A/N: I'm so pleased you guys are up for this little adventure! Without further ado...
Chapter Two: Home Alone
"What, did you two fuck or something?"
Ginny plonks herself down at the other end of the sofa from Hermione, who jumps at her unexpected presence.
"No!" she says quickly, exchanging a guilty look with Harry. "We just watched a film and -"
"Oh, right. So that's why you're sat here in tense silence."
The truth of it is that it's eleven at night, and after a day of mooching around the common room neither of them seems to want to voice the question: is Nott going to be waiting outside the Room this evening?
"Don't worry Gin," Harry says, turning his attention back to the Wizarding Chess set he's been poking around the board for the last hour and a half. "You're still the only one to have had the pleasure."
"Lucky me," Ginny smirks, flopping sideways so that her bright hair spills over the arm of the sofa. "Obviously it's no reflection on your prowess that I broke up with you soon after."
"That was mutual," Harry corrects her without even looking up. "And I didn't hear you complaining at the time."
Hermione catches sight of Ginny's grin and decides to derail her before she can persist in needling Harry.
"We weren't expecting you back so soon..?" she says, letting her voice trail away in the hope that Ginny will take the opening. She's rewarded by Ginny's freckled nose wrinkling with distaste.
"Mum was a state. She should've accepted McGonagall's invitation to have Christmas here rather than trying to 'make the best of things'."
Hermione, unaware that such an offer had been made, tries to hide her surprise. Ginny's eyeroll tells her that she hasn't been successful. "You two refusing to come to The Burrow didn't exactly help," she says, her tone betraying the fact that she's on half-joking.
"We were needed here," Harry says before Hermione can. "Your mum has enough on her plate without worrying about us -"
"Bullshit, Harry Potter."
"- and besides," Harry presses on as though Ginny hasn't spoken. "McGonagall could use all the help she could get to minimise the possibility of someone being murdered at the dinner table."
"Oof," Ginny winces. "On a scale from one to Voldemort..?"
"Hermione had to sit next to Malfoy," Harry says, voice dripping with disdain. "I thought we were going to have to confiscate the cutlery."
"Back to watching over him obsessively, are you?" Ginny smirks. "Hermione, is it possible to hate-fuck when it's only eyes or is Harry doing it wrong?"
Harry mutters something indistinct but likely rude, and Hermione tries to fight the blush that has raced to her cheeks as she recalls Malfoy's hand accidentally brushing hers when they'd both reached for the salt. Her stomach had clenched so hard she'd thought she might throw up, and he'd actually frozen in horror.
It had been a uniquely terrible moment, and it had burned itself into her memory.
"I, um, I don't think… that is, I wouldn't -"
"Bloody hell," Ginny says, pushing herself up on her elbows to send Hermione a grimace of sympathy. "That bad?"
"You know Malfoy," Hermione says faintly.
"Gross," Ginny nods. "Anyway, what have you been up to today?" She frowns, glancing towards the large clock on the wall above the fireplace. "And how come you're still up?"
By any estimate they've done almost nothing: laying around the tower all day reading books (Hermione) and faffing with brooms or board games (Harry). They've only left the room for a single foray to the kitchens to pilfer leftover turkey sandwiches and a gigantic slab of Christmas cake. The elves had reacted at Harry's presence with barely suppressed jubilation, even willing to put up with the dreaded founder of S.P.E.W. if it meant they could ply the Chosen One with treacle tart.
"We -" Hermione starts to say, but she's too late.
"We were going to watch a film in the Room of Requirement, if you want to come," Harry says absently. He's busy nudging on of his knights into a horrifically vulnerable position on the board, and so misses the look of horror that Hermione directs his way when he extends an impromptu invitation for the second time in as many days:
"A muggle film?" Ginny asks, picking at a hangnail. Hermione finds herself hoping that Ginny's disinterest is enough that she won't -
"Home Alone," Harry says. "The one where the kid sets up all the traps for the burglars. We thought it would properly fuck with Nott if he did -"
"Excuse me," Ginny interrupts. "What the fuck did you just say?"
"I still can't bloody believe that you'd invite Nott to -"
"I'm sorry," says a silky voice as they emerge from behind a tapestry onto the seventh-floor landing. "But what the fuck is she doing here?"
"Funny," Ginny says, folding her arms and glaring at Nott where he lounges against the blank wall that conceals the entrance to the Room. "That's almost exactly what I said when I heard you were part of this little film club."
"Goodness." Nott straightens up to his full height, which would be imposing if he wasn't as thin as a rake. "I guess we've got a great deal in common."
"Look, it's not as though Film Club has rules, so -" Harry shuts up when Nott waves a languid hand at him, and Hermione catches herself wishing that she could master this particular skill with such apparent ease.
"I propose the first rule be that we don't talk about Film Club," Nott says quietly, meeting Ginny's challenging gaze with his steady hazel stare.
After a moment she sniffs and tosses her hair, making a show of studying her nails. "Fine by me."
Harry catches Hermione's eye, and shrugs. "That was surprisingly painless," he murmurs in her ear, before marching forward to begin the triple pass of the corridor that will open the door to the Room.
Once they're inside Hermione sits down quickly, glad that the Room has seen fit to provide the same squishy leather armchairs as the day before. She watches from the corner of her eye as Nott and Ginny select chairs on opposite sides of the room and settle in, pointedly ignoring one another as Harry shuffles forwards on his knees to insert the tape into the mysteriously unbranded VHS player.
"May I ask what the premise of this evening's entertainment is?" Nott asks, immediately before he stuffs an entire handful of popcorn into his mouth.
For someone who had reacted with unabashed horror when Harry had first offered him the snack yesterday, Nott's certainly developed a taste for it very quickly.
"Erm." Hermione frowns, trying to summarise it in a wizarding-appropriate manner. "So it's called Home Alone, and basically, ah, a boy accidentally gets left at home on his own by his family, and, er, then a couple of idiots try to burgle the place, and he, um, lays traps to defend the house." She turns to smile at Theo, and catches a flicker of something raw before his face shutters.
"Ah," he says, as he turns his attention to the screen. "Sounds uncannily like my childhood."
At some point during the film Ginny has twisted in her chair so that her legs are slung over the backrest and her head hangs upside down from the seat cushion, hair pooling on the floor. Even at this angle it's clear that her expression is one of deep thought. "How easy is it to get hold of a tarantula? Do lots of muggles have them?"
"Oh god," Hermione says faintly, but the others ignore her.
"I liked the trip-wires," Nott says, pronouncing the words with deliberate care. "Am I right in thinking they wouldn't show up if one were to sweep for wards?"
"Yep," Harry nods, and Nott sits back in his chair, nodding slowly.
"I might need to have a word with my elves."
"It's not supposed to be instructional!" Hermione half-yells, but her outburst is met by three expressions of sly amusement.
"I can't help thinking how much more fun it might have been to booby-trap the school," Harry sighs wistfully. "Can you imagine Voldemort covered in chicken feathers?"
Hermione and Ginny both dart nervous glances towards Nott, but his mouth is a wicked curve. "Frankly I think it would have been an improvement," he sighs airily.
Ginny makes a very unladylike snorting noise, and Hermione giggles, and suddenly the four of them are laughing: breathless, semi-hysterical laughter that leaves their stomachs aching and tears threatening to spill down their cheeks.
"Bloody hell, Nott," Ginny gasps out. "Who'd have thought you'd have a sense of humour?"
"I apologise for the unexpected revelation," Nott says. He smiles again, more softly this time, and then abruptly rises from his chair. "Much as I would love to stay longer, I'm afraid I should be getting back to my common room. Ladies," he inclines his head towards Hermione, who blinks in surprise, and Ginny, who gives him a little wave from her position halfway towards the floor. "Speccy twats," he grins at Harry, who cheerfully offers up a one-fingered salute.
"See you tomorrow?"
"Oh I would expect so," Nott says. As last night, he lingers for a moment before opening the door. "Well," he starts, and then gives a little shake of his head. "I guess go easy on the Pepsi!"
Before the others can reply he's gone, the door snicking closed behind him.
"He's weird," Ginny says in the ensuing silence. She's still sitting upside down. "I like him."
A/N: Thanks for your lovely reviews! I have a few films in the line-up but if you have a particular favourite christmas movie (pre-1998) then by all means let me know if you would like to see it featured. S xx