, can I?"] he tried to lighten the mood back up.
He tilted his head slightly until he caught her eyes. [b "I'm gonna do my best to stick around. Maybe after the war we could even-"] he froze and snapped his mouth shut.
Nope. Not cool, Potter. His eyes dropped to her lips before flashing back up to her eyes, gulping down the lump in his throat as he quickly looked back to the fire. Silence fell again between them, with Harry not trusting himself to speak.
[i Smooth, Harry. Real smooth,] he grumbled internally to himself.
What he wanted didn't sound bad at all. And it was something she had and could imagine. Though when she had, the girl had imagined them together. God she wished she wasn't a coward to say how she felt. But she knew friendship was the only thing she would ever be able to have. And it had to be enough, no matter how much it hurt.
[b "Actually I would love for you to teach me that. It would give us something to do that is normal and to not have to worry about plants trying to bite us... And you could stay as long as you like...for dinners or just staying. I love your company..."] The words were out before she could stop them. But as it stood she was too tired to even try to fully watch what she was saying. At least she meant it all.
As she felt his hand on her shin, the girl looked to the boy and smiled sadly. [b "It wouldn't be happy if you weren't in it somehow...So please try and make it through this. You deserve a happy future just as much if not more than anyone else, Harry... I mean it."] Hermione whispered, her hand moving to rest over his.
Harry smiled faintly at her words. Everything sounded like a life he would love to share with her. He almost said as much, but bit his tongue. Friendship was all he was going to get from her, and he would not spoil it by making her uncomfortable.
[b "Well, I suppose I'd be coming to visit you and teaching you to garden so you don't kill your plants. I do all of the yard and garden maintenance for my aunt and uncle. I'll show you how to grow a vegetable garden so you always have fresh ingredients to cook with. And then, you'll have to feed me, of course. That'll be my payment,"] he nudged her calf with his hand.
[b "A quiet life sounds perfect. I'd like a small cottage. Easy to maintain. Quiet enough where I can sit outside and not hear traffic or yelling,"] he can practically hear the Dursley's neighbours at every hour, with their loud televisions and bickering matches that go well into the night.
Harry frowned after considering a quiet future. [b "Truth be told, I haven't let myself imagine a life after all of this. I've always thought that I would jinx it, in a way. Letting myself believe I'll survive the war seems like a good way to be disappointed if everything goes south. I don't want to long for a life that I might not get to have."]
His hand rested on her shin. [b "I hope you get that peaceful life, though. You deserve it after all the garbage you've put up with these past five years, hanging around me. If anyone deserves a happy future, it's you."]
The girl was watching the fire. There had been a silence that had fallen between them, but it was far from awkard. After the events of the last couple of days and just what they had heard sitting with Harry was nice. And she couldn't help her mind from wondering what a normal life might be like. A life away from dementors, evil wizards trying to kill them, or having a mad Ministry that wanted to put their lives at risk. The idea was starting to sound more and more appealing.
Again the only thing to call her out of her thoughts was Harry's voice. It took her a second to take in the question and when she did, her cheeks flushed. [b "Possibly moving to a nice muggle village or town. Maybe live a simple life...Reading would be something...and just falling into learning new things...traveling...And gardening too.. I don't really know..."] She found herself saying, though most of it she imagined with him. However, she could not bring herself to say it and her heart more than fluttered in her chest.
[b "Erm...if you had the chance what would you do with it?"] God she could not get her heart or thoughts to stop. And she so dearly needed them to before she gave anything away.
He thought back to their third year at Hogwarts, and had to agree with her. It was kind of nice when their only worry was about his nonviolent godfather breaking into the castle. Even if they thought he posed a threat at the time, Sirius was nothing even close to the level of anxiety-inducing Umbridge was capable of.
Running away sounded sort of peaceful. Harry tried to imagine what he would be doing if he wasn't at Hogwarts. It definitely wouldn't be to go back to being the Dursleys' slave. No, it would be somewhere far away from all of the hell that had been his life so far.
Maybe a Muggle town, where he could be away from the fame while still being in touch with the wizarding world. When Harry pictured the small cottage he'd like to live in, his face turned red when he realized he couldn't picture that life without Hermione being there too.
Both of them would sit by a roaring fire like they were now; her with one of the books from her personal library, and him trying to teach himself something he'd never gotten to learn before, like guitar or piano. A peaceful life for the two of them, with visits to the Weasley family every Sunday for dinner.
Harry stopped that train of thought when he imagined they'd retire to the same bedroom if that life were real. Clearing his throat, he tried to will his racing hear to slow down. [b "What would you do?"] Harry asked, turning his head slightly to look at her. [b "If we could just run away, what would you want your life to be?"]
Brown eyes watched the flames crackling in the fireplace and she couldn't help envying it. The fire had nothing to worry about and could just dance so freely. Which was a far cry from what they could do. For once again they were going to risk their lives and had yet another crazy plan in mind. But really what else could they do? If they chose nothing all of them would be doomed.
Those were the thoughts her mind seemed to be swimming with. Or had been until vaguely she heard the exchange between Ron and Harry. It was with their words did she reign in her thoughts to tune them back in. [b "With this news..don't think we'll be able to sleep much.."] The bushy haired girl found herself replying as she cast a wave at their red haired friend.
It was when he was gone did her head return to her lap and her eyes were once more drawn back to the fire. Was she drawn back to the crisp warmth for a moment. [b "I don't know why..but I think our third year was pretty much our last break. It feels like things will only get harder from here...But it would be nice to not have to worry...and to just run and leave all this behind."] She found herself whispering back to the raven haired boy who she sat beside.
[b "It's a mix of being a good idea and an absolute crazy one,"] Harry admitted. [b "But to be fair, most of our ideas border on insanity."]
He propped himself up on his elbows, looking to both of them. [b "I think a crazy idea is all that's going to save us this time."]
Ron looked squeamish at the intensity of their words. He was on board, of course, but he'd never quite been as enthusiastic about the trio's plan like Harry and Hermione. [i "Just...don't get me killed, alright?"] he requested.
Harry let out a huff of a laugh. [b "Death by the pink nightmare. How's that for an obituary?"] he dropped back down and rested his hands on his stomach.
Ron rose to his feet and loosened his tie. [i "And with that bombshell of an announcement, I'm off to bed. Try not to be up too late,"] he cast a lazy wave over his shoulder at them.
The raven haired boy let his eyes drift shut for a moment, basking in the warmth of the fireplace and the crackling of the wood. [b "One of these days we'll catch a break, right? Just once, I want to be able to nap by the lake and not be on alert for potentially being murdered,"] he muttered to Hermione.
Ron was staring at Harry as the words had been spoken. It was clear he was not sure how to even take the news. [i "So what are we going to do? The pink psychopath just gave our worst enemy the means to bloody well make all our lives hell."] He said as his eyes went between Harry and Hermione. Obviously he was relying on them to have some form of a plan.
[b "Warn the students to warn their friends.. and also start and see who would be willing to fight back. We can't just sit and do nothing with that pink nightmare trying to run everything. You and I've got to start talking others into trying to meet this weekend in Hogsmeade. It's the only chance we've got now."] Hermione said as she stood and moved over to sit on the floor beside Harry and closer to Ron.
[i "Are the two of you sure this is a good idea?"] Ron asked.
[b "We've got to try something. If not we're done for..."] Hermione said quietly and sighed as she put her head on her lap. Her head was killing her and she nearly had no focus left.
Harry immediately flopped down on to the floor by the fireplace, throwing an arm over his eyes dramatically as though it would help his headache. [b "We'll have to tell any Gryffindor willing to listen. They'll know who we can trust in the other houses. After last year, I'm not sure any Hufflepuffs or Ravenclaws are willing to listen to me, but if they have friends in our house, we might have a chance to convince them,"] he sighed.
He peaked out from under his arm. [b "We should just run away and avoid all these problems. We don't need to pass school. We'll just live remotely in the forest and survive off the land."]
Ron joined them soon after, frowning when he saw the worried state they were both in. [i "I'm not going to like whatever it is you're going to tell me, am I?"] he slumped into a seat by them.
[b "Depends how much you like being watched under a magnifying glass,"] Harry responded, staring up at the ceiling.
Ron raised an eyebrow. [i "A what?"]
Right, not a Muggle-born. [b "Umbridge has granted her little informants permission to stalk the rest of us and report back to her for punishment. The cherry on top is that she's also given them permission to use stunning and binding charms on suspects."]
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