Siriusly Drunk About Girls
February 14, 1996, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade
From the moment that Harry awoke, his mind was fixated on one thing: today was the day. Today was the day that he was going to tell Hermione everything that he'd been thinking and feeling for the past two months.
Was it the right thing to do? Would it change things? What would she think of him after hearing it all? He honestly had no answers for any of those questions or any of the myriad others that were racing around in his mind. All he knew was that his gut was telling him that it was time, that it was the right thing to do.
As always, he met Hermione in the common room before they headed down to breakfast.
"Good morning, Harry," she exclaimed, looking up at him from where she was curled up on a chair in front of the fireplace.
"Morning Hermione," he replied. "Ready for breakfast?"
"Of course," she smiled, closing the book that she'd been reading before placing it on the small table beside her chair. "Ron?"
In answer, Harry simply rolled his eyes and jerked his head back towards the stairs that he'd just come down. Her laughter not only told him that she'd understood but it was also another stark indicator that Neville and Ron had been right – they didn't always need words.
"Ready," she said moments later.
She was dressed in a simple pair of jeans with a cream-coloured top. A long Gryffindor-red scarf and mittens were currently held in her hand, along with her long black cloak – all of which Harry knew she'd need later when they ventured out of the castle and to Hogsmeade, after all, it'd snowed just the night before.
The walk from the tower to the Great Hall was light and completely normal, allying one fear that Harry had held all night long: that the two of them spending the day together had the potential to be awkward.
But really, what was there to be awkward about? She was his best friend, just as he thought that he filled that spot for her. They knew each other and had spent countless hours talking and being comfortable with each other.
"Are you expecting something?" Harry asked not long after they'd taken their seats, having noticed that Hermione kept glancing up at where the post owls entered in the ceiling.
"I was hoping …" she replied, her eyes still focused upwards.
And then it hit him.
Today was Valentine's Day. Hermione was probably hoping to get a card or a flower or a present or something today. His thoughts of who she was hoping to get something from were interrupted by the arrival of Ron.
"Why didn't you guys wait for me?" Ron all-but-accused.
Harry refrained from answering. Really, it wasn't as though this was the first time that Ron had overslept and they'd gone to breakfast without him. And, judging by the way that Ron's hands were moving, pulling every dish that he could reach to him before spooning some of their contents onto his plate with utmost concentration, Harry wasn't sure that Ron would have heard an answer anyway.
"Really, Ron?" Hermione frowned a couple of minutes later. "You've got enough there for six people!"
"I'm a growing boy," he mumbled around a forkful of sausage.
Harry turned away from the sight. It still amazed him how much Ron could eat. Not to mention how thin he stayed despite it. Maybe it was a magical thing? Definitely something that old Dudders could benefit from. Actually, when Harry thought about it, there really wasn't a great deal of difference between the amount of food that both Ron and Dudley could eat. Idly, Harry wondered which of the two would win in a food-eating contest. It was even money at best.
"What time would you like to go to Hogsmeade?" Hermione asked, pulling him from his thoughts.
Harry smiled. Yes, that was a much better thing to be thinking about. His day with Hermione.
"Not 'til after I've finished breakfast," Ron blurted.
Harry blinked, turned to his red-headed friend and frowned.
"Um, Ron? I've asked Hermione to spend the day with me, just the two of us. Sorry," he said, tacking the last word on the end as an afterthought.
"What?" Ron asked, his eyes flicking backwards and forwards between Harry and Hermione.
"We'll catch up with you this afternoon when we're back in the castle," Harry said.
"I don't get it," Ron said slowly. "Why just the two of you? What about me? Why'd you want to spend a whole day with just Hermione anyway?"
Harry more felt than heard Hermione stiffen and begin to splutter. Quickly he reached under the table and placed his hand on her knee. Thankfully, it was enough to settle her; well, at least to get her to allow him to answer Ron.
"Ron, Hermione's my best friend. Why wouldn't I want to spend time with her?" Harry stated matter-of-factly before quickly pushing on as he saw Ron's mouth open and his ears begin to turn red. "The two of us hang out together all the time; it's only fair that I spend time with Hermione, too."
Thankfully, the discussion was interrupted just then by the arrival of the post owls. The air all over the Great Hall was filled with wings and soaring birds and then by squealing girls and sighing girls and finally even by couples kissing, a fact that Harry was delighted to notice infuriate Umbridge.
An owl landing on the table right between Ron and Harry had both boys freezing. Hermione, though, was quick to untie the letter that was extended towards her.
Harry blinked. Hermione was getting a letter on Valentine's Day. His heart froze, feeling like it'd forgotten how to beat. Hermione had gotten a Valentine?
He blinked. Of course. It made perfect sense.
She was an amazing girl. Smart and funny and witty and quite beautiful, really, now that he really thought of it. Her chocolate-brown eyes always seemed to be sparkling with an inner light and joy that caused Harry to smile. Even her hair, always so bushy and frizzy and so very Hermione-like had tamed somewhat over the past year and had a quality about it that had Harry tempted to run his fingers through it for some reason that he couldn't identify.
Hermione deserved boys seeing her for the truly remarkable young woman that she was becoming. Really, any guy would be lucky to have her.
He just wished he knew who it was so that he could work out if he was worthy of her.
A squeal from her, so very un-Hermione-like, restarted Harry's heart.
"I'll be right back and then we can go to the carriages, if you're ready," she said, staring intently into his eyes.
"Sure, Hermione," he said, watching as she stood and quickly rushed across to the Ravenclaw table where she stopped to talk to Luna Lovegood?
Harry blinked. Luna? That didn't make sense to him. Unless…. Well, if that was the case, then Harry would support her choices, no matter what. She was his best friend, after all.
As much as it felt like he was invading her privacy, he found that he couldn't tear his eyes away from where the two girls were quietly talking. Hermione seemed extremely excited; Luna, her usual barely-there self (although, there were times when Harry caught something in the younger girl that made him think that she was putting on an act). Then, after barely a minute of talking, Hermione twirled about and headed towards him.
"I'll see you after we get back," Harry said to Ron as he stood.
"Yeah, whatever," a grumpy-sounding Ron replied.
Harry glanced at his friend. He hoped that Ron's funk was gone by the time they got back.
Right then, though, he had more important things to think about. Spending the day with Hermione.
"Ready?" Hermione asked as he joined her.
Glancing to the side, Harry saw Luna sitting serenely in front of her breakfast where she seemed to be making some kind of fort out of her pancakes.
"Before we go," he said, hating what he was about to say even if it did feel like the right, honourable thing to do. "We don't have to, if you don't want. Spend the day together, that is. You can spend the day with Luna if you prefer."
Hermione stared at him, her eyes round. Her head was cocked slightly to the side in the exact manner that he knew she held it when there was a puzzle that she was trying to work out. Her slightly furrowed brows told him that she wasn't sure what he meant so he flicked his eyes down to the letter in her hand and then across to Luna and then at the few decorations to celebrate the day that were spotted about the Hall.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, she burst out laughing.
"Oh, Harry, you are too adorable sometimes!" she exclaimed. "This isn't a Valentine or a love note or whatever weird notion you have going through that head of yours! This is simply a letter and it's not even from Luna. Although it does involve her."
"It isn't?" Harry asked warily, his heart and chest feeling lighter than it had for the past five minutes.
"No, Harry, it's not," she assured him. "I'm spending the day with you, although, if you don't mind, would it be alright if we met up with Luna around lunchtime? Just for a short time, then we can get back to spending the day together."
"Of course, Hermione," Harry beamed.
He was feeling so happy just then, he would have agreed to anything.
She smiled at him in thanks and the two of them quickly left the Great Hall and made their way out to where the carriages awaited the students wanting to go to Hogsmeade.
As always, Filch was there, eyeing everyone suspiciously and occasionally muttering under his breath. But, just like every other Hogwarts student, the two of them ignored him.
With it still being early, they managed to get a carriage to themselves, a fact that left Harry smiling.
"Did you mean what you said before?" Hermione asked once they were seated side by side and the carriage had jerked into motion all by itself.
"Did I mean what?" he asked.
"That I'm your best friend," Hermione replied before quickly continuing. "I would have thought that that'd be Ron."
"No, Hermione. It's not Ron. It's you, you're my best friend. It's always been you. I've just been too dense to realise it before now," he replied earnestly, his eyes staring intensely into hers, willing her to believe him.
Her smile was so big that Harry felt his own smile quickly appearing to join it.
"You're my best friend, too," she assured him.
"Thanks, Hermione," he replied.
"Is that what you've been thinking about all this time?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied simply. "But can we talk more about that later, perhaps after we've had a look through some of the shops before they get too busy?"
"Of course, Harry," she replied.
Judging by the contented look on her face, he knew that he'd guessed correctly – Hermione had been extremely curious about how quiet he'd been and had been waiting patiently for him to come clean. Looking closer, he also thought that she looked more relaxed, as though the worry for him that she always feeling was now gone, or at least muted.
Before long, the carriage jerked to a halt and Harry threw open the door. After jumping out, he turned around and offered his hand to Hermione to help her down. He saw her look at it before taking it.
"Thank you, Harry," she smiled once she was on the ground.
The fact that she hadn't released his hand was surprising but not unwelcome.
"Where to first?" he asked.
The village, when he turned towards it, was akin to something out of a postcard. Instead of grass, there was a vast blanket of snow. Tree branches were heavy with it as were the rooves of all the buildings. Someone had dusted off the cobblestone pathways – or, more likely, they were enchanted in some way to ensure that snow didn't accumulate there – making it much easier for everyone to move about.
All of the regular businesses were close by – the Three Broomsticks, Honeydukes, Scrivenshafts, the Post Owl office. Further away, he knew that there were others like the Hogg's Head, Dervish and Bangs and Zonko's Joke Shop. Beyond them again was the main village where the residents of Hogsmeade lived and then the hills that surrounded this part of Scotland.
It'd either been very late or perhaps very early in the morning when he'd finally worked out the perfect place for the two of them to have some time alone, away from everyone else. But that was for later.
"Scrivenshafts," Hermione stated with an emphatic nod.
Harry laughed. It was such a 'Hermione' answer and one that he'd predicted.
"Then, to Scrivenshafts we shall go!" he exclaimed, feeling silly as he raised their clasped hands, pointing the way even as he goose-stepped their first step in that direction.
Laughing together, they strolled along the cobblestone pathway. A great many other Hogwarts students were already there, coming and going from the various shops but not as many as there would be as the day progressed.
As they stepped up onto the veranda of Scrivenshafts, Harry noticed that there were other shops just down a small side street. Quickly he looked them over to determine if there would be any that might interest Hermione later.
None stood out, although one left him shuddering. Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop. He'd heard about it. And, from what little he could see from where he stood, everything he'd heard had been correct. It was pink, outside and in, at least from what he could see through the window. Small tables with delicate doilies and teacups and plates filled the room. It looked sickening. Harry could never in a million years envision himself ever entering such a place. The corner of his eye caught Hermione as she opened the door to Scrivenshafts; he was so glad that she was like him – she, too, would find Madam Puddifoot's repulsive.
Scrivenshaft's was already busy. That, of course, didn't deter Hermione. It was like she was on a mission as she wound her way through the shelves, pulling Harry along with her.
"Is there anything that you need?" she asked.
Harry looked around at the various quills and at the multitude of different coloured inks.
"I'm good," he replied easily.
One of her eyebrows rose and he froze, frantically doing an internal catalogue of his ink and parchment supplies. No, he was sure that he didn't need anything. Yes, their entire year were going through a lot more ink and parchment than they ever had before – a consequence of this being their OWL year – but Harry had taken that into account when he'd done his Christmas shopping, buying up a lot more then.
"Really, Hermione, I'm good," he insisted.
"If you say so," she replied sounding as though she didn't believe him, a fact emphasised by her adding in an extra bottle of black ink to the three already in her hand.
From there, they visited the other side of the store where they'd finally had to let go of each other's hands as Hermione collected a large stack of parchment.
Oddly, Harry's hand felt empty without her hand in his; a quite unusual experience. He wasn't used to holding her hand and wouldn't have expected to miss it the way he currently was. But, for some reason, he was.
The shrunken bag of her purchases was placed into a pocket as they left the store.
"Zonko's or Honeydukes?" Hermione asked. "I know that you'll want to visit both while we're here."
Harry shook his head. "Just Honeydukes. I don't need anything from Zonko's."
Hermione tsked playfully at him. "No jokes or pranks? Whatever will Padfoot or Moony say about that?"
"Hermione, you've read the book with all of those spells that Sirius gave me at Grimmauld. Do you really think that I need something from Zonko's?" he asked.
"No, no I don't suppose you do," she replied.
The sudden feeling of her hand taking his again caused him to look down at their hands before smiling. He barely repressed the sigh that threatened to escape for some inexplicable reason.
"What did you think of that book, anyway?" Harry asked. "You never said."
"I'm not sure about some of those spells," she replied seriously. "I could easily see how they could be abused, and not in a funny way."
"I agree," Harry replied quickly. "Don't worry, I'm keeping most of them to just you and me. What about the … other bit?"
Hermione gave him side-long look that he answered with a raised eyebrow.
"If you're asking what I think you are," she replied. "Then yes, it's definitely possible. And – don't you ever tell Padfoot that I said this – but those notes in the margins would be extremely useful and make the whole process a lot easier."
"So, you think I could become …?"
"Yes, we could," she replied. "We can start it after our OWLs are done, perhaps even over the holidays when we have some time free of homework and studies."
"Hermione?" he asked.
He'd hoped, of course, but he didn't expect it, especially as they'd be breaking a hundred school rules alone, let alone probably a dozen Ministry laws as well.
"Polyjuice," she replied simply, causing Harry to laugh, his mind flashing back to a certain bathroom in second year.
"Very true, Hermione, very true. Thank you so much. I hoped you'd want to do it with me," he said.
"About time, Harry, Hermione!"
Harry tore his eyes from Hermione to see a giggling Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot walking past, both with massive grins on their faces.
"What?" he asked.
"Don't mind them," Hermione said, giving a tug on his arm. "Let's get inside before the line gets any longer."
Harry frowned after the two girls but allowed himself to be pulled into Honeydukes. Perhaps Hermione would explain later? Or not, he supposed – girls were notorious for making sure that guys didn't understand them, at least, that's what his dormmates asserted.
Hermione, as always, had been right. Honeydukes was packed and the line already weaved its way up and down two aisles. Seeing it, Harry determined that the best thing to do was to simply join the end of the line and make their selections as they waited.
By the time that they left the store, both carried packets of Honeydukes' finest chocolate as well as a selection of their favourite sweets; Harry's being a much larger purchase than Hermione's.
"Is there any other store that you'd like to visit now," Harry asked as they stood out in the middle of the street, "or would you like to go somewhere where we can sit and talk?"
He waited while Hermione seemed to search his face before settling on his eyes.
"Sitting and talking sounds nice," she finally replied.
"Brilliant!" Harry replied with a smile.
"I'm guessing that you have somewhere in mind?" she asked as he turned them about and began leading her back towards where the carriages had first dropped them in the village that morning.
"In fact, I do," he replied.
"Would you like to tell me where we're going?"
Harry simply grinned at her. "You're a smart girl, you can work it out for yourself."
He laughed at the scowl she gave him and ignored the playful slap to his shoulder. Minutes later, only a few steps after he'd turned her towards a side track, he heard her gasp.
"The train station!" she exclaimed.
"See? I told you you'd work it out," he laughed.
"That's actually quite smart of you, Harry," she said, sounding impressed. "No one goes down there, at least from what I've heard. And it'll be sheltered from the wind as well, quite unlike the Shrieking Shack."
"Exactly," he replied.
The snow on the side of the path was banked higher here and the sounds around them were muffled. It made for a quiet, peaceful walk, one which they didn't interrupt even with small talk, instead simply enjoying it for what it was.
As expected, the train station was deserted; not even the Hogwarts Express was there.
Harry led Hermione across to one of the seats that lined the side of the small building but had her wait before sitting. Taking out his wand, he cast both a warming charm and a cushioning charm on the wooden seat.
"Thank you, Harry," Hermione smiled.
"I'm not just a pretty face," he teased pompously.
"No, not just a pretty face," she replied, throwing Harry off with how intently she'd said it. There was an extra meaning there, he was sure of it. Perhaps it bore some thinking about? Later though, not now.
Not knowing exactly how to start, Harry looked out at the scenic view, anywhere, really but at Hermione.
"I like this," Hermione sighed some minutes later. "I'm glad that I'm getting to enjoy it with my best friend."
There. There was the opening that he needed. And provided by Hermione herself. Intentionally, if he had to guess.
"You're my best friend, too," he said, glancing at her.
"You surprised me saying that this morning," she said.
"I know," he replied. "Surprised Ron, too. I don't think he liked me saying that, to be honest."
"No, he wouldn't have," she said. "Can I ask what made you decide that I'm your best friend and not Ron?"
Harry nodded. This was it. It was time.
"Because you are," he began simply. "You've always been there for me. Through every stupid, harebrained thing that I've found myself involved in; you've been there. Whether it was something of my own making or something that was done to me, you've been there. You've always been by my side, supporting me and helping me. Not once have you ever abandoned me or turned on me, not like Ron and the rest of the school. Not in second year or fourth or any of the other times."
"But in third year," she began before Harry shushed her by placing a finger against her lips and talking right over the top of her.
"I know what you're going to say and you're wrong. That was all my fault. The firebolt came and I was so excited that I forgot to think. You were right, it could have been sent by a deranged, insane criminal escapee – which it was," he grinned, matching the huge smile that appeared on her face. "You were right to take it to Professor McGonagall to get it checked over. I should have thanked you, not been the complete git that I was and given you the cold shoulder for months."
"It's okay, Harry, I understand," she said.
But Harry shook his head. "No, it's not okay, Hermione. I'm sorry. You were right and I was wrong. You were only looking out for me, just like you always do."
"You're welcome, Harry," she smiled. "All I wanted was to make sure that you were going to be safe if you rode it."
"Because you care about me," Harry stated.
Hermione stared at him, both eyebrows high. "I do, more than you know. I … I didn't think you realised."
"I do. I might be thick and it might take a bit to get through my hard head sometimes, but I do see things and realise things."
"Really? And what else has gotten through your thick head?" she challenged with a smile.
"Would you believe booze?" Harry laughed.
Instead of making her laugh like he intended, Hermione frowned.
"That's not funny, Harry. Alcohol impairs thinking and can make people do extremely stupid things."
"Sorry, Hermione," he replied, "but you did ask and when it boils down to it, alcohol started everything."
"If I hadn't been with you all morning I'd ask if you'd been drinking today, but I have, so I know you haven't," Hermione frowned. "Would you like to explain your statement?"
Harry sighed and nodded. "Do you remember that morning when you arrived at Grimmauld Place and found me drunk from that 'special' butterbeer of Sirius'?"
"Yes, what about it?"
"Something that Sirius said that night while he was drunk got me thinking and I haven't stopped thinking about it ever since," Harry replied.
"Something Sirius said?" Hermione repeated sounding incredibly sceptical. "And what exactly does Sirius Black have to say?"
Harry closed his eyes. He did not want to remember this again. Not that he had a choice.
"Do you remember that Valentine's Day back in second year? When Lockhart had those singing dwarfs running around the school all day?" he asked.
Hermione laughed. "If I remember right, you got one that day."
"Yeah," Harry grimaced. "Well, it … came up that night with Sirius and … and he said that …"
"What did he say, Harry? I promise I won't laugh," she encouraged, placing a hand on his knee.
Harry eyed her speculatively. Laughing at him wasn't the issue. Still, he knew that he had to say it.
"Sirius said that he thought that you were better with words than that," he said in a rush.
Hermione stared at him. And then her eyes narrowed.
"'Better with words'? Are you saying that Sirius thought that I'd sent you that that poem!" she exclaimed.
Harry winced. "I defended you! Told him that you could have come up with something a thousand times better in your sleep in a heartbeat."
Hermione stared at him, her eyes round.
"Well. Of course, I could have," she eventually said. "Are you saying that that was what got you thinking? Why you've been so quiet since Christmas?"
He nodded, barely meeting her eyes.
"Harry James Potter, exactly what have you been thinking?" she demanded.
It seemed that Hermione's patience had finally run out.
"That wasn't all that Sirius said," he admitted. "When I asked him why he thought that you'd sent that poem, he said a few other things. Things about how you and I interact with each other. That's what I've been thinking about. All those times in every year that you've been by my side. All the things that we've done together, all the dangers and mysteries and normal things that we've done together. All those things that helped me realise that you are my best friend."
"Okay," Hermione said slowly.
"But more than that," Harry continued. Now that he'd started, he wasn't sure that he could stop. "I've been thinking about all the times you've helped me and the way I'd do anything to help you. Take the DA for example. I had no intention of going to that meeting that day or of leading and teaching that many people but for you, for you I did and am.
"You, Hermione, were the very first person to ever hug me. You have no idea what that means to me, what all of your hugs mean to me."
"I was?" she asked, her eyes widening. "Back at the end of first year? When you went to fight Voldemort for the first time?"
Harry nodded and let his head drop slightly. A heartbeat later, he felt Hermione grab him in one of her hugs. Her arms were wrapped tightly around him, her hair in his face. Instantly, his own arms came up and settled around her, too. He loved these hugs and, as always, it took mere moments before he felt himself begin to relax and the tenseness that he was feeling begin to melt away.
"I love hugging you, too," she whispered into his ear.
They stayed like that for a long time, much longer than any of the hugs that he'd ever had from Hermione before. The few times that he'd imagined hugging his best friend like this, he thought it'd be weird or feel awkward. It didn't. It was perfect. Wonderful. Exactly as it should be.
Finally, the thoughts running through Harry's head started up again. He'd only told her a little of what he'd wanted to. He'd had nearly two months of thoughts that he'd wanted to tell her. There was how he felt when she'd been petrified by the basilisk and how much it meant to him that she was always there in the hospital wing when he ended up there. Then there was how much he appreciated her help with learning spells and checking his homework, not to mention the fact that she seemed to be the only one that could break through any funk that he was in.
But did he need to tell her all of that, not to mention everything else?
He wasn't sure but he not only wanted to but needed to make sure that she understood how much he cared about her as well.
And then the perfect way popped into his head. But it was so intimate. Could he really tell her that?
Gryffindors forward, Potter, he told himself.
Shifting slightly, he separated from her, his emerald eyes meeting her chocolate ones.
"This, Hermione, this is what I used for my patronus," he said.
"What?" she asked, clearly not understanding his unexpected segue.
"Do you remember when you asked me to use a different memory for my patronus for the DA demonstration?" he asked, receiving a nod followed by a slight widening of her eyes. "Normally I use a thought, a feeling of my parents to power Prongs. For the second patronus I used the memory and feeling of us hugging. That's what caused Prongs to be different than normal."
"Harry," Hermione breathed. "That's … that's … you used the way you feel when I hug you?"
There were more words, he could see them behind her eyes but for some reason, Hermione didn't seem capable of getting them out.
"I care about you, Hermione. More than anyone else in the whole world," he said, staring into her eyes to ensure that she understood.
"Just care, Harry?" she asked tentatively. "Not something … else?"
Harry shook his head. He knew what she was asking. At least, he thought he did. But he didn't know enough about that … other emotion to be able to recognise it, let alone voice it.
"It's all I know," he replied, frustrated with himself.
"It's okay, Harry," Hermione replied, a slight smile on her face even as she reached up and cupped his cheek with one hand. "I understand and it's okay."
He sighed and let himself sag. That was the great, wonderful, amazing, brilliant thing about Hermione Jane Granger. She always understood, even when he didn't understand himself.
Once again Harry found himself engulfed in one of Hermione's hugs, a hug that he eagerly returned. This one, though, was slightly different, not that he could put his finger on exactly how it was different. All he knew was that it felt gentler and somehow more filled with emotion. Whatever it was, Harry knew that he liked it. A lot.
"I do understand, Harry," Hermione assured him quietly, her head on his shoulder, her mouth close to his ear.
"Thank you, Hermione," he smiled, nuzzling into her hair.
She leant back slightly so that they were face to face, their arms remaining around each other.
"As for the rest, we'll figure it out together," she said and for some reason her eyes were glistening as though with unshed tears despite the fact that she was smiling.
"I'd like that," he smiled.
"Just promise me one thing," she asked. At his quirked eyebrow, she continued. "Next time you're having deep thoughts and working things out in your head, don't wait so long to tell me about them. I think that, together, we can make sense of things a lot faster."
"I promise," Harry replied and then did something that he'd never done before: he pulled her back in for a hug before she could initiate it.
How long they stayed like that, simply hugging and talking quietly or sometimes just sitting quietly and enjoying being together, Harry had no idea. It was only the slight grumble of his stomach, one loud enough to break the silence, that had him embarrassedly looking at his watch.
"Wow!" he exclaimed. "It's no wonder that I'm getting hungry. Didn't you say that you wanted to meet Luna at lunchtime? It's nearly that now."
"Oh! So, it is!" Hermione exclaimed.
Harry went to stand up but found that Hermione's hand on his chest stopped him. He looked at her, for once, not understanding.
"Harry?" she said, staring intensely into his eyes. "Thank you."
"For what?" he asked, confused.
"For telling me everything that you did," she said.
He smiled at her but before he could answer, she began leaning forward, her head inching towards his own.
Was she going to kiss him?
Was his best friend going to kiss him?
Just the very idea of it was enough to make him hold his breath and he decided that it wasn't an unwelcome thought, quite the opposite, actually.
Her eyes stayed fixed on his own the further she leant in. And then, at the very last second, she changed angles slightly.
Her lips were light and feathery and warm where they landed just to the side of his own lips. She didn't linger long, nor did her eyes leave his.
The nearly-kiss was so very different from his first kiss and easily a hundred, a thousand times better.
"We'd better go if we're going to meet Luna on time," Hermione said once she'd straightened.
Seeing Hermione's hand held out to him, he eagerly grasped it and stood. Then, together, they began the trek back towards the village, most of his mind still on the tingling sensation where her lips had touched the corner of his own.
For an instant, Harry wondered whether they really had to go right then. He wouldn't mind another of those nearly-kisses. Maybe, just maybe, even a real one?
It was definitely something to think about.
But not for too long. Not this time.
Their walk to the Three Broomsticks seemed to take no time at all. Not once, though, did they stop holding hands, not even when Harry reached out and pulled the door open for Hermione.
Inside, the room was packed. Every booth was filled with Hogwarts students and the crowd lining the bar was easily three deep.
Harry's eyes swept the room, looking for a head of blonde hair. But while there were a number of blondes – most of them with their heads bent over a shared glass with a single straw or in deep, intense conversations with their dates – none of them appeared to be Luna.
"I don't think she's here yet," Harry said.
"Yes, she is," Hermione countered.
Harry followed her pointing finger to see Luna standing at the back near the entrance to the private rooms. Which didn't make any sense to Harry at all.
"Harry," Hermione said, turning to look at him with the most serious expression that he'd seen on her all day. "I need you to trust me. I promise to explain everything."
"Okay," Harry said slowly.
It wasn't that he had a problem with trusting Hermione – he did it all the time, after all – it was simply that he was confused.
"Get us some drinks and meet us in the back," she said. "Oh, and Harry, while we're here, I think no more of this."
She emphasised the last part by holding up their clasped hands.
"I promise I'm not opposed to holding your hand and we will do it some more later," she said.
"Okay," Harry repeated, deciding that sticking to the one-word answer made more sense than she was at that moment.
"Thank you, Harry. I promise to make it up to you," she said.
He nodded and took a single step towards the bar before turning back, his head tilted slightly in question.
"A butterbeer, please. Actually, make that four butterbeers," she answered. "Oh, and Harry? Make sure that they're just butterbeers."
Harry laughed. That was one order that he didn't need made to him. Sirius' 'special' butterbeers were firmly off of his drinking list.
Well, for now, at least, he decided.
It may have taken some time but those 'special' butterbeers did have one thing going for them, at least considering where he thought the end result of that night was heading. Hopefully, their meeting with Luna wouldn't last too long; he was eager to get back to his day alone with Hermione.
Seeing Madam Rosmerta looking expectantly at him, Harry stepped forward to place his order.
The End (for now).