I do not own these characters. They are the property of JKR, and I just play in her sandbox.
This story contains explicit sexual content.
It seems we're lured together by an old desire to satisfy, and complex emotions to sustain.
It's sad, and yet it's marvelous, when Nature comes to visit us.
When morning falls, we find ourselves again.
There's nowhere else I'd rather be, moments lined with ecstasy, a solitude of two that time suspends,
Simple things can mean so much; a smile, a sigh, a knowing touch, the morning's light reminds this, too, will end.
As morning falls, so do our defenses,
We feel the light released by night, full of hope and dreams and second chances that arise as morning falls.
Memories shared we can't forget, protected by our hearts and yet, the thief of time can steal them all away.
We try to save our best for us, while others get the rest of us, we find ourselves and rise to face the day.
Morning Falls – Jay Wright
The Forest of Dean was so quiet and still it felt like she was the only person alive left on earth. For all she knew, she was.
Hermione Granger, friend of Harry Potter and the Dark Wizarding world's most wanted witch, groaned as she stumbled gracelessly into the tent she and Harry now shared. Bone cold and exhausted, she yearned for a hot bath and a kebab, two things she knew she was just going to have to live without. Happy Christmas to me, she thought.
She also thought about a quick shower in the tent's bathroom. Thinking that the Minister of Magic probably wouldn't be stopping by tonight, she decided to make do with a cleansing charm. Truth was, she couldn't be arsed. Harry had just relieved her for the night watch, and the snow and cold air had permeated her bones so much she thought she might never feel warm again. The shower's water supply simply wouldn't get hot enough, no matter how many warming charms she cast.
Hermione yawned and shivered, trying not to feel sorry for herself. For what seemed like years, they'd been on the run, living in this extendable tent. She would not chastise herself for longing for the softness of a bed. A real bed. Her childhood bed had been so comfortable. And the beds at Hogwarts… oh they had been so magically soft that she only had to lay her head down on a pillow and...
She shook her head impatiently. Don't be stupid, she thought. The house your parents lived in is no doubt crawling with Death Eaters, and if you showed one hair of your frizzy head at Hogwarts, not only would you be dead before daybreak, but several of your friends would be as well. She tried not to think about what was happening at her old school. She tried not to think of her parents, unaware of her existence, living in Australia; of her friends, of her professors… mainly she tried very hard not to think of him.
Especially him. Strange that one person could generate so many emotions. With everyone else, Hermione could easily compartmentalize her feelings into neat and tidy categories. Harry was her friend, and brotherly in his affections. Ron was like a child, easily bored and constantly needing to be entertained. Her parents were her foundation, and her school was the place that had given her the identity she would carry throughout her life, however long or short that might be now.
But him… He encompassed all of the above and more. Since they'd become lovers, she had felt soaring passion and crushing sadness, mindless ecstasy and a knowledge so voracious that no question was left unanswered. He was her protector, her child, her master, her slave, her teacher, her burden.
She thought that she more than likely knew him better than any person on earth, yet she sometimes wondered if she really understood even the basest truth about him. He could bring her to her knees with desire; he could make her feel like a goddess with a slavering supplicant at her feet. He was confidante, disciplinarian and acolyte. He was domineering, selfish, passionate, clinging, demanding, beautiful, generous and fragile.
She had seen him drawn into a rictus of misery trying to throw off the aftereffects of the Cruciatus Curse, whimpering in agony and allowing her to baby him until he could regain the use of his mental and bodily functions.
She had watched and obeyed him even as he blazed down over her, commanding her to do things to him or to herself so indecent, she would often blush furiously for days afterwards at the memories. It never occurred to her to deny him anything… ever…
She was a bit intimidated by his knowledge yet allowed him to cling to her like a baby. There was nothing black or white about him except his manner of dress. He was as constant as smoke, and she wondered as much about him laughing at her behind her back as she did how to make him believe the true depth of her love for him.
Oh, he'd tortured her at first. He'd made her wait until she was of age, slowly but meticulously drawing, flirting, mashing, digging the truth of her feelings for him out of her like squeezing pus from a wound. He railed at her. He did not 'do' students, especially not 'children', he would sneer at her. He'd been angry with himself for wanting her, and even angrier at her for wanting him in return. "Don't you know there's a bloody war on?" he snarled, even as his crooked teeth worried at her neck, marking her for the first time as his own.
He'd gleefully sought her out when she'd technically come of age via the bloody Time-Turner, and pounced on her so classically he actually thought he'd been the one doing the seducing. She had set him straight on that count soon enough. He'd approached her afterwards like a man headed for his own funeral, hating himself, yet still unable to stay away from her. She'd been the same. They eventually gave in and accepted their desperation for one another.
She knew he needed her more than he wanted her and wanted her more than he loved her. The awful tragedy or joy of the matter, however you chose to look at it, was that he did love her. It was a terrible, reluctant love, one that he could no more prevent than he could the inevitable course of the war. It irritated him that they were so much alike. It infuriated him that he envied her the friendships she'd made. It pleased him that she was as intelligent, as lonely, as determined and as loyal as himself.
He was big on loyalty, even though he really didn't trust it. "You'll leave me eventually," he would gasp painfully, sometimes even as she was panting through her climax beneath him. She'd never known anyone so unaware of his own magnetism. He was an amazing mixture of ruthless masculine sexuality and razor-sharp self-deprecation. His hold over her was something he still didn't quite trust or understand. Not that he had much time to ponder it nowadays.
Hermione shook her head. Thinking about him was a sure way to madness and extreme discomfort. Sometimes, she missed him so much she would toss and turn all night, rising thick-headed and depressed. Only her duty to Harry would keep one foot trudging in front of the other. Taking care of 'the boys', as she thought of them. And let's face it, she thought to herself traitorously, the boys take me completely for granted. Yeah, we're doing fine as long as Hermione's here to make sure our shoelaces are tied and we have enough to eat.
He would never expect her to do everything. He would pull his share. Hadn't he already done enough to prove that?
Yes, she positively ached for him. There were nights she was sure she would die if she didn't cast a Silencio charm and touch herself surreptitiously under her blanket, soundlessly calling his name as she found an unsatisfying relief. Afterward, she usually cried anyway. She sometimes thought he would drive her mad in the end – his revenge for the unpardonable sin of loving him too much.
Tonight, there would be no furtive fingering beneath the blanket. Hermione just wanted to get warm and fall asleep. If she stopped to think, her thoughts might just bear down on her and crush her. She was already very close to the crushing point, and it wouldn't take much to finish the job. Horcrux hunting is not for pussies. Get a grip, Granger, she told herself. In her mind, she could hear his voice echoing the same sentiment. The thought brought a ghost of a smile to her lips.
She had to admit to herself that when she, Harry and Ron had gone on the run to find Horcruxes, she hadn't thought things would take this long. Hermione had thought Dumbledore would have at least given Harry a clue about what to do, instead of willing to them a lot of cryptic hints disguised as useless junk. It wasn't a sodding treasure hunt, but Dumbledore had treated it like one.
Hermione was tired of running and not knowing what to look for or where it might be. She missed her parents, who didn't even know who she was. She missed her old life. She missed being just Hermione Jean Granger, swot extraordinaire. She missed being clever. Running around England and hiding in a tent had a way of knocking the cleverness right out of her at times. Mostly, though, Hermione missed him. Like the best of mazes, all roads in her mind led right back to her center: him.
When Ron, doped on hormones and Horcrux backlash, left her and Harry, Hermione thought it might actually be for the best. Ron had come to think of her as 'his', and she didn't know how to stop his gradual insistence that they 'consummate their love'.
"We could be caught tomorrow, 'Mione," he would say, his large blue eyes earnest with pleading. "Do you really want to face death and not know how it feels to be, well, loved?" He would dip his head, a crooked smile playing on his lips, thinking he looked irresistible enough for her to agree with him. He thought she was a virgin. She let him think it.
When he'd pulled his strop and prepared to stomp off into the sunset, he'd fully expected her to come with him and leave Harry to find the Horcruxes alone. When she'd made it very clear she had no intention of abandoning Harry, Ron had treated her like the worst camp follower.
So he'd left, chucking his toys out of the pram. Hermione felt like she'd spent the afternoon inhaling nitrous oxide. Her parents called it 'laughing gas', and sometimes used it in their dental practice, but Hermione saw nothing funny about it at all. It always left her feeling nauseous with a thumping headache and a bad taste in her mouth. Lately, so did Ron.
Without Ron, she and Harry made a quiet couple, rarely speaking about anything of import other than Horcruxes, the disaster at Godric's Hollow or the freezing weather, which meant that light, warmth and other necessary resources would be in even shorter supply. Luxuries like food were getting harder to come by.
The two of them passed from thin into gaunt and were heading quickly into emaciated. Hermione had always assumed starvation would be a real passion killer. That was before she'd had to live without him. Desire for him gnawed at her far more hungrily than lack of food ever would.
Hermione wasn't unduly worried when she peeked out of the tent and found Harry was nowhere to be seen. He frequently walked around, testing the perimeters of their wards, checking to make sure there were no weak spots, no places where the Snatchers could penetrate. Harry desperately wanted to do the right thing. He missed Ginny, though he tried not to talk about her too much. His obsessive hatred of Severus Snape, his determination to find the Horcruxes, and his belief that he had to kill Vol - The Dark Lord, she reminded herself, was all encompassing, and he daily tried to ease Hermione's burden, even though he just didn't really know how.
Hermione looked around their tent and sighed harshly. They had been on the run for so damn long it felt like a way of life. If she didn't think about it too much, it could almost be a strange sort of holiday. If she thought about it at all, she was reminded that she and her two best mates had a price on their heads, and to come in from the cold would most likely result in a very terrible, very public, and very painful death.
As she stood there, her heart started pounding as she felt the familiar shimmer of him against her formidable wards. She began to tremble, and her body felt the pull of him as surely as if he were the moon and she the tide. Her face flushed, and her body dumped so much adrenaline into her bloodstream her skin ached and she felt dizzy. Severus Snape was breaching her wards.
He was the only man who could.
Hermione quickly ran to the loo and looked at herself. She cringed at her messy hair, her over-many ribs, her overall haggard state. There were dark pits beneath her eyes, and she was ashamed for him to see her like this. But even as she felt the disgust at her own unattractiveness, her body called for him; she wouldn't let something as insignificant as pride keep her from him.
She walked back into the main body of the tent, and he was waiting for her. Severus Snape had his back to her. From her position she saw a tall, thin man in a dark, swirling cloak, ramrod straight, waiting for her to stop titivating long enough to come to him.
He turned to face her, and their eyes locked. He was dressed in his customary black frock coat and trousers. Lines of buttons marched down his chest, his wrists, even down his legs to his slender, dragon hide-clad feet. A snowy white shirt peeked from his throat and wrists. His long black cloak framed his body like the wings of a dark angel.
His black hair hung in a lank curtain from his widow's peak, framing expressive brows drawn together with intensity and eyes so dark they glowed like black opals. Hermione felt her heart rate increase, her body drawn to him. Oh gods, how she had ached for him.
She saw that he, too, looked haunted, too thin, sleep deprived, exhausted. His forced tenure as Headmaster of Hogwarts was slowly grinding him down into powder, and her heart cramped again.
If he would only speak!
As if he'd heard her thoughts (and there was nothing to say he hadn't), he cleared his throat quietly and said, "Happy Christmas, Hermione." His voice was soft, and the silkiness of the sound of her name issuing from his lips was nearly enough to drive her to her knees. He faced her fully and, to her great relief, held open his arms to her slowly, expectantly. There was a stillness, a quiet hope in his face, that indicated that even after all this time, he was still not sure he was truly welcome. Hermione felt a swift hatred for the person who had abused this man's trust and love. That person deserved to burn in hell.