A/N: For my beta vancabreuniter, who fell in love with this way back when it was a chapter one reject from "Don't Forget."
Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it's not mine.
A Lady's Favor
Harry lay on his camp bed in the approaching darkness. He, Ron, and Hermione had spent a fruitless evening rehashing what they knew (or rather, didn't know) about the Horcruxes before Hermione finally admitted they weren't getting anywhere and went downstairs to bed. Despite her new support of the Muffliato charm, she insisted on "physical barriers," and though the setting sun shining straight in the window provided light, it also heated the enclosed attic room to stifling. Ron flung open the window the moment she crossed the threshold, and both boys stripped to boxers, but it was still too hot to sleep. Harry kicked his sheet further towards the end of his bed and listened to the end-of-day sounds.
Water flowed steadily through pipes in the wall; the shower was running. There was the slower, rhythmic thump of someone taking the stairs two at a time, then a door closed directly below him. An owl hooted outside; Pig answered from atop the dresser. Harry flinched in the ensuing silence, missing Hedwig's echo. Fleur's musical French drifted in through the open window, then Gabrielle's sleepy answer. He was just starting to feel pleasantly drowsy when another female voice, surprisingly clear, reached his ears.
"Have you seen my green blouse? I want to wear it for the rehearsal dinner."
"Not since you wore it for Harry's birthday," Hermione said, as easily audible as when she sat on the floor just a few minutes ago. Both girls must have been near the window, because Ginny's room was down on the first floor.
Ah, that green blouse. He hoped she found it; he liked that shirt. He heard scratching noises, then the creak and slam of drawers opening and closing. Whichever one it was, she was irritated.
Hermione. "For someone who puts her hair up every day, just to take it down in front of Harry Potter, you have an appalling lack of accoutrements."
She did? Ginny wore her hair in a ponytail, or sometimes braided down her back, but it was usually loose at night. He liked to watch her take it down (he liked to watch her, period), but it had never occurred to him she did it specifically to attract his attention. Had she been flirting with him all this time?
Ginny was laughing, and Harry felt the now-familiar swooping sensation.
"I know what it means, Hermione, but I don't know where they are, either. I'll get Bill to buy me a pack at the fitting tomorrow."
Harry snorted quietly. In all likelihood, she'd come home with more than hair things. All her brothers doted on her, but Bill and Charlie were the worst.
"Here, take this one."
He closed his eyes and pictured her offering it to Hermione, one hand reaching up to grasp the elastic, the quick turn of her head, a sharp pull, the spill of fire around her shoulders . . . .
"I told Mum I was running out and she put a new pack in my stocking, and then I was going to get more in Hogsmeade but we never got to go back. I always set them next to my inkpot but when I packed up I could never find them. Towards the end of term I even went down to the kitchens. 'No, miss, Dobby isn't finding any hair things, miss, but he'll be sure to bring them to you if he does. Have some pasties, miss.' "
As usual, her imitation was spot-on.
"I think I know what's been happening to them," Hermione said in her I'm-only-pretending-to-be-innocent voice.
Harry froze and hoped the few feet between his bed and Ron's made the girls' voices indistinguishable.
"Then why are you complaining? And why haven't you told me? I've been whinging for months."
"It was a bit of a conflict of interest. Anyway, try Harry's trunk. I saw him slip one from your bag last autumn."
Harry groaned under his breath. Surely, by now, Ron was sleeping? Loud rustling and squeaking sounds came from Ron's corner, as if the bed were shaking with the silent laughter of its occupant. Of course Ron wasn't sleeping. When did Fate ever cut him the slightest of breaks?
He suddenly remembered just how he'd nicked most of the rubber band things and felt a surge of panic. Don't Summon them, don't Summon them, please Merlin—
But Ron, at least, remembered where his loyalties lay and made no move towards either his wand or Harry's trunk, and Harry began to breathe again. Until another thought occurred to him.
He scrambled out of bed.
Ron was laughing out loud now, but Harry had bigger problems. If he could Summon his Firebolt from clear across the Hogwarts grounds, Hermione could certainly Summon something from his trunk when she was in the same house. Just because he didn't hear anything didn't mean she wasn't trying it; she was ace at nonverbal spells.
"Ron, do you remember the charm—"
"To make things unsummonable? Not a clue. Hermione would know."
Harry was digging frantically through his trunk, looking for the small Scrivenshaft's bag he'd chosen to stash them in based on the miniscule odds that Ron would open it even if he were snooping.
"What about a Permanent Sticking Charm?"
Harry could forgive Ron taking the mickey if he would just stop laughing!
"I don't want them stuck to my trunk forever, I just—aha!" Harry clutched the bag tightly and eyed the door apprehensively. Or would the spell come in through the window? He turned.
"If you're that fussed, I could go ask Bill. I'm sure he remembers."
"Shut up," Harry hissed. That's exactly what he wanted, another one of her brothers knowing he was a sap who collected a girl's hair things. He still didn't hear anything from downstairs. Had the girls just closed the window, or were they listening to him and Ron?
Ron re-cast the Muffliato and Harry relaxed enough to sit back down.
"Why did you want them, anyway?"
Harry felt his face flush so hot he would not have been surprised if it glowed in the dark. There was no way, abso-bloody-lutely no way he was ever telling anyone that. Hermione would have guessed—she knew everything—but if she revealed it, he would not rest until he had ripped the covers from all her books.
And burned them.
And Vanished the ashes.
Ron took the hint. "Well, the pixies are out of the cage now. How about an Imperturbable Charm on your trunk until you can sneak them into Ginny's room tomorrow?"
Harry fingered the bag, considering. Even Hermione shouldn't be able to Summon something out of a sealed container. He collected his scattered belongings and shoved them, along with the bloody hair bands, back in his trunk, locked it, and cast the charm. Really, Fate had the most warped sense of humor of anyone he'd ever met—and he'd lived with the Weasley twins!