(A/N: This is the final chapter of Alex's little Christmas tale! This is also where the adult content comes into play, so consider yourself warned. Also, I'm going to repeat what I wrote in my author's note at the very beginning of the story, because judging by some of the reviews I've gotten there has been some confusion as to the "pairing" of this fic. As I stated explicitly at the very beginning of chapter one, this is a threesome fic. Hermione ends up with Harry and Ron. Let me repeat that once more for the record: Harry AND Ron. I feel the need to make this crystal clear, because it is unconventional to say the least and will probably squick some people out. If you don't want to read about M-rated Golden Trio three-way smut, then please hit the back button now. If you read it and then flame me about it I will conclude that you are one of those people who can never be bothered to read author's notes, which will cause me to roll my eyes and mutter "moron" under my breath. Okay, now that that's out of the way, please enjoy the conclusion of the fic :-)
She was jolted back to something resembling awareness, still clasped to Harry's chest, by the sound of screaming. Shrill, feminine, utterly infuriated screaming.
They were in the foyer just outside the event room where the party was still in full swing, and Lavender had blocked their path to the exit, and the Apparition Point. She was laying into Ron something fierce, too, punctuating her outraged shrieks with frequent hard shoves to his chest.
" – can't possibly mean to tell me that you're going in for this complete and utter bollocks, Ron, can you?!? How stupid are you?? I can't believe you're falling for this! She's doing it all for attention, it's all a bloody act, she admitted it to me while you were getting the drinks!" (You liar, Hermione thought fuzzily, you dirty little liar!) "She's been trying to get you away from me for years, and I won't have it, Ronald Weasley, do you hear me?!? Pretending to be drunk, indeed, just so she can get you to take care of her, and you're actually buying it! Well, let Harry take the little bint home, then. You came here with me and you are not bloody well leaving here without me!"
A crowd was gathering now; people drawn by Lavender's wild shouts.
"Lavender." Ron's voice was quiet, but hard as steel. It cut through her tirade like a knife. "Get. Out. Of my way. Now."
"I – said – NO!"
Calmly and silently, Ron stepped around her.
And then Lavender really hit the roof.
This time her target was Hermione.
"That little bitch is faking it, I know it! Look, I'll prove it to you –" She made a lunge toward Harry, but Ron was there instantly, barring her way.
"Don't you touch her, Lavender. Don't you dare. She's been through enough. Harry – take her and go. Get her some help. I'll deal with this."
"You will not take her part against me!" Lavender shrieked. "And you will not leave me for that bucktoothed little twat, Ron, you will not!" Hermione heard her hand impact with Ron's cheek, hard.
Oh, no. Oh, no bloody way. Rallying her own strength as best she could, she tried to wrench herself out of Harry's arms; Lavender had gone too far this time. Slapping Ron – her Ron – this would not stand.
Harry was taken so much by surprise that he nearly dropped her; he went down to one knee with her, in an effort to steady them both. Moving so suddenly had been a mistake, she soon realized; a new and powerful wave of nausea, vertigo and illness swept violently over her.
"Oh, God… Harry…" she choked out sickly, "ugh… I don't…"
Ron was talking, his voice, echoing down now, from above her. " – sake, Lavender, as if you wouldn't just have left me next week. I'm sick of it, all right? I've put up with your nonsense for a long time because, might as well come out with it, you're an absolutely fantastic shag. But I'm done. I don't care for you and you sure as hell don't give a damn about me, not really. And in the end, Hermione is… well, Hermione is my life. I knew that once. I don't know when I forgot. But I've remembered it now and I'm not going to forget again. Ever. So sod. The hell. Off."
Hermione, woozy as she was, wanted to cheer; to jump up and throw her arms around him and kiss him.
What she did instead was throw up. Spectacularly.
Distantly, she felt Harry's worry crescendo; heard him shouting in a voice cracked with panic, "Are there any Healers here!? For God's sake, will someone check – see if Neville's still here! We need help! NOW!"
His hands, those large, warm, strong hands that she loved so well, that she trusted with her life, were steadying and soothing her as best they could. Ron was there too, a heartbeat later, Lavender having stormed off in a fit of tears and rage. And then she heard Neville shoving his way through the crowd, shouting, with an authority undreamed of in his Hogwarts years, that he was a Healer; goddamn it, let him through.
Really, though, in the midst of all this chaos, she was actually starting to feel a little better. Her body had, after all, just managed to rid itself of whatever toxin that bastard Malfoy had subjected it to – and quite effectively at that, thank you very much.
She was only sorry that she was about to worry her boys even more than they already were. She could feel the unconsciousness tugging at her with increasing strength and insistence every second. She wasn't afraid of it for herself; in fact she knew, on a very deep level and with absolute certainty, that it was exactly what her body needed at the moment – the opportunity to rest from its ordeal; to heal itself. Yet she fought it tooth and nail, because Harry had begged her to stay awake with such naked fear in his voice and his mind.
They would be beside themselves when she succumbed; that was why she held out for as long as could – as long as she did. When she understood that she could fight it no longer, she made a last, mighty effort to rally herself, if only for a moment. Forcing her eyes back into focus, she found that she'd been eased onto her back on the floor, Harry and Ron and now Neville bent close over her. Ron and Harry were paper-white; stunned-looking.
God, she was so weak. Not in any pain or even distress, not anymore, but there was barely an ounce of strength left in her. Nonetheless, she managed to raise a shaking hand to cup first Ron's cheek, and then, a second later, Harry's. Harry covered her hand with his own, holding it to him. It was to Harry that she spoke.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, barely audible, trying for all she was worth to convey this sentiment to him – to both of them – through their link as well. She had no idea whether she was succeeding or not. She wasn't going to waste her strength attempting to check. Her eyes were already dragging themselves stubbornly, inexorably closed. "Harry, I tried. I'm suh… suh…"
And that was all she could do. The last thing she registered was Harry's voice shouting, "Hermione, don't! Don't!"
But she was falling into darkness.
She knew no more.
Returning to consciousness was a slow thing, like swimming up through murky waters toward a distant light above. She was in her own bed – she realized that before she even opened her eyes. She knew the feel of it; the decadent softness of the featherbed that topped her mattress; the flannel sheets (periwinkle blue with a white snowflake print in honor of the season) against her skin, the cloudlike warmth of her fluffy down comforter. What was unfamiliar was the solid warmth pressing in on her from both sides. She couldn't quite figure out what that was. It was wonderful, though, whatever it was. She felt so warm, so protected, so… safe.
She stretched a little, gave a muffled "uhhmmm" of a yawn, and forced open one reluctant eyelid, and then the other. Her nightlight was lit, and the first faint streaks of grey dawn were illuminating, ever so faintly, the sheer curtains at her windows. Odd… she didn't even remember getting herself home last night, much less turning on her nightlight and climbing into bed. And what were these warm weights on either side of her, pinning her snug in the center of the bed?
Then it all came crashing back, powerfully enough to make tears start in her eyes.
Oh, Merlin. Oh, shit. Oh, damn.
Her absolute horror was mitigated by the realization, which came at exactly the same time, that it was Ron and Harry, asleep on either side of her, that were giving her that sense of warmth and security. Ron's arm was flung over her stomach – take that, Lavender Brown, she couldn't help but think.
But Merlin – what were they doing?
She'd made such a bloody, complete and utter fool of herself – she didn't even deserve this sort of attention. She didn't deserve them – either of them.
And yet, here they were. She wished suddenly, fervently, that this moment could last for the rest of her life. Forever, and beyond.
Then Harry stirred, opened those amazing, jade-colored eyes of his. Locked gazes with her – smiled. His relief – and more – his… love?... washed over her. He reached right past her to give Ron a light shake.
"Ron – hey, mate – she's awake."
"Mmh." Ron's arm on her middle tightened for a moment, with unmistakable possessiveness. Then his eyes, too, opened – that deep, cobalt blue; almost black. Like Harry, he sought her eyes; smiled sleepily.
"Thank God," he said, his voice little more than a sleep-husky croak. "Hermione, thank God." He reached up to smooth a stray curl from her forehead. "Don't you ever do that again. You don't – you can't know…"
"I'm sorry," she whispered. It was the thought she'd been unable to finish putting into words before passing out the night before. "Merlin, I was so… so stupid…"
"Don't." It was Harry this time. "Don't say that, love." She angled her head back toward him; shifted the smallest bit so that she could reach out, brush his hair back as Ron had done for her. "Don't even think it. You're… shit, Hermione, you're bloody… perfect." He nearly choked on the last word and what she did next was done purely on impulse, without an ounce of forethought or rationalization. She tangled her hand – the one that was already resting against his temple – gently in his hair, pulled him to her, and kissed him full on the lips.
For a moment he was too surprised to react at all… but when he did, it was with characteristic, incredible intensity. Both of his arms were around her suddenly, so quickly and completely that she had no real consciousness of his having moved at all, and he was holding her to him so hard, it was almost as if he were trying to meld her body to his own. He kissed her back deeply, with what seemed to be – with what was, she realized dimly, and with some incredulity, even now – years of pent-up passion.
And all his love, and all his longing – they crashed over her in a tidal wave that left her shaking in its aftermath, putty in his hands. The kiss must have lasted for a full minute at least, and when it ended, when they were forced to come up for air, he wound a hand through her curls and held her head against his shoulder, his other arm wrapped around her waist so hard that she could barely regain her breath.
She might have let him hold her like that forever, too, had not she felt the bed on the other side of her shift then – Ron was getting to his feet. And losing his warm, solid presence on the other side of her – it felt like having half of her heart ripped away.
"Ron – wait," she managed, disengaging from Harry and sitting up in the middle of the bed, the mounds of covers pooling around her waist. (She was wearing, she realized, a very old, and very soft, Gryffindor Quidditch jersey – one of them must have grabbed it for her when they'd got in last night. But who had put her in it??) Ron stopped halfway to the door, but didn't turn back. His head was bowed, his fists clenched, his entire posture a study in suppressed anguish. His voice, when he spoke, was ragged.
"Hermione… don't make me watch that. I can't. Not now." He raised one hand and unclenched it long enough to rake his fingers through his copper-colored hair in an abrupt, distracted, completely miserable gesture. "I just… I almost thought that… you have to give me a little time, all right? I can't… deal with this right now. I just can't."
"No," she choked out, frantic, suddenly, that he didn't walk out; that she didn't lose him. It was all becoming clear now, crystal clear at last – it wasn't Harry that she wanted… nor was it Ron. She didn't want either one of them – not alone. She wanted them both. And she always had, she realized then, in a flash of perfect, pure understanding. Merlin help her, she always had.
"No Ron, don't go. Please don't go. I couldn't bear it, I don't… I don't know how to…" How could she put what she felt into words? She couldn't, she realized. She couldn't make them understand what she felt, wanted, needed – not verbally. Words were puny, insignificant in the face of emotions this powerful. And so she projected it instead.
Ron turned slowly, shock and uncertainty and hope battling on his face. "Merlin, Hermione," he said hoarsely, "are you serious?"
"Yes," she choked out. "I can't… be whole… be me… without you. Both of you. Oh, God. What must you think of me for that? I'm so sorry. But I can't fight it anymore. Please, please don't hate me for this. I couldn't stand it."
He stood there a moment longer, then crossed back over to her, movingly slowly, dazedly, almost like a sleepwalker. She realized dimly that Harry had a sat up beside her, keeping his arm wrapped snugly about her waist; a simple, non-verbal show of support, she realized distantly; support and unconditional love. Harry was with her. Harry understood. But did Ron?
He sank down, sideways, on the edge of the bed, his cobalt eyes fixed on her dark ones for a long, long time. Then, just as he had at the party, he reached out and caressed her cheek, wiping away tears that she hadn't known were there. "Shit, Hermione, don't do that," he said. "It kills me when you cry. It kills me. I love… love you… so bloody much… I…"
"Shh," she whispered. "It's okay, Ron. It's okay, love. Shhhh."
His hand slid from her tear-stained cheek, pushing back through her sleep-tousled hair, coming to rest against the back of her head, fingers splayed through her thick, dark curls. And then, just as she had done to Harry a moment ago, he pulled her in for a kiss.
It was every bit as heady and intense and mind-blowing as her kiss with Harry had been. Her arms came up of their own volition, winding around him, pulling him closer, closer; deeper into the kiss.
And then they were falling together, back against the pillows. Without pausing to break the kiss with Ron or even bothering to open her eyes, Hermione reached up, found Harry unerringly, settled her hand on the back of his neck and pulled him down too. He stretched out beside her, opposite Ron. This time it was his hand that settled on her stomach, but not for long; he slid it across to her hip, then slowly up the side of her body, following her curves, bunching the soft red-and-gold fabric of the shirt as he went, pushing it gradually, tantalizingly up.
She tore her lips away from Ron's to groan out a shuddery "ohhh," as Harry's hand grazed, just barely, the side of her breast… then dragged across it to the other one, brushing lightly against her nipples, underneath the shirt. She gasped and arched, hand clenching in Ron's hair – no one had ever touched her like this before. It wasn't that she was a virgin – she was not – but the loss of her virginity was something she would rather have forgotten. It had happened years ago, with Viktor Krum, when she'd accepted his invitation to holiday for a week in Romania. Her first experience, the one she'd been meant to cherish for a lifetime, had been awkward, silent, and abortively quick; it had all been over before she'd had time to do much more than gasp and stiffen with the pain of his intrusion – leaving her sore and sticky and weeping bitterly with acute disappointment… and a sudden, gut-wrenching sense of guilt. She hadn't even been able to put her finger, at the time, on exactly what it was she'd felt so guilty about, but now, at last, she understood perfectly. It was because she was Ron and Harry's girl. She always had been. Always.
Krum had been, not surprisingly, somewhat disgruntled by her reaction – he'd left the room, and a few hours later she'd left the country. They hadn't seen each other again. And she had never been intimate with another man since. It had never seemed right. And now she knew why.
God, if Malfoy had had his way it would have torn her to pieces; destroyed her. But he hadn't. Thank Merlin, he hadn't. Thank Merlin – and Ron and Harry too. They'd been there for her. They were always there for her… as long as she allowed them to be. And she loved them for it; she loved them so damn much it hurt.
Harry moved his hand up to her face now, catching it and turning her toward him. "Hermione, are you sure…?"
"More sure than I've been… in a long time," she replied, between breaths that were rapidly piling up. An instant later, though, her brow furrowed. "But you guys… are you… you're both… all right with this?"
They didn't answer her – not in words, at any rate. Nevertheless, it was quite clear where they both stood on the matter. Harry leaned down, then, dropping a kiss on her forehead; the tip of her nose; and then claiming her lips once more. He gave her cheek a final caress, then let his hand skim down her throat, over her collarbone, her breast, her ribs, the indent of her navel, to rest once again on her hip, where it had started. Slowly, with a gentleness that was almost reverence, he dragged it from there to the apex of her thighs, nudged them just slightly apart, and began rubbing her in tiny, hot circles through her knickers. She arched up with a ragged little cry of surprised pleasure – she'd heard things, of course, and read things, but her personal experience had given her no idea of the absolute wonders of foreplay. God, this was… oh… oh… it was almost too intense; too good to be borne. She tried to close her legs again, but Harry was having none of it. He hooked his own leg over the nearer of hers, parting them decisively – but not until after he'd peeled off her knickers entirely, resuming what he'd been doing, directly on her skin this time.
Ron, meanwhile, had found the little hollow at the base of her throat, right where it joined with her shoulder, and was sucking gently at the tender skin there. As her breaths piled up with Harry's ministrations, he added fuel to the fire by rucking up the jersey she was still – sort of – wearing the final few inches required to expose her breasts, and cupping first, one, then the other, in a large, warm, slightly calloused hand, plucking and teasing her nipples without mercy. She was nearly sobbing from sensation as he dragged his mouth slowly up her throat to her jaw, then her lips, then her ear, whispering hoarsely, "God, Hermione, you're so… so beautiful, you don't know – you can't know – how much I've wanted this…"
Then she tried to bolt right off the bed with the realization that Harry had slid further down her body and was now grasping both of her thighs and pressing them apart as he… as he… Merlin… he wasn't… going to kiss her there…? Surely not. And yet… and yet…
"Oh Harry, no," she gasped frantically, blushing absolutely scarlet – he couldn't do that, it was absolutely wanton, how could she allow it? – "no, you… oh Harry, please… nuh…uhh…ohhhhhhhhh…" Her protests died away – seconds later she had a hand fisted in Harry's dark hair, holding him hard against her, rocking her hips in shameless rhythm. She'd never known anything could feel this good… Merlin help her, she hadn't known.
Ron was watching her closely through this, his cobalt eyes, dark with lust, riveted on her face. "Holy fuck, you're amazing," he breathed, as she tossed her head restlessly, almost crying from the intensity of the things Harry was doing to her. He caught her face in both his hands, caressing her cheek, dropping a kiss on her temple. He rubbed his thumb over the curve of her lips and, hardly aware of what she was doing, she sucked it into her mouth. He hissed in a harsh, almost pained breath, shuddering down the entire length of his body.
She could feel something building now, something ten times more powerful than that puny, guilt-ridden orgasm she'd brought herself to all that time ago – a lifetime ago, it seemed, when Ron had been with Lavender in the room next door.
It was mounting deep in the core of her, and sweet Merlin, sweet God, it was going to blow her away, because she wasn't fighting it or second-guessing it any longer… she was exactly where she belonged, with exactly the people she belonged with. Belonged to. Her soulmates, both of them. This was right. It was right, it was right, it was… oh, God, so good…
"Oh Harry," she almost sobbed, "oh please don't stop… I… I'm gonna…"
And then he pulled away.
"Nooo," she nearly wailed, her eyes, which had drifted shut a moment ago, flying open to lock, pleadingly, on his.
Harry only grinned at her. "You didn't think you were getting off that easy, did you?" he asked, as he stretched languidly out beside her once more, plunging a hand into her thick, dark hair, which was fanned out on the pillow; pausing to drop a kiss on her nearer shoulder.
And then he stopped short, arrested by something he'd just noticed. With his fingertips he traced a spot on her shoulder that made her do a hitching little double-gasp of surprised pain – it was, she saw, glancing down, an angry, discolored little spot; bruised and slightly puffy. It was where Malfoy had bitten down.
She felt the surge of his white-hot fury before he even spoke. "That bastard," he choked out, "I should have bloody well killed him – cowardly… little… fuck –"
"It's all right, Harry," she whispered, actually smiling a little at the intensity, the depth of his protectiveness and outrage and love. "It's okay. I'm okay. I'm right here and… and actually, Malfoy really helped us all to reach this place, didn't he? We should send him a thank-you note… in Azkaban."
Harry actually laughed a little. "God, I love you," he murmured then. "I have for so long."
"C'mere, love," she breathed, and pulled him into a deep, hot kiss. She was so wrapped up in it that she barely registered Ron kneeling up; taking position between her legs; pulling her hips up until they rested on his thighs, angling her body upward – ideal for penetration. She didn't realize what was happening until she felt him align himself with her.
"Oh," she gasped, fingers tightening suddenly, spasmodically, on Harry's arms. "Oh, God… Ron… Harry…"
"Look at me," he said, green eyes boring into hers. "Look at me, sweetheart, I want to see this."
Staring up at him, she swallowed hard and gripped him harder; she was more aroused than she'd ever been in her life, but a little bit nervous nevertheless – her first and only prior experience had been anything but pleasant. But this was Ron and Harry… her Ron; her Harry. They knew her better than she knew herself; they would make it good for her.
This would be better, of course it would. Worlds better. It had to be. It had to be.
And then Ron was inside of her and her whole body was arching up toward the ceiling and all thought fled as the world exploded in light.
"How did we get back here anyway?" she asked sleepily, stretching languorously and loving, loving, loving the way both of them tightened their arms around her at once – Harry from her left side, Ron from her right. Faint dawn light had turned to early morning brilliance, and then to late morning warmth, and now, finally, to the subdued tones of the afternoon, approaching evening… and through it all, they had not left this room, this bed.
Merlin, she'd come half a dozen times if she'd come at all. It was as if a dam had burst within all three of them – years of pent-up longing and passion, all surfacing at once.
It had been… intense.
It was Harry who answered her question, in a gravelly voice as drowsy as her own. "We brought you straight home – Neville said you were out of danger, since you'd managed to… um, expel… just about the entire dose of whatever that filthy bastard Malfoy gave you."
Ron, on the other side of her, grinned – she could feel him do it, since his face was pressed into her shoulder.
'That was bloody brilliant," he interjected, his lips moving against her skin as he spoke. "You got Lavender's shoes full-on – the hem of her gown, too. And that was a hundred galleon gown. I should know; she made me buy it."
"Oh," Hermione couldn't help snorting in a mixture of surprise, amusement and disgust, "God, yuck!"
"Yeah, that's about what she said," Harry put in. "Well… hers was a bit spicier."
Hermione was silent for a heartbeat, absorbing this – and then she laughed. Laughed outright, and hard, in a way that she hadn't for a long time. Maybe not since school.
It felt unbelievably good. All the tension that she could see now, in retrospect, had been mounting between the three of them for a long time, had melted away. Things could return to being as easy and natural as they had ever been – with the single, notable addition of absolutely mind-blowing sex.
It was just – about – perfect.
Only one thing still troubled her.
"What are we going to say to people? How will we explain this? They'll never understand."
"The ones who matter will," Harry said quietly. "The ones who matter will understand because they love us and want to see what's best for us. And this is – obviously – how we were always meant to be. I can't believe we fought it for so long."
"And as for the ones that don't matter," Ron added sleepily, "bugger 'em – they don't matter!"
Then she was laughing again.
"God, I love your laugh," Harry murmured; "I've missed it lately." He drew one hand lazily up her body – giving her a bad case of goose-bumps and causing her to suck in a deep, shaky breath, a tingly new wave of desire suddenly overtaking her – and cupped her chin, turning her face toward his. She smiled as he traced her lips with his thumb.
"I've missed it too," she replied truthfully. "And yet –" she tangled a hand in his hair, pulling him down until they were almost – but not quite – kissing – "I can think – " her other hand found the back of Ron's head as he, apparently thinking along the exact same lines as she was, kissed his way slowly from her shoulder to her breast and pulled her quickly hardening nipple into his mouth, wrenching a little moan of pleasure from her – "of one or two – " Harry's hand was trailing down her body now, finding that most intimate of all places; she was so sensitive there already, after the marathon lovemaking of the last few hours, that she jerked nearly a foot off the bed – "other things I'd rather be doing –" and now her lips were actually moving against his, and God, it was sensual, and oh so perfectly right – "with my mouth."
She felt Harry's lips curve into a smile, just before they claimed her own; her mouth parting to receive him.
Outside her window, the sun was setting. It was going to be a good night.