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The best laid plans

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Chapter 16 - Happy Birthday Hermione 

16th September

 

Harry had just left the common room when he saw him.

“Hey Wood! Wait up!” Harry caught up to his Quidditch captain. Wood had sent word with the twins about the first Quidditch practice of the year and Harry needed to talk to him about it.

“Hey, Potter, what's up? Did the twins get to you about our practice this Sunday?”

“Yeah, that's what I need to talk to you about. I'm afraid I won't be able to make it Sunday. I already have plans.” Harry hoped Wood would be OK with this, but he doubted it. He knew his captain could be a little obsessive about Quidditch.

 

“Or you could just change them, Potter. I want us ready this year.”

“Can't reschedule this one, sorry.” He really couldn’t. Birthdays came on specific dates. 

“You're normally better than this Harry...what is important enough to miss our first practice of the year? You know this is my last year my last chance to win the Cup. This is my last year at Hogwarts.”

“Sorry Oliver, but it's Hermione's birthday. I want to win the cup as well, but Hermione deserves this from me.” 

Oliver smiled at Harry, nodding understandingly, “You better be at the next scheduled practice with bells on, we can only practice once without our seeker.” 

Harry relaxed, smiling widely back at him, “ Thanks Wood.”

 

Harry had been getting everything ready for Hermione for days. It wasn’t easy; he had to keep ditching his girlfriend to do something for his her. He told her he was still pondering his personal project. He was doing that as well, just not as much as sorting out Hermione’s big day.

There were a few elements he needed to bring together before Sunday.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Sunday 19th September - Hermione's birthday

 

Harry woke up early due to the vibrating pillow under his head. If you did the spell right it happened at about six in the morning. He had to get up quickly if he wanted to make sure everything was ready for Hermione. He threw on some of his nicer clothes that they had picked up in London in the holidays. He looked through his trunk and found Hermione’s present. It was already wrapped and ready to go. He also grabbed today's entertainment and made his way down to the common room.

 

Angelina and Alicia were already in the common room waiting in their quidditch robes with brooms swung over their shoulders. Angelina spotted Harry first as he entered the room, “Hey, Harry's up. Wait...what are you wearing? You look good, but you can't practice Quidditch dressed like that.”

Great , Harry thought, Wood hadn’t told them.

“Sorry guys I'm not flying today”, both of them looked surprised; missing one of Wood’s practice sessions was pretty much non-optional, “I already had plans before Wood called the practice,” Harry explained, trying not to go into too much detail. He was sure his teammates would tease him if they knew and he didn’t have time if he wanted everything to be set up before Hermione came down from the dorms.

 

It was then that Alicia spotted the wrapped present and bag Harry was carrying. She grinned evilly as she nudged Angelina, “Angelina, look at what Harry is carrying. I think our little seeker is going on a date ”, she put extra emphasis on the word date. 

Angelina quickly caught on and started overreacting in a teasing manner, “oh woe is us. Our chances at the Cup dashed. All so our seeker can snog his girlfriend.”

Harry blushed deeply, “Oh, leave off, will you!? It’s only once. It’s Hermione's birthday and I need to set everything up and be back here before she comes down to the common room.”

With that he made his retreat out of the portrait of the fat lady, leaving behind two gossiping and giggly girls.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione awoke late. There was something special about today, but her sleep-fogged brain couldn’t remember what. After feeling her wake up, Crookshanks came and started rubbing his face into hers. Hermione idly scratched the cat’s ears, mentally thanking her parents for the early birthday gift. Then she remembered; it was the 19th of September.

Her 14th birthday.

 

She cuddled Crookshanks for half an hour before her stomach told her that breakfast was a good plan. It was Sunday and Hermione had no plans, so she grabbed some comfortable clothes for the day.

As she got dressed, she wondered if she would see Harry for lunch; she knew he had quidditch practice today, she had heard Katy and the Weasley twins talking about it last night in the common room. She dressed, and with a quick pass of a brush through her hair, she began making her way down the spiral steps that connected the girl’s dormitories together. 

Hermione was surprised to see Harry watching the entrance to the dorms as she walked into the comen room. He got up out of his chair and came over to her. She noticed he was wearing some of his best clothes. The green t-shirt really set off his eyes, whereas the blazer that he wore over it made him look older. He looked good. She just wanted to curl up and cuddle into him. Maybe even a little more…

 

Before that thought could go anywhere Harry reached her;

“Good morning Hermione. Happy birthday.” He kissed her on the cheek.

“Morning, Harry, thank you. I thought you had Quidditch practice this morning?” She was curious about that,

“Told Wood I had other plans. He understood.”

Hermione doubted that Wood would be so understanding. “Really?”

“Well, no. He went on about how this was his last chance at the cup, but he gave in this once. Now enough about Wood, would you please go get Crooks, then allow me to escort the two of you to breakfast?”

“You want Crookshanks to...come with us?” That got her logical side thinking, why would Harry want to take Crookshanks down to the great hall? The only pets that went there regularly where owls and Ron’s rat, as far as she knew. “Ok, wait here.”

 

She quickly rushed back upstairs and found Crookshanks spread out right in the middle of her bed. “Hey, Crooks. Harry seems to have something planned for us.” She picked the cat up and cradled him in her arms. “Come on, let's go see what surprises he has waiting for us.”

When she arrived back at the common room, Hermione giggled at Harry’s antics. He tried to be gentlemanly and offered her his arm, but they were full of cat so she couldn’t take it. “Just lead on Harry. You seem to be the one with a plan.”

 

Harry regained his composure and nodded. He gestured to the portrait hole and said “Right this way.” They walked out of the common room towards the grand staircase, but instead of leading her down, they went up. She followed him to the seventh floor. They were walking around the corridor with a strange tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, who tried to train trolls to dance in the ballet, only there was a door there that she had never seen before. Harry quickly opened it and gestured for her to go in first.

 

The room was amazing. It was decorated similar to the Gryffindor common room, only instead of red and gold with dark woods, it was periwinkle blue lilac accents and lighter woods. A large lit fireplace dominated one wall, perfect to ward off the chill of the Scottish September air. In front of the fire was a very comfortable looking sofa. Between Hermione and the back of the sofa was a table set up with what was probably breakfast.

Harry followed her in and shut the door behind himself. “Happy birthday Hermione”, he smiled at her, awaiting her reaction.

 

Hermione put Crookshanks down. He promptly went and stretched out in front of the fire on a cushion that had appeared there suddenly. She then threw her arms around Harry and pulled him into a tight hug. She felt his arms wrap around her waist, the first time he’d ever done it without any hesitation. That made her smile as much as the feeling of his arms around her.

“So...what do you want to do first, have breakfast or open your presents?”

 

Hermione tensed up a little but still sighed. Of course, he had bought her more presents, even when she’d explicitly told him not to. He really needed to be more responsible with his gold. “Harry, you can't go around wasting your gold like that, you already bought me my trunk.” 

But he just stood there with his arms around her, his face adorning that smirk he had whenever he thought he was being clever, “You may want to see what I actually got you before you tell me off. Mine is the smaller one.”

 

With that she grew curious, disentangling herself from Harry to go open his present to her. She ripped off the pale blue paper and looked at what he had gotten her. When Hermione saw what he’d gotten her, she smiled brightly at him. 

“It just felt weird to not give you something today, and I know they are your favourite.” Hermione could understand that as she looked over the box of deluxe sugar quills. Even a top of the line box like this wouldn’t even come to one galleon, and she relaxed.

 

The other present was from her parents. It was along the same lines as Harry’s, but where Harry got her a few things to cheat on her parents’ sugar ban, they had sent a large selection of sugar-free sweets. There was also a letter from them, but the smell of food was quickly reminding her that she had gotten up in search of breakfast. After a little prompting to Harry, he lifted the big silver lid that Hermione was ninety percent sure was called a cloche, revealing what looked to be an amazing breakfast.

 

There were a lot of Hermione’s favourites; kippers, poached eggs, a platter of her favourite fruits, but there were also items she had never seen at Hogwarts before, like croissants, pain du Chocolat, and orange juice. God, she missed orange juice when she was at Hogwarts. She’d never understood why witches and wizards preferred pumpkin juice. But how had Harry gotten fresh French pastries and orange juice?

 

The two of them had a pleasant breakfast discussing their school year so far, at least, the little there was of it. Harry shared that he was a little nervous about his upcoming Runes project. Professor Babbling had assigned Harry and herself to work with two Slytherins; Daphne Greengrass and Tracy Davis. Harry was worried as Slytherins had never caused him anything but trouble. Hermione was more circumspect about the whole thing. While it was true Harry and her had never heard a single nice word from any of the Slytherins, it was also true that most never said anything at all. That left people like Malfoy to represent the whole house.

 

After breakfast, Harry moved them over to the sofa in front of the fire. For a few moments, Hermione thought Harry’s intention was to get somewhat... physical . What surprised her was just how little the idea bothered her. Harry’s plan, however, was better, at least to her. The two of them cuddled up on the sofa and Harry pulled out a book he must have hidden by the sofa before he met her that morning.

 

Harry remembered how lucky he was to find out about this room;

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry went after the twins, pleading with them. He had been badgering them about this for days, “Look, guys, I know you know where the kitchens are. You get all the stuff for the Gryffindor’s parties, and I need to find it.”

Upon hearing this, Fred and George stopped in their tracks, looking at each other. They seemed to be having a silent conversation, one Harry wasn’t privy to. After a short while, they both simultaneously turned back to Harry, their trademark mischievous grins on both their faces.

“Yeh we know-”  Fred began, only for George to continue,

“where they are.”

Then it was back to Fred, “But why do you-” 

“want to know where they are.”

“Are you plotting a deed?” 

“Maybe one of great mischief?”

 

The twin’s ‘twin speak’ was easy to follow after two years, but Harry still felt like he was watching a tennis match from centre court. He wondered what he had to tell them in order to get them to give up the information. Unfortunately, the only thing he could come up with was the truth, and knowing Fred and George, there was no way they wouldn’t give Harry a hard time. He resigned himself to their comments and gave them the answer they were looking for, “I’m looking to make a few arrangements for Hermione’s birthday.”

 

The twin’ grins only grew bigger, “Big party in the common room?”

“That’s our speciality.”

“Let us take care of-”

Harry cut them off quickly, before they got any ideas, “No! No, this is for Hermione, not an excuse for all of Gryffindor to party. Hermione is not a fan of big parties. She deserves something nice for her, not to be an excuse for everyone else to have fun.”

 

The twins looked slightly guilty for a second, but then it was gone. They began speaking to each other again, “My dear brother, I do believe that Harry has just told us not to throw a party for his girlfriend.”

“You know brother, you seem to be right. This is not how this conversation normally goes.”

“True, but consider the lovely lady in question.”

“You seem to be having a thought. Do continue.”

“Well...the beautiful witch in question can be rather...fierce, when angered.”

“It seems that young Harry here likes the feisty type. But what is your point, brother of mine?”

“Well, brother dearest, it is most simple. If we throw a party that Harry’s fierce temptress doesn’t want, we get the privilege of being on the receiving end of her fury.”

“I think I understand your thinking. And if Harry is wrong, he simply needs to apologize.”

“Exactly. So, do we just give young Harry here the information he needs? Without demanding payment?”

“Well, he did save gin-gin last year. I would say we owe him a few for that one.” The other twin nodded to that. At this point, Harry had given up trying to tell which one was Fred and which was George.

 

The twins proceeded to tell him where the kitchens were. Apparently, they were directly underneath the Great Hall, you had to go down the Hufflepuff corrido until you found a painting of a bowl of fruit, where you just had to pick up the pay for it to open. He thanked them and went to have a look. Unfortunately, he was in the common room when he’d finally mangled the knowledge out of the twins. That meant it was a lot of stairs between him and the kitchens.

 

But he soon found himself in the Hufflepuff corridor, and there was indeed a picture of a bowl of fruit. He had a quick look around to see if anyone was watching him; he didn't put it past the twins for this to be a prank. He wouldn't be surprised if what happened when someone tickled the pear was that the offender got pelted with rotten fruit. It was after all the sort of prank the twins would play.

 

With immense relief, Harry saw that the painting swung open as soon as he tickled the particular piece of fruit. The centre of the kitchens was almost an exact replica of the Great Hall above; the four long House tables running the length of the room, with the staff table dominating the far side. Harry suspected that each of the tables were positioned directly beneath their counterparts above, so that the prepared food was ready to be transported at the start of each meal.

 

What was different from the Great Hall was the outside of the room. The outer walls were filled with fireplaces, stoves, ovens and work counters. Manning all these workspaces were a rather large number of house-elves; washing dishes, stirring stews, baking bread, and the hundreds of other jobs it took to prepare the feast. Harry was looking around, just wondering who to talk to about arranging things for Hermione's birthday, when he suddenly felt collision around his middle.

 

“Harry Potter has come to see Dobby! Dobby has been hoping to see Harry Potter and Harry Potter has come to him! How can we help the great Harry Potter sir?” Harry looked down and saw what appeared to be a stack of tea cosies pressed up against his chest. It took a moment for him to realise that the cosies were, in fact, being worn as hats and that the one wearing the hats was Dobby, the House Elf he had met last year.

 

“Dobby!? What are you doing here?”

“Dobby was needing work and Hoggywarts is always having work for us House Elves mister Harry Potter sir. Dobby likes working here.”

“I thought you wanted to be free Dobby?”

“Dobby is as free as a House Elf can be thanks to the great Harry Potter!”

 

Harry's conversation with Dobby proceeded from there; Dobby was ecstatic to help Harry sort out a birthday celebration for Hermione. Harry had asked if Dobby could do any French food as Hermione had missed her trip there this summer. Dobby, it turned out, was very good at French cooking. The Malfoys’, having descended from a family of French wizards, had a lot of French food in their family cookbooks.

The two of them sat there for a good twenty minutes going over the menu for Hermione's birthday. Dobby had suggested that he make Bouillabaisse for dinner. The French fish stew sounded perfect to Harry, exactly the sort of thing that Hermione would like. He wasn’t sure he would like it but he was willing to try for Hermione’s sake.

 

He also told Dobby about the problem he was having finding a suitable location. Harry was hoping for a private day with Hermione, just the two of them. The problem was that most of the Castle were either completely unsuitable for what he had planned, or was being used for some other purpose. There were always the unused classrooms on the sixth floor, but they were highly likely to be disturbed in them, most students use them on and off when they needed one; it wasn't uncommon for those classrooms to be taken over by The Choir, Gobstones Club, or Chess Club, as well as random students just looking for a place to practice their spell work.

 

Harry had expected the small elf to apologise and say that he didn't know anything that could help, instead, Dobby suddenly gained huge grin on his face, ”I was knowing just the place Mr Harry Potter sir. It's a secret of the Castle, I don't think any of the students know about it. But we Elves is knowing. There be’s a special room that only exists when the one seeking it has need of it, and the room is always as the seeker needs. If the Seeker is needing a sleep then the room is a bedroom if the Seeker is needing to warm up then the room is having a big lit fireplace.

 

Dobby took Harry to see the ‘Room of Requirement’ as he called it. That lead to another trek up seven sets of stairs, back up to the Seventh floor. Dobby then gave him the instructions on how to summon a room. According to his elfish friend, all he needed to do was to walk up and down past the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy while thinking of the exact type of room he needed. Harry tried it out;

 

‘I need a place to celebrate Hermione's birthday’

 

‘I need a place for me and Hermione to spend the day’

 

‘I need a place Hermione would like’

 

Mixed in with these clear thoughts were jumbled up images; Hermione's favourite colours, the places she preferred to sit in the Gryffindor common room, everything and anything he could think of about his girlfriend. Then suddenly where they had been only a wall before, there was now a rather plain looking door. Harry hesitated for a few seconds; 2 years in this Castle that taught him to be cautious: trick steps, vanishing cabinet doors that only work if you treated them just right. Dobby, however, didn't seem to worry about such things, he just threw open the door and ran inside.

 

“Harry Potter sir needs to come in here and see this. Dobby is thinking it be perfect.” 

He followed the House Elf into the room and was taken aback by just how well this room fit into his plans. The reason was things he didn't think he would ever have thought of himself, such as a cat bed next to the large roaring fire. The art of the walls was not the standard Hogwarts fair of portraits, what is a collection of landscape’s depicting idyllic countrysides that Harry suspected were of France. It was all perfect The room itself was decorated like a common room but in place of the usual house colours will Hermione's favourite colours periwinkle blue pale lilac. This room would suit his needs perfectly.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry had just finished reading Hermione a collection of wizard fairy tales he’d found in the Hogwarts library. His plan for today seemed to be going well. He was trying to invoke the good side of when they had become a couple. Without all the scary just transformed into a part cat feelings that she had at the time. 

He had chosen the book ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’, because it was a book he doubted Hermione had read yet. The stories themselves had reminded Harry of Aesop's fables, that he’d read in the muggle school library once when he was hiding from Dudley and his gang.

 

The sound of a single chime glass bell filled the room. Hermione looked around for the source but couldn’t find any. She looked questioningly at Harry who smiled and answered with a question, “Would you care for a spot of lunch?”

The growl of Hermione’s stomach answered for her, causing her to blush and him to grin. They moved back over to the table, abandoning the comfortable sofa. A frown appeared on Hermione's face as the food appeared in front of them, just like it did in the great hall.

 

Harry lifted the large cloche with a flourish, “Bon appetight.”

Hermione giggled, “its ‘bon appetit’, not ‘ bon appetight’”, then she saw what was under the cloche. “Oh, Bouillabaisse! How did you know it was one of my favourites Harry?” She asked as she dished herself a large helping from the serving bowl in the centre of the table.

Harry considered pretending he knew for a few seconds but instead told Hermione the truth, “I didn’t know. But you missed going to Nice this year and Bouillabaisse has a lot of things you like in it. I just thought you would like it.” It was Harry’s turn to blush now as he admitted how much attention he paid to what his girlfriend liked to eat.

 

Hermione leaned over and gave Harry a kiss on the cheek, “It’s amazing Harry, thank you.” They ate without speaking for a few minutes. Hermione definitely seemed to enjoy the food, and Harry found the French fish stew to be rather good, even if he didn’t enjoy it as much as Hermione.

“Harry, how is the food getting here? At first, I thought you brought breakfast here this morning and put it under stasis charms till you brought me here, but lunch just appeared here.”

“Yep, same way it does in the great hall.”

 

Hermione thought about that for a few moments, “But...where did it come from? The first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration is food, so it had to come from somewhere.”

“Yeah, same place as the food in the Great Hall. The Hogwarts kitchens.” 

“How do you know that?”

“Because I had arranged the French food. It's not standard Hogwarts food, after all.” He went on, telling her about finding the kitchens and how he had found Dobby there working with the other elves. Hermione was frowning most of the time;

 

“But isn't that the same as what the Malfoys where doing? Isn't he still a slave?” She looked disgustedly at the food still on the table.

Harry hesitated for almost a minute before replying, “I-i don't know ‘Mione. When he still...last year Dobby, he wasn’t happy until I helped get him away from Mr Malfoy. But he was happy, really happy now.”

“But Harry, if they’ve been slaves for their whole lives then they are conditioned to like act like that.” She pushed her plate away.

“I’m not sure Hermione,” she looked at him in shock, “I was talking with Dobby and apart from appearing happy, he said a few things that made me think there might be more to it. Like, he was ‘ needing work and Hoggywarts is always having work for us House Elves.’. And he said he was as free as a House Elf could be . He made it sound like there was something about them that needed to work.” He tried to explain what it seemed like to him.

 

Hermione stared at him, unconvinced, “Harry, after what your aunt and uncle did to you, how can you be Ok with this!?”

Harry tried to explain once again, “That's just it Hermione, like last year when he was forced to serve the Malfoys. That felt like me and those people. He didn’t feel that way any more. If he had I would already be doing something.” That seemed to make her think. Harry saw that she had left half her food, “‘Mione, is something wrong with your lunch?”

 

She looked at her half-finished bowl of Bouillabaisse and fresh baked and still warm baguette, “It’s perfect, but I can't eat food made by slaves Harry, i just can’t.”

Harry understood, “I wish more people were like you ‘Mione. But this was made by Dobby, apparently, the Hogwarts elves don't know French food. Dobby suggested this lunch and he did it for his friend , not his...owner, if he has one. He was excited to make it. I think he would prefer you to eat it.” 

She thought about it, Harry wouldn’t lie about Dobby’s happiness , “You swear Harry, you think Dobby is OK?”

He nodded, “Yes, and we can talk to him soon; if he needs help, we can help him. Just remember you can’t help them if you are too hungry to move.”

 

The talk about House Elves had put a bit of a damper on Hermione's birthday. The two finished their lunch and returned to cuddling on the sofa, but they had lost the comfortable relaxed feeling of that morning. Whereas earlier that morning they debated the lessons that ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ taught to magical children, they now discussed elves and how to go about helping them.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Unknown to the two teens, Dobby the House Elf was in the room listening to them. He was quiet and unseeable so as to not disturb his friend and his friend's Grangy. He was not liking what he heard. No, he was not liking it much at all . If Mister Harry Potter and his Grangy was sticking their noses then theys be discovering Dobby's secret and Dobby would get clothes again. Clothes now would be bad.