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It amazed her how much the Shack had stayed the same where everything outside changed. But then she wondered what it was truly like to be frozen in time. Or her mind lingered there for a few moments as dark eyes looked around and fell upon the layering of dust and cobwebs that happened to "decorate" the place. Their classmates didn't know the truth of the old house and for that she was thankful as it kept them only glimpsing it from the fencing that surrounded the grounds.
[b "You know, the dust gives a first date character. Almost a Halloweenie sort of feel."] She said with a soft laugh as she was adding to what he had said. But truly she didn't mind doing anything with Harry. He was her best friend and any form of time they spent together and anything they did was special and even meaningful.
Lightly she sat upon the woolen quilt that had been brought and spread over the wooden floor and gently took the bottle from his hand. [b "I don't mind if you don't."] She said with a small smile, raising the bottle to him and taking a sip before she passed it back over to him.
God it burned, but it was a nice burn. This was nice..but also terrifying. They had no one watching but also there was no way to hide. All she was hoping was that she would not make a complete fool of herself.
[b "The Shrieking Shack it is!"] he grinned at her.
They didn't enter the house from the front door, where prying eyes were sure to see them. No matter how cowardly their fellow students were, the Shack was always a popular sightseeing location. Without fail, there would be small groups of students hanging around the fence line of the reportedly possessed property.
The inside was just as destroyed and dirty as Harry remembered. The floors creaked under their weight and cobwebs hung on almost every surface. Harry used his wand to light their way to the second floor, where they could see the entirety of Hogsmead. [b "Nothing says romance like an inch of dust on every surface,"] he teased, dragging a finger along the grime built up on the nearest table.
Reaching into the messenger bag he'd brought, Harry produced a woolen blanket that he stretched out on the floor. Next was the bottle of firewhisky. [b "I forgot to get glasses,"] he realized with a frown. [b "Don't suppose you're against sharing the bottle?"] he offered it to her first.
Being alone with her was both terrifying and a relief. No one was staring at them like a zoo exhibit, which lessened the pressure. But, they also had nothing to hide behind. They could be themselves.
Her cheeks reacted very much to her dismay and had become a bright pink when he had chosen to mock flattery as he has. But she had already spoken and it seemed there was no taking it back either. [b "You've always bested the Bulgarian Bon-Bon."] She almost said sheepishly before reminding him of the rest of their plans for the day.
It was when he said to wait outside was the girl on her feet and nodding. She didn't have much doubt of Harry managing to get the firewhiskey because she had seen him manage other feets over the years. And this wasn't nearly as difficult or dangerous. Besides it was just to have a little fun and to let them relax a bit.
So as she waited, the girl bounced a little nervously on the balls of her feet. She was truly praying others wouldn't stop to ask questions or even say that they heard the rumours. She was not at all ashamed of dating her best friend, but was just worried what rumours would spread. Or rather how they could be used against them.
[b "I think we were wanting the Shrieking Shack first so we could truly be alone first. Besides I think the shops will be crowded."] Hermione said with a small smile as her arm looped with his. Honestly she just wanted a little time for them to be alone and to enjoy without being stared at.
Harry pressed a hand to his heart, faking flattery. [b "You mean I, Harry James Potter, have bested the Bulgarian Bon-Bon in winning the affections of the brightest witch at Hogwarts?"]
The reminder of the next step to the date pulled him from his chair. He left a hefty tip for their waitress, along with enough to cover the bill. [b "Wait outside for me, I'll be right there,"] he whispered to her.
Madam Rosmerta was at her usual place behind the bar, wiping down whatever mess the drunken slobs had made. Harry sidled up towards the edge, putting on his most charming smile. [b "Afternoon, Madam,"] he greeted.
Being an expert at dealing with flattering men, Rosmerta settled a blank stare at him. [i "Why do I get the feeling you're not here for small talk, Mr Potter?"]
[b "I'm not here for anything free. I've got pure intentions, I promise,"] Harry put a small bag of Galleons on the bar-top. [b "Just a favour, just this once?"]
Rosmerta was no stranger to students requesting liquor. Most of the time, she had no problem telling them to piss off. Unfortunately, she also remembered being a teenager and getting into trouble. And when the saviour of the wizarding world requests a favour, it's extremely hard to say no without feeling guilty. [i "What do you want?"]
[b "Just a small bottle of firewhisky,"] he pleaded. [b "It's kind of a celebration today."]
She'd noticed the Granger girl with him earlier, and judging by the dopey expression on the boy's face, romance was in the air. Who was she to keep the Boy Who Lived from having fun on a date? Rosmerta swiped the baggy of coins from the counter and reached into the cabinet. [i "Not one word of this,"] she warned him.
Harry snuck the bottle into his jacket pocket. [b "You're the best!"] he called to her, hurrying for the door.
[b "Mission accomplished. Next stop?"] he offered Hermione his arm.
The girl stiffened as Rita Skeeter had been mentioned. The woman had been an absolute nightmare and had the whole school practically turned against her and even Harry. There were new lies and rumours every week it had seemed. Honestly she would have rathered to forget those articles but every now and again they popped back up in her mind. Probably they were the real reason she had been afraid to admit to Harry how she felt about him. And probably also in part how she had thought that there could be NO way he could even feel remotely the same.
A laugh slipped from her when it had come to the name Viktor had been called had been said. She had truly almost forgotten. Out of EVERYTHING that had been the only amusing part. [b "Oh...yeah he does still write. But it's simple things really. How the holiday had been and just classes. I think he is starting to understand that I can only see him as a friend and have my interest in someone else."] The girl said and gave Harry a small smile.
And soon, the girl was pushing the plate away and offered Harry a hand. [b "We still have the Shrieking Shack and bookstore to go to. And you still have fire whiskey to try and get us."] She teased, actually feeling better about their date and getting to where she could ignore the classmates who had come and gone and had also watched them.
Harry shot a glare towards the group of third years spying on them, who all quickly turned back to their own table to speak in hushed tones. [b "I'm not worried about them. There's not much they can say that Rita Skeeter probably didn't already gossip about last year,"] he assured her.
That pest of a woman had done nothing but poke at them all year, publishing rumors that turned them into the talk of the school. Poor Hermione was getting glares wherever she went in the school, an unfortunate side effect of being close to him. That being said, Rita's articles were one of the reasons that Harry's brain began realizing that he noticed Hermione as much more than a friend; not that he'd ever admit it to the journalist.
[b "They're probably wondering what you're doing here, slumming it with me when the - what was it they called him? - 'Bulgarian Bon-Bon' was sweet on you all last year,"] he teased her a bit, knowing how annoyed she'd been at Viktor Krum's incessant following her around the castle.
Harry had been more than a touch jealous over the much more rugged boy's charm and flirtatious behaviour towards his best friend. Even his attempts to make Ron behave towards the Bulgarian Quidditch star were halfhearted. It was hard to play nice when the girl he was crushing on was constantly shadowed by the athlete. [b "Does he still write to you?"] he asked, glancing at her over his drink.
The bookstore he mentioned sounded a place she could completely get lost in and not care. She loved books and was sure there might be something that could help with the club that they had been talking about. But also books she would consider "a bit of light reading" as well. [b "If we go there, you know it is likely hours will be spent there. You may even lose me among the shelves."] The girl teased gently as her own leg gently rezted against his under the table. She knew she could have moved at any point but it was comfortable and just his being so close was totally relaxing to her.
And when he mentioned the firewhiskey and their planned exploration of the Shrieking Shack since they knew the truth, the girl couldn't help laughing..[b "I still do owe you that ventire. So from here we go there and then to the books?"] She asked, her eyes drawn to some of their peers who stumbled in. And when they did, her cheeks flushed as they stared and then began their murmurs and trying to get a seat where they could watch them.
[b "You would think they would. There are people dating all the time at school."] She said with a roll of her own eyes as her hand moved into his under the table. Almost was she just wanting to go as she was sure the others would continue to stare for the remaining of the time they were eating. Such children really.
Harry grinned bashfully. [b "Don't worry, I'll leave her a generous tip to make up for it,"] he joked.
He probably should have moved his chair back to the opposite side of the table, but he quite liked where it was there. Stretching his leg out a bit, he bumped his shin against hers unintentionally. The fact that he left it there, pressed against hers, was completely on purpose. Harry was eighty percent sure that he was smiling like an idiot, but he couldn't bring himself to care.
[b "So, this bookshop I was telling you about,"] he changed the subject from their club. [b "It's three floors, all used books and rare editions stretching back hundreds of years. We might even find a few first editions, in their original bindings."]
Their food came out rather quickly, and Harry was thankful that the moody waiter would leave them alone for a bit. [b "I'll get the firewhisky before we leave,"] he leaned close to murmur to her. [b "I believe I was promised to explore the Shrieking Shack, now that we know there's nothing in there that wants to kill us."]
A few of their classmates came stumbling in to the pub, drawing his attention momentarily. He saw them glance in their direction, and the murmuring began as the group tried to get a table within eyesight of his and Hermione's. [b "Oh look, they've come to take in the soap opera of the day,"] he drawled wryly, looking back at his date with a roll of his eyes. [b "You'd think they've never seen a date before."]
It had been funny to actually tell all of that to Harry. Honestly she wondered how it would affect his opinion of her. And the silence for the few moments had her a little bit anxious. But then she could see the light in his eyes and it made her relax. Seemed he didn't think much differently.
His words on the fox and the patronus did make her flush a bit. She honestly had not thought much of it. But then suddenly he was all excited and had gotten closer to her. The closeness had her heart seeming to drum in her chest and she listened. [b "You already know how to do it...and with both of us we can really do this. We already know we can work well together...and... well I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else...I mean I would be anxious and think it would fall apart."] She was being completely honest.
The closeness was making it a little hard to focus. But she also did very much believe they could do this. Her eyes had moved to his lips just for an instant before the clearing of the throat came. And suddenly she was more aware of where they were and almost felt ashamed that she had been caught staring at Harry the way she had been.
Quickly she picked up the menu and scanned it. [b "Erm.. another butter beer and the soup of the day, please."] She said when the sharp, bored eyes of their waitress came to her after Harry had ordered. It was when the woman was gone did she let out a soft laugh. [b "Looks like we have to be more careful."] The girl teased as she gave Harry a gentle nudge. Though still she was a bit embarrassed.
A soft smile slowly stretched on Harry's face as he imagined her as a small girl, being encouraged by a mother who wanted her to be proud of herself. She'd been adorably headstrong in first year, and now it made sense. Most of them had been terrified of standing out in any way shape or form at age eleven, and did their best to blend in. Hermione had stuck proudly to her intellect and never once changed who she was, even if it alienated her from the other kids.
[b "A fox, huh?"] Harry teased. [b "Maybe that'll be your Patronus."]
A thought came to him, widening his eyes. [b "We could teach that,"] he abruptly changed the subject, locking his gaze with hers. [b "In the defense club! We could teach them the patronus charm to defend against Dementers, if the pink beast ever decides to bring them to Hogwarts again."]
Reaching across the table, he grabbed her hand and his eyes lit up with more excitement than he'd had in a long time. [b "We could actually do this. With how incredibly smart and patient you are, and with what I've had to learn to fight Voldemort, we could pull this off."]
Harry scooted his chair over so he was sitting more beside her than across. [b "You can do great things, Hermione Granger, and I am lucky enough to get to witness it. If it were anyone else putting this club together, I'd be doubtful but there's no way this can fail if we work beside each other."]
He kept his voice low so as to not be overheard, which meant he had to lean close enough that she would hear them, putting them inches apart. Harry realized what was happening and his Adam's apple bobbed nervously in his throat. [b "I um..."]
A throat cleared, causing him to jump in his chair. [i "Order?"] the waitress looked rather bored with them, notepad and quill at the ready.
Harry flushed red and rapidly scanned the menu in front of him. [b "Club sandwich, please,"] his voice broke with bashfulness at having been caught staring at Hermione's lips.
Everything was so very confusing and messy. Not the fact that she had feelings for him. That she had discovered their third year when they had been trying to figure out what to do when "the mass murder" came for him. No..what made it confusing amd messy was the fact that there was danger at every turn. None of their relstionship could be normal. And her own history with dating wasn't exactly a bonus either. But to be on this date and with her best friend was somewhat a miracle. She would habe NEVER expected that he could or would feel the same way.
She was silent as she leanes forwards a little and rested her cheek against the papm of her hand. She wanted for Harry to know that he had her full attention. Admittedly though his past made her sad, the girl loved hearing when he could find a happy memory. And him with the bike and people watching made her smile as she could see it. [b "I can picture that...and it explains why you still enjoy people watching here at school. Which isn't a bad thing at all."] The girl said softly.
Since he had shared it was her turn. And it took her a moment to think of something. But when she did, the girl gave a slow nod. [b "I remember as a little girl that I always felt different and a bit lonely. I could read from a very young age and my cleverness often got me mocked...Much like it did first year here at school. I remember one day coming home from school in tears because some of the girls had been teasing me for being too smart and not like all the rest... Mum actually took me out for ice cream while dad was away on a business trip.. and she just talked me through it...told me there was nothing wrong with being clever and told me about foxes and their cleverness...how often it saves them. After she took me to the new bookstore that was opening and let me get a few new books..."] Never had she expected to tell that to anyone and almost did she feel silly.
[b "I don't blame you at all,"] he assured her. [b "We're not exactly in a normal situation. We're surrounded by danger at every turn, and then we go and add romantic feelings towards each other on top of that. Makes for an odd situation. I'm not really sure what a normal way to handle it would be."]
If anything, she was handling things better than he could have ever imagined. With his recent dating history, Harry wasn't altogether too confident in his skills. He'd been highly anticipating her to shoot him down in a soft, comforting manner that seemed to be distinctly Hermione. He hadn't quite expected to ever actually be on a date with her in Hogsmead.
[b "Alright. Tell me something I don't know about Hermione Granger,"] he took a sip of his drink. [b "Something from when you were little, before we met. Before the magic. Tell me about Muggle Hermione."]
They were the only two out of their immediate circle of friends who had lives outside of the wizarding world. Separate memories that only they would understand. Favourite films, travel experiences, toys. Things that the Weasleys couldn't relate to, no matter how hard they tried. Harry and Hermione often reminisced about things from home that they missed, like certain candies or television programs. Granted, Harry had a much more limited selection since he could only watch television when the Dursleys were all out.
[b "I remember,"] he began when it was his turn to share a story. [b "Being about seven. Dudley had gotten a new bike for his birthday. He got a new one every year, even if he hadn't outgrown the previous one. The old one had chipped paint from all the times he'd dropped it to the sidewalk in a rush to get inside, so he was all over the new one with shiny blue paint."]
It wasn't often the Dursleys granted him any kind of gift, but that year they seemed to understand that throwing the old bike away was a waste of money. [b "They gave me the old one, figuring it would keep me out of the house. I'd spend all day trying to ride up and down the sidewalk, trying to teach myself how to stay balanced. When I finally got the hang of it, I'd ride it to the park up the road and stay there for the day, people-watching. I loved that bike,"] he grinned fondly at the memory.
The silence and the conversation between them seemed forced and almost painful. Never had it been like this before. He was her best friend and the person she felt the most comfortable with. How was it that things could change so much just because they had decided to try a date? It was uncanny and unnerving. Even she was seeming to watch more and more what she said.
When he spoke next, Hermione let out the breath she did not even realise that she had been holding. [b "Actually you're right. We've always been so free and happy around the other. So this shouldn't be any different. I don't want you thinking that I want you being anyone else either...these feelings came about because of you being you... So us being so anxious like this is a blind date is silly."] She said with a small smile.
And it seemed as soon as their words had been spoken, their butter beers had been brought out. Once more the girl gave a small smile. [b "I'm sorry for having been so odd."]
He grinned at her. [b "If we're going to the Quidditch shop, I might be tempted to pick out a broom for you,"] he warned playfully.
The pub was only half-full as he led her through the door. The usual patrons kept around the bar, but most of the tables were free to pick from. Harry nabbed them a place close to the fireplace, cursing the chill of Scotland so early in the school year. [b "A round of butterbeers, please,"] he requested to the waitress who'd come over to hand them menus.
Bloody hell, conversation had never been this hard for him before. He was painfully aware of everything coming out of his mouth, just waiting for him to slip up and say something to make her end the date and leave him there.
[b "Okay,"] he broke the short silence. [b "I think we're both a little nervous about this whole thing. But, we've been best friends for years. Before any of these feelings came about, we've always been most comfortable around each other. I just don't want you to think that I expect anything other than Hermione Granger today; the same girl you've always been. This might be less daunting if we act like ourselves and less like we're on a blind date with a stranger."]
Harry gave her a small grin as their drinks were placed in front of them. [b "What do you say? Should we relax a bit so we don't get too much in our heads?"]
Her eyes watered almost the instant the sour had touched her tongue. It was so very bitter and reminded her of what straight vinegar would tasted like or even vanilla abstract when not in cookies. She had been so very close to spitting it out, but to her surprise Harry actually caved first. That really had been the shocker to her as she was horrid with sour candies when they were as tart as the brightly wrapped one had been.
Not even seconds after Harry had spat his out did she do the same. [b "They should have a warning on them.. Eat at your own risk or something. Those are bitter.."] She couldn't help complaining and flushed when she realised that she had been. Honestly she had meant to keep those thoughts to herself but it seemed they had come out her mouth.
[b "How about we split it? I mean I did cave not even a few seconds after you did. And those candies made our wager one of the stupidest things we could have agreed on."] She said with a small smile as her hand once more had moved back into his. Truth be told she wasn't annoyed with him at all. She was just as awkward and wasn't like the other girls at the school. She was content to conversation or to the silence.. all she really wanted was the time spent together.
[b "So books and the quidditch shop? Maybe even jokes too?"] She asked, giving him other options as well. He didn't mention or choose from somwthing else, Hermione could keep them in the bookshop for hours and not realise it
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