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Harry's eyes followed Luna and Ron, mentally screaming at them to come back before he made an even bigger fool of himself. Hogsmeade was tomorrow, and the last thing he needed was to screw something up and make Hermione change her mind about spending the day with him. [b "S-shall we?"] he stammered, gesturing towards the direction of the Great Hall.
When the hell had conversation gotten so difficult? Even last year with the threat of dragons and merpeople, Harry had been capable of words. Now, with the prospect of alone time with Hermione, he'd been reduced to a bumbling fool. He'd felt more at ease trying to find a date to the Yule Ball. Then again, perhaps it was because Hermione meant more to him than those girls.
[b "So Hogsmeade,"] he broke the silence. [b "Maybe we can get lunch? Before we look around and shop, I mean. I'd like to hear how your summer was before you went to Grimmauld Place. Or just talk about anything, really. I'd like to just sit and have a conversation with you that doesn't revolve around doom and gloom."]
There. Good! A coherent sentence with enough subtle flirting that he wasn't being too obvious. Lunch and conversation was a good start. Then, they could unwind and have fun in the shops.
Hermione shot Ron a look when Harry fell. The girl couldn't help being almost embarrassed for their friend that it had happened. Not once in all the years they had been friends and coming to school had that ever happened. And she had been about to move forward to help him, but Harry had gotten back to his feet so quickly and before she could.
[b "I'm glad the two of you managed to get some sleep. Yesterday..was interesting to say the least."] God why did this have to be so hard. And with Ron't comment, Hermione rolled her eyes. [b "Honestly Ron..it's still early."] She muttered and turned her gaze back to Harry. [b "Erm...so do you.."] She whispered but before she was able to even attempt to say anything more the boy had blurted out about breakfast and was quick to leave her and Ron behind.
[i "Will just admit it to him? It's becoming painfully obvious you know.."] Ron muttered to the girl as she was left with him and the two were following after their friend at a distance.
Her cheeks flushed a bright pink as she looked to the ground to try and hide it. [b "Is it really that obvious? I mean..does everyone know that I happen to...to have feelings for him?"] The girl asked in a whisper. If so that was SO bad and she would need to try and make it less obvioius.
[i "It's been noticable since we left Grimmauld Place...everyone thinks you two ARE together and just waiting for you or him to say it."]
[b "Does he know..?"] The girl asked as she slowly looked up.
Ron shook his head. [i "No he hasn't a clue. Thinks you only like him as a friend and that nothing has changed... Oh no.. I know that look. What are you thinking?"] Ron asked.
[b "That you don't say a word to him...I need to figure out how I can tell him...but also to.."] Her words trailed as they finally seemed to catch up and Luna had fallen to Harry's other side. The blonde seemed to be giving both Hermione and Harry pointed looks.
[i "Ron, how about we go off ahead? There was something I wanted to show you."] Luna said as she gripped the Weasley's hand and tugged him off to leave Hermione with Harry.
Great...what could go wrong?
Harry looked up as she spoke, and completely missed the final stair. He grunted as he hit the floor, but shot to his feet immediately. [b "I'm fine. All good. Slept well, thanks,"] he cleared his throat, straightening his tie and robes. [b "Right Ron? No issues."]
The redhead was too busy holding his stomach and laughing. [i "You've never tripped on those stairs in five years. That was worth everything I could have paid to see it,"] he spoke through his cackling.
Harry met Hermione's gaze and smiled. [b "You look...nice,"] he stammered. [b "Robes look..uh...freshly ironed."]
Dear Merlin, just let the ground open up and swallow him whole. [i Robes look freshly ironed? God, no wonder I'm single], he winced internally. [b "Breakfast!"] he blurted out, walking past towards the portrait hole.
Ron wiped the tears from his eyes and threw an arm around Hermione's shoulder. [i "Harry seems to be losing his marbles. Know any curses to summon a straight-jacket?"] he joked.
Harry walked rapidly ahead, leaving his humiliation behind him. [b "Stupid stupid stupid!"] he grumbled to himself, unaware that a blonde presence joined his pace.
[i "I don't know, Harry. I wouldn't call Nargles stupid. They're actually quite clever,"] Luna spoke in her usual soft tone.
The boy jumped. [b "Don't do that!"] he held a hand to his chest to calm his heart rate.
[i "I'm sorry. I thought you heard me,"] she smiled. [i "You appear to have lost your companions."]
Harry looked around and saw that the two were, in fact, far behind. [b "I didn't realize I was walking so fast. Got a lot on my mind, that's all."]
[i "Yes, I know. Your crush on Hermione,"] she stated bluntly.
[b "Oh come on, does everyone know?"] he hissed.
She shrugged. [I "Not the person that matters, of course. She's quite as foggy as you are,"] she tapped his forehead.
The other girls had gone to bed not long after they had had their jabs at her and had whispered some more. And with everyone asleep, the girl had turned on her back and laid staring at the ceiling and into the darkness. She had tried to will sleep to come. She really had but no matter what she did, her mind would not quiet down. It decided to take her back over the years and show her the fondness she had always felt for Harry and slapped her saying ['IDIOT you have LIKED him all along']. And it even decided to roam over possible futures that MIGHT be possible IF they lived through this war and everything.
It was like that into the early morning and instead of being the last up like she had wanted, the bushy haired brunette was the first. She had gotten her shower, brushed her hair and tried to get it to "behave" and even was in her uniform snd robes. To buy herself a few extra minutes, the girl switched books she would not need and even took a couple extra to read. Almost was she considering to skip out on breakfast and to go to the librabry. How could she face Harry after last night? All he had done was kiss her temple in a friendly gesture and she had run from him like an idiot. But she knew it she skipped out she would cause more worry and possibly get taken to Madam Pomfrey for a scolding.
So with her heart fluttering and it seeming like butterflies were dancing in her stomach did the girl leave the dormitory. And just as it so happened, Ron and Harry seemed to be coming down from the boys' dormitories. The girl forced herself to smile and to act normal. Or as normals as she could. [b "Morning, did the two of you sleep well?"] She asked as she fell into step at Ron's other side. Something almost made her feel like Harry wanted or needed the space.
Harry might have been the last to go to bed, but he was also the first one up in the morning. As the other boys began rising from their bunks, he laid flat on his blankets, staring directly above at the ceiling.
He was an idiot.
An irresponsible idiot.
He had one job to do, and that was to not act on his stupid emotions. How the hell was he supposed to look at her this morning, after kissing her, even if it was only on her head? [b "I think I'm just going to go sacrifice myself to the Giant Squid,"] he grumbled to Ron, who remained behind as Harry got ready.
[i "To be fair, I warned you not to be dumb. Remember? I said it right before I went to bed. And you literally did the opposite of what I said,"] the redheaded boy was chewing on some gummy snacks he'd found on his bedside table.
[b "I wasn't thinking! I was tired! I'd been thinking about her all evening, and my brain just kept going when she got back. Any filter I had was gone,"] Harry stared at his pitiful reflection in the mirror as he tied his tie - properly so as to not give Hermione a reason to touch him and make him go all stupid again.
[i "So you gave her a small kiss. What's the big deal? Not like you dipped her and kissed her full on the mouth. I think you're overreacting,"] Ron pulled his robes over his uniform.
Harry turned to glare at him. [b "I always overreact. It's kind of what I do."]
His friend shoved him out the door. [i "Well overreact at breakfast. I'm starving and I'm not going to miss food to listen to you whine."]
The two of them had only managed a couple of steps before the fire had roared to life again. Her eyes caught sight of Sirius there, making her whisper her words of going to check what was wanted. The girl girl would have stayed around to listen and see if there was anything she might be able to do to help, but before she could make the conscious decision Harry's hand had brushed hers to let her know to continue up to bed. And then he did something he had never done before and kissed her temple which made her cheeks turn a very dark shade of pink. [b "G-good night. And try not to take too long...you don't need to be getting caught. I-I'll see you in the morning."] Though the girl had tried to keep her voice steady, it had been hard and she scurried up the stairs and to the girl's dormitory.
Her cheeks were still a dark pink when the girl had gotten back to the dormitory and both Parvati and Lavender were still awake. And they looked to her, giggling when they saw how red her cheeks were. [i "Oh do tell us what happened. You are NEVER this red. Sooo who's the guy?"] The girls teased and were making kissy-faces at her.
Quickly brown eyes turned away as she went to get the curtain pulled closed and chaged into her pijamas before she pulled it back again. She had taken a seat on the bed and had a book open in her lap. [b "I don't know what you're talking about. I've only just gotten back from my patrol. There is nothing to tell. No guys."] She said almost more huffily than was meant, which got them to squeal with laughter.
[i "Oh come on, Hermione!"] Lavender tried. It was clear they wanted her to spill something.
[b "I'm honestly not sure what you are wanting.."] The girl said with a sigh as she had managed to read a couple of pages. [b "But if you'll excuse me, I'm tired and really want to get some sleep. Since we have early classes tomorrow, the two of you might want to do the same."] She said as she put her book to the side and laid down, facing away from the other girls. And she could still hear them. Even with trying to get to sleep, Hermione couldn't and her mind was still racing over Harry's kiss to her temple and just everything. She just couldn't get to sleep.
Harry couldn't help but grin. [b "I wonder if Lucius has actually ever listened to any of Draco's complaints. He has a list every week. If he really tells his father everything we do to piss him off, I can't imagine Greasy Ferret Senior could be bothered to care,"] he retorted, thinking of how disconnected from his son Mr Malfoy had been.
He was more than willing to call an end to the evening and wander up to bed. Now that she was back unharmed, Harry felt every ounce of exhaustion that had built up. He stood to stretch and follow her. They barely made it a few feet before the previously dying fire burned bright once more, and the familiar voice of his godfather reached out.
Harry brushed his hand against hers, gesturing for her to keep going. [b "I'll try not to be too long. Goodnight,"] he pressed a kiss to her temple before he could realize what an absolutely stupid idea that was.
His posture immediately straightened and he practically marched back to the fire. Sirius looked far too smug for a face made of flames. [b "Shut up,"] Harry hissed when he checked that Hermione had continued on to bed.
[i "That was a...friendly farewell,"] the man taunted.
[b "I will pour water on this fire,"] Harry warned, drawing his knees up to his chest.
[i "As adorable as that was to witness, you lovesick puppy, I'm here on Order business,"] Sirius rolled his eyes at the dramatic boy.
Harry's ears perked. Leaning forward, his eyes widened. [b "Do you know what's been going on? About Dolores Umbridge?"]
Sirius shushed him. [i "Kingsley is a high ranking official, Harry. He's told us everything. We're well aware of the corruption and infiltration going on by the Ministry. We're also working on a solution. Which means you need to stay put and do as you're told."]
The boy huffed. [b "The woman is borderline psychotic! Barbaric!"]
[i "She's a royal terror, I will give you that. But she's a royal terror who can do a lot of damage to our cause. You're a young man with a hotheaded temper, which is the last thing we need in this situation. You're a smart boy, Harry,"] Sirius' tone grew fond. [i "You know I'm right. And technically, I'm your guardian, so you need to do as I say regardless of whether you want to or not."]
Harry scowled. [b "Way to pull the authority card,"] he grumbled.
[i "It's nice to actually get to use it. I'm feeling rather powerful at the moment. Now, keep your head low, and stay out of trouble. Focus on Quidditch and your classes, and not on your new professor. Let the adults handle it. Now, get to bed. And don't let your Hermione dreams keep you up all night,"] Sirius taunted.
[b "You cheeky bastard!"] Harry scolded as his godfather laughed and the fire went out.
Stupid Sirius, pulling the parental card. Harry grumbled all the way up to his bed and buried his face in the pillow. [i Don't let your Hermione dreams keep you up.] Easier said than done.
The girl turned her attention back to the boy as she heard his words. It always amazed her how protective he could be. [b "It's fine honestly.. It wasn't any worse than his normal tonight. Just a lot of complaining of how you happened to jump in this afternoon and his normal 'my father will hear about this'."] Hermione recited.
It really wasn't anything as she had said. By now they had ALL heard his rants and ravings multiple times. Looking to the boy and studying him, she could see that he was still tired and was there a hint of relief? Quickly she pushed that thought from her head as she stood and gave him a pointed look. [b "Come on.. it's late and the day was a long one. Getting some sleep might do us some good."] She said, taking on the usual tone she used when worried about Ron and Harry and trying to get them to do what was the best for them.
She was hoping he would listen to her. Harry really did look like the last few days were catching up with him. But before she could try again, the fire seemed to crackle more to life.
[i "Harry.."] Came the voice of Sirius. It seemed like the man was wanting to check in with him. A small smile traced her lips. [b "Maybe you should see what he's wanting."]
Harry knew he was being a bore.
The only movement he made all night was adjusting his position on the couch. His thoughts were racing a mile a minute and he couldn't shake the feeling that he should go find her. Even Ron got annoyed and chucked a pillow at his head at his fifth rejection to join their games.
He barely even noticed when everyone else began shuffling up to bed. [i "Don't be an idiot,"] is all Ron had to say on his way past the couch.
Every disaster from the past four years flashed before his eyes. Fluffy could have eaten her. No, she knew how to charm him to sleep. There could be another Basilisk lurking around waiting to petrify her! His eyes closed. He couldn't handle seeing her frozen form lying in the hospital again. With Umbridge around, it wouldn't surprise him if there was a Death Eater stashed away in the castle. She could accidentally stumble upon it! His head was beginning to hurt with all the possibilities.
Harry's eyes never strayed from the grandfather clock for the final hour counting down to midnight. Every tick of the hands meant another minute that she could be in danger. When he heard the portrait opening, he resigned himself that it was McGonnagal coming to alert him that Hermione needed him.
And then he saw her.
[i Ron's right. You're an idiot,] he chided himself, slumping back into his seat. His clenched his hands into fists to prevent himself from hugging her too tightly, so as to not alert her of the worry he'd been subjecting himself to.
[b "What kind of friend would I be if I didn't make sure you got back safely?"] he answered quietly, giving a small smile. [b "Besides, I wanted to make sure Malfoy didn't give you too much trouble. He didn't, did he?"]
One look into those green eyes of "the boy who lived" had her heart almost sink. The girl knew that he would not be pleased with her choice, but she couldn't let him get into anymore trouble because of her. At least not yet. Besides in some sense, the girl wanted to prove to herself and to the others that she could handle herself. It was something she needed to do.
Hermione watched as Ron had to tug Harry to go with him and stayed still for a few moments more. She wanted to make sure that her friends were gone before she made her way down the corridor to meet the blonde terror. And to her surprise, Draco was there first but not to her surprise was he scowling and complaining about what her "gaurd dog" had done to him. And he was also saying how his father would be hearing about it and he WOULD make her pay for it. All of it she had heard before and so most the time she was tuning him out. Instead she was thinking over the lseeon that they had come from and just going over the last couple of days in general. It was A LOT easier to deal with and she needed something to keep herself from snaping off at the Malfoy boy.
It was a quarter of midnight when she came back to the common room. Most the others of their house had seemed to retire to their beds, but brown eyes had found their way drawn to her best friend. Slowly did she approach and take a seat on the couch. [b "I'm susprised you're still up...I thought you would have gone up to bed with how tired you were earlier.."] The girl said, covering a yawn and turning her gaze to the slowly dying fire.
Harry took an initial step forward immediately after hearing the word 'patrol'. Like hell was he going to let her roam the castle with Malfoy again after what he'd done to her. He forced himself to stop. She was a big girl and could handle herself. Didn't mean he had to be happy about it.
[b "Yeah. We'll see you later,"] he forced a smile.
He didn't realize he wasn't moving from that spot until Ron physically pulled the back of his robes. [i "She'll be fine. Malfoy is useless without his goons, and they aren't allowed to tag along on patrols,"] Ron rolled his eyes. [i "I think you're being too protective."]
Harry raised an eyebrow at him. [b "Have you even met me? I have a serious reputation for being protective."]
Their friend laughed. [i "Okay, that's true, but you don't have to do it all the time. Hermione knows more spells than both of us combined. You think she can't handle the greasy blonde ferret on her own? Malfoy won't know what hit him."]
Harry allowed himself to be dragged to the common room, slumping glumly into an armchair. He was practically pouting. He didn't even budge at the invite to join the game of Exploding Snap the boys had started by the window table.
He was quite content to stare at the fire until Hermione was back safe and sound. He was itching to go grab his cloak, but he knew that if he didn't let her do this on her own, she might not forgive him. She would likely even find him overbearing. [b "Give it until midnight, Harry,"] he muttered to himself. [b "If she's not back by then, you can go find her."]
The note was passed back to her under the table and she took a quick look at what Harry had written. A weak smile came to her lips as she did read it, knowing with everything though helpful it could be that even coffee would not be enough. For a moment, the girl was still, her eyes on their Professor as the woman spoke of the stars. Spoke of their patterns and how the day they were born dictated their energies and a sense even their destinies.
And it was as the woman spoke did the girl let out a soft sigh as she continued to follow along, taking quick notes of the fake constelattions above to the words that were spoken. Most of her mind was actually on class and what was said. But the other part was thinking about Harry's birthday that had passed. How he had been caught up at the Dursley's and even she and Ron had not been able to do much. Maybe in Hogsmeade she would be able to at least get him sweets or something small as a late present. It would at least be something.
When they were set free for the evening, Hermione gave the boys a small smile. [b "I'll see the two of you later. I've still got my patrol with the 'bouncing ferret'.. Be good you two."] Her words were in their way teasing, but also begging Harry to let her do the night on her own.
Ron's friendly jab nearly made Harry jump from his seat. His face looked panicked and he snatched the note from his hand. [b "She's not!"] he whispered as quietly as he could.
But then he read the note, and goddamn if he didn't adore her any more than he already did. [b I'm okay, I promise. Sleep is catching up to me after the last few days. Thank you, though. You're the best! I'll double up on the coffee at breakfast.]
Ron held his hand out expectantly, though he kept his eyes on the professor. Harry handed him the note to pass along to Hermione, blinking away his grogginess. He forced himself to grab his quill to follow along. Professor Sinistra was nothing if not passionate about her subject, and the projected constellations rapidly switched as she grew more excited.
[i "The stars tell us more about ourselves than you would think. Each and every one of us have our own unique pattern in the stars, based on the day we were born. The stars change, and are never in the exact place on each given day. Tradition states that our constellation alignments on the day we're born dictates our energies in life,"] Sinistra beamed as she taught.
Harry's ears perked up. Hermione's birthday was coming up, and he'd yet to get her a present. Perhaps he could duck into the jewelry shop in Hogsmeade when she's otherwise occupied, and put in a special order.
Ron kicked him under the table. [i "You're smiling like an idiot. Stop it,"] he muttered.
Harry quickly adjusted his features to a smaller grin. [b "Sorry. Hit my second wind."]
Her hand tingled as he took it. It was the same tingle that had been there the last couple of days, but the girl didn't say anything. Maybe she was the only one to feel it? Ugh she was being silly and soon had the boy pulled to his feet and nodded slowly. [i [b "We've already got the 'mad woman' on our backs...and Professor Snape..the last thing we need is Professor Sinistra to join them.."]] The girl whispered before she stepped away from Harry and went to get her bag from where she had left it lying on the floor in front of the couch.
The bath had been relaxing to her body, but not so much her mind. Hermione had failed in her attempt to "turn it all off" for that half hour. But from the corner of her eye, the girl could see that it had helped Harry. And that it had relaxed him enough to where he seemed to want to fall asleep. A couple of times she found herself gripping his arm to keep him up as he seemed to stumble and near fall on their way to class. But each time she had also been quick to let go, letting her eyes fall to the stone steps before them so that she did not make the same mistakes.
It was when they entered the class did Professor Sinistra welcome them as warmly as ever. Though she could have sworn the woman's eyes lingered on her and Harry both for a moment, giving a thoughtful and knowing look. But then had gone on to say how she wanted the class to remain the same even with all the changes that had been made. Hermione found she was grateful for that and when they had been told to take out their books, the girl had been quick to do so and even to begin the notes.
Every once in a while, the girl would peek over at Harry and see that he was trying so hard to stay awake. Honestly if it had not been for her thoughts, Hermione would be in the same boat. [b [i 'If you want to stop paying attention and to space out abit...it's okay..I've got most of the notes and can fill you in later..']] The girl wrote on a piece of notebook paper and nudged Ron under the table, motioning he give the note to Harry who was on his other side.
The redhead gave her a look but then rolled his eyes. He then smirked and leaned over to Harry's ear when Sinistra was going on one of her tangents. [i "A note from your girlfriend."] He teased good naturedly before setting the small paper in front of Harry.
Harry groaned, throwing an arm dramatically over his eyes. [b "I just got comfortable."]
Still, Ron was right. They couldn't afford another detention. Especially not with Umbridge and her lackeys already keeping tabs on them. Against his better judgment, he took hold of her offered hand. As he expected, his skin tingled where she was touching. [i "Best not piss off Professor Sinistra while we're at it,"] he mumbled to her.
Harry was less alert now, after having the bath. His body was running low on energy and he just wanted to sleep. Every move was sluggish. He nearly tripped twice on the way to class by not lifting his foot enough with his steps.
Professor Sinistra was one of the younger teachers at the school. She was also one of the ones who gave a warmer welcome to students. A smile was already in place by the time the trio arrived in the tower to take their seats.
[i "I trust you're all ready for a long nap after eating, but try to stay awake until the end of the lesson,"] she gave Harry a slight smirk as he blinked rapidly to focus his eyes.
[i "I know that there has been some exciting changes that have taken place this year already, but I'll ask you to leave all of that at the door before you come into my class. Things are changing, yes, but I'd like my classes to remain the same. Now, books open please,"] she tapped her wand to project the constellations above them.
Harry sat as straight as he could to keep himself uncomfortable enough to stay awake. Ron had taken the liberty to sit between Harry and Hermione, giving the Potter boy a chance to collect his thoughts without getting distracted by how nice her hair smelled, or how the fake stars were casting an enchanting glow on her face.
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