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XxX

Everywhere I looked people were laughing and smiling. I couldn't help but join in. For some reason, I kept pointing out things that Arthur probably already knew. I just couldn't help myself.

He seemed content, however, to let me keep naming things and pointing them out to him that he had probably seen a hundred times before. The smile never left his face once.

There were so many different booths with different things. Spices where over to the left and jewelry was next to that, across the way lay beautiful fabrics from far away lands. Beauty products from all around the world where everywhere!

And there was so much food! 

I guess that was to be expected however, since the feast was to celebrate the harvest. 

'Sire?'  

Arthur stopped in his tracks and, since he had a hold of my hand, I stopped too.

'Yes?' Arthur said, dropping my hand and turning to Alby. Alby gave a small smile to me before focusing once more on the prince.

'I was sent to come get ye, the joust starts 'in the 'our.' Alby said. He wore the typical blue and green colors of the court servants. I smiled a bit, it was odd that the servant colors were blue and green when Camelot's colors were red and silver. Probably some other weird tradition. 

'Ahhh, yes. Thank you Alby, I will be in the armory in a while.' Arthur nodded his head and, taking the hint, Alby smiled and left.

'Well, I best get off, will you be cheering for me my little mouse?' Arthur smiled, turning to me with mischief in his eyes.

I gave a small nod, 'Of course.' 

Arthur took up my hand and gave it a kiss, 'I'll be counting on you, I have something to give you later on today.' And with that he turned and headed after the servant. He stole one last glance and smiled before focusing on the task ahead. 

My heart hurt a bit, having my time with Arthur cut short, but at the same time I was curious and overjoyed to see what my surprise later would be.

I sighed and continued to walk around, feeling as if I was stepping on air.

XxX 

Merlin ran around the small room, trying to make sure everything was in its proper order.

Footsteps sounding from the hall forewarned him of the approaching prince.

Stopping, the manservant stood in front of the table. His hands were crossed in front of him as a smile tugged at his lips. 

Arthur walked in, fidgeting with his sleeve, but stopped when he saw his still servant, 'Merlin?' He asked, raising an eyebrow.

'Yes?' Merlin smiled back, bouncing a bit on his feet. His eyes sparkled as he thought of the way Hermione's face had lit up when she had first seen Arthur this morning.

'Nothing, nothing.' Arthur said, waving a dismissing hand. Merlin moved to pick up the red tunic as Arthur pulled of his common one.

Merlin stood in front of the prince, holding the tunic open. He was just about to pull it over his head when something silver caught his eye.

'Aye, Arthur?' Merlin said, looking at the shinny object, 'What is that?' He said, nodding at the small circle. There was a leather cord keeping the ring in place around Arthur's neck. 

'Oh...' Arthur picked up the metal ring, smiling a bit as he twisted it between his fingers, 'Nothing special.' His eyes said otherwise.

Merlin smirked as he pulled the shirt over the prince's head, 'Does this nothing special have to do with a certain bushy-haired girl?'

'Hermione doesn't have bushy hair.' Arthur said, pulling the tunic over his head in exasperation.

Merlin smirked, 'Ahh, so this does have something to do with Hermione.'

Arthur glared and turned away, not wanting to deal with nosy questions.

Smirking, but keeping his mouth shut, Merlin continued to get the prince ready for the joust.

Finally, when it came to the last piece of armor Merlin opened his mouth, 'Are you going to ask her to marry you or is it like a promise ring?'

Arthur openly gawked at his servant, he sputtered a bit—trying to find the right words—and ended up just staring at Merlin with an open mouth.

Merlin smirked, making sure everything was perfect, 'I will take that as a yes.'

'Aye, Merlin, do me a favor?' The Once and Future King said, pulling on his gloves rougher then he needed too. 

'Yes?' His loyal friend replied, a smile still gracing his lips.

With a quick WACK Merlin was rubbing the back of his head with a frown and Arthur was smirking. 

'Shut up.' He said and walked out of the room, a smirk on his lips.

XxX

I sat in the stands bouncing my leg, nervous as to what was to come. Hadn't I read some where that people could die jousting?

My nerves picked up at the thought but I relaxed when I felt the cool feel of my wand. I sighed and leaned back, letting a small smile appear. For some reason, knowing I had the ability to protect Arthur if anything did go wrong brought me comfort.

Well, Arthur also had Merlin watching his back, even more so then usual with all the disappearances going on, so there really was no need to worry.

Yes, that was right...no need to worry...

Then why was my hand in a fist so tight it was white? 

With a deep breath I released the hold on my wand, trying to settle my heart, 'There is nothing to fret. Merlin is with him...no need to pay attention to that nagging feeling that something will go wrong...no need—oh bloody 'ell!'

Just as that moment my eyes caught sight of Arthur's component. 

Gigantic. Huge. Enormous. 

And those were words just to describe his horse. The man was twice the size of the horse.

But, size didn't matter—right? Because they were just going to be on their nice horses, thrusting large, pointy sticks at each others chest and vital organs...

I stood up so abruptly I scared not only those around me but startled myself as well. 

Saying excuse me and pardon me became second nature as I pushed through the crowd. I had absolutely no idea where I was going but at the same time...I did.

'Arthur? Arthur!' I called rushing into the room that was built into the castle wall. Few of the men looked at me is if I was the trophy while others just glared, 'Arthur?' I called, spinning around a bit and having my grey cloak flare out.

For a moment I forgot my search and remembered when I use to play with my long dresses when I was younger.

It seemed childish but I really enjoyed the feel of my cloak swaying around me, and if I wasn't in such a panic then I probably would have done a few more turns. 

'Hermione?'  

I turned around to see a very confused Merlin, his brow raised and his eyes searching for an explanation.

I sighed in relief, 'Merlin! There you are, where is Arthur?'

Merlin thrust a thumb over his shoulder, 'Well, he is—'

I was already across the room by the time the words were half out of his mouth, 'Thanks!' I called over my shoulder.

I saw him smile and give a slight chuckle before I rounded the corner. 

'Arthur? Arthur where are you?' I demanded to the walls, getting confused as I moved farther down the hall. 

I stopped, my arms crossed, and stomped my foot, 'Arthur Pendragon where are you?'

I jumped as laughter sounded behind me. When I caught sight of Arthur relief pooled into my heart, but was soon covered by the anger I felt at his laughing at me.

'Have you been there the whole time?' I snapped, storming over to him and stopping a ways away from him.

He leaned casually against the wall, dressed in his armor. His helmet was under his arm with his sword on the opposite side.

'Looking for me?' Arthur pushed himself from the wall and sauntered towards me. I had to hold onto the anger otherwise it would have been lost in his eyes.

I gave a quick nod and crossed my arms, defensively, 'Yes, have you seen the size of the guy you will be jousting with today? He is huge!'

'Oh, you mean Edward? Yes, I have seen him. A multiple of times, actually.' Arthur said, giving his usual cocky smile, 'Where you—worried about me?' He said, tilting his head and studying me with those gentle blue eyes. 

He took another step forward and my breath caught. The words were on the tip of my tongue....was I willing to say them?

Arthur crossed his own arms, the same playful smile on his rose-petal lips, 'Will I get an answer, little mouse?'

I let my mouth open slightly, the words were right there—waiting to be said.

My brain was screaming to close my mouth, my heart was saying the exact opposite.

And that was when I threw caution to the wind. Arthur watched me with curious eyes, wondering what I was going to do. 

To be honest, I was wondering the same as I leaned forward.

My eyes darting from his eyes to his lips. My eyes fluttered a bit before I stood on my toes—daring to make the first move.

My lips brushed against his very quickly and very chaste, and yet it was unlike any other kiss I had shared.
 
A spark lit in that one moment. 

True love always spoke about chemistry, about perfection. That you would melt at the sight of them, that your world revolved only around that person now. 

But that was a lie. 

True love was when your soul was knitted to another, when you sincerely found your other half that was placed on the earth just for you to find. 

True love was when you knew who you were and you had finally found the person that loved you for just that reason. When you found the person who brought out the best of you.

Love was when you found the person you could forgive for all their faults and who you put before yourself.

Harry and Luna had it, my parents did as well. A few other couples from the War had found it as well. I had been left to find my own for myself.

But now...now I had found it.

I pulled back, my eyes still slightly closed. I smiled as I looked up to Arthur, who looked down at me with pure shock on his face, his eyes wide and alert. Apparently he wasn't use to kissing. 

A blush exploded across my cheeks as I adverted my eyes. The special feeling was gone now.

'S-sorry.' I said, taking a step back and pressing my hand against my warm forehead, 'I—I...I just don't know what...what came over—I was just...and you were...and I...'

'Hermione!' Arthur yelled over me, he took hold of my shoulders in his hands with a soft smile on his face. His thumb rubbed against the thin fabric that covered my shoulder, Arthur let his eyes linger to what his thumb was doing.

He gave a closed-mouth smile as he looked up to my eyes, 'I'm not upset I'm just...surprised...that was...well...' He let his hands fall from my shoulders to collect his thoughts, Arthur paced a few spaces before turning back to me—his eyes a light, 'My first kiss.'

I turned away with a hot blush, 'Sorry.'

He chuckled, 'Don't be. I'm not.' 

My hands twisted together in front of me, my eyes staying on them as the blush continued to keep company on my cheeks. 

'Hermione?' 

I watched Arthur's feet as he moved to stand in front of me. I chewed on my lower lip, not wanting to look up.

He wouldn't have it, Arthur brought his hand gently up to my chin—silently asking me to look at him. I couldn't help but give into him. 

He tilted his head and smiled at me, 'I love you.'

My heart soared and my eyes quickly fluttered shut. I this was a dream, I never wanted to wake up, 'I—I love you too.' 

Arthur's smile lit up and it was impossible to think of him as a sometimes prat in that moment, he took up my hand and placed it against his lips, 'Then that is the best token you can give me before the joust.'

I blushed and turned away from his stare, ' B-b-be safe.'

Arthur brought his other hand up to my face and smiled, 'Of course.' 

I gave a slight nod as my eyes fluttered close, tears streaming down. Tears of happiness and worry, 'I—I sh-should g-go.' I wiped at my eyes as I looked up at him.

Arthur nodded and stepped back to give me space, the smile falling a bit, 'Hermione—'

'Arthur?'

Both of us turned to see Merlin, standing with his usual boyish smile, in the doorway.

'Yes, thank you Merlin,' He turned to look at me then back to his servant, 'Will you please escort Hermione to her seat and keep her company for the joust?' 

Merlin turned to me with curious eyes but nodded at his prince, 'Alright.'

I walked over and took Merlin's arm, I glanced once more at Arthur before leaving. 

The smile had left his face when I had taken Merlin's arms, but when he met my eyes it was back in an instant and I couldn't help but smile too.

XxX

'So, what was all of that for?' Merlin smiled at me with a knowing look as we took our seats. 

I blushed and turned to look at the tournament ground, 'Nothing important. So, any more news on the knights?' I said, trying to change topics and failing.

Merlin, thankfully, went along with it, 'No news, but no more disappearances either. So back to you and Arthur—'

I gave a sigh of relief as the trumpet sounded.

Everyone stood as the King came and took his seat and the contestants came out.

And then it began.

My hand mostly stayed in Merlin's, gripping onto him for dear life. Every once in a while he would say a chorus of owws and I would let up, only to tighten my grip a few minutes later as someone got hit with the lance and it splinted.  

I winched every time Arthur got close to his opponent. Afterward I would chastise myself for being so scared—I had fought a war, and won it, I had run from Death Eaters and had been on so many adventures with the danger-magnate the Boy-Who-Lived.

And yet, here I sat just as scared as any child, eyes closed and holding my breath until Arthur stood, triumphant.

People cheered and clapped as he rode by, his arm up in a wave.  

Arthur caught site of me, giving a smile and nod in my direction. 

Merlin stood and offered me his hand, 'Come on, let's go meet him off at the side.'

We made our way through the crowd a few minutes later. Merlin turned back and smiled before he took off running. I had to follow as he had a hold of my hand.

The room and the knights went by in a blur as we laughed and ran towards Arthur's room. It was like I was running with my childhood friend, like I never had to grow up. Colors scattered around us as we laughed.

We only stopped when we were at the door and out of breath. Merlin pulled open the door and stepped aside, 'My Lady.' He said, giving a mock bow.

I curtseyed, 'My Lord.' And chucked as I walked into the room.

'What are you two laughing at?' Arthur asked as Alby helped him undress. 

I shook my head, still laughing to hard to speak.

Merlin turned to his prince, a playful smile gracing his lips, 'Just two friends having fun.'

Arthur looked up at Merlin, a curious glint in his eyes. He rolled his eyes and turned to look back out the window, 'Merlin, go get a fresh horse please—I'd like to take Hermione for a ride.' He nodded in my direction but didn't refer to me directly.

My ego was bruised just a bit. Slight annoyance pooling into my stomach, but I kept quiet. I definitely didn't feel anything special in that moment.

Merlin nodded and went off to do his bidding. He gently touched my hand and gave a smile before continuing on his way.

Arthur dismissed Alby with a nod and walked over to me, 'Did you two have...fun?' His words were cautious and hesitant.

I nodded, 'Yes, Merlin is a great friend.' 

Arthur took the hand Merlin had touched into his and gave it a slight squeeze, 'Good.'

I smiled, slight pleased that he was a bit jealous.

'I didn't officially ask you to go for a ride with me after wards,' Arthur said, staring down at our hands, 'I apologize for not asking you before hand, but will you go with a ride for me?' Finally, he looked up to me with his soft eyes.

I smiled, bringing my hand up to cup his face, 'Of course I would love too.' The feelings were back.

'Good.' He smiled down at me.

We continued to just gaze at each other. I just couldn't look away, a small smile playing at my lips, as he gently stroked my face with his gentle touch. 

A throat clearing brought us back to reality.

'The 'orse is ready, sire.' Alby said, giving a slight bow.

Arthur nodded and took my hand as he led us out.

'Thank you Alby.' I whispered as I walked by him. He looked up and gave a slight wink, too quick for Arthur to catch.

This time I walked down the hall like a lady instead of a servant's friend. I was accompanying the prince after all.

Arthur had to stop to talk to someone who was of importance every once in a while. I stood behind him, waiting quietly and patiently—even though my foot tapped in aggravation every time.

Finally, we made it outside where a beautiful black Shire horse stood. My mouth fell. It must be at least a size bigger then Arthur's competitor. 

'It's...it's...a draft horse?' I asked in disbelief. 

Arthur nodded, his eyes smiling as he looked on at the giant beauty.

Without a word he walked over and pulled himself up and over the dark-leather saddle and took the reins into his hands.

He smirked down at me as the horse backed up a bit, 'Are you coming, my little mouse?'

I swallowed. I could do this. I had fought Death Eaters. I could do this. I had ridden a dragon. I could do this. I had survived Snape's teaching for six years. I could do this.

I took in a deep breath. 

I couldn't do this.

I shook my head as my thoughts flew around my head. 

Arthur rolled his eyes and sat up a bit straighter, looking farther off, 'Is someone scared of a little horse?' He smirked, patting the horses neck, 'Reese here won't hurt a fly.'

My mouth opened but all I did was stutter a few vowels.

Arthur laughed.

'That...that's...that is huge!' I finally got out, 'There is no way that that is a horse!' 

'Come on, I really want to show you something. Please, for me?' His eyes were so honest as he offered me his hand. His heart was sincerely in them. 

I took his hand without a second thought and let him pull me up next to him. He gave me a second to settle before taking off.

A small squeal escaped my lips and I tightened my grip around his torso. Arthur didn't seem to complain, actually—he seemed to be going faster.

None to soon we came to a stop. I looked up, my head spinning a bit and stomach churning.

I'd take Snape any day over another horse ride.

'Isn't it beautiful?' Arthur said, his gaze looking over the horizon. I closed my eyes, trying to stop seeing four Arthur's, and then opened them.

The scene stole my breath. You could see all of Camelot from the hill. It was so full of color and life. Banners were everywhere as were smiles.

I sighed and leaned my head against Arthur's back, my eyes moving constantly as I tried to take everything in and memorize it.

Arthur's muscles relaxed and I gently turned my face into his shoulders.

'So...what was this about a surprise?' I smiled playfully to myself. 

Arthur leaned his head back and I just knew he was smiling as well, 'Ahhh, I knew there was an alternative motive for you agreeing to come.'

I leaned back and slapped his shoulder, 'Not true!'

Arthur turned to look at me, a smirk on his petal lips, 'Isn't it?'

I rolled my eyes and turned away, my teeth biting down on my lower lip. That sort of hurt, was that really what he thought of me? Or was I reading to much into a playful banter? 

He shook his head and swung his leg over the side, sliding gracefully to the ground. He offered me help which I accepted—letting him know he was forgiven for hurting my feelings. Even if he didn't know that he had.

'Come on.' Without asking he took my hand and led us towards a large oak tree.

I stayed quiet as we sat down, waiting for him to speak first.

Arthur stayed close to my side and never once dropped my hand. 

I watched as his thumb created circles around my knuckles. His eyes followed his thumb as he remained quiet.

Finally, he darted his eyes up to mine and smiled, 'I love you.' 

My breath caught. I don't think I'd ever get tired of those words, 'I love you too.'

He dropped his eyes back to our entwined hands, 'And I know you have to leave soon.'

I signed and closed my eyes, not wanting to cry. Why did he have to ruin a perfect moment like this?

'But I don't want you too.'  

My eyes flew open and bore into him. I studied him more then I had any book in my life. Where was he going with this?

'I know you wouldn't stay unless you had a good reason too so...' Arthur dropped my hand and reached up to the collar of his shirt. He pulled a leather throng from around his neck but kept the token hidden. As if it were a movie he slowly opened his hands, my curiosity growing with each passing second.

My breath caught as I saw the ring, my eyes flew to his face waiting for him to say something. My eyes begged him to explain.

'I would like to...to court you Hermione. With the...with the—' He cleared his throat and looked out across the valley. Arthur was so nervous a bead of sweat was starting to run down his temple, 'With the intent of marrying you. I would like you to accept this ring as a promise of my—my d-devotion to you. With it comes the promise of my protection over you and my love, for...forever. If you will accept it.'  

I was not expecting that. Thoughts flew around my head, most of them surrounding the wand in my left sleeve.

Arthur turned to me, trying to be in control and strong like he was in front of his knights, 'Will you say something please?'

I sighed, not realizing just how long I had been quiet for. I looked down and started fidgeting with my fingers, 'You...you don't know me.' I chewed on my lip nervously. 

Arthur turned to me fully and took both my hands, forcing me to look up to him, 'I know that I love you.'

My eyes fluttered shut, 'But you don't know me.' 

'Your birthday is September 19th and your favorite stone is your birthstone, sapphires. You detest gold and prefer silver or white-gold. You love Star-Gazer lilies. You are a morning person, even though you love the stars and the mythology behind them,' Arthur was almost out of breath as he talked, 'You love to read and you're probably one of the smartest people I know. You went to a school in Scotland with Harry and you live in Wales with your parents now. You were born in England, and your parents lived in Austrailia-where ever that is-but now you are in Wales.' His eyes trailed across the ground as if he were looking over a list to make sure he had said everything.

I looked at him with surprise and then smirked, 'Did Merlin give you a crash course?'

Arthur looked up to me and then away with a light blush. It kind of hurt that he went through Merlin to learn about me, something I would have to talk to that pesky warlock with later, but there was a more important topic to talk about.

My Magic.  

I turned to Arthur, feeling like I was watching myself instead of living the moment. It was now or never. 

I gently took his hand in mine and sighed, 'Arthur I need to tell you something...'

He looked up to me, covering my hand with his slightly larger one. Arthur's eyes pierced mine, he was willing to accept anything if it meant I would agree to be his, 'What is it?' 

I took a steadying breath, 'I'm—'

'Prince Arthur! Prince Arthur!' 
 
I silently cursed Merlin in that moment.

He stopped in front of us, bending at the waist as he tried to catch his breath, 'They are....she—sh—she....and the—with....an—....whooo....Morgana...and the feast....' I chuckled a bit as he tried to explain with his hands what he meant to say with his mouth.

Arthur rolled his eyes, 'Well, spit it out!'

'Morgana is here!' He finally said. 

I went white, as did the prince next to me. 

'Here?' I practically whispered. 

Merlin shook his head, 'She isn't here yet, they sent a messenger ahead of them, but she will be here by night fall. By the...by the feast.' 

Arthur nodded and stood, acting as if he had never asked me to accept his ring.

'Well, we best get back.' Arthur offered me his hand, which I took and stood up. I refused to look at him while I dusted myself off. 

I started to move away but he stopped me, leaning down he whispered, 'Think it over and give me an answer before the feast?'

I froze and gave a slight nod. To many things were going around my head to form an actual yes or no.

Arthur moved away, leaving me with Merlin.

Instantly the wizard was by my side, 'She is planning something. I can feel it.'

I nodded. Not knowing what else to say.

A half-proposal.  

A jealous King's Ward.

Hidden Magic.

What more could be added to my plate?

Oh right, I had to ride back on the Behemoth of a horse.

I swung my leg over and buried my face into Arthur's back, wishing I could just disappear.

XxX

AN -- So this might sound cryptic and weird, but what would you guys say to a +15 sensual scene between Arthur-Hermione in a far, distant, future chapter? I wouldn't have to change the rating or anything, but I wanted your guy's input in case you think it might ruin the romance or enhance it. Thanx!!

XxX
 

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