I sighed and rolled over in my bed, which was surprisingly comfortable then I originally thought it was. The sun shone through the window and dusted my face.
Yawning, I turned around onto my back to stair at the ceiling.
'Hermione?' A soft knock sounded on my door.
I turned to it, deciding if I wanted to actually get up or not.
'There is something here for you.' The person said. Apparently I had taken too long deciding what I wanted, so they slid the note under the door.
I groaned as I sat up, rubbing my back a bit. It was a nice bed, but it did have a bit of a bite.
The floor was freezing so I quickly ran to pick up the piece of paper and then back to my bed, pulling the quilt around me protectively.
My name was written in a calligraphy of sorts on the front. I couldn't help the smile that slid across my face, I felt like I was playing the role of Juliet—sneaking around with my secret lover.
The blue wax seal broke easily. Slowly, I opened the letter—enjoying the moment as if it were Christmas Day.
Would you please give me the pleasure of your presents for a walk this morning? Meet in front of the castle doors whenever you are ready, I will be waiting.
Crown Prince of Camelot, The Once and Future King, Prince Arthur Pendragon
I stared down at the exquisite hand writing, not really thinking and barley breathing.
I hadn't allowed myself to think of Arthur since last night. I refused to let him haunt my hours of sleep. But, I had come to one conclusion on my walk with Merlin—Arthur wasn't a total pig.
Half, probably, but not totally. But that thought was quickly dissipating.
Falling back on my bed I let out a soft groan, my arms crossing across my eyes. I snuck a quick peak at the dress that hung on the inside of my wardrobe that I had left open.
A burst of annoyance ran through me and I sat up quickly. Without thinking I walked out of my room, ignorant to the cold floor, and stormed into a kitchen—where Harry and Merlin sat with a man I didn't know and didn't care to at this point.
I tossed the letter at Merlin who struggled to catch it before it landed in his soup, 'What? Am I a new prize for him to win?'
Merlin looked from me to the parchment, his mouth twitching like a fish, before his eyes finally scanned the words, 'Oh.' Was all he said. Harry got up from his seat, as did the other man, to try and look over the wizards shoulder.
'Oh? Is that all you have to say?' I snipped, 'I came to help solve your mystery, Merli,n not to be the new toy for the prince!'
I started to pace, my teeth biting down onto my lip. I kept pulling my hands into a fist and then releasing, trying to get myself to calm down from my overreaction.
I knew it was an overreaction, but I couldn't bring myself to settle down.
'Hermione, its just a walk!' Harry finally said, more so to himself then me. Throwing his own arms up and pacing, apparently I wasn't the only one that read too much into it.
Merlin looked up to me with sad eyes. I sighed and stop, rolling my eyes—I wasn't going to like what he had to say.
'You are very handsome, Hermione. It will keep Arthur busy while we try and solve the problems. He won't be asking any questions if...well, if he was...busy. He won't be looking for magic.' Merlin finally said, shrugging his shoulders. My eyes narrowed a bit in thought, then it dawned on me. He had told Arthur what we had talked about!
I snatched the letter back and stormed to my room, stopping just at the door and turning to face the room, 'I will not be playing the distraction this whole trip—I expect to help at some point and be kept updated, am I understood?' I seethed, 'I am not a play thing! I am of equal, if not more value, then the two of you and expect to be treated as such.'
Merlin and Harry both nodded quickly, while the elder man looked on with amusement.
I glared at the two of them before turning to the elder man and giving a slight bow of my head, 'I assume you are Gaius, it is a pleasure to meet you and thanks for letting us stay here but if you will excuse me—' I stepped back and slammed the door, leaning against it before I slid to the floor. Tears overwhelmed me as I pulled my knees to my chin.
My heart was torn in two, and I hated myself for it.
For one, my heart was happy I was considered pretty enough to catch the attention of the prince. I had never been anything but the brains before—and to be seen as the perfect distraction, well, it was flattering in a twisted way.
The other part of me was angry, it was telling me that I was better then this whole situation—that I shouldn't be manipulated and that my intelligences was being told to disappear for this visit, something my brain wouldn't allow.
I sighed and dropped my head against the door. How was I so torn?
For the first time since school I felt...beautiful. And yet...
Well, for one thing Ron had never used that word in reference to anyone but her.
And no one had ever called me that except Harry and some girl acquaintances, and even that was during the Yule Ball. After hours of getting ready.
I couldn't remember the last time I was just complimented for looking nice.
Now Merlin had just called me handsome, this eras word for beautiful.
I was speechless. Whether in a good way or bad, I wasn't exactly sure.
I closed my eyes, 'What?'
'C-can I come in?'
I sighed and stood up, pulling the door open quickly to reveal Merlin. I threw my arm up, gesturing him in, and shut the door—maybe a bit to harshly—behind him.
He cringed before turning around to me, his soft ocean-blue eyes apologetic, 'I'm sorry.'
I crossed my arms and huffed a bit, keeping my eyes everywhere but his, 'You told him what we had talked about, didn't you?' My eyes locked on him in accusation.
Merlin's eyes darted to the floor in guilt, 'I'm sorry.' He whispered brokenly.
'Did you tell...tell him everything?' I asked, my chest constricting a bit as I thought what I had told him about Ron.
He looked up to me and shook his head, knowing exactly what I meant, 'No, nothing about Ron. Just what you said about your favorite flowers and being a morning person and such. He even wore his silver circlet just for you because silver is your favorite—and believe me, that says something, because he hates the metal.' I couldn't help the small smile that threated to break across my face, Merlin babbled like a brook when he was nervous and upset.
I ignored the compliment, however, and sighed in relief.
'W-would you like to know what...what he is going to ask you? What his plans are over the next few days?' Merlin said, his eyes locked on the floor as he fidgeted with his rusty-colored sleeve. He bit down on his lower lip, his eyes darting nervously between the floor and my feet.
I looked to him, my eyes rough, 'Do you just like breaking loyalty with your so called friends?' I hissed.
Merlin grimaced and pulled away as if I had just hit him, 'No, I—I just figured it would make it more...more fair. I told him your favorite things...the least...well, the least I could do would be to tell you of his plans.'
I sighed and ran my hands back through my hair, combing my curls a bit. I moved to my vanity to pick up my brush and started to pull it through my hair in a bit of frustration. I didn't care the complaint my scalp gave as I took out my frustration of feeling more like a pawn then a player.
'He's going to ask you to dinner tonight.' Merlin said, walking up behind me with an ashamed demeanor, 'I don't know all of what he is going to do—but I know he is follow the advice his Mum gave him before she died, he has one of her journals or something where she wrote it all down for him. She died when he was about eight.'
I caught his eye in the mirror and held it.
Merlin sighed, probably in relief that my eyes had softened—just a bit—at the mention of his mother's death, 'I don't know what the advice is exactly, or who it is ever meant for, but we will be inviting you as his date to the Banquet and the Jousting Contest. Morgana is out of town visiting friends or family, I'm not sure really.'
I nodded, turning my attention back to my brushing.
'Hermione, I didn't become your friend just so that Arthur would have something to...occupy his time...I became your friend because I really—' His breath hitched and his eyes darted nervously to the window, 'I—I really like you. And it wasn't just that I figured you could play the part of the distraction, I didn't even think of that until yesterday when I was talking with Arthur and he...he...well...he just showed such...interesting...in you. I figured it was the perfect plan! I know I should have asked you first, and for that I am ever sorry for.' He dropped his head down in submission.
I turned back to Merlin and sighed, forgiveness coating my heart, 'I trust you. And...I forgive you.'
He looked back to me with a brilliant smile.
'But I am a player, not a pawn any more.' I warned, my finger pointing at him like a mother's.
He nodded, relief flooding into his eyes.
'So what should I wear?' I smiled a bit, still a touch upset but quickly trying to let it go, as I moved to my wardrobe.
Merlin followed and looked around my shoulder into my wardrobe, 'What about that one?' He pointed to a simple red and gold dress.
I pulled it out to study it. The blood-red sleeves would be tight against my arm with their gold-ties and the skirt of the dress flowed out nicely with its golden trim, which matched the trim around the square neckline. The dress held an emperor waist with a gold ribbon sown across where the two fabric piece meet, the ribbon tied in the back and flowed down the skirt.
It was very Gryffindor. Full of courage and pride.
It was perfect.
I nodded as a smile light up my face, 'Good choice.'
'Well, I best get changed.' I prompted, looking towards the door.
'Oh! Yes, well...right.' Merlin said, a bright blush coating his cheeks, 'Well I'll be...I'll...bye.'
And with that he walked out the door, closing the door behind him nervously.
I laughed and changed into my fresh cloths, my heart and brain at piece once more.
Another knock sounded on the door.
I stopped and my heart skipped a beat. I couldn't get to the door fast enough. Luna and I both threw our arms around each other and started to jump around.
We both started talking at the same time.
'When did you get in?'
'Late last night! Where are you going?'
'On a walk with a prince!'
'OH! I always knew you deserved a prince!'
'Gosh, I can't believe you are here!'
And it went back and forth until we had to stop to catch our breath.
I stopped, panting a bit, as I looked out the window and picked up my black shoes, 'I have to go soon, but will we have time to talk later?'
Luna smiled and nodded, her radishes bouncing up and down, 'Oh, do you mind if I borrow an outfit? Harry said jeans aren't allowed here.'
I smiled and nodded, gesturing to my wardrobe, 'Take your pick, I'll see you later?'
Luna nodded and turned back to the wardrobe, stopping when she saw the silver dress. She turned to me with a light smile, 'What is—'
I smiled, bashfully, and darted my eyes to the floor, 'I—I'll explain later.'
Luna gave me a knowing smile and continued to leaf through the wardrobe, 'I'm holding you too that one!'
I laughed and headed out the door with one last wave to my best friend.
Thoughts of Luna and I's past kept coming to mind as I walked through the castle.
From the first time we met, where I tried to stay as far away from her as possible, to the close bond we formed after I discovered Ron's cheating just about a year ago. We had really started to become friend before the 'incident', of course, but we really grew to best friends the day she heard of the break up and dropped everything—literally, she had been cooking dinner for Harry at the time—and come over to my house. She spent the night telling me he was a arse and that I deserved a prince.
I could sincerely call her my best friend, and I couldn't be more happy for Harry and her.
Before I knew it I was in front of the castle, my hands entwined in front of me.
And then I waited, my thoughts focused on what Arthur wanted and what Merlin and Harry wanted me to do. My nerves growing with each passing minutes. I had my back to the doors and was looking out across the court yard, lost in thought.
'Thank you for coming, my little mouse.' Someone whispered into my ear.
I jumped at how close the voice was and turned around, a startled look on my face. I relaxed what I saw it was just Arthur.
I could feel my eyes narrow a bit as I began to remind him that my name was Hermione but then I quickly snapped my mouth shut—a distraction wasn't any good if they didn't play their part well.
I smiled, 'Your welcome.'
He pulled his head back, his eyes studying me as if that wasn't what he had expected—but then he smiled.
'So no games today?' He asked, a light-blonde eyebrow raising into his straight bangs.
I gave a slight shrug, my eyes catching sight of my cuff as it caught the light.
Arthur pursed his lips but a gave a slight nod before he offered me his arm, 'Shall we?'
I gave one nod and took his arm, a slight feeling of guilt washing over me.
Closing my eyes I let out a slight sigh and forced a smile. This was going to be a very, very long walk.