Disclaimer: These characters belong to J.K. Rowling, her publishers, and Warner Brothers. In no way am I trying to infringe on any of their rights.
This is the first in a series, posted as it is written. Reviews are, as always, appreciated.
I wanted to write a little H/H, back to basic, non-angstfest shipfic. I do plan to write more of this (though I can't commit to when that will be done), and there might be a little angst that'll creep in there, but for now, I hope you enjoy. If you want, drop me a line to let me know if you did (or didn't).
Of Broom Closets and Kisses
"I can't believe we stayed that long!" Hermione said anxiously. "We are way past curfew!"
"Yeah, well, you had to teach Grawp about the Rights of Beings, didn't you?" said Harry gruffly, though he wasn't really angry. "It's a wonder he sat still for as long as it took you... well, until he started pulling the legs off that Acromantula that is."
"I do believe he was listening though," beamed Hermione, distracted from their predicament.
"He tore the legs off an Acromantula," repeated Harry.
"Well, you can't expect him to change overnight," defended Hermione. "Besides, I'm not sure if I would classify an Acromantula as another Being anyway. Trying to eat us and all."
"They can speak better English than Grawp can," muttered Harry, but he let it drop as they entered the main gate to the Great Hall.
They looked around shiftily. As sixth-years they had to be in the common room by 10 o'clock, but by the time they'd left Grawp to his sleep, it had been 11, and since Harry hadn't expected to stay out with the giant for more than five minutes – or one, if Grawp tried to crush Hermione – he hadn't brought his invisibility cloak along. However, much against their expectations, Grawp had proven to be much better behaved and sociable than last term. Hagrid had told that Grawp had settled in the forest and wasn't as homesick anymore, so he'd stopped uprooting trees. Also, it seemed that his time without Hagrid at the end of last term had taught Grawp that he actually rather liked his big brother, and Hagrid was looking much better for it. But Hagrid was now in his house, sick with the flue, and it had been up to Harry and Hermione to keep Grawp company for once.
Hermione, after getting over her paralysing terror, had relaxed when Grawp hadn't tried to pick her up or toss her about, but had instead sat against one of the biggest trees Harry had ever seen, and had appeared to listen – somewhat distractedly – to what she was saying. Since Harry doubted that Grawp's English was really much better than last time they'd met, he didn't think Grawp had learned anything about the Rights of Beings, but the giant hadn't complained either as he happily listened to 'Hermy's' recital. Harry had busied himself transfiguring acorns into puzzles, a football and a picture book with crayons, and enlarging them for Grawp to entertain himself with when he didn't have any visitors, while Hermione hummed approvingly in between sections of laws and paragraphs, losing complete track of the time until night had fallen around them.
"We're just going to have to make a run for it," said Harry with a shrug, looking at Hermione just before the castle entrance. "If we're caught, there's nothing we can tell them really," – as far as they knew no one else besides them, Hagrid and Ron knew about Grawp yet - "so we better hope for the best."
Hermione nodded. Even as a prefect she had no business being here at this time, and she was well aware that the very fact of her being a prefect could only weigh more heavily against her when she was caught out of bounds. Only yesterday Ron had been late coming back from the Quidditch pitch, and, caught just ten minutes past curfew by McGonagall, had landed himself a detention for this night, which was why it'd been just the two of them.
"Okay, let's go," Harry said, sneaking forward with the ease and practice of one well used to it. Hermione slinked after him, moving nearly just as craftily.
They made it past the empty Great Hall and to the main stairs without seeing anyone and hurried quietly up the steps. Then their luck seemed to ran out.
"Duck!" hissed Harry, diving back behind the banister just as they were at the top. Hermione just let herself drop and crouched on the stairs on all fours. They waited without daring to breathe.
Professor Sprout tottered past on the landing, not sparing a look downstairs. She hiccupped and giggled, before rounding the corner. The two students heaved a sigh of relief.
"I think she was visiting with McGonagall," whispered Hermione. "Her office is in that direction."
Harry grinned at her. He wouldn't tell her, but he was loving this. The excitement, the thrill of almost getting caught, sneaking through the darkened castle with nothing but their wits and luck to aid them; it got his adrenaline pumping. He knew it was just a little thing, that it didn't mean much at all, but he'd missed the feeling of doing something like this for the simple mischievousness of it, not because their life or someone else's was on the line.
Hermione looked a bit dazed at the dazzle of Harry's grin, but she managed a nervous smile in return.
Harry crouched and stuck his head out in the landing, looking left and right. Turning his head, he signed to Hermione that the coast was clear. Ready to scuttle down the right hallway, he was about to set off when Hermione grabbed the back of his robe.
"Let's take the left staircase," she whispered to him.
"That's a longer way around," Harry frowned back.
"Yes, but there's less chance of running into a teacher that way. The right brings us past McGonagall's office, and then Flitwick's and Sinistra's. They might still be in there. Left there's only the hospital wing to worry about."
"Okay then," Harry nodded, and checked one more time if they were alone. He set off to the left, walking fast but light-footed. Hermione was right behind him, her feet even more silent than his on the stone floor. He stopped at the corner and glanced round it, to find another empty hallway. He was about to sneak in, when movement at the far end halted him and made him jump back hastily. He bumped into Hermione as she'd been starting to follow him and heard her mutter a curse as she almost fell backwards. Her hand grabbed for his arm to steady herself, and he quickly locked his hand around hers instead.
"Sorry," he hissed, as softly as possible. "Someone's there."
He pressed himself against the wall and slowly tilted one eye around the corner so he could see who it was. Two people were walking as apprehensively down the hallway as he and Hermione had just been doing through theirs.
Hermione peeked her head around him to see also. "Looks like Ernie and Susan," she murmured.
"Doesn't that lead to the astronomy tower?" Harry asked, his grin returning as he watched the two disappear craftily up a staircase.
"Yes it certainly does," Hermione said, a smile in her voice.
"Wouldn't it be excellent to follow them and pretend to be Snape catching them or something?" Harry optioned.
"Harry!" Hermione hissed. "It's killing me just getting to our common room, okay? Let's not make any detours... even if it would have been hilarious."
"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, we can move now," said Harry easily, unconsciously grabbing for her hand and pulling her along. Hermione looked down at their locked hands and bemusedly let him pull her along.
They passed the staircase leading up to the Astronomy tower and halted just before the twin door entrance to the hospital wing. Holding their breath, they listened if anyone was near the other side of the doors.
"Seems to be clear," Harry whispered. Hermione nodded, biting her lip, and they tiptoed passed it, bent low to keep beneath the glass in the doors.
Just as they were nearing the end of the hallway, gaining on the passage that had the staircase to Gryffindor tower, the hospital wing doors flew open with a bang and Snape swooped through, his cloak billowing dramatically behind him.
Harry and Hermione froze in abject horror, then threw themselves sideways and flattened their bodies against the nearest wall, behind a well-placed suit of armour. Their only chance to escape notice now was if Snape wouldn't look their way and chose the other direction, for on close scrutiny the hiding place wouldn't hold up at all, and if Snape happened to walk down their way they'd be caught without doubt.
Their luck seemed to be holding out, as Snape marched away from them. Harry exhaled in relief, sharing a look with a harassed looking Hermione.
Suddenly Snape's forceful stride paused, and the potions professor turned sideways, appearing to turn around. Hermione meeped and slammed herself flat against the wall so hard that her head bounced against the wall. Harry grimaced both at the sound and at the sharp breath he could hear her take at the pain, but also realised that if Snape had somehow figured out they were here, a bump on the head would be the last of their worries.
Instead of turning around though, Snape eyed the staircase up to the Astronomy tower with a thoughtful look, then headed up there instead of moving on.
"Bloody hell," said Harry, as the sallow professor disappeared from view. "That was too close."
"Ouch," said Hermione, rubbing at the back of her head. "I thought I was going to get a heart attack when he popped from out there. Does he have to open both doors coming through, the drama queen?"
Harry laughed nervously, having thought the same thing. "We were lucky he was in a hurry though; no time to look for traffic."
"Not in too much of a hurry to bypass the Astronomy tower, though," said Hermione wryly.
"Poor Hannah and Ernie," Harry winced, realising his joke from earlier had gotten a disastrous turn, as Snape really was about to catch them in person. "I feel so sorry for them." He started chuckling.
"Good thing we didn't go up there to catch them ourselves," said Hermione, not seeing the funny side as quickly as Harry was. "We'd have all got caught together."
Harry put a hand against his mouth to muffle his laughter now. Something about Snape catching all of them together and the conclusions that might be drawn from this seemed utterly hilarious to him.
"Harry, shut up!" hissed Hermione, though her lips started twitching. "Let's just make a run for it before Dumbledore or McGonagall decide it's time for a nocturnal stroll or something, or before Snape reappears from that tower."
"Okay," said Harry, curbing his hilarity and glancing once more around the suit of armour. "The coast is once again clear. You ready to run 'til we reach the Fat Lady?"
"Oh yeah," nodded Hermione, bracing herself.
"Let's go." Harry grabbed Hermione's hand again and pushed off the wall, hurrying her along. They sprinted the last yards of the hallway, then round the corner, where they immediately back-pedalled, running into each other heavily. Filch was walking down that hallway, his back to them, but Mrs Norris' eyes flickered in the candlelight and stared right at them.
Harry motioned frantically for Hermione to run back round the corner, while Hermione froze in shock and her eyes grew wide as saucers. Scuffling around each other, trying to pull the other this way and that, silently arguing by pulling and pushing as to what course of action would be the best, Hermione finally managed to spot a door to their right and by gesturing madly at it got Harry to leap for it, open it, and usher both of them inside, remembering just in time not to slam the door behind them but close it silently.
Breathing heavily, they stood paralysed in the middle of what appeared to be a broom closet, trying not to move and knock something over. Outside, they could hear the busy-body mewl of Mrs Norris.
Hermione quickly whipped her wand from her robes and pointed it at the doorknob. "Colloportus," she said, softer than a whisper, and a small click evidenced the locking of the door.
"What is it, my sweet?" sounded the raspy voice of the caretaker in the hallway, his footsteps nearing the door. "Did you find anything?"
Mrs Norris spat at the door, nails scratching at the wood. Harry and Hermione couldn't really see each other in the dark closet, but they leaned towards each other in support. Harry could feel Hermione tremble lightly with suspense, and he put his hand on her arm to calm her. He knew she'd be frowned upon more harshly than he'd be on capture because she had the exemplary role of prefect, but even still, with his track record, he wasn't too keen on getting caught either.
The doorknob was wiggled as Filch tried to open the door, and then pulled on a bit harder, making the door rattle in its frame. Hermione jumped closer to Harry and dug her fingers in his arm, making him wince. Harry hoped fervently that Filch didn't have a key to the door, and that the mere fact of it being locked would be enough to make the caretaker give it up.
They could hear the frustrated mutter of Filch at finding the closet closed for scrutiny, but apparently he didn't have a key on him. Instead, they heard him say: "I've no time for mouse hunts, my dear. Off we go." His departure was accompanied by Mrs Norris' angry meowing.
"I think he's gone," said Harry after a minute, sagging where he stood as tension left him.
"My god, what is it out there, rush hour?" Hermione grumbled, loosening her death grip on his arm. "Doesn't anyone sleep around here?"
"Let's give it another minute to make sure he's gone," offered Harry. He felt more than saw her acquiesce as she nodded, which made him suddenly very aware of exactly how close she was standing to him. Her body heat warmed his side, and her body pressed softly against his. The atmosphere in the enclosed room seemed to change in seconds, as he felt his skin tingle with a new sort of tension. Hermione seemed to notice too, for she shifted minutely and then turned around until they stood facing each other.
"Harry?" she asked, a tremble in her voice.
Harry could feel how her breathing grew faster – little puffs of air against his neck – and she was so close; he could still feel her hand warming his arm, and before he knew it her lips touched against his and he didn't think about anything anymore.
Later, he didn't know if he was the one to lower his head first, or if she had been the one to tilt hers up, but honestly felt it made no difference. Her touch seared its way from his lips down to the tip of his toes, and then he pressed his arms around her torso, hugging her closer to deepen the kiss, just as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and opened her mouth to allow him better access.
Just as quickly they jumped away from the other, short of breath and staring at each other despite the darkness. Harry unconsciously touched his tingling lips and shuddered as he remembered exactly how good it had felt to have hers against his, so different from the time he'd shared the same with Cho, and his body already moved forward to catch her back in his arms, when Hermione said shakily: "Harry?"
"Um, yeah?" said Harry, freezing.
"Should we... I mean, Oughtn't we...? I mean, is this...." She halted with a groan.
Harry smiled dazedly at finding her without words for once, then gathered his wits and managed: "You mean, should we be doing this?"
"Well, yes," Hermione said, so softly he could barely hear her. "Should we?"
"Shouldn't we?" said Harry, frowning, not liking this solution.
Hermione sucked in a deep breath. "Do you think we should?"
"Unless you think we shouldn't?"
"I just don't know if this is a good idea," whispered Hermione. "Do you?"
"I don't know." It was very confusing. Was she regretting it? Was he?
Hermione took a shaky breath. "Maybe we should get back to the common room."
"Forget this every happened?" asked Harry, feeling inexplicably disappointed, even if he hardly understood what had happened.
"Yes, if you didn't really mean it," Hermione seemed close to tears now, but she was reaching for her wand to open the door.
Harry couldn't stand it anymore. He couldn't let it go like this, couldn't let her go. He took the step forward that separated them and pulled her back against him, catching her mouth with his. This time there was no softness in the kiss, but a desperate groping to pull the other as close as possible, to taste as deep as they could. Harry's hands roamed Hermione's shoulders and back, hers tangled in his hair.
Now that he had her in his arms, he couldn't believe he'd never felt the urge to do this before... why he'd sat next to her, studied with her, relaxed with her, been friends with her, but had never reached out and caressed those heavy locks of hair with his fingers, had never been curious enough to hear those muffled little noises she was making right now, had never wanted her smaller body to fit so perfectly against his.
Hermione moved against him, making him gasp between kisses, and she turned the both of them around until she was resting against the wall, pushing brooms and buckets out of the way. The appliances thundered to the floor, crashing and clunking against each, creating a hellish racket in the otherwise hushed castle. They broke apart, eyes wide and listened sharply for any reaction in the hallway. Had anyone heard them?
Harry tried to suck in some air now he had a chance, intending to launch right back into what they were doing as soon as it was proven that they'd gone undetected, but Hermione was ahead of him, grabbing his collar and pulling his face down to hers. Their noses bumped, but neither minded much as they made contact.
Some time later they were both leaning against the wall, Hermione's head resting on Harry's shoulder, his head resting on hers.
"I guess I really did mean it," said Harry, grateful for the lack of light that kept Hermione from seeing the stupid, sappy grin on his face.
"Mm," she breathed, nuzzling his neck. "I'm glad you did."
"This means I don't have to forget this happened, right?" Harry asked.
"I'll slap you if you dare," mumbled Hermione.
"I don't think I could, anyway," grinned Harry. "This night turned out quite differently than I expected."
"Yes, quite," agreed Hermione.
"But good, right?" asked Harry, catching her eyes.
"Yes," she said, reaching up and placing a feather-light kiss on his cheek. "But now I think we really should get back to the common room. I don't think my nerves can take much more."
Harry chuckled and grabbed his wand from his pocket. "Alohomora," he said to the door, figuring that if the toppled buckets and brooms hadn't alerted someone to their whereabouts, they were safe to go. With another click, the door unlocked.
He grabbed the doorknob and looked back at Hermione. "You ready?"
She was smoothing her robes and brushing her fingers through her hair (even though Harry couldn't see anything wrong with them, to him she looked great; better than ever), then nodded.
"Wanna wager how many people we're going to run into this last bit?" Harry asked dryly.
"With the amount of traffic we've already met I wouldn't be surprised to find Hufflepuff house dancing the conga just outside this door," snorted Hermione.
Harry burst out laughing, feeling as giddy as he'd ever felt. It was unbelievable how good and relaxed he felt, remembering how confused he'd been after kissing Cho last Christmas.
"Shush!" said Hermione. "We'll get caught!" But her eyes twinkled merrily.
"You're one to talk," said Harry, pointing at the mess she'd made of the closet's utensils.
"Oh, go on," said Hermione briskly, pushing him out the door.
They didn't take much care this time, both exhilarated about what had just happened, and they ran as softly as they could for the staircase and up the stairs. At the top of the staircase they turned into the next one, taking just enough time to make sure their way was unobstructed by teachers, Filch or Peeves.
"We're gonna make it," grinned Hermione brightly, having grabbed Harry's hand back in hers. They rushed down the final hall to the painting. "We're almost... crap!"
They were feet away from the Fat Lady when McGonagall stumbled into the passageway from the stairway right in front of it. The stern professor turned towards them just as Harry and Hermione skidded to a halt before her.
McGonagall blinked owlishly at the two of them. "Mr Potter. Miss Granger. What are you – hic! – doing here?"
Despite their predicament, Harry had to hold back laughter. Their Head of House was undoubtedly tipsy, swaying as a ship at sea as she stood before them. It seemed that Hermione might have been right when she'd proposed Professor Sprout and McGonagall had been having a little get-together.
"Um, well, Professor, we..." he bumbled, before Hermione elbowed him in the side.
"Actually, we were just coming from the library, Professor," she stated, matter of fact. Harry watched her from the corner of his eyes, but she seemed sure of her case, so he deferred to her, nodding agreeably to his professor.
"The library?" hiccoughed McGonagall, looking at them cross-eyed. "Oh, good, good. Studying hard are you? Newts just around the corner, you know. Not real newts of course; that would be silly." She giggled.
"We're only a little late," continued Hermione, looking torn between disturbance and hilarity at finding her role model in this state. "But we lost track of time, studying."
"Yes, of course, quite – hic! – understandable," said McGonagall agreeably. "Off to bed then. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," echoed Harry and Hermione, then watched the Head of House totter off and fiddle with the door to her private quarters for two minutes before disappearing.
"I can't believe you did that," said Harry, impressed. "A little late, eh?"
"I doubt she realises what the time is," said Hermione, a little amazed at her own audacity. "Nor that she'll remember about this in the morning."
"Well, are you going to be discussing it all night?! Some people are trying to sleep you know!" said the Fat Lady.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other, started laughing uncontrollably, and, choking out the password, managed to finally step into safety.
The common room was deserted apart from two people. "What's so funny?" asked Ginny, just as Ron asked: "What took you so long? What happened?"
Harry and Hermione just shook their head, unable to talk through their laughter, and dropped in the sofa opposite to their friends.
"Well?" asked Ron, trying to look serious but finding it hard in the face of his friends' laughter. "You took ages to get here, I was worried you know, thought something might have happened with Grawp. I mean, I can see you're okay now, but–"
"Actually, Grawp was really good," Hermione piped up, wiping tears from her eyes. "We lost track of time, and it took us forever to get back."
"We took the long way round, too," added Harry, then he mimicked: "Let's take the left staircase, less chance of running into someone if we go left."
"Oh hush," grinned Hermione guiltily.
"I take it the long way around wasn't the greatest idea?" smiled Ginny.
"Well, we almost ran into Sprout, Snape, some Hufflepuff prefects, Filch and Mrs Norris," Harry counted on his fingers. "And... and McGonagall..." They started laughing again.
Ron rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you 'almost' ran into all those, well past midnight at that, and I got a detention for being ten minutes past curfew by McGonagall last night."
That set Harry and Hermione laughing harder still, and this time Ron and Ginny just shared a bemused look and waited for the two of them to knock it off.
"S-sorry," said Hermione. "You kind of had to be there." She winked at Harry. "So what was your detention like?" she directed to Ron, settling down.
"McGonagall made me scrub her classroom, no wands allowed," Ron grimaced, then shrugged. "But it wasn't too bad. It wasn't that dirty in the first place, and though she put me there and told me what to do, I didn't see her again, so I left when there was nothing more to scrub. I've been back for hours."
"We were just waiting for you to get back," said Ginny. "Really, when it took so long we were getting a little worried, you being down in the Forest with Grawp and those centaurs and everything."
"Oh, the Acromantula!" sighed Hermione. "It's a good thing you weren't there, Ron."
"There was an Acromantula?" blanched Ron. "I don't know if I should be hearing about this just before going to sleep."
"Yes, let's go to bed," said Ginny, stretching. "You can tell us all about it in the morning."
"Of course," agreed Hermione, and Harry nodded even though he felt wide awake. But they let Ron and Ginny precede them up the stairs, and, Hermione standing in the girl dormitory's stairway, and Harry in the boys', they shared a long, searing look, promising each other a million things and more.
As Hermione disappeared behind Ginny, and as Harry trudged up the final staircase of that night, he was sure that their encounter in the broom closet would definitely not be forgotten.
End (for now)