They clung to each other far beyond the time it took to breathe again.

She felt each beat of his heart, each ragged gasp as they returned to themselves. She brushed her lips against the translucent skin of his neck, his pulse quickened; she smiled.

Growling, he brought his mouth to hers, drinking her in like a man long parched.

"Hermione?" She could taste her name on his tongue.


"Just checking."

She tightened her arms around him, shifting to meet his eyes.

"I've wanted you forever." Her whisper hot against the sensitive shell of his ear. "Didn't you know?"


He paused, dark eyes shadowed in the fading light.

"It spilled from you—" His breath hitched, finger tracing the path of an unruly curl.



"Your joy. Anyone who bothered to look could see. It was obvious." The edge of his voice cut through the darkness. "And I hated him. I hated whoever he was—the man you loved."

His hand clenched around the tangles and she whimpered at the force of his longing and his rage. Before the sound of her protest could gain shape, she felt him respond, sweet and low in the heavy air.



"When we'd work late at night, you'd become so absorbed in your research." His hand found its way absently into the bramble of ringlets at the nape of her neck. "I would watch you concentrating." His face softened, remembering. "I could see that you had forgotten where you were."

She felt his lip quirk ever so slightly, close to hers in the half-light.

"When you would look up and see me there, your face would..." He swallowed thickly. "...light up."

Tears burned her eyes for the man—

the boy...

the child...

--whose heart had seldom known such honest welcome.


"Your eyes shone." He brought his lips to the delicate skin of her temple. "And in those moments I pretended that your smiles were meant for me."

The tears in her eyes spilled onto her cheeks. She leaned greedily into his touch.

"You were especially harsh on nights like those." Her lips found the hand that had been lost in the tangles.

"It's a particular talent I have." He ran his fingertip along her full lips and she shivered. "To cut deeply enough to ensure that those who pity me or would try to save me will try only once."


Her voice was low, but its power was unmistakable.

"I'm not here to save you." She raked her hands through his hair and she pressed her mouth against the exposed skin of his neck. "And I certainly do not pity you."

His eyes fell shut as her tongue scraped his skin, and his deep moan filled the room.

"I know." His voice rasped as her lips and tongue moved along the line of his jaw. "It made you far harder to dismiss."

In the darkening room, she claimed him. Legs intertwined, she lay atop him, wrapped in his heat.