Pairing: Harry Potter x Hermione Granger
Rating: PG-13 (to be on the safe side, although I think 'PG' would be okay)
Prompt: Everything but the Kitchen Sink - many elements that are listed here for reference.
A/N: It was a challenge that I entered. I didn't win, but *shrug* I'd like comments/reviews/criticisms. Partly AU (because I forgot Ron was with Lavender in HBP not OoTP, and this story is set during OoTP). The story is mainly for Harmony lovers (as the challenge dictates). Sorry, Harry-Ginny and Ron-Hermione fans! *ducks sevarem's and smammers' cookies*
A flicker of his eyes, a slight nod of her head. It isn't much, but that's all Harry needs to do for Hermione to understand. He quickly wipes his mouth, and politely excuses himself from dinner. His exit isn't given much thought; his words drowned out by Lavender, who coos incessantly next to his best friend. Ron merely waves and continues to gnaw at the large turkey leg in his hand. For his part, he only notices Hermione slipping away moments later. He dismisses it as her jealousy – that he, Ronald Weasley, has a girlfriend while her Vicky is somewhere in Bulgaria practicing quidditch feints.
Outside the castle, Harry waits patiently. He takes a deep breath and stretches, trying to dull the pain of his recent detention. Thank Merlin that Dumbledore is headmaster and that the Cruciatus Curse is unforgivable. Otherwise, Umbridge would have no qualms using it in addition to her carving quills. She might even try the Imperius Curse on Harry and make him dance the hokey pokey, just to prove to the student body that he was a crazed attention-seeking wannabe. He shudders at the thought.
The sun dips further down the western sky, and he isn't sure how many minutes pass. In the end, Hermione appears, and that's all that matters. They've done this before, and still no one thinks their exits are related. Without a word, they start walking.
Nobody suspects the link between them is stronger than imaginable. After all, not many underage wizards are supposed to know about the Fidelius charm, much less be able to conjure it successfully between themselves. But they had, and no one – including Ron – would ever know.
It had happened in the June of their third year. After the horrifying dementor experience, and Harry coming to realize he had a godfather in Sirius Black, Harry decided to take precautions. He knew Lord Voldemort was obsessed with him, and that anyone he cared about would be in danger just for knowing him. So, he asked Hermione to be his secret keeper, to hold a secret that Voldemort would never be able to extract from him. Without knowing what the secret would be, she agreed. And when he told her his secret – that he loved her – she shared hers with him as well.
That was more than a year ago, but they still feel as they once did and their love continues to hold strong. And Ron, in his natural state of confusion and unawareness, remains ignorant of their bond. They don't even need to cast the Confundus charm on him, although Hermione is ready with it, at a moment's notice. Harry shakes his head at the thought, at the lengths she would go through for him.
As they walk deeper into the glen, Harry glances at her profile, noticing that she is clutching a much-read Hogwarts, A History in her right hand. He grins in spite of himself. Separating Hermione from her books required more magic than he could fathom, but that was just one of the things he loved about her.
He takes another deep breath, his smile dissolving, and unties the knots in his gut. "I hate this."
She reaches out and gives his hand a squeeze. Her warmth emboldens him, and he continues. "All of this. Umbridge. The Daily Prophet. And I don't know what to do about Cho."
He looks at her with earnest eyes. "I really like her, Hermione... but with Cedric dead, and it being all my fault..."
"Harry." Hermione stops him in mid-sentence. "You couldn't have known Voldemort was going to be there. Cedric's death is not your fault."
"The last words he heard was 'Avada Kedavra'." Harry swallows hard, shuddering at the memory. "He wanted me to take the cup alone, but I told him... we should take it together..."
"Stop it, Harry." Hermione steps in front of him and takes his hands in hers. "You can't do this to yourself. You can't keep beating yourself about this."
"I know..." Harry can't bring himself to look into her eyes. "But when I see Cho, and see all the pain..."
"Cho will get better in her own time, Harry." Hermione tells him. "No one can rush her through her grieving process..."
The loud sound of crunching twigs interrupts them, startling them, forcing them apart. They whip out their wands, and look around. Suddenly, a blast-ended skrewt charges towards them, leaving a trail of searing trees behind it.
"Oh my God!" Hermione screams as they jump in opposite directions. "It's a blast-ended skrewt!"
The enormous skrewt looks at both of them, pausing for a split-second to decide which one it should attack. It chooses Hermione at random, kicks a spark, and scuttles towards her. She throws her book at the skrewt, which merely bounces off its shell and lands in the foliage.
"Avis!" Harry calls, and a flock of birds shoot from his wand. They fly at the skrewt, distracting it long enough for Hermione to duck its pincers.
"Birds?" Hermione cries in disbelief.
"It's better than giving it a book to read." Harry grunts. "I've run across several of them in the tournament, but I never had one that big before."
"Hagrid must have released them in the forest after the tournament." Hermione figures.
"Not helping, Hermione." Harry knocks her to the ground as the skrewt rushes them, barely missing the brunt of the attack.
Hermione rolls Harry off her and quickly stands. "Evanesco!"
The spell ricochets off the skrewt's thick armor, and the skrewt charges again. "Impedimenta!"
The skrewt shows no sign of slowing, and Harry pushes Hermione into the shelter of the opposite tree. He yells, "Incendio!"
The brush bursts into flames, and the skrewt skids to a halt at the temporary blockade. Harry calls out to Hermione. "Its shell is impervious to most spells. We need to attack its underbelly."
"Of course!" Hermione almost knocks her own head for not figuring it out earlier. She looks around, and finds a fallen tree trunk. "Locomotor trunk!"
The trunk rises in the air and she directs it at the skrewt with speed. She uses it as a lever, knocking the skrewt onto its back. Harry points his wand. "Stupefy!"
The skrewt receives the full blast of the spell. It lays stunned, its body only rocking with the breeze floating between the trees. Once it is immobilized, Harry collapses onto the ground. His breaths are jagged as Hermione rushes up towards him.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, but we better leave before the spell wears off." Harry stands, leaning on Hermione for support. "For its size, I'd say we only have a few minutes."
His legs almost give way, and Hermione notices the blood smeared on his clothes. "I better take you to the Hospital Wing."
"No!" Harry almost shouts, and then lowers his voice. "Umbridge will have my head if she finds out we were out here... and then you'll have to read the newer version of Hogwarts, A History to find out about the boy-who-lived-who-was-expelled."
The mere mention of the book causes Hermione to "Accio book!" and his joke falls flat. He can almost see the wheels in her mind turn. "We can go to Hogsmeade, and get you fixed up there. It is the weekend, and Umbridge hasn't revoked your Hogsmeade visitation privileges yet."
"The optimal word being 'yet'." Harry says tongue-in-cheek. "But you're right. Let's go."
How they manage to hobble down the path to Hogsmeade, and convince Madam Rosmerta to rent them a room all before nightfall, is short of a miracle in itself. But they manage to do it, and settle happily in from the cold. True, the room isn't the Ritz Carlton, but it has a bed, a lavatory, and a window, which is all Harry needs. A few "episkey!"s heal most of his injuries, leaving him in good health albeit tired and exhausted. When Hermione bursts out laughing, he's taken by surprised.
"Look!" She points at the nightstand adjacent to the bed. "This is a coin-operated vibrating bed! Well, technically, it accepts sickles and looks like it uses a charm to generate a buzz, but the concept is basically the same."
"A coin-operated vibrating bed?"
"Honestly, Harry, haven't you ever seen one? Or even heard of one?"
"Considering I've lived most of my life underneath the staircase at 4 Privet Drive, no, Hermione, I can't say that I have."
"Then, you're in for a treat!" Hermione teases and pulls out a sickle from her pocket. She fluffs Harry's pillow and with a wink, deposits the sickle. Magically, the bed begins to shake.
"It'll help you unwind while I go get some supplies." Harry gives her a strange look, but she just grins. "Or would you rather read Hogwarts, A History? I find the book quite relaxing."
She takes his groan as his answer, but leaves the book next to him. With a wave good-bye, she hurries out the room. Harry looks at the book jittering on the bed, and doesn't stop it as it slides off to the floor. He sighs. Since it is either the bed or the floor, he bears the vibrations with clenched teeth. Surprisingly, his muscles don't seem to mind and after a while, he feels the tension disappear. When she returns with reinforcements, the contentment in his face makes her smile grow.
"Ech! A bogey-flavored Bertie Bott!" Harry spits out the bott and takes a swig of pumpkin juice to wash the taste away. Hermione laughs, and starts to throw different colored Bertie Botts at him. The candy fight is on. Cockroach clusters stick to the headboard; fizzing whizbees litter the floor. Ice mice scatter on the bedspread and acid pops fly in every direction. In the midst of it all, Harry feels better than he has in months.
When Hermione screams at the chocolate frog in her hair, he smiles and calmly picks it out. He pulls her into an embrace, resting his cheek against the top of her head. She snuggles into his chest, and breathes in his warmth. For a long moment, they stay like that, content in each other's arms. When he dips his head forward and tips her chin up, he feels her smile under his lips. To him, this is the perfect end to a not-so-perfect day.