DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I originally posted this story on in 2004 at the height of anticipation for the pending release of what turned out to be the very disappointing (to Harmony shippers, at least) Half-Blood Prince. I decided to post this (which includes some minor editing which will hopefully make it more readable and resolve errors made in the original) in the hope of reviving my moribund muse who - last I heard - was kidnapped and dragged over to Ancient Greece.

The story was a response to a challenge posted by "pok" in : Harry gets an accidental taste of Hermione's lips and, during a Hogsmeade visit, buys a bag of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. He pops one bean after another into his mouth until one flavor catches his attention—a bean that tastes like Hermione. He becomes obsessed with finding that bean/flavor again. Hermione is concerned and vows to find out why he's acting that way and help Harry overcome his addiction.

And so, without further ado, I bring you ...

Chapter 1. It's Only Hermione

Gryffindor Common Room, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Evening (Harry's POV)

How can one stare at a fire and not go blind? Watching the flames, letting the dancing light stab into your eyes, penetrating your brain – not noticing, not even blinking, seeing nothing but the pictures in your mind?

Easy – your eyes may be fixated on the fire, but your mind is somewhere else. It is as if a screen exists between your eyes and your brain: you stare at something as if nothing else holds interest, while behind the screen, your mind would be a hundred miles away.

Or perhaps, a few hours, days or weeks past.

Memory is a tricky thing, indeed. I read somewhere that no one really forgets, that the memories are just stored in one's brain, ready for recall if and when needed – my brain flashes an image of Snape as he pulls a silvery thread from his head and deposits it in a Pensieve, followed by images of Dumbledore's memories of Barty Crouch Jr., and Bertha Jorkins in the Pensieve in his office.

I blink. Maybe that's it – I may not be able to remove the thoughts bothering me; maybe all I need to do is to force my mind into something else. It would be just like a Patronus: find your happiest memories, focus your energies into that thought and drive away whatever thoughts/memories/whatever have been driving me batty.

I collapse back in my chair.

Problem: the happiest memories I have are all associated with Hermione. Every time I needed to cast a Patronus in a life-or-death situation (by the lake with Sirius and Hermione the first time, in the maze with that fake Dementor, and even on Privet Drive that summer), it was the memory of Hermione that powered the charm.

How can I cast Hermione's image from my mind by summoning an image of her?

I'm going to kill Gred and Forge. The moment I'm sure that old Tom's done and buried, I'm going to kill those two. They may be the best pranksters since the Marauders, but this prank has gone too far.

Oh, shite! Here it comes again …

*

FLASHBACK: CHRISTMAS, NO. 12 GRIMMAULD PLACE

'All right,' he thought. 'I can do this. It's only my friend. My best friend … It's only Hermione … '

Harry leaned forward at last and pressed his lips gently against hers. And all of his thoughts vanished from there.

From that moment, from that light, almost fleeting contact, grew something that was beyond thought between them. Harry didn't know anything except the feel of Hermione's lips against his: the warmth of them, the taste of them, the sheer explosion that was bursting forth within him - from his stomach to his toes - and shooting back up again …

Something was happening beyond a kiss. Every nerve fiber in Harry's body was on end - ignited, like a flame - burning through him as he deepened the kiss. And as Hermione responded, as she pulled him nearer - one hand around his middle, the other on his chest beneath his frantically beating heart - Harry found his hands moving, too - from her cheek to her hair, from her waist to her back - as he tried to get nearer to her still.

He wondered briefly what was coming over them - and why they were behaving in such an unrestrained manner - but what little thought he had was swiftly swept aside when Hermione's lips parted beneath his. Shocked to find their tongues touching, Harry made a sound between a gasp and a moan, but kissed Hermione still - rising to some challenge that hadn't been present a moment earlier.

They kissed and kissed - for what duration of time, Harry had no idea - but he was surprised and breathing heavily when Hermione finally broke away from him.

"Wow!"

END FLASHBACK

*

It was the Fred and George's 'Very Merrie Mistletoe' that was my undoing: I'd been helping Hermione decorate a Christmas tree in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place when she'd inadvertently stepped under the newest Weasley Wizarding Wheezes test product. The only way to break the enchantment was to be kissed – and it wasn't enough to be simply 'kissed.'

It had to be full-out, mouth-to-mouth, lip-mashing, tongue-tasting, tonsil-seeking, body-grabbing and heart-squeezing snogging – or maybe it wasn't. I couldn't be sure now if they told us it had to be that way … all that Hermione and I knew was that our first and second attempts to break away didn't work, so we had to try again.

Well, the third one was the charm – whatever we did right broke the enchantment of the Weasley mistletoe and we were able to go down to dinner. By unspoken agreement, we decided not to make too much of a fuss about what happened in the drawing room – Hermione's death glare was enough to convince the Twins to let her nonchalant "Harry kissed me" (implying that I had done nothing more than kiss her cheek) pass. We gave the impression that there was something wrong with their formulation (George admitted that the first attempt was a disaster which had brought both of them to the Hospital Wing with their tongues stuck to each other!), so they must have missed out again on the 'right' mix.

Of course, things had changed between Hermione and me after that.

The funny thing is … it wasn't what anyone might have expected.

I really, truly, completely thought that I'd be spending seconds, minutes, hours, days, nights, weeks and everything in between thinking about what happened that night beneath the mistletoe: contemplating her lips, imagining myself in the same position again, going through the full-out, mouth-to-mouth, lip-smashing – you know what I mean.

But I didn't.

Merlin help me, I didn't.

We'd kept our distance from each other after that – although it would have taken a deaf bat to know that 'distance' referred only to our faces. For some reason, we found ourselves sitting closer to each other; too many times, we found our fingers touching, our eyes spotting specks on the other's shoulder that we just had to brush off, an arm too often around the other's waist, her head leaning on my shoulder or my nose in her hair –

Our eyes meeting each other and smiling.

But there was that unspoken barrier that kept our faces apart.

Maybe because it was all so new to us. That kiss under the Weasley's mistletoe had broken a barrier that we'd erected between us – it had opened a door to something that was so new and perhaps so frightening that it kept us from plunging in recklessly and with abandon.

There was simply something so magical and mystical about that kiss that we both wanted to treasure … to hold onto forever, which was what kept both of us from even trying it again until we were both ready and willing to do so.

In the meantime, it was more than enough to continue the way we were – save for those 'accidental' instances when we'd inadvertently touch the other and we'd smile, and I would find myself giving her elbow a soft squeeze, or she would place an arm around me and lean her head on my chest for a moment, and then we'd break apart and continue with whatever it was that we were doing.

It's been driving everyone around us batty, we knew – and maybe that was part of the thrill? More than once, people had come up to us asking if we were already an item – and we would look back at whoever was asking with raised eyebrows and state for the record that we were simply friends.

The best of friends.

And then we'd look at each other and start laughing our heads off.

The point is, we never felt the need to repeat what happened beneath the mistletoe – it was simply too precious and too wonderful a memory, something that deserved to be placed within a Pensieve and relived over and over again with a golden halo surrounding it, warming my chest and my insides with every sensation –

Until Carolyn offered me that bean.

I'm going to kill Ron after I dispose of the Twins.

It's his fault: for being so obsessed with candy and food, for selecting that bag of Bertie Botts Every-Flavor Beans from the trolley on the way to Hogwarts as a way of 'introducing' Carolyn to wizarding sweets, for getting the young girl hooked on those Merlin-be-dammed beans in the first place, such that she had almost begged me (not that she actually fell on her knees begging in the first place!) to bring her a bag of those beans from Hogsmeade …

Which I - being the noble and kind hearted Gyffindor and her adoptive older brother - complied with. She'd asked nicely, after all ...

Maybe I should add Carolyn to the list.

What's happening to me?

Why should I be thinking of adding Carolyn to the list of disposables after Voldemort's been thrown into the dustbin? The kid had no fault in all this … she was doing what any young, impressionable, well-brought-up and oh-so-nice kid would do when presented with a treasure trove of sweets: she went around offering some to everyone in the room.

Maybe I should just kill myself.

After all, I did buy her those beans.

Hermione's right – why should I buy nearly a kilo of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans for Carolyn? Just because I could … what's a few Galleons between friends, right? I passed Hermione's reaction off as a remnant of the conditioning she got from her parents; when she continued to glare at me, I told her that I had to bring enough for Cindy as well as the other kids in their year – it wouldn't do to show favoritism to Carolyn, even if she was a Marauder's niece.

To make a long story short, Carolyn went around offering everyone some of the beans I'd brought back from Hogsmeade. As was the norm, almost everyone got some – Hermione waved her off, the dental conditioning undoubtedly functioning at full force – and I grabbed a handful without thinking and started popping them in my mouth as I worked on my Potions essay.

I've gotten used to them over the years: toss one in your mouth, give a quick bite to release the flavor, chew if it's nice and swallow without a thought if it isn't. Chocolate – chew; tuna – swallow; sawdust – swallow; coconut – chew; strawberry – chew; pepper – swallow … I never even looked at the beans as I tossed them in my mouth – what's there to see, anyway? As Ron said, all those many years ago, the color of the bean didn't have anything to do with the flavor … it was Russian Roulette all the way, and you take your licks when they got you.

So I popped and chewed, tossed and swallowed, popped and chewed –

Until I bit some thing and the world ended.

There was nothing but the taste of Hermione exploding on my lips and mouth – that sweet, lovely, wonderful something that I had tasted for the first time beneath the mistletoe in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place. It was a taste that literally blew my mind, bringing back all the memories in full force, reminding me again in a way that memories alone could not of everything: the feel of her hands on my chest and back, the sensation on my hands as I fisted them in her silky brown hair, the velvety feel of her lips on my own, the heat of her tongue as she entered my mouth, the ridges of her teeth as my tongue played –

The taste.

Merlin help me!

The flavor, the tang, the zest, the essence, the aroma, fragrance, whiff, bouquet –

Did I just say 'bouquet'?

When did I become Hermione?

I was drowning in the sensation, my mind and soul brought back full force to those wonderful seconds or minutes of that night in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place, the magical snow falling all around us and I could feel the sweat breaking out beneath my hair, my palms turning clammy and cold –

Something hit my glasses at that moment, and I unthinkingly swallowed the bean, which ended both the taste and the memory.

I'm going to kill Ginny after I'm done with Fred, George, Ron and Carolyn.

It was she who'd thrown the bean that distracted me from the pleasurable taste in my mouth. I glared at her laughing face but she had turned away to talk to Dean and she was popping another of the beans into his willing mouth –

Why was she wasting those beans on his big mouth?

I turned away, looking for Carolyn in order to cadge a few more beans , and Ginny hit me with another bean. I didn't waste time glaring at her and searched for what she had thrown at me – watched it rolling on the floor and was just about to grab it when Cindy's shoe squashed it –

Make that six people to kill after I do old Snake-Lips in.

I feel a whimper in my throat and force it down.

I'm gonna be a serial killer.

The list of people is growing … start with the bastard who'd killed my parents and sent me to the hellgrounds of Privet Drive; add on his pack of rabid poodles led by Lucius, Bellatrix and Dolohov; tack on Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle just because I can – might as well include Uncle Vernon for the ten years and five summers under his care … Add on all the people who are making me think these thoughts –

What was happening to me?

It's only Hermione.

Lovely, wonderful, amazing, brilliant, beautiful Hermione.

My best friend.

And the bedazzling, fascinating, enthralling, enervating, lovely, wonderful and amazing taste of her lips, her tongue, her teeth, her tonsils –

My first kiss.

From my one and only love –

The realization crashed through me and it was all I could do to stop myself from shaking in awe.

I realized that I had jumped to my feet, ready to go out and do battle with anyone and everything that was going to keep me from her, wanting nothing more in that moment but to go look for her and snog her senseless, to bring back those breathtaking moments under the mistletoe, to taste once again those lips, that tongue, those magically-repaired teeth, to seek out her tonsils and –

Wreck the lovely friendship we'd built over five years and so many adventures.

And that left me cold.

What if what happened was a fluke? What if I tried snogging her and the magic of that night didn't kick in? What if I tried kissing her and she realized that I hadn't brushed my teeth … or that I had a piece of lettuce stuck there somewhere … or she wasn't in the mood for the beef stew I'd had for lunch?

What if the magic of that first kiss somehow shattered if I tried to kiss her – snog her – senseless?

I'd rather be dead.

Which left me with only one option: find a way to bring back the taste, the feel, the sensation of that single magical moment beneath the mistletoe, when things went beyond a kiss and I finally understood that there was something more to life than those smarmy soap operas that Aunt Petunia adored, that there was something infinitely deeper to it all than the giggling and whispering of Lavender and the other girls, or even Ginny wasting the beans on Dean Thomas.

The problem was – how?

I nearly screamed when I heard Carolyn say with a wistful sigh, "That's the last of them," watched in horror as the very last bean flew from Ginny's hand towards Dean's open mouth – it was all I could do to stop myself from leaping up to grab for the flying bean as if it were a Snitch –

I could only watch as the bean slowly reached its arc and started descending, wondering if that was the bean that contained Hermione's very essence, and holding down my sudden rage at the thought of someone else tasting Hermione –

I choked down a whimper as the bean bounced off Dean's nose and fell to the floor – froze as I saw it rolling towards me and died when Hermione picked it off the floor and nonchalantly tossed it into fireplace –

I can't add Hermione to the list, can I?

Hmph.

Never let it be said that Harry Potter is neither resourceful or without resources.

No more beans? Easy - go and get some. Right?

My first thought was the Invisibility Cloak and Marauder's Map – and the passage that opened in the Honeydukes' storage room. But that wouldn't work: (a) the only free time I would have to implement the plan was in the evening when the shop was closed down and doing so would be tantamount to stealing; (b) Ron would undoubtedly want to be in on it and would ask why I was going out –

Plan B involved my Firebolt and Quidditch practice but again … the Snitch was programmed to stay within the confines of the pitch at best, or within Hogwarts grounds only. There was no way Professor Hootch, McGonagall or Headmaster Dumbledore would believe that I was only chasing after the Snitch and ended up in Hogsmeade. They'd probably give me a detention with Snape who'd go on and on about how stupid I was to even think of it, especially as I'm sure my dad had tried that dodge before.

Plan C – my mind shut down when I saw Hermione in her favorite chair by the fireplace, Crookshanks on her lap and knitting needles flashing in front of her and for the briefest of moments, a picture of my beautiful mother flashed through my mind – a picture quickly replaced by an image of an older Hermione with a bushy-haired, black-haired infant in her arms, cooing nonsense rhymes to the kid as the needles continued flashing beside her –

The rogue Bludger hitting my arm in second year had nothing on the mallet that struck between my eyes: whoever said that plans have to be complicated? That was old Snake-Eyes' undoing; he tended to run towards complicated plots and incompetent idiots to implement his ideas; all that I needed for what I wanted were the Galleons – which I had – and a willing accomplice, which I also had.

All good plans are simple, and in the end, it was as simple as all that.

I felt my grin grow wider as I contemplated the utter simplicity of my idea – tomorrow, I thought.

Operation Hermione's Bean goes into effect.

***

Additional Author's Note: The flashback scene was taken in its entirety from pottergirl 786's story "Beyond A Kiss." It's reproduced here with her permission and blessing. My gratitude to her for that wonderful story and others.

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