Walking to the Great Hall for breakfast is awkward, to say the least. This late into the morning everyone is already gathered and enjoying their breakfasts, leaving Draco and I as the only two roaming the deserted halls. There’s a different air between us now. Last night felt somewhat fluid and playful. Draco and I didn’t have to follow our prosaic roles as enemies in the confines of that hidden, dimly lit private bedroom. We could throw insults back and forth along with little bits of private thoughts- it was easy.

This morning, however, in the broad daylight with nothing like Veritaserum as an excuse to overshare or a fireplace to cozy next to, Draco is acting different and I’m sure the same could be said for me. Now, it seems as if a wall has appeared between us, one that’s less easy to break through.

Both of our minds must be wandering, because we manage to let the shifting staircases get the best of us, ending up lost more than once. The entire time I’m hoping that Draco will stop and say something, anything to the shorten the distance growing between us. As the clanking of dishes and echos of chatter become louder, my hope begins to dwindle.

Just then, Draco clumsily clears his throat. “So…”

“Yes?” I ask too quickly, making it clear that I was waiting for him to speak.

“I think I should wait out here for a few minutes. You know, so people don’t think anything stupid,” Draco announces hurriedly. He smooths the front of his robes, as if a wrinkle may give away that I just spent the night in his room.

“Oh,” I sigh, trying not to sound disappointed. “Right.” I turn to walk away, but Draco’s voice interrupts me.

“Oh, and… Potter?”

“What?” I question, becoming slightly irritated. Last night, we were on a first name basis and now we’re back to this? I know that I’m probably hungry and coming off of a bad night’s rest, but I can’t help the slight annoyance that seeps into my mind.

“Remember to cover up the tie,” Draco says, while motioning to his own tie wrapped neatly around his neck. Draco had to let me borrow one this morning along with the rest of the school uniform. The only difference in what I’m wearing now is a tie that is silver and green, not my normal Gryffindor colors.

“Yeah, no problem,” I snap a little harshly. I hitch up my robe to cover my neck before walking brusquely though the doors, ignoring to odd glances and whispers beginning to buzz in the air. When I finally find my seat I sit next to Ron, slamming my hands down on the table. Ron’s dozing head jolts off the table, and it takes him a few seconds to recognize my face.

“Harry!” He yells. “Thank goodness you’re alright. We had no idea where you were last night and I was-” Ron stifles a yawn. “I was up all night waiting for you to come back, wasn’t I Hermionie? She said I shouldn’t worry, but after everything that’s happened I wasn’t to sure you were going to come back from… wherever it is that you were...” Ron’s eyes sag tiredly through his whole explanation, causing a wave a guilt to wash over me.

“I’m sorry Ron. I had no idea…”

“That’s alright, mate,” he says and begins stuffing his mouth heartily full of breakfast scramble.

“Where were you last night, anyway, Harry?” Hermione inquires smartly. She was so quiet, I almost forgot that she was sitting right across from us.

“Well, hello to you too, Hermione. I’m doing just great this morning, and yourself?”

“Yes, it’s quite clear that you’re doing great, Harry. No new nicks or bruises, no scratches or tales of near death adventures. It’s seems to me that you’re perfectly and completely fine, right?”

“Yeah…” I say apprehensively. I’m not really following what she’s trying to get across. Clearly neither is Ron by the way his mouth hangs open, allowing crumbs to fall freely.

“So, if you really are great and all, you weren’t out fighting monsters,” she raises a finger to point at me.

“No,” I shake my head.

“You weren’t out fighting Lord Voldemort,” she ticks off a second finger. Ron winces and cowers away from Hermione, although I think it’s from a different reason than mentioning Voldemort.

I can only shake my head again.

“And you weren’t out fighting that nasty Umbridge Lady,” she raises another finger and clasps her hands in her lap in a very Mrs.-Weasley-like way.

“No” I mutter.

“Well, that’s a shame really. That women could do with some good fighting…” Hermione looks wistfully at her pile of eggs on her plate. Then, very suddenly, she focuses back on me. “But that’s not the point. If you weren’t out doing any of those three things last night, then you had no reason to be out after-hours. I am a prefect, you know. If I had any sense at all, I would take points from Gryffindor…”

“Hermione, no! You can’t!” Ron erupts, hysterically shaking his head.

“You wouldn’t do that, Hermione,” I gasp.

“Oh, I would. But, perhaps I can let it slide if you tell us where you were last night,” Hermione says with a smile, knowing I’ve fallen victim to her perfect setup. Her eyes flicker down to my uniform, as if it could be hiding any hints. I remember the Slytherin tie wrapped neatly around my neck and tighten my hold on the robe covering it. When Hermione sees my hands around my neck and robe, her eyes narrow.

“What’s on your neck?” she says and sets down her fork.

“What are you talking about, Hermione? Have you gone mad?” Ron questions.

“Hermione don’t,” I say and swat her hand away when she reached for my robe, nearly unveiling the green stripes hidden beneath. Why did I even put on this stupid tie?

“You’re clearly hiding something, Harry. And if you won’t tell me what then I’ll have to take 10 poi-”

The doors to the Great Hall burst open, causing a cool rush of air to brush at everyone's ankles and the room to fall silent. Draco struts in, takes long and slow strides as he makes his way to the Slytherin table, his chest inflated and nose pointed up. Just before he sits, he holds up a hand and says, “Don’t let me keep you all waiting. Dig in.”

This causes his cronies surrounding him to snicker and the rest of the students to simultaneously roll their eyes. The conversations pick up again, and when I look back at Hermione, she’s sitting with both elbows on the table, her chin resting on her folded hands in mid air. A small smile creeps onto her face.

“I knew it,” Hermione sighs, looking contempt with having seemingly come up with the answer.

“Knew what?” Ron looks from Hermione to me wildly. My hands start to sweat while they grip my robe. She couldn’t know.

“Must’ve been an eventful night, hm?” Hermione entices. “Perhaps the school has a new couple, now-”

“Come off it, Hermione,” I say while trying to sound assertive, but falling just short of embarrassed. “Nothing happened, alright?”

“Yes, I’m sure nothing happened,” she said with a wicked laugh, causing Ron to go red.

“What? What do you mean? Where were you, Harry?” Ron looks between us and I stay silent.

“Isn’t it obvious, Ron? Our little Harry, here, stayed the night with-”

“With Cho. I stayed with- er- Cho,” I interrupt, trying to deter Hermione’s atempts at ruining my life.

“But that’s impossible. There’s no boys allowed in the girls dorms, plus Harry doesn’t know where the Ravenclaw tower is,” Ron scoffs. “Fat chance there.”

“Hermione helped me find it and get in. Isn’t that right, Hermione?” I smile and look back at her. If Hermione insists upon knowing everything, then at least I can pull her down with me.

She glares at me, “Oh, yes. I forgot about that small detail,” she rolls her eyes and continues eating. “So, Harry… How are you and Cho doing?”

Ron looks at me, waiting to be ‘filled in’ on this new information.

“Oh, not much has happened. We’ve kind of just been talking,” I say truthfully, whether talking about Draco or the real Cho.

“Well, that’s good. Perhaps you should go talk to Cho? She didn’t look too happy walking in late this morning,” she says wisely. She glances at Ron to see if he picks up on any of her hints, but he’s busy downing a glass of pumpkin juice.

“Maybe I will,” I say, although I know it’s far from the truth. Suddenly, I feel something hit my leg and a memory from last night registers.

“What are you guys even doing? Is it really what you want or are you just playing with fire?” she says very seriously.

“I… I don’t know. We had a great time last night- no, nothing happened like that- but this morning he-she” I quickly correct myself, causing Ron’s head to pick up and focus on the conversation. “She wasn’t really talking to me at all. It was kind of…”

“Dreadful?” she finishes, sounding like she knows exactly what I’m going through. She glances quickly at Ron before focusing back on me.

“Yes,” I sigh. “And I don’t know what I should do.”

“Well, you should talk to her. Soon, before it’s toon late?” she says, nibbling at her toast. She’s so good at covering up Draco with Cho, she even has me wondering if she’s really talking about Draco. Then, she gestures to her tie and raises her eyebrows. It takes me a second, but I realize that my- well, Draco’s- tie is showing completely. I hoist my robe higher around my neck.

“You think I should talk to her? Right now?”

“Right now,” she nods. The thought of talking to Draco right now makes my stomach tighten, but I know Hermione's right. I have to do this today, before it’s too late.

“Hold on, I have an idea,” I say and drop my fork, hearing it hit the ground. I lean under the table to pick it up and find myself face to face with a little Slytherin first year.

“Why, hello there,” I say and smile.

“Harry Potter!” the little boy shrieks. Once he regains his composure from the initial shock, his face contorts into a rancorous expression, “I don’t talk to half-bloods like yourself,” he spits.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever,” I roll my eyes. “Listen, I know you’ve heard everything we’ve said so far. Now, there’s one last thing I want you to tell Draco when you report back to him.”

“I will not do anything you say,” he scrunches up his nose and crosses his arms. Was I this annoying in my first year?

“Just tell Draco to meet me at the Room of Requirements, okay?”

“I don’t take orders from you, Harry Po- ow!” he shrieks as Hermione’s foot roughly connects with his ribcage. Two loud clatters of forks being dropped are followed by Hermione’s and Ron’s head ducking under the table

“Hermione, how the bloody hell did you know-”

“I’ll explain later, Ron,” Hermione says impatiently and turns to the little boy she just kicked.

“I suggest you pass the message along, or my leg might have another spasm,” Hermione hisses. The rancorous look in her eyes is enough to make the boy cower away.

“Alright, alright. I’ll tell him,” the little boy says as he rubs his side sorely.

“Good decision, I’d say,” Ron pipes in.

The boy opens his mouth as if to say something, but decides against it. He insteads begins crawling away towards the slytherin table, dodging legs underneath the table. Hermione, Ron and I watch him leave before snatching our dirty forks from the ground and resurfacing above the tabletop.

“Nice work, Hermione,” Ron says a little timidly. I’m sure the intense stare that Hermione gave the little boy is still fresh in Ron’s mind.

“Thanks, Ron,” Hermione says brightly with a full smile. “But, now I think Harry has some place to be?” She looks at me expectantly, eyebrows raised and hands folded to rest on the table.

“Oh, right,” I say and look at my plate. My body feels as if it has been electrified, buzzing with excitement and anxiety.

“Well, aren’t you meant to be going now, Harry?” Hermione says carefully.

“Yes,” I say, but make no effort to leave the table. I can feel my nerves beginning to get the best of me.

“Harry, you’ve got to go before it’s too late,” Hermione states firmly, as if reading my mind.

“You’re not backing out, now, are you? ‘Cos, It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?” Ron questions exasperatedly.

“But, we’ll… be alone…” I say quietly.

“Well, we can come with you if you’d like,” Hermione says and begins to stand.

“No- no!” I grab her hand and sit her back down, “That’s… that’s not necessary. I can go on my own.”

“Well, if you insist,” she smiles smartly at me from across the table. How did she manage to get me begging to go alone?

“You’re a wicked woman, Hermione,” Ron says in a state of awe.

“Thanks Ron. You’re just full of compliments today,” Hermione beams at Ron in her stroke of excellence.

Ron turns to me and whispers to me as I leave the table, “I don’t know how she does it, mate. She’s quite good, that Hermoine”

“Yes,” I mutter grudgingly. “Yes she is.”

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