AN: So, ah... I'm just... not going to say anything. (Sorry!) Read & enjoy...
Uncomfortable. That was the closest to accurate word that Harry could come up with to describe how he felt at this particular Great Hall breakfast. Glances from teachers kept coming his way, mostly approving smiles, but he still squirmed nervously in his usual seat next to Hermione.
It was the day after The Howler had made its way around Hogwarts. Karina Edwards had been swiftly called into McGonagall's office and questioned. While Harry and Hermione were not present for the exchange, McGonagall had told them that Karina had admitted her guilt relatively quickly. She did seem sorry, at least according to McGonagall, but Harry didn't think Karina would lose any sleep over it. Typical Slytherin, causing trouble just for the sake of attention. Not only was this now going to be public to the entirety of Hogwarts, but it would soon be known across the wizarding world. Whoever hadn't personally read that copy of the Howler would certainly be told by someone else, and once McGonagall made her announcement Harry was certain every student at Hogwarts would be writing to someone they knew about it.
The sound of a deep inhale and exhale next to him cued him in that Hermione was feeling just as uneasy as he was, if not more so. While he was used to being in the limelight, she was quite content with being in the background. Hell, even when he tried to give her credit for all her help in his quest to defeat Voldemort, she still tried to say it was really all him in the end. Her modesty never ceased to amaze him; in fact, it was one of the things he loved about her.
"Always thought you two looked good together," came a quiet voice from behind Harry. He jumped a little and turned to see Slughorn smiling at him as he stood behind Harry's chair.
"Thanks, Horace," mumbled Harry, cracking a small smile.
"In fact I was surprised when I found out the two of you weren't dating when you were in school!" Slughorn continued. "Alas, youth is one of the most confusing times of our lives, isn't it."
"Indeed," muttered Harry. "Would be nice if it didn't have to be publicized to the world just yet," he continued, the smile dropping from his face.
"Ah, yes, well," shrugged Slughorn, "sometimes the universe has a different timeline in mind for us. All will be well, I'm sure!" He clapped Harry on the shoulder and returned to his seat.
"Easy to be optimistic when it's not you," Hermione whispered beside him. Harry chuckled.
"One day we'll look back on this and laugh… right?"
"Absolutely," Hermione assured him.
All of the teachers, of course, had been informed of Harry and Hermione's new relationship the previous evening, after Karina had admitted fault and been assigned detention for every day until term completed. Naturally everyone was supportive - Harry and Hermione had already heard a lot of "always knew this would happen" and "can't believe it took you this long." They could only hope the students were even half as understanding.
Teenagers, however, had a way of doing completely the opposite of what you hoped. Especially Slytherin teenagers. Especially Karina Edwards.
Harry shook himself. He was an adult. A professor. He had to teach Karina for three more years. Bitterness would get him nowhere.
"May I have your attention please," came McGonagall's voice.
"Here we go," muttered Hermione, giving him a half glance as she put down her fork and turned to look at McGonagall.
"I'm afraid I must interrupt your breakfast this morning with a rather important announcement. As you know, final exams are approaching next week, and the Quidditch final match between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor is today."
Mild cheering interrupted McGonagall, but it was particularly raucous from the respective teams mentioned, who were attending breakfast in their Quidditch uniforms in celebration. Chris, the Gryffindor beater who'd announced to Harry he'd be a professional Quidditch player in O.W.L. consultations, was easily the loudest in the group. Harry fought back a smile as he recalled the innocent excitement and competition of Quidditch at Hogwarts. He missed it a little.
"Yes, yes, we are all incredibly excited for the match, and I'm sure not so much for exams," continued McGonagall as the cheering quieted. "The tense atmosphere of the end of term always causes people to do strange and unusual things, some innocent and others more malicious."
The room quickly became silent as the students realized this was going to be a more serious announcement.
"I want to firmly and loudly affirm to all of you that gossip, and rumors, and slander, do not have a place of honor in this castle. It has come to my attention that a student has submitted information and an accompanying photo to the notoriously outlandish publication, The Howler, with the intent of damaging the reputation of two Hogwarts professors."
The room began to buzz, but McGonagall kept talking.
"The student in question has been appropriately punished, as Hogwarts will not tolerate such grievances against anyone, be it staff or student. I am certain, however, that the content of the article in question has circulated very quickly among the student body, and that is what I want to address with all of you this morning."
The quiet buzzing quickly stopped. Harry got, if possible, even more uncomfortable. His stomach was in knots and his hands were clenched in his lap. Anxiety was overtaking his brain, but he felt the coolness of Hermione's hand drape over his beneath the table, and his stomach settled a little.
"Love is complex, but at the same time it is very simple," McGonagall went on. "Love is hard, but it is also quite easy. Some of you may even know first hand how easy it is to fall in love with someone."
A few giggles echoed from some of the older girls in the Hall.
"Sometimes, love strikes a person at the most inconvenient of times. Sometimes, it's put out into the world before that person is ready, and that is precisely what has happened this week at Hogwarts."
The buzzing began again, this time more earnestly - those who had seen the article knew where this was going.
"For those who did not read the gossip-filled article in The Howler," McGonagall continued, "it postulated that Professors Potter and Granger are, to put it simply, in love. Due to the incessant need of humans to talk about the lives of others, this magazine has made public what Professor Potter and Professor Granger wished to remain clandestine until the time was more appropriate."
The buzzing got louder. McGonagall had all but admitted the truth, and reactions were appearing throughout the Hall. Harry wasn't sure what to do. He wanted to crawl underneath the table, but obviously that wasn't an option. Should he look down? Look at Hermione? Look defiantly at the Slytherin table?
"Love is a thing that happens to us when we least expect it," continued McGonagall, raising her voice to be heard over the buzzing of the students. "However, it is also a natural thing to be celebrated, not quenched. While it is true that Professors Potter and Granger are involved in a romantic relationship, this does not change their impeccable qualifications as professors nor their dedication to growing all of you to be the best wizards and witches you can be."
Explosion… that was a good word for what happened next. The buzzing became an absolute explosion.
The entirety of the Gryffindor table was in nothing short of celebration. Cat calls, cheering, whoops and fist pumps… that was heartening to see, at least.
The Ravenclaws also seemed mostly pleased with this news, but were naturally more subdued than the Gryffindors and were excitedly chatting within their own circles.
True to their nature, the Hufflepuffs seemed to be quietly approving. Murmurs to each other and smiles up toward the Head Table were most commonly seen.
Alas, the Slytherin table was a mixed bag. A sadly mostly immature and disassociated mixed bag. Certainly no cheering from that table; it was mostly muted muttering. Even a few scowls.
Old habits die hard, thought Harry bitterly.
McGonagall, through with the disrespectful interruptions, shot sparks out of her wand to subdue the insanity.
"I would like to reiterate that this rather disruptive news has been brought to you today because of a student's need for attention and gossip. While love is always a happy thing to celebrate, it is disheartening when a person finds their own petulant desires more important than the needs of those around them. I would strongly caution all of you to think before you speak, and to put yourself in the situation of others before acting."
Harry was pleased to see Karina Edwards shrinking ever lower in her seat.
"With that being said," McGonagall went on, "I am certain that we are all capable of finishing out the term strongly and with dignity. As for the Quidditch final today - may the best team win!"
The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables erupted at this as McGonagall took her seat again. Harry was thankful that at least McGonagall had thought to turn the speech back around to Quidditch to lighten the mood.
"Well, that was lovely…" said Hermione, with only a slight hint of bitterness in her voice.
"Certainly could have been worse," admitted Harry. McGongagall's eloquence aside, though, it was hard to ignore all the stares coming their way from the students, especially the younger ones. Harry tried to imagine how he might have reacted if he'd discovered two of his professors were in love when he was a first year and barely even understood magic, let alone romance.
Hermione couldn't help but to notice a few of the older Gryffindor girls looking especially pouty.
"I told you, they all think you're gorgeous," huffed Hermione, motioning toward the swooning girls.
"Unfortunately for them, I'm all yours," murmured Harry, rubbing her knee under the table. Hermione fought back a smile as she picked her fork back up to finish her breakfast as quickly as possible and get away from all the prying eyes.
Hermione looked up from her desk to see Daniel Goldstein standing before her, lingering after class had been dismissed. He'd been especially attentive in their review session today, she'd noticed. Not that attentiveness was unusual for Daniel, but he was so quick with the lessons as it was, he hardly needed to review anything to be well prepared for exams.
"I… Er…" he stuttered. "I just… I wanted to say… this morning, what Professor McGonagall said…"
Ice formed slowly in Hermione's stomach as she struggled to keep her smile.
"I mean, it just… it suits you."
"I'm sorry?" said Hermione.
"Love. And… Professor Potter. It… you suit each other, I mean."
Not exactly what she'd expected to hear… she blinked a couple of times, trying to decide what on earth to say back to that.
"Thank you, Daniel. It means a lot to hear that from a student."
"I kind of noticed you being different," he continued. "Recently."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you were really kind of harsh when you first arrived… sorry," he explained, averting his gaze. "But over the last month or so you've lightened up a little… I mean, not to say you weren't always a great teacher, it's just… you seemed more at ease. Happier."
Bright as Daniel was, it was clear that words were not his absolute strong suit. Or at least, they weren't when he was talking about something other than academics.
"Love sort of does that to people, I think," said Hermione cheekily. Daniel smiled back at her.
"Anyway, I… I just wanted to make sure you knew that people support you. Professor McGonagall, this morning... it seemed like she made it out like people wouldn't like it. You and Professor Potter being… together… I mean."
"Your support is noted and appreciated, Daniel," Hermione assured him, "but shouldn't you be getting to your next class?"
Daniel blushed a little before mumbling his agreement and disappearing from the room. It was absolutely dreadful, Hermione thought, that this all had to come to light immediately before exams. If only Karina could have just bitten her tongue until term had finished…
"Can I come in?"
Hermione's gaze snapped to the door of her classroom, where Harry stood leaning attractively against the doorframe.
"Of course you can, don't be silly," said Hermione, standing up and walking around to the side of her desk.
Harry smiled slyly at her and closed the door, flicking his wand at it to lock it as he walked toward her.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "And just what are you doing?" she demanded.
"Don't you have a free period right now?" he asked, getting closer to her.
"Mmm, so do I," he said, directly in front of her now. He ran a hand gingerly across her cheek, tucking a stray piece of hair back behind her ear.
"Yes?" he answered, bringing his lips to lightly touch her neck.
"You… we… this isn't smart… we shouldn't…" she protested.
"Hmm, you might be right…" he admitted, but his lips continued teasing her neck.
"You're not going to stop, are you," she mumbled, hating that she loved the feeling of his mouth caressing her skin.
"Nope… not unless you want me to, of course," he said, pulling away and looking into her eyes.
"Ugh, Harry, I…" she trailed off, her gaze moving from his eyes to his lips and back again. "Oh, fuck it," she sighed, and pulled him in for a kiss. He eagerly kissed her back and gently nudged her backwards until she was leaning on the desk. She had one hand on the desk bracing herself but the other firmly gripping his hair, falling ever deeper into the kiss.
"I think these need to go," murmured Harry, and he unclasped her teacher's robe. It fell to the floor in a cascade of black, and his own soon joined hers. She was left in a simple gray knee-length dress and her black pumps, and he stood before her in his usual black slacks and white dress shirt. His sleeves were cuffed up, which was oddly sexy.
"What exactly is your goal here?" asked Hermione as Harry leaned back in to kiss her neck again.
"Whatever we feel like doing," he answered, meeting her lips again as he slowly leaned her backwards.
"Wait," Hermione said, breaking the kiss before she had leaned all the way back. Immediately serious, Harry looked at her with concern.
"We can stop if you want to," he assured her, but Hermione was reaching for her wand.
"No… I don't want to stop," she whispered, and waved her wand behind her. The parchments that were scattered across her desk immediately arranged themselves in a neat pile on a desk in the front row, and the quill and ink that had been out quickly settled into the top drawer. "I just wanted a clean workspace…"
"God I love you," said Harry as he finished leaning her back onto the desk, kissing her all the way. Her bum was perched right on the edge so her legs dangled off the side, but soon they were wrapped around his torso - heels and all - as he kissed her deeper, putting a hand in her hair to take out the bun it had been so neatly secured in.
"I love you too," she whispered when he finally broke the kiss to once again massage her neck with his lips. His right hand propped his weight up but his left wandered to her chest, groping at her breasts while he nibbled her collarbones. She moaned quietly in approval and tried to bring her hand to feel him through his slacks, but she got distracted when he instead rested his weight on his left hand and slowly dragged his right hand down her side… to her hip… to her knee…
"Oh, Harry…" she murmured as his fingers slid up her inner thigh, dragging her dress up with them until he was teasing her through her panties.
"Yes?" he said, meeting her eyes as he gently massaged the lace of her panties.
"Please, oh please…" she begged.
"Hmmm, as you wish," he said, and he quickly dove inside her panties and slipped a finger inside of her. She reacted immediately, throwing her head backwards and moaning his name as he worked first one, then two fingers in and out of her. Wetness was absolutely dripping out of her - her body had gotten ready so fast. He loved looking down at her as she moaned and squirmed, knowing it was because of him that she was in so much pleasure.
"I want you," he whispered, speeding up his fingers.
"I want you, too…" she managed to say, between gasps of pleasure. "Now, now, please," she begged.
"With pleasure," he said, removing his fingers to unbuckle and unzip his slacks. He gently tugged her panties to the side and slowly slipped inside her, meeting her eyes the whole way until he was completely enveloped in her. The desk was the perfect height for him to stand and slide inside her at just the right angle, and he briefly marveled at the fact that they hadn't tried this before.
"Harry... Harry please, please…" she moaned. He smiled down at her as he pulled out and thrust into her again and she sighed with pleasure. Slowly, he did it again, and again, gradually picking up speed until her moans got louder and more desperate and he saw her clutching at the sides of the desk. A few more thrusts and he felt her coming around him, throbbing and warm and wet as she screamed his name, and then he was coming too, spilling inside of her, expending the last of his energy on a final thrust before pulling out of her and leaning down to kiss her deeply.
"I hate you but I love you," she said, sitting up and wrapping her arms around his torso. He laughed and returned the embrace.
"And why is that?"
"Because that was absolutely amazing and incredibly foolish and stupid at the same time," she lamented, turning her gaze up to him.
"It's only foolish if we get caught," he responded, kissing her on the forehead.
"Oh shut up," she muttered, hopping off the desk and pulling a mirror out of the middle left drawer.
"As long as you had fun and you still love me that's all that matters," said Harry, smiling at her as she fussed with her hair, her wand in one hand and the mirror in the other.
"One thing is for sure, Professor Potter," she said, glancing his way, "no matter what foolish or stupid stunts you pull… I will always, absolutely and completely, love you."
Another glamorous day in the life as the lesser-known partner of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, thought Ginny bitterly as she walked through the shop after closing that night, scanning for anything out of place or articles left behind. She'd just finished straightening up the love potions, which had been practically ransacked earlier that day, likely by girls trying desperately to gain the affection of their crush before the term ended…
"Ugh, and of course they've tossed rubbish everywhere," she muttered, bending down to gather the stray parchments littering the floor. Among them she noticed a magazine, the ever-persistent and good-for-almost-nothing tabloid called The Howler. She couldn't suppress her eye roll as she picked it up, glancing at the cover.
A quick glance turned into a stare as she registered the main caption adorning the cover photo.
"Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived… The Man Who Loves?"
The cover photo was poor quality, but it didn't need to be crystal clear for her to piece together exactly what was being pictured. The magazine fell from her hands as lead filled her stomach. She'd seen this coming, hadn't she? Tried to prepare herself? Tried to prepare Ron?
Somehow, all the preparation in the world didn't ease the sting.
She had to tell Ron before he found out from someone else.