Draught of Living Death

Summary: A companion to Amortentia. Some love stories are beautiful, some are cautionary tales; all of these are both. Romantic short stories, multiple pairings, and mature themes - for when you crave a little darkness.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Credit where credit is due, Joanne Rowling.

A/N: This short story collection (one shots and drabbles) is the darker, angstier counterpart of my humor collection, Amortentia. That is not to say there won't be any humor here, but it should be assumed that ALL stories in this collection contain mature themes and moral grey areas.

There will be multiple pairings in this collection. Each story stands alone unless otherwise specified.

Jan 24, 2017: I will be posting eight one shots to the collection for each day leading up to my birthday on January 31. Thanks for joining me!


Pairing: Harmony (Harry x Hermione)

Universe: Post-War AU

Rating: M for language, sex, violence

Summary: Voldemort may have killed Harry Potter, but Hermione will do whatever it takes to get him back.

When I saw the green light strike your chest I thought I felt my own soul vacate my body - but I could not have known then how true that really was.

She squinted up at the glowing figure presiding over the darkly cavernous room, knowing with an intangible - and, presently, indeterminable - certainty that she was well below the surface of any familiar terrain. It had been days of walking, of near delirium, and then, precisely as the stories had been told for centuries, she had woken up here, alone and shivering on the cold stone floor. The assembled figures around her - a hawkish court - eyed her guardedly, whispering to each other, clearly waiting impatiently for her to wake; she had stirred, they had gasped, and an uncomfortable staring had instantly commenced.

He, the judge, was starkly pale - almost blue - governing his murmuring court with an eerie, unsettling calm. She, the penitent - perhaps, she thought, or else livestock - submitted herself to judgment on her knees and slowly bowed her head, waiting in desperation and in supplication; silently considering the weight of her decisions.

Don't do it, Ron had pleaded with her, it's dangerous, Hermione - I know it's hard without him, but we have to move on -

Move on; as though such a thing were possible. As though she had not dreamt of him every night, of his boundless fall and her helpless paralysis. Always the same nightmare; always the same reality. Pain, whether sleeping or waking.

I have to go after him, she argued wearily; weary of the argument, weary from the loss. I have to, Ron, it's Harry -

I know it's Harry, Ron retorted sharply, and she could read the hint of bitterness in him, the stab of pain; that old insecurity, she knew, that he had never been enough. I know, Hermione, Ron protested, softening, and I miss him too -

Not like she missed him, she wanted to say. Ron was saddened, wilted, delicately injured; he mourned the loss of his friend, his brother. Her emptiness, though, was consuming. Devouring. Harry's absence had meant an incurable void.

I have to, was all she said, and Ron had eventually managed a nod, understanding in his way, in his practiced resignation - but still, he hadn't come, and despite her present fear, she was glad of it.

It was better that way, she knew. She momentarily imagined Ron beside her now; pictured him hesitating fragilely, burdened by indecision and his constant desire to run, and immediately shook herself of the thought, silently pardoning him. There was a reason there had been three of them. There was always one to be loyal, one to be clever, and one to be brave when the others would fail - and so she imagined Harry instead. Pictured him, unbending until the end, and knew without hesitation that he would have done the same for her; and so she bore her flimsy imitation of his courage, waiting on her knees.

"How did you find me?" the figure demanded sharply, interrupting her thoughts. She opened her mouth to answer, but was promptly cut off by a careless flick of his wrist. "Nevermind," he sniffed. "I can see as much. You found it in a book."

"Yes," she said hoarsely, "a book." She shifted her shoulders back, glancing up at him. "And it said," she ventured, finding her voice and drawing forth from her tireless recitation of facts, "that if I struck a deal with you - "

"A deal," the figure scoffed, looking ruffled; he, either judge or deity, soured in displeasure, glowering at her as he cut her off. "As though I am some kind of troll under a bridge to be bargained with."

She winced; she had never been particularly talented with communication. "I meant," she began uncertainly, but he cut her off with a glance.

"I'm a businessman," he informed her, brandishing a snobbish affectation. "I accept only one form of payment."

At the prospect of this - of the potential for payment - the whispering around her ceased. The translucent figures leaned in, waiting; in truth, even she was relieved.

This, at least, was a concept she understood.

"If I pay," she said carefully, swallowing her misgivings before glancing up at him, "if I give you what you want, then - "

"Yes," he confirmed briskly, his eyes narrowing from afar. "I'm not an unreasonable being. If you are willing to pay the price, you may obtain what you desire." He leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers against his lips. "Well?" he said, prompting her with a gesture. "What is it you offer?"

"Oh," she said, feeling her heart skip. "Well, um - "

She sucked in a breath, uncertain.

"Whose soul is it that you offer for his?" the judge prodded imperiously. "Your own? You realize, then," he informed her, and the room filled with a low buzz of cackled mocking, "that in doing so, you will have died for him?"

She shut her eyes, summoning her memories, imagining the many times she'd thought she would have died beside him. I'll go with you, she heard herself say, and then -

"If it's me for him, I'll do it," she said, her eyes fluttering open. "If that's the price, I'll pay."

Around her, curious mutters crescendoed to a dull roar and the judge licked his lips, thinking. "Hmm," he murmured thoughtfully, cocking his head to look at her. "Interesting."

"Interesting?" a member of the audience repeated, scoffing. "Hardly."

"I agree. What fun is there in that?" another demanded, looking sulkily displeased. "I dare say that's no price at all if it's so freely given."

"Indeed," another contributed impishly. "There must be more, your Eminence, or else - "

"Silence," the judge barked sharply, waving his hand. "You," he said, once again fixing his unsettling gaze on her. "You say you'd willingly trade your soul for his?"

"Yes," she said, swallowing nervously. "Yes, I would."

"Do you not value your life?" he demanded. "Or does some other compulsion propel you?"

"Er," she said, forcing hesitation down her throat. "It's - he's - "

"Yes?" the judge prompted. "Speak, girl - "

"For him," she said hastily. "For Harry, I'd - " she stopped, feeling the consummate silliness of he's my friend suddenly turn to ash on her tongue. "I'd do anything for him," she finished unimpressively, and despite her lack of monumental rhetoric, the judge's smile broadened slowly.

"Hmm," he murmured again, and she felt a tingling thrill of dread. "For an intent so pure, perhaps I'll show some mercy, then," he mused softly, as chatter erupted around the courtroom. "SILENCE," he roared a second time, permitting the murmurs to abruptly dissolve before gesturing to a waif-like figure on his right, beckoning for them to rise.

"The rules of transactions are simple," the judge said, orating as the waif transcribed. "For every soul that enters, one soul must remain." He glanced at Hermione. "Do you dispute the terms?"

"No," she said, shifting anxiously from where she knelt. "But - "

"Let the transaction be this, then: a division of souls," the judge proposed, and a startled burst of whispers rose again, "wherein the supplicant" - he gestured to her - "will vacate half her soul, as will the host, the remainder of which will be shared - "

"Half," she echoed, startled. "Which half - "

"Does it matter?" the judge interrupted, his teeth cutting against his thin lip as he smiled insincerely. "Is any fraction of one's being more valuable than the others?"

"I - no," she said, frowning, "I just - "

"Then you agree," he ruled, slamming down an opalescent gavel. "Two halves for a whole, with one soul between them" - wait, Hermione mouthed, the calculations amounting to addled questions in her mind to no apparent reaction, one soul, but then - "FETCH HIM," the judge shouted, and a hazy arch appeared to her left, revealing a familiar silhouette within its confines.

She blinked, her vision slowly clearing, her misgivings dissipating with the smoke; a rush of blood to her head, a hitch in her breath -

"Harry," she whispered, scrambling to her feet. "Harry - "

He stepped slowly - unsteadily, as though regaining ownership of his stride - into the light, the glow radiating from the curves of his shoulders. He was precisely the same as she remembered, still grimy from the rubble of the castle, sweat still glistening on his forehead as he stepped, each one more certain than the next, rhythmically closing the distance between them -

"Wait," the judge called, and one of the many iridescent figures stepped in front of her, halting her stumbled leap towards Harry to thrust a silvery-clawed hand into the basin of her chest, yanking the breath from her lungs.

"There," the judge pronounced definitively. "Payment complete - "

But she couldn't hear him, couldn't bring herself to process what, if anything, had been taken from her; she could only hear the dull roar in her ears, could only see the smile on Harry's face, swimming in her vision as she collapsed against him - an ecstatic, breathless cadence of Harry, Harry, Harry -

She felt his arms close around her, enveloping her - what is a love story, she heard, a haughty whisper that soared through the hollow of her mind, if not the intertwining of two souls? - and felt a wave of nausea force her to her knees as everything around them went black.

When she woke he was sitting beside her, staring at her.

"You came for me," he said, in rapturous disbelief, and she felt her heart twist and leap; a stuttered sprint at the sight of him, at the familiar sound of his voice.

"Of course," she breathed helplessly, reaching out for him. "Of course."

"But I failed you," he murmured, stroking her hair as her head fell against his shoulder. "I failed you, didn't I?"

"You didn't," she assured him. "You didn't, Harry - "

"He won," he croaked matter-of-factly, his voice still raspy from underuse. "He won, and so I failed."

"No," she said, aghast, pulling back to look at him, but he tightened his arms around her. She breathed him in, waiting, words of reassurance caught in her throat; she opened her mouth to speak, rooting around for the right thing to say, but was cut off by the low thrum of his voice in her ear.

"I won't fail you again," he whispered, and she shuddered in his arms, succumbing to a sudden unexpected chill.

"The Order - or what's left of it, anyway," she mumbled sadly, after they'd apparated to the Forest of Dean, "travels in packs. We'll meet them at their next stop, but until then, I've opted for another camping trip." She held up her bag, grinning at him. "Tent, for old time's sake?"

A faint smile tugged at his lips. "Mm," he agreed, his eyes never straying from hers.

She glanced back at him, suddenly feeling shy as she tucked a curl behind her ear. "How was it?" she asked, her voice a girlish whisper.

"Death, you mean?" he asked, and she nodded, feeling silly.

"You don't have to answer," she said quickly, "I mean, I'm sure you don't want to, so - "

"Cold," he supplied. "Sort of . . . vacant." He swallowed, looking far away. "Lost," he added quietly.

"Lost?" she repeated, and he nodded. "Like, in a strange place?"

He shook his head. "More like empty," he clarified, frowning with thought. "And a bit like I was waiting for something."

"Waiting for something?" she murmured, watching curiously as the memory seemed to darken against his expression.

He watched her face for a moment, considering her, and then shrugged. "Or someone," he said neutrally, his gaze falling to the sudden thudding pulse beneath her chest.

"How goes it?" the judge said gleefully, staring at her with an undisguised hunger; an unsettling greed. "Is he as you remember?"

She woke up in a cold sweat, jolting upright in the tent.

She heard movement beside her and caught sight of his outline from the dim light of the tent flap, her eyes adjusting to the dark. "Bad dream?" he asked, glancing over at her.

"Harry," she sighed, and he stepped from the opening of the tent towards her bed, lingering a few feet away. "I guess so."

He said nothing for a moment, watching her from afar.

"Take it off," he murmured.

She blinked. "What?" she asked, then frowned, wondering if something was wrong. "Harry, is everything - "

"I said," he repeated, "take it off. The sweater," he clarified, taking a few strides to close the distance between them and settling himself at her side. He reached out, fingering the hem of her collar; she looked down at the old R sweater she wore, the item so familiar she scarcely bothered to acknowledge it against her skin. The color was faded from countless washes; the smell of it was as warm and comforting as its owner.

Why, she wanted to ask, but nothing came out, the word trapping itself between her teeth with a shuddering gasp as Harry tightened his grip on her collar, pulling her towards him.

"You're not his," he whispered, his gaze slipping along the arch of her brow and settling on her lips, the space of a breath between them. "You never were."

Her heart sped, the clang of it ricocheting in her chest. "Harry," she stammered, trying to draw moisture to her mouth. "What are you saying?"

He met her eye, his knuckles glowing white against the scarlet thread. "You're not his," he said again, his voice a low hiss in the darkened room. "You're mine."

Silence pulsed warningly between them; Harry, she mouthed, but no sound emerged. He licked his lips, rising slowly to his feet.

"Go back to sleep," he told her quietly, but she lay awake for hours, thinking of his fingers against her neck.

Is he as you remember?

"Did I say it was mercy?" the judge asked, smiling down at her. "Pity that you never asked if I was honest."

They found the bodies where the Order camp should have been; strewn around haphazardly, half-trampled, littered amidst the evidence of struggle and flight. She stepped over Hannah Abbott's body, over Cho's and Michael's and Anthony's, searching for hints of red hair and feeling a dual blow of panic and relief as she found none.

"Harry," she said hoarsely, bending to check Neville's pulse and choking on sorrow as a telling swell of nothing rose against her fingers. "What do you want to do?"

The glint in his eye - the flash in the green - never wavered. "Hermione," he said, the smile she'd loved for seven years twitching unexpectedly at the corners of his mouth, "I think I want to make them bleed."

Did I say it was mercy?

"Souls are such fragile things, aren't they," the judge sighed, tsking his lofty disdain. "Ultimately, they're only slaves to their containers."

It had been a week, and still there was no sign of Ron or the others. The dreams, however, seemed to increase in frequency, to surge in intensity.

You're mine, Harry said in her sleep, and she woke to his eyes on her.

"I want to find them," he'd said, and so they'd gone back to the source; back to Hogwarts. They apparated to Hogsmeade and slid - with a careful, practiced invisibility - into the Forbidden Forest, setting up camp in the woods.

"It's too dangerous to do anything right now," she said, glancing up at the castle's towers that rose above the trees. "We'll have to see how things are going first."

"I agree," he said neutrally. "We can't afford any mistakes."

She hesitated, reading into the remark. "You didn't make a mistake," she ventured tentatively. "You sacrificed yourself for us, Harry, it wasn't a mistake - "

"Not that," he said sharply. "All the other times. Every time I was close and I chose to disarm or to stun instead of - "

He trailed off, eyeing her warily.

She swallowed. "Harry," she said carefully, and there was something about the way his name sounded on her tongue now; in the past, it had been comfort and teasing and admonishment and devotion - it had taken on countless forms - but now it was something else. It was low and tactile, rich and savory; you're mine, he'd said, and now she said Harry, and somehow it amounted to the same. "You don't mean - "

"We should find Ron," he interrupted, clearing his throat. "Right?"

Silence throbbed between them.

"Right," she agreed, watching his fingers twitch against his thigh.

They're only slaves to their containers.

The longer they were alone, the more things started to shift.

"Harry," she gasped, feeling his fingers close possessively around her throat. "Harry, are you sure - "

"You're mine," he whispered, his hand slipping to the curve of her breast to pinch at her nipple, to toy with her like she was his to command. "Say it, Hermione - "

"But Ron," she protested weakly, his lips finding their way to her neck as his hand dropped to her thigh; she burned under his touch, felt him sear the flimsy layer of skin to grasp at the core of her underneath, blazing for him.

"Did you go to hell and back for him?" Harry countered roughly, thrusting her back; she parted her legs helplessly, wrapping them around his hips as he hoisted her up, fitting the hardness of himself against her. "No," he answered for her, giving her a punishing thrust, "you didn't."

"Hell," she murmured, shaking her head as his lips traveled across her clavicle. "I didn't - "

"Didn't you?" he murmured, and the moment she let out a moan, the moment she gave in - her head falling back, her breath catching in her lungs to choke her, trapped despite the desperate parting of her lips - she felt reality descend. Slow at first, and then a rapid crash over her head; like a wave, like a wreck, like a storm -

"Bad dream?" he asked, his gaze snagging as he watched her chest rise and fall, devolving to a shallow gasp.

"Bad dream," she whispered in agreement, touching her fingers to her lips.

"They must be using the castle for something," Hermione murmured, watching from behind the Hog's Head's far wall. "Death Eaters seem to come and go at all hours of the day."

"You think he's in there?" Harry said in her ear, shifting behind her from their hiding spot. She felt his chest against her back and fought a shiver.

"Maybe," she whispered. "Though I don't think it's worth going in unless we can confirm."

"Wish I had my dad's cloak," Harry muttered. "I know a disillusionment charm would do the same thing, but - "

"No, I understand," she told him, shifting to face him. "I know."

He searched her face, his gaze falling on her lips as he swallowed. "You always do, don't you," he remarked. "You always have."

She felt her breath turn violent, rising up in her lungs. "Not always," she reminded him. "Don't forget the times I tormented you with my pestering - the tasks, remember, and the memory - "

"Things would have been different if I'd listened to you," he told her, a bare sincerity materializing as he looked at her. "I should have - "

He broke off, alarmed, falling silent as footsteps echoed near them. He shifted closer against her, pressing a finger to her lips in warning as they listened to someone head their way; she nodded, waiting, with her chest pressed to his.

As the would-be intruder moved away, Harry looked down at her again, seeming to register their closeness. He slid his finger from her mouth to brush his thumb across her lip, a reverent, careful study; he watched the motion, fascinated, his hips still flush against hers, and she held her breath, waiting.

He leaned towards her, his breath skating across her lips, and then pulled away, taking a step back.

"We should go," he said. "Dangerous here."

They're only slaves to their containers -

"Dangerous," she agreed, and they disapparated back to the forest.

"This isn't real," she protested weakly, digging her nails into his chest as he kissed her neck. "This is - I don't know - some tricky river god hallucination, some cruel price we pay for having bartered with our souls - "

"Is it?" Harry asked, sinking his teeth into her shoulder. "Or is it who we really are?"

"One soul between us," she murmured, gasping as she found herself torn bare and pressed against him, "does that mean you want this too?"

"Don't you know," he said, bending to kiss a heated trail down her torso. "Hermione," he whispered to the curve of her thigh, "don't you already know?"

"Hermione," he said, reaching out to grip her arm. "You're dreaming again."

She inhaled sharply, her eyes snapping open to take in the sight of him beside her. "Sorry," she mumbled, and his lips slipped upwards in a reassuring smile.

"Not a problem," he said. "I just" - he paused, shrugging - "didn't want to leave you trapped in a nightmare, that's all."

"Right," she agreed, struggling to sit up. "That's - yeah. Thank you," she managed faintly, and he nodded.

"I thought I heard something outside," he commented, glancing at the tent's entrance. "Possibly someone in the forest."

"What?" Hermione exclaimed, shoving the covers aside to clamber to her feet. "I mean, I'm sure the protective spells will hold, but - "

"That wasn't really what I was thinking," Harry interrupted, cutting her off. "I was actually wondering if - "

He paused, hesitating; before she noticed what she was doing, she had reached forward, brushing her fingers comfortingly against his arm.

"Tell me," she coaxed gently, and he swallowed, his gaze travelling down to where they touched.

"I thought," he began quietly, "that it might be someone who could be helpful to us." He shifted, not meeting her eye. "Someone to keep us informed about what's going on. Potentially," he added, straightening, "someone we can" - he paused, coughing - "use, I suppose."

"Well, sure," Hermione agreed, frowning; sensing that she hadn't gathered all the pertinent information. "But what are the chances it's anyone we can trust?"

Harry grimaced, appearing to choose his words carefully. "What if," he proposed slowly, "we had a way of ascertaining that trust was not a factor?"

She stiffened, sensing something unpleasant.

"Ascertaining," she mused tangentially, avoiding the question. "Not much of a Harry word, is it?"

"It's not much of a Harry idea," he admitted, and she bit her lip, finding her suspicions confirmed. "But I don't want to do this like last time," he said emphatically, rising to his feet and pacing the floor. "I don't want to sit around and wait to fall into someone's hands only to fail again. This time I want to have a plan, to have some information. This time," he ranted bitterly, fury glinting in his eye, "I want - "

He paused, grimacing. "I want control," he finished, and she only realized she'd been holding her breath when his gaze fell listlessly on hers.

She gave it a moment, waiting for something; for a warning blow from her conscience, for a tap on the shoulder from her better judgment, for a whisper from her compassion. Something, anything, to remind her what they stood for, what they were, who they'd always been -

And how, she reminded herself coldly, they'd done all that last time, and she'd only lost him in the end.

"Why wait for someone to find us?" she asked suddenly, feeling something inside her shift. "If you want control," she said, meeting his eye, "why not have your choice?"

He smiled.

They settled on Scabior. A Snatcher, and therefore useful; a frequenter of Hogsmeade's more potent sources of Firewhisky, and therefore an easy target. His ears and eyes were about as valuable as any she and Harry could expect to stumble upon, and so they'd laid a simple trap, putting a plan into motion.

She watched Harry cast the Imperius curse and wondered why she felt such a resounding hollow of nothing.

Did I say it was mercy?

"There are Death Eaters missing from the castle," Scabior muttered to them, his eyes glassy. "Rumor has it they've gone to the forest."

"Defected, you mean?" Hermione asked, glancing at Harry as Scabior grunted his acknowledgement. "What does that mean for us?"

"Well, if there's only a rumor they've defected, they could be helpful," Harry judged, shrugging. "We could send them back. Use them to plant a false trail."

"What if we accidentally lead You-Know-Who to a real trail?" Hermione asked nervously. "We don't know where the others are - "

"We'll have to work that out when we get to it," Harry cut in grimly, tapping Scabior's forehead. "Either way, that's enough from you. Keep your head down until we call again."

"Mm," Scabior vacantly agreed, collapsing in a heap as Harry withdrew his wand.

"Wait," Theodore Nott begged, his hands raised as he stared up at them. "Potter, Granger - you don't fucking understand - "

Harry flicked his wand, slicing at Nott's cuff; the snake and the skull peaked through and Nott let out a strangled cry. "Wait - "

"Why should we?" Harry asked gruffly, glancing between Nott and Goyle. "I assume you have one, too," he added, and with another flick of his wand, Goyle's Mark was visible from a tear in his sleeve. "Mm, pity," Harry determined, pursing his lips and sighing in feigned disappointment. "Seems your Lord has let his recruitment standards go a little slack since my death."

"He killed Draco, too," Nott gritted out from his knees. "This isn't what it fucking looks like, Potter, I swear - "

"What does it look like to you, Hermione?" Harry mused, tilting his head to look at her. She glanced warily at him, her wand still aimed at Goyle's chest.

"Looks like a couple of Death Eaters wandering the Forbidden Forest," Hermione replied, curling her wand up to point it at Goyle's throat. "What shall we do with them, Harry?"

"Nott's right," Goyle grunted quickly, "'e's killed Draco, we ain't lookin' to turn you in - "

"Lucky that, as I certainly wouldn't permit it," Hermione said loftily, feeling a thrill of something rattle against her bones as Goyle broke off, shaking. "Perhaps we could give them a message, Harry? Something to pass along to their master?"

"That's a thought," Harry agreed, sparing her a roguish smile. "A little . . . rebirth announcement, if you will?"

Nott grimaced. "Potter," he growled, "you know we could be killed for carrying that particular message."

"Funny that should matter," Harry retorted, "as it also turns out you can be killed over something as ill-conceived as a prophecy. Perhaps you'll be lucky, Nott," he murmured, grabbing Nott's chin in his hand to dig his wand into the other man's temple, "as it seems the Dark Lord's killing curses sometimes don't seem to stick."

Nott said nothing, staring mutinously back at Harry.

"Where's Ron?" Hermione asked, glancing between Nott and Goyle. "Where are the others?"

"Don't know," Nott spat, jerking his head back as Harry's wand pressed deeper into his forehead. "They got away."

"How many did you kill, Nott?" Harry asked. "Get a trophy for your body count?"

"None," Nott growled. "I didn't fucking touch any of them." At a jab from Harry, he flinched. "I fucking swear, Potter, check my wand if you don't believe me - "

"And you?" Hermione asked, eyeing Goyle. "How many?"

Goyle hesitated, sweat dripping from his forehead. "I - I didn' - "

Hermione bent to look him in the eye, nudging his chin up with her wand. "How many?" she repeated. "I can make you tell," she whispered warningly, and Goyle forced his eyes shut.

"Abbott," he muttered. "And Corner."

Hermione felt a twist of rage at that; a shock of anger that pounded mercilessly through her mind, ricocheting in her chest, beating relentlessly at her sense of justice. She thought at first to sob, to scream, to retch; to wither in her desolation, in the disconsolateness of his wrongs.

And then she thought better of it.

"Harry," she murmured, "how many people does it take to deliver a message?"

Harry's smile cut across his lips.

"One," he determined flatly, and she watched the tip of her wand glow against the pale skin of Goyle's throat.

"Harry," she gasped, on her back this time with him poised above her, his fingers pressing into the gaps of her ribs. "Harry - "

She woke with a start, hearing him pace beside her bed and slowly catching her breath as her gaze followed his path across the tent.

"How did it feel to kill Goyle?" he asked, and she paused, considering the question.

"Easy," she croaked simply, and he nodded.

"And Nott," he mused. "You don't think letting him go back without an Imperius was a mistake?"

She shook her head. "No," she said softly. "He doesn't want this," she added in explanation. "I could tell."

To her surprise, Harry's eyes narrowed momentarily. "You could tell," he repeated, looking vaguely displeased. "Perhaps," he ventured, suddenly easing into a teasing smile, "we should have kept him for your entertainment, then?"

"My entertainment?" she repeated, rolling her eyes. "Harry, please."

"Why not?" he ventured in mock innocence, coming to stand at the foot of her bed. "I think I saw you looking at him once or twice while we were at school - "

"Oh, stop," she admonished him, pursing her lips. "You know I'm with Ron."

She knew it was a mistake as soon as the words slipped out; Harry bristled, his expression hardening as the game fizzled to nothing between them.

"I do know that," he agreed coolly, turning away.

You're mine, she heard him say; read it in the line of his back, in the slope of his shoulder, in the glimmer of the way his eyes met hers -

"Of course," she ventured, her heart pounding in her chest, "I'm not sure how much Ron will approve of my more recent behavior."

She watched him pause, glancing over his shoulder to let his tongue slip tellingly against his lips. "Oh?" Harry asked drily.

"There's the whole murder thing," she said, "and the subsequent transfiguration of Goyle's body."

Harry's smile twitched. "Well, Ron never cared much for Goyle," he mused. "Perhaps he'll find it dismissible."

"There's the Imperius issue as well," Hermione contributed neutrally. "He might not want to stay with me once he discovers that."

"Maybe not," Harry murmured. "But still," he added carefully, "if he really loves you, then - "

"And if none of those things mean anything to him," she interrupted, rising carefully, her bare feet pressing lightly against the cold floor of their tent, "there is always the chance he will be disappointed to discover that all this time" - she paused as Harry stepped closer to her, sucking in a breath as he let his hands rest temptingly against her hips - "this whole time," she repeated, whispering, "I've been yours."

She watched the yearning flicker return to his eye.

"Mine," Harry said, his lips curling up in triumph. "Really?"

"If," she said, letting him press her back against the post of her bed, "you want me, that is."

"If?" he repeated, bending his head to mutter against her neck. "You really have doubts about whether I would?"

"I'm no Ginny," she reminded him, closing her eyes as his hands slid under her shirt, gripping tightly to her waist. "I'm no Cho, either - "

"They're nothing compared to you," he growled in her ear, snarling it like she'd dared to defy him with the unsteadiness of her doubt. His hands found the swells of her breasts under her shirt, teasing along the cups of her bra as he shifted a knee between her legs, widening her stance. "Nobody," he hissed, "is anything compared to you - "

A whimper escaped from her parted lips and she felt him smile against her cheek, the roughness of it scraping against her skin as his lips traveled along her jaw, his hand rising up to force her chin towards his. "You're mine," he said triumphantly. "You were never his."

"No," she confessed, her fingers traveling helplessly to the button of his jeans. "I wasn't. "

"I have your loyalty," Harry murmured, his hand resting against the thudding in her chest, "and your love?"

"Yes," she agreed, fumbling with his zipper to take him in her hand, prompting them both to stifle moans as she held his hardened cock, smoothing her palm along its length. "My loyalty, my love, my" - she cut off as he kissed her, soft and pulsing against her lips before devolving to an ardent demand, a searing pressure between his teeth that tore a loud cry from her throat - "my - "

"This," he said, raising her up with an arm around her ribs and tearing her jeans down the length of her legs to hurriedly slide a finger against her, slipping his hand under the thin fabric of her underwear. "All of you - "

"Yours," she promised weakly, her legs buckling as he thrust two fingers inside her, rhythmically pulsing as she writhed against him. "Yours, Harry," she gasped, taking a fistful of his messy black hair as he bent his head to her breasts, grazing his teeth against her nipple. "Yours - "

He pulled away, grabbing wordlessly for his wand and flicking it to slash open the remaining buttons of her shirt, stepping back to let her kick her jeans away and then tearing the thin lace of her underwear down her legs, leaving her to shiver apprehensively in the spare inches between them.

He yanked his t-shirt over his head, revealing the carved structure beneath; the coiled muscle of consequence, of survival, artfully splintered with scars that had slashed across the contours of him, the epic of him that was written and riddled with suffering. She stepped towards him, her fingers outstretched, feeling him inhale sharply as she touched a mark of something - had it been a dragon, she thought fancifully, or else a Dark Lord; what kind of monster, what immeasurable instance of bravery had done it? - and instilled her touch with reverence, with the fervor of her devotion.

"Hermione," he murmured, glassy-eyed, and she gripped his waist, bending to press her lips to his chest, dropping lower to his torso, settling herself on her knees -

"Harry," she whispered back, taking the tip of his cock and sliding it against the moistened channel of her lips; for Ron this had felt silly - had felt foreign and oddly pornographic - but for Harry she could not imagine doing otherwise, could not fathom not wanting to taste him, to let her tongue flick over him and hear the sharpness of his breath, the hollow whisper of her name. She slid her lips over the length of him, taking him slowly, letting him thrust gently against her mouth before digging her fingers into his arse, drawing him into her. He reached down, taking a fistful of her hair and tightening his fingers in her curls as she glanced up to watch his head fall back, a look of tortured satisfaction - of yes, this, us, at last - crossing the shadow of his face, the peerless green of his eyes disappearing behind hazily closed lids.

She felt his cock leap against her throat and then saw his eyes flutter open, his gaze settling briefly on her face before he bent to scoop her up in his arms, carrying her to her bed and throwing her back against the still-dismantled sheets. "You're mine," he said again, sliding his palms against the curves of her thighs, spreading them apart.

"I'm yours," she agreed, crying out as he brought his mouth between her legs, in wonder, in rapture, in beatific pain; we're only slaves to our containers -

He forced her legs as wide as they would go, spreading the lips of her cunt to thrust his tongue inside her, to drag it relentlessly against her clit. This, too, had been clumsy with Ron, had been awkward and uncertain, but Harry buried his face against her, lapping hungrily at her like she could somehow fill him; like he'd been broken and beaten and starved until that moment, and she was the taste he had longed for -

She came with a shuddered cry, a moan that ripped itself from her lips, and then he was thrusting inside her; he pulled her up, pressing her chest against his as he fucked her - hungry, starved, ravenous, his teeth gritted in desperation - and she bent her head to bite down on his shoulder, adding to his collection of scars.

He tugged her hair back as he came, the flash in the green glinting as he panted out the sound of her name, of you're mine, you're mine, you're mine -

I'm yours, she gasped, and knew that he could feel it.

"It's done," Nott had said flatly, meeting them at their spot in the forest. "Scabior's told him the same - presumably you know that already," he guessed, smirking, and Harry tilted his head warily, saying nothing. "In any case, he'll be at the castle, as you requested," Nott concluded. "And so will the remains of the Order, if they've gotten the message - "

"They have," Hermione confirmed, "if you've done everything I told you to - "

"Which I have," Nott had confirmed tartly. "So once you kill the bastard, my obligation here is done."

"Obligation?" Harry lamented, sighing facetiously. "Nott, you could at least pretend to enjoy our company."

"Seeing as you're both terrible, I will not," Nott informed him briskly. He turned, walking back towards the castle, before turning over his shoulder. "You two are fucked, by the way," he added, gesturing between them. "Whatever this is."

And then he'd gone, leaving her to wonder how right he'd been.

"Maybe we're bad for each other," she whispered to Harry as she lay in his arms. "Do you think maybe this is wrong?"

He said nothing.

Is he as you remember?

"We're supposed to be seeing Ron any day now," she added, babbling anxiously. "So - "

"Go to sleep," Harry advised, his arms tightening around her.

Did I say it was mercy?

"You're mine," he whispered, and she opened her mouth - yes, yes, yes - but he kissed her silent, ripping the words from her tongue. "And I'm yours," he promised, and the moment he filled her, she felt every piece of herself be consumed by him, mind and body and -

Soul, she thought, and nearly laughed, the entirety of her being set ablaze.

Tom Riddle had been a man for speeches; Harry Potter was not.

Voldemort turned to face him - trapped, as Nott had assured them he would be, between the Order and the other quietly defected Death Eaters - with no escape. He opened his mouth; to taunt, Hermione guessed, or to gape, but Harry was no mere Boy Who Lived any longer.

"Avada Kedavra," Harry intoned emotionlessly, watching the so-called Dark Lord fall; Hermione stood by his side, nodding her satisfaction.

Theo had lured Voldemort to the castle and set the message through channels Hermione had instructed, and in the end, all that remained - Death Eater and Order of the Phoenix alike - bore witness, watching the Chosen One crush his foot decidedly against Lord Voldemort's chest, proving with certainty that unlike Tom Riddle, Harry Potter's killing curses did not fail.

It had been oddly easy, disturbingly painless; until a glint of red hair caught her eye across the courtyard. She hesitated, pausing mid-stride as Ron looked up, catching her eye.

"You can go back to him if you want," Harry said in her ear, stepping behind her. "If it's easier."

"It would be," she agreed, and he nodded. "Maybe Nott's right," she said, smiling wanly. "Maybe we are fucked up. Or maybe," she considered tentatively, suffering a brush of very real fear, "we only work when it's war. When we have an enemy," she said sadly.

"As far as I'm concerned, I still do," he returned, shrugging. "All the Death Eaters whose trials will be delayed," he reminded her, his voice hardening with a cool, troubled rage, "whose wealth or lies will keep them out of Azkaban, the same as it was before." He released a shaky breath. "Unless, of course, I have something to do with it - "

"You're not coming home, then," she interrupted softly, turning over her shoulder to face him. Harry shook his head, stifling a humorless laugh.

"To do what?" he scoffed. "Wear knitted sweaters at Christmas? Eat treacle tart? Have a small brood of optimistic redheaded children?" he asked mockingly, gesturing to Ginny, who'd joined Ron. Hermione paused as she watched them, considering the possibilities; contentment, she thought; hadn't that been something she'd wanted?

"No," Harry pronounced curtly, tearing his gaze away from Ginny and returning his attention to her. "After the things I've done, I could never go back." He paused for a moment to look at her, frowning, his gaze tracing slowly over her face - memorizing her, she guessed - before reaching a hand out to tuck a curl behind her ear. "After everything I've - "

She leaned helplessly into his touch, watching his gaze drop to her lips.

"Tasted," he murmured regretfully, and she shivered, knowing he was right.

"It could never be the same," she agreed, even as a part of her begged her to step back, don't do this, Ron's watching -

"You could come," Harry offered softly. His gaze slipped over her shoulder to where Ron stood behind her, waiting; she turned, catching the softness of his familiar blue eyes.

For a moment, time stood still; she existed between futures and pasts, the space between choices. Ron would be better, she knew, would make her whole; would give her peace, would give her calmness, stillness, normalcy. Ron, her brain told her, and she agreed; Ron, she thought pleadingly, but then -

You're not his, she heard Harry say, you never were; words that had rooted themselves in her soul.

Her soul, and his. She'd wondered if it would splinter along with the lives they'd taken, whether they were building their own trail of regrets; but they were too much a part of each other to sever, and perhaps even the laws of magic had known.

What is a love story, she heard, a whisper in her mind, if not the intertwining of two souls?

"Sorry," she finally mouthed across the courtyard, and Ron's eyes widened in pain but he nodded; he knew, she thought, as Harry knew, as she'd always known -

"I'm yours," she said to Harry, grabbing his hand and disapparating on the spot.

In the end, I always belonged to you, and I will wither at your mercy.

a/n: In classic Olivie fashion I am already late on my 8 Days of Murder countdown to my birthday, but more coming shortly: of the new material, there will be a Mulcibery, a dark (goes without saying for this collection, but am saying anyway) politicians!Dramione, and either a Voldetrix or Parkgrass (TBD), plus Theocissa, Pottgrass, Regulene, and (more) Dramione. See you back here soon!