The days slipped by, and all too soon, Hermione found herself facing the end of March, which meant the end of her third month back in time. She was now having to face the fact that she had April, May and June left with Sirius…and that was all. There was no way that Hermione could stay for the summer; for one thing, she had nowhere to go, but even if she could find a place, staying the summer would make it even harder for her to go back afterwards. No, the end of the year would also signify the end of her time there…as much as it hurt her to admit it. She knew that if she were smart, she would leave earlier…the longer she stayed, the harder it would get to say goodbye. But every time she got even close to telling someone, she would stop herself and lie again. Malfoy and Remus remained the only two people at Hogwarts who knew the truth…and Malfoy was making it impossible for Hermione to forget it. He followed her around, stopping to talk to her only when Sirius wasn’t around, and it was always the same thing that he had to say. He would ask her to come back; surprisingly, he hadn’t yet resorted to violence again. In fact, lately he had taken to using words like “please”; a word that Hermione never thought she would here coming out of Malfoy’s mouth. Perhaps he was afraid of Sirius…or perhaps he was getting desperate. Whatever the case was, Hermione was no longer remotely afraid of him, and she was relishing this very thought one Friday afternoon as she sat in the library, when James came over to talk to her. “Hey Hermione,” he said, sitting down in the chair across the table from her. Hermione looked over at him from where she had been staring out the window. “Hi James,” she said brightly, smiling at him. James glanced around the silent library. “Is…Is Sirius around?” he asked carefully. Hermione raised an eyebrow. “No…why?” “Because it’s his birthday on Sunday, and I haven’t got him a present…and I’m assuming you haven’t either,” he said quietly. Hermione gasped. “It’s his birthday? Why didn’t anyone tell me?” she asked, horrified. “Well…we just all assumed you knew! We just forgot that you’d only known him for what, three months? But I was thinking about it today since I don’t have a present for him yet and I realized that you probably didn’t have any idea!” he explained. Hermione groaned. “What am I going to do?” she asked. James smiled wryly. “The same thing I am. We’re going to go down to Hogsmeade tomorrow…I know a secret passage…and we can buy him something there!” Hermione gaped. “But…but they’ll notice we are missing! Someone will tell!” she said. James rolled his eyes. “No they won’t. All we have to do is get Lily and Remus in on it…I can make up an excuse for Lily to spread around for me, and you just need to tell Sirius a different one…and we can tell Remus too, in case Lily needs some back up.” He said, looking as if he thought his plan was the greatest idea since the wheel. Hermione thought otherwise. “But…but what if Sirius gets the wrong idea about, you know, us…and thinks that we’ve snuck off to be…together, or something,” Hermione suggested, going red. James laughed. “No worries…whatever doubts he has will be washed away the next day when we give him the presents!” he said. Hermione still looked unconvinced. “Oh come on…would you rather NOT have a present for your boyfriend?” James asked. Hermione bit her lip. “No…I suppose you’re right. I’ll come.” She said finally. James grinned. “Brilliant. I’m off to tell Lily and Remus…you had better think up an excuse to tell Sirius,” he advised her, and he left the library. But no sooner had he left than someone else sat down in his vacated seat. “I hope you don’t mind me sitting here, because I’m not going anywhere,” Malfoy drawled. Hermione scowled. “Oh grow up Malfoy,” she said crossly. He laughed. “Is that the best you can come up with Granger? I’m not surprised!” he said. Hermione gave him a withering glare. “So, I hear you’re sneaking off to Hogsmeade with Potter Sr. tomorrow!” he said casually, a smirk playing about his mouth. Hermione straightened in her seat. “You were listening?” she asked incredulously. “Obviously. How else do you think I would know? Potter isn’t exactly my confidant…” he said sarcastically. He pushed a strand of white blond hair out of his face and stared at her smugly. “Well…You aren’t to tell anyone!” Hermione said bossily. Malfoy chuckled. “Why shouldn’t I? I’ve been waiting for ages for something like this to come up so I could blackmail you!” Hermione snapped her book shut angrily. “You are NOT going to blackmail me! I won’t let you!” she said stubbornly. “Unfortunately for you, you don’t have the power to stop me,” he said haughtily. “Oh? Who are you going to tell, anyway?” she sneered. “I can think of a few people…McGonagall, maybe?” “And why would she listen to you? You don’t pay attention in class, you never hand in your homework, and you skive off detentions. You can’t tell her, she’ll just throw you in detention without listening!” Hermione scoffed. “Maybe not…but I know some people who CAN talk to her,” Malfoy sneered. Hermione paused, looking doubtful. “You…who?” “Our dear potions professor…or rather, our FUTURE professor…I daresay he would love to have something to get Potter with.” Malfoy said maliciously. Hermione groaned. “Oh come on…why are you doing this?” she asked desperately. He laughed loudly, causing Madam Pince to squint beadily at him from her desk. “Last time I checked, I didn’t need a reason to make your life hell! And lately I feel I’ve been being too nice…” he smirked. Hermione stood up. “I don’t have time to listen to you,” she said loftily, and with that, she grabbed her books and left the library huffily, leaving Malfoy looking incredibly satisfied. *** “James…I need to talk to you…” Hermione hissed into James’ ear ten minutes later. James looked up from the book he was reading in front of the fire. “Alright,” Hermione grabbed his arm and dragged him out the portrait hole, stopping a few meters away. “We might have trouble,” she said shortly. James looked surprised. “Why? What’s happened?” “A Slytherin kid might have overheard our conversation in the library,” she muttered. James groaned. “Oh damn…” he said. “What are we going to do?” Hermione hissed. James frowned. “Well…we’re going to go through with it, aren’t we? Who cares about this kid…he might not have heard, right? It’s only a maybe?” Hermione bit her lip. “Er…right.” She said slowly, not entirely sure why she wasn’t telling James the whole truth. His face relaxed. “Alright. Listen, have you thought up an alibi? I have…tomorrow I’m going to be serving an all day detention in the Hospital Wing…I was a really bad boy this week, and so many teachers gave me detentions that they decided to just pool them together and make me work all Saturday!” he explained, a fake sad look on his face. Hermione grimaced. “Ouch!” “Yeah I know…but fortunately, I won’t ACTUALLY be doing that! I’ll be spending the day in Hogsmeade!” he said wryly. “So what are YOU doing tomorrow?” Hermione frowned. “I don’t know…I was thinking maybe I could be…I dunno, visiting a sick relative or something?” she suggested. James shook his head. “That won’t work. Remus used that one on us too many times…that is, before he told us what he was. Sirius will be suspicious.” He said. “Well, what should I do then? I can’t say I’ve got a detention!” “Why not?” “Well for one thing, then we’d BOTH have detentions, and that would be suspicious in itself! And for another, I don’t get detentions!” she explained. James frowned. “Jeez! What are we supposed to say then?” he grumbled. Hermione racked her brain. “Oooh, I know! I can pretend I’ll be helping one of the teachers out planning a lesson or marking papers or something!” she said excitedly. James raised an eyebrow. “You would actually do that?” he asked incredulously. Hermione reddened. “Well…yes, I supposed I would.” She said. “So that’s settled then. I’ll meet you by the one-eyed witch statue at 9:00 tomorrow morning.” Hermione was about to walk away, when James called her back. “Wait a second…how did you know about the one-eyed witch statue?” he asked suspiciously, eyes narrowed. Hermione froze. Obviously she knew because of Harry; he’d talked about it before, and once she had rescued his invisibility cloak from it. “Er…you mentioned it to me, remember? In the library!” she lied quickly. James furrowed his brows, trying to remember. “I must have caught temporary memory loss…Anyway; I’ll meet you there tomorrow. G’Night!” he said brightly, and he turned towards the portrait hole and disappeared ****** Sirius fell for their excuses without prompting. It almost seemed too easy to Hermione as she and James met in front of the one-eyed witch. But when she voiced her concerns to James, he laughed them off. “Don’t worry, it just means we planned it well!” he assured her. So Hermione left her doubts behind and enjoyed the adventure in the passage out of the school. They reached Honeydukes without delay, but had to use James’ invisibility cloak to get out without detection. Once they were outside though, they stuffed the cloak back into James’ bag and enjoyed the warmest day the year had offered yet. They walked down the streets of the quaint village in silence, taking in the sights. “So have you given any thought to what you might get Sirius?” James asked presently. Hermione jerked out of her stupor. She’d been watching James, thinking about how much he was like Harry. It was something she’d been doing a lot lately; studying James and trying to point out differences between he and Harry. Today she had been noticing the jaunty spring that James’ step held. Harry had a simpler, meeker way of walking. This was one thing Hermione knew for sure; Harry was much humbler than his father was. “Er…no, not really. I was hoping you’d help me out there,” Hermione said sheepishly, in answer to James’ question. “Well…I’m buying him something from Zonko’s obviously, but I dunno if you want to look somewhere else or not,” he said. Hermione looked around. “Listen, you go to Zonko’s and get what you’re getting…I’m gonna look around a bit. Let’s meet at the Three Broomsticks at say, 11:00?”she suggested. James nodded his approval. “See you in a bit!” James walked off in the direction of the Joke Shop, and Hermione started off down the road. Fairly soon, her eyes lit upon a little shop that she’d never noticed before; Madam Princeton’s Gifts. “It’s worth a try,” she muttered to herself, and she entered the shop. A stout, kindly looking woman greeted her as she went in. “Good morning, dear! May I help you?” she asked nicely. “Er…no, thanks, I’ll just look around a bit.” She answered, smiling, and started to look around at the array of gifts the store had to offer. Chocolates, candies, necklaces, flowers…Hermione could see that this store was rather more aimed at boys buying for their girlfriends, rather than the other way around. Suddenly a little stand caught her eye, and she leaned over to read the tag hanging off it. THE QUICK CAPTURE CAMERA Record special moments with this easy to use, automatic develop camera! Equipped with a Shrinking Charm to fit it into any pocket or bag! Zoom and flash give off 10% less smoke than other cameras of its class! Don’t miss this chance to get a great deal and capture your memories forever! Hermione looked up at the camera on the stand. It was small, black and box like. She smiled to herself. Sirius might like this. It would be taking a risk…but she decided to go for it. She bought it, and a little black photo album to go along with it. Feeling satisfied with her purchase, Hermione strolled out into the sunshine, shopping bag swinging on her arm. She mulled around the shops for a while, until it was time to meet James. She saw him standing outside the Three Broomsticks, his bag looking rather full. “Hello! I take it you found something?” he asked as she came up. Hermione nodded happily. “I think he’ll enjoy it.” She said. “Well, should we get a drink?” he inquired. But before Hermione could answer, she spotted someone over James’ shoulder and gasped. “Well, well, well! Fancy meeting you here!” Malfoy shouted at them. James had whirled around, and when he saw who it was, he had his wand out and pointed at Malfoy before Hermione could say a word. “Malfoy. What are you doing here?” he growled. Malfoy looked utterly taken aback. Hermione was equally confused; she had not told James about Malfoy, and since he hardly ever came to classes, how could he know who this was? And why was he pointing his wand at him? “What do you mean?” asked Malfoy, looking suspicious. “You graduated years ago, Lucius, what are you doing back in Hogsmeade? I thought you were up making trouble at the ministry?” Hermione gave a gasp of comprehension. But before she could say something to James, Malfoy had opened his mouth. “I am not Lucius,” he spat, and Hermione was surprised at the malevolence with which Malfoy said his father’s name. James frowned. “What are you talking about? I recognize you, you can’t fool me…” he hissed. “James, wait, this isn’t him...this is…er…” Hermione began, but didn’t know how to finish. “Draco Malfoy is the name.” Malfoy interrupted shortly. “Distantly related to that scum of a person you mentioned earlier,” Hermione frowned. Since when did Malfoy hate his father so much? “Oh…er, sorry about that…” James said sheepishly, lowering his wand. Hermione stepped forward. “What are you doing here?” she hissed. “You didn’t tell anyone, did you?” “No actually, I didn’t. I thought I’d come down myself.” Hermione frowned. “Well you aren’t welcome, so go back to the castle or I’ll tell James you really are Lucius Malfoy and he’ll curse you to pieces!” she said angrily. Malfoy laughed, but it was a nervous one. “I’ll go…but not to the castle. No, I think I’ll hang around here a bit longer…take in the sights…” he drawled, and strolled off, the sun glinting on his hair. James raised and eyebrow. “What was that?” he asked quizzically. “Nothing. Just an old enemy.” she said shortly, and promptly changed the subject.
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