Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters mentioned in this fanfiction. Harry Potter and all characters from the Harry Potter Series are property of J.K. Rowling.
Chapter Twenty-One: Vein
Harry awoke very early the next morning. Getting dressed silently, he left the dormitory as quietly as possible. Fred and George were slumped against the foot of the door, fast asleep, their wands held loosely in their hands. Harry side-stepped them and descended the stairway to the Common Room.
Everything was quiet and numb on the day after Christmas as though someone had turned off the sound. Harry sighed. He always thought the day after Christmas was the most depressing day of the year. Moving towards the portrait hole he stopped, gazing off in the direction of the Girl's dormitory. He stared up at it longingly, wishing he could float up the rough, stony steps to see her. As he thought this, Harry smiled slightly so that the corners of his mouth lifted—a wolfish smile.
Memories of the previous night were still sharp in his memory. He and Hermione had crawled through the portrait hole after Ron and Ginny an hour later then they should have and only because they heard Lupin walking towards the portrait hole. They had both run swiftly, Hermione laughing under her breath, to their separate dormitories, a fleeting kiss still on Harry's lips as Lupin entered the empty Common Room save Moody asleep on the sofa…
He needed to see her. It felt unnatural not to be able to. But there was no way to speak with her unless she came down the stairs…besides, it was only six in the morning. Too early, even for Hermione when it was a holiday.
Inspiration taking hold, Harry charged up the stairs to his own dormitory, slowing his thundering steps at the sight of Fred and George. Neither of them had heard anything, both consumed in their dreams. Harry was glad deep sleeping ran in the family. Leaning over them, Harry pushed against the door and slipped inside. He trod lightly to his trunk and removed his Firebolt.
A minute later he was in front of the stairway leading to the Hermione's dormitory once more. Mounting his broom, he hovered just slightly above the first step. He leaned forward, holding his breath as he slowly ascended past the second step, then the third, then the fourth. It was then his broom shuddered and stopped. Harry immediately felt a trickle of energy crack against his broom handle, causing it to shake violently. Harry had no sooner blinked in confusion when he was thrown backwards into one of the nearby study tables.
Harry grunted in pain and frustration. Pulling himself off the floor, he waited to see if anyone came to see what had made the noise. When no one came, Harry walked to the stairs once more. Placing his hand into the stairway, he felt the same force pulse against his hand, as though it was something offensive, which Harry supposed it was.
"This is stupid," Harry said softly to himself. "She'll come down soon enough and I'll see her at breakfast."
Harry stood on the sprawling lawn below Gryffindor Tower; the deep trenches of snow that covered the knolls leading to the lake glimmered in the early morning sun. Each crystalline flake was a prism of light that reflected the sun with an almost blinding intensity. The sun did not reach, however, under the shadow of the tower. Harry stood in its momentous silhouette, looking up at a distant window.
"What am I doing?" Harry asked himself vehemently. "She's probably down a breakfast wondering where I am."
Harry turned and looked at the small path he had made with his booted feet, each footprint well defined. Harry sighed and shook his head. There is something very wrong with me today, he thought.
Harry threw is left leg over his broom and kicked off the frozen ground. The wind whipped his hair in every direction and slapped his face like a frigid hand. He hovered in front of one window. It was empty and housed six small, empty beds. First or Second years, no doubt.
He rose a little higher to the window third from the top and peeped through a narrow window fogged over with ice. He thought he saw a figure rising out of bed. Harry's heart began beating a little faster as he saw the figure untangle from the sheets. The opaque frost obscured the girl so that she looked hazy and out of proportion. Harry gently scraped his thumb over the glass to get a better look.
The figure turned immediately at the sound with cat-like reflexes. It was then Harry saw a lurid shock of crimson hair pulled into a messy ponytail.
Harry ducked just in time.
"God, what am I?" Harry thought in disgust. "This insane…and perverted."
He looked down at the ground and then up where two more windows waited to be explored. Almost reluctantly, Harry cautiously ascended to the next highest window.
It was bigger than the window in Ginny's dormitory and very much like the one in his own dorm room. Harry peered inside and finally found what he was looking for.
There was Hermione sitting on her bed, wearing a light blue camisole with green and blue flannel bottoms. Her hair was piled atop her head and she was gently sucking on a pink toothbrush while she read some book positioned awkwardly on her knees. Harry didn't know how long he looked at her like that while she moved her toothbrush from left to right. He seriously debated whether he should alert her to his presence and most likely scare her out of her wits in the process. Just as he was about to turn and descend to the ground where he belonged, Hermione looked up.
Harry was instantly paralyzed. If he moved now she would throttle him for his antics later. If he didn't move, she'd just throttle him now.
Instead, Hermione screamed, toothpaste flying from her mouth. Harry snapped out of his paralysis and looked for an avenue of escape. She scrambled to the window and pushed back the lock. The pane opened with an excessively loud creak that Harry was sure the entire Tower could hear.
"Harry! What the hell!?" Hermione sputtered, frantically whipping away foam from her mouth.
Harry said the first thing that came to mind.
"I had to see you. I couldn't get up the stairs cause of the, well…you know what it is," Harry stammered.
"Why?" said Hermione urgently. "Is something wrong? What's happened?"
Harry suddenly felt outstandingly embarrassed. He had no practical reason to be floating fifty feet above the ground other than to get a glimpse of her.
Harry was saved from answering by a knock at the door.
"Quick!" whispered Hermione. "Hide!"
Hermione slammed the window shut, nearly cutting off Harry's fingers and Harry flattened himself against the wall, holding the Firebolt tightly between his legs. He heard Mrs. Weasley's muted voice through the pane.
"I heard a scream, dear," she said. "Is everything all right?"
"I…I saw a rat Mrs. Weasley," Hermione lied. "Horrible, beastly thing. I didn't know what to do, I mean with Crookshanks in the Common Room…and…"
Harry could feel the suspicious look Mrs. Weasley gave Hermione. "A rat?"
"Yes, a rat."
"There are ways to kill rodents, dear. A nifty little spell will do the trick…"
"I know, I know. It was silly of me to scream," Hermione said dejectedly. "I guess we can never be to sure with rodents…"
That did the trick.
"Yes, you never can be," said Mrs. Weasley. She seemed mollified but it took another minute of reassurances from Hermione to convince her it had really been nothing but a rat and not her boyfriend dangling outside her window.
Mrs. Weasley closed the door with a snap and Hermione threw open the window once more and leaned out over the ledge.
"Harry Potter, you had better have a good reason for scaring me to death!"
Hermione was always over-emotional when Harry was on a broom.
"I really don't," Harry smiled, floating to her. "I just wanted to see you."
Hermione looked at him strangely. "Well…I was just about to get dressed…" she said, not understanding.
Harry arched on of his eyebrows. "I'm sorry I missed that."
Hermione stared at him. During her confusion, Harry had placed one foot on the ledge in an effort to hoist himself inside.
"Oh, no you don't!" Hermione whispered heatedly pushing his foot off the ledge. "You go straight down right now or I'll scream again!"
Harry pulled away, putting on a hurt expression. "I risk my life to come and see you with this ingenious plan, and you won't even let me in out of the cold."
"Harry," Hermione said, crossing her arms. "Your brilliant plan was to get your broom out of your trunk and fly up to my window. What is so ingenious about that, please tell me?"
"I thought it was romantic," said Harry stoutly.
Harry knew he had won. Hermione had that glint her eye. A glint he wasn't used to seeing directed towards him. Hermione reached over the ledge and grabbed him by the collar, pulling him, broom in tow, into her room.
Harry's broom dropped to the floor. Harry grinned.
"It was the whole Romeo and Juliet approach," Harry explained as Hermione locked her arms behind his neck. "You see, I can't very well scream you sonnets from down there and—"
He was cut short. Hermione was already leaning forward to kiss his chapped lips. Harry could taste the toothpaste in her mouth and it burned his throat for a moment before he got used to it. He catalogued it in his mind as the strangest kiss he had ever received. They stood there for a long while, connected at the lips, bodies pressed against each other for protection from the icy draft.
Harry felt as though something was charging up inside of him. Blood flowed heatedly throughout his arms and to his fingers that were placed possessively on Hermione's waist. Harry took a step toward her and she took a step back until Harry had pressed her against the bedpost.
Hermione moaned slightly against Harry's lips and it had an immediate effect on Harry. He intensified the kiss. Hermione gasped in surprise like she always did—as though she could barely believe it was all happening. Hardly knowing what he was doing, Harry trailed kisses across the corner of her lips to her ear. Hermione shuddered and pressed up against him, urging him to continue.
She shifted slightly and fell to the bed, taking an obliging Harry with her. The level of intimacy between them was unnerving. Harry tried to consider how strange it was that he was in Hermione's dormitory, on Hermione's bed, kissing Hermione's lips. This was his best friend, his very best friend. This was the same girl who had been so innocent and bossy on the Hogwarts Express in their first year. The same girl who gave him textbooks for Christmas and homework planners on his birthday. And now he was kissing her with the authority of love behind him. He was a boyfriend. Someone pivotal in her life, though he always had been since she was eleven. And this was his girlfriend. It was almost too normal, though at the same time his body and mind was racked with the most abnormal and exquisite sensations that he could only pray she felt too.
Harry lowered his hands and his lips, kissing the delicate skin at the base of her neck.
Hermione's hands tightened on his shoulders. If Harry had looked up, he would have seen the wondering look on her face.
"So…so I guess we're boyfriend and girlfriend now?" she asked laughingly, though a little breathlessly. She didn't know where Harry got so good at kissing, or maybe she didn't quite know what good kissing was…either way, Hermione was shivering from head to foot and a tight knot was unraveling inside of her, urging her to relax and soak up the sensations he was supplying.
Harry peered up and her.
"Er…I would say so….If you want to be…that is…" Harry said panting as he returned to her neck.
Hermione slipped out from under him and moved to the head of the bed.
She looked at him seriously. "I mean…just…what are we doing?"
Harry's arched brows descended slightly. "We're snogging?"
Hermione blushed. "I know that, idiot." Her demeanor returned quickly enough, however. "I mean…are we now a couple? One that will have to do couple-ly things? Like, we'll always have to eat together and you'll have to walk me to class everyday and I'll have to tell you where I am all the time and buy you meaningful presents for once?"
"You are really bad at giving presents…"
Hermione didn't smile, but leaned forward and took his hands.
"No, I'm serious!" she said sternly. "What are we?"
"We're anything you want us to be," Harry said seriously.
"What do you want us to be?" Hermione returned.
"I want…wait…What do you want us to be?"
"I'm asking you. I know what I want."
"Then why don't you tell me?" Harry said, perplexed.
"Because I want to know what you want!"
Harry looked at Hermione. Her eyebrows pointed downward in barely concealed anxiety and her eyes were alight with something Harry couldn't begin to understand. Her lips and cheeks were pink from his ceaseless kissing. To Harry, she looked absolutely gorgeous right down to the flecks of dried toothpaste at the corner of her mouth.
He placed both his hands against her cheeks and brought her face to his. He kissed her softly and without the desperation and demand he had just displayed.
Their lips disconnected and Harry pulled away, still holding her face. With foreheads almost touching, Harry knew she was not breathing….very much like how she had not breathed when she first confessed she liked him on the dark stairway of the Boy's Dormitory.
He spoke slowly so that not only would she understand, but that she would know the significance of what he was about to say.
"Hermione… I know this is dating taboo and all, but I'm going to tell you something." Harry paused while Hermione swallowed and closed her eyes for a moment. "I don't say it a lot. No one's ever really asked me to say it. But I love you. I love you a lot. It's six thirty in the morning and I flew up to your window just to get a glimpse of you. You are always in my head. I wake up every morning wondering where you are and how soon I can see you. I stare at you when you aren't looking…I am in love with you. I have been for longer than I want to admit."
Harry picked up Hermione's hands. Hermione stared at him.
"I want to be your boyfriend, if you'll have me."
Hermione turned her head to the side and bit her lower lip. For a long time she stayed like that. "Aren't you worried about what will happen?" she said, turning to him. "How things will be different…aren't you afraid that we can't go back to being friends ever again? It'll get awkward…"
Hermione looked away as though ashamed she doubted his affection for her. Harry paused before answering.
"You're afraid of change. I am too," Harry agreed.
"No, but what if you get tired of me! Or you grow to resent me or something and we can't go back to the way things were?"
Harry finally felt they were getting to the real problem. "Why would I grow to resent you?"
"I don't know! It could be a million things. I'm bossy and nerdy; I've never had a real boyfriend…I'm not at all interesting…"
"Hermione, if I really thought you were boring, I wouldn't have been your friend for six years now. And of course you're bossy—it's part of your…charm and I'm glad you've never had a boyfriend. I don't like thinking about that."
"You're really not afraid?" Hermione said, looking at him imploringly.
"I'm really not," he told her softly as he moved in, his breath warm on her ear. "You're a little bossy. I'm manic-depressive. We both got our problems. We'll figure something out."
Hermione laughed lightly and leaned forward, resting her forehead on Harry's chest. Harry chuckled and the sound reverberated pleasantly near Hermione's ear.
"So you want me to be your girlfriend for sure? ...I'm not going to be easy on you," said her muffled voice.
"I never thought you would. And yes. I want you to be my girlfriend."
Hermione lifted her head up. "Are you sure?"
"No second thoughts?"
"None at all."
"What if…if Cho wanted you back…or Fluer Delacour would have you?"
Harry moaned. "It's too early in the morning to be thinking about either of them, Hermione!" He pressed his cheek against hers. "Are you going to say 'yes' to being my girlfriend or not because I'm not going to let you say 'no,'" he said tiredly.
"I may need convincing," Hermione said offhandedly.
Harry rolled his eyes and quickly reclaimed her lips with his. He pushed Hermione down on the mattress and pinned her arms above her head with one of his fumbling hands. Hermione struggled for only a moment before giving in to her best friend, now her boyfriend.
Five minutes of fervent kissing later, Harry whispered in her ear, "Have I convinced you?"
"You may have," she said. She moved her head to suck gently on his earlobe.
Several more minutes passed of pure hormonal ecstasy until finally Hermione pushed Harry off her and onto his back. Hermione threw an arm over Harry's chest while she settled underneath his arm and twined one of her legs with his. They held each other like two lovers, adjusting as quickly as they could to the new intimacy between them.
Harry was gently twirling a strand of her long hair between his fingers when Hermione spoke, breaking their silence.
"What will people say…about you and me?"
Harry considered this for the first time. The only opinion he had cared about was Ron's, and now that he had his blessing, there was no one left to consider.
"Well, I suppose they'll first assume that I did steal you from Ron after all…"
Hermione snorted slightly.
"Then I guess they'll say that we are the most attractive couple of the 20th century," said Harry with all seriousness.
Hermione giggled gently into his chest.
"And then the Witch Weekly will magically determine what our children will look like."
Hermione laughed and picked up her head. She considered him for a moment.
"Let's hope for green eyes and black hair."
"Why? I love your eyes."
Hermione waited. "You don't love my hair?"
Harry sat up quickly. "No! I do…But, our hair are kindred spirits. They cannot be tamed by magic or Muggle. Either way, our kids are going to have wonky hair genes."
"That is true," Hermione laughed, pulling him back down. She kissed him lightly on his neck. "What time is it?"
Harry pulled his arm up lazily. "Holy shit! It's 9:40!"
"What?" said Hermione, shooting upright. "We can't have been in here three hours! I have to get dressed! You," she yelled, pointing at Harry, "you get out!"
"Fine, fine," Harry said, walking to the other side of the bed and picking up his Firebolt. "Just give me a kiss goodbye."
Harry moved to the window and faced Hermione. She stood on tiptoe to kiss him, placing both her hands behind his head and smoothing out his rumpled hair. Harry moved his hands down her camisole to her waist. He could feel the same need to press up against her and kiss her deeply pulse through his body. He was about to open his mouth to intensify the kiss, but Hermione beat him to it. She opened her lips and the heat between them grew.
They stayed like that another twenty minutes.
When Harry and Hermione finally made their way to the Great Hall, it was nearly 10:30. They found only Ron seated at the long, empty Gryffindor table consumed in an issue of the Prophet. He hardly noticed his friends' arrival.
"Morning, Ron," said Harry complacently.
Ron looked up, startled. He looked momentarily glad to see them before a look of deep suspicion hardened his features. "Where were you two all this time? It's nearly lunch time."
"Is it?" said Hermione quickly. "With everything that's been going on, I think I must have gotten behind on sleep."
Ron looked at Harry as though expecting an explanation for his tardiness as well. Harry was too busy shoveling breakfast taters into his mouth. Apparently the house elves knew to send up breakfast food even when the hour was closer to an early lunch.
When Harry didn't reply, Ron asked, "And you were, Harry…?"
Harry looked momentarily at Hermione. "Owlery," said Harry. It sounded like a question.
One of Ron's reddish-blonde brows rose up and hid behind his wispy bangs. "For some reason, I don't believe that."
Hermione had the courtesy to blush.
"Where is everyone?" Harry asked, looking towards the Entrance Hall. "It's so damn quiet."
Ron looked towards the Entrance Hall as well. "Everyone left early this morning—I mean the ones who had to go. Snape, McGonagall, Lupin, Dumbledore—they're all still here and Mad-Eye. Somehow I think he's staying for longer than just the holiday."
Harry cringed slightly. "I don't much fancy him hanging around. He tends to follow me places and I have to pretend I don't know he's there even with all that clunking he makes."
Ron looked down to where he held the Prophet in one hand.
"Moody's the least of you problems, I'd say. Look at the paper. I've never seen anything this big. Maybe when we were babies, but this is it—."
Ron shoved the paper over to Harry and Hermione. Harry felt his heart settle somewhere below his navel when his eyes made contact with the headline emblazoned in oozing black ink.
TERROR SWEEPS ACROSS BRITIAN
'CHRISTMAS MASSACRES' DUBBED WORSE MASS KILLING SINCE YOU-KNOW-WHO'S REIGN.
Harry stared for a moment at the headline. Already the nice tingling feeling that had stayed with him all morning was dissipating and something inside of him was coiling into a ball of fear again.
"Well, Happy Christmas then…" said Harry.
Hermione snatched the paper and began skimming over the story.
"Ok… 'Death Eaters believed to be the sole perpetrators.' That's good that they know that already. Ministry says this is full out war! Good Lord, this is really it."
Harry craned his neck around Hermione's shoulder as Hermione turned to page two where the story continued. At the top was a list separated into three columns filled with names.
"Oh my…" said Hermione. She set down the paper and stood up to peer over it.
Harry stood up with her and began reading from the end of the list. His eyes passed over many names he didn't know. By some names the word "Muggle" was placed in parenthesis.
Hermione's head snapped up. "Have you read this list already?" she questioned tersely to Ron.
"No. I was just reading the front."
"What's wrong?" asked Ron. He saw her eyes move swiftly to the right, towards Harry, then back down to the paper. Ron followed her eyes and his eyes landed on the words "Amelia Bones." Her name was followed by several other people with the surname Bones as well. His eyes passed and then returned to one particular name written in the delicate script of the Prophet's memorial font.
"Oh," said Ron, looking up at Hermione.
Harry was still reading from the end of the list. Ron stared at Hermione, wanting her to do something to stop Harry from reaching the name. She didn't however. She just stood there staring down at the sad catalogue of the dead.
Finally Harry got to the top of the list where the Bones clan was listed under two brothers with the last name Ambrose. Ron and Hermione heard Harry take in a breath sharply and hold it.
He looked up to find his two best friends' eyes watching him.
Harry's eyes stared between their heads as a cool wash of numbing ice seemed to slip down his shoulders. He sat down slowly.
Hermione followed suit and took his hand that was unnaturally stiff.
"We don't know what their motive was Harry. That family has always been on our side. It could be a 15-year vendetta he's fulfilling. It may have nothing to do with you."
Harry turned his head and looked at her—a look of incredulous disgust distorting his face.
"You always think such lovely thoughts."
Before either Ron or Hermione could say anything more, Harry stood suddenly, pushing the bench across the flagstone. He stormed away, his back a tight knot of familiar tension.
"Mmm, that's not good," said Ron.
"No it's not," agreed Hermione, looking down at the paper but taking nothing in.
Ron paused before asking, "Are you going to go talk to him or do we need to find Harry some happy pills."
Hermione looked up at him and said sarcastically, "Ron, don't pretend like you know what 'happy pills' are. You barely know what a pill is."
Hermione's feet moved lightly on the rough stone as she searched for Harry. She had let him get a head start and get the worst of his guilt out of the way. It wasn't much of a head start, just two minutes, but she didn't want him to be alone for long. Now that she was his girlfriend, she felt an extra amount of resolve to follow him and make sure he wasn't doing anything horrible to himself.
When she found him by Firenze's indoor classroom, he was standing in the middle of the hall with his hands stuffed into his pockets, as though he had just stopped during a stroll.
"Harry," said Hermione as she walked towards him. "Harry."
She moved around to his front. His eyes were closed and his eyelashes were fluttering slightly as though he were in a dream. His nose and cheeks were flushed. Hermione knew these signs but had never seen them from Harry so close up. He was about to lose control. A band of salty water was already eking its way out from under each of his pale lids.
"Harry," Hermione repeated. She spread open her arms and wiggled them between Harry's sides and arms. She clasped him tightly yet he was entirely too stiff, like a tree.
Suddenly, Harry's chest and back heaved upward as Harry let out a bark-like sound from his throat. His hands flung themselves around Hermione and he dug his head into the crook of her delicate neck. He let out several dry sobs. The kind of sobs which sound so fake because they are too real to sound like eloquent, profound sobs. There was nothing eloquent about Harry's tears. They flooded out with all the strength of a sodden cloth being wringed out until nothing was left but a damp impression of what had been.
Hermione ran her fingers across his hair and shushed him as best she knew how, as though he were a child and not her 16-year-old boyfriend. He uttered a few words between his sobs.
"I've killed her, Hermione. I've…"
Hermione shushed him softly.
"I've killed her…another, anotherperson…"
Hermione shushed him again as he went into another long spell of dry, heaving sobs. It was very much like he was trying to catch his breath. His chest was so tight; Hermione could see how he was fighting to get air through his convulsive sobs.
As they began to die down, Hermione attempted to rationalize with him.
"Harry, you never kill anyone. These things just happen because…"
"Because of me," Harry retorted angrily, pulling his head up.
"Yes…" said Hermione, "because of you. It is your fault. You asked Susan to a ball and now she's dead and it's you're fault. She dead because you danced with her. I'm sure that's what everyone will think."
"You don't understand," Harry said loudly, pulling away from her and swiping quickly at his eyes. "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!"
Hermione stepped back, startled.
"I WAS WARNED, OK! LUPIN TOLD ME NOT TO DO THIS. BUT I JUST…I just…"
"I wanted you for a partner. She was just a step down…" Harry's eyes shut tightly and his lips elongated. "I've killed her. I've killed her."
He was in her arms again. He began shaking uncontrollably. "She was such a nice girl... I've killed her," he whispered into her hair.
Harry sobbed for several more minutes and somehow he had pushed Hermione against the wall so that she found herself crushed under his weight. His body no longer held the barely restrained sexual vitality she experienced that morning. It was thick and coursing with tension and shame.
After a moment longer, Hermione said, "Harry… people are going to die. But never think you are the murderer. Every time someone dies for your life, for our cause…they're martyrs. They are martyrs because they know you'll save millions more."
"So that's what Susan thought just before they killed her, eh? That she was a martyr for Harry fuckin' Potter!"
Harry pulled violently away from her, but she held on just as violently, bringing him back to her.
"No one ever knows what we'll be asked to do. Susan didn't know she'd have to die. But her death isn't in vain, Harry." She cupped his face in her hands. His cheeks were moist with the tracks of tears. She leaned forward and touched his swollen lips with her own.
Hermione pulled away and she thought for a moment that he might push her away again.
He didn't. His lips returned forcefully to hers with the lost intensity of someone who barely knows why he's doing anything, just that he must do something. Hermione gently stroked the nape of his neck while his lips fumbled against hers.
He pulled away after a moment and looked down at their bodies pressed closely together.
"I can't do this," he whispered and Hermione listened closely. "I can't justify all these deaths. I can't make their deaths mean…something."
Hermione interjected, not liking where this line of thought was taking him.
"You can and you will. You will because you must. A few people die now so you can be ready to face Voldemort one day. When you kill Voldemort you will be saving millions whom he would have killed. Some die so others may live."
Harry looked straight into her eyes, which were swimming with tears as well. Hermione had already noticed how his tears could ignite her own.
"I'm no murderer," he said.
"No, you're not," said Hermione, relieved they were making progress.
"But you would have me kill Voldemort?" said Harry.
Hermione hesitated only slightly. "To be a murderer you have to kill a man. Voldemort is a monster."
"That's what people like to believe," said Harry with despair creeping into his voice. "But he is a man. A man much more talented and…braver than me. I cannot beat that man." He said this last desperately.
"No…you can't," said Hermione, looking at him dead on. "Not like this. Not with all this shame. You still haven't learned to trust yourself, have you?"
New tears coursed down Harry's cheeks and Hermione felt something sliding down her own cheeks as well.
"If you only saw what everyone else saw," Hermione said with a sniff. "If you could only see what I am always seeing. I see a man who…who can love and who can feel…who knows what good is. That is worth more than talent and practice and bravery. There are more important things—like friendship, love, trust…"
Something stirred inside Harry as though he had heard those words before. Like they came from a distant memory. Distant time.
"And I love…I love you Harry…with everything," Hermione stammered. "That alone…that right there. I love you. That's something Voldemort doesn't have…something he can't get. He is alone. He is not brave. He just seems like it because he's practiced. He is not you and that is why he will lose. He has all the training, just none of the strength you have."
Harry sighed against her chest. "Hermione."
Hermione dragged her hand gently across his prone back.
"I'm sorry I yelled."
"Me too. You're loud."
Hermione slipped her arm around Harry's waist as they headed back in the direction of the Great Hall.
As they turned the corner, Lupin was standing just before the great doors, surveying the inside, which was now empty.
He turned at the sound of their footsteps. "Harry! Hermione…There you are."
He took in Hermione's forced smile and Harry's rather listless look. "Is everything all right?"
"Yes," answered Hermione. "The news this morning was…awful," she offered as explanation.
"Yes," Lupin nodded.
Several moments passed while none of them knew how to continue. The unspoken thoughts were only of Susan.
Lupin cleared his throat, "Well, I was looking for you Harry. Mr. Arenso wants to see you this afternoon around four. He says to meet him at the Room of Requirement."
Harry head, which had snapped up at the name "Arenso" asked, "How does he know about that room?"
"Dumbledore suggested it."
"So four o'clock, yes?"
"Yes," Harry nodded.
Lupin departed quickly, heading towards Dumbledore's office.
"Arenso…" Hermione said wonderingly. "What's he like Harry?"
Hermione's eyes widened. "You know, he was the only one I didn't see make it out of the fire…I suppose he's all right then."
Harry had not thought of that either. "I suppose he is."
"I've only seen him once, you know, when I was on the way to the bath. He seemed rather…I don't know…insubstantial? Like he wasn't really there…it's kind of creepy."
Harry finally seemed to be regaining his composure. Hermione noted how his demeanor changed when talking about his Unforgivable Curses teacher. "I know what you mean…the man makes no sound whatsoever, unless he's speaking. It's like he's a shadow. He told me some really weird things, too. Things that don't make sense…"
"Like what?" said Hermione curiously.
"Well, for one, he said that he helped invent the Cruciatus Curse."
Hermione's reaction was the same as Harry's. "But that can't be right. He's so young, and I know the curse was invented centuries ago."
"Yeah, it was invented in the 1400s." At Hermione's perplexed look he added, "I was researching it in the library at Grimmuald Place."
"You were in the library?" she said looking shocked.
"What do you think I was doing in there?"
"Oh yeah, I'd forgotten why you were there, just what happened after that…" She smiled shamefully. "Well I'll look in my notes and see if it's there, but if not, then you should ask him to explain what he meant by 'invented' because that honestly doesn't make any sense at all."
"I doubt it will be in your notes if it wasn't in all those Dark Arts books in Sirius' library."
"You never know, we took pretty detailed notes on it back in fourth year, if you remember."
Harry didn't, but nodded anyway.
"Yah know, 'Arry," said Ron after a while, his cup in his hand, "I don't trust this Arenso guy all that much."
"Why not?" said Harry not surprised, as he moved his rook to take Ron's knight. Harry had just told them both of his two previous encounters with Arenso, neither hearing about it before due to their prolonged fight at Grimmuald Place. Both had been stunned to learn that Arenso had performed the Cruciatus Curse on Harry within five minutes of meeting him and equally astonished when he had been so calm and almost polite upon their second meeting.
"Well, he seems a bit bi-polar doesn't he?" said Ron as he looked over the board. "Not to mention…there's something about him that's just not right…in your story it sounds almost like he knows too much about you…like he knew what was in your head. You don't suppose he's a Legilmens do you?"
"I dunno," said Harry, slightly uncomfortable. He had not mentioned what Arenso had said concerning his abandoned headache spell and that was the main reason that Arenso had been delving into Harry's head.
"Well…" said Hermione from the couch where she was reading her Potions textbook. "He may be a little weird, but he's here to help Harry, so we should trust him until he gives us reason not to."
Ron let an exaggerated sigh.
"If that's your policy on Snape, fine," retorted Ron scathingly, looking up from the board. "But this isn't Snape we're talking about, Hermione. Snape may be downright nasty, but he isn't teaching Harry the Unforgivable Curses. Don't you think we should be more careful around this Arenso person? I mean, he thinks he's six hundred years old and doesn't have a shadow or whatever! Don't you think that sends up a red flag?"
Hermione opened her mouth to counter, but before she could, Harry intervened.
"He reminds me a lot of Sirius."
"What?!" said Hermione and Ron together, both looking at him as though he were mad.
"For no real reason," Harry added hastily. "It's more his eyes and his voice. They just make me trust him. I sort of feel…safer with him around."
Ron and Hermione, surprised he was even mentioning Sirius, stared at him for several seconds before Ron seemed to come to some conclusion.
"You see, that's another thing. I get the feeling he's playing off your emotions, mate. He's trying to gain your trust before he strikes," stated Ron matter-of-factly.
"Oh, please," said Hermione exasperatedly. "Attack? The man's going to teach Harry how to attack. As far as I'm concerned, Arenso is teaching Harry the most important thing he's learned to date. He may be a bit unorthodox…"
"Unorthodox! He laid the Crucio on Harry and you say that's just unorthodox?!" Ron shouted.
"Well, well," sputtered Hermione, her voice rising shrilly, "if that's what it takes!"
Harry smiled despite himself as he watched them; it was good to know things hadn't changed all that much.
Harry ate a late lunch with Ron and Hermione before heading to the Room of Requirement for his lesson. Ron had told him to keep his wand at the ready and Hermione had simply rolled her eyes and told him to be careful.
When he had arrived, a little past four, the sun was already beginning to diminish behind the stoic row of trees outside a nearby window. The orange light flooded the hall where Harry stood looking at the blank wall directly across from the tapestry of a wizard teaching trolls ballet.
"Err—" said Harry, staring at the stone. He wasn't really sure how to enter the room. It wasn't like he needed something out of it. Arenso needed something.
Either way, Harry moved to one side of where the door would appear and began to pace in front of it, thinking.
I need Arenso's room. The room where he'll teach me the Unforgivable Curses. I need to get inside Arenso's room.
Harry opened his eyes upon his third passing. No door had appeared.
Frowning, Harry tried again, wondering what he would do if he couldn't get inside. Go back to the Common Room? Or would he have to tell Dumbledore or Lupin he couldn't get inside the room.
Again, the wall remained blank.
Harry moved towards the wall and ran his hand over its rough texture. It had worked so many times for all the DA meetings. What had changed?
"You can't get in like that," said a soft voice.
Harry spun. Arenso was leaning against a section of wall between two torches submerged in darkness. His dark tresses hung suspended in front of his gray eyes. He was again dressed only in black.
"What?" said Harry, bewildered. He removed his hand from the wall.
The corners of Arenso's mouth lifted just slightly. Harry felt he was laughing at him.
"You need to pass by the wall three times, thinking of what you need," he replied coolly.
Annoyance stirred inside Harry. "I know that. I've used…"
Harry didn't continue, not sure he should tell him of his previous needs for the room.
"It just won't work for me because it's you who needs the room for something. You'll have to do it and think of what the room needs," explained Harry stiffly. "I wouldn't know…"
"Just think something up. I don't care."
When Harry looked at him incredulously, Arenso's liquid smile only widened.
Slightly on edge, Harry closed his eyes and paced in front of the hidden door three more times, trying to concentrate on what could possibly be needed for his lesson.
Er, let it have everything I need to learn the Unforgivable Curses, I suppose…Harry thought lamely until a thought struck him. But let it also be safe, like it'll have an easy escape route or something…let Arenso not know about that…
Harry opened his eyes and faced an arched, oak door set perfectly in the wall inlaid with ornate wrought-iron hinges.
Harry turned to Arenso who stared at him with a pronounced look of detachment.
Harry's hand clamped around the cold ring and pulled the door open. At first he saw nothing, only darkness. But then a deep red glow sparked into life and as Harry stepped inside, the room grew slightly brighter.
There was not a single window in the entire room and the granite walls near the door were rough and sparkled slightly in the light. The very center of the room was submerged in darkness. Harry looked to the corners, the walls, the ceiling. There was nothing whatsoever inside the large space. He could not even tell how large the room was. The walls seemed to be same consistency as the air; they seemed to stretch on endlessly.
He heard the door close with a muted thud and the light from the hallway was cut off entirely.
Harry turned on his heel. Arenso was standing directly behind him, the crimson glow shining gently on his hair.
"Would you stop doing that!" Harry said rather loudly, backing away. The sound didn't echo. "That's really...weird."
Arenso only smiled.
He walked to the center of the room and only the outline of his pale face was recognizable in the darkness. Arenso's head lowered so that it appeared he was sitting, but Harry could not see on what. Harry could barely see his hand in front of him.
"Come sit," he said and Harry moved hesitantly into the darkness. His hand reached out for a chair but felt nothing.
"I don't have a chair."
"Do you believe it will not come if you call it?" he said incredulously.
Harry's foot bumped something—the slender leg of a chair. Harry had not moved.
"How did you do that?"
"I didn't. You called it."
"I did not," Harry said testily.
The outline of the chair faded and disappeared. Confused, Harry stared where he thought the chair had been.
"I did?" said Harry. The chair returned. Harry blinked trying to see where it had come from. "How…?"
Arenso looked to the west wall, the one on which the door was encased. A steady orange light peeked just beneath the doorframe.
"Many would have you think that an Unforgivable Curse is a curse," Arenso said, not taking his eyes from the door. Harry stared at what he could see of Arenso. "Something that with the right incantation and a wand can be performed as much as the caster likes. The chair you called exists because you needed it. Magic called it but it did not come from a wand. I want you to remember that a wand is an instrument of magic. It is not where magic comes from. It was made by man and thereby has man-made faults.
"To achieve what you want from the three curses: Imperio, Crucio, and Avada Kedavra you can't rely on your wand. If you do, you will die."
"So, what do you rely on?" asked Harry, cautiously taking a seat on the chair.
Arenso did not reply. The twinkle in his dark eyes moved in Harry's direction.
"There are two, and only two ways, to perform an Unforgivable Curse. One is by an extreme act of hatred. The second by an extreme sense of need. The most powerful Unforgivable Curses are produced from an extreme sense of hate and need. Those never happen. You will never be able to do it."
Harry was too confused to be indignant.
"Now," said Arenso leaning against the back of his own chair and crossing his arms, "I am going to ask you one question. If you do not answer honestly I will never teach or see you again." Harry nodded, half thinking that wouldn't be much of a loss. "If you answer honestly, I will not only make you the most powerful student in this school, I will make you so powerful that your every opponent will fear your name and face."
Harry stared at the man's red outline. A dark tingling curved down his spine and the promise of unimaginable power exhilarated him inside the walls of his veins.
Harry felt Arenso's eyes probe deeply inside him.
"You want that very badly."
"No," Harry denied, sensing the lie in his voice.
"Then you will fail."
Harry remained silent.
"Here is my question, will you answer it?"
"Who do you want to kill?"
Harry blinked. The question was so simple.
"Voldemort, unquestionably," Harry replied.
"Yes," said Arenso. A cool smile widened his taunt face. "Who else?"
"Who else?" said Harry.
Was there someone else? As soon as Harry thought it, he knew there was.
The words were there before Harry even thought them. "Lucius Malfoy."
"Every Death Eater that ever lived."
Harry hesitated before saying, "A professor of mine. My potions professor."
Harry stopped, surprised at himself. But he knew it was true. He'd always known it and only felt a slight twinge of shame in admitting it.
Harry saw a small smile rise on Arenso's face and Harry once again felt that Arenso was laughing at him.
"You're a very violent teenager, Harry."
Harry flushed. "Well…if you had any idea of the shit I've been through in my life, you'd be pretty violent too," Harry said hotly.
Arenso's eyes took on a more dangerous glow. His smile only grew and Harry got the impression he had just said something very stupid and Arenso found his naïveté amusing.
"Well," Arenso whispered, "you answered my questions honestly. I will keep my promise."
A new tingle found its way up Harry's back, this one sending a cold dread to his brain. Perhaps he should have lied.
"The first thing I will teach you is how not to use your wand. In my opinion, it is something everyone should learn but very few have the aptitude for it. You do."
Harry felt a stirring of pride replace that dread.
"You'll find this room is perfectly situated for our purposes. It is in a state of 'heightened magic'. Things will come easier to you in this room than in the outside and one day you will be good enough so that your very self will be in a state of heightened magic. You understand very little of what I am saying…?"
Harry nodded reluctantly. Arenso returned it.
"You won't understand, not entirely, until you are done with me. Let me put it like this, for now. Very few people in the world are in a state of heightened magic. Even fewer know what it is. Almost no one in this school is in a state of heightened magic—that is no teacher and no student— though some do have the potential for it. There are only two people in Britain who are in the 'state'. You know them very well, I am sure. One is your headmaster and one is your favorite enemy."
Harry was not surprised.
"I want you to think of your headmaster. He is powerful beyond belief, is he not? Well, he's not just talented. He is of an elite order of men who exude magic constantly from their very skin like sweat. Your headmaster could do magic in his sleep and I'm quite sure he does. He has no use for a wand. He only uses one so that others will not be terrified of him.
"People have always been afraid of wizards like your headmaster—those who can kill and do kill with a mere thought.
"Wizards who are in a heightened magical state are part of the society called Magne Vereor or Magne Viscus; and the magic the Magnes perform is called sangre magia, meaning the power that comes from them, comes from their blood, not their wands.
"It isn't some well-established secret society. There are no monthly meetings. No special rituals. But those who are in this loose order know everyone else in it. There are so few members.
"Magnes are unbeatable in every way; they possess a depth of knowledge that is unfathomable. It was once said that the more a man knows of his world, the more he grows to despise it. And so this holds true with the Magne Vereor. Many become reclusive killers, malefactors of gore and destruction. They take joy in harnessing the strange sangre magia for their purposes. They never understand it, but it is the only thing they respect. Crimes of envy, rage, and lust. The holy magic inside their veins turns to swirling smoke that clogs all the good one could find in their soul, if there was any.
"They hate with such an intense passion that it is said their powers multiply ten thousand fold. Thus, when performing certain spells—like Avada Kedavra—they do not just kill one person, but an entire family, an entire neighbourhood, an entire village if it is their wish."
Harry felt another cool thrill of blood rushing through him.
"Do you understand why they have earned this…reputation, can we say? The Magnes are mostly the stuff of lore now. With the modernization of man, the evils came as well. Magnes began to be hated more and more instead of feared. Ordinary wizards deluded themselves, thinking that together they could kill the most powerful of Magnes. They were fools. No ordinary wizard has ever killed a Magne. Not ever. Most Magnes simply choose to hide their superior powers and fulfill their dark desires quietly so that society may flatter itself with its 'victory' over the men who had so long wrought their lives with terror."
Arenso glanced at Harry.
"Oh, don't look so worried Harry," he said with a bark-like laugh, shaking back his hair. "None of that has ever happened to your headmaster. And it certainly won't happen to you being the fine, upstanding little gentleman you are."
"I simply wished to inform you of what you're getting into. I think I was being quite fair."
"Oh quite," said Harry making sure the bite in his voice was evident. "And this is what you want to make me into? Some crazed monster? Some lunatic wizard who kills with his imagination, is that it? Well, I won't have it. I can tell you that now, I won't have it."
Harry crossed his arms over his chest, hoping impetuosity hid fear.
Arenso laughed again, this time louder than before. It was a beautiful laugh. "You are such a child, Harry! Did I not just tell you that no ordinary wizard has ever defeated a Magne, a practitioner of the sangre magia? I hate to break it to you, but you are an ordinary wizard. You are a boy—A boy with all the rages and impulses of any regular teenage wizard. And you think you can honestly defeat Lord Voldemort, a wizard of the Magne Vereor?" His eyes laughed at him. "You do not have a choice! From what I understand, you're under quite a deadline. You need to kill and kill fast, don't you Chosen-One? There is only one way to kill the Dark Lord and that's by becoming a Magne yourself. So I'm afraid 'I won't have it' just isn't going to flow with the rest of the wizarding world, if you know what I mean."
There was no arguing the point.
"How long does it take to become a Magne?"
"Oh, well then…" Harry mumbled sarcastically.
"I can't promise miracles and I don't mean to brag, but I am a fantastic teacher. You will be ready in time if you do everything I say. You must never question. You must spend these hours in reverence to the sangre magia. It is the only way the holy magic will come to replace the dirtied blood in your veins."
Harry had always been told his blood was special. It felt odd to hear it called dirty. What was even odder was that Harry believed it. In this room, this room in which the air seemed to vibrate with barely controlled magic, Harry felt very low, very unworthy.
"What makes the sangre magia so holy? What makes it so different from regular magic?" Harry probed.
"Every wizard has sangre magia in him…in varying amounts. In the era of the great wizards, thousands of years ago, the only magic that existed was sangre magia. It was considered an art, a way of life that every wizard devoted his existence to. Then at about the same time a few Anglo-Saxon wizards of this country founded your school, the sangre magia was slowly becoming corrupted.
"Wizards were killed in constantly higher numbers. The Magnes (nearly every wizard was a Magne) believed it immoral to kill a Muggle and so many became martyrs for their moral idiocy. Still more and more began to fall in love with the non-magical, the same people who were so very determined to purge them from existence. The corrupted blood of Muggles forever weakened the holy magic. Slowly, throughout the centuries, the magia was reduced to a diluted state of magical mediocrity."
He stopped here to take in Harry's expression.
"Whatever decency has taught you, forget it now. There is no political correctness in this room. There will never be any political correctness to you again. Muggles made wizards weak. They are the reason. One could argue that if perhaps wizards had not fallen in love with their inferiors, it would never have occurred. But there is no justifying for love. Love loves what it will." He sounded tired as he said it.
"Your girlfriend has the weakest blood among all wizards. Two Muggle parents?" He said this with disgust. "A remote magical relative and luck has led her to you. She is not so much talented as clever and hardworking.
"With her application, you would be a much better wizard than she could ever hope to be simply because, until your mother, you came from a very long line of pure-blood wizards. You are descendent from a Magne. A very great one. But you have none of his talent. Your mother's blood is your protection and curse. It will make our work harder. Her blood has done all it can for you. It is no longer an obstacle to the one you wish to destroy. It is only an obstacle to you now."
Harry did not ask how he knew all this. He thought of Hermione. Would she be indignant? Resigned? There was nothing he could do to change Hermione's past. She was the girl he loved. But still, he felt a primal stirring of resentment towards her. He had no reason. One of Hermione's magical relatives had simply fallen for a village Muggle and had thereby permanently corrupted her family line until centuries later the old magical gene was born again from two Muggle parents. Harry shook his head very slightly. He could not condemn her because her ancestors had succumbed to love. Had he not as well? If he and Hermione ever had children, Harry thought with great discomfort, he would further be corrupting his own magical line. He suddenly felt a chord of kinship with the faraway Magnes who had so long ago fallen for Muggles. He could not judge them. Harry would have done the same, in fact, he hoped to.
The room had somehow grown brighter or Harry's eyes were now adjusted to the darkness. He could make Arenso out much better, the crimson glow from the walls playing off his jaw line and curls.
"Now, all you have known of magic to this point is that if you say a spell and wave your wand something will happen, correct?"
"That was never how magic was meant to be performed. There is too much foolishness between the caster thinking the spell and the spell actually happening. The sangre magia has no obscure incantations, no useless wand-waving. No voice. No sound. Magic is silent power. Silent power. I will have to teach you to close your lips and use only your heart. Does this make any sense to you?"
"It does," Harry answered, "but I don't see how..."
"You will see how," Arenso said. "No more; you may leave."
The lesson ended so abruptly that Harry did not move right away. He had forgotten his restlessness to leave. He felt they had finally been getting to the point of his lessons.
Harry got up and moved to the door.
"Sir?" Harry said turning, halfway from the door. "You said that the Magnes belong to two Orders, right?"
Arenso nodded. "The Magne Viscus and Magne Vereor."
"So when I become a Magne, does it matter which Order I'm in?"
"I believe you'd think that it would. I use the two names interchangeably, but let there be no blurring the lines between the two. Magne Viscus means Great Heart. Magne Vereor means Great Fear."
Harry's mind seemed to understand the words Arenso said before they reached his ears.
"The Dark Lord belongs to the Vereor Order. Which one do you want to belong to?" One of Arenso's eyebrows rose for his reaction. His smile returned.
Harry assumed this question must be rhetorical.
"Until next time, sir," Harry said, striding to the door and closing it behind him with thud.
Harry felt strange the rest of the day.
He felt warmer than he usually did, as though the castle was in the height of summer and not in the troughs of a particularly chilly December. He didn't feel like he had a fever. He wasn't even sweating. Just warm.
He returned to the common room, noticing how the sun was still orange and shining brightly on the windowpanes he passed.
Harry crawled through the portrait hole, expecting to see Hermione and Ron waiting for him and eager to hear how the lesson went. No one was there. Assuming they were at the Library or at Hagrid's, Harry moved towards the fire. He was about to settle himself in a chair farther away from the fire than he usually sat, when the sounds of two people crawling through portrait hole reached him.
Ron came out first, Hermione following just after him.
"You never think below the surface, do you?" Hermione said as she extended a leg to touch the floor and pull herself through. "There something going on and they aren't going to…"
It was then she caught sight of Harry on the couch.
"What are you doing here?" said Ron with a confused expression on his face.
"You're going to be late for you lesson!" Hermione said with exasperation as she walked towards him.
"What lesson?" said Harry, looking at her strangely.
"Arenso's lesson, you idiot. You don't need to piss him off anymore," she said.
"That? I already finished it. I just got back."
"What, it only lasted ten minutes?" said Ron, coming to stand by Hermione.
"No…" said Harry slowly, looking at them as though they were crazy. "I was in there like an hour."
"No you weren't," said Ron and Hermione together.
"Yes, I was! I think I would know!" said Harry indignantly.
"Look, Harry," said Hermione, as she grabbed his wrist. She shoved his watch under his nose. "It's only 4:15. You couldn't have been in there an hour. You lesson started at four."
Harry stared at the watch's smooth surface. "That can't be right."
"Whoa, so you're saying you were in there an hour, but you've only been gone 15 minutes?" said Ron with a sort of reverent awe in his voice as he looked at Harry.
"Looks like it," said Harry, plopping down on the sofa.
"Did Arenso tell you he was going to stop time or something?" asked Ron.
Hermione snorted. "You just can't stop time, Ron. You can only move backwards and forwards in it, like my old time-turner."
"Arenso didn't tell me anything like that, but I guess that's what happened…"
Silence followed this statement, Harry trying to understand how his hour with Arenso, now didn't "technically" happen.
"Okay, I'm just going to say the obvious here," said Ron, matter-of-factly. "This guy is a class A nut-job. Seriously. I don't trust him."
Hermione sighed loudly.
"You're so warm," said Hermione in awe as she moved a hand to his forehead while simultaneously kissing his neck.
"Am I? Well that shouldn't be surprising," said Harry with a grin. He slipped a hand up her loose shirt and dragged his fingertips up her spine.
Hermione shivered violently and physically removed Harry's hand. "No, you're abnormally warm. Are you sick?"
That distracted her enough and inspired five minutes of completely un-maternal kissing.
They had about an hour before dinner and Harry and Hermione had rendezvoused in the deserted library. Being a prefect, Hermione had a key—a key she would never normally exploit for such a lewd act as snogging Harry, but she made exceptions when she felt like it. And now, she felt like it.
She felt slightly guilty for leaving Ron alone in the common room. She had excused herself to the library, and Harry said he was going to say 'Merry Christmas' to Dobby. Two perfectly ridiculous excuses that she was sure Ron didn't believe for a second. But she noticed that new couples, like she and Harry, often had little regard for anyone besides themselves. She was sure her new inconsiderate nature would die down soon enough…once she got used to the idea that Harry was her boyfriend. But for now, she had to make the most of her resources while she could. She had no homework. No responsibilities. And an empty library.
There was really only one thing to do.
Hermione was currently pinned between Harry's body and a bookcase containing nothing but books on the history of wizarding medical practices, which included quite a few books on anatomy which seemed to fit the circumstances.
Hermione could tell Harry was still very new to the arts of snogging, but then again, so was she. She was quickly learning that Harry was often the aggressor, and she, consequently, felt stupid that she lacked the bravery or imagination to turn the tables and place herself in charge, as she was sure Harry would have appreciated.
Part of her inability, however, was due to the fact that Harry was so enthusiastic.
Hermione had a very sensitive neck, which Harry discovered almost instantly. Already he had learned how to kiss her there without making her laugh and squirm away. Currently, he was alternating between sucking on one particularly sensitive spot and then biting it gently, or harder if she pressed roughly on his back. It was a very pleasant feeling, and Hermione was sure she'd get a hickie…her first one. Her first ever hickie from Harry.
She would have giggled aloud, except that just then, Harry's lips returned to her mouth. He had kissed her dozens of times now, but each one felt different, as if he found different ways to attack her. She always gasped, as Harry liked to point out. And indeed, she gasped this time, swallowing her giggles, and causing her lips to vibrate against his mouth. In her confusion, his tongue had found its way inside her mouth and ran against her teeth, which felt oddly nice.
On impulse, Hermione lightly bit his tongue, just enough so that he would feel a little pain. Harry pulled away from her.
"What was that for?" he whispered loudly. There was no one to hear them, but the whispering made it seem more dangerous.
Hermione simply stared at him, the essence of innocence in an entirely un-innocent situation.
Harry's brows furrowed before he reclaimed her lips. This time Hermione did not open her mouth even as Harry pressed against her, urging her to comply. After a few more moments of Harry's vain attempts, he pulled his head back.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I didn't give you permission to French me."
"Oh, I see. Am I supposed to ask every time? That ruins the mood."
Hermione paused, moving her hands slowly up to Harry's chest. "You cannot French me because…because I am not French."
"Are you serious!" Harry asked, exasperated yet smiling.
Hermione simply grinned at his frustrated and blushing face.
Harry touched his sweaty forehead to hers and one of the corners of his lips lifted. "You are English aren't you?"
"Then, may I English you?"
Hermione considered this for a moment, twisting her head away from Harry's. Somewhere, in the back of her mind she thought that she had never had such a superfluous conversation, and how nice it felt to flirt with Harry.
"Harry Potter, I would love it if you Englished me."
Harry smiled and gently stroked her sides with his palms. "What exactly does that involve?"
Hermione hadn't thought that far. "Um…the same thing, only less French."
"Oh, well then. That's perfectly clear," Harry said with sarcasm.
This time Hermione leaned forward first and claimed his lips. He was momentarily stunned before a low, appreciative rumble came from his chest. She felt his tongue enter her mouth and the kiss intensified. It was a slow, meandering kiss that seemed to push all the blood from Hermione's head to her fingers. She felt warm and lost. She tried hard to think of something else while Harry kissed her, to keep her head from swimming dangerously, but she couldn't and this filled her with a sort of unexplainable elation. Harry's kisses could clear her mind like nothing else. Nothing really seemed to matter but him. The sticky moistness of his lips. The feel of his palm running up her sides. The way he tried to push the boundaries, the way he found new ways to surprise her.
There were moments that seemed to border on the sublime. With Harry's body pressed hotly against hers and his kisses slow and purposeful—Hermione was overcome. She knew she would never want to kiss any other lips but his.
This kiss was rapidly heating up. Harry placed one hand behind her neck and tilted her head. His fingers played with the strands of hair at the nape of her neck. His other hand was placed awkwardly on her hip, as though he wasn't sure where he could put it safely.
Hermione hardly noticed. The heat radiating from Harry was beginning to warm her as well, particularly in her stomach. A warm, sloshy feeling—strange and unfamiliar. The feeling seemed to flow directly to her lips, as they grew more sensitive to Harry's persistent ones. She opened her mouth wider and let her mind sink back into further oblivion.
A moment later and without planning it, Hermione gently bit Harry's bottom lip. Just a slight tug.
Harry responded with more force than she intended. A low grunt escaped from his lips as Harry pressed his hips against hers. It was then Hermione first noticed something off. It seemed to be that the source of Harry's heat was radiating from his lower half. But even more unfamiliar was the hardness of Harry's crotch pressed against hers. She thought for one bewildering moment that there was something in the pocket of his jeans. But then it was unmistakable.
Hermione wasn't naïve. She knew what this was. But it's always an experience when a girl first realizes she has the power to do…that to a boy. A girl can always hide her desire. A boy cannot. Hermione smiled against his lips. She suddenly felt she wasn't so useless.
She waited for Harry to push against her again. But he didn't. He was trembling slightly. Suddenly, old memories seemed to surface in the watery mess of her mind. She remembered the many late-night conversations she had overheard between Lavender and Parvati. Stories about how boys would press up against you urgently to show they were turned-on. How you were supposed to meet them halfway to fuel that desire.
But Harry had not moved. He simply stood there, his body pressed against hers, stroking the nape of her neck with his fingertips. He was breathing heavily. Testing the waters, Hermione pressed against him, gently nudging his crotch with her own. Instantly, a warm, illicit shiver moved up her back.
Harry let out another grunt.
Before Hermione could react, Harry's hands moved to her thighs, yanking them up to his waist and lifting her off the ground.
"Ah—Harry what!" whispered Hermione. She instinctively wrapped her legs around Harry's waist and linked her arms behind his neck.
Harry spun on the spot and set her down on one of the nearby study desks. The desk was frigid, sending goose bumps up her thighs. Harry let go of her and quickly pulled his shirt, moist with perspiration, over his head and threw it behind him.
He moved closer to her again, ready to finish what he had started. But he stopped when he saw Hermione's face.
She was staring at his chest as though she had never known what was exactly under a boy's shirt.
"What?" said Harry with a grin as positioned himself in front of Hermione on the desk.
Hermione was still staring. "Why did you do that?"
Harry stared at her in return. "Because it was hot?"
Hermione's lips stretched slowly over her teeth. She grinned ecstatically, and then tried to hide it. Then the grin returned in full force.
"What?" said Harry, this time without any of the cockiness he displayed moments before.
"Oh, it's nothing…" Hermione stammered, her face still plastered with a ridiculous grin. "It's just that…that…"
Hermione didn't know quite what to say. She took in Harry's chest. It was the chest of someone who had spent much of his life underfed and skinny. The chest of someone who had gained the muscles of pre-adulthood. Long, slender muscles that fit his sinewy frame perfectly. His well-defined pectorals were not lost on her, or the flat definition of his stomach. It was a very lovely chest.
Hermione suddenly felt very self-conscious. She honed in on one flaw.
"You're so pale."
"What?" said Harry indignantly, crossing his arms over his chest as if to hide it from sight.
"Well, you are," giggled Hermione lightly. "You could attract moths with skin like that."
"What! No I could not. I'm just…well there's—"
Hermione started laughing; she slid off the desk and separated Harry's stiff arms. She hugged him, letting her head rest for the first time on his smooth, firm, albeit pale chest.
"I like it very much."
Harry moved away from her. "No too late. Obviously, I'm not tan enough to please you."
He lunged for his shirt, but Hermione laughed and pulled him back to her.
"No, I do like it," she assured him, passing her hands over his chest and feeling the short hairs that slid beneath her palms. "Besides, I would be very sad if you put your shirt back on. I've never…touched you like this before," she said blushing furiously.
Harry sighed through his relieved grin and kissed her forehead. They stayed like that for several minutes, Harry adjusting to the feeling of her cool hands on his chest. She laid one hand over his heart and felt it march inside his chest. Harry moved his left hand to her heart as well and pressed gently to feel her quick vibrations raise his fingertips. They stood like that for several moments, pressing against each other's hearts.
Hermione watched as Harry's hand slowly moved lower. His fingers passed hesitantly over her left breast before he dragged it quickly down to her waist.
Hermione stared at him for a second, a look of pure incredulity on her face from her wide eyes to her open mouth. Slowly, her lips closed and widened into a smile.
She tried her best to contain her laughter. "Harry…did you just try to feel me up?"
"Was that too French?"
Hermione laughed aloud.
"You know," said Harry, "it seems a little unfair that I'm half-naked in front of you, letting you appreciate my paleness. But, I have no idea how pale you are."
Hermione slapped his hand away from her waist. "Pervert!" she laughed, turning away.
Hermione slipped out from the Medical Section alcove and moved down between the aisles towards the exit. Harry chased her, grabbing her around the waist as Hermione laughed and attempted to free herself.
Harry quickly pushed her up against another row of books, this time a row of Charm spells. Harry's bare chest rubbed against her cotton sweater and Hermione felt the familiar stiffness of Harry's groin and she laughed lightly in her head, as Harry's head lowered to hers.
It was all very nice until the main door to the Library creaked open and Professor McGonagall stood before the stunned couple. Light from the hallway shone mercilessly on them, transforming Harry's chest into a beacon of resplendent paleness.
"Potter! Granger?!" she nearly shrieked in flustered shock. "What on earth? Separate immediately!"
Hermione practically shoved Harry off of her and turned to the deputy headmistress in shame, her head down.
This left Harry in a state of half-naked confusion.
McGonagall simply looked at him with contempt, as if she were Hermione's mother and he was the boy who was corrupting her precious daughter.
She shook her head. "My God, Potter, clothe yourself this instant. You both are wanted in the Great Hall."
She turned and strode out of the room.
"It was hot!" Harry called.
Hermione snorted under her breath.
Believe it or not, this is my first post since book six came out in 2006. Needless to say I was utterly crushed by the couples and the dilution of Hermione's character. Then…of course…the interview. Needless to say, I was short on inspiration while bemoaning H/Hr. I still feel half-ridiculous for still believing it'll turn out our way in the end….Why do I always pick the wrong couple….
I had fun with this chapter. Even liberated since there's not as much pressure to follow canon when canon probably isn't going to turn on H/Hr. People always ask me why I didn't like book 6 and when I say Harry/Ginny at the top of my list, they always scoff, saying that shouldn't affect my love of the book. Well it does. Romance always does. It should never be discounted. Grrr. Either way, this summer is going to amazing.