"It’s Valentine’s Day, tomorrow. Try to relax and we’ll come back to it another day.”
The disappointed look that accompanied Professor Lupin saying that kept sleep far from Harry. For hours now, he’d been lying on his bed in Gryffindor Tower, tossing and turning, those words repeating over and over, tormenting him more and more with every repetition.
“You have to feel the emotion of the memory that you’re using, Harry. It’s the emotion that powers the spell. Happiness and love, those two more than any others.”
Rolling on to his back, Harry thrust his hands under his head and stared at the canopy above him – not that he saw it.
What did he know of happiness or love? He’d grown up with the Dursleys, for Merlin’s sake! There was no happiness to be found in that house for one Harry James Potter and definitely no love, either. Chores – cooking, cleaning, gardening, painting – all of them, yes, from the day that he could reach the stove or hold a broom. It was all he knew. At that, he’d only grudgingly been allowed to sleep in Dudley’s second bedroom after Uncle Vernon had thought that magicals were watching him.
“Happiness and love …”
Happiness. Harry searched his mind, trying to find the last time that he’d been truly happy. Not this year, especially not with the Dementors around. Those foul demons sucked the life, the happiness, the soul and joy out of everything in the school. No one in the castle was immune, at least, not that Harry had seen. And that included the professors.
Even Hermione who loved nothing more than learning and being in classes never smiled any more. That didn’t mean that she still wasn’t answering every question and absorbing everything that the professors threw at them like the absolutely brilliant witch that she was, because she was! The big difference was that as every day passed, she appeared more and more tired. She snapped more and disappeared so much that Harry often had trouble finding her.
It certainly didn’t help that Harry had completely ignored her for over a month. And over something as silly as a broom! Oh, his reasons for being angry at Hermione made sense, at least at first. Receiving a present, any present (let alone one as amazing as a brand new professional class racing broom) was so astonishing and momentous that it needed to be cherished. Having it snatched away so soon after receiving it had sent his mind reeling back to the days where Dudley took anything that he’d even shown the tiniest interest in. Thus, he was angry at having his broom taken away. Rightly so, he believed.
Still, that was no excuse for ignoring Hermione for so long. Yes, it’d taken his brain a number of days to process what had happened and to work out why Hermione had gone to Professor McGonagall but in the end, he had understood. That was when he should have gone straight back to her and explained and apologised. Instead, he’d let his pride and Ron’s indignant mutterings in his ear overrule his common sense – not something that he was proud of.
No, there was definitely no happiness to be found at Hogwarts this year.
But if not this year, then when? When was the last time that he was happy?
Certainly not during the holidays. Holidays meant Dursleys. So … the previous year at Hogwarts?
Harry shuddered. The previous year. Chambers and snakes and voices, oh Merlin!
And petrifications. Instantly, he froze. That was definitely not a happy thought. The image of a frozen Hermione lying on that hospital bed had given him nightmares for weeks. Months, actually. And with those nightmares every night, it was no wonder that he hadn’t slept, instead finding his way to beside her bed to watch over her in case anything else happened to her.
Between dementors and basilisks, happiness really was a foreign concept here at Hogwarts.
But that really couldn’t be the case, could it? Everyone, the entire population of magical Britain having been miserable there for centuries? Certainly not! If that had been the case, surely someone would have demolished it a long time ago.
So, there had to be some happiness here. For others.
Harry searched his mind, trying to find the happiness that others saw. Friends and jokes, of course. Which for him meant Hermione and Ron. Quidditch, he guessed. But, while quidditch was fun, it was way too stressful and caused him to land in the Hospital Wing far too often to truly be fun. Flying, though, that was a different thing.
There. He’d found happiness at Hogwarts. Flying and friends.
Harry frowned at the thought. He’d been flying with Ron more times than he could count and yes, while it was fun, there was still something lacking.
That’s exactly what was missing!
He’d never gone flying with Hermione. And really, didn’t he owe her some happiness and fun? There was definitely no doubting the fact that she needed some downtime, a chance to relax. And what could be more fun than taking his best friend flying and showing her how brilliant it really was?
“Try to relax,” Professor Lupin had said – something both of them needed.
That thought settled Harry’s mind. Tomorrow, he’d take Hermione flying. Just the two of them – after all, he’d been flying with just Ron loads of times. Up there, in the clouds, they’d relax and be happy.
With that, he closed his eyes. Imagining the feel of the broomstick under him, the wind in his hair and Hermione holding on behind him was the last thing that he remembered.
“Hermione doesn’t like flying!”
The thought had startled Harry awake and he found himself sitting in his bed blurting the words for all to hear.
“We know that, mate,” Ron mumbled. “No need to wake us with the bleeding obvious, though.”
“No, but you don’t understand …” Harry began before trailing off.
Looking around the dorm, he could see that he was the only one properly awake. Dean had an arm flung across his eyes; Seamus had a long line of drool hanging from his mouth; and Neville was still snoring. Even Ron looked like he’d instantly dropped back to sleep after answering Harry.
Harry was far too awake now to go back to sleep either.
Hermione didn’t like flying.
It was a fact. A well-known fact, actually. He was pretty sure that everyone in Gryffindor Tower knew it, not to mention, at the very least, everyone else in their year level. Flying was actually the one subject that Hermione had ever come close to failing at Hogwarts.
Casting his mind back to first year, Harry tried to remember what it was about flying that had Hermione so nervous. Heights, maybe? But that didn’t seem right – she had no problem in the pitch black at the top of the Astronomy Tower in the middle of the night. He did remember that she’d studied every book about broom flying that she could get her hands on before their first lesson. She’d even asked as many of the older Gryffindors about it as well.
“No,” Harry whispered. “It couldn’t be that simple. Could it?”
Flying wasn’t something that you could learn from books, it was something that you had to feel. Not unlike learning the patronus charm – a thought that had Harry grimacing.
Hermione loved books. She learnt from books, it was what she excelled at and had her achieving the top grades in their entire year level in every class. Well, if one didn’t count flying.
Knowledge and achieving made Hermione happy.
Would learning how to ace that one, elusive subject make Hermione happy? Harry was sure of it! And who better to teach her than the youngest Seeker in a century, not to mention her best friend?
Bouncing out of bed, Harry grabbed some clothes and made his way to the bathroom. The thought of helping Hermione – not to mention getting to go flying with her – had him smiling from ear to ear.
“Hermione!” Harry exclaimed as he stepped off the last step into the Common Room.
Not unexpectedly, his best friend was sitting in her usual seat in front of the Gryffindor common room, an open book on one knee, a piece of parchment in the other, quill in her hand and a mountain of books towering beside her.
“Harry! Don’t do that!” she scolded. “I nearly stuck my quill through the parchment and that would have ruined the notes I was taking!”
Chastised, Harry approached her much more slowly, his hands fidgeting with excitement behind his back.
“Good morning, Hermione,” he tried again.
“Good morning, Harry,” she replied, and he was pleased to see that her annoyance had given way to a small smile.
Harry eyed the work that she seemed to have set for herself. Judging by the number of books, there was … a lot. Still, it was a Sunday. And Valentine’s Day, not that Harry really knew what to do with that information right then. Already, he could see that Hermione was snappish and stressed and the day had barely begun.
“I’m sorry, Hermione, this simply won’t do,” he said; after all, he had a plan!
And then, courting all manner of danger worse than Voldemort on the back of a professor’s head or a sixty-foot snake with a killer-gaze or even an on-the-loose mass murderer, Harry stepped forward and snatched up both the book and the parchment from Hermione’s lap.
“Hey!” Hermione shouted. “Harry. Give. Them. Back!”
Dancing backwards, he glanced at the parchment. Seeing that the ink was all dry, he placed it inside the book and then … closed … it!
“Harry!” Hermione growled, now on her feet.
Her hair seemed frizzier than he’d ever seen it and her chocolate eyes – usually so full of warmth – were hard as flint. He was on the very edge of death, he knew that with all certainty. But he didn’t relent.
“Hermione! Hermione!” he yelled, trying to get her to listen.
Their commotion hadn’t gone unnoticed. Gryffindors from all years were watching them, most backed hard against the walls in an effort to avoid Hermione’s wrath.
“What?” she growled.
“If I promise to give you your book back, will you listen to me without killing me?” he asked, even as he backed further away.
She paused – a good sign. Or, at least, he hoped so.
“No promises,” she stated, her voice hard and what looked like her lips all but fused together.
Carefully, Harry took a step forward, the book held out towards her. Another step had her lunging forward, grabbing it and wrapping it protectively in her arms against her chest.
“Thank you. Now. Explain!”
Harry gulped. He knew he only had one chance at this. He also knew that his idea was more right than ever. She needed this, even if she didn’t realise it and, as her best friend and someone who cared about her, it fell to him to intervene.
“Hermione,” he began, keeping his voice even. “I’m worried about you.”
The fact that she froze in place, her eyes wide meant that he had her complete attention.
“You’re worried about me?” she repeated. “Why?”
“I’ve seen how hard you’ve been working,” he replied. “You’re up before everyone in the morning and the last to bed every night. I don’t know the last time you haven’t been buried in a book, reading and studying from it.”
“I’m taking more classes than anyone else!” she stated, defending herself.
“I know. Believe me, Hermione, I know. And honestly, I don’t know how you’re doing it,” Harry replied. “What I do know is that you’re not coping. You’re snapping at everyone and not sleeping enough and everyone’s …”
He glanced around the Common Room, not sure how to finish that sentence. The fact that Hermione’s eyes followed his and he heard her gasp told him that he didn’t need to. She saw.
“I’ve been having some problems with a spell lately and yesterday, Professor Lupin gave me some advice,” he said, segueing into his plan.
Her eyes narrowed. “Hmm?”
“He suggested that I take a day off to relax and unwind and come back to the problem another day. I think he thinks that I’m not getting it because I’m too wound up and stressed about it. I was thinking that, with how stressed you are, perhaps you could do with a day off, too? Maybe it’ll help you study better and remember everything?”
“Harry,” she sighed. “I know you mean well but I can’t take a day off, there’s simply too much to learn and I’m struggling with finding the time as it is.”
Harry nodded, knowing that that would be her answer. He, however, had an ace up his sleeve.
“What if I made you a deal?” he asked.
Her eyes narrowed and she stared at him.
“Alright, Harry, I’ll bite. What’s this deal of yours?” she asked before rushing on. “I’m not agreeing to anything but I will listen to what you have to say.”
“I know that, Hermione,” he replied with a smile. “How about, if you agree to take the day off from all of your other books and classes and spend some time relaxing with me, I promise that, by the end of the day, I’ll teach you something that you haven’t learnt properly yet?”
He could see the scoff on the tips of her lips – the concept that he could teach her something, on the surface, sounded completely ludicrous. But, even as he watched her, the impulse seemed to melt away from her.
He was Harry and she was Hermione. Yes, she helped him with his schoolwork and checked over his homework to make sure that there were no glaring errors but there had been plenty that he’d done over the last couple of years that she hadn’t been able to do. He’d saved her life just as many times as she’d saved his. It wasn’t too much of stretch to believe that there was something that he could teach her.
Harry could see all of those thoughts in her and sighed when he saw her reach her decision, even before she said it.
“Alright, Harry. Maybe you’re right. One day off shouldn’t be too much to make up later, especially if I am still going to be learning something. I agree.”
“Brilliant!” Harry beamed. “Right. First thing’s first. How about as soon as you’ve put all your books away, we go to breakfast?”
A simple swish and flick from her wand had the pile of books leaping into the air to follow her as she marched up the stairs towards her dorm room. The instant that she disappeared, Harry found himself the recipient of quite a number of hugs, high fives and back slaps. Apparently, everyone thought that Hermione could do with a day off but that he was the only one brave enough – or stupid enough – to suggest it.
“Come on, Hermione, let’s go outside – I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of seeing the inside of these walls,” Harry said, grabbing her hand and pulling her along.
“Winter is almost over and it is nice to sit under the trees,” she replied.
Harry looked back and narrowed his eyes at his best friend. He knew that look. She was wanting a book in her hand, preferably to take it with outside with her so that she could read and study out there. It was the same look that she had had over breakfast.
“We can do that,” Harry stated. “But we’re not studying, remember? It’ll just be to sit and relax.”
Her pout was extremely put on and the puppy-dog eyes that she gave him were hard to resist.
Remember the plan, he told himself. Relax, come back to it another day.
“It’s our day off, remember?” he laughed.
“Yes, Harry,” she replied, intensifying the pout.
Harry forced himself to turn away from it and tugged on her hand. Obediently, she followed him across the Entrance Hall and out the front door.
The air was brisk and made him glad that he was wearing a jumper. Of course, he’d known that he’d need it – flying, after all, could get quite cold even when there was little to no wind like there currently was. He happily noted that Hermione was also dressed warmly in a simple pair of jeans and a light pink jumper that looked exceptionally good on her and definitely showed off her figure. Not that he allowed himself to think about that.
“What would you like to do?” he asked.
“I’d say sitting under a tree reading but apparently that’s not allowed,” she replied.
“Sitting under a tree, yes; studying, no,” Harry replied. “But, since you don’t have anything else in mind, then I guess we’ll just have to go with my idea.”
“Your idea?” Hermione squeaked. “Harry … don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re not known for having the best ideas. Or at least, ideas that don’t involve danger and trips to the Hospital Wing.”
Harry regarded her dispassionately as he slowly shook his head.
“Don’t you trust me?” he asked.
“You know I trust you more than anyone else in the world,” she replied. “I simply have no desire to spend my ‘day off’ in the Hospital Wing – either sitting beside your bed or being in one myself.”
“Not going to happen,” Harry replied, waving off the ridiculous suggestion. “But glad to hear that you trust me.”
With that, he set off across the grounds, still keeping a hold of her hand to ensure that she didn’t disappear on him like she was wont to do this year when he least expected it. As they rounded the corner of the castle, he felt his arm jerk backwards as Hermione stopped dead in her tracks.
“If you simply plan on going flying,” she said, staring between him and the quidditch pitch that they were now heading towards, “then you can call this ridiculous day off and I’ll head back to the library to get some work done!”
“Hermione, you’ve got it all wrong,” he replied, shifting his hand slightly so that he could interlock his fingers with hers thus keeping an even tighter hold on her. “I’m not going flying.”
“You’re not?” Hermione asked sounding a combination of disbelieving and sceptical.
“No. We are!” he beamed.
She stared at him and for an instant Harry wondered if he’d just spontaneously grown a second head.
“I don’t fly.”
It was a simple, emphatic statement and brooked no argument, not that Harry was going to listen to that.
“Hermione,” he said gently, stepping forward so that they were barely inches apart.
He searched her eyes. There was fear there but also something else, something that he couldn’t identify.
“Do you remember me promising that I’d teach you something today if you agreed to take the day off?”
The slight widening of her eyes told him that she’d already put two and two together.
“I’ll teach you to fly. Safely. No aerobatics, no stunts, no audience. Just simple flying. With me.”
“Why?” she asked.
There were multiple ‘whys’ for Harry to pick – why would he want to teach her this? why should she learn it? why now and today of all days?
“Because it’s a skill you never learnt properly,” he replied, answering all of them at once. “It could be useful for you to learn. Besides, isn’t there a flying component on our OWLs in a couple of years’ time? Wouldn’t you like to get top marks in that, too? It’s already a sure bet that you’ll get O’s on everything else, I’m just helping you get a clean sweep.”
Harry grinned at his pun even as she rolled her eyes. Still, it helped to lighten the mood and had her thinking.
“On our OWLs?” she repeated. “Are you sure about that?”
“It’s what Oliver told me,” he shrugged.
He saw her straighten her shoulders and knew that a decision had been made.
“Very well, then, Harry, let’s get this over with.”
The broom that Harry collected from the broom cupboard for her was, indeed, a Cleansweep. It wasn’t the newest broom and it was a school broom but he’d checked it over and was happy that it was in very good condition.
“Harry?” Hermione asked and he could hear the wobble in her voice.
“I’m riding my Firebolt. You’re going to be flying on this,” he replied.
After placing both brooms side by side on the ground, he went over to her. She was still extremely unsure about this – he could see it in the way that she was nibbling on her bottom lip and the worry lines around her eyes. Nerves, he knew, could cause the broom to not respond properly and that only led to the possibility of accidents.
Quickly, he stepped right up in front of her, blocking her view of the brooms and forcing her to focus on him. On impulse, he reached out with both of his hands and grabbed hers, interlocking their fingers once more to help ground her and help her feel safe.
“There’s nothing to worry about, Hermione,” he stated. “You’ve done this before and I’ll be beside you every step of the way. Besides, you know that, relatively speaking, flying a broom isn’t all that dangerous.”
Her snort of disbelief had him taking half a step backwards.
“Tell that to Neville. He broke his wrist the very first time he flew! And that’s not to mention all of the times that you’ve ended up in the Hospital Wing from flying!” she retorted hotly.
“Hermione, you’re not thinking properly!” Harry replied intensely. Her gasp told him that he’d better explain himself extremely quickly. “Neville should never have been given that broom in the first place – it was an accident waiting to happen, that broom was too old and should have been tossed out years before. I’ve checked the broom that you’ll be using over today very carefully. It’s in full working order, nothing for you to worry about there.
“As for me, well … how many of those times I ended up in the Hospital Wing were because of my flying ability and how many were because others were interfering? Dobby and those enchanted bludgers? Lockhart vanishing the bones in my arms? Dementors? Even the other week, it was Malfoy and his goons wearing stupid costumes to try to throw off my concentration. None of that is going to happen today.”
“Are you sure about that?” she asked.
“Positive,” he stated emphatically. “We’re not going to be flying very high at all. Six feet, tops. And we’re not going to be going fast either. Some simple flying around the pitch, maybe a few figure eights, that’s it.”
He watched her chew her lip some more – it was a very distracting habit that she’d picked up, one that he’d been finding himself noticing more and more of late.
“Promise?” she finally asked.
“Promise,” he grinned, squeezing her hands in emphasis.
Finally, after searching his eyes some more, she gave a single nod.
“Brilliant!” Harry exclaimed, then, releasing one hand, he led her across to the brooms.
“I just need to stand to the side and command it ‘up’,” she stated, staring at the Cleansweep.
This, Harry knew, was a pivotal moment. If she showed even the slightest trace of nervousness, the broom wouldn’t respond properly and the rest of the lesson would quickly go downhill.
“Hermione,” he said, “look at me.” Once she was, he continued. “We’re going to be learning to fly. You’re going to be learning from the broom. Think of it like a book. You want what it wants to teach you. If you don’t have that book, that broom, you won’t learn. Tell it that! Command it into your hand so that you can learn!”
He saw a change come over her. It was only subtle, a slight change in her body posture and the expression on her face.
Her voice was strong. Instantly, the broom responded to her command, shooting upwards and slapping into her outstretched hand.
“Brilliant! That was amazing, Hermione!” Harry cheered. “You’re already doing better than first year.”
The grin that she shot him had him feeling warm all over.
Quickly, Harry stretched out his hand over his own broom; the Firebolt shooting up without a word.
“Right, time to mount your broom, Hermione,” he instructed. “All we’re doing it sitting on it, we’re not going anywhere.”
Even as he threw his leg over his own broom, his feet automatically settling into the stirrups, his eyes never left her. Obediently, she mounted her own broom, again grinning broadly at him at her accomplishment.
“Flying is all about your will. It’s your mind that controls the broom. It can sense your thoughts and intentions and will respond accordingly,” he said. It was information that she already knew but he didn’t think that it’d hurt to repeat. “I want you to picture yourself walking. How fast do you walk? How long would it take you to walk to the other end of the pitch? Can you do that?”
“Yes, I think so,” she replied.
“Great! Now, simply tell your broom that,” he said. “You’re not asking it to go any higher than it already is; all you want is to walk from here to there – the only difference is that you’re sitting on your broom instead of using your legs.”
The Cleansweep jerked forward, stuttered, jerked forward again and finally settled into a smooth, steady glide.
“That’s it, Hermione! You’re doing it!” he encouraged, willing his own broom forward at an identical pace.
It was a long, slow ride to the other side of the quidditch pitch but by the time that they’d arrived, Hermione was looking a lot more confident.
“You’re doing amazingly,” he said. “Now, how about we do some ‘running’? How fast can you run?”
“Not all that fast, Harry,” she replied. “I’ve never been good at sports, you know that.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” he grinned. “Just imagine yourself running around the pitch. You’re not going to get tired because the broom is doing all the work.”
She looked at him doubtfully for a moment – and there was that lip-chewing again! Then, with a nod, she looked down at her broom. A few moment’s later, she and the Cleansweep glided off. It wasn’t very fast and definitely a lot slower than Harry himself could run but it was faster than before.
The longer that they flew, the more confident that Hermione became. It probably helped that not once did Harry suggest that they go any higher than they already had been. Circles, figure eights, turns and zigzags were all added in – each performed flawlessly by Hermione. And for every one of her successes, he was there, cheering her on, grinning the whole time.
“Okay, Hermione, it’s time to move on to the next step,” he said.
“You mean ‘up’ don’t you, Harry?” she asked, her nervousness showing once again.
“Yes,” he replied simply.
“Alright, Harry. I trust you,” she replied, causing that warmth in his chest to burst once more. “Just … not too high? Please?”
“I promised no more than six feet,” he reminded her.
“I remember,” she nodded.
“Okay. What I want you to do is to picture Hagrid.”
“Hagrid?” she asked.
“Trust me, Hermione. Hagrid,” he repeated. “We’re going to be flying at a height that, if anything was to happen – which it decidedly will not – he’d be able to catch us. If he was here, of course. Imagine flying at about the same height as Hagrid’s shoulder.”
He watched as she thought about that for a moment. “I can do that.”
“Brilliant!” he beamed. “Then, whenever you’re ready.”
Slowly, the Cleansweep and subsequently Hermione, floated upwards. Whether she stopped at the height that he’d suggested or perhaps slightly lower was debatable, not that Harry had any intention of saying anything about that. The important thing was that Hermione was higher up and looking confident – there was even a smile on her face, something that had been decidedly lacking for far too many months.
The next hour was spent with the two of them flying about the pitch, repeating the patterns that they’d already flown in
Finally, Harry led her over towards one of the stands where they flew straight to one of the benches before dismounting.
“So, what did you think?” he asked. “Flying’s not so bad, is it?”
“It was … it was … thank you, Harry,” she said.
Twisting in her seat, Hermione crash-tackled him in one of her infamous hugs. Her arms were around him and holding on tight and he instantly had his arms around her, too.
Before Hermione, hugging wasn’t something that Harry had ever experienced before – she’d even given him the first hug that he could ever remember. The first few times, he knew that he’d flinched but it’d never stopped her and he was immensely glad of that. He loved Hermione hugs. They always felt so warm and comforting and made him happy.
For an instant, Harry’s mind paused. Happy. Professor Lupin wanted him to use a memory that evoked love and happiness to power his patronus. And while he still had no clue about the love part, here was something that definitely counted as ‘happy’.
Impulsively, he hugged her tighter and delighted in feeling Hermione’s arms tighten around him, too.
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself,” Harry said, when they finally released each other. “That’s all I wanted – for you to do something that you could enjoy, to see you smile again.”
“I haven’t been smiling all that much of late, have I?” she mused before her eyes rounded. “Harry, tell me the truth. Have I been terrorising the Tower? Have I been snapping at everyone and yelling when I shouldn’t have?”
Harry panicked. Was there a right answer to that sort of question? Somehow, he didn’t think so. But this was Hermione! He couldn’t lie to her.
“A little, yeah,” he said, dropping his head and shoulders.
“Bother,” she murmured.
He felt a finger under his chin and obediently lifted his head.
“Thank you, Harry,” she smiled sadly at him. “I guess I really needed this day more than I knew. And you were extremely brave to force me to do it. I promise to try to be better. Just … Harry, promise me one thing?”
“Anything, Hermione, you know that,” he replied instantly.
“Don’t you ever and I do mean ever take a book like that from me again or you won’t live to regret it!”
“Don’t you mean that I’d live to regret it?” he gulped.
“I meant exactly what I said,” she stated, and it was only the hint of a sparkle in her eyes that told him that she wasn’t quite serious.
“I promise,” he nodded emphatically.
“You know, it’s good to see you smiling again as well,” Hermione commented. “You’ve smiled more today than you have in a long time.”
“Well, I’m spending time with my best friend and even better we’ve been flying together!” he exclaimed. “You know how much I love to fly and getting to share it with you has made me happy.”
Something went through Hermione’s mind too fast for him to get a read on but when her eyes next met his, there was a strong flavour of determination in them.
“Harry, I want you to take me flying,” she said.
“But we’ve just been flying,” he replied, confused, gesturing at both the Firebolt and the Cleansweep.
“Not like that,” she said, shaking her head. “I want you to take me flying. I’ll ride behind you and you can show me exactly what it is about flying that you love so much.”
Harry’s eyes boggled at her. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Yes. But it has to be now, before I change my mind,” she stated. “And Harry? Nothing too dangerous or scary? Please?”
“I promise,” he replied solemnly.
If Hermione was willing to go flying with him so that he could completely share it with her, then there was no way that he’d do anything to jeopardise it potentially happening a second time.
Picking up his broom, he set it to hovering directly in front of them before he mounted it. Forgoing the stirrups, he slid forward slightly on the broom.
“Ready?” he smiled, holding out his hand.
Hermione regarded both him and the broom for a moment before she threw her leg over and sat behind him. Both her arms wrapped tightly around him and he could feel her slide as close to him as she could get. The front of her thighs were against the back of his and the entirety of the front of her body was moulded to his back. Her chin rested on his shoulder, her cheek rubbing against his.
The smallest wobble of his Firebolt caught his attention and he refocused.
It’s just Hermione. She’s your best friend, he told himself.
But the fact was that he’d never had anyone in such close contact with him brefore. Ever. Not even her hugs had them this close together. It was disconcerting, but also extremely … nice. He felt safe and warm – very warm, actually. That thought had him glancing down at the broom between his legs. It’d never been so hard against certain parts of him before.
Probably just because I usually sit a little further back. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that there’s a girl pressed up tight to against me, he told himself.
Yes, it was just Hermione and, while he knew that she was a girl, feeling her curves against his back like that highlighted that fact in a way that he’d never considered before. Or, at least, allowed himself to consider before.
It’s Hermione. Your best friend. Get a grip!
That thought instantly had him flushing, his mind going places it had no business going. To cover it, he focussed on the Firebolt and flew them down into the quidditch pitch.
The cool air on his face helped, as did concentrating on flying.
He started with a simple lap of the pitch, slightly higher and slightly faster than they’d gone at any time that morning. From there, he took them higher and, while somewhat faster, still a very long way below the speed that he knew that the Firebolt was capable of.
“Are you okay?” he asked, turning his head slightly towards her.
The fact that by doing so meant that he could then feel her breath not only on his cheek but also on the corner of his mouth caused his mind to wonder something that he’d never thought of about anyone before: what would it be like to kiss her?
Thankfully, Hermione wasn’t a mind reader.
“I’m good. This is amazing!” she replied and he could hear the smile in her voice.
“Brilliant! Ready for something more?” he asked, fervently ignoring the double entendre in favour of what he meant.
He blinked and his mind restarted. Then, focussing on his flying, he took then up and out of the quidditch stadium.
He heard her gasp and couldn’t help but laugh. It wasn’t a gasp of terror but one of delight, he knew that. The world below them spread out the higher they went and he looked around at it with fresh eyes, trying to see it exactly as she was seeing it.
There, to their left, was the great castle herself. The highest rooves had a dusting of snow on them and there were lit windows giving it a very ‘enchanted castle’ feel, which, to be fair, it actually was.
To their right lay the Forbidden Forest. The great canopy stretched out for miles with hundreds of different shades of green flowing through it, punctuated by pockets of red, yellow and gold of some of the more obscure trees.
And before them lay the Black Lake, its surface as still as glass and reflecting the mountains, forest and castle that surrounded it.
“It’s beautiful!” Hermione exclaimed. “I had no idea.”
Harry simply turned towards her and grinned, exulting in seeing how carefree and happy she looked as she took it all in.
This was what flying was to him. Getting up into the air, being free from all of the restraints and responsibilities on the ground. Up here, he could simply float or swoop or dive – not that he was doing those things today – and enjoy the wonders of nature. He could see it all and know that no one was going to stare at his scar or expect him to solve all their problems or blame him for those problems in the first place.
Yes, quidditch was fun and all, but it was flying that he truly loved.
“It’s the emotion that powers the spell. Happiness and love, those two more than any others.”
Professor Lupin’s words rang through his head again. Happiness and love.
Here he was, with his best friend who made him happier than he ever had been, sharing with her something that he loved. Could this be it? Could he be making the memory that could power his patronus right then?
“Thank you, Harry,” Hermione said, breaking his train of thought. “Thank you for sharing it with me. I understand now.”
“You’re very welcome, Hermione. There’s no one I’d rather share it with,” he replied with a smile.
The fact that he’d turned his head to talk to her meant that their faces, their lips were very close together. He could feel her breath. He could see her eyes sparkling with happiness – albeit only by using one of his own eyes, but it was enough. He could feel her entire body wrapped around his, her arms not once loosing during the entire flight.
He had no idea what made him do it but then, as she’d pointed out earlier that day, he wasn’t known for making sane, logical decisions. He simply followed his instincts.
Turning his head just a fraction more, he brought his lips to hers.
It was short and awkward but it was definitely a kiss. There was no denying it.
The fact that she jerked her head back had him turning away.
“I’m sorry,” he began, only to be stopped by one of her hands letting go of his chest to reach up, cup his cheek and turn his head back towards her face.
Then, it was her kissing him.
It was still awkward and short but that didn’t matter.
Hermione had kissed him!
His best friend had kissed him!
Admittedly, he’d kissed her first, but she’d kissed him back.
“Harry. Ground. Now,” she ordered.
Feeling the way the Firebolt had drifted slightly and lost height as his concentration slipped from flying to kissing, he wholeheartedly agreed.
Re-establishing his control, Harry brought the broom around in an arc before angling downwards back towards the quidditch pitch. In minutes, they’d dipped below the top of the stadium. Shortly after that, they were once again hovering over the seats where they’d started from.
Harry waited, nervously, his mind whirling with far too many thoughts to concentrate on as Hermione dismounted. Once she was safely off, it was his turn.
And then it was time to face her.
He still wasn’t sure what to say to her. But this was Hermione. She seemed to have worked it out for the both of them.
The instant that he’d turned towards her, she stepped forward. He stared into her eyes even as she was staring back at him. Her arms rose, resting lightly on his shoulders for a moment before snaking around his neck. He was almost startled to find that his hands had come to rest on her hips but with how right it felt, he didn’t question it.
And then she was moving towards him. Her head tilted slightly and he obliged, tilting his the opposite direction.
Their first kiss was tentative and brief, a testing of the waters. He paused, checking, asking without words; the almost imperceptible nod reassuring him.
Their second kiss was deeper, fuller, longer. She tasted of strawberries and he revelled in how soft her lips were. But there was a need in her kisses, too and he obliged, kissing her just as she was kissing him.
Hermione made him happy, happier than anyone ever had. He cared about her and there was no doubt that she cared about him, too, not after all that they’d been through together in such a short number of years.
Finally, after what felt both an eternity and bare moments, they parted. Their foreheads met, resting on each other. Harry knew that he was breathing hard, as though he’d just run a marathon and from the way her chest was heaving, Hermione was feeling the same. But it was a good feeling, a great feeling actually.
“Hermione,” he began, not sure exactly how to continue that sentence.
“I know, Harry,” she smiled. “I enjoyed too and I’m eager for more.”
“Of course, silly,” she laughed. “I’m just surprised you finally did something. I was expecting that I’d have to make the first move.”
“I’m not completely daft, you know,” he replied in mock-indignation – they both knew the truth, after all. “Today has been brilliant. Getting to spend it with you, like this … thank you, Hermione. I needed this. I needed you. And I’ve missed you.”
“I know. I’ve missed you, too,” she replied. She hesitated before plunging on. “Do you think if I dropped Divination and Muggle Studies my work habits and study attitude might change?”
“I think it would, yes,” he replied. “You’ve been working yourself too hard and I’ve been so worried.”
“Thank you, Harry,” she replied, bringing one hand down to cup his cheek even as she leant forward to kiss him once more.
When finally they separated, Hermione reached down to touch her jumper, not that Harry understood why.
“Well, if I’m going to drop two classes and resume a ‘normal’ timetable – mind you, I’ll still be studying Muggle Studies, just on my own and at a reasonable pace to ensure that I can still take the OWL for it in fifth year – then I think I need to go see Professor McGonagall,” she said. “There’s something that I need to return to her.”
Harry nodded, not that he understood what he was agreeing to.
“Before we do that, do you mind if I try something first?” he asked.
Her eyebrow quirked in an unspoken question, prompting him to explain.
“I was wondering if I could give the patronus spell another go? I haven’t gotten it before with Professor Lupin but I think I finally understand what I was doing wrong?”
“It’s not dangerous to try here unsupervised?” she asked.
Harry grinned at her. “Not in the slightest. It’s extremely light magic, nothing dangerous about it at all.”
“In that case,” she said and gestured to the area around them.
Stepping back from her, he pulled his wand.
“You have to feel the emotion of the memory that you’re using, Harry. It’s the emotion that powers the spell. Happiness and love, those two more than any others.”
Happiness and love.
He was with Hermione and they’d just had the best, my brilliant day imaginable together, even better than anything that he’d planned. Together, they’d done something that he loved, he’d shared it with her and found that she enjoyed it as well.
He looked at her with the biggest smile on his face and held out his hand to her. She smiled back and took it, giving his hand a squeeze as she did.
Then, concentrating on the day that they’d just had, the feel of Hermione wrapped around him and the kisses that they’d shared, he thrust forward his wand.
He could feel the magic welling inside him, mixing with the feeling of warmth and happiness and love of the day that had filled him before it channelled straight down his arm and into his wand. Its tip glowed a brilliant white before a stream of white mist burst forth.
Harry watched, excited.
This was it!
He could feel it!
He was doing it!
The brilliant white mist continued pouring from his wand. It swirled around itself, contracting and expanding. A shape appeared. Four legs, a body and a head but a head that was oddly shaped and distorted. Horns! It had horns! No. As the mist condensed some more, Harry saw that he was wrong in that. They weren’t horns, they were antlers!
“Oh my!” Hermione murmured.
“A deer!” Harry exclaimed.
For it was, the silver-white mist had condensed into the shape of a deer. It was beautiful and looked so real. Waves of happiness and love poured from the deer, fuelling how he was already feeling, enabling him to pour it back into the spell.
“It’s beautiful,” Hermione said.
“I know,” Harry replied, tearing his gaze from the patronus to her. “Prongs.”
Her eyes widened. “Prongs? Like your dad?”
“Exactly like my dad,” he smiled. “And all because of you. Thank you.”
She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. His eyes left the patronus to focus on her and he dipped his head to catch her lips with his own. He felt it when the patronus faded away, not that it mattered – he had all the happiness and love that he needed right there in his arms.
“I can’t wait to show Professor Lupin,” he commented some time later after they’d decided that they should make their back to the castle. “Will you come with me to show him.”
“Of course, Harry,” she smiled. “I’d go anywhere with you.”
And he knew that she would, just as he would go anywhere with her. They were best friends, more than best friends, actually. That was thought that caused his eyes to widen.
“Hermione,” he began, stopping and pulling her around to face him. “Would you be my girlfriend?”
Her eyes sparkled and she laughed. “I already am but thank you for asking.”
In response, he pulled her closer and kissed her once again, savouring the feel and taste of her.