Seven Days By Noctis
Overview: H/Hr, R/Lu. Romance/Humour. Hogwarts, 7th Year. AU Ron gives Harry seven days to fess up his attraction to Hermione before Ron does it for him. (Challenge) (Started pre-HBP)
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and other related trademarks and copyrighted materials are property of their respective owners. Use of such properties is for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute a claim on such properties.
Authour's Notes: Talk about a case of writer's block and Real Life™.
Chapter Notes: Thanks to alayeni and Starlight623 for catching the Professor Binns/Flitwick error in the previous chapter (now edited). :)
Anxiousness will keep you up at nights and for Wizarding hero Harry Potter, anxiousness didn't make an exception. His anxiousness, of course, was the upcoming hours of his last Hogsmeade visit (as a student) and the girl he was going to be taking out.
Since it was near midsummer, the sun had been up over the horizon for a little while, streaming in some light through the windows. Harry's bed curtains were pulled back slightly to take it in, but he lay there, restless and sleepless to the soft cacophony of snoring coming from his Housemates' enclosed beds. It was like being a conductor of sleeping musicians.
At least the Spice Girls songs were out of his head.
Abandoning any pretense of sleep, Harry spent the half-hour playing scenario after scenario in his head. Where should I be when I tell her? Should I do it somewhere quiet? Somewhere busy? Somewhere romantic? Should I be holding her hand? What if...? What if...? What if...?
Question after question tumbled through his already confused mind until he glanced over at his bedside clock — 6:15 AM. Entirely too early to be worrying about a headache, for sure.
"Well, I'm not getting any sleep here. Might as well get something useful done," he muttered to himself. Pulling on a jumper, Harry yawned and padded his way to the cool, empty Common Room.
Waiting there for him in a large bag on top of one of the tables — fan mail. Ever since his defeat of the Dark Lord, wizards and witches from all over England, and even the rest of the world, sent him letters by the pound. Rather than deal with an excess of mail each morning during the normal owl delivery at breakfast, Hermione suggested that Harry set aside some time each weekend morning to sort and answer those letters he wanted to answer.
Although the volume had lessened in the weeks since Voldemort's demise, Harry (assisted by Ron and Hermione, of course) spent a good couple of hours on Sundays trying to get through it all. Harry was just finishing his first handful (with several piles in front of him: one for marriage proposals, one for business proposals, one for autographs, one for letters needing no response) when Dobby came through the Fat Lady portal dragging a second bag of post.
Harry groaned at the sight. "Oh, kill me now, a second bag?"
Dobby brought the second sack over with an apologetic look to Harry. "Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter, sir. People is sending sir many letters. If only Dobby could help...."
Sighing, Harry kicked the sack under the table and gave Dobby a wry smile. "It's not your fault, Dobby, or your problem. Thanks anyway."
"Can Dobby bring Harry Potter some breakfast?" said Dobby, eager to be of use to his self-appointed saviour.
Harry thought about it a moment; Hermione's disapproval aside, he decided he could use something to perk him up. "Sure," he said. Smiling at Dobby's delighted look to be of use to Harry, he added, "Some coffee, and some pumpkin juice. Some breakfast would be good. Oh, and a covered plate for Hermione and Ron. We have to get through all this." He waved at the two bags with a grimace.
Dobby was off in a puff of smoke, no doubt running around the kitchen like a dervish to fill Harry's order. Shaking his head at having such a strange little friend, Harry went back to sorting his mail. A tap of his wand to open the envelope, a quick browse, and tossed to a pile. Tap, read, toss. Tap, read, toss.
A couple of hours later, Harry was solidly through the first bag while Ron and Hermione — who were awake by this point — rummaged through the second bag. Some of the earlier risers sat around the three Gryffindors while Ron or Harry read out some of the more juicy marriage proposals sent to the other, much to delight of the small crowd. Wisely, any marriage proposals sent to Hermione went unread.
"Hey, this one sent a picture. Let's see— whoa!" Ron was saying as he unfolded his latest picture. Seamus and Dean crowded near Ron to the picture and immediately went bug-eyed.
"Wow," they chorused.
"Let me see that," demanded Harry, snatching the photo away and glancing at it. His eyes went as wide as Ron, Dean and Seamus. He missed Hermione's frown.
"'I never thought I'd send something like this in post, but I wanted to thank you for saving us from You Know Who', said Ron, reading from the accompanying letter. 'I think you're really cute. If you're ever in town, look me up. Yours truly, Cindy Silverman, Bristol.' Hey, I have an admirer in Bristol!" he grinned.
"You're making that up," said Hermione with an eye-roll.
"What does that say?" said Ron challengingly, holding the letter up for her.
"It says, 'Dear Harry'."
Ron quickly glanced over at the envelope it came in, then the letter. "Damn," he muttered to laughter from Dean, Seamus and a few others nearby.
"You have a girlfriend, Ron!" said Hermione with a critical glare. She then glanced at Harry, who was still looking at the photo with his head tilted. She snatched the photo away from him. From across the table, Ron watched with great amusement.
"Hey!" Harry protested. "I was—"
"Ogling a perfect stranger?" said Hermione coolly.
"Well...." began Harry.
"We're never going to finish if you stop to look at pictures from every brainless blonde bint who sends you photos of herself half-naked," she said briskly.
At this point, even Harry could tell Hermione was irritated and he had to mentally concede that drooling over another girl in front of the girl you really wanted to impress was probably a bad idea. "You're right," he said meekly, picking up another letter and going through the motions of sorting more post. When Hermione finally stopped giving him a baleful eye, he glanced up to see Ron grinning at him. Harry shot daggers at him, letting Ron know in no uncertain terms that this was all somehow his fault.
The git just grinned even more.
Great start to the morning, Potter.
"I counted fourteen."
"Fourteen? Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. Look, there was the hug when she came down...."
Lavender and Parvati were getting ready for their Hogsmeade weekend while discussing — what else? — the 'Harry and Hermione' situation. Although they had plans of their own, the irresistible topic of their fellow Housemates always got the better of the pair.
"... and then the shoulder touch before everyone broke to get ready," Parvati concluded.
"Oh yeah. Well, let's see what they're up to," said Lavender with a giggle as she pulled out a notebook and flipped to the back. There, a private tally was being kept by the two — a count on how many touches Harry and Hermione exchanged that they knew of. Although a full and accurate count was likely impossible, it gave them some numbers to work with; the numbers were surprising.
"Ninety-four for the week," Lavender announced, entering a '14' into the most recent column.
"Wow, that's got to be a record!"
"Yep," grinned Lavender. "And the day's just started. I heard they're having lunch today."
"Who's having lunch today?" asked Hermione as she returned from her shower, towelling off her damp hair.
"You are," replied Parvati with a grin. "I heard with Terry Boot."
"No, no, it was Ernie," Lavender disagreed.
Giving her roommates an exasperated look and an all-too-familiar eye-roll, Hermione said, "Honestly! Doesn't anyone here have anything better to do than gossip about my Hogsmeade visits?"
"No," chorused the two, unabashedly.
"I'm going to supervise the Hogsmeade List with Filch, then do some shopping. Then I'm meeting Harry for lunch. That's all," said Hermione with some exasperation. She bent over her clothes chest to dig for something casual to wear; weekends were about the only time she did.
"With Harry, eh?"
Hermione grunted some affirmative as she pulled on a top.
"A date?" sing-songed Lavender, sharing a look with Parvati.
"He asked me to lunch because yesterday he fel— he said it'd be our last visit to Hogsmeade. You know, for old times' sake," Hermione replied.
Her stumble caught their attention, but neither Lavender nor Parvati pointed it out. "What about Ron?" Parvati asked shrewedly.
Hermione shrugged, pulling on some socks. "Probably off somewhere snogging with Luna, knowing them."
"They do seem attached at the lips," smirked Lavender.
"So, it's a date, then," Parvati said with some finality. "Because Ron won't be there, and it's just you two."
"It's not a date!"
"The next step in The Harry Situation," Parvati went on to say.
"There's no situation!" Hermione exclaimed.
"Sure there is! I just told it to you."
"Parvati, there is no 'situation'," growled Hermione.
"It's already got a name, Hermione," said Parvati in a voice that said she was pointing out the obvious.
Hermione threw up her hands, snatched a few remaining items and stormed out of the room. Parvati and Lavender waited a good half-minute until it felt safe that Hermione wasn't coming back — at that point, they burst into gleeful giggles, collapsing on Lavender's bed.
"Too much fun," Lavender said after a long laugh, wiping tears from her eyes.
That morning, Hermione went down to the courtyard to spend an uncomfortable 45 minutes with Filch to screen all the students going to Hogwarts. Inexplicably, Hermione was reminded of a Christmas carol, 'making a list, checking it twice' when it came to Filch. That is, if Santa was an evil-smelling, foul-tempered curmudgeon that would be happier throwing bricks at students than giving them presents. She thought she would have Harry's company to help mitigate the old custodian's presence, but she was disappointed with his absence. By the time she was able to head to Hogwarts herself, she was wearing a frown and carrying a bit of Filch's mood with her.
She was just barely stepping into the village when a panting, smiling Harry ran up to her calling her name.
"Hermione, over here!"
Hermione looked at the direction of her name being called. "Harry! You were supposed to help me in the courtyard this morning, where were you?"
"Listen, I'm really sorry about that, but I had to take care of a few things," said Harry breathing hard and looking a mite anxious.
"You know lunch is on you as punishment, right?"
Harry laughed and nodded. "Yeah, I know. Actually, I'm doing one better. C'mon!"
He grabbed her hand and dragged her along closer to the train station where a canal was dug. Hermione blinked as she recognized the piers where first-years boarded the enchanted boats to make their first approach to Hogwarts via the lake. And there, all by its lonesome, was one of the boats. "Harry, what on earth—"
"Get in, I asked Hagrid to borrow it for the afternoon."
"Aren't we going to get lunch?" she asked, looking dubiously at the boat. She could've sworn they were a lot larger when she first rode them.
"We are. Trust me." He was in one of the boats and held out a hand to her with an expectant look. Hermione hesitated a moment before taking the outstretched hand and climbed into the boat, sitting down. She watched as Harry dug into a pocket for his wand, tapped the boat's edged which caused it to launch forward.
"I know he said he asked her to Hogwarts, but I didn't think a romantic lake ride was on the list," Ron said as he spied his best friends leaving the pier. Luna peered over his shoulder at them.
"That was nice of him," she remarked. "Will you take me on a ride over the lake?"
"I think Harry should have the lake to himself, don't you think?"
"Hmm. I suppose. Besides, it's bad luck to have only four people on the water. Attracts the Beyu Bugs and I wouldn't want that."
Ron turned to peer at Luna at mention of this. The unasked question died on his lips as he resisted the urge to ask. "Hm, I have an idea. Let's head back to the castle, I want to get something from my room...."
The lake ride was surprisingly enjoyable, Hermione decided. It was a leisurely pace that Harry set, under a sunny sky with calm waters. It gave them quite a bit of time to pass the time reminiscing of their years at the school, pointing out areas on shore where significant events took place. They even passed over the approximate position of the merman village where Hermione — along with Ron, Cho and Gabrielle — were held as pieces in the Tri-Wizard tournament.
"I can't believe it was more than 3 years ago already," Hermione was saying. "It all went so fast."
"Yeah," Harry sighed.
By the time the boat came to rest at the far side of the lake, it was getting on into the lunch hour; early afternoon, even. The boat came to rest in a shallow beach, so they were able to dismount without getting wet.
"Why are we here?" said Hermione with a puzzled look.
Harry moved around a boulder and emerged with a picnic basket and large blanket. "Lunch!" he grinned. "Hey, I said I'd provide lunch. I figured something other than the usual Three Broomsticks."
Hermione looked with a raised brow as Harry shook out the blanket and waved her onto it. The lunch was simple fare — sandwiches, a few butterbeers. Easily something they could've had at the Three Broomsticks, but Hermione decided Harry was right. It was one of the nicer lunches she'd had in a while.
The sun moved steadily westward while the two sat and chatted. Despite enjoying the conversation, Harry noticed that Hermione shifted in her position more than usual.
"I can't seem to find a comfortable position," she confessed. "My shoulder's a bit stiff, to be honest."
"That's because you fall asleep while reading," he teased.
"Well... would you like a shoulder rub?" Harry offered after a moment. Internally, he was chanting Please say yes, please say yes, while congratulating himself at sounding as off-handed as he could. His heart sped up briefly when she nodded and stretched out on her stomach.
Harry's fingers were trembling slightly as he lay them on her shoulders. He'd read a few things about how to give a woman a good shoulder rub and was desperately trying to recall everything he'd heard.
"Why do guys always brag about their massage skills to girls?" Hermione asked. Accused, more like.
"We do not!"
"Sure you do. Ask any of your roommates if they've ever bragged about their massage skills to girls they were after."
Harry frowned as the thought back to his interactions with girls he was interested in. "Well, I never did."
"Yes, well, you always seem to break the rul– ooooh, yes, right there," Hermione groaned as Harry's fingers found the knot and began easing it away.
"I would have thought you girls would see through it, anyhow."
"See through what?" asked Hermione, half turning to give Harry a quizzical look.
"The massage bragging. It's our way of getting our hands on you without getting slapped," said Harry with a grin.
"Yeah, we know," said Hermione wryly before resting her chin over her folded hands. She made appreciative noises as Harry's hands eased and rubbed over her back.
It was easily the best lunch she'd ever had.
"Do you see them?
"Not yet— wait, I think I see the boat. Yes! Over on the east side!"
Ron had run into Ginny back in Gryffindor Tower and explained his plan to spy on the two with his Omniculars. The siblings grabbed their respective lenses and were scanning the shoreline of the lake when Ginny announced her finding.
Ron swept the Omniculars over to the indicated stretch and saw the boat. Further up on a grassy area he could see two figures. Fingering the zoom knob, he swooped in on his best friends' lunch. What he saw surprised him. "It looks like... yes, it's a picnic! I think Hermione's lying down. Is he— is he leaning over her?"
"What? Where? I don't see— oooh! It looks like he's giving her a backrub." Ginny squinted through her omniculars; they were old and not very good. "He is! Dammit, he never gave me one of those!"
"Nor I," Luna said softly nearby. She wasn't peering through a set of Omniculars, but rather tracing abstract patterns on the boulder they were perched on.
"That dog! I never would've imagined that he'd— wait, he's sitting up. Uh, is he looking this way?" said Ron.
"Er, I think so. D'you think he sees us?"
"Nah, we're too far away— wait, he's got his wand now. What's he—?" Ron's question was abruptly cut off as both his and Ginny's Omniculars flew out of their hands and sped over the water towards Harry's direction.
Ginny and Ron blinked at one another. "No way," they echoed before peering back over the water.
"I can't believe he saw us! How'd he know it was us?" wondered Ron.
"Who else would it be?" asked Luna. "After all, you two have both been their voyeurs for the last few days." Both Ron and Ginny looked at Luna for the comment. She merely stared back expectantly. "Well, it's true, isn't it?"
"Well, yes, but when you put it like that..." said Ginny.
"I think they're coming back over the lake," said Ron, squinting over the lake's glint. "Let's get out of here!"
"Hermione, who's Count Lorry?" asked Harry.
"Count Lorry? Well, he's a figure in Wizarding mythology. He's in a number of stories, but the thing that he's best known for is being a ladies' man," said Hermione without hesitation. It figured that she'd have this information at her fingertips. "Think Don Juan, or Cassanova. Why do you ask? It's not in any of our study material."
"Oh, I just heard a reference to it earlier, and I didn't recognize it."
Harry processed this bit of trivia. It was Ginny who used it and gave him a playful punch and a smirk when Hermione wasn't looking. Way to go, Count Lorry, she had said to him. Caught up with his memory of the scene, he only became aware of Hermione's departure when she leaned over next to him.
"G'night Harry. Thanks for lunch today, I had fun." Harry's stomach did that thing when a girl you like smiles at you. Then it did that thing when she leans in to give a good night hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Harry didn't even notice her head up the girls' side stairs, but rather sat in the same spot looking dazed for a full minute straight. This didn't go unnoticed by Ron.
"You know, it just occurred to me what You-Know-Who should've done if he was smart," said Ron.
"Wha—?" Harry shook his head back into the present. "What are you talking about?"
"Instead of having Dementors chase you around, he should've just polyjuiced one of them into Hermione. Much easier to give you The Kiss that way." Ron grinned.
"Say, Ron, remember that time you were sitting here in the Common Room and someone dumped butterbeer all over your head?" said Harry with an edge in his voice.
Ron blinked and frowned in thought. "I don't remember tha—"
Before he could finish, Harry picked up his half-finished mug of butterbeer and proceeded to pour it over Ron's head. This brought a slew of snickering and laughter from the rest of the Gryffindors.
Wiping his now-wet face with his hand, Ron turned to Harry who was looking back at with a 'How do you like them apples?' look. "Well. I walked into that one."
Harry headed upstairs, feeling peevish at Ron's relentless teasing. The butterbeer dumping helped alleviate that a bit, but when Ron waved at him as he was climbing the stairs, he blinked as Ron flashed a peace sign at him. For a minute he thought Ron was forwarding a peace offering; an apology. Then it hit him.
Two days left.