Harry Potter and the Threeway Charm: Chapter One
CHAPTER ONE: THE OWL
The owl came on Dec. 23rd.
“A very happy Christmas to us,” Ron muttered.
Harry smiled weakly, though his stomach felt filled with ice.
But Hermione sounded businesslike. “Well, if it’s going to be sometime tonight, we’ll have to keep watch, in shifts.”
“I’ll go first,” Harry said, not so much out of bravery as just to get it over with.
“Then me,” Hermione said quickly.
“And I’m last,” Ron said, wanting to add “as usual” for some reason.
Hermione said, “That’s that then.”
“Wait,” Harry asked, “where will we watch from?”
As if she’d already settled it ages ago, Hermione said, “From the roof of the Tower of course. It’s high enough but also close enough to your dormitory that we can nap when we’re not on duty. I think three-hour shifts would be best.”
“Our dormitory?” Ron said, his voice breaking and shaking at fear of something besides the night’s task.
And there was an undercurrent of nervousness to Hermione’s usual exasperation, as she snapped, “Of course, Ron. You know you can’t go to mine
and yours is almost empty, with the other boys on holiday.”
“You can sleep in Neville’s bed,” Harry said, trying to pretend it was an ordinary plan. “I don’t think he’d mind.”
“He’d be thrilled,” Ron muttered.
Harry smiled weakly again, but Hermione ignored it. “Fine, then it’s all settled. I’ll slip in after supper, since the message says beginning three hours after sunset
, and dinner is at six, and according to the almanac sunset is at exactly 3.33 today.”
Despite his intense mixed emotions, Ron couldn’t help smiling at Hermione’s bookishness, even at, especially at, a time like this. He considered saying something sarcastic but couldn’t.
Harry glanced over at Hermione, who looked disappointed, as if their bickering would be a release right then. Harry knew he had needed it himself at times, particularly in the middle of other adventures. It had rooted him in reality, reminded him of his fondness of them, especially together. But Ron was off today. The whole day was off. Harry hated to think what would happen that night, and not just out in the Forbidden Forest.
Otherwise, it was a typical Great Hall holiday meal, with too much food and not enough people. Although of course, it was great not to have the Slytherins around. They would be sure to ruin the plan somehow. Also Harry knew Malfoy would pick up on the weird tension among the three of them, worse than it’d ever been.
Harry admitted it, it wasn’t just the two of them. He felt strange around them, and not just because their feelings were about to boil over, whether or not they could see it. He also—no, he couldn’t let his mind go there. Not tonight. He had to focus, even as his eyes watched their hands gripping forks and spoons, their mouths chewing and swallowing. He did smile a little at how much and how fast Ron was eating.
Maybe if he just ate enough, he’d work himself into a food coma, or at least blot out all he was thinking and feeling. But so far it wasn’t working. The food, especially the sweet things, made him think of what it’d be like to kiss Hermione, taste her. And the salty things, they were like those dreams he had sometimes, comforting Harry when he cried, licking his salty tears till they stopped. And as he ate, he kept thinking, If I eat quickly, supper will be over sooner. But the more I eat, the longer it’ll take and we can put it off. How does he stay so skinny?
Hermione wondered, in amazement and amusement. He must burn it off with his nervous energy. Not that he’s too skinny. Just enough to give him that Adam’s apple. And he’s got muscles from Quidditch now and—
She stopped herself. She couldn’t let her mind wander in that direction tonight. For a moment, she wished she’d be sleeping in her own bed. With the other girls gone, she’d have privacy for once and could take care of herself without having to sneak off to the Prefects’ Bathroom. Though that one time when Moaning Myrtle caught her— She giggled and the boys looked up. “Nerves,” she mumbled.
Harry nodded. Their task that night was simple and not that frightening, particularly compared to the times he’d faced Voldemort. But he’d been focused then. How could he concentrate when all this was going on? He half wished they could talk about it, but half didn’t want to face it even with himself. If they failed the night’s task, the Order of the Phoenix would have their back. But risking losing his two best friends was much scarier. He didn’t want to be alone again.
Ron had grown up in a crowd. And at Hogwarts, there were usually people about. Even when he’d fought with Harry and/or Hermione, they were still there, so that they’d have to pretend to ignore each other, while they were more conscious of each other than ever. But even this past term, no matter how much time he’d spent with them, they were never completely alone, not for long. Someone was always bursting in. The few times he’d actually worked up to asking Hermione for, well, at least a hug, someone had interrupted. But now he found himself longing for someone, anyone, even Snape, to drift by their table, break this weird spell, this cloud that hung over their table. He’d give anything to have Fred and George swoop in, even if they dropped Dungbombs on his head.
Hermione was struck for the first time by how united the other Houses seemed. There the Ravenclaws were, with their smooth glossiness and confidence. And at that table the Hufflepuffs, all bumbling eagerness. She could visualize the Slytherins (after so many years it was easy), all laughing cruelly about something, probably us,
she thought with a blush. Malfoy had made enough remarks about “Mudblood-lovers” for her to know he didn’t mean it in the standard derogatory sense. Malfoy knew, even if Ron wouldn’t admit it to her, or himself.
“Weasley takes after his father, likes to tinker with Muggle devices.” Harry had struggled to hold Ron back, keep him from killing Malfoy in class. On the surface, it was a bland remark, delivered in Malfoy’s cold drawl. Prof. Flitwick had thought nothing of it, despite the snickers and rude glances of the Slytherins, despite poor Hermione’s blushes. Even the Ravenclaws and, after a moment, the Hufflepuffs looked amused. And Harry wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw Parvati whisper something to Lavender, Dean raise his eyebrows at Seamus. No loyalty in our House,
Ron thought suddenly between bites. No wonder it’s usually the three of us, Harry especially, who have to do all the dirty work. Here they’ve got a hero right in their own school, their own House, and they treat him, and us, like crap. We’ve saved the world a few times, and by the way won the House Cup more than once, and they’ve spent most of their time resenting Harry and being jealous. Even I—
But he hated to think of that time. What is it about Gryffindor?
Hermione mused, as she chewed slowly. We can raise House spirit for something like a Quidditch match, but the rest of the time we splinter. It’s not just the three of us, though our bond is understandably stronger. It’s everyone, Parvati and Lavender, Dean and Seamus, and the other years as well. I think only Ginny and Neville have made an effort to like everyone, to get along with everyone, even with people in other Houses. How can we defeat Voldemort as a united front, which I think is what the Sorting Hat meant last year, if we can’t even get all the Gryffindors together on the important things? Not that Quidditch is trivial,
she added, with looks of apology at Harry and Ron.
“As you know, tomorrow is Christmas Eve.” Dumbledore’s droll tones startled them out of their thoughts. “I’ve seen a few more Christmases than you, and I want to warn you—” Suddenly there was a menace to the after-dinner speech. “I want to warn you,” he repeated, more gently, more sadly, “that sometimes we can build our expectations so high that we value our gifts less than we should, as if they’re less than nothing. I think you’ll discover, however, that although you can’t always get what you want, if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”
Some of the students, Harry and Hermione among them, burst out laughing, while the rest, Ron included, looked baffled.
Harry smiled and said, “Old Muggle song.”
“Yes, a traditional ballad,” said Hermione, giggling more than it deserved but grateful for the release.
Hermione smiled ruefully and thought I could’ve easily taken care of myself in the time it’s taken to decide what to wear. What’s wrong with me tonight?
She frowned. She knew.
Annoyed with herself, she yanked the white nightdress off the hanger, threw it on, kicked the pyjamas lying on the floor, and, grabbing her dressing gown, dashed out the door.
Should he wear the tops or just the bottoms? He usually wore only the bottoms, but Hermione didn’t know that. But Harry might think it was strange if he was more dressed than usual, just to protect Hermione.
“Remember when Neville wanted to sleep in the nude?” he suddenly asked.
Harry looked up from his broom servicing kit. That was an odd thing for Ron to ask, tonight in particular. But, yes, he remembered and he had to laugh. “Last Spring. He was on a crazy health kick, Luna’s influence I think.”
“Yes, Loony Lovegood told him that sleeping ‘starclad’ was healthier for the chocolates—”
“Right. And the four of us did not want a starkers Longbottom in here every night, so we had to get Prof. Sinistra to talk him out of it—”
“Which was embarrassing for everyone.”
“But Neville finally learned enough to get an O.W.L. in Astronomy.”
“I wonder if she was speaking from authority. Luna I mean.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’ve spent all this time wondering what Loony sleeps in.”
“No,” Harry said, smiling half to himself. “She wouldn’t be my first choice for starclad.”
“Better than Neville I suppose.”
She could hear the boys laughing even as she made her way through the deserted Common Room. Whatever could they find so funny on a night like this? She was half annoyed at their lack of seriousness, and half grateful that perhaps the bizarre tension might be gone by now.
Even Harry—She rarely allowed herself to think about this. She did think about Harry a lot, just as everyone in the wizarding world did, though it was different for her because he was one of her best friends, not a hero or a suspect, just Harry. She worried over him, and adored him. But it was different than with Ron. No one noticed Ron. They wouldn’t leave Harry alone, even their occasional neglect a conscious gesture. And despite the bond she and Ron had with him, it was like he belonged to the world, not just to them.
But Ron was hers, and she was his. She blushed and stopped on the stairs. Even if he would never admit it, even when they saw other people, they were still connected. Even if nothing happened, tonight or ever, there would always be this between them.
She scolded herself. Stop acting like a schoolgirl, even if you are one. You’re also a witch who has a heavy responsibility. It’s not like you to worry over boys and clothes.
Still, she smoothed her gown and her hair before moving on.
“Who knows? The two of them could’ve started a trend,” Ron was saying and guffawing, when Hermione slowly opened the door.
Harry was grinning broadly, though he blanched when he saw her.
“The two of whom?” she asked, feeling left out of more than a joke.
Ron turned and saw her. And he blushed redder than his hair. He couldn’t meet her eyes and he couldn’t let himself look at her body too long. It was just long enough to see that she had on an extremely modest new dressing gown. He scowled. Who’s she protecting herself from? We’re the only Gryffindors around. It’s not like anyone would’ve seen her in the Common Room. She didn’t want us to see her.
He was half furious, half grateful.
Harry was also blushing, though no one noticed. He stuttered, “Neville and Loony, I mean Luna. You see—” He broke off. How could he talk to her about people sleeping in the nude, particularly with Ron listening?
But with her usual matter-of-factness and only a hint of embarrassment, she said, “Oh, the starclad thing. It’s true, in Luna’s case I mean. You’d know more about Neville of course.”
“How do you
know?” Ron demanded. “She’s in a different year and a different House.” Luna wasn’t his type, but he found himself suddenly imagining her with Hermione. No, even if Hermione liked girls, Luna wouldn’t be her type either.
“Ginny told me,” Hermione said quietly, trying not to blush herself. The last time she was with Ginny, Ron’s sister told her all about Luna, though insisting that Hermione was still her best friend. Hermione hadn’t been able to return the compliment. She loved Ginny. In fact, Ginny was her only real female friend, but it wasn’t like with the boys.
Harry’s glance flickered over to Hermione, sensing that there was more to what she was saying. But he got distracted by wondering what, if anything, she had on under her gown.
Ron was oblivious to this part at least. The mention of Ginny brought his mind back to a more innocent track. Ginny was friends with both Hermione and Luna, and girls told each other everything. That explained it.
“Which bed?” Hermione asked, jolting Ron again.
“Which one is Neville’s?” she asked impatiently. She was looking over at the three empty beds.
“Oh, that one,” Harry said, pointing. He was glad that she would be as far away as possible from his bed and Ron’s. It would make the night a little easier.
“Thanks,” she said quietly. She put her bag under that bed and pulled back the covers. She got in quickly. Despite the winter chill, it was hot in there, especially with her gown on. But she’d wait to take it off, at least till the lights were out.
“Well, I reckon I should be going,” Harry said, more like a guest reluctant to leave a party than a heroic guard.
“Wake us,” Hermione said. “If you need anything. I mean, if you see it, or anything strange.”
“I will. Get some sleep.”
“Thank you, I will. Goodnight.”
“’Night, Hermione. ‘Night, Ron.” Harry blew out the candles.
“’Night,” Ron mumbled. As last to take a shift, he should have the longest unbroken sleep, assuming Harry and Hermione didn’t see anything on their shifts. But how was he supposed to sleep with Hermione in the same room? True, she was as far away and as covered up as she could be, but that just made her more tantalizingly out of reach, added to the mystery. What if she’s starclad? Under the gown.
Ron knew now he would get no sleep that night. Unless, well, it would be weird, but he could wait till she fell asleep, and then just have a good wank and drop off. That usually did the trick, and it might work even with a girl in the vicinity. Still, he’d give anything right then for a good sleeping draught, for himself and/or Hermione.
Hermione waited impatiently for Ron’s snores. She’d have to be careful of Neville’s sheets, but she knew a good laundering spell if necessary. She just couldn’t do anything while Ron was awake. That would be too peculiar. Either he’d pretend to be sleeping, and then he’d know but they’d never talk about it, or he would blurt something out. And she dreaded that, no matter how often in her fantasies it’d been prelude to pleasure. Ron finding her in the Prefects‘ Bathroom, Moaning Myrtle not there to spoil it.
But at the moment, all she could imagine was a shocked and perhaps disgusted Ron saying, “Hermione, what are you doing?” She’s so, what’s the word? Aloof. She’d think I was an animal if she knew. But it’s not just about that. I mean, I want her, but it’s not like with Fleur and the other girls I’ve thought about. It’s more. That’s why this is such bloody torture. I won’t have her going all McGonagall on me and saying, “Ronald Weasley, what do you think you’re doing? And at a time like this! When poor Harry is out there on watch, all alone.” I know Harry’s no saint. But still, he’s not a pig like me. When I’m on watch, he’ll ignore Hermione and just get some sleep. Lucky bastard.
Harry thought he’d go mad wondering what was happening in the dormitory. He hoped they were sleeping. Or even if they weren’t, well, Ron had denied his feelings for Hermione for five years. He could deny them for one more night.
Harry was less worried about Hermione. She was always so levelheaded. She would either be focusing on what she’d do when it was her shift, or she’d be conscientiously getting some sleep. Not starclad, he thought with a half smile. And he chuckled at how, even in bed, she left her gown on. He sighed. They were safe that night. Unless Hermione takes off her gown.
He frowned and raised the omnioculars again. Well, even if he’s not asleep, I can take this thing off. He can’t see anything with the lights out, and I’ll just disrobe under the covers. And it’ll make it easier when I am able to, well—
For the first time she couldn’t even think of it. Normally she could. She’d even shared it with Ginny, who made it all seem natural and magical at the same time. But Ginny’s brother was so tense and in denial, it was difficult to touch the subject with him in the room. No, nothing will happen tonight,
she decided, in relief and disappointment. Not with Ron. He’s wound so tight. Not that I’m that relaxed either of course. Who could be? I mean, with our task.
She sighed. Anyway it’s safe to take this off at least. If I’m this alert on watch, I’ll deserve a Special Award for Services to the School. Gryffindor will be an ace for House Cup.
If he could joke himself out of this a little, it would help. But it was impossible not to focus on the sounds coming from Neville’s bed. Nothing so reassuring as sleep-breathing, or as arousing as moans.
He was sure Hermione must wank sometimes. As intense as she was, she must need release. Sometimes he’d wanked thinking of her wanking, touching herself, startling herself with the magic of orgasm. He wished he could be there the next time. Maybe tonight, if she thought he was asleep, she might—no. She was too focused on the task. This’d be the one time when she would least let herself go. The gown proved that.
So why was she taking it off? His ears were so tingly he felt like a house-elf. He zeroed in on the sounds of her shifting in bed, the ripple of Neville’s blankets and the plaid wool of her gown. It was like he was seeing with his ears.
He longed to get out his wand, whisper “Lumos,” and by the dim glow see what she had on now. Even if she’d pulled up the bedcovers, he’d catch a glimpse of shoulders at least. He shook his head. How pathetic. Shoulders. I sound like my great-granddad’s ghost raving over a woman’s “well-shaped ankle.”
Harry shivered. Whatever Hermione was wearing—good old Ron was in pyjama trousers as usual, like it was an ordinary night—she had to be warmer than he was. He wished his shift were over. It would be hard to walk back into that tense room, but maybe they’d be asleep by then. He no longer feared walking in on them, though there had been times when he’d wished they would just get it over with and shag. Just not tonight.
And anyway, he was starting to realize it wouldn’t be “over,” not for them. And not for him. It would change everything. How they felt about each other, and how he felt around them. It would ruin the team, just when they needed to be more united. Well, Ron and Hermione would be united. But not him. He was left out in the cold.