Title: Escape From Oblivion

Part III

In a sense no one knows, in a time none can tell, in a way no living soul can ever hope to predict, there is a force at hand that will entirely shape the world into something nothing can strive to contain. Laced throughout the essence of Fate, tip-toeing along the edges of Time, manifesting from an oath of Hope, with an array of welcome in the realm of Insanity.

This force is Desire.

It is the desire to want. The desire to have. The desire to love. The desire to be content. The desire to feel. The desire to simply just be. Desire can drive a person to their knees. It can stir an emotion so intense, so vibrant that it makes one strive to impossible lengths in order to pertain one's goal.

It spawns a potent passion. It creates a painful, unattainable longing. It strengthens the need of possession. It strikes in jealousy, in fits of lust, in bouts of anger, in the fleeing of the senses. It is a force that is uncontrollable, undirected, insatiable and infallibly selfish. One can be driven to uncharacteristic extremes when pushed to the edge of such a longing.

It is a death. It is a birth. It is an evil. And it is all that is good in the world. It is an unseasoned paradox, pulling at omniscient strings to sate its own devious satisfaction. It can never be ruled by logic, nor can it be explained by happenstance.

Desire was to blame; love was its purpose. It danced with passion, it dueled with lust, and only contentment would allow its culmination. And when it locks its teeth into its unlucky consumer, there is no way to shake it loose or contain its rampage. The consequences are endless and the emotions behind it can be fatal.

It is an addiction and an affliction.

And it was what had Hermione fleeing from the kitchen in mortification. Her hands gripped her robe tightly together in a shaky attempt to keep herself from falling apart. It was, of course, a wasted effort. Already she could feel the strains of her actions shattering her defenses and pulling her to pieces.

What had she done?

It was not initially in her plans. Well, not essentially anyway. Everything that happened tonight deceived all logic. Sure, she had planned to seduce Harry, but that had all ended around the time he'd walked out the door with nothing but a pat on the head. She just didn't have it in her. She wasn't what he wanted. She was not the object of his desire. And to celebrate such discoveries, she'd walked to the nearest bar, got stoned and almost got off with a complete stranger. Then to her further dismay, she rode the high on a wave of her very own come-uppance of Harry Potter. Pun not intended.

She and Harry had just experienced their very first orgasm together, WITH EACH OTHER, and instead of reveling in the knowledge that she had created such a powerful reaction from him, instead of having that carnal invocation, swelling throughout her body and excelling all her hopeful expectations, she felt wretched. She felt disgusted. She felt ashamed.

How could she have done that?

How could she have seduced her best friend, the love of her life, without any morale, logic, abject hesitation? Without any concern for their relationship? Without any thought to his own unknown feelings? Without any true thought at all? She was supposed to seduce him into a blossoming love, coax him into the initiation of intimate feeling through feminine wile and the innocence of vulnerability, but instead became just another cheap hussy to add to his ever expanding list. Instead of inciting any reciprocated emotion from him, she had sunk to the level of nothing more than a cock tease. Although, logically, she wouldn't exactly be a tease, considering she'd pretty much followed through on the deal. Her wanton actions eliciting the expectations of any other top dollar whore.

She felt like a slut.

And what had she gained throughout this entire experience? An orgasm and heartbreak. Could she get fries with that? With such thoughts streaming through her mind, she managed to make it to the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her, where she proceeded to bang her head against its solid frame. Repeatedly. Well, she could positively confirm the vacation of any high marijuana might have given her, because where there was a high, there was always a low. And Hermione had just chiseled her way through rock-bottom.

Finding that the creation of a lump on the head was no solution to her problems, she walked over to the sink and reached for a washcloth, running it under cold water. Then with a cringe, adding to her embarrassment, she swiped at the dampness between her legs, wishing that the removal of such evidence would help remove herself from this predicament.

She'd tried not to love Harry. She really did. She'd tried to brush it off as hormones, as friendship, as puberty. She'd tried to shift it onto other people, but it just wasn't meant to be. She was cursed with unrequited love, and unfulfilled desires and she slowly was coming to accept it. What the hell had she been thinking tonight, of all the stupidest things she could have done… she'd tried to show Harry she loved him? Was she losing all mental capability? Had some unforeseen module of insanity slipped its way into her gene pool? How could she think that showing Harry her true feelings would result in anything good?

She had gone absolutely mental. Ron was right. She'd never thought that she would actually see the day when she would be admitting that, without pigs fluttering by her window first.

She threw the cloth into the sink and caught her reflection in the mirror. She still looked the same. Sort of. She didn't look like a lunatic. But then the best lunatics usually managed to maintain the façade of normalcy. Or was that psychotics? Hell, tomay-to, tomar-to, let's call the whole thing off. Scratch a lover, you find a loon. Or something like that.

Either way, on surface, she still appeared the same old Hermione. She still had the same thick, brown hair, although slightly mussed and askew now, the fine result of clenched hands and feathering fingertips. The same brown eyes were still there with the same discontent swimming amongst the irises, although now, there was a certain smugness creeping in through the brown, a certain otherwise appealing knowledge that, through this mount of unease, enjoyment was taken. Her nose was still there and that always a good thing. Her cheeks were the same although, a bit more flushed than usual.

But her mouth? There was definitely something different there. Something hidden in the corners, frolicking amongst the blood rose of her lips. There was no getting away from it. She looked utterly and thoroughly kissed. Swollen red. Pleasantly bruised. Two pouting pieces of flesh telling a story all their own… lust driven kisses abated… the sucking… the biting… the sipping… the devouring… the pulsing sensations… the anticipation for their next meal.

How could one facial feature derive so much narration from a kiss? How could a kiss summon so much emotion from a person in love? How could a person in love manage to destroy a lifetime of just friendship with just one kiss? It was all one destructive, endless cycle really.

Common sense of course, told her she was being a bit over-dramatic with the whole situation. Common sense, ha! Where had you been a few hours ago my little friend? If anything, Hermione was entitled to a bit of over-dramatizing. When you'd just plunged your tongue down the throat of your best friend, with no other reason than to vent your eternal frustration, you're obliged to fret over the consequences.

Then again, to fret and to worry were things she did best of all. Being totally aware of all certain or uncertain consequences was like another limb. And only now did it decide to make itself useful. Now, after the rush, the ride, the climax. After the eagerness, the despair, the untamed. She wished she didn't regret it. She wished she didn't hate herself for it. Because for one moment in time, being with Harry just felt so incredibly fantastic. Her fantasies had nothing on the real thing.

She closed her eyes on a sigh but just as quickly, wished she didn't. It all came flooding back behind the black of her eyelids. The sudden overwhelming sensations. The feel of his hands. The taste of his mouth. The sounds he made. His breath on her skin. That special look in his eye that, if she allowed herself to believe, he'd only ever had for her. Hell, even his smell assaulted her senses.

It was hopeless, she was fucked. Figuratively of course. Obviously. And luckily for her that it was figuratively only. She couldn't imagine how she'd be feeling now if they'd actually done that when the mere act of heavy petting had her feeling like this. Like she'd just committed the worst mistake of her life. Like she'd just ruined everything and there was never any way of making amends.

What could she do?

Her eyes snapped open at the sound of him shuffling towards the bathroom door. Here they were again. She held her breath in an anxious type of longing and counted his steps, waiting to see if he would be the one to decide the next move for them to take.

One… two… three…pause… fourfivesixseveneight… eight steps was all it took for him to walk straight passed the bathroom and into his own room.

Well, that was that. She supposed it was a good thing however since she had no idea what she would say to him. She couldn't even rationalize the situation with herself, let alone try and make sense of it all with him. She just couldn't get over the fact that she had acted so damn… wantonly. She acted like nothing more than an animal in heat, circling him in a ruse of confrontation, inciting him to chase and then, with no more subtlety than an elephant on the prowl, pounce on him. Literally.

Right now, she didn't even know who that girl was. That girl was as unrecognizable to her as she was to Harry. And yet, she couldn't help but wander which one he enjoyed being with more. The friend or the flirt? The bookworm or the babe? The tamed or the temptress? Could she really change her true self to please him? Could she continue to be this shameless hussy if it was what Harry wanted? Maybe. If that was what it took to be with him. If that was what it took for him to love her. To want to be with her a lot longer than just one night.

Her eyes met her reflection in the mirror and saw unconcealed mirth. Who the hell was she kidding? Hermione only knew how to be her. She knew that she was a chronic bookworm and a staunch geek. She knew she was fiercely loyal to her friends and family. She knew she was truly vengeful against prejudice and disrespect against another living soul. She knew she could nag and lecture and become a bit too blunt in her opinions with people when she thought they were doing something wrong, to a point where they tended to ignore her when she got that certain look in her eyes. She knew she wasn't beautiful. She knew she could be quite pretty when she put a little effort into it. And she knew she was kind and caring and basically just good ole reliable Hermione.

And all that didn't particularly bother her. Because she knew who she was. She generally liked who she was. She knew she couldn't change into somebody else, at least long term and she knew she didn't want to. In fact, she didn't want Harry loving a new and probably improved Hermione. She wanted him to love her, exactly as she was.

In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she despised the fact that she would have to change herself completely in order to attract his attention. Had she anymore nerve left, she would confront him and go off on a nice lengthy rant about it. Let him know how wrong it was that he only desired her when she was a totally different person. That, come to think about it, he could do with a little changing himself. He could pick up his wet towels after he showered for instance. He could wipe up the mess from his morning meals and stop chewing with his mouth open when he was in a hurry. He could stop using his crooked smile as a charm method to get his way. He could stop whistling the Mary Poppins' work song whenever he cleaned the house. He could stop hogging the television remote, period.

And most of all, he could stop fucking other women!

She exhaled on a heartfelt sigh. It didn't matter however. These inner musings were pointless in all actuality. Nothing in these next few minutes were ever going to make her walk into his room and determine things, no matter how much she worked herself up to it. Right now, she was too much of a coward to even consider looking in his room's direction, let alone move towards it. Although she did make sure the hallway was clear before she crossed over to the sanctity of her own room.

The first thing she saw when she switched on the light was the red dress that started this mess. Just a simple red dress. It lay innocently upon the blue comforter of her bed, a stark contrast to the room's soft colour scheme. It stood out like a rose in a bed full of weeds - A dangerous beauty with hidden thorns. What was once an unimportant dress hanging in the darkness of her closet was now a memory she didn't exactly know what to do with. A moment with endless consequences she couldn't even begin to imagine. So, like other things she preferred to avoid, she pushed it off the bed onto the floor – out of sight, out of mind. Let it rest there in silence while she practiced the act of forgetting.

She lay down upon her bed, on top of the blankets with just her robe to cover her. Her arms rest upon her stomach as she stared at the ceiling and thought to herself, how utterly and completely she had fucked up her life. What would it be, two, three, four hours of time that had spun everything on its axis? She could never get those hours back and change the events they held without a time-turner.

Oh, my kingdom for a time-turner again.

Then, maybe… what? She'd go back to being that sad little girl, in love with a boy who didn't love her back? At least now she knew he desired her. Or her as she was in that moment of time. God, she even confused herself with her inner turmoil. But it was true. There was no denying the mutual lust between them. As sudden and consuming as it was, at least it was there.

And all she needed to do was close her eyes and she could feel him against her. His hard body beneath her, his chest pressed to hers so tightly she couldn't tell his breathing from her own. One of his hands clenching her hair in a fist as the other gripped her thigh. The gentle thrust of his erection that quickly turned into desperate grinding. And his mouth. God, what he could do with that mouth of his. His tongue stroking hers. His teeth at her neck. His lips on her breast. Her name, whispered in her ear. The simple taste of everything that made up Harry Potter was purely erotic and infinitely addictive.

She had to admit, on reflection, she wouldn't give up that experience for anything. Her head would always fight with her heart against it and she may feel like a witless slut when she gave herself over to sober sanity, but there was at least that one memory that forced all her regrets into the background. Her worries of what the next day or the next hour or the next minute would bring faded into oblivion when she thought about his kiss, his body, his touch, his smell, his taste.

And amazingly, in that sweet recollection of pure bliss, and her body worn out by her own emotional storm, her mind drifted off into the realm of dreams, where consequences be damned and all that existed in her unconscious world, was her and Harry, in each others arms, together and in love.


She didn't know how long she slept or what time it was. She didn't even know if it was still the same night. She did notice that her room was a bit darker and shards of moonlight pierced the spaces between her blinds, though she didn't remember turning the light off. She noticed it was a bit cooler in temperature and she still lay upon her bed covers in nothing but her robe.

What she also didn't know, was how long Harry had been lying beside her.

She lay on her right side, her right hand burrowed underneath the pillow while her left hand tucked itself under her chin. Harry lay facing her, his head on her pillow so when her eyes fluttered open she stared straight into the piercing emerald depths of his own.

Awareness pulsed through her body as she realized he wasn't a figment of her waking dream. He really lay beside her, in nothing but his boxer shorts, watching her with a cool sort of assessment in his expression, studying her face, studying her body, studying her reaction with an intensity that sent shivers down her spine.

He was so intensely male. She couldn't remember the time when he stopped being the boy she grew up with and became the man she fell in love with. She couldn't remember noticing the change from childhood to manhood nor could she remember the time when friendship turned into lust turned into love. All she knew was that his masculinity right now overwhelmed her senses and sharp sexual awareness shot to her loins with the speed of a lightning bolt. His presence electrified her into raw feeling and tingling nerves.

Her gaze dropped to his neck and she was transfixed by the sight. His skin was so tanned and taut and all too tasty. As she should know, it was her teeth, her tongue, her lips that had given him that love bite. That fading tinge of red, that was her mark. The recollection of that passionate act of possession sent a surge of heat through her body.

Slowly, tentatively her left hand drifted up to touch it, her mark, her fingertips barely stroking the surface as if afraid of wiping it away. She lingered there for a while, relishing the small shiver his body gave when she touched his heated skin and then let her hand fall limply back to the bed.

The only sounds in the room were of the soft whispers of their breathing, mingling together between the small distance they allowed themselves. She raised her eyes to his again to find that detached look of assessment gone and a melting intensity take its place. He hadn't moved under her slow exploration but the tension thrumming around and through his body proved that he wanted to and revealed the strain it cost not to.

"How long was I asleep?" She murmured quietly, her voice husky from her slumber and the sound of it stirred the air, plucking at the strings of their desire as if testing the melody it was prepared to play.

"Not long." His voice was low, almost a whisper.

Hermione shifted slightly, stretching her legs out and tilting her head back to make better eye contact with him. She blinked him sleepily into focus, taking in his damp, disheveled hair and his change of clothing. Or his lack of clothing as it seemed. He'd showered and he'd come to her bed to lay with her.

It wasn't unusual for them. Not really. He'd done it several times before, early morning, late at night, coming home from somewhere to settle her with a bed time hug. Not to talk, not to do anything but reassure her with his presence. As if he knew that she needed to be comforted by the fact that he was there. Back from some bar, some party, some woman's bed, some woman's body. Not giving her any excruciating details of his nightly outing that would surely shatter her soul, but just to be beside her.

And only then would she sleep peacefully, drifting back into her world of unconsciousness, her world of dreams where Harry was hers and this was their bed, their own cocoon of contentment and belonging. Then she would wake to find him gone. His warm impression left in her sheets like a mocking jab to the heart, did you really think you could keep him, it would say. She'd hug the pillow he had used to her body and silently wish for more.

It was different this time though. How could it not be? He didn't touch her. He made no move to. But his stare scorched the length of her body and her own eyes struggled to meet them in fear of revealing too much.

Because if he looked for it, he would see the vulnerability in her gaze. The simple fact that, if he so chose, he could do whatever he wanted with her, without encountering any complaint. If he searched for it, if he pursued it, he would find the love shining from her eyes like sunshine, the brightness so brilliant it was blinding. But because he wasn't looking for it, because he probably didn't expect to come across it he didn't see it. So she blinked her eyes a few more times, and it faded back into that dark place, her limbo, her sanctuary, sharing its shelter with hope and despair.

To battle that dark entity that could so easily overwhelm her, her eyes drifted to his mouth and stared at it entranced. Many times she'd wondered what that mouth tasted like. Too many times to count. And now she knew. It held the essence of sin. Sweet, sweet sin. Knowing that something that good had to be bad for her. Knowing no matter how hard she tried, it was simply too delicious to deny. Too addictive to resist. Too right to ever be wrong. Yeah, all those clichés and some.

That mouth was truly her undoing. Of course it had not acted alone. Certain other parts of his anatomy held responsibility too. It was just the fact that it was Harry's anatomy that really made this moment surreal. She'd wished, she'd hoped, she'd prayed but subconsciously, hell consciously, she'd never actually believed it would happen. But it did happen and it was wonderful and amazing but so completely shocking that she didn't know where to go from here. The usually logical, the usually astute, clear-thinking, normally quite sane Hermione was lost and this time, she needed to show it.

"What are you thinking?" His soft, deep, infinitely intimate voice broke through her internal ramblings, breaking her gaze from his tempting mouth as it formed the words.

"I'm thinking things I probably shouldn't be." Semi-evasive sure, but his efforts in his quest for the truth couldn't possibly be resisted as he raised his hand to her temple, stroking her hair back from her face with his fingertips, sliding across her cheek, beneath the lobe of her ear, down the nape of her neck. The slow, soothing glissade awakened all her nerve-endings until she could feel his smooth caress echoing along the length of her body. She closed her eyes at the beguiling sensation.

"Like what?" His hushed question took a while for Hermione to comprehend. One touch and he had her a quivering, mindless mess. What made it more embarrassing was the fact that he no doubt knew it.

"Don't you know Harry?" Her eyes opened to meet his and the look she gave him was of sweet desire. It spoke of her want, her need, her love, everything she couldn't yet say out loud. It was a look blaringly obvious in its intentions. It spoke more than what words could ever hope to achieve. Her eyes showed a fear-filled longing. A hope with deep hazards. A craving trapped by caution. And it broke through Harry's obliviousness like a heated knife through butter.

He stroked his hand down her left cheek to settle upon her lips, tracing the plump curves gently, enticing them to part, all without taking his eyes off her face. He was fascinated, bewitched, unbelieving. As if seeing her for the first time. And very softly, she kissed his fingertips. At first. Then Hermione caught his hand with her own and very slowly, very surely put her lips to his palm in a tender caress, like kissing his mouth, like telling him she loved him.

The motion brought Harry still. His eyes narrowed and scorching her with emerald fire, his nostrils flaring with each deep breath he took. The hard planes of his face were pulled taut as if he were under immense strain to prevent himself from feeding the hunger that had him hard and ravenous.

But before he could even properly consider any such impulses, she disengaged their touch and jack-knifed into a sitting position, her back to him. She brushed her hands through her hair and sighed loudly. Hermione wanted to jump him all over again and considering all the good that did her last time, she denied the urge, berating herself for being so stupid.

She just couldn't think coherently when he was near her. When he touched her all sensible thought flew from her head. There was too much pent up desire in her, aching to break free that lying next to Harry, with only a robe covering her naked body and Harry in nothing but boxers was not helping her any.

They'd already been down this road. Yes, they wanted each other, but she needed to make him see that there was more to it than that. It wasn't just lust she felt for him, though Merlin knows, there was plenty of it, but she wanted him to see her love too. And against her own personal morale, she was still too damn scared to say it to him, even though that was what she desperately needed to do.

What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she just say it?

She felt like a fool. She'd always praised herself on being able to do anything she put her mind to. If there was anything she even remotely wanted with all her heart, she set out to acquire it, no matter what the cost. But she couldn't do this. She couldn't tell the one man she loved, that she was indeed in love with him. That she had always loved him and always would. It was her one failure.

"I wanted to kill him." His short statement was a dark growl in the night.

Shock laced through Hermione's body and brought her thinking process to a complete halt. She was silent, unmoving, her back straight, her arms flaccid, waiting for more. Harry hadn't moved from his position, except to lay flat on his back, scowling up at the ceiling as memory seared him.

"I wanted to rip his head off." He continued blackly. There was no mistake for who he was talking about. The thought thrilled Hermione and she started to hope. "I would have happily ended his life right then if I didn't have to come after you. All because he touched you."

A fresh wave of jealousy washed over him at the recollection. Jealousy so strong it made his chest ache. It was painful. It was powerful. The urge to seize her and claim her for himself, to sink into the warm depths of her body, possessing her from the inside out was so strong it was frightening. He didn't question where this blinding emotion came from, only that he knew he wanted it and would do anything it took to make her aware of it.

He sat up behind her and struggled against the need to wrap her in his arms. Instead he stroked her hair, let his hand linger then slid it slowly down the length of her back. He could feel the heat of her body through the thin fabric of her robe. It drove him crazy to know that that was all that prevented him from touching her skin. He could smell her sweet scent every time he inhaled. Honey, spring and the beguiling perfume of woman. This woman. His woman.

It was not a new sensation. He'd felt lust before. Of course he had, but not to this degree. Not with this potent effect. Definitely not for his best friend. Not really. And not with this maddening confliction of possession and the dulling need for caution. His heart sensed something important, something he wanted to explore with a studious curiosity, to linger tentatively in the realms of safety, but his hormones just didn't give a damn.

"Turn around."

A dark heat was in the command. It made Hermione shudder for breath. She closed her eyes against the pulse of desire that lanced through her, a fine trembling claiming her body.

"Turn around." He repeated, adding emphasis with his hand curling around her waist.

Temptation strummed the chords between them, made all the more jarring by the alluring sense of awareness; that boiling point of knowing. Hermione knew what would happen if she turned around. She knew she would sink ecstatically into him arms. She knew she would follow him down into the welcoming embrace of her bed. She knew they would shed their clothing. She knew what would happen after that.

"I can't." She gasped weakly. Her head protested loudly against her easiness. Her heart wary of its discovery. Her body singing for his touch.

She couldn't give into him. She would be lost all over again. She would enjoy his lustful intentions, yes, but would forever go on questioning his motives. Was this going to be as meaningful to him as it would most certainly be for her? How could she know the truth if she just lay down like every other girl he'd had in his bed? When she would rest her head on his chest, would it be replaced by another head in a week's time? If she told him she loved him, would he reject her? Would he let her down with a smile and a sigh? Or would he kiss her gently and tell her he loved her too? And could she accept it if he did?

Her desire for him was strong, staggeringly so, but her self-doubt was stronger. Her need for preservation ran deeper than her lust. It was in her very core and she couldn't let it go. She heard him sigh, the gust of his breath stirring the hair at the nape of her neck. It was then she realized how close he was to her. All she needed to do was turn her head and his lips would be right there. Her mouth would part and she'd inhale his warm breath, consume his essence. Temptation hovered millimeters from her body, waiting for the right moment to invade, to overwhelm her being, craving everything that was Harry Potter.

"I wish you would stop running from me." He murmured into her hair. She bit her lip in a tiny refusal to the cajoling of his actions.

"What would you have me do Harry?" She replied in a whisper. As if anything louder might shatter this moment.

"I want you to turn around." His mouth glanced across her earlobe. "I want you to look into my eyes." His nose nudged against the hollow behind her ear. "I want you to kiss me like you did before." Both hands caught her waist, moving up the length of her torso, sweeping the sides of her breast, lingering, before slowly traveling the same path down. "I want to finish what we started."

Hermione's rush of desire was immediate. It swamped her being and left her trembling in its wake. Her body readied itself for the taking leaving a gnawing seizure in her belly. She'd desperately tried to resist it. She truly did but her logic, her willpower; her sense lost its valiant struggle with denial, with the effort to hold out for more. For something trusting, something fulfilling, something from his heart, but each sweet stroke of his hands, each sweet breath upon her skin, each sweet caress from his mouth left her aching for powerless.

It was primitive in its existence, something raw, everything to do with hormones and nothing to do with logic. The more basic urges of the human body had her in its grip and refused to let her go. It was relentless. It was overwhelming. It was winning.

His fingertips touched her cheek and turned her head to face him. His words were whispered across her lips. "I want you Hermione."

His kiss was soft at first. A tantalizing brush of the lips. A fleeting contact that was more tentative than chaste. A quest for a response. A bid for a reaction from her. It was when her mouth parted that his question was answered and his control shattered.

His hand cupped the back of her neck and his tongue met hers. She released a small whimper, whether of confusion or desire, he didn't care. When their mouths came together all thought fled his mind. When her hand pressed to his chest, his arm pushed her in closer. And when she leaned into his kiss, into his body, desire consumed him.

Hermione knew it would be like this; an engulfing heat, a liquid fire, pouring through her skin and igniting the flame, scalding her senses, smoking out her doubts. She turned into his arms so they could both connect properly. Her hands slid around his neck and into his hair. He groaned at her sudden complacence and his need became a living entity. He pulled her onto his lap so her legs fell to either side of him, straddling his hard thighs, pressing her tight to him, his hands on her back.

Stupid of her really, to let him kiss her like this. She'd momentarily forgotten how truly incoherent she would become at his touch. She'd soon been reminded when nothing but pure pleasure devoured her being. Her senses exploded with arousal and she was left writhing in his arms. Again.

They were repeating exactly what had happened in the kitchen. Only she knew how this replay would end. This time, clothes wouldn't cheat them. This time, they would be naked and he would be inside her and there would be only herself to blame when he left the bed, content with his capture. Another to add to the list.

The thought made her pause. It broke through the solid barriers of her desire and let her stop their kiss. She broke away with a gasp, pulling her body back as much as he would allow, which wasn't very much at all. It had him blinking in confusion at her abrupt withdrawal. The arrival of her saving doubts brought a measure of sanity to which she was grateful.

"We can't do this again." Her voice was strangled at the effort it took to sound the words, let alone act on them.

His lips were red and moist from her kisses and his eyes gleamed with a predatory craving. Everything male in him was determined to prove her wrong. She closed her eyes against his gaze before her willpower deteriorated once more.

"We can't do this again, Harry." She repeated, as if repetition might make it more real. Well, as real as it could be with her plastered against the length of his body, feeling every scalding inch of him through the flimsy fabric of her robe, knowing his arousal was just as strong as hers.

His sigh of frustration shuddered out of his lungs and the deep movement of his chest against her breasts almost made her forget her hesitation.

"Is it so wrong that I want you Mione?" He said huskily, his voice lower, rougher, a blatant signal that he didn't want to stop. "Is it so wrong that you want me too?" His hands continued to sweep up and down her back, as if he couldn't stop touching her, as if he couldn't get enough of her, as if it wasn't enough.

She gazed at him, her love behind her eyes alongside her lament. Her fingers swept his hair away from his forehead and she gently caressed the lightning bolt shaped scar hidden beneath his bangs.

"Once upon a time Harry, that would have been enough."

His brow dipped in confusion. The winsome sadness in her expression and in her voice drew him short.

"I don't understand." He said finally.

Usually when a woman had doubts in his bed, though rare, he was able to soothe their woes away with his sexual prowess, with the simple ability of giving them what they both wanted. It allowed them to forget any troubles and concentrate on mutual satisfaction.

He wondered why he couldn't do that with Hermione.

"I know you don't understand. There's no understanding desire unless there's something behind it." She stated absently, almost to herself. Summoning as much courage as she could, she decided to lay her heart on the line. "Will you let me up?"

"No." His refusal was immediate. His arms tightened around her body. She was where she belonged and he wasn't letting go.

There was fear in her eyes as she looked at him and he couldn't comprehend that. What was she so afraid of? Why was she trying to escape him when it was so right that she be exactly where she was? He would give her anything she asked for. If she wanted the moon, he would get on his broom and fly his arse into space and do everything in his power to achieve her request. But he wouldn't let her go. The gesture felt too symbolic. As if, should he let her leave his embrace he would be letting her leave his life and he just wouldn't, couldn't accept that.

"You're not going anywhere. Not this time." His denial was stone, but he felt wounded at the sudden appearance of tears in her eyes.

"Please." Her soft plea filled with such melancholy tore at his heart. To see her scared was painful but to see her cry clawed at his heart and ripped a groan from his chest. He wouldn't deny her anything but knowing that the one thing she wanted was to be free of him had him terrified beyond reason. Subconsciously he knew he was on the precipice of losing her and he couldn't for the life of him understand how.

Her eyes glittered with unshed tears. "Please let me up Harry. I can't say this and be in your arms." She couldn't even meet his gaze. She was too close to the breaking point. A plethora of emotions swept through her – sadness, happiness, anger, relief, lust, want, need – it was too much, too soon, too fast and all in his embrace.

He shook his head and tightened his hold in staunch denial. "I would give you anything Hermione, but I feel if I let you go right now I might lose you forever and I don't know why." He cupped her face in his hands and tried to capture her gaze. "I can't let you go."

His refusal was strong, adamant and she knew he told the truth. She wished her doubts, her fear away. She so desperately wanted to cleave to him, to press herself inside him, to mate their hearts, to mate their souls with nothing but the physical bonding that allowed it, to truly become one with him, but her own self-recriminations prevented her. And here he was, refusing to release her from his arms and she wondered why she couldn't just be content with that.

She closed her eyes and felt his forehead rest against hers. "I've always admired your brain, Mione, but I wish, just this once you'd turn it off." He pushed his lips to hers and felt her smile.

It was invitation enough to kiss her softly, almost chastely, a small peck, nipping at her teasingly, coaxing her to respond. She was helpless to the effect. There was no way she couldn't kiss him back. Not when he was doing that with his lips. There was no way she could prevent her mouth from opening, not when his tongue danced its way through like that. A playful persuasion the way he kissed her. As if knowing he had her in the palm of his hands, but not yet grasping. He stroked his tongue against her own only to pull away again in a triumphant sort of arrogance as if trying to push her yearning to its limit. He wanted her at the point of no return and he wanted her to make the first move towards it, as if it was her decision.

It was the taste of her tears that stopped him. He pulled back to see her eyes closed and a wet trail glistening upon her cheeks. The sight of her grief broke his heart and stopped his sweet seduction. He quivered with the need to be inside her. His body was hard and aching and angry at being refused what it so desperately wanted but seeing her so sad struck an emotion he couldn't even name. The ache of desire turned into an ache of helplessness. He wanted to protect her from what hurt her so but how could he protect her from himself? Even when he didn't know how he was responsible for it.

His lips rest against her cheek as he sipped at her tears. The comfort of that single motion made her lean forward and press her face into the hollow between his neck and shoulder. His arms came up to enfold her and he buried himself in her hair, holding her tight as she silently wept.

He could have gone on holding her forever and been content. She could have sat in his arms for the rest of her life and never be more complete than this. He didn't ask her why she cried and she didn't tell him. The warmth of their sweet embrace was enough for now and they didn't see any reason to stop.

The moment was ephemeral however, that fleeting sense of perfection. It left too many questions unanswered, too many words unspoken. The seconds ticked away and with them came that pressing need for solution.

Hermione knew it was time. Enough hiding. Enough bullshit. Enough chickening out. If there was ever a time to tell Harry she loved him, it was now. She pushed away from the safety of his neck, away from the comfort of his scent and warmth and looked into the eyes of the one she loved.

He waited silently, patiently. He felt that something major was about to happen and knowing that it would change his entire life. Hell, who was he kidding, it already had. One kiss and everything he'd ever known, ever foreseen was blown to pieces. He met her eyes with trust and hope and a fearful sort of anticipation as he waited for her to speak.

She smiled tenderly and cupped his cheek. "I have to tell you something and I need for you not to say anything until I've finished."

His brow creased in confusion but he nodded his head in consent, promising her request, if somewhat reluctantly. She took a deep breath and released it on a rush of words.

"It shouldn't come as any surprise to you Harry, that I love you. Not just as a friend loves another friend. But as a woman loves a man. As a soul yearning for its mate. You've had my heart for so long I can't even remember when I gave it." She found he was very still. Very silent. Even his breathing seemed to have stopped. She carried on.

"I love you so much it hurts. I've loved you for so long it just became natural. Like breath. Like it belonged. And with the knowledge of my love for you, I felt complete. And it didn't matter how many girls you took, or how many times you passed me by with no more than a smile. It didn't matter because I knew you were happy. And in knowing that, I was content."

It was strange, saying all this to his face. Sitting comfortably in his arms and confessing her truths, spilling all the secrets of her soul and not being invaded by the fear that held her protection. He stared at her in shock. In wonder. With a strained vulnerability that allowed her to continue.

"Honestly, insanely, I had ruled you out as a possibility. I knew you would never be satisfied with just me, but it was all I had to offer. I wish I didn't need you. I wish my flesh didn't burn at the thought of you. I wish my skin didn't sing at the sound of your voice. I wish my heart wouldn't skip a beat every time you smiled. But it does, it happens and I couldn't ignore it anymore, though believe me, I tried."

She laughed but it wasn't for happiness. She laughed at herself for even thinking that she could deny her love. She laughed because her foolishness knew no bounds, for here she was, spilling all her secrets to the one person who should never have heard them. She laughed because it was far better to laugh than it was to cry. She closed her eyes to the flood of tears and struggled to speak around the lump in her throat.

"But patience is a transient thing, Harry. There was only so much pretending, so much oblivion I could take. You had to know." She looked over his shoulder, losing herself in her memory. "And stupidly, I thought I could seduce you into loving me. As if I could compete with those six foot supermodels you were so accustomed to. As if you'd realize I loved you and discover that you loved me back."

She shrugged in defeat. "I really didn't know what I was thinking to be honest. I guess I was just tired of it all. Of all the pretense. Of pretending I didn't love you like I do. Of pretending it didn't hurt me so much. Of pretending that everything was fine and I could just get over you in time. That loving you without hope was enough for me."

She gave him a smile of heartbreak. A smile of loss. A smile of failure. And somewhere in the false curve of her lips, in the dying sparkle of her eyes, in the dejection of her body was a sense of peace. "But it wasn't enough. It isn't enough. I love you Harry Potter, with all my heart. And that's all there is to it."

There. It was done. Finally. She'd just gambled her heart away and the effect was an overwhelming ache of despair. His reaction wasn't helping much either. He was completely silent. He was completely immobile. He looked struck dumb with a vague hint of distress. He looked as if he really didn't want to be there right now. It was how Hermione interpreted it anyway. And it was the worst outcome she could ever have foreseen. Desolation wrapped itself around her skin and left her feeling forlorn, helpless to the tears rolling down her cheeks. The move to brazen the confrontation out was inbred in her. To make a play at unaffectedness was only in her nature and she armoured herself with her tattered mask of bravery.

"You probably want to leave now, huh? I know how uncomfortable you get around girls confessing their undying love for you." She smiled impishly. "It's okay Harry. I understand. I just thought you should know before anything else happened tonight. It kind of seemed unfair to both of us if you didn't know. Not a lie as such, but not the truth either. Not real." She whispered the last two words on an injured gasp of rejection. Of dying optimism. A last lament to the dream. "So maybe you should let me go now."

She held no blame for him. Not in the slightest. It wasn't his fault that he didn't love her back. It wasn't his fault he couldn't love her back. Nobody could direct desire, nor could they educate the heart. And she couldn't hate him for that. She couldn't hate him at all, despite the countless times she had tried.

She was being very gentle with him, almost to the point of patronizing as if he needed healing. She could see his surprise, his confusion, his anguish, his delight, his eyes lost, his mouth slack, slowly taking it all in and she wanted to be out of his arms when it finally hit home. She wouldn't stand for his pity. She wouldn't wait patiently as he stared at her condescendingly, thinking of a nice way to let her down.

So she gave him that option now. An easy escape for the both of them. Almost wanting him to let go. Almost needing him to let go. Wanting that space, that time that would allow her to gather her thoughts, collect her self-worth, to discover somewhere beneath all that humiliation the withered remains of her dignity. The release of her love was almost euphoric but doubt crippled it like a disease, swamping the pleasure of that peace with fear and regret.

She wanted his response but she didn't want it yet. She wasn't strong enough for it yet. She wanted him to answer her but she didn't want to be in his arms as he did. "Let me go Harry."

It was when he did as she asked that the killing blow was delivered. She couldn't contradict herself, she expected it, but she didn't realize how deeply wounding his release would be. It was like death. He couldn't let her go? Just sweet words whispered in the darkest, most intimate of nights. A man's sweet drawl to appease the doubts of his lover. And like a fool, for a wishful while it had kept the spark of hope alive. Until now. The final blow that extinguished the fire.

She pulled out of the warmth of his arms, off of the bed and felt the chill start to seep into her bones. It left her feeling cold and completely alone. She hugged herself tightly, as if she could withstand that killing frost with her own embrace. The salty tracks of her tears felt like icicles upon her cheeks. She was shivering in the mild night air, as if forsaken to the hold of winter. All her emotional defenses were down and his rejection struck her tenfold. The pain, magnified. The sadness, destructive.

"I'm sorry I ruined everything." And with that, she turned away and walked to the door. A fresh flood of tears surged to her eyes, down her face, but she didn't feel them. The ache in her heart increased with every step she took. She didn't want to leave, but she knew she had to.

And if she didn't go now she wouldn't go at all. What then? It was so, so tempting to run back to him and demand he kiss her again. Order him to forget everything she said and make love to her. On the bed, on the floor, against the wall, the place wouldn't matter. Nothing would matter when he was inside her, when they were joined together, when they became that one, perfect body, connected and deep.

But it was too late for that. That once desire was conquered by her revelation and his fear. The best thing she could do would be to walk out of his life now, while she possessed the strength to do it. It was all she had left to offer him.

"Come back here." His voice was low, a deep rumble that held the signs of muted anger. The soft strains floated on the cool breeze and froze her in place. The faint hum of his fury had her confused and at a stand still. She staunchly ignored that deceiving flicker of hope.

"It's better if I leave now." And then you don't have to, she thought sullenly.

"You can't just say all that to me and expect to leave." His reply was thunder and heat. A velvet purr echoing a distant roar. "You can't just disappear without allowing me a chance to respond."

So eloquent, so sinister his words. She didn't understand his anger. She didn't understand the direction of it. And though she didn't hear him, he was suddenly right behind her. Her body reacted to his closeness like a magnet to metal, tormenting her with mingled pleasure and longing. It just. Never. Stopped.

"Your response is why I'm leaving Harry. I don't think I have the strength for it." Her head was bent, scared that he would touch her, wishing he would. The betrayals of her body were relentless, disregarding all her emotional and mental demands.

"You don't get to run away this time." His command was strong, quiet, would be deadly if she had reason to fear it. "Turn around and look at me."

Captured in his spell she couldn't help but obey, no matter how much logic protested. She turned, unwillingly and soon wished she hadn't. He was as close as a breath. Her turning allowed the tips of her breasts to flirt with the expanse of his chest. The bottom of her robe mashed against his firm thighs, static electricity making it cling to the material of his boxers, to the heat of his legs.

And the worst thing she could possibly do was to meet his gaze. His hard face held a dangerous cast. His whole body thrummed with a potent rage. And the effect was one of predatory awareness. As if withholding the need to strike and devour: an animal hunger. He watched her with hooded eyelids and the silence was blaring. It was as if he was lost for words, only…not. More like he was restraining himself from saying what he truly wanted to. As if searching for the right way to make himself heard. And believed. But with all the questions, disbeliefs, all the confusion racing through his head like a raging tornado, he couldn't quite grasp the words that could make sense.

Hermione watched him enthralled. She failed to see any reason why he should be as upset as he seemed to be, but he was. He was fuming. His temper sparking around them like a live wire. She felt if she were to touch him, she would be electrocuted. She wanted to cower and cry. She wanted to melt into his furor. She wanted to erase the night. She wanted to live it again. She desperately wanted to believe. And the most powerful want, the want that was irrevocable and unreserved of them all, despite everything, because of everything, she wanted to make love to him.

"I could kill you right now for what you just did to me." He growled into her face.

She closed her eyes and bowed her head. "Is it really so bad that I love you Harry?"

His sigh was heavy as he touched his lips to her forehead. "It's excruciating." He brushed his lips lingeringly across her skin. The movement offered comfort, the effect almost crooning, if it weren't for the words crushing her heart. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

She let out a chuckle of disdain. "When Harry? When you came home from Rebecca's place? After your date with Melinda? When you'd finished screwing Jessica, Kathryn, Gretchen, Sally? After your great love affair with Cho?"

"There was never any Gretchen."

Hermione pushed away from him, backing herself further into the door. This was better. This anger. This jealousy. This was something she could work with, something she could control, direct. It was an easy emotion to her, one she held to her like a lifeline.

"Does it matter? When in the midst of all your lovers could I have told you? Should I have made an appointment?" She asked bitterly, fighting to hurt him, fighting against him. She welcomed this aggressiveness and wrapped it around her like a security blanket.

"If you'd told me from the beginning, there wouldn't have been anyone else." He countered, which left her wretched, self-disgust seeping through her veins.

"Don't pity me, Harry. Be angry with me. Be annoyed with me. Be honest with me, but don't you dare pity me. Don't lie to me to try to salvage any ego, please, there's no point in it now."

He pressed himself against her once again to help emphasize his words. "Do you really think that if I knew you loved me, I would have let someone else have me?"

Let someone else have him. That was good. She liked that. As if he didn't have a choice in the matter.

"Yes Harry, that's exactly what I think. Oh, you wouldn't have meant it, you wouldn't have meant to hurt me, but I know you. You wouldn't have been satisfied with just me." She taunted, her heart loaded with the sharp need to share the burden of her pain.

"Then you're a fool. You don't know me at all if you think that." He snarled into her face. His hand reached out and caught a handful of her hair, pulling her head back to look directly at him.

When he caught her gaze he was stunned. He saw so much pain in her eyes. So much rage. So much jealousy. And a huge wealth of love, all directed at him. He wasn't amazed by her beauty, though she was so beautiful it hurt, but he was amazed at the fact that she didn't know it. Astounded at the outrageous conclusion she'd come to in assuming he didn't want her. He shook his head in disbelief.

"Don't you know? Don't you know you're the one I've been waiting for?"

The guttural words were like sugar resting on his tongue, pulled from within, echoing through his being, dissolving in his heart. The moment the words left his mouth he felt a resounding truth ringing from them. As if saying them aloud he had just completed something, connecting that last piece for everything to finally fit and make sense.

On Hermione's part, it was a case of too little too late. It wasn't enough to break through her newly built barriers. She was still too hurt to believe. Still to angry to be absolved. Still to doubtful to hear any truth in his words, and the daggers she had were sharp and ready to use.

"Nice way to wait, Harry, fucking everything in sight." Her pain was cold and vicious. And she wouldn't blame him if he wanted to hit her just then. But he didn't. Of course he didn't.

Instead, the hand in her hair clenched tighter, pulling her head further back so that their faces were only a breath apart. Agony painted itself right alongside fury in his expression.

"I haven't fucked you." He answered, just as cruelly. Then, tipping his head in a motion as if to kiss her he said, "Yet."

Hermione had to admit, his response was tantalizing. The words a physical enticement, her body screamed 'To hell with it, take the offer!', but her head wasn't quite so complacent.

"Is that all it would be Harry? Fucking?" Her earnest reply left him blinking in confusion, and then was replaced by a resolved sort of anguish.

It was at that point she began to regret her words. She couldn't bear to see him hurt. The distress in his expression was new and sudden and raw, it broke her heart all over again. She didn't know how vulnerable and open he had made himself until she saw the torment leaking into his eyes.

And before she could apologize, before she could assuage her own guilt and throw herself at his feet, he released her, stepping back from her body staring at the floor in what appeared to be horror.

"You're right." He shook his head. And continued shaking it. "I'm not good enough for you."

Hermione gasped in incredible disbelief. "What?"

He continued to slowly back away from her. "Maybe I should leave." He rasped, his voice dry. "There's no way in hell I deserve you." His head was bowed; his fists were clenched at his side, as if restraining himself from reaching out to her.

Now was the chance. This was her moment. This was her out. He had just given her the opening to be gone and be glad. This was the time where she could leave gracefully and work irrefutably at getting over Harry Potter - the sweet, deluded, absolutely, blindingly oblivious Harry Potter.

But for the life of her, she just couldn't understand. What in the world made him think that he didn't deserve her? He could be so incredibly stupid sometimes; she just wanted to yell at him. So she did.

"Are you completely thick?" She shouted with incredulous fury. "I'm in love with you Harry. In love with you. Everything you are. Everything you've yet to become, I love it all. And you're not good enough for me? You're the Boy Who Lived, for fuck sake! You're the most wonderful human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing and you're not good enough for me? I could never live up to who you are. You're everybody's hero. You're my hero. And the man I love. And if I can't make you see that then you're stupider than I thought."

Then she laughed. How could she not? She laughed because it was just all so insane. This night. This night was becoming absurdly long and exceedingly ludicrous. She felt like she was banging her head against a brick wall. Just when she thought she was finally getting somewhere, getting through to him, getting away from him, he'd turn it around completely and leave her standing at the very beginning again.

She covered her face with her hands, muffling her laughter in her palms until the tears escaped her eyes. Tears of surrender. It all just seemed so pointless now. Sure, her love for him was out in the open, for him to do with as he pleased, but if he could, after everything, reach an insane conclusion like that, what was the point of it all?

"What's the point?" She asked, her hands dropping back down to her sides. "If you can't see me as anything more than a friend, that's fine. That's great in fact. I'd love that. If you only want me as a sexual acquaintance, then that's fine too. But if after all this you've deluded yourself with ridiculous assumptions like that one, I've wasted an entire night."

She wouldn't look at him, because in that look, she just might intercept acceptance. And if he'd accepted everything she'd just said with an ounce of agreement, she'd walk out the door and never come back. But then, that was probably what he wanted. And she supposed it was the best she could offer him.

She shook her head. "I can't…" Her thoughts were slow to form, confused and tired. "I think my patience has actually run its course." She finished finally.

She was finished. It was done. And now the ball was entirely in his court. The longer he stayed silent, the more her heart shattered at her own impending verdict: Harry didn't love her. And she'd just made a complete idiot of herself.

See my eyes. See inside me. Know my heart. "Know I love you." Were her last words before she turned around to walk out the door.

"Hermione." Harry whispered to her back, his tone desperate. Unknowing. A silent plea. Her name a prayer on his lips. It made her stop and sigh. She had to stop herself from giving into him.

Hesitantly, carefully, his hand touched her waist. The warmth of her body beneath his hand imprinted a pounding resolution into his being: He didn't deserve her, but he couldn't let her go. It was that simple. And it was the hardest thing he'd ever encountered.

He closed his eyes and told her the truth. "I don't know how to love you right."

She raised her head and turned to him. "What are you talking about? It's not like you haven't done it before."

"No. I haven't done it before." He denied, his hands floundering in mid-air, wanting to reach out, afraid to. "That was never love. You know it wasn't"

Hermione stared at him, wondering how, after everything, after all she'd put herself through tonight, after every damning assumption she'd made, after all the hits she'd taken, how after it all, she felt that she had the upper hand.

"Then what was it Harry?"

He gazed at her with intense longing. His eyes spoke a mute appeal, drowning in an unanswerable knowledge, seeking help, wanting everything.

"It wasn't this."

He could barely hear himself over the pounding of his heart. Blood rushed to his head and for a moment he felt dizzy, as if, after an eternity of stumbling through darkness, somebody gave him sight and he was left blinking at the beauty of sudden vision. Of seeing for the first time and having no idea what anything was. Hermione held the way and she knew it was up to her to show him. She stepped into his heat, closer to him, helping him find her.

"And what is this Harry?"

What was this? This was terrifying. This was wonderful. This was Hermione. This was Harry. This was lust. This was pain. It was need. It was heat. It was drowning. It was breath. It was peace. It was fury. It was binding. It was dying. It was life. It was oblivion. It was…found.

"It's right. It's us. It's being in your arms. It's having you in mine. It's knowing that everything is perfect in the world, simply because you are in it. It's touching you and feeling better. It's looking at you and knowing warmth. It's tasting you and being full. It's your smile. It's your tears. I drink you with my eyes and never go thirsty. I breathe in your voice and never go cold."

He took a deep breath and let it out with his heart.

"It's so many things I can't even hope to describe it right, but all I know is it's you. It's everything that is you. It's so strong. I feel it without knowing I feel it. Knowing that you're beside me makes life all the more bearable. Knowing that you're in my world makes me love being alive."

He concluded restlessly. He ran his hand over his arms, soothing his own skin from the goose bumps that formed with his words, trying to stop it from burning, trying to stop it from itching, trying to prevent this strange sensation that had his body wanting to explode.

Hermione knew she was grinning like an idiot. Even as confused and lost and bewildered as he looked, she couldn't stop smiling. Finally. Finally. At last. And amazing.

"I hate to break it to you Harry, but I think it's love." Her voice was gentle, soothing and she watched his eyebrows rise in a sense of wonderment.


She pushed closer, touching their bodies, bringing them home. "Yes. Love. Just like in the songs. Just like in the movies. Just like in the fairytales. Man loving woman. You and I." She grasped his hands and placed them on her hips. "It's being in your arms." Her hands traced the taut muscles in his back, following the smooth line up to his shoulders. "It's having you in mine." His skin, warm, wonderful. "It's our lips together." She tiptoed up and sighed against his mouth. "And being home."

Just like that. That link. That connection. He sunk into her embrace and kissed her, closing his eyes and felt the tears on his cheeks, astonished that this time, they were his own.

They kissed, long and sweetly. Their embrace tightened and they reveled in how completely perfect this felt. Their love was nascent but a force to be reckoned with. It was unleashed. It was blazing. It was strong. And nothing would stop it.

Harry broke away from her lips and buried his face into the hollow of her neck. He inhaled deeply, her smell her essence, before exhaling on a deep, heart-felt sob. A sob to everything lost and everything finally found. He cried. And she held him through the storm. He cried silently and softly, cursing himself for never finding what was there, for taking girls randomly, hearing them ask for his heart and knowing, yet not knowing that it had already been given.

He cried in disbelief that he hadn't done anything about it earlier. That he was so oblivious to it all and through every betraying action he took, he had been hurting her. That was the true reason he cried. Because of all the pain he had unknowingly put her through. Yet, just like the brave and conquering woman she was, she'd held on. Strong and tight and unyielding. Just as she held him now.

"I'm sorry." He gasped weakly. Her hands were in his hair, stroking, cajoling, soothing away his hurt and his guilt. Her sympathy, her understanding was almost more than he could bear.

She kissed his temple, his cheek, bringing his face above her so she could kiss more. She sipped at his tears, returning the action, tasting the salt of his pain, kissing into him forgiveness and acceptance – breathing upon him an ending and many beginnings.

"Don't be sorry, Harry." She whispered, hovering above his lips, nuzzling across his other cheek, dabbing at the tears with her tongue, as if banishing his sins, as if assuaging her own. "Just love me."

There was sweet sincerity in her eyes. And a desperate longing. He knew his eyes reflected the same. It was love and it was theirs for the taking. She'd forgiven him and he was left with a verdict of redemption. Burying his carnal past and emerging into the present, the future that was all and only Hermione.

"I don't deserve to be loved by you." He stammered, brushing his thumb across her lower lip, caressing them apart. "But I'm not letting you go." His other hand came to cup her neck and he could feel her pulse beating at his thumb, fluttering ecstatically to a rhythm that matched his own. "You're mine now. And I'm forever yours."

A trembling smile overcame her face, her heart racing, her body quivering and she bound them with a sentence, with a carnal power inbred through every molecule of her being, with a primitive magic as old as time, as old as life the enchantment rose from the depths of theirs souls.

"So mote it be."

Click. She felt it. He did too. A sort of immersion of the heart, a sweet melding of the soul, connection. As if at the very words, a deeper meaning was communicated. Like prophecy. Like destiny. When she met his eyes it felt as if a circuit was being connected, closed and locked in place.

The piercing electricity between them wasn't new, but it was so much more pure with the mutual love it now held. Their skin felt like it was being brushed with live wire. They touched and it was belonging. Their lips met and the air stirred a distilled lightening.

'So mote it be.'

They could have been content for a lifetime in this moment, but their bodies were hungry. They had been denied too long the deeper culmination they sought from the very beginning. Their hearts may have been sated but their skin, their blood craved more. Their souls may have been inextricably entwined as rightfully as two souls could ever be, but the flesh needed to be mated and satisfied properly.

When their tongues touched, it began.

Passion came to life, once again. Desire took greedy control and this time, it would not be stopped. Had hours passed? Probably. Had time stilled? Hopefully. Did it matter? Not in the least. Nothing outside their insulated cocoon meant anything of worth. Nothing that wasn't the two of them existed for all they were concerned. Everything but this was meaningless and lost in the sensation of their pleasure and the fulfillment it carried when they were together.

Harry kissed her hard and hungrily. Hermione kissed him back. It was an orgy of mouths, tasting each other as if they were starved. There was no restraint on the way they feasted, nor was there any grace were romance implied. Their mouths moved with limitless carnality. Savage, uncontrolled and still not getting enough.

Hermione was flying. She felt new. She felt whole. She felt love, reciprocated. It was sensational. And this time, she gave herself over to it. Her fingernails dug into his shoulders. He had her on the tips of her toes, rocking against him, grinding herself into his erection and he responded to the provocation of that movement by sliding his hands down to cup her buttocks and press her more insistently against him, fitting himself into the yielding notch between her thighs.

Their mouths clung, breath becoming no more a necessity than thought. When he lifted her off her feet, Hermione moved to wrap her legs around his waist, but felt herself unable to do so by the snug constriction of her robe. That unexpected denial released an outraged cry from her mouth and the sound brought Harry to his quickly fleeing senses.

He struggled away from his over-clouding desire and opened his eyes. He saw Hermione. He saw her face, flushed and beautiful, her lips parted, her eyes closed. He saw the woman he loved and realized he was treating her with no more finesse than an over-eager teenager having sex for the first time. Treating her no more lovingly than he would some other conquest.

The thought stopped him frozen, his self-disgust cooling his ardour. He couldn't do that. Not to her. Especially not to her. He could feel her yielding body against his, ready for the taking and the sweet torment of denying himself to continue was torture. It couldn't be fast with her. It couldn't be like this with her. Their time was to be leisurely and unlimited now. New. Hermione was new to him. This sexual act was new to him. Never before had he made love.

Never before had he made love.

He felt her fingertips stroke his cheek. Her alarm at his abrupt withdrawal faded into concern at the dilemma clouding his expression. Her disorientation from their urgent embrace became a feeling of niggling wariness.

"Harry?" Don't stop, she wanted to say, please don't stop, but held it back. Her heart was still racing from her whirlwind of emotions. The love she discovered made her want more and her body didn't want to be denied again. She could feel the entire length of his body – hard, hot, pulsing – she wanted all of it. Inside her. A part of her. She wanted to climb into his body and become one. To find that perfect clarity - the harmony of need and knowing.

She could feel the urge like a hot lance through her chest, the heat spreading to her stomach, in between her thighs. But the sensation was dulled by the confusion that played in his eyes and she didn't want to start this with doubt. Not his and not her own. Not again. She could still feel his touch on her body, she could taste his tongue in her mouth, but the shadow of uncertainty was enough to put their desire on pause. If only somewhat.

Harry caught her palm that rested on his cheek and carried it to his mouth. He closed his eyes and kissed into it a benediction.

"I love you." His statement was strong and unbreakable. "But I don't want this to be just another…" He stopped, searching for any other word than 'Fuck', but there was really no other way to describe it.

Hermione relieved him of the task, sensing the reason for his apprehension and fighting against it. "It won't be."

Then she hesitated. Would it? How would she know? The most sexual experience she'd ever encountered had all happened to her tonight. But then… this was her and Harry this time. Of course it wouldn't be the same. Harry may be the master of lust, but Hermione was the mistress of love. She held the knowledge deep within her soul, right alongside her recognition of witchcraft. She knew love. How could anything between them be anything but making love? When love was between them, nothing could be wrong. This she knew above all.

And with this knowledge her confidence arose. With the hand he held, she carried it down her body, sweeping past her breasts to the centre of her stomach where the knot of her robe strings rested. Her unhidden love for him gave her the strength she needed to show him she wasn't scared to be naked in front of him, with him. She willingly gave him herself; she'd given him her heart, now she wanted to give him her body.

She held his hand to the knot of her robe, her eyes lingering upon his face, watching as the confusion turned into acknowledgment of this gesture, of this gift, transformed into understanding and gratitude.

"Will you make love to me Harry?" The question was heaven to his ears. How long had he waited for this? Unknowingly, for this.

"I don't want to screw this up Mione. Not now." He stated huskily, his grip becoming firm, his need becoming critical. Reaching that point where, despite everything, despite his reclining fear, his undeterred disbelief, he was claiming her no matter the consequences.

"You can only do that if you deny me now." She answered, her hand falling from his to her side, leaving it up to him to make the final decision. To take that final step. And of course it was easy. It was immutable. Inevitable. Everything, every movement, every motion was leading towards this. All happenstance, all occurrences led them to here – to now. They did not have the option of forsaking it.

It was as easy to accept as it was easy to untie a knot. Insecurities fled as easily as clothing separated. Hermione's robe parted leaving a long sliver of skin revealed from chest to thighs. Harry was immobilized by the sight. Numb through an infusion of unadulterated ecstasy, she offered him beauty, she offered him happiness, she offered him herself and he was humbled by her pure honesty and he could do nothing but receive it with open arms – exploring hands.

The mounds of her breasts were left uncovered but the tips held the silky material away from her body, leaving exposed a line of her cleavage, abdomen and a fine patch of curls in between her thighs that called to him like a homing beacon. He was painfully aroused by the sight, but the insistent urgings were pulled to restraint by his irrevocable need for slowness. This was new for the both of them and he wanted it done right.

He bent his head to the base of her throat and placed a lingering kiss upon it. Hermione's hands grasped his waist, steadying herself to the lull of his motions. His mouth glanced across her collarbone, tracing its way along her shoulder.

"I can't believe how much I love you Hermione Granger." He whispered against her skin, his emotions felt through the heat of his kiss.

She smiled into his hair, her hands pulling him tighter, closer, wanting more. "Show me Harry."

In reply, his nose nudged her robe aside to fall from her left shoulder. It left her breast bare to his scorching gaze. The intensity in his eyes as he looked upon her naked skin had her blood sizzling. He could melt icebergs with that look – with the desire behind it. He stared at her exposed breast with the expression of a man on the verge of agony. The struggle to maintain his caution in this was severe. Never before had he taken the time to truly love his lovers. They were more a fast feast he consumed greedily and, once satiated, could walk away full and content.

His mouth watered at the sight of Hermione's naked body and he simply couldn't deny himself just one little taste. She was a meal to languor over. Not to rush till full but to savour, to devour, to appreciate, to ration. But one little taste couldn't hurt any.

With that logic firmly in place, he bent his head to her straining nipple, licking the tip as if testing, until when satisfied with the sample, his mouth closed over it greedily. She heard herself moan and her hands sought hold in his hair, gripping it tightly, barely able to breathe, shuddering with arousal.

When she thought she couldn't bear the sweet torment any longer, his mouth moved across her chest in search of her other breast and it started all over again. Bliss continued, unrelenting. Harry's hand swept the robe from her shoulder and the liquidity of the silk allowed for the cloth to fall away completely.

Now she was entirely naked, in his arms, with his mouth laving her right nipple. Hermione cried out, a pleading sound, helpless against the reverberations rocking her body and centering itself in the pit of her stomach. She felt a yearning emptiness in her groin, an ache to be filled.

"Harry." She moaned, desperately seeking something, anything more which would stop the ache.

He felt, more than heard her plea and stood straight, before picking her up and carrying her to the bed. Hermione was a quivering heat in his arms, curled into him, wantonly receptive to his maneuvering as he lay her down.

He stood back and stared at her, her eyes half-lidded as she stared back. Her arms were limp at her sides. Her left leg bent as her right lay straight. Everything his eyes glanced upon was pure perfection - her breasts heaving, the moonlight reflecting off them, off the moisture from his mouth, the flat line of her stomach which led to the centre of her thighs – the home of his straining arousal.

He stared at her with such loving scrutiny, she felt seared. The way he was looking at her, she felt beautiful. She felt desirable. She felt loved. She lay there in offering, uninhibited and unashamed. She lay there for him with open eyes and waiting arms, as he looked upon her with open wonder, unrivaled hunger.

But the wait soon became unbearable. She couldn't stand the solitary tension any longer so she sat up in front of him. She wanted Harry as naked as she and she needed to touch him. She placed both hands on his stomach and heard him inhale on a shuddering breath. He was drawn to her like a moth to a flame, close enough that he could feel her hot breath against his navel. She traced the muscles of his chest with her hands, following the hair that trickled down to his stomach parting to rest at his pelvic bone. Then, leaning forward, her lips traveled the same path to the hair just below his bellybutton. She kissed it like she did his mouth. Slowly. Warmly. Wetly.

His rough groan was music to her ears and she felt his hands entangle themselves in her hair. He tasted like salt, like fire, like sweet, sweet sin as she always knew he would. The hair against her tongue was coarse and soft at the same time. She followed that trail until she met the material of his shorts, which was when her hands came back into play, sliding the fabric down his thighs, passed his knees, dropping them to his feet.

And now he was naked.

Wow, seemed too juvenile a word to use at this moment, but it was all her brain could manage. She'd known the textbook version of all there was to know about the male anatomy, but seeing it all, up close and personal, was something else entirely. The textbook version was never accompanied by this overwhelming urge to explore. To admire. To devour. To want so entirely, in all its entirety.

Call it chemistry, call it hormones, call it female instinct, Hermione wanted to take Harry's erection into her mouth. The desire was so strong, so arousing, so carnal in its implications she almost wailed in despair when she was denied the opportunity.

Instead her mouth was filled with Harry's tongue. He attached his mouth to hers like that of a man desperate for air, pushing her back onto the bed in the same movement, so aroused was he by just her stare.

He lay completely over her as they kissed and her body sang at its covering. She could feel every scalding inch of his skin rubbing against hers. His simple masculine strength subdued at its taking as it undulated and slid along her body. The sensation was intoxicating. She was in heaven.

Harry was in hell. The absolute torment in preventing himself from thrusting into her welcoming centre was excruciating. He was shocked when he came so abruptly in the kitchen earlier, but it was once again a true testimony to his strength when she began kissing his stomach. He almost lost his willpower when she stripped him naked. And the look in her eyes, that hungry gaze was almost his undoing.

To think, tumbling her onto the bed was what it took to retrieve his evaporating sanity. He had to concentrate purely on giving her pleasure before he collapsed from the strain of holding himself together. No matter how strong the temptation she was so easily able to provoke with just a look, despite what her kisses were now doing to him. And he had to calm his body's gasping responses to the soft, warm, naked, yielding body under his.

"You're making me crazy." He growled into her neck, taking the flesh between his teeth.

Hermione's hands clawed at his hair, her body bucking beneath his, as if emphasizing her point, pushing him to that edge – her punishment: her breast in his mouth.

"Likewise." She gasped, pushing more against him, wrapping her legs around the backs of his thighs.

"I wanted to do this slowly." He said around her nipple. "But you're making that impossible." He moaned back up to her mouth, kissing her hungrily.

Hermione's hunger was just as blatant. Just as urgent. Just as whole. And just as she sucked at his tongue, she felt Harry's penis rub along her wet centre. The effect was explosive.

She made a wild, keening sound, almost mewling at the near miss which was swallowed by Harry's kiss. It was then, her body demanded one brutal, concrete, conclusion: she wanted him inside her. Her body yearned for that initial penetration that would join them.

She thrust against him once again, seeking that essential entry and the growl from Harry's throat was fierce, almost animalistic in its nature as she stroked her wet heat along his hard length. And, as if he just couldn't help himself, as if he was lost to the sweet calling of Hermione's silken flesh, he began to enter her, slowly.

Hermione stopped breathing, reveling in the new sensation, eagerly anticipating more, and as she watched Harry's expression, she saw his pleasure being quickly replaced by censure. He began to pull away.

"No." Hermione protested sharply. "No Harry." Her legs came up to encircle his thighs, holding him in place, seeking that emphatic release.

He exhaled harshly, his body struggling to a halt, a silent bid for control. The desire to sink himself into her was ambushing all his logic. He made a raw, smothered sound as she pushed herself further against him, further upon him, enveloping him inch by agonizingly sweet inch into her welcoming heat.

"No Mione." He rasped, almost weakly, infinitely desperate. He was swiftly surrendering to her hold, the luring call doing everything in its power to grasp him entirely.

"Yes Harry." Hermione's hands swept down his back, grasping his buttocks. "I want you inside me."

His groan was muffled into the hollow of her neck and he felt her hands clench, as if ready to push. He felt, more than knew, that if he were to sheath himself inside her now, he wouldn't last a second. She was pushing him over the edge with just words, if he were to make them actions, just now; he knew he would be lost.

As it was, he was fighting a losing battle anyway. Nobody should embody this much temptation. It was highly unfair. Him, the lover of many, the one most men envied for his legendary stamina and skill was being challenged and overpowered by a mere nymph. Who knew that love and sex could combine and create his rapid undoing? If she could bring him near climax with soft moans and whispered words, he couldn't foresee a lengthened seduction anywhere in their future.

"I want this to be good for you too." He managed, raising his head to look into her eyes.

She smiled sweetly and lifted one hand to push the hair back from his brow. "Then come inside me."

He never professed to be a saint, nor was he an idiot. Or a complete idiot anyway. And there was no way in hell he could resist her any longer.

His body trembled as he braced himself above her. His forearms framing her head, his hands buried in her hair, his face centimeters above hers. His chest pressed against her breasts, his stomach pressed against hers and between her legs, he lay rigid and impatient, nestled in her warm heat, tasting the sweet penetration, aching for more.

The temptation was more than he could bear and with a deep groan that vibrated along the length of their bodies, magnifying sensation, making her gasp, he combined their bodies with a single thrust into her intimate flesh and a single kiss upon her soft lips.

Being inside her for the very first time would have been pure unadulterated bliss, had it not been for the ultimate, unquestionable knowledge that, up until this very moment, until he'd penetrated her so fully, so surely, she had been a virgin.

He froze in shock above her, completely inside her, speechless.

Hermione's eyes were shut tight to the brief pain and slight discomfort, but she was more concerned by Harry's lack of movement. By the fact he was as still as a rock on top of her. Her eyes blinked open to find his expression masked in something akin to horror.

Should she have warned him? Should he have known? To be honest, she thought he did. Should he be so surprised? Should she be insulted? Pointless questions, now the deed was done, but more importantly, should it be taking this long to continue?

"I didn't know." He uttered softly, his breath wafting warmly against her lips. "Why didn't you tell me?"

How in the hell had she managed to stay a virgin? Absolutely impossible. No, absolutely improbable. It was just wrong that so much wanton, sensual, unbounded beauty hadn't lost its innocence before him. Innocent. She had remained completely innocent. Completely chaste, untouched, until he, like some marauding barbarian had charged upon her with no more grace than a rutting bull.

He knew from the start that he didn't deserve her. And now it was official. He'd ruined her with one thrust. And against all logic, he felt ashamed of his unworthiness. He felt her kiss his lips and he surfaced from his whirlpool of self-hate.

"I wanted exactly this Harry." She soothed him with more kisses, more stroking, beguiling words. She felt his withdrawal emotionally, physically, felt his own self-doubt and protested and fought against it. "I wanted you to be my first. My last. My only."

Then, with feminine wile, instigated through instinct, with physical knowledge she didn't even know she had, her trembling inner muscles convulsed and clenched around his shaft in an inviting, luring request – one last statement to end it all.

"It's always been you Harry."

With that motion, with those words, his desolation was overwhelmed by a primal sense of male triumph. Of feral possession. Of gratitude so bone deep, so claiming he thought he would shatter in its hold. She was his. Hermione was his woman and hadn't, wouldn't belong to any other.

He kissed her with such fierce love; with such masculine pride, it symbolized his staggering joy of ownership. Of partnership. The coarse carnality of his kiss made her want to weep at its power. His tongue thrust deeply, his hold tightened and with expertise through years of practice, practice for this very moment, he began to move inside her.

Moans, sighs, gasps were lifted into the air to create this sanctuary, this euphoric haven, this Garden of Eden, their bodies, their sensations heightened to an ecstasy unknown. The fervency mounted, the devastation swarmed until climax peaked and defeated them.

Bound together with words, now bound by flesh, their union culminated into a magic all its own, it weaved and thread itself through the existence of time, through the forces of the elements, as ancient as knowledge until their love became its own entity – it could never be questioned and their joining would no longer be denied.

And as soft as a breath, with the temperature cooling their bodies, their heartbeats slowing, the darkness creeping in from the sides and blanketing their love with its safety, they rest. Sated. Sleepy. One.