Beta'd, as always, by the wonderfully patient HogwartsDuchess.
Written for the Seamus HalfandHalf fic exchange.
Myths of an Irish Otter
Who showered at 10:30 at night? Seamus had to wonder, grimacing at the pounding noise coming from their apartment's tiny, acoustically challenged bath. Turning the volume up on the game hadn't helped any – the low rumbling seemed to defy all his attempts to block it out and quit focusing on the exasperating, and wet, his mind hastened to point out, girl not twenty feet away, oblivious to the frustration she was causing her flat mate. Groaning, Seamus threw his head back to rest against the couch, ignoring the rather worn material as it scratched the back of his neck. The ceiling needs painting, he noted, frustrated with himself for even noticing the damn ceiling at a time when he should be oblivious to everything else but how Keeper Nettie O'Keefe would defend Ireland's prospects for the Cup this year. He should be on the edge of his seat, immersed in the intricacies and beauty of the game, cheering himself somewhat silly, and good naturedly ribbing Hermione when she would come out of her book long enough to give a disdainful sniff at his noise, her eyes dancing as she rather unsuccessfully attempted to suppress her smile at his antics. It had almost become a ritual.
If anyone had told him that he would someday be rooming with Hermione Granger, Gryffindor spirit personified, best mate to Harry Potter and perennially unrequited love of one Ronald Weasley, well, he would have thought them daft. Their friendship had happened rather gradually, baffling those around them, and often causing Ron to throw up his hands in disgust when Seamus would derail Hermione mid-scolding with an innocuous, often slightly off-colour comment. Dean would only sit and stare when on raised eyebrow from his organized flat-mate would have Seamus unconsciously tiding up after having the blokes over to watch the game on the telly; but their friendship worked. The war had been hard on Hermione. Harder then most people realized, and Seamus had learned early on in life that you had to take each day as it came to you, and create all the good green luck that you could because tomorrow it could all go to hell. Hermione understood him, understood that he wasn't nearly as shallow as he sometimes seemed— well, not quite anyway, and that he held his cards a lot closer to his chest then anyone but Dean ever gave him credit for. The War To End All Wars (and this Ministry-made moniker always caused the ones who were truly involved to roll there eyes an snort) had ended, leaving many of the younger participants at loose ends with the world around them; as though fighting, plotting and careful observation were all they knew how to do anymore, and he for one had taken great delight in taking Hermione away from that and showing her a good time for the first time in over three years. The main celebrations going on in the streets were wild and noisy, and miraculously not attracting deluges of Muggle attention, but the members of the Order, along with other, even more secret resistance groups, had generally steered clear of these, many of them getting quietly chunted in out of the way pubs and boozers.
Seamus had been working non-stop in triage that night, cleaning up the last of the save-able injuries, thanking the Lord and little green shamrocks, as his Ma used to say, that this was the last he would ever have to spend in too-tight burrows and hidey-holes filled with the silent suffering of those who had truly seen the other side of hell and watched as it stared back at them from the black abyss of there conscious mind, always there right behind their eyes. He'd worked quickly, his easy-going manner soothing for all those he touched.
Hermione had worked harder then anyone, always fretting for 'her two boys'; Seamus had caught her a few times, sleepy and quiet while she nursed a cuppa while waiting for one or both to come back in from a patrol, or a mission. She would never let them catch her, always slipping up the rickety stairs as soon as she heard their voices in the hall, not wanting them to catch her and scold her for not looking after herself and add to Harry's worries, but Seamus was pretty sure they knew, and spoke just a little louder as they came in to give her time to steal away. It usually made him smile, seeing the closeness they shared, but sometimes it made him jealous too.
That last night, the one when they finally knew it was over, Seamus found himself sitting in a silent kitchen, the soft sounds of his breathing absorbed by the cool stone walls, staring deeply into a mug that in truth probably contained more whiskey then tea; waiting.
He had felt restless, waiting for the final word that it was really over, his whole body thrumming, his leg bouncing restlessly in an unconscious tattoo against the flagstone floor, but he couldn't seem to summon the will to pull himself away from that dark kitchen, and it wasn't until he heard her soft voice greeting Lupin in the foyer that he realized why he stayed. He stayed there, in the dark room, invisible to the crowd now gathering hopefully, wanting to hear every word that she could summon up to tell them while it was still fresh, while they could still say they were there that night.
She had spoken quietly, her voice filling in for a dazed Harry, protecting him yet again despite her own exhaustion, and Seamus had listened more to her voice then to the unthinkingly frank descriptions she was providing in a rather unguarded moment.
Sitting there, rolling his cooling tea between roughened palms, Seamus had been startled to find he didn't care to hear the details floating teasingly just above his conscious, just knowing she had somehow survived it all seemed just about enough for him to take with him to his bed that night.
But still he sat, invisible in the darkened room just beyond the rather open foyer were everyone gathered, noisily exchanging excited exclamations, just as if any of them had had anything to do with anything, and just listened. It was a quiet epiphany of love; gentle and natural, and Seamus had allowed himself to admit, and enjoy it while he continued to sip his Irish tea and watched the dying embers of the banked fire.
The next day he'd promptly dismissed it as a relief-induced fancy and went back to regarding Hermione as one of his best mates, even if she was a bit of a prissy swot.
The thrumming had stopped. Unfortunately, he'd had already missed the commentary on Nettie O'Keefe's amazing save just as Ailin Flannighan snaked the snitch out from under the Puddlemere Seeker's broom, so he was in no mood to be charitable when fifteen minutes later had Hermione dressed and standing in the doorway to the room, purse already slung over one shoulder.
Normally, this would have prompted Seamus to turn down the volume on the game (but not off, mind, there were limits after all), and give his attention to his friend. He would offer her his opinion of her outfit, and usually some playful, flirtatious comments on the likely outcome of her evening, safe and yet frustrated in the knowledge that she didn't take any of his behaviour seriously. They would both laugh, and more likely than not, her evening would turn out as he predicted, but it was okay, as it was never serious anyway.
Until now. This was not just some casual bloke from work that she'd finally allowed to take her out for a friendly evening. This was someone she'd known for years, someone he'd even caught her giggling over with Lavender and Pavarti once, the shock of the event leading him to realize that maybe Hermione Granger was actually rather pretty too, at a time when he'd just been starting to really wonder about girls and dating and what all the fuss might be about.
He hadn't been the only one, either.
It had been fourth year, and that damn tournament had been in the initial flush of excitement after Harry had given a right good kicking to the others in the Dragon event. Seamus had been on his way to the library, needing to work on his parchment for Snape. The fantasy of un-regulated alcohol had never been wholly extinguished, though Seamus had been glad his eyebrows had finally grown back even, and it was something he and Dean fooled with periodically, usually when they had homework they were busy avoiding - and this time his potion's text had born the brunt of it. It would smell of burnt dust for weeks.
Browsing the shelves a little haphazardly, the voices of the three girls had come through the stacks quiet clearly as they giddily discussed the relative merits and 'dreaminess' of one red-haired Weasley.
Unfortunately for Seamus's equilibrium, it wasn't the right Weasley.
It had become rather a forgone conclusion amongst the Gryffindor house that one Hermione Jane Granger, and one Ronald Billius Weasley would, eventually, pull their heads out of their respective arses and become one of the cutest, disgusting-est couples around. This was so ingrained in all of their minds, that none of them even questioned it anymore, and no-one even really thought of Hermione as a girl; after all, she was Ron's, even if the git didn't know it yet, and friends didn't' think about friends' girls like that – it was practically a code.
That was, until Seamus overheard her gossiping rather shyly one late autumn evening about Charlie Weasley.
The rather stocky dragon tamer had been at the school for the last few weeks, cutting a giggling swath amongst the female population of the castle. The guys of the Gryffindor house had been rather good-naturedly ignoring it; after all, it was Charlie, and he was cool, not some nancy-boy like Lockhart had been. But to suddenly come upon Hermione Granger, softly sighing over the easy-going older boy had brought some startling facts to Seamus's rather stunned attention.
Hermione Granger was a girl.
Okay, so it wasn't much of a revelation; after all, he'd always known in a general sort of way, that Hermione was at least female shaped, and possibly peed sitting down, but that was really the extent of it. She had always been just Hermione, a fixture of the Harry and Ron duo, and as such, sort of an honorary guy. He'd also had to struggle with the equally shocking fact that Hermione obviously didn't consider herself to be Ron's either, and didn't appear to care a hang about the code.
By the end of the year, the rest of the boys had gotten there too, after having their collective eyes opened at the Yule Ball, though Seamus still prided himself on getting there first. Not that he liked Hermione, or anything.
He decided that Charlie wasn't nearly as cool as he'd always thought, either.
He'd even snuck out one night, after Charlie had reappeared around the school at the end of his fifth year, and had Dean use what turned out to be a rather badly contrived charm to tattoo his shoulder-blade, just to prove that there was nothing to it, really.
And the fact that it was an otter had nothing to do with anything that Seamus was willing to admit to.
Charlie had one on his stomach, of a dragon. He'd heard Hermione tell Pavarti, though how she knew was something he resolutely refused to think about. He was much more of a doer then a thinker anyway.
Why did it always seem to come down to Charlie?
"Smashing." He wasn't even really looking at her. Not directly. She was wearing that proverbial little black dress he'd always heard his sisters swear was the staple of any girls' wardrobe, her outer robe hanging loose and open in soft folds, and Seamus knew if he actually looked at her, he'd probably snarl. Still, she knew him better then anyone, and if he didn't want their friendship to go all to hell, he'd have to swallow it, and convince both of them that he was fine with being 'Seamus who didn't secretly wank at night while thinking of Hermione's soft skin'. Pulling out his most charming smile, he aimed his gaze just over her shoulder. "You meetin' him at the restaurant, then?"
"Yes. I still can't believe it – I mean what were the odds of running into Charlie when he's only in town for a week?" A soft smile played across her face.
"It's yese he's cum the see, now isn't it?" Seamus teased lightly, reaching out to straighten the folds of her robe were they caught under her purse, and Hermione flushed slightly, even as she swatted him.
"I'd know you were an Irishman, even if you were a stranger, and I was deaf, Seamus Finnigan – you'd try to charm the sun from the sky so you could sleep a little longer each morning!"
"An' why not, if'n it works?" Jerking his head towards the door, he reminded her, "you'd better not keep him waiting, girl, or he'll be worrying you've changed your mind on him."
Her not-date with Charlie went well, if the fact that she didn't come home until nearly two was any indication, and inwardly, Seamus clamped down hard on his frustrations. Two years of slowly pushing the boundaries of their rather close friendship, and he'd finally come to terms with the fact that what he wanted more then anything, excepting possibly oxygen, was to wake up each morning with a tangle of wild curls against his cheek, and Hermione Granger's cinnamon and ink scent on his skin – and to know that it was his to keep.
He stumbled around the kitchen groggily, pulling out the heavy cast iron pan to start breakfast, knowing Hermione had a meeting today with the goblins over at Gringotts to discuss the possible advantages of the Muggle 'stock market'. Hermione had tried to explain it to him, but all he had really been able to pull from the conversation was that for some odd reason, it seemed to involve migrating bulls and bears, which had left him rather suspicious of the relative sanity of the average Muggle. Why would you give parchment money to a grazing bovine when there were perfectly clever goblins around with gold?
Shuffling sleepily, Seamus got a kettle on for a pot of strong tea and began patiently making omelettes over gentle heat, knowing it took far longer, but the smile he would get for the melting texture would be far worth it.
He also acknowledged to himself that he could be a little pathetic at times.
Four months, and Seamus found himself glaring irritably as a certain Dragon Tamer once again showed up to make his life miserable, and horn in on Hermione's attention.
Not that he was jealous or anything.
It had taken him awhile, but he had finally convinced Hermione to put aside her work long enough to join them at the game – the finals for the Cup that would be held in two weeks. It had been difficult, after the war ended, to get Hermione to go out, to let go for a bit and allow herself to relax. After everything he had seen her deal with during the war, Seamus had made it a point to make sure she got out, occasionally.
It was a grey day, the cloud cover making the sun's light hazy and diffused, and the air had a definite hit of rain to it, but Seamus knew he wouldn't be noticing any of that, if it wasn't for him. Charlie had been a last minute addition to their little outing, when Ron had found out he'd be in town and knew Dean had had to back out, so Seamus was in possession of an extra ticket.
"You don't mind, do you Seamus? And I know Hermione would love to see him again. They've always gotten along so well. Daft really, I mean it's not like he reads many of the same books, or anything now is it?" Ron's bafflement had been good-natured, and he'd clapped Seamus on the shoulder, considering the matter closed. After all, everyone liked Charlie, didn't they?
Hermione had been having a great time, from the look of things, caught up in a lively argument with Neville and Charlie about the implications of the new Anti-Muggle measures, and Seamus was glad to see she wasn't bored, though he could have wished that she didn't look so happy to be talking to Charlie. Not that he really had any reasonable grounds for the irritation he was feeling, after all, but right at this moment, he didn't really feel all that reasonable. So now he was standing in the stands of Ireland's most famous pitch, feeling gloomy and damp, instead of arguing good-naturedly with Ron, or Neville about the plays as they all cheered themselves foolish for the chance of a British contender for the Cup.
"Penny for yer thoughts, boyo?" She had come up on him while he had been lost in his thoughts, completely unaware of her presence. She had to lean in, to be heard above the crowd, and Seamus caught the hint of cinnamon before she pulled back.
The put-on accent was truly awful, but suddenly Seamus's day became a whole lot brighter.
Okay, so maybe he was a little jealous.
What have I done?
Eyes open, staring and wide with shock. Tawny brown with flecks of amber that somehow reminded him of crisp autumn days looking up at him from behind thick caramel lashes, full lips parted and slightly swollen from his transgression. Somehow he wasn't sure who was more surprised, but he does know that if he doesn't do something quickly, Hermione was going to gather her wits, and very likely hex him into next week.
Grabbing her around the waist, Seamus swung her around exuberantly, giving her his best goofy grin, trying to pass it off as excessive good spirits after Kenmere's spectacular win. Speech was impossible anyway, given the noise level in the home-team stadium. Thankfully, Ron, who hadn't noticed his mates at all during the mad cheering and celebrating of the crowd after the match grabbed her as soon as he released her, and she was swept up in her other friend's almost comic excitement.
Seamus missed her searching gaze when he turned away, and she watched him with fingers pressed softly to her lips.
He also missed Charlie, smirking at him.
They had all gone for an after game drink down at the pub before going their separate ways. The Gryffin's Boots was one of those old fashioned places Ireland was filled with; rough hewn benches and booths, polished smooth by generations of bums, and tables that all had an assortment of things wedged under the legs to keep them from wobbling — but it was clean and the ale was just as it should be, warm and a wee touch cloudy. They had been lucky to find a seat at all in the crowded interior and voices rose all around them, some in off-colour song, others in good-natured argument.
Seamus took no notice of them; he was too busy defending Ireland's honour from that bloody Dragon Keeper.
"'uck! Wha' a bloody foul that was! What'us the ref looking with, his arse? That bludger –"
"Maybe if Aiden Myeir would stop trying to skim the Egyptian Chaser's broom, they wouldn't –"
"Oi! What'ya on about now? Myeir not only plays well but he's a good sight less dirty then those Egyptian Beaters!" Seamus was irritated again. Everything Charlie was saying was reasonable, he knew. In fact, the wanker had yet to even really get riled under Seamus's indignant umbrage at his legitimate comments as to Ireland's tactics on the field today, though how any British-born witch or wizard could possibly criticize on a game like this, was beyond his nationalistic understanding.
They'd had a pint. Nothing really to account for how he was letting Charlie get under his skin like this, or how something that had started back in school as a minor annoyance was now avid dislike. He knew his behaviour was way out of line; he'd been ragging on Charlie all afternoon, and it was completely unlike the normal easy-going attitude he usually possessed.
He could feel Hermione glaring at him, could imagine the narrowed eyes and stiff frown that would greet him if he turned to her, and suddenly he had the almost overwhelming urge to wrap his arms around her and hold her against him until she relaxed into his chest and smiled, just for him.
Clearly, it was time for a strategic retreat, before he did something that would get him hexed. Hexed-er, if there was such a thing.
Seamus closed his eyes for a moment, and searched for the frayed ends of his peace of mind.
Finding his mental equilibrium again, he opened his eyes to see that Charlie was no longer there. Turning to Hermione, he raised an eyebrow in inquiry.
"Loo." She explained shortly, still obviously angry at him. She had a spot of foam from her ale on her upper lip, near the corner of her mouth. It made her look rather adorable, Seamus thought uncomfortably. She continued to study him, and he could practically see the gears turning in her head as she made a mental list, trying to decide how to speak to him about this afternoon. Seamus reached for her and swiped at her lip with the pad of his thumb just as she began to speak. "Seamus –"
She cut off abruptly at his gesture, startled. He wondered if she was tingling from the contact as he was, feeling itchy and squirmy and like he'd just like to crawl out of his own skin.
And into hers, maybe. Bad, Seamus.
"Foam." He managed to say, by way of explanation.
She nodded, a little distractedly, and was obviously about to try again and Seamus knew that staying would be a bad mistake. He was obviously having a mental breakdown, and things were just too close to the surface right now.
"Look, I'm goin' t' head back t' the flat. I'm sure I'm a bit of a tag along right now anyway. Enjoy yer afternoon with Charlie."
Giving her a cocky grin that managed not to look too forced, he made his way to the fireplace in the back room of the pub, and flooed home.
He had sat in the overstuffed chair by the dark tellie – the one she normally preferred to curl up in and read those enormous books of hers. Crookshanks had immediately jumped into his lap, and Seamus began absently petting him when a furry head-butt prompted him. The cat's solid presence was surprisingly soothing. Hermione had always claimed that the ugly thing could sense when something was bothering a person.
A'course, he could just be hungry, too.
It had been far longer than his liking before Hermione came home and the evening had begun to cast long shadows on the floor, but he knew he'd made her pretty mad with his petty bickering with Weasley, so he tried not to let it bother him too much.
Fat chance of that.
He'd been right, she was angry and she used lots of big, Hermione-ish words to tell him so. She caught him half way through changing; his shirt pulled loose from his pants and not even buttoned up. He felt rather at a disadvantage half dressed and standing in the doorway to his bedroom, and he was only listening to her scold him with half a brain; the other half was rather distractingly occupied with noticing how cute she was with her nose crinkled like that, and her eyes shining at him.
'Course, in his thoughts they were normally shining with love or arousal.
"You were being downright rude, Seamus Finnigan, and I want to know why!"
Seamus suddenly knew what it felt like to be studied and analyzed by Hermione Granger. It was extremely uncomfortable, and for the life of him, he wasn't really sure what to say to her. She should be furious, had been not two moments before, but somewhere along the way her indignation and anger had vanished, and she now was regarding him with an almost, expectant, look in her eyes as she watched him.
Bewildered, he looked down, trying to break the connection while he tried desperately to figure out what to say to her, but that only brought to his attention how close she was, how the heat of her skin next to his was noticeable despite the warmth of the apartment, and how tense her body was…
Seamus could easily say he knew her as well as anyone, and better then most, except maybe her boys, and he couldn't remember the last time he had seen her this nervous, and it was like he was back in that dark entrance way of Grimmauld Place again as the gentle realization swept over him. He wasn't the only one suppressing things. Slowly, he brought his eyes back up to catch her gaze rather deliberately from beneath his lashes.
For a long moment they stood there, waiting as Seamus continued to watch her, his lips quirked into what he hoped was a sexy, boyish half-smile. Hermione began to flush slightly at the prolonged tension, and Seamus spoke just as he sensed her weight shift in preparation to move away.
"An' did yeh want me to have a particular reason, now?" Seamus asked softly, trying hard to keep the yearning from his voice, in case he was wrong and about to sound like a complete tosser.
"No, it's just that –" Hermione shivered slightly as he deliberately moved closer to her. "Stop that!"
Seamus captured the hand that reached out to swat at him, pressing a fleeting kiss to her palm before holding it safely at her side. It was corny, he knew, though he stood there praying she wouldn't notice the pounding in his chest. Why was it she could always make him feel like they were back in school again? Hermione stared at him, confused at how she had lost control of the situation so completely.
"Nope. I think yer telling me a wee fib." He continued to watch her, and when he saw her eyes begin to travel down his chest, as if pulled, he almost cheered. Her gaze drifted slowly, trailing down until she reached the waistband of his denims before her head came up with a startled snap and when he smiled at her, she glared back as if it was his fault for the direction her thoughts were talking. Actually, he hoped it was.
The action seemed to have broken the moment for her, and when she spoke it was with the clipped, controlled voice of one who is trying not to throttle someone they consider mentally deficient. "Try and be charming all you want - you were a complete prat today. And I really don't appreciate your methods of distracting me."
"Don't. Just," she paused as she looked away from him, shoulders slumping a little, "let it alone. I don't really want to talk about it now."
That hurt. She had always been the one to know him, know he was really above stuff like that, even if he did come of about as deep as Lockhart some days. "Yeh really thing I'm playing with yeh? Trying it on as some sort of game to charm yeh out of yer bad mood? Fek, I thought yeh knew me better than that."
Hermione looked up, startled by his unexpected frustration. "Frankly, Seamus, I don't know what to think except that maybe it would be best to end this conversation, for now."
She was biting her bottom lip now, trying not to look at him without seeming like she was trying not to look at him and Seamus felt his earlier hope return. He waited until the silence forced her to look up at him, and mentally took a deep breath. This was it. He smiled, completely relaxed for the first time in months.
"Would yeh mind too much if I were being completely serious, then?" He took a few steps to stand before her again. Reaching out with the pad of his thumb, he tentatively brushed it along the sweep of her cheek. He almost groaned allowed at the softness of her skin, hoping she felt at least some of what he was feeling too. His skin was feeling all shivery again, and it was hard for him to concentrate on just savouring the long-wished for feel of her against him, and not pulling her to him and snogging her until she stopped being insecure and stopped thinking about the pros and cons of the situation, and just felt him there with her. The idea made him smile; Hermione's compulsive behaviour just made her who she was.
She still looked startled and uncertain, but a dazed heat was beginning to replace the insecurities and he reached out to fist her hair, threading his fingers at the nape of her neck so that he could continue softly feathering her cheek and the shell of her ear with his thumb. He wondered briefly if he should stop, let things go slowly between them, but then she was kissing him and all thought of stopping went right up the floo.
He barely had time to register the feel of her mouth on his before she was licking at the seam of his lips, pushing forward into his mouth as soon as he opened to her. He couldn't pull her close enough, his hands kept changing their hold on her, trying to simultaneously pull her in and force himself to draw back before they crossed a line that could, and probably should wait for tonight. He was nipping at her lips, sharp teeth teasing the flesh before moving to her jaw and neck, causing her to arch back in his arms with an appreciative sigh. Forcing himself, he gentled his assault, finally finding her pulse point to lay a lingering kiss on the fluttering hollow. Seamus relaxed his arms, though still kept her in their lose circle as he put some space between them and tried to get his brain functioning from his head again.
The pins had come out of Hermione's hair, and it sprang to live in an inviting tangle of messy curls. She looked back at him, obviously still lost in the moment and confused by his retreat. If she kept looking at him like that, he'd probably end up taking her right there in the doorway.
"'m tha' good, huh?"
His teasing seemed to turn the trick, and Hermione glared at him affectionately. He grinned at her, just enjoying the moment for what it was. "'ve thought about doing tha' for a long time, yeh know?"
"I have too. I'm glad you finally did."
"So, if yeh've been thinkin' about me, why all this time with Charlie suddenly?"
Hermione actually blushed. "Actually, it was Charlie's idea. He seemed to get the idea that you might be jealous."
For the first time since fifth year, Seamus felt that maybe Charlie was kinda cool, after all.
Every now and then I just have to write a bit of fluff; ultimately, it's only use is to make you feel good on a bad day, and it has less sugar then chocolate winks
Thanks to everyone who reads and comments - you're reviews are always wonderfully encouraging (including those that offer critique and con-crit) and I really appreciate the time you take to write to me.