Disclaimer: All publicly recognisable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. Original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended. Not beta read, don't shoot.

Warnings: Rated M for sexual situations and adult themes. Please don't read if this bothers you.

For Windrider, who requested it quite some time ago.


Like A Brother

A hallway doused in shadows. Cobwebs curved across doorways and swinging slightly; dull gleamings of silver and white, despite the deathly stillness of the air. Up the stairs by wandlight, soft creakings of wood underfoot. Up the stairs as they curved beyond the second landing, up past the dark-grimed paintings and the dust on the banister, up to the topmost landing. Up the stairs, before finally pausing, stopping, coming to a halt with unsteady breath at the door with the small nameplate glinting silver in the eerie light. Sirius. Sirius, but she could only half reconcile that with the fact that in her heart she didn't think of the room as Sirius's at all. Because behind that door in the heavy darkness it wasn't Sirius, but his godson, who lay sleeping.

Smooth and cold the doorknob, as her hand reached for it and she entered the room. Feet soft against the dusty carpet, door clicking shut behind her. Her wandlight illuminating the large bed in the centre of the spacious room, the bed beneath the chandelier smothered in cobwebs, the bed with its faded but proud Gryffindor colours.

A bed fit for Harry.

He lay to one side as though expecting company. She moved towards him silently like a thief come in the depths of night. He lay on his back, mouth slightly open, one hand curved across his bare chest and the other lost beneath his pillow. On the wrist that she could see, she could make out the form of the old battered watch that had belonged to Mrs Weasley's brother. It was two a.m. The witching hour – a phrase her father had always used, a phrase that brought a sad smile to her lips even when muttered barely consciously inside her head – was already behind them. Time marched onwards. She turned to the heavy velvet curtains at the window and tugged them open. Outside, beyond the patina of grime, she could see the rest of Grimmauld Place sunk in silent slumber. So strange to be in the midst of the Muggle world and yet incalculably far away from Muggle reality.

'Nox,' her voice whispered and the room fell dark. She closed her eyes, then opened them slowly like Lupin had taught her, the best method to adjust to the gloom… and realised that Harry's green tinged pupils were observing her. He didn't yawn or seem surprised. Instead he just lay there, dark hair a mess against the pale, almost nebulous white of his pillow in the silvery light, and looked as though he were completely awake.

'What are you doing, Hermione?' he asked, voice barely louder than hers had been with her incantation.

Bare feet travel the space between them, returning from the window to the bed. Pale, slender hands placed her wand in the pocket of her dressing-gown and then ran their fingers across the carved wood of the bed's headboard, fingertips gathering a slick covering of dust. Eyes avoided meeting his and her voice muttered, 'I couldn't sleep.'

'Again?' His smile was sympathetic, but underlying it, a trace of doubtful discomfort. 'Ron doesn't like it,' he reminded her gently, rising up onto his elbow.

She turned on him, rage and frustration shifting her face uglily, hands dusting themselves angrily, jerkily against her nightgown. 'Ron, Ron, Ron,' she hissed and it was as though she were screaming, but silently. 'It's because of him that I can't sleep. His words, his words, his words from dinner racing around my head in an endless, whining loop!'

Harry sat up slowly, sheets falling down to his waist and revealing the top of his pyjama bottoms, colour indecisive in the weird light. His hand rubbed at his temple as though plagued by the shadow of a headache, then reached automatically towards his glasses. She reached out and stopped him. 'Oh, don't bother,' she snapped, 'I'm leaving again anyway. Sorry I woke you.'

He could hear in her voice that she meant it and he didn't doubt it anyway. Without thinking, his hand sprang out with the reflexes of a Seeker, grabbing her arm before she could escape his hold, Fabian Prewett's watch-face flashing white. 'What's it about, Hermione?' he asked in a quiet voice. 'I'm getting so used to waking up with you asleep in my bed that I keep to one side now when I fall asleep. But if I'm awake when you come in, then you slink off again in a rage? Why are you so angry? Why are you – here?' His lips didn't add that sometimes he was awake when she came in, but pretended to sleep, just so she'd hang her dressing-gown at the end of his bed and slip in amongst the sheets at his side and then, when her breathing grew into that of a sleeper, he could lay and look at her. Those were the things his lips didn't say.

She pulled against his grasp but he was stronger than she was and so she gave up. A cranky, impotent little grunt slipped from her and she sat heavily at the edge of his bed, gown flapping at her calves. 'Why am I angry? Because Ron's an idiot. He opens his mouth and stupidity comes out. How could he say that about us? Just because I sleep here, it doesn't mean, that is, I—'

Her voice had risen with panicked insistence and Harry loosened his vice-like grip on her wrist, slipping his hand from the hard bones of her lower arm, downwards, wrapping her fingers gently in his. Then he shook her hand slightly, almost playfully. 'Hey, Hermione, don't let him get you down. We're just friends and he's a jealous git, alright?' Harry realised there was more of the question than the statement to his words, but thankfully she didn't seem to notice. Instead she was looking even angrier.

Without warning she swung herself up onto his bed, knelt in front of him, her knees on either side of his keens where they stretched out before him beneath the sheets, her movement forcing his arm to bend uncomfortably because she hadn't let go, her eyes seeming to flash now that she was close enough for him to half see her minus his glasses. 'Exactly! He's a jealous git. Doesn't he understand that you're like a brother to me? It's not my fault that I can't sleep alone anymore, it's not my fault that this silent war is screwing with my brains, it's not my fault that I come here instead of going to him. You're like a brother!'

Harry nodded and said in a carefully modulated voice, 'I'm not disagreeing with you, Hermione.'

Outside the room, outside in the night sky above Grimmauld Place, clouds passed swiftly over the moon, plunging their faces into darkness and then pale light, then darkness again. Hermione let out a sigh that made her whole body shudder, he could feel it against his legs beneath the blankets, and then she looked down piercingly at their hands, still joined, and Harry's thumb caressing little circles against the side of her hand without him realising it.

Harry could sense the feeling leaving his extremities and he didn't think it was just her weight against his knees that was making his toes tingle with pins and needles, but he remained very still, still like a man caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. He knew what Ron suspected, knew as well as she did that his friend believed their feelings were deeper than they would admit. Harry didn't believe in trespassing on a friend's property, he believed in the codes of chivalry, but he also knew that Ron's accusing words hit him below the belt because the fact was that there had been times recently when he'd woken up with her hair tickling his nose and her back curved against his chest, and he'd wondered what it would be like to crash through their supposed sibling barrier, break down the wall the same way that Ron had apparently already done, reach out and put his hand upon her skin and – and now she knelt against him, her face aflame with ire and—

'Christ,' he whispered despite himself and her eyes snapped back up to meet his, and he saw something spark in their depths. He was embarrassed, ashamed at the tone he knew his voice had had, and he pulled his hand away from hers as though his touch could make her crumble like Quirrell had all those years back. He willed her to go, to leave, but she didn't. Fingers trembling she reached out her hand and trailed it along his jaw, at no point actually touching him, her skin always remaining just out of reach of his, and yet her not-touch still set his insides to twisting in his belly.

'Do you ever wonder?' she asked quietly.

'Don't play games, Hermione,' he warned, his own voice now caught into anger.

She snatched her hand back, offence written across her face and in her voice that shook as she repeated, 'Games? You think I want to play games? You think I like the mess that I've become? You think I like how we've ended up, the three of us? You know Ron's right, Harry. It's not normal. A normal girlfriend would never end up here, in the bed of her boyfriend's best friend, just because she can't sleep. A normal girlfriend wouldn't have to hear the sound of your breathing to be able to rest without nightmares... what's happened to me, Harry?'

He shouldn't have answered, he knew he shouldn't have answered, his head pounded with the knowledge of it, but the words spilt out of him anyway, gruffly, unwillingly, too soft. 'I don't know. I – I like you here too – it's reassuring to – to hear you breathe.' His hand reached out like a sleepwalker's, like it was possessed, his fingertips touching at the base of her throat. 'Reassuring – to watch your chest rise and fall.'

'He'd never know,' she whispered brokenly, voice hoarse.

Harry's hand shifted, lay flat against her skin, filling the V of the neck of her dressing-gown. He didn't need to ask what she was talking about.

'It wouldn't be right,' he said, and she shook her head angrily, sharply. The movement made his hand slip against her body, sliding down onto her breast. Her breath caught, then came quicker, ribs rising and falling against him as they remained frozen in their silence. Through the thin stuff of her dressing-gown, the nipple rose hard against the palm of his hand.

'Not right,' she agreed. 'Though it's what he thinks anyway.' And then she pressed forwards against his hand, moving her body up along his legs. 'It's his own fault for his endless nagging, his endless, endless jealousy.' Her hand in his hair, caught around the base of his neck, sliding upwards.

'That's no excuse.'

His hand tightening on her breast, the other one curving around her hip, pulling her closer towards him yet.

'Then no excuses.' Her breath on his face, warm, milky, her lips open and grazing his temple. Her knees now to either side of his lap and against her, him, hard. She moved against him, skin itching with a need that she didn't want to have to explain to herself. A need for him, a need for something she was forbidden, a need here in the bedroom of a rebel to do something rebellious. Her blood racing, her hair tumbled wild across his chest as her lips grazed along his jaw and then came to pause just short of his mouth.

'Like a brother?' he hissed harshly in her ear. She pulled the sheets down beneath them, even as he hiked her gown up around her hips.

'So they say,' she responded in an unforgiving tone, then slammed her mouth against his, all teeth and lips and angry tongue, as together they turned the night white with a blinding rush of collapsing self deceptions.