A/N: Last chapter was fluffy because there's some action and angst in this chapter. You may start seeing signs of Harry being a very powerful wizard, because I believe he is, but please don't think I'm turning him into 'fanon super powered godly Harry' because nothing makes me grimace more than Harry being godly powerful, unless he worked hard for the power. Does it annoy anyone else when Harry is suddenly smarter than Hermione and godly powerful? Unless her worked hard for it.
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Harry Potter.
"Whoever controls the media, controls the mind." - Jim Morrison
Barty Crouch Jr. was not having a very good month. He walked down the hallway, clacking along with his walking stick, muttering curses in his mind out of frustration. He knew that he had enough anger in him to cast the Killing Curse and it was all because of two people - Dumbledore and Potter.
Ever since the old man had taken some affirmative action in the school he had to remain inconspicuous, in the shadows, not even getting close to Potter. One wrong move, a slight legillimency attack by the old man and he could expose the Dark Lord's plan. He would rather cut off his own hand than betray his Lord.
Potter was becoming smarter, all thanks to that mudblood girlfriend of his. His grades were high, he was actually thinking with his head, his eye even spotted some Occlumency books in his bag. He was also taking affirmitave action and he needed to do something. The boy needed to be weak and pliable.
Not that he doubted his Lord's abilities, not at all.
Maybe he could just kill the Granger girl, that would probably send the boy into a depression. Subtle legillmency probes during DADA classes showed that the girl was constantly in his thoughts, mostly they centered around the tournament and her.
The mudblood was surprisingly the best in their year, probably the smartest witch in the school, well ahead of many pureblood witches and wizards. She was keeping him grounded but also motivated as she made him study hard. His marks in their DADA class had reached the highest in their year.
The legillemency attacks were getting harder and harder with the shields he was building, he didn't want to alert him to his presence in his mind and had to be delicate with his touch, something Barty was not exactly familiar with. He usually blasted in with a full on attack but at the beginning of the year, he had to go back to Severus to help him with delicate probes.
Barty liked to believe that he was Slytherin personified - cunning, ambitious, and most of all, ruthless. He would do his Lord's bidding without a second thought and he was honored that the Dark Lord trusted him with this task. He'd kill his own father - something he was already planning - if it would please Lord Voldemort.
However, things were becoming complicated as Harry Potter was becoming, in simple words, was a powerful wizard. He suspected that if he continued on the path he was on, he would be a worthy opponent of the Dark Lord.
Something needed to be done to weaken Potter's will.
He stalked into the DADA office and locked the door with the most powerful charms he knew. It wouldn't do for someone to walk in on him as he felt the polyjuice wearing off. His face twisted into a grimace as he was reverted to his orignal form. The Death Eater couldn't wait until June, his blood felt like it was roaring in his veins with excitement. Then Britain would be molded into what it always should have been - pure.
He walked over to the trunk where he was keeping the real Moody, who was currently passed out at the bottom. He gave him sustenance, not able to afford him dying until the return. A quick cutting and levitation charm and Barty had hair for his polyjuice potion that Severus had delivered to him earlier.
He closed and locked the trunk once more and walked over to the desk, leaning back and closing his eyes. Something needed to be done to Potter and he snapped his eyes open as an idea came to him. The second task was approaching soon, it was quite obvious who Potter would 'sorely miss' would be.
Maybe if a tragic accident were to happen, a miscalculation of sorts, Potter would break and the Dark Lord would be most pleased.
A feral grin spread across Barty's face.
Draco Malfoy stood in front of the bathroom mirror, scrubbing the pimples on his forehead raw, though deep down he knew it was futile.
He had been hexed so badly before, even Potters boil hex was cleared up by Pomfrey in less than a day. Anything the mediwitch did, the pimples still wouldn't come off. It was also charmed so that when he looked in the mirror, he saw that the word was written the right way. The mudblood was quite vindictive with her hex, making sure he could see the word.
Though taken by a mudblood, seemed to be tormenting Draco. He liked to think that he was many things, but not a coward. A coward was lower than a mudblood in his eyes, something he never wanted to be. He wanted to be cunning and sly, he wanted to be like his father. His hero.
He had taken pleasure in tormenting Granger throughout the years, watching her eyes fill with tears as he and Pansy made fun of her. He never expected her to retaliate against him, but she did. He pushed her to the limit and embarrassed him, practically in front of the whole school.
He didn't even leave the dorm, having his godfather write him a note to get out of classes, except for his mandatory detentions cleaning with Filch.
Granger had shown him to be weak, to be beatable. Of course, he knew that she was beating him grade wise, but she had nothing on him in practicality. Or so he thought. As bitter as it tasted, and though he thought that Granger was still a know-it-all mudblood, his reluctant respect for her had risen a bit.
He growled and walked back over to his bed, pulling the curtains closed tight. He hated all the stares he received, the laughter behind hands, the gawking, the sniggering. It was incredibly irritating, but he didn't have revenge on his mind.
Oh, there was no way he'd be apologizing to her, but he would steer clear of her and Potter. He wouldn't make the same mistake.
Draco Malfoy was many things, but stupid he was not.
February was dawning and that meant that the second task was nearing, but Harry was focused on something a little more daunting - Valentine's Day.
In Valentine's past, he had received many of those singing cupids along with cards and candy in the past and he never really paid them any attention. This year he was quite excited seeing as how he had a beautiful girlfriend, but he also had a dilemma - what to get her as a gift.
Thankfully, Daphne, knowing how the female mind works suggested they should have a private "romantic" dinner. She was a Godsend since he and Neville were coming up with a big fat nothing and she decided to take pity on their ignorant male minds.
Harry had already planned on getting Hermione another charm for her bracelet, and thankfully Amber was a big help again. But, he was both excited and nervous to give her the specific charm, hoping that she liked it. Another good thing was that Daphne said she would.
"So, are you getting Daphne anything for Valentine's Day?" Harry asked Neville as they walked through Hogsmeade. The girls had split up to go shopping and would meet them at the Three Broomsticks for lunch later; he and the shy Gryffindor were just wandering about the different stores.
Neville and Daphne had gotten closer in the last month during their tutoring sessions. Daphne's grades in Herbology were rising along with her interest in Neville Longbottom. He was becoming progressively more confident each day around her and no longer blushed and rarely stammered.
However, that didn't stop him from blushing as he answered Harry, "Hermione said she'd help me charm roses for Daphne and the chocolate is for her. It's her favorite."
Harry grinned at his friend - his best mate - and clapped him on the shoulder. "All right, Nev. I'm happy for you."
"Thanks. I really like her, but...I don't think I'm ready for a relationship yet, but soon..." Neville smiled before the closest thing to a smirk appeared on his face. "I think it's obvious that you and Hermione are doing great."
"I think that might be an understatement," Harry said with a wide smile.
Hermione and Daphne were walking out of Willa's Witches Wear where Hermione bought a dress for Valentine's upon Daphne's urging and her help. Hermione actually had some fun shopping with a girlfriend, she had only really went clothes shopping with her mum.
Hermione realized that she had been a little pious when she had judged the Slytherin before getting to know her. She had grouped her into the Pureblood princess clique consisting of Parkinson and Bulstrode. Daphne, while very girly, was able to hold an intelligent conversation.
Through their talking, Hermione had discovered that Daphne alienated herself from the pureblood elite classmates because she didn't agree with their bigotry against muggleborns and half-bloods. She and her little sister, Astoria, were friendless, but the girl in green felt better when Hermione offered her own friendship as a relatively friendless girl herself.
Daphne had also categorized Hermione wrong, she thought that she was just an uppity muggleborn, which was because the only time she really talked was during class when she answered every question correctly. She was also a tiny bit jealous that the muggleborn witch could grasp things so easily when it took her some time to.
Hermione Granger was a genuinely nice girl, and Daphne could have kicked herself for not getting to know her sooner.
"He's going to die when he sees you in that dress," Daphne commented as they walked over to the jewelry store Dia Menty's.
"You really think so?" Hermione asked, a bit unsure. It was beautiful, but something she never would have bought for herself before now. Daphne was very persuasive though and she had to admit, she thought she looked quite nice in it.
"Oh, I know so. The dress is the perfect color and style, trust me," Daphne said as they walked in the little jewelry shop. "So, what are you going to get him?"
"I'd like to find that out as well. I'm not exactly experienced in this."
"Neither am I. I'm glad Neville is quite easy, though," she said, indicating the box of Bertie Bott's beans, Neville's favorite.
"Hi, can I help you?" both girls turned to the voice to see an auburn haired witch standing there.
"Yes, I'm looking for something for my boyfriend," Hermione told her. She figured she was going maybe a little overboard with the jewelry aspect of the gift, but she had all of that money from the Skeeter incident that she could afford to do this. Besides, she wanted to make this Valentine's Day special for Harry. "But, I have no idea what to get."
She smiled warmly at Hermione, "It's why I'm here. I'm Amber. Did you have anything in mind?" Amber then caught sight of the bracelet on Hermione's wrist and gasped. "Oh! You're Hermione, Harry's girlfriend!"
Both girls looked shocked at the sudden outburst and that Amber knew her and Harry, before Amber then blushed. "Oh bloody hell," she muttered, shaking her head. "I'm so sorry, but I just recognized the bracelet because I helped him with it."
Hermione smiled and offered her hand, "Nice to meet you, I'm Hermione Granger," she then saw the bracelet on Amber's wrist that matched hers and her smile widened. "I see where he got the inspiration from."
"Like I told Harry, my husband gave me this our fifth year when we started dating. I actually just received a new one for Christmas," she said pointing to the small baby's rattle on the bracelet. "Just found out that we're expecting."
"That's so sweet," Daphne said, the Ice Princess melting for a second, causing Hermione to smile. "Sorry, I'm Daphne."
Amber said, leading the girls over to the men's section of jewelry. "So, what we're you thinking for Harry?"
"What do you think I should get him?" Hermione asked Daphne, who thought for a minute.
"Well, that watch he always wears is terribly old an looks like it's about to fall off at any minute. Maybe a new one?"
Amber walked over to a drawer and tapped her wand against it. It opened up and expanded, displaying a number of nice looking watches. Hermione sighed, 'this is going to be harder than I thought,' she thought as she looked at all the different styles.
An hour later, Hermione and Daphne walked out of the jewelry store. Hermione's her change purse considerably lighter and a large smile on her face, 'So worth it,' she thought as she put the gift box in her bottomless bag. She went with simplicity since she knew Harry wouldn't want anything to garish and flashy, she also went with practicality. He played Quidditch, so he would want something resistant, but she wanted it to look nice.
"I talked to my parents and apparently my dad is taking my mum to their house in the Cayman's for a long weekend. It's also their anniversary," Daphne told Hermione when they broached the subject about what their parents were doing for Valentine's Day. Her dad usually just took her mum out to a fancy restaurant and bought her a piece of jewelry.
"They weren't arranged?" Hermione asked. She had figured that all purebloods had arranged their marriages still. It was common knowledge that Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were betrothed. It seemed so impersonal. Hermione wanted to fall in love, to get married because she loved her significant other, not because of some business contract involving money. It left a foul taste in her mouth and she felt oddly better that her first girl-friend's parents weren't like that.
"Nope. They met after they had graduated. My dad went to Hogwarts and my mum went to Beauxbatons. My dad was a professional Quidditch player for a couple of years and my mum was starting her Healer training when he was sent to the hospital she was working at for a broken arm. He always says that he fell in love with her at first sight and she says the same thing."
"That's really sweet," Hermione smiled.
"It is. I want to have a love with someone like my parents have."
"Daphne, how do you know when you're in love?" Hermione suddenly asked, catching the blonde off guard for a second.
"Why do you want to know?" Daphne asked, before pulling the muggleborn to a stop, a smile curving her lips. "Oh, Merlin. Hermione, are you in love Harry?"
Hermione blushed redder than a tomato. "I think...that I'm steadily falling in love with him, but...I don't want to be wrong."
"Well, my mum said that she always got this warm feeling whenever my dad was around. She felt safe and protected, but was willing to do whatever necessary to take care of him and protect him. She said that he centered around her thoughts and that...it couldn't really be defined in words, but you would just have that feeling of knowing."
"I think it might be too soon to tell him, but..."
Daphne smiled as Hermione continued on.
"I feel whole. I feel like there was some missing piece of me for all these years that I didn't notice, but as soon as Harry and I started spending time together...I'm stronger than I was. He doesn't care about me being 'know-it-all,' or that I limp when I walk, or my general 'geekiness'. He makes me feel beautiful..."
"Hermione, just say it."
"I'm in love with Harry Potter."
There it was. Out loud, what had been building steadily since that day in November when Hermione offered Harry her help. It was quick, she knew that it was, but she was sure. She wasn't sure she had enough courage in her to tell him just yet. She didn't want to be an obligation to him if he didn't say it, so she wanted to wait until the timing was right.
Saying it out loud, admitting it to Daphne was like a seal being pressed on it. She had that feeling of 'knowing'. They made it each other better. From him, she built confidence to stand up to Malfoy. From her, he took his studies more seriously unlocking his potential to be a great wizard.
Daphne gave a low excited squeal and pulled Hermione in for a hug.
"Well, what about you and Neville?" Hermione asked, changing the subject. She was truly curious and happy for the both of them. They deserved each other; like Harry and Hermione, they took things from each other. Daphne was confident, Neville was shy. Hermione could see Neville coming out of his shell, she also saw Neville warming Daphne up.
Sometimes Daphne maintained the Ice Princess facade until she realized that Neville, Hermione, and Harry were truly her friends.
The girls walked into The Three Broomsticks and Daphne just smiled at Hermione. "I like him. I guess it's a crush, but we both like where we're at right now, becoming better friends. He's such a good guy and I think he's rather handsome."
"I'm happy for you, Daphne."
Daphne smiled as they. "You know, I've never had 'girl talk' before - well, except with Astoria, but she's younger so it's not the same."
Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by an unwelcome voice. "Granger?"
Hermione and Daphne stopped, turning around to see an uncomfortable Ron Weasley standing there. Daphne stiffened up, her hand discreetly sliding into her bag where her wand resided. She had known that the ginger prat liked to use Hermione as a verbal chew toy and was willing to back up her first friend.
"Weasley," Hermione said, her tone neutral. She didn't trust the red-headed food receptacle farther than she could throw him.
Ron was going to apologize to Hermione, but the Snake wouldn't get the hint to leave. "Can I talk to you?"
Daphne just raised her manicured eyebrow at the boy. She knew he was rather biased against the Slytherins, so she shouldn't exactly take it personally, but she wasn't going to stand for it. She rolled her eyes, before turning to Hermione. "Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine."
"I'll just go wait for the boys," Daphne shot Ron a cold warning look that made him flinch. She smirked and watched as Hermione followed him to a quiet corner to talk. She would be keeping an eye on them just in case the ginger prat decided to pull something.
They stood in awkward silence and Hermione was starting to wonder if Weasley was pulling a prank on her. Right when she was about to walk away, he opened his mouth. "I reckon that I've been a right prat to you all these years," Ron started, his gaze on the floor.
'Really?' she thought, wondering where this was leading. She wasn't giving him an inch and crossed her arms over her chest. "You 'reckon' correctly. What does that have to do with anything?"
"I...I wanted to apologize to you..." Hermione didn't say anything and kept her eyes on him. The only sign she heard him was the brow arching. Ron looked more than a bit uncomfortable as he fidgeted in his place. She wondered if he had ever apologized for his actions before now, "Yeah, so..."
Again, she just stood and waited for the point to arise.
"I'm sorry. I was really mean and stupid and I regret every thing I've said about you. It'll never happen again."
It was generic and insincere, Hermione doubted he meant a word of it, except for it never happening again.
She smiled when she felt an arm go around her waist and a familiar pair of lips kissing her cheek. She turned to see her boyfriend smiling at her, though the nice look melted off when he turned to the even more uncomfortable youngest Weasley male.
"Ron," he said coldly, Hermione almost shivered at his tone. She knew that it was Ron who Harry had gotten into that fight with, due to the bruising on his face the day after. She practically forced the words that Ron had said out of Harry.
Admittedly, it had hurt that Ron said those nasty things, but she took comfort in the fact that her boyfriend had defended her so vehemently. Growing up, it was always Hermione versus the bullies, she never had anybody in her corner. Now she had three people and one willing to fight a former best mate over some bad words.
"What's going on?" Harry asked, his hardened gaze on Ron while his grip around her waist became tighter. She also liked that he wasn't trying to push her behind him, he was next to her. Equals, something she had admired about her parents relationship - the equal partnership aspect.
"Nothing, just...apologizing..." Ron muttered, staring at the floor and shifting from foot to foot.
"Well, I accept your apology, just don't ever talk to me again." Hermione said bluntly, channeling confidence from Harry. With him by her side, she could take on the world it seemed. A little jealous git such as Ron Weasley was a minor irritation. A gnat to swat away.
Ron nodded before briskly walking away from the couple and Harry's cold glare.
"Hey you," Harry said with a smile, Hermione smiling in return and pecking his lips. "Are you okay?"
She smiled. "I'm great. How was shopping with Neville?"
"It was okay. I got what I needed. What about you with Daphne?"
"I got what I needed," she echoed, shrugging. She had bought him some of his favorite candies from Honeydukes along with the watch from Dia Menty's. They walked back over to the table where Neville and Daphne were chatting.
They sat down and ordered, eating, talking, and laughing. All four of them were alienated somehow, someway in life. All four of them found a kindred spirit in each other which helped forge a quick friendship.
"Well, hello kids," they turned to the voice and saw Sirius Black strutting over to them.
"Sirius! What are you doing here?" Harry asked, surprised.
"I have something I'd like to discuss with you and I need your help," Sirius said before turning with a mischievous grin towards the ladies. "Miss Granger, so lovely to see you again. Pardon my french, but I'm glad that my godson finally found his bollocks and asked you to be his girlfriend."
Harry and Hermione both blushed while the former glared at his dogfather. "Padfoot, how would you like a trip to pound?" he asked through gritted teeth, but the Marauder just ignored him and turned to the stunning blonde who was smirking at the two lovebirds.
"I don't believe I've ever met you before."
"Daphne Greengrass," she offered a dainty hand, Sirius greeting in typical pureblood fashion, a kiss to the back of it.
"Lovely to meet you, Miss Greengrass. I'm Sirius Black. Yes, THE Sirius Black. My reputation precedes me, I know."
"You said you had something to discuss with us?" Harry asked through gritted teeth, glaring at his godfather.
"Ah! Yes," he said, taking the seat between Harry and Neville. "So...how would you like to get rid of a certain greasy bat?"
The teens shared surprised and intrigued looks before looking back toward Sirius. "Explain," they stated in unison, Sirius' cheshire like grin only widening.
"So, what do you think?" he asked after his explanation.
There was no hesitation. "Operation expurgate the greasy git is a go," Harry said, smirking at both Sirius and Neville, all three were practically bouncing in their seats in excitement.
Daphne and Hermione rolled their eyes in unison, "Boys."
February 14th rolled around quickly and Harry fidgeted from foot to foot outside the Ravenclaw tower. He fingered the small box in his pocket which held the charm to add to her bracelet. Everything was all set for their dinner. Dobby was bringing them food from the kitchens at the spot where Harry had already set everything up.
He glanced to his attire, his favorite dress shirt in emerald, black slacks and black shoes. His hair was hopeless and Hermione had once said she liked how messy it was. Anything she liked, he would do. If she wanted him to shave his head, his hair would be gone. If she wanted him to grow it out to the middle of his back, he would embrace long hair.
Those thoughts were confusing to Harry.
Of course he always had her on his mind somehow, but he was sometimes truly surprised by what he would do for her. He wanted her to be happy, that was priority number one, and he realized he would do anything to make her happy. He also wanted her safe, which was the reason he had the extra charms applied to her bracelet.
He knew she could take care of herself, she had displayed that with Malfoy - the thought of the blond poncy git hiding in the dungeons because of his perfect face being marred by the word COWARD brought a smile to his face. Hermione wanted an equal, not someone to take all the weight and let her sit back and do nothing. Hell, that wasn't really an option when she was the one teaching him everything.
He had heard a word from his godfather that startled him - love. Was he falling in love with her? Did he even know what love was? He had evaded all of Sirius' questions during their conversation over the mirror, partly out of confusion and ignorance.
He had no idea what love was, Sirius wasn't the most emotional person in the world, covering them up with endless mirth while Remus was withdrawn. All he knew of love was what his parents had. They were both in love with each other, that was sure to anyone who knew them, but how would Harry know that he was in love?
Harry heard a throat clearing behind him and turned around. His mouth went dry as he saw his girlfriend standing there. She was in an emerald-green dress with three-quarter length sleeves and a flowy skirt. The hemline of the dress ended mid-thigh and she also wore a pair of black stockings and black flats. He noticed that the dress was even more snug than the one on New Years and the color looked beautiful on her.
Her hair was tamed into soft curls and her makeup was done lightly, accentuating her beautiful features. She wore the charm bracelet on her wrist along with simple stud diamonds in her ears. Harry was sure he had no concept of basic functions such as talking and breathing for fifteen seconds, before the switch was turned back on in his brain.
"You look beautiful, love," he breathed, the endearment slipping out. He was fearful that maybe it was a little too soon to be using them, but from the way her face brightened up, all worries were washed away.
"Thank you, Harry. You look incredibly dashing," Hermione said, placing her hands on his shoulder and raising up to kiss him. Harry grinned against her supple lips, placing his arms around her waist as she had hers in his messy hair.
"Come on," he whispered, his voice slightly husky. He took her hand and started leading her out of the castle. Other couples had arranged special evenings for their significant others while everyone else had dinner it he Great Hall.
When they walked outside, Hermione tilted her head in question. "Won't we need our cloaks if we're going outside?"
"Nope," Harry grinned, leading her over to 'his spot' by the Lake. It was a spot he always came if he needed some peace and quiet, it was secluded from everyone else.
Hermione gasped as she saw the set-up, "Oh Harry."
Harry and Dobby had placed warming charms all around the area to keep the teens warm during their dinner. There was a plush blanket with cushioning charms for them to sit on, the whole area was surrounded by candles and he had Sirius give him a small wireless radio that was charmed to continually play music for them. Dobby had Hermione's favorite dinner made for them. He wanted it to be perfect for her. She deserved it.
"Moonlight dinner - check. Music - check. Candles - check. My favorite food - check. Who knew you to be such a romantic, Mr. Potter?" she teased, gazing at him with adoring brown eyes.
"I have to admit that I had some help from Sirius, Daphne, and Dobby. I'm clueless at this," he said a little sheepish. She didn't resist kissing his flushed cheek and nuzzling it with her own, something that felt so natural.
"It's perfect. Thank you, love," she whispered, Harry's heart swelling at the endearment and the action. He didn't realize how good it actually felt to be called that. If he made her feel half as good as he felt right now, he would be calling her 'love' a thousand times a day.
"No, Hermione. Thank you," he said, just as quiet and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. Both settled down on the blanket, eating their dinner and cuddling together.
"I trust you, Hermione." Harry suddenly said, looking at their intertwined hands.
Hermione glanced up at him, confused by the sudden admission, but touched as well. She smiled and leaned up, kissing his cheek. "I trust you too, Harry."
"I want to tell you about my childhood," he said, his voice sounding strained. She sat up and turned to face him, seeing how serious and important this was to him. She was surprised when he chuckled, the sound humorless, bitter. "Or lack of, actually."
She didn't say anything, she just reached out and took his hands in hers.
As soon as Harry opened his mouth, it was word vomit all over again. Thankfully, Dobby also managed to put silencing charms around them for total privacy.
He told her about his cupboard he lived in for ten years.
He told her how his aunt and uncle were terrible people who hated him.
He told her about he didn't know his name until he went to school, he thought that his name was either 'boy' or 'freak'.
He told her about Marge's bulldog biting him and how she warned that he had better not of hurt her dog with his filth.
He told her about Dudley and his friends favorite game called 'Harry hunting'.
He even told her about the time he blew up the windows in the house after what he know knew was a bout of accidental magic. He told her how they locked him in the broom cupboard for two days without food or water. He had to piss in the corner of the cupboard because there was no where else to go.
Hermione's heart broke for Harry. Though she was isolated from her peers her entire life, she had her mum and dad. She felt a strong desire to hug them tightly, telling them how much she loved them. Harry truly had no one for ten years of his life, until he came to Hogwarts. He made friends, he found out that he was famous, that he had money.
Then Sirius was proven innocent last year and he escaped that hell on Privet Drive.
Then he started to think that he would finally be able to live relatively normal.
Then everything went to shit earlier in the year.
"...and then a beautiful witch offered her help and changed my life."
Hermione had ended up in Harry's lap sometime through the story of his life. Her cheeks had evidence of tear tracks and she silently thanked Daphne for waterproofing her makeup. She had her head laying on his shoulder and his arms wrapped around her. He was shocked how upset she was, because he didn't want her to be. He just wanted to tell her because he trusted her, he told her his deepest secrets, trusting her to keep them safe. She would, he knew it.
Hermione wanted to tell him that she loved him, but the words caught in her throat. 'Not now,' she thought, snuggling into his embrace. She felt it bouncing off of each other, the love she was trying to convey to him was reflecting back to her. She needed to cheer him up, so she took the box out of her dress pocket and slipped it in his hand.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Harry." she whispered in his ear. He glanced at the box in confusion and he grinned, "Open it."
"Merlin Hermione," he said, taking the watch out of the box. She smiled at his reaction and gave herself a proverbial pat on the back.
"Do you like it?"
"I...love it," he answered, his green eyes swimming with warmth and adoration for the witch in front of him.
It was a quartz watch with black engraving. She had the same charms that he had placed on her bracelet put on the watch. It gave her peace of mind to know that he was at least safe from small curses. She also had HJP engraved in it to personalize it for him. She helped him put it on, replacing the one that was falling apart.
She watched with a smile as he admired it before giving her a kiss that curled her toes. He then pulled a small box out of his pocket and handed it to her with a slightly nervous smile. When she opened it, she couldn't hold in the gasp, "Oh Harry..."
"Do you like it?"
"It's beautiful," she said, gently running her finger over the stag charm, his patronus. Hermione thought that patronuses were very personal, they were a physical manifestation of joy triggered by a happy memory. It meant a lot for her to have his patronus form on her bracelet. He took the charm and placed it on her bracelet, right next to her otter.
Both sat out by the Lake cuddling together until curfew. Harry had his arms wrapped around Hermione as she leaned back against him.
"How was your Valentine's day, love?" he murmured in her ear.
"Perfect. Absolutely perfect."
After Neville and Daphne finished their main part of the plan of getting rid of Snape, Harry and Hermione walked around the school and collected the signatures they needed. Many were weary that they would somehow get in trouble, until the fourth years assured them that their names wouldn't be published anywhere, it just added power to the statements.
They collected 300 signatures from students in all years. Daphne was able to get some of the more neutral Slytherins such as first years, Blaise Zabini, and Tracey Davis to sign. Just about all of the Gryffindors signed, about 3/4 of the Hufflepuff signed, and half of the Ravenclaws.
They sent the documents off to Sirius with fingers crossed that their plan would work. They were not learning anything in class and he emotional abuse weighed heavy on some students, Neville in particular. He was constantly being sabotaged in class and was sick of it, he wanted Snape gone and he wanted a real teacher to teach them.
He was going to take a stand, not only for him, but for the school. He knew that if they could, his parents would be proud.
Sirius Black was born a jokester with a rebellious streak, demonstrated when he didn't conform to the Black pureblood ideology. He loved angering his mother by having posters of beautiful muggle models all over his bedroom walls and playing loud rock music. It all came to a head when he left the home and move in with James. He felt freer than he ever had been living with Charlus and Dorea, his surrogate parents.
When he was finally given a trial and, in turn, custody of his godson, he promised James and Lily that he would protect Harry any way that he could. He would face the Dark Lord himself to protect him, he would die for his godson. He did love him, but he was also afraid.
Afraid that he would leave him like James did. Afraid he would die and then he would be alone again. It might have sounded selfish, but that was a true fear to Sirius. He topped that thought with a tumbler full of firewhiskey before banishing it from his head. No time for dreary thoughts such as that.
As he glanced down at the article that was going to publish the next day, he smiled.
Witches and Wizards were impressionable creatures, easily swayed by the public popular opinion. Only a handful were able to make up their minds and stick to their convictions. He could basically print anything he wanted in the paper and they would believe it. Just like they would believe this article.
He was quite excited to get Snivellus out of the school. Just a small step in the road toward revenge.
Four students sat at the Ravenclaw table anxiously awaited the arrival of the owls. They wanted the incompetent potions professor gone and were sure that this article would start that process fairly quickly. They chatted excitedly about everything and nothing, just waiting and watching.
Soon enough, they heard the call of the owls as the mail arrived. All four teens grinned and shared a look before three owls swooped in front of them with their copies of the Prophet. Harry took the paper from Hedwig's leg and handed it to Hermione, before tossing his faithful familiar some pieces of bacon. The headline was printed in big bold letters,
Proper Education at Hogwarts: Fact or Fiction?
We at the Prophet were surprised when we received letters from a pair of students at Hogwarts who have resorted to taking drastic action to correct a terrible wrong coming in the form of Hogwarts Potions Professor, Severus Snape. While a renowned Potions Master, it seems as if his qualifications as an educator are being called into question by the students he "teaches".
The two brave students have sought out help, equipped with 300 signatures from other students of all Houses at Hogwarts who confirm that both testimonies are completely true.
Below are the cries for help:
Professor Snape does not teach. Instead, he writes potion ingredients on the board and tells us to get to work. We have no directions, no proper instructions, no reasons why a certain ingredients reacts the way it does, nothing.
If we ask him for help, he will either ignore us or insult us for being, and I quote, "dunderheads." It seems to be a habit of his to criticize students, to emotionally abuse them, for no reasons that we know of. I cannot name how many times one of my potions have been ruined by the Slytherins and yet, I get points taken and a incomplete grade. How am I supposed to learn? Will anyone take any action or will we be forced to endure this treatment?
- Neville Longbottom, Scion of House Longbottom, fourth year Gryffindor
"Ugh, I sound so preachy," Neville grumbled, looking at his words.
"That's exactly how we want it to sound. Everyone will eat this shit up," Harry said, before being flicked on the nose by Hermione for his language. He smiled apologetically and kissed her hand, "Sorry, love."
"Daphne, you sound brilliant," Hermione commented, glancing down to the Slytherin's testimony.
It is true that Professor Severus Snape favors our House. I have seen him award some of my fellow Housemates points if they sabotage another student's potion. He will also give high marks to my fellow classmates for their potions, ignoring if it was up to the standard or even complete. I have to wonder, am I being scored on my potion making abilites or my circumstances of sorting into the Slytherin House?
- Daphne Greengrass, Heiress of House Greengrass, fourth year Slytherin
Even someone from his own House has recognized the injustice! Here at the Prophet, we implore someone to take action so our children can receive a proper education and not fear walking into their Potions class.
Harry smirked as the Great Hall erupted into excited chatter and he looked up toward the front where the Potions professor had turned a shade of puce that would have made Vernon look pale. If his mind wasn't playing tricks on him, he could have sworn that Dumbledore's blue eyes were twinkling with mirth, while other teachers looked rather pleased with the article. All in all, it looked like it was turning out to be a success.
Witches and wizards across the country were in an uproar about the Potions Master. Parents of students at Hogwarts sent numerous letters and even howlers to Dumbledore to Minister Fudge, and even to Amelia Bones, imploring one of them to do something.
Turns out they didn't have to, Severus Snape simply didn't return to work they day after the article was published. All of his things were packed and gone. Though, thousands of howlers were found in his office and they suspected that he might have either hearing or brain damage from all the noise.
Dumbledore announced in the Great Hall that Snape wouldn't be returning admist cheers and Weasley made fireworks as the castle, sans Slytherin, celebrated. Harry, Hermione, Neville, and Daphne grinned at each other.
Harry could literally hear his heartbeat in his ears, all the noise of the crowd cancelled out. He saw Ludo Bagman speaking, but couldn't make out the words. All he heard was 'hostage...Hermione' before his mind shut down. His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides, his breathing was deep and slow, his lips curling into a snarl. It never occurred to him that Hermione would be what he sorely missed. It said 'what', not who.
McGonagall had collected Hermione while she and Harry were sitting out by the Lake, trying to relax. She didn't return, though and he just assumed that she was kept late doing whatever they were doing.
He woke up early, barely able to sleep at all last night. He couldn't find Hermione all morning, no one had seen her. He was worried sick over her but wondered if maybe she was sick and sleeping. Sirius and Remus had breakfast with him, Neville, and Daphne but Harry could barely eat. He was nervous about the task and about Hermione not being there. She was his rock, why wasn't she with him?
'Because she was busy attending a tea party with the Giant Squid at the bottom of the Lake!' Harry growled in his head.
"Find her, Pup." Sirius said in his ear, squeezing his shoulder as a sign of comfort. It did nothing to comfort him and tight lipped, Harry nodded. 'Damn right I'm going to find her,' he thought as the cannon went off, signalling the commencement of the task.
Harry quickly shoved the Dobby snatched gillyweed, which Neville had offered as an alternative when they had second thoughts about the bubble head charm, down his throat and dove into the water, not even registering the slight ache in his neck as he grew gills. He also saw that his feet and hands became webbed, allowing him to swim faster.
'Find Hermione. Get her out. Then kick whoever put her at the bottom of the Lake's arse,' he thought angrily, swimming deeper and deeper. He didn't care if it was Dumbledore himself who did it, he would kick his wrinkly arse. He swam as fast as he could into the murky depths, his heart slamming against his rib cage and adrenaline coursed through his veins. Time didn't seem to exist the deeper and deeper he swam, it could have been seconds or days. He thanked Hermione for his waterproof watch as he saw that forty minutes had already passed.
It was eerily dark and quiet causing Harry to tighten the grip on his wand. Then he felt it.
The feeling of chills racing down his spine that you get when someone watches you. Curious, he pointed his wand in front of him, "Lumos!"
He jumped in surprise as he came face to face with a snarling merman, who was in the middle of jabbing his sharp spear at Harry. Because of the sudden bright light, the merman's aim was off and he caught Harry in the shoulder.
Harry screamed in pain and his anger flared to dangerous levels. The strong emotion caused the lighting charm still active in his wand to brighten even more and the merman shielded his eyes from the light. Harry's mind slowed down, but his angered body moved and he pointed his wand, "Reducto!"
The spell impacted the merman's head, blowing the top right part of it off. He watched with morbid fascination as the water all around them turned dark crimson from his blood, some bits of skull and brain floated through it. The body of the merman floated away the half of his face that was still intact had a shocked expression. Harry felt his stomach roll, he just killed someone.
'Focus, the hour is almost up. Hermione. You have to find Hermione,' a calm voice sounded in his mind, causing him to snap out of his daze.
His mind set, he started swimming deeper and deeper. His shoulder was steadily bleeding and stinging from the water, he knew he needed to close it. Pointing his wand he said, "Episkey!"
A sigh of relief escaped him as the wound closed, now he wouldn't pass out from blood loss, but he definitely needed Madam Pomfrey's help after he found Hermione. The spear went all the way to his muscle, which unfortunately impeded his swimming.
Glancing at his watch, he saw that fifty minutes had passed and he only had ten minutes to find her before...'past the hour, the prospect's black. Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.'
"No!" Harry growled, swimming faster and faster. He saw a sliver of movement from his right and followed it, praying that it wasn't another merman or a school of grindylows.
What he saw was much, much worse. It was Hermione, Cho Chang, a little blond girl that had to be related to Fleur, and a miniature version of Krum. What scared him wasn't the fact that the other hostages looked like they were drowning victims.
It was the fact that Hermione was awake and trying to free herself from the post she was tied to that momentarily stopped his heart.
A/N: This was the chapter that never ends. Seriously, I don't know why it took so long to write, but it did.
Ugh, it's too much fluff. Can I write anything other than it? I don't want to just shove angst down your throat, but I don't know. Is it too much?
Eh, I'm not sure that I'll redeem Draco, but he'll grow up just like Ron. Maybe he'll realize that this whole mudblood hate is futile and stupid. You can also respect someone without liking them. He's still up in the air right now, but the gears in his brain are working.
What do you think? Is it a little fast that Harry and Hermione are talking about love? I just think it's different with every couple. My parents told each other after three months of dating and they just celebrated their 30th anniversary last week.