Title: Just Below the Nose (Part I)
Category: A bit of everything. Mostly humor/romance.
Spoilers: Books 1-6
Summary: Will Harry ever see what's right under his nose? And if he does, will he have the nerve to do anything about it? …Eh, who knows?
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, which is a shame, as I could write him a wonderful girlfriend.
Author's Note: This was written for the Fanfict00bs Birthday Challenge at the fanfict00bs community on Livejournal. Listed below are my choices for the challenge requirements, although I'll probably be using more than just these. I'm posting in three parts, so not all of the requirements will be in this chapter.
Number Four Privet Drive
Hogwarts Library: Restricted Section
"Hermione!...Well, it is an interesting proposition..."
"Harry, ugh, what is that thing?"
"Are you sure that it says…ohh…that we…yes…are on the right track?"
Harry's Quidditch robes
"Harry, ugh, what is that thing?"
Harry peered over Hermione's shoulder and down the stairs where the Dursleys were coming in.
"Oh, that's just Dudley."
"Yeah, I know," Harry said as she shut the door and he resumed packing. The house had been empty when he and Hermione had arrived that evening to collect his things, and they'd thought it better that way – best to quickly gather up all the things he'd left behind that wouldn't fit in his trunk on the last trip to Hogwarts. There wasn't much – a few old schoolbooks, odds and ends from childhood that he didn't want to leave behind, and now, added to the pile, some of Dudley's untouched books that Hermione had been drooling over. He'd never notice them missing.
"Are you almost done?" she asked quietly, moving away from the door and out of the Dursleys' sight.
"Yeah, I'm done now," Harry said, tossing in a small teddy bear that Dudley had once tried to set aflame. One of its plastic eyes was melted, and half of it was badly scorched, but Harry couldn't part with it. It was the only teddy bear he'd ever had.
Hermione turned to look at the small pile of things he'd loaded into his trunk on top of his Quidditch robes and failed miserably at hiding her look of shock.
"That's – that's all you have?"
Harry shrugged and closed the lid, quickly closing the locks. "Yeah. Come on, we can sneak out under the Invisibility Cloak –"
"Harry…" She stopped him with a hand on his arm. "It was worse here than you ever let on, wasn't it?"
Harry offered her half a smile. "It doesn't matter anymore. This is the last time I'll set foot in this house."
Moments later his trunk was shrunken and held in his pocket, and Harry threw the Cloak over them, forcing Hermione nearer. He wasn't sure it was the best idea. Hermione's nearness was producing an increasingly odd feeling within him. It was almost like that feeling Harry would get in the stomach before going to the dentist as a child, like he desperately needed to vomit but couldn't. Getting that feeling around Hermione was…well, baffling, to say the least. Hermione certainly didn't make him want to vomit…
Harry wondered if Hermione got that feeling going to the dentist…her parents were both dentists, after all. She might be more comfortable with them…
They moved quietly into the hall and down the stairs – flattening themselves against the wall when Dudley waddled up. As they passed the living room, they could overhear Vernon and Petunia's conversation, which was perhaps unfortunate.
"Vernon, did you remember to take your Viagra?"
"Yes, dear…why, were you ready for bed?"
Harry was torn between laughing and retching as he dragged Hermione away and out the kitchen door, where they Apparated away.
Grimmauld Place had obviously not been set foot in for many months. A layer of dust had settled over…well, everything. But luckily, Hermione knew a good charm for that, and it didn't seem as though any unwelcome visitors had been snooping about. A few more of Hermione's charms had assured them that the house was safe for occupation – at least for the night.
Ron was still staying at the Burrow, held on a tight leash by Molly, who, after the wedding yesterday, had resumed worrying like mad about the safety of her family in the upcoming war – especially with Dumbledore gone.
Harry, on the other hand, couldn't bear another day at the Burrow with Ginny refusing to look him in the eye and everyone constantly trying to push them together, as if that could change anything. He knew Ginny – all of them – wanted him to leave her some kind of promise, some reassurance that they could pick up where they left off when he returned. But he couldn't promise anything. Even if he managed to come back alive, he couldn't say it would still be possible for them. So he'd left for Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, and Hermione had tagged along.
He was grateful. He'd never admit it, but he wasn't sure he could bear being alone in this house. Hermione probably knew that, though, and that was the great thing about Hermione. She always seemed to know what he needed, even if it wasn't quite what he wanted.
Hermione looked around the entryway warily. "Even though it doesn't look like anyone's been here, maybe we should stay together tonight – just in case. Dumbledore's protections were probably broken, so…you never know."
Harry nodded in agreement. "Yeah – yeah, it's probably for the best." That feeling was back, in full force. "Um, we can stay in the room me and Ron used to share. There are two beds in there."
"Good idea," Hermione said. Harry followed her as she set off up the stairs. He wasn't sure why the thought of sharing a room with Hermione was so unsettling. It wasn't as though they were sharing a bed.
Then again, he hadn't seen her in pajamas since…goodness, third year. Maybe that was it. He couldn't imagine her in sleepwear, that was all.
Okay, so maybe he should have been worried about the sleepwear. Hermione'd gone to the bathroom to change and returned in some kind of…kimono. A red one. And then the kimono had come off to reveal a nightgown. A revealing nightgown. Well, Harry supposed it wasn't really that revealing. It covered her chest adequately (maybe too adequately), but it only came down to mid-thigh, and that was certainly more thigh than Harry was prepared to see.
"You should go brush your teeth," she said, sliding into the bed she'd chosen for herself – Harry's usual bed – and Harry obeyed, knowing that Hermione was completely uncompromising when it came to dental hygiene.
When Harry returned, it was to find Hermione watching expectantly for him.
"Have you given any thought to how you want to go about searching for the horcruxes?" she asked as Harry peeled back the covers and inspected the sheets critically. He hoped they'd been changed since Ron had last used the bed.
"Well, some," Harry said, "but I'm sure you're way ahead of me."
It was hard to tell in the dim light, but Harry thought Hermione blushed slightly.
"Er, yes. I was just thinking that…we really don't know where to start or where to look. I mean, we can search through the books here, but if that doesn't tell us much…then what? We'll be at a dead end."
Harry shifted uncomfortably, daunted by the enormity of the task at hand. "Yeah… Any ideas on what to do then?"
"Well…I was thinking…maybe, if it reopens, we should go back to Hogwarts."
"But Hermione –"
"I don't mean for good," she said hastily. "I don't mean we should go back and sit in school like good little children. I just think that Hogwarts is the best place for us to get information. I know the library might not tell us much, but it could help us figure out what the final object – something of Gryffindor or Ravenclaw – could be. And Dumbledore's portrait is there, and all of his references. And…well, it's sort of the only thing Voldemort ever cared about, isn't it?"
She had a point. Hogwarts at least had something left of Dumbledore, and only Dumbledore could tell Harry how he'd destroyed the first horcrux.
"I think you're probably right," Harry said. "But don't you think it's going to be hard, trying to be in school at the same time?"
"It doesn't matter so much how we do in classes anymore. This – don't look at me like that – this is more important, and we all know it. I won't nag you to do your homework. I know where our priorities lie. And it can't hurt to be attending classes. You never know when you'll learn something useful."
"All right, say we do go back. What happens when we find a horcrux, or we need to search for one? I mean, I know no one can stop us from leaving, but will we be let back in?"
Hermione considered this for a moment. "I think McGonagall would understand. I think everyone pretty much accepts by now that you're the "Chosen One" and all, and I think Dumbledore must have told her something of what he thought was in store for you. Whatever the case may be, I think we can make her understand."
"And if we can't?"
"Then we leave school and find another way, I suppose."
"…All right. If Hogwarts reopens, we'll go back."
Ron arrived a week later, which Harry was very happy about – until he realized it didn't help "the feeling" at all. Harry was rather sick of it. He simply wanted to feel normal around Hermione again.
Ron was less than thrilled at the news that they'd be going back to Hogwarts after all, but Harry and Hermione paid him little mind. Having formed a plan, they'd been working diligently on preparing for their return by going through the books at Grimmauld Place as quickly as possible. Together, they'd milked the books for all they were worth, taking down information on horcruxes, useful spells, and anything else that seemed relevant.
Some days, like this day, they would take time out of their research to train. With Ron around now, it was a bit more difficult to practice – three was a rather hard number to work with. Harry had decided to leave Ron and Hermione to practice – Ron definitely needed it more – and went to get started on lunch.
He'd only finished two sandwiches – an inadequate amount to fill Ron up, let alone he and Hermione – when Hermione came charging into the kitchen, followed seconds after by Ron.
"Let me try again, Hermione! Maybe I just need practice –"
"Well, find someone else to practice on!"
Ron went a bit redder and then, to Harry's shock and horror, Ron grabbed Hermione by the arms and kissed her.
Hermione shoved him away forcefully, sending Ron careening into the wall…but not before It happened.
Harry felt it again. The feeling. Except it was stronger now – much closer to full-on nausea than it had been before. And suddenly, it made sense why it was Hermione that did it to him and why watching that awful kiss made it so much worse.
He fancied Hermione.
"Ugh! Ron! That was like…mouth-rape!"
Harry silently agreed, and Ron, evidently, had nothing to say about it, as he'd just left and slammed the door behind him.
Hermione slumped into a chair, looking very unhappy and, Harry hoped, a little nauseous herself.
"Er…what was that all about?" Harry asked.
Hermione fidgeted. "Well, it's just…Ron wants us to be more than friends, and I thought that was what I wanted, too – I mean, he was being nicer to me toward the end of the year. I thought it might not be a bad idea. But it's just…not working."
"No. I don't know what it is…it's just so…awkward. And uncomfortable. I don't like it."
Hermione sighed heavily. "I'm going to get back to researching now."
Harry nodded, still standing there with two sandwiches and nobody but him to eat them.
Could he really fancy Hermione? It'd barely been a month since he'd broken up with Ginny, and he hadn't really spoken to her since – they'd been avoiding each other like the Plague, actually. He ought to be missing her. He ought to at least feel guilty for fancying Hermione when he hadn't made quite a clean break of things with Ginny. But…he didn't. He felt a bit guilty for fancying her when Ron was attempting (poorly) to woo her, but Ginny…
Well, maybe his relationship with Ginny hadn't been quite as serious as he'd thought.