Sirius nudged the large door open, staring disbelievingly across the room at the author; his beard was back to a stubble, and his hair looked like it had been cut but grown back out already, but it was unmistakably him.
"I was gone?" he asked in puzzlement, his mouth puckering in confusion. "I mean, yeah, it's been a while, but I got writer's block again."
"I told you, ADD, or something," the author said. "On the bright side, I've made progress on my novels."
"Good for you," Sirius said with a small chuckle, moving to plop into the chair opposite the author, who was currently sifting through a large CD folio. "More of the Beatles?"
"Magical Mystery Tour," the author said with a grin, pressing play and reaching into a folder he'd brought with him. "So, I bought the Half-Blood Prince movie."
"Oh, yeah?" Sirius asked. "What'd you think?"
He shrugged. "It had its moments."
"So, is that why you're here?" Sirius asked, nodding at the small manuscript in the author's hands. "Inspiration from the movie?"
"Yeah, I seem to have this thing for Harry and Hermione on staircases," the author said with a chuckle, and Sirius laughed, leaning back in his chair as the author held out the manuscript. "Take a look. See if you can spot what I changed."
Connection and Capacity
"How does it feel, Harry?" she asked, her breath hitching, and she inhaled before continuing. "When you see…Dean with Ginny?"
Harry blinked staring at her for a moment, at a loss for words. "Oh…um…." How did she…?
"I know," Hermione said, her breath hitching again. "I see the way you look at her. You're my best friend," she added by way of explanation, and Harry mentally nodded; of course she'd have figured it out.
Harry was still trying to think of a response when a high-pitched giggling met their ears, and they looked up to see the last two people that would make this situation any better than it currently was. Ron was hurrying toward the stairs, his eyes on a happily skipping Lavender, who was clutching to his arm with what looked the sole purpose of making him aware of her chest. The pair stopped when their eyes landed on Harry and Hermione, and Harry for his part felt his heart sink; there went any hope of salvaging the situation.
"Oops," Lavender said with another giggle, her eyes darting between Harry and Hermione, clearly drastically misreading the situation. "I think this room's taken," she whispered into Ron's ear, pressing herself even closer to him (and making him alarmingly aware of her chest, Harry noted).
"What's with the birds?" Ron asked with a nervous laugh as Lavender rushed off (no doubt to scout another snogging location). Hermione stood angrily, and Harry inwardly winced, feeling a pang of sympathy for Ron, for all his acting the arse this evening.
"Oppugno," she said with quiet anger, and the birds she had charmed up circled her head not unlike a squad of jets, rounding and zooming at Ron, who stared at them in bewilderment, backpedalling and just managing to dodge them, sending the birds flying into a wall, where they disappeared in a whirl of yellow feathers.
Impressive, Harry noted inwardly as Ron stared at Hermione in clear confusion before following Lavender. Letting another quiet sob, Hermione backed to the stairs, slouching down like a woman defeated, and Harry moved down a step to allow her to sink onto his shoulder, wrapping her arms around his right arm.
"It feels like this," Harry said quietly, answering her previous question.
"Why does it have to hurt so much?" Hermione asked, and Harry shook his head, giving her a comforting squeeze with his arm.
"I…dunno," he said. "I think that's something we work out later."
Harry didn't know how long they sat like that, Hermione buried in his neck, her sobs slowly subsiding into the occasional hitched breath. Soon, though, she gave a huge sniff and let sigh.
"Sorry," she whispered, sitting up and pulling her knees to her chest. "I suppose you didn't plan on spending tonight with me sobbing into your shoulder."
"Oh, don't worry about me," Harry said with a smile. "I'm just making up for leaving you sobbing on a staircase after the Yule Ball."
Hermione let a watery giggle, and Harry chuckled as well. "Right," she said. "Well, you're doing a fine job. Funny enough, that was because of Ron, as well. I don't know why I even bother anymore."
Harry couldn't think of anything to say to that one, so he only shrugged, looking over at Hermione as she stared thoughtfully out the window, the moonlight waning as it sank behind a cloud, leaving them in semidarkness.
"Harry," she said, and Harry made a noise to show she had his attention. "D'you want to go to Professor Slughorn's party together? Just as friends?"
"Um, sure," Harry said, nodding, "but that's a bit out of the blue, isn't it?"
"Well, I was just…don't you dare laugh," she said, glaring at Harry, who nodded quickly. "I was just going over all the implications of this. I do that when things like this happen."
"I see," Harry said. Leave it to Hermione to organize everything about her life, even the romance.
"And I was planning on asking Ronald to the party, but now I think I'd rather go with you," she said. "At least I don't have to worry about you being a complete cad."
"I try my best," Harry said with a smile, and Hermione giggled as well, leaning in to hug him.
"Thank you, Harry," she said. "I think I'd lose my mind without you."
"Well, I can think of plenty of times I'd've lost my life without you," Harry said, and Hermione chuckled, "so I guess we're even."
"I suppose," Hermione said, laying her head on his shoulder. She was silent a moment, staring thoughtfully out the window again. Harry briefly wondered if she could do anything without seeming thoughtful. Hermione was always thinking, and trying to look like you weren't thinking would probably take too much concentration.
"What are you thinking about?" Hermione asked, and Harry's cocked his head as he pondered the question.
"I'm not really sure," he said, and Hermione laughed.
"Well, do you want to sit and figure it out, or would you like to go back to the common room?" she asked. "The party's probably wound down by now."
"And if Ron's still there?"
"Then I'll head straight for the girls' dorms," she said with a decided nod.
"And what if Lavender's with him?"
"D'you think she's got ornithophobia?" Hermione asked, and Harry rolled his eyes, unsure of what ornithophobia was, but positive that it had something do with a flock of canaries.
The common room was, mercifully, devoid of Ron and Lavender. A few of the younger team members were still lounging around with their friends, relishing their first ever quidditch victory, and they all looked up and raised their glasses to Harry when he entered. Harry gave them a wave, following Hermione to the entrance to the girls' dorms. She stopped at the door, turning and smiling at him. Stepping closer, she wrapped him in a hug, resting her head on his chest before pulling away. As she stepped back, their gazes locked, brown on green, and Harry found himself frozen in place as he stared at her chocolate brown eyes, still slightly puffy from crying, but the sheen of tears had left them almost…sparkling?
"Oh!" Hermione gasped as their noses touched, and they sprang apart; somehow, they had ended up leaning closer to each other.
"Um," Harry struggle to find anything to say, but Hermione smiled, putting a hand on his chest and effectively cutting him off.
"Goodnight, Harry," she said softly, and Harry nodded, finding himself still unable to speak. Hermione turned and made her way up the stairs, and Harry watched her progress until she was out of sight, staring at the point where she had disappeared long after she'd gone.
"Harry?" Ron's voice called out as Harry entered the dorm. "That you?"
"Yeah," Harry said, still slightly dazed as he changed into his nightclothes. "S'me."
"How's…um, how's Hermione?"
"She's…" Harry sank onto his mattress, at a loss for words, "brilliant."
"That bad, eh?" Ron asked, mistaking his remark for sarcasm. "Well, hopefully she'll be better by morning."
"Yeah," Harry replied, slipping under his covers. "Yeah, morning. Things'll be a lot better in the morning."
"That's it?" Sirius asked, looking at the author in disbelief. "You can't just leave it at that!"
"I wasn't planning to," the author said with a laugh. "I just wanna get some feedback, then I'll probably post more. I'm trying to take it slower this time, maybe draw it out some more. I was told that the first few chapters of Dragon were a little rushed in places."
"Yeah, I saw those reviews," Sirius said. "So, what about your other two stories?"
"Hiatus," the author said, standing with a grunt and taking the manuscript back from Sirius, who followed as the author headed to the posting point. "I may go back and work on Segue, but I don't know if I'll ever do anything with Disparate."
"Well, whatever the case, it's good to see you writing again," Sirius said with a grin, clapping the author on the shoulder and tugging him to a stop. "And you forgot the disclaimer."
"Oh," the author said, looking mildly surprised. "I did, didn't I?"
Turning, he spoke to the room at large, "I don't own Harry Potter or any of its affiliated characters, settings, or any associated creative property. The aforementioned is the sole property of J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Publishing Company. Any characters, settings, or creative property mentioned within this story and not associated with Harry Potter are the sole property of me unless otherwise specified, and use is limited to my permission. Thank you and have a nice day."
"Come on, they're waiting for you," Sirius said, moving past him to lead the way to the posting point. Absently humming along to "I Am The Walrus", the author followed with a smile.