A/N: Hey, friends! Whew, I'm glad to be back here right now, even if it is to post something irrelevant to my WIPs...
So, a while back, I posted a prompt game on Tumblr that involved picking a number for the type of fic (smut, fluff or angst), an emoji for the location it should take place in, a letter for the year (1997-2000), and a desired rating. This fic was the result of a prompt from vulpixchan, "fluff, at Hogwarts, in 1997, rated T." Hope you enjoy! x
Gryffindor Tower was quiet, at nearly midnight on a Tuesday. Ordinarily, she'd have been tucked up in her bed like the rest of her dorm mates, particularly given her early class the following morning, but Ron was out on Prefect rounds tonight with Anthony Goldstein and-
No. That wasn't the only reason she was sitting here, on the floor, in front of the fire, past her bedtime. Surely it wasn't…
She wasn't just waiting up to see him, alone. She had an actual project to work on. This was important.
Lightly clearing her throat, she aimed her wand at the top of her head and swished.
She felt a sharp tug on her scalp, as if someone was pulling her hair backward, and, for a second, she was sure it had worked. She glanced down at the book in front of her, reviewing a moving photo of the back of a girl's head, her hair swiftly plaiting down her neck and upper back. Feeling optimistic, Hermione reached for her mirror and held it up, turning her head to the side to see-
Wisps of hair danced out in all directions as if suddenly electrified, and then… the whole thing came undone, sadly loosening and leaving only a few stray strands woven together.
The portrait hole swung open, and Ron appeared on the other side, ducking to step through.
"Oh, hey," he said, as he spotted her, making his way toward her and collapsing into an armchair. "What're you doing still up?"
"It's lucky we aren't given exams on beauty charms," she sighed, ignoring his question, smoothing her hands over her hair in an unsuccessful attempt to flatten it.
"Huh?" Ron yawned, arching an eyebrow at her. "What d'you need beauty charms for?"
She looked up and caught his eye, watching a light flush creep up his neck, and he cleared his throat awkwardly. Her heart gave a small flutter, which she forced herself to ignore.
"In case you hadn't noticed, my hair's a bit… annoying."
"Annoying? What're you trying to do to it?" he asked, far too sceptically. Why should he care what she did to her stupid hair?
"Charm it into a plait, but it's useless."
"But… you're perfect at charms."
"Oh, shut up." She narrowed her eyes at him, wary that he might be teasing her, but he only shrugged and folded his arms across his chest. "I can't seem to get this one, and I don't know if my hair's just that much of a mess or if I'm not doing it right."
"This might be a stupid question," he began, and she was immediately prepared for him to be right about that, judging from his tone, "but could you just do it by hand? Y'know, without magic?"
"There's too much of it, my hands are too small, and I can't see what I'm doing…"
There was no way she'd just imagined his brief glance down at his own, much larger hands… but she was obviously delusional to imagine there was any chance this conversation could be going where it seemed like it might be going.
"Yeah, okay," he said in a suddenly rough voice, as if he hadn't spoken in a very long time.
She sighed and looked back down at the book in front of her, partly to distract herself from imagining Ron's hands in her hair and partly from genuine frustration that she couldn't do this. She wasn't supposed to fail at things. But, in a masochistic sort of way, she thought it made some kind of disappointing sense that she'd be terrible at this type of thing. She'd managed her teeth at fourteen, but, aside from that, she'd never spent time worrying about superficial charms like the ones that filled the pages of the thin, pink book in front of her now.
"I, uh…" Ron started, in that same raspy voice, "don't reckon you'd want help?"
Her gaze shot back over to him, only to discover his own eyes were cast down to the floor in front of his feet.
"With my hair?" She desperately hoped her voice hadn't sounded as high pitched to him as it had to her…
"Well, yeah. How difficult is it? I've got… much bigger hands than you, if that's all you need…"
"Have you?" It was literally the most ridiculous question she'd ever asked aloud, and she was tempted to roll her own eyes at herself, but then he was sliding out of his chair and scooting close to her, across the rug.
"Yeah, of course." He held his hand up, palm toward her, and she felt her hand move before she'd comprehended the signal to do it, from her own brain… which had apparently turned to mush anyway.
She rested her palm against his, fingers extended up his much longer ones. His eyes locked in a hypnotised gaze on their hands, and she watched his neck move as he swallowed. Licking his bottom lip, he bent his top knuckles over the tips of her fingers, further proving the vast difference in size. Her throat constricted, and she hoped he wouldn't need her to speak a coherent sentence for the next several minutes, at least.
"Should I try?" he asked, giving off the impression that he was having an equally difficult time stringing words together.
She nodded and took her hand away from his to push her book across the rug, between them. He looked down at the moving photographs of charmed plaits, watching them loop a couple of times.
"Maybe I was too optimistic," he finally smiled, glancing up at her. "This looks bloody complicated."
"Nevermind," she smiled back, though she really wished she could edge out that hollow tinge of disappointment. "It's late, you don't have to-"
"Nah, let's give it a go," he cut in, scratching at his shirt collar, which was hanging slightly open, top two buttons undone, giving her a glimpse of his grey cotton vest underneath. "Least I can make you feel better that you haven't got the charm yet, yeah?"
Yet. He genuinely had more faith in her than she had in herself. She'd come to this realisation before, but never so intimately, somehow.
"Well. Okay," she sniffed.
It was perfect timing to hide her face, really, because she could feel heat spreading across her cheeks, and, even in the firelight, she imagined he'd be able to see such a deep blush. She turned her back toward him, her legs criss-crossed in front of her, and she waited.
"Right," he said quietly, as if to himself, and she bit her bottom lip to keep from fully grinning. But then he was scooting closer to her, and his shin touched her arse briefly, before he pulled it back an inch and cleared his throat again.
She was suddenly entirely too focused on her senses of sound and touch to pay any more attention to what her own face was doing…
There was a light swishing noise, and she was confused for a moment before she realised he must be rubbing his hands together. She glanced over her shoulder to watch him, stunned for a moment by how close his face was to her head.
"Sorry," he said at a near whisper. "Hands were cold."
"Oh." She faced forward again and shut her eyes. He'd been warming up his hands… to touch her. How had he even thought about something so- so- She couldn't find a word, only knowing that it made a chorus of butterflies spring to life in the pit of her stomach.
"Reckon it starts up here," he contemplated aloud, and then she felt him lightly touch the crown of her head, fingers loosely gathering a small amount of her unruly curls.
If her eyes hadn't already been closed, she'd certainly have shut them involuntarily at this point.
Aside from the very rare few times Parvati or Ginny had attempted something with her hair, no one, other than her own mother, had ever done this before. And oh, who was she kidding? This was entirely, completely, one hundred percent different anyway.
His fingers combed against her scalp, and he gently began to cross strands, gathering a bit more. As amazing as it felt, he was barely touching her, and her entire head was tingling as her arms broke out in gooseflesh.
"You'll have to pull it tighter, or it'll never stay," she said softly, cracking open her eyes.
"Don't wanna hurt you."
"Trust me, you won't. You should see what I have to do to get the tangles out every morning."
He laughed lightly, and she thought she could detect a slightly nervous tremor to his exhale.
"Actually," he said, "could you hold the book?"
His grip tightened slightly, as he transferred her gathered hair to one hand, picking up her book with the other. She reached back and took it from him, holding it open a bit higher than was comfortable, so he could see it over her shoulder.
He continued his work for a few silent seconds, gathering hair from both sides of her head and exposing her neck. She wished she wasn't distracted from complete focus on what his hands were doing by the fact that her arm was getting a bit tired, hovering in the air.
She shifted the book to her other hand.
"I can prob'ly see it from your lap," he said, and she was sure he was blushing, the moment he'd thought through what he'd just said.
If only to relieve her arm, and possibly because she was growing incapable of rational thought, she lowered the book to her lap and leaned ever so slightly backward. He leaned forward at the same moment, and she felt his chest brush her back, his warm breath against her left ear. His hands froze, and her heart was beating so firmly that she irrationally questioned if he could hear it.
"Bugger." His grip had loosened, and a few thick strands of her hair dropped down to tickle the left side of her neck.
He was so, so close to her, and he crawled his fingers down to her bare, sensitive skin, collecting the hair he'd lost. She could hear his breathing quicken, and her eyes snapped shut again, drowning in the feeling of his fingertips on her neck.
He'd dropped her hair again. He laughed in an almost giddy sounding way, and she felt her chest bubble up with happiness as she laughed with him.
She was fully grinning, this time, as he swiped her hair back up, away from her neck, and he pulled much tighter as he worked down, finally reaching the base of her skull and pausing. He leaned even further over her shoulder, his chest lightly resting against her upper back, and she was strongly suspecting he was taking advantage of everything about this situation. God, she hoped he was taking advantage…
"What the hell do I do with the ends?"
"Twist them together like you did the rest," she said softly, "and then I've got this."
She held her arm up, showing him the hair elastic looped around her wrist.
He leaned back again, and she shivered, not sure how much she even cared if he'd seen her.
He worked in silence for a few more seconds, and she could barely feel what he was doing as he moved further down, away from her neck.
"Reckon I'm ready for that tie thing."
She smiled and held up her arm. She could easily have taken it off for him, but sod it. She was in pretty deep as it was…
He held her plait in one hand and reached over her shoulder with his free hand, laying his index and middle fingers flat on her forearm and sliding them forward, under the elastic band, continuing way too slowly over her knuckles, so that he was practically holding her hand from the back for a moment, until he finally tugged the elastic free and retreated.
Her body was literally on fire, surely. And had she always had such sensitive skin? Did he have any idea what he was doing to her? He must have some...
And, honestly… was it possible to die from sexual tension? If so…
He secured the band at the end of her plait… and then, his hands were on her head, covering her scalp. She pressed her own hands firmly down into the rug on either side of her legs, almost choking as she tried to hold back from gasping aloud.
"Seems alright," he said, in an entirely different voice, low and just a bit slurred, as if he'd taken one too many sips of Firewhisky in the last five minutes.
Very, very slowly, he slid his hands down from her head, over her ears, to either side of her bare neck. If she'd been able to form a single logical thought, she'd have realised there was absolutely no excusable reason for him to touch her the way he was just then.
None, except for the one…
That one she wouldn't name, because if she ever did, while he was this close to her, she'd lose control completely.
And, as if it hadn't been enough already, she absolutely was not imagining how much his hands were shaking as he slowly removed them from her neck and backed away from her.
For a few more seconds, she simply calmed her breathing, heavily suspecting he was doing the same thing…
"Alright," he said, at last. "Have a look."
She reached for her mirror, held it up… briefly surprised when she caught sight of his obviously flushed face behind her. But as she forced her gaze away from him to her own head, she raised her brows, turning a bit left, then right. Though she couldn't see the back, she was immediately impressed with what he had done. A few stray strands had come loose, but, overall, it was staying put.
"Wow. That's… you did really well."
If she slept very carefully, on her side, maybe she could keep it like this for a couple of days. Contemplating how long she could go before she absolutely had to take a shower, she thought that the only thing that might make her willing to undo what he'd done was the promise that he'd do it again…
"I think I could do it better, next time."
So… Alright. He could read her mind now.
She lowered her mirror and turned bravely around to face him, actually looking him in the eyes as she smiled.
"Yeah," he grinned back. "That was just a practice one."
"I'll put it on my schedule next time."
"Ha." His grin widened. "Just come get me, y'know, when it gets annoying again."
"So… tomorrow night?" she teased.
"Reckon I haven't got any midnight plans. Just don't spread this around. Don't want a queue outside my dorm for plaits…"
"You're saying I'm your only customer?"
"Yeah, it's a private business."
She snorted lightly, and he laughed along with her, eyes crinkling at the corners. But as their laughter died, and the low Common Room fire flickered golden against his pale skin, she felt those butterflies return, fluttering furiously. He cleared his throat and looked away, stretching before getting up to stand tall over her. But then he extended his hand down toward her, and she stared at it for too long before realising he meant to help her up. She took his hand, and he pulled her to her feet, letting go again as she gathered her book and mirror and held them against her chest, watching him ruffle his hair.
"Thank you," she said softly, and he shrugged.
And she wondered, as they headed toward the stairs, if there were any other charms that she might not be able to do… that he might just have to help her with. She'd have to start a list, prioritised by how strong his excuse would be to touch her again.
She gently felt the ends of her hair as he said goodnight, and she sighed, knowing the truth. Of course she'd been waiting up just for him. And she'd do it again. And again…