Hermione turns off the tap and shakes her hands before using them to smooth down her hair. The water isn’t going to help frizz-wise, but with the week she’s been having, looking good in the mirror is enough. Hermione sighs, slinging her bag over her shoulder when someone taps her on the shoulder.
Her hand flies to her wand, and Romilda Vane is lucky Hermione recognizes her before she can fire off a jinx. She relaxes, far too on edge for the girls’ bathroom, and grins sheepishly. “Er, yeah? Can I help you?” she says, stowing her wand back into her bag.
Romilda doesn’t seem to notice anything amiss. She leans an arm against the sink, right up in Hermione’s space. If another girl were inside of Romilda’s body, the closeness might be desirable. Romilda’s hair falls sharply around her face, and she smells like vanilla ice cream, but Hermione knows not to be interested.
“Is Harry seeing anyone?”
“Yes,” Hermione answers, surprising herself. “He is.”
“Really,” she says, more a challenge than a question.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but the girl he’s seeing is me.”
“Really,” Romilda says again, smirking as if she knows what Hermione has gotten herself into. But she steps back—Hermione can breathe again—and walks out of the bathroom. Hermione doesn’t move an inch until the door slams behind Romilda.
“It’s Uric the Unclean, not Ugly,” Hermione says distractedly, trying to read through Ron’s History of Magic essay while studying for an Ancient Runes exam. She sighs, putting down the book for a much needed break. A slight breeze rustles the tree they’re under, and Harry shivers slightly as he flicks through Quidditch Through the Ages next to her.
“Thanks a million, Hermione,” Ron says, taking back his essay to make the correction. “I promise, I’ll never leave it—”
“—to the last minute again, I know.”
Ron grins sheepishly.
Hermione lets her eyes wander over the front lawn, taking in the spring day. Dean is trying to teach Seamus and Neville to play Muggle frisbee, rather unsuccessfully; Ginny and Luna walk off towards the lake, hand in hand; Romilda Vane struts toward them, grinning like a minx. Hermione freezes.
“Harry, er… I need you to put your arm around me.”
“What?” Harry looks confused, she thinks, but not necessarily disgusted. This shouldn’t be on her mind right now.
“Just do it,” Hermione hisses. “You’ll thank me later.”
He does, and just as Romilda passes by, Hermione laughs a high-pitched laugh, leaning towards Harry and pretending he’s said something hilarious and romantic.
Romilda gives her a dirty look, but doesn’t stop walking.
Ron snorts, and then descends into full laughter once Romilda is out of earshot. “What was that all about?” he asks, smirking.
“I’m sorry, Harry. Romilda asked me if you were seeing anyone and I panicked! We’ve all been so on edge lately....”
“It’s alright, Hermione,” Harry says, laughing and sliding his arm around her shoulder again and squeezing briefly. “If Cormac McLaggen asks about you, I’ll return the favor.”
That shouldn’t make Hermione grin as brightly as it does.
The next weekend is a Hogsmeade weekend. Ron is dragged off to Madame Puddifoot’s by Lavender, and Harry and Hermione end up in the Three Broomsticks. Hermione orders them a butterbeer each, and they find a booth tucked into a corner.
Harry starts talking about some new evidence he’s made up that definitely and without a doubt proves Malfoy to be a Death Eater.
“Don’t look now, but Romilda Vane is sitting behind you,” Hermione murmurs, leaning across the table.
Harry frowns for a moment, then puts his hand on the table, palm up. “Here, give me your hand.” Hermione does.
Harry smiles at her, a mischievous glint in his eye. She smiles back, wishing this wasn’t a charade, and then wishing she hadn’t just thought that.
“Hermione, he never lets his left sleeve get rolled up. I know he’s hiding a Dark Mark.”
“This is purely circumstantial evidence.”
Harry reaches out and tucks a curl behind her ear. “It’s not circumstantial when your dad’s a Death Eater, and when you spend half your life sneaking around the shadows.”
Hermione sighs dreamily where she would normally sigh in exasperation. She tries to act as deliriously in love as she was when she first went out with Cho. “We’ve spent our fair share of time sneaking around the castle.”
Harry opens his mouth to reply, but takes a swig of butterbeer instead. They smile at each other, because this is ridiculous. This is the part where they’re supposed to burst out laughing, to start arguing for real, to go back to normal. But they don’t.
They’re walking to Charms, and Hermione slips her hand into Harry’s. One second, they’re walking together, and the next, they’re walking together . It should probably feel weird, but it doesn’t.
They take their seats, and Professor Flitwick starts to lecture. Harry let go of her hand as soon as they entered the classroom, but his warmth doesn’t fade until long after she her vinegar is charmed into wine.
The common room fire has dwindled to ashes, and most people have gone to bed. The light is soft and low, shadows dancing as a third-year scratches away at an essay in the corner. Harry and Hermione are curled up together, pretending to do homework. The couch isn’t small; they’re not forced to sit so close together, but they do. It’s natural, now—when Ron’s out of the room, at least. He still teases them for whatever this is, like he knows something that Hermione and Harry don’t.
What is there to know? Hermione loves being around Harry; that’s always been true, although she does spend a lot more time staring into his eyes than she used to. They are such a magnificent green that she’s starting to understand Ginny’s singing valentine in their second year. They hold hands, now; that’s new too. And the curling up together. Hermione has never thought of Harry in this context, but now that they’re here, it makes perfect sense.
Hermione closes her book and turns to look at Harry. She thinks it would be impossible to have a staring contest with him; smiling is against the rules.
“Hey, kiss me,” Harry says.
“What, do you see her?”
“Hermione,” he says, smiling and shaking his head, “kiss me.”