Taking That Walk Author: nacey

Email: tosh@opera.iinet.net.au Series: Driven to Distraction

Category: Romance

Rating: PG

Spoilers: PS, CoS, PoA, GoF

Summary: Harry and Hermione go for that walk.

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author notes: You guys are bastards, do you know that? I said "No sequel." You said, "Oh please!?" And then, just to really get to me, you all write really pretty yummy reviews! Well, me being the kinda girl I am, I feel bad about leaving you all hanging there like that, don't I? So here it is. The sequel that was never meant to be. Thank you to Amelia (akscully) for looking over this baby for me. You rock my world, love. And may I just say, this story was hellishly hard to write. Do not ask me why.


Harry Potter was holding her hand. He was holding *her* hand as they were heading out towards the Entrance Hall, and no number of eyes upon them, or quiet giggles or whispers could distract her from the one buzzing thought that went around and around in her poor tortured mind.

He was holding her hand and it was all unmitigated madness.

This was so for a variety of reasons. First of all, despite their ridiculously close bond that had been unerring for the nigh on seven years they had known one another, never had it strayed into this sort of thing before, this sort of - silliness. With the hands being held and the smiling at one another so that her cheeks burnt up and her insides with them. Second of all, she had never even *looked* at Harry in that way until a - rather embarrassing conversation a few days ago. It really was such a stupid matter of certain people burrowing their noses into matters in which they had no business. Why, her cheeks burnt an even deeper red at the memory of it.

Everything in her world was perfectly ordered, perfectly sane. At least until that horrid discussion after a late-night studying session that combined sleep deprivation, sleep-avoiding potions, too much caffeine and one too many treacle-toffees.


Lavender looked up from her text and frowned. "I need a break. My brain is turning into one of Neville's disasters in Potions."

Neville glanced up at her and frowned. "Gee, thanks!"

Lavender gave him a wide but blatantly false grin. "No problem, Longbottom."

Parvati sighed, pushing her book away. "I can't stand this any longer. I need a break too. Even if it is five minutes." She looked about to Harry. "Do you have any more of those lovely treacle-toffees?"

Hermione lifted a brow at her. "Are you sure you want to venture swallowing any more of those? Your teeth will be glued together for hours." She stopped for a moment and smirked at the beautiful Indian girl across the table from her. "Harry, do give her another."

Parvati narrowed her eyes at Hermione, who sniggered and by doing so, broke Parvati's scowl. They both chuckled at each other. Harry shrugged and passed Parvati his bag of lollies.

"Let's all take a break!" Lavender said, leaning over and closing Ron's book. Ron blinked, and although looking puzzled, didn't seem to mind the intrusion to his study.

"It can't be too long," said Hermione, eyes glued to her book, waving her quill about as she spoke. "The NEWTs are far too close for lazing about."

"Oh, I don't mean for hours," said Lavender, rolling her eyes. "Just for fifteen minutes. You know what they say - every hour or so you should take a break." She slapped shut Hermione's book. "So break already."

Hermione sat up, sighing and crossing her arms. "You could have let me finish my sentence."

Harry sighed, throwing his book shut and leaning back on the couch he sat on with Hermione. He patted her knee and smiled. "Don't worry. Finish it now before you forget what you meant to write."

She leant forward, frowning at her parchment, bottom lip under her teeth. Grabbing her quill she scribbled at it for a minute, then sighed with relief, leaning back on the couch with Harry. "That's better."

Lavender shook her head. "You know she'll never quit the habit of compulsive studying if you keep encouraging her like that."

Harry looked affronted and put an arm around Hermione, squeezing his hand on her shoulder protectively, a glint of humour in his eyes. "What, and sabotage the brains of my operations?"

Hermione tutted. "Heaven forbid you have to research for your own mischief- making and adventuring."

Dean and Seamus sniggered.

"You kidding? Mr. Hero here do the dirty work?" smirked Ron. "Forget it!"

Harry stiffened indignantly. "I'm not the hero."

"No, anyone can just take out a sixty foot basilisk, easy!" Dean quipped.

Harry now squirmed, looking like he would rather disappear up his own colon that to continue the current conversation. "Can we please talk about something else?"

Hermione eyed Harry and nodded. "Yes, perhaps we should change the subject."

"All right," said Lavender, looking like the cat that ate the canary. She cracked her knuckles and grinned. "Let's talk about. the Graduation Ball!"

Everyone at the table except Parvati groaned, and there wasn't a lot she could articulate with her jaw glued shut with treacle.

"I'll take that as a 'Yes please, let's talk about that!' Hmm - I've already picked my dress, it's so lovely! Have you, Hermione?"

Hermione gave a grumpy sniff and looked away. "I haven't even thought about it yet. I'm too busy trying to pass my NEWTs."

Lavender's mouth went into a round 'o' and she gasped. "You're joking!! But it's only a month away!"

Hermione lifted a brow. "You've obviously mistaken me for someone who gives a stuff."

Parvati took the moment to prise her own jaw open and she grabbed at Hermione's hand. "Dear girl, it's the single-most important social event in the entire seven years of going to this school! Next you're going to tell us you haven't got a date yet!"

Hermione lifted the other brow. "Erm."

Lavender let out a terrified yelp, and all the boys in the room jumped a clear foot in the air. "My God!" She flapped her hands and looked to Parvati. "I don't know if I can handle this."

"Oh, for goodness sakes!" sighed Hermione. "There are things in this world more important than Balls!"

Everyone surrounding Hermione stared at her a split second, eyes growing glassy, before breaking up into howling laughter. Hermione was now red as a beetroot and a sniggering Harry was consoling her with a fond shoulder- rubbing. It took the group some minutes to calm down, even a giggling Neville commenting.

"Oh, that one *has* to go into the school yearbook!"

"Oh, God!" Hermione gasped. "Please no!"

"It's at least an in-joke to last till the end of time," giggled Parvati.

Lavender looked to be having trouble wiping the grin off her face. "Seriously though, this is important. You need a date for the Ball!"

"And I'll get one," said Hermione, gripping her own knees with a glint of murder in her eyes. "But right now I'm-"

"Blindly obsessed with the NEWTs," supplied Lavender.

"Who would you take?" asked Parvati, leaning on a hand, eyes misty with that sickening look of romanticism.

Hermione opened her mouth, closed it, and blushed deeply, folding her arms. "I don't believe I want to talk about that."

Thing was - who *was* she going to take? She quite simply hadn't thought of it yet. She glanced about at the boys around her - well, she *said* boys but they looked more like men now, which was a little terrifying in the current situation. She felt herself burning up on the inside as she saw both Seamus and Dean shift nervously under her gaze. She glanced to Ron, and he gaped like a suffocating fish. Her eyes flew to her own lap and she decided that she didn't want to think about this anymore. She didn't even want to *dare* to look at Harry. She simply couldn't imagine that look of horror in his green eyes. It would have killed her.

"There's only a few boys left too," cooed Lavender.

"Listen," Hermione said sharply, "I simply do not want to think about such - unnecessary nonsense! Unlike *some* people in this room, I'm thinking about my future!" She grabbed the books closest to her, stuffing her scrolls inside them and nabbing her quill and ink from the table, the result of which looked like a cross between a tree and a library on legs. She glanced at everyone about her, and in her vexed state forgot that she didn't want to look at Harry and looked dead at him.

Much to her horror, the whole world just dropped. Or was it just her stomach? She couldn't tell. All that she knew was that she suddenly felt rather dizzy and hideously embarrassed all at once. Her heart began to race and every hair on her body prickled like someone had blown the little hairs on the back of her neck, and her insides yawned so wide she felt like she was going to be sick. That was it. She was going to be sick.

He was looking up at her, thick dark brows tilted up, eyes gleaming with something Hermione could only interpret as sympathy. Hermione knew she was no Parvati Patil, no Cho Chang, and no Fleur Delacour. She was a thorough plain-Jane, Harry's ever present Girl Friday, and the last thing she had ever wanted to do was to become attracted to the bastard. Which is exactly what happened.

How could it not? With all the talk of balls and dates and the caffeine and the sugar and Harry wrapping his arm around her and patting her *knee*. Oh bloody Hell, Hermione thought, closing her eyes. This is a nightmare. This is not happening. No, it was. It was happening. The word 'date' had fallen from Lavender's mouth and every boy in the room stopped being the boys she'd known since age eleven and became the men she'd totally ignored growing up around her. And damn it all to hell, Harry had to grow up so cute!

Not just cute. Handsome. The wild shaggy hair that he never seemed to be able to control now just complemented his sharper, older features, the square jaw, the long nose and chiselled lips. And his large emotive green eyes just *had* to be framed in his spectacles so that they couldn't be ignored even if one tried. Of course, that was just the face, no need to even think about how tall he was or the shoulders he'd grown or the lean muscled Quidditch figure.

It was at that point Hermione felt like breaking something - or dying. She would decide upon which later. Seven years. She'd nearly made the seven years without developing a crush on *anyone* in school. A crush that would have distracted her from her important work. Right in the last month, right with the finish-line within her grasp she was felled by the LAST person she wanted to be taken with.

Her best friend. Her best friend! How bloody *corny* was that?! The only way it could have been any more clich├ęd was if she was called Sally! No, wait, there was one way it could have been worse. It could have been Ron she was falling for, and that gave her a wave of horror totally new and different to the one she was feeling for Harry.

She had to stop this insanity. She shot a sigh and stomped a foot on the floor.

"I'm finishing these notes in my room! Good night!"

With that she strode off determinately, not listening to any whisperings or mutterings the rest of her friends might have shared with one another. She flew straight to her room, wondering how she got into the ridiculous situation she found herself in. She was hysterical, that was it. It was the stress of the NEWTs getting to her, making her think that she had some feelings for her best friend. That was it.

There was a knock at the dorm door. She felt herself blushing hotly again, and with a scowl she stormed over to the door and swung it open.


Ron was in the doorway, looking rather pale. "I was just checkin' on you, to make sure you're okay." He gulped. "Harry and I were worried."

She narrowed her eyes with an angry thin smile. "Don't worry. *Desperate* Hermione is just fine! *Desperate* Hermione will finish her notes like a sad little grade A student and be the laughing stock of the entire seventh year!"

"Not the entire year!" Ron replied. He shifted then. "Just with Lav and Parvati."

Hermione's eyes widened and her lips thinned even more. She looked scarily like an incensed Minerva McGonagall.

"Not that they matter!" cried Ron suddenly. "I mean, who cares about them anyway, right?"

Letting out a long breath, calming herself some, Hermione nodded. "I suppose you're right."

"Right," Ron nodded. "Besides, if you can't find a date, you can always go with Harry or me, right?"

She glared at Ron, anger flaring up anew, and her knuckles went white as she gripped the door. "Well, *thank* you for your charity!"

Ron gaped. "Now wait-"

"Good NIGHT Ron!"

With that she slammed the door closed. That, that - proposition! - was the last thing she wanted. Going to the ball with Ron or . no it was worse - going to the ball with Harry because she was too bloody pathetic to get her own date. Forget it!

She half expected Harry to come up and check on her too, completing her humiliation. She sat on her bed, beginning to scribble again at her parchment. She grew more agitated as the time went on and Harry did not come up to the room. Eventually Lavender and Parvati ascended the stairs and with their noisy chatter got changed and climbed into their beds. Harry still did not come to check on her.

She got changed herself and went to bed, hugging her single stuffed animal that she would never admit to having and feeling utterly miserable. Her neatly planned life had turned utterly upside-down in a matter of minutes and there was nothing she could bloody well do about it.


Of course, that was five days ago. That was before the most embarrassing turn of events in the library, where she couldn't even *study* with the boy in the room without becoming thoroughly distracted. Before that she'd avoided Harry (and therefore Ron) entirely, and convinced herself after hours of such isolation that she did not, indeed, have any romantic feelings for Harry. She felt a tenuous calm again, and could even have lunch with Harry without as much as a heart-flutter, or a blush. Then the bloody jerk *sighed* in front of her and her house of cards came crashing down.

Her poor brain couldn't handle it. Her poor brain couldn't even make sense of the fact that the boy she shouldn't have been crushing on was happily holding her hand and taking her outside to spend time with her.

"This is a pity walk, isn't it?" she said. "You pity me."

Harry gave a short laugh. "Absolutely not."

She frowned, looking down at her feet, speaking more to herself than anyone. "I just can't figure this out."

Harry now smiled at her with humour, completely ignoring all the stares they were getting from their student fellows. "What's to figure out? We're going for a walk."

"Holding hands," Hermione said.

"Holding hands," nodded Harry.

"Doesn't that strike you as odd?" she asked him.

They stepped out of the front door into the courtyard out the front of the school, walking next to Hogwarts' high parapet topped walls. It was this way that went to laneway that in turn lead to the portcullis and then the larger grounds that sprawled all the way to the lake. It was out here, near the lake, that Hermione's favourite oak tree grew. There one could gaze up at the castle that looked to be basking in the soft golden Scottish sunlight, and then look over at the lake, glittering and rippling steadily. Of course, Hermione was thinking of none of this. She was trying to talk Harry into reason.

"Not particularly, no," Harry said. "It's quite nice, actually."

She blushed. "But Harry, this is *me* here! Hermione Granger, girl voted to be most likely to read her way through Flourish & Blotts in one sitting! The one person that needs five bottles of Sleekeazy's just to get her hair to bloody well behave itself!" She'd become frantic now. "The same Hermione that Ron took three years to realise that she was a member of the opposite sex! Hermione! Plain, bookish, boring Hermione!"

Harry looked over his shoulder and smiled warmly at her. "I know."

She huffed. "Well! After Cho Chang and that odd girl from Beauxbatons that was here on exchange-"

Harry glanced at her, looking thoroughly shocked. "How did you find out about them?"

She blinked, trying to keep her mind on her argument. She was rather annoyed she'd been interrupted. "Harry, it didn't take a genius. When you like a girl you get this funny look on your face when they're around. You know, like they walked off with your brain and left the rest behind. Any idiot could tell."

He lifted his brows slowly. "Really?"

She nodded.

A smirk grew on his features. "How fascinating."

Hermione frowned, stomping behind Harry as he led her to the oak. "My point being, Mr. Potter-" An odd smile fluttered on Harry's face and she fought to continue. "My point being that I am clearly not in the sort of girl you are interested in. In fact!" She pointed triumphantly at him. "I'm sure Lavender or Parvati would say I'm hardly in your league!"

Harry turned around as they reached the tree, cocking a brow. "First of all, if you look at the girls I've been fond of in the past, all of them were beautiful and incredibly smart, traits that you have in abundance." Hermione felt herself blushing right to her toes. "Secondly, Lavender and Parvati have been sitting in Trelawny's Tower far too long for their own good. I think some of those funny smelling incenses melted their brains out their ears long ago."

"If they ever had any to start with," muttered Hermione, folding her arms with a dark scowl.

"Exactly," said Harry. He sat down, crossing his legs, pulling Hermione down next to him and holding her hand, enclosing his other hand around it idly. "And that league talk - it's utter nonsense. I didn't think I'd ever hear it from you."

Hermione felt ashamed for a moment. She forgot that it probably made Harry feel uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, it's just - when we first met you were made a deal of, sure, but you were always just Harry to me. The same old Harry I'd always known, sweet, quiet, loveable Harry. But - but then you went and had to be bloody brilliant at Quidditch, and good looking, and all heroic-" She stopped, blushing. "Well, you know what I mean." She drifted off as Harry brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it softly. "What are you doing?"

He just smiled at her. "What does it look like?"

She gulped. "Testing my skin for external poisons?"

His smile turned crooked in amusement. She thought she was going to swoon any moment, but she forced herself not to. "Harry, are you listening to a word I'm saying?"

"Of course I am," he said, "For some reason you've convinced yourself you're not good enough for me, which is a load of codswallop."

"Yes!" she said. "It is codswallop!" She fell silent. "I don't know how it even got to that subject!"

Harry looked up to the canopy of the oak above them, a thoughtfulness fluttering across his features. "I think you were stating reasons why this is madness."

"It is madness," Hermione said.

Harry frowned. "You want it to stop?"

She glanced to him, bleating a terrified, "No!" before she could stop to think.

Harry sighed with relief. "Good. I'm still not entirely sure what the problem is."

"Harry," she said, taking a hold of his hands around hers. "It's not that I'm not good enough for you, it's that I'm me! I'm Hermione! I'm your best friend!"

"Exactly," said Harry, smiling softly at her. "It's why it all makes sense."

She took a deep breath in to argue, but all thoughts left her. She just sighed. "Yes." She frowned. "That's not what I was going to say."

Harry gave a cheeky smile. "What were you going to say?"

"I was going to say. I was going to ask you why you haven't ever really - I mean you never liked me like this, why are you starting now?"

Harry's eyes glinted with mischief. "How do you know that I've never liked you like that?"

She blinked, looking to him like it was obvious. "I told you, Harry, I can tell."

He cocked a brow. "Well, I'm hardly going to advertise the fact to you, am I?"

She frowned. "Why not?"

"Miss 'I dated Victor Krum, the World's Greatest Quidditch Player'?" he said. "The girl that's my best friend? The girl that could hex me into next week without batting an eyelash, who gave Ron merry hell for even bringing up the concept of her going to the ball with them in fourth year-"

"I was a last resort, Harry," she said with a firm glare.

"Not this time," Harry said. "Not to me."

Hermione ducked her head down, her cheeks burning again. "Harry."

Harry shifted then, licking his lips nervously, twitching a little in that young energetic way he was wont to do. He ducked his head down a little too, trying to meet her eyes. "Would you like to go with me, Hermione? As a date, as a proper date?" He looked away, blushing and rambling suddenly. "I understand if you don't, I mean things have been rather-"

"Of course I do," she said, clutching his hands and looking up at him. "I mean, yes. Yes."

"Good," he said, looking rather sheepish, "Cause I was really terrified you'd say no."

"Don't be daft," she sighed, swatting his shoulder playfully. It wasn't body or gangly anymore like it used to be, it was solid and wide, and quite frankly, it made her heart skip more than a few beats. Harry glanced up to her from watching their hands, fingers intertwined, a touch of fear and uncertainty in his eyes that were green and vivid in the daylight.

"Hermione," he said, "I just. I have to tell you, or maybe warn you would be a better word-" He frowned at himself. "Probably. Erm-"

Hermione frowned in confusion and concern. "What is it Harry?"

He looked up at her then, gulping and looking dizzy, and perhaps a little ill. "I just have this feeling that I'm really going to enjoy being with you at the Ball. Heck, I'm enjoying just sitting with you! The thing is, something will happen."

"It will?"

He nodded. "Yes. I'll look at you. You might be in your Ball dress or you might be just - studying or something. Just being you, I suppose, and I'll notice something about you I never did before. And that'll be it."

Hermione gulped, feeling a little ill herself. "Oh?"

He nodded. "I'll be in love with you."

It was as if the ground disappeared and dropped her in a tank of hot water. A hand shot to her mouth and she felt herself breathing so fast, her heart thumping so madly that she couldn't even bring herself to speak. Harry ducked his head down, looking almost ashamed.

"Worst thing is I don't know if I'll ever be able to crawl out of it, and I don't know if I want to. So I - I just thought I'd let you know." He looked up, gulping, nodding. "Sorry."

Her vision blurred as tears welled in her eyes, and she gulped herself, disbelief stunning her. She clambered for breath, trying to calm her spinning mind.

"Sorry?" she said, "Sorry? My God, Harry, that was the single-most romantic thing anyone's ever said to me!" She felt a sob developing in her throat, but it wasn't one of sadness. "Sorry!" She huffed a harried laugh. "You *are* a silly sod!"

Harry blushed and looked rather relieved, and he brought her knuckles to his lips and dropped a soft kiss on them. Hermione tilted her head, looking frustrated and overwhelmed all at once.

"You can kiss me, you know."

Harry glanced up at her, and the desire and disbelief in his good fortune was clear in his features. A little dent grew between his brows as he looked to her lips, licking his own and seeming thoughtful. He brought his hands up, the both of them shaking as they ever so carefully cradled her jaw, and with great care and tenderness, came forward and brought his lips down upon hers.

A long deep sigh left Hermione as he pressed his lips against hers, and she clutched his shoulders, everything around her growing distant as the sensations at her mouth made her dizzy beyond reckoning. His lips fit so wonderfully against hers, and she was sure there was nothing in the world that felt so beautiful and right as this did. It was as if there was chaos, and someone had tilted her perspective ever so slightly to make it reason. It was the jigsaw puzzle that fell into place to give the picture sense, the final clue that told the whole story.

They pulled away ever so slowly, never wanting the touch to end, and as Hermione opened her eyes she saw Harry's expression and she was sure she'd never seen him so lovely. His eyes were closed, a dent of deep concentration in his forehead, brows tilted up, and he rolled his lips, licking them slightly, showing such savour as if he'd sampled an expensive delicacy. He nodded then, swallowing and sighing.

"I think that was it," he said, and finally opening his eyes he met hers. "I'm sorry to be so premature."

She just shook her head at him, the tears that had welled up spilling down her face. "Stop apologizing and kiss me again, you git."

Harry grinned, sliding his hands up her neck and sinking his fingers into her hair. "Nothing on God's green earth would give me more pleasure."