AN: this is yet another holiday fest entry. the master list was revealed today so now I can share it with you! :]

AN2: warning: extremely naughty

AN3: thank you [again] to L for beng an amazing last minute beta. I own nada. please review!


Can you see me up here,

Would you bring me back down,
cause I've been living to see my fears as they fall to the ground
I remind myself of somebody else,
feeling like I'm chasing,

like I'm facing myself alone.

Lifehouse – Somebody Else's Song

The rain was coming down in heavy sheets. Harry could hear the sound of the droplets hitting monotonously against the windowpane in steady succession. He lay in bed with the covers tucked beneath his chin, eyes were screwed tightly shut, but he was still very much awake. Sleep, as usual, was not coming easily.

Harry had always imagined a post-Voldemort world in a very different way than how things had actually transpired. In reality, not much had changed. Everyone seemed to be going about their business as though nothing had ever happened. Even the memories of those who had lost their lives during the Second War seemed to have faded into the background. On the surface, the Wizarding world was no more or less carefree than they had appeared to be a year ago.

Harry had anticipated an existence of normality - free from nightmares and unwanted responsibility. Instead, he'd been awarded a hollow emptiness that was proving to be much worse than the sleepless nights marked by a stinging scar and constant fear. His purpose had been extinguished and even though he was still very much a celebrity, his large following had drastically dwindled. No longer did the Wizarding masses cling to him for hope. No longer was he praised for accepting a responsibility no others could or would. He had never particularly enjoyed being treated as special, but it was something he'd grown accustomed to. He found himself floundering, now that the spotlight had been turned off and his free time had been maximized. Nothing held his interest and nothing seemed worthwhile. Having fulfilled so much at such a young age, he was finding it difficult to give his life a future of purpose. These were dark, unhealthy thoughts and Harry saved them for nights when no amount of eye scrunching would bring actual sleep.

Unfortunately, this was occurring more often than not. He was angry for having been so naive. His life had been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride since the very first night Hagrid appeared and revealed the existence of magic. Why he had expected everything to fall perfectly together once his life was no longer in danger was beyond him. Slowly, Harry felt himself sinking into depression.

With a grunt of exasperation, he sat up from his laying position in bed, throwing the covers off in the process. The smooth wooden floor of the Gryffindor dormitory felt cold against his bare feet as he stood. He glanced around at the gold and scarlet draped beds that created a semi-circle around the edge of the room. They were all empty and neatly made, save for the one he'd been laying in. It was still an unnerving sight, even after three weeks of being the room's only occupant.

After the war had ended, Hogwarts had closed for obvious reasons. The students had all been sent home and even many of the teachers who normally lived in the castle year-round had taken residence elsewhere. Ron, Ginny and George had returned to the Burrow, still struggling with the loss of a Weasley. Neville had gone back to his Gran's, who had welcomed him with open arms for a change. Last Harry had heard, Luna and her father had left the country for a much needed holiday and Snarffle expedition. Even Hermione, after much reassurance and pushing on his part, had gone to find her parents and bring them back to Britain, complete with memory charm reversal. Everyone had somewhere to go and someone waiting for them. Everyone…except Harry. It was funny how the most famous wizard of the century could be so utterly alone, but here he was. Secretly, it tore him up to watch his friends go their separate ways, some more than others. Actually, if he let himself admit it, one more than all the others.

McGonagall and a handful of other brave professors had stayed at the castle to discuss the future of Hogwarts and clean up the aftermath of the war as best they could. Of course, all of Harry's friends had insisted he come home with one of them, but McGonagall had sensed his apprehension. She extended him an open invitation to remain at Hogwarts until he could get his feet back under him and decide on some direction. He had been extremely grateful, and even though she'd insisted he take a prefect suite, he'd assured her he would be much more comfortable in the bed he'd occupied his entire time at school…although, he honestly had not anticipated just how empty Gryffindor tower would be.

Tossing these thoughts aside, he padded down the spiral staircase to the common room. There was an eerie light emanating from the fireplace, where the last embers of the fire Harry had lit hours earlier glowed red. He thought of lighting another, but the idea was quickly dismissed as physical exhaustion pulled him down onto the overstuffed common room sofa. He watched the embers slowly turn to ash, and the memory of his secret conversations with Sirius washed a wave of sadness over him. His thoughts then turned to Grimmauld Place, where he'd assumed he'd return after Voldemort's fall, but had found himself unable to. No matter how much time passed or what any legal documents said, 12 Grimmauld Place would always belong to Sirius, and Harry found it far too painful to even consider living there. Moving back in with the Dursleys wasn't even worth consideration. Harry would have rather been a casualty of the war than return to Privet Drive. He knew he couldn't live at Hogwarts forever, but for the time being he simply had nowhere else to go.

This was not to say there was no place he wanted to go. In fact, there was a very specific place he longed for; a place his heart positively ached for. This newly discovered desire that had accosted him on his very first night alone in Gryffindor tower had stayed with him, growing more and more intense every miserable, lonely moment he stayed on the Hogwarts grounds. It was continuously building, this yearning, slipping subconsciously into his mind any time he let his guard down. Tonight, however, as he sat slouched on the sofa in the Gryffindor common room, everything suddenly became too painful and overwhelming, and his pining for a certain friend refused to be ignored. Exasperated and desperate, but mostly because he was exhausted and not in a sane frame of mind, Harry closed his eyes and let a familiar tugging sensation pull his body through space.


Hermione sat quietly in the sitting room of her home in Britain. After almost two full hours of explanation and more patience than she'd thought physically possible, her parents were finally coming to terms with the story she had just shared with them. Jean and Thomas Granger had never been afraid of their daughter, even given her special powers, but the simplicity with which she described altering their memories had been a bit unnerving, even if she had done it to protect them. The Grangers, who considered themselves very open minded, were also struggling to absorb their daughter's recollection of the past three years complete with words like "war", "dark lord" and, perhaps most unsettling, "death". The entire ordeal had left the three of them exhausted, and after Hermione had entertained a few more of her parents' questions, she'd excused herself from the sitting room. As she climbed the stairs to her bedroom on the second floor, she couldn't help but feel a bit melancholy. For so long, she had thrived on knowledge and adrenaline, but now, that had all ended. Of course she was happy they had finally been able to defeat the Dark Lord once and for all, but something about the bond she'd shared with her male Gryffindor counterparts had immediately crumbled. With imminent danger eliminated their importance in each other's lives had paled, or at least that was how it felt. Hermione knew such a thought was foolish, but with Ron grieving at the Burrow and Harry holed up at Hogwarts, she almost selfishly wished they were still on the run. At least then they would still be together.

Deep in thought, she tugged her shirt off over her head, undid her bra and slid it off her arms, then tossed both into the direction of her laundry bin. Pulling off her jeans and knickers, she wondered just how much of their friendship had been fueled by need rather than choice. The relationship between the much-hailed trio had certainly proved invaluable to the entire Wizarding world in more ways than most could fathom, but after the glory faded, what would be left holding them together? Hermione snorted as she pulled open her top dresser drawer and selected a far-too-large Puddlemere United t-shirt. She pulled it over her head and sighed. Glory was a far cry from what she and her friends had acquired. While the entire Wizarding community returned to their routine, her small group of close friends had been totally up ended and left floating in the wake of the war. Hermione crawled into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. Slowly, her mind began to relax and she became aware of the light pitter-patter of rain against the roof. She had to admit it was nice to finally be home.

The mention of the word "home", while only in her head, was enough to push her thoughts in a direction she had been unconsciously avoiding. Harry. Harry had always been the selfless hero. He'd always stayed just slightly behind or a half a step ahead of his friends, depending on the situation, in an effort to protect them.

No matter how close one thought they were to the infamous Harry Potter, there was always some indescribable amount of distance. Hermione frowned. She couldn't blame him, really. So many of the people he cared for had died, so he certainly had reason to be wary of closeness. Regardless, she had been upset with his decision to stay alone at Hogwarts. He had been offered multiple arrangements, all of which he had politely declined. She herself had even asked him to tag along as she retrieved and righted her parents, which she now admitted wasn't only for his benefit. The truth was, she missed him – just as any real friend should. The fact that she constantly felt required to qualify her feelings for him was something best left ignored.

Of course, her heart also broke for Ron and his entire family, which over the years had really become an extension of her own. Fred's death had been a huge blow and Hermione knew it would be a very long time before the Weasleys could move forward with their lives. It made her angry that a world with so much magic could do nothing in the face of mortality.

So much time separated the present from that fateful afternoon almost eight years ago on the Hogwarts Express. She never could have imagined the kind of adventure her life would become; discovering the actual existence of magic had been surreal enough. But, the journey she had embarked on at the tender age of twelve had drawn to a close. And now, as she laid in the warm comfort of her childhood bedroom, she wondered what this all meant.

Her friends were now spread out across Britain with no concrete reunion in sight. The future of Hogwarts was unknown and the amount of damage was insurmountable. The repercussions of the war on those closest to her were only just beginning to become apparent. There were hundreds of questions to be asked, but those with answers were just too exhausted to supply them. And then there was the ever present question of – "what now"?

The uncertainty of the future was unsettling. Hermione knew that she would have to make important decisions very soon that would set the direction for the rest of her life. If Hogwarts reopened, would she return to complete her final year properly? Would she surpass her chance at an education and opt for a job within the Ministry instead? Would she open a small bookstore in Diagon Alley and keep to herself, now that her life had slowed to a normal pace? The truth was, she didn't know. Although she'd never said it out loud, she hadn't fully expected to come out of the war alive. Her future was uncertain, because she'd simply never wasted time really relying on having one. The past two years had been especially rough and mentally taxing. Mostly, she was just thankful to have survived at the end of the day.

But that was over. All of them – Harry, Ron, Luna, Ginny, Neville and herself – had made it, somehow. The entire Wizarding world had watched, breath held, as six children risked their necks to save everything they knew and loved. And then, as soon as the threat had been eliminated, everyone had gone back to their own lives, leaving the six young adults to find their own way.

With a quick hand gesture, Hermione turned off the bedroom lights, cloaking the room in darkness. As she stared up at the ceiling waiting for her eyes to adjust, her thoughts traveled again to Harry. She wondered if he was asleep, warm and safe in a bed at Hogwarts. Experience told her most likely not, but she still hoped some amount of solace had found him. He certainly deserved it. He deserved the world for what he'd accomplished. He deserved the sun, and the moon, and the stars for his sacrifices. He deserved a life of happiness, filled with love and laughter, and as Hermione slowly drifted to sleep, she wondered where and even if she would fit into Harry's new life.


In the fuzzy suspension between awake and sleep, Hermione's subconscious drifted to more explicit thoughts of Harry. So, when the crack of an Apparition jolted her upright, only one name came to her lips.

"Harry?" Hermione croaked, her voice thick with sleep. She rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands and squinted into the darkness. A crack of lightning lit the room and the unmistakable outline of her oldest friend flashed into visibility. Genuinely surprised by her accuracy, a small gasp escaped from between her lips.

"Harry! What are you doing here? How did you…?" Hermione tossed the covers back and slid to the edge of the bed, willing her eyes to adjust faster to the lack of light.

"All the Hogwarts wards are still down. I didn't know where else to go," Harry said slowly, his voice low and grainy, barely audible over the pitter-patter of rain against the window and roof.

Hermione nodded wordlessly, feeling her heart begin to slam violently against her chest. Something was obviously wrong. Something was so wrong, in fact, that Harry had Apparated into her room unannounced in the middle of the night. The thought filled her with fear and anticipation and an odd sense of excitement. Silence echoed in the room as the two long time friends stared at each other, separated only by a small stretch of lavender carpet. After a long minute, Harry dropped his head and sighed, running his fingers through his mess of black hair in the process. Hermione watched quietly, afraid to blink and miss even the slightest of his movements.

"That's not true," he admitted softly, keeping his chin against his chest in a display of defeat.

Hermione swallowed hard, still struggling with the shock of Harry appearing in her bedroom. She could tell he was dangerously fragile. She knew she would need to proceed carefully or his guard would go up. There were few times she could remember seeing Harry look so weak and the shell of the usually confident, strong-willed hero unnerved her. Still, something desperately hopeful tugged at the back of her brain, pushing her forward and forcing out words before she had even a half of a second to decide otherwise.

"What's not true?"

Harry's head snapped up and for one, terrifying moment she thought he was going to yell at her. But, the fear immediately vanished as another crack of lightning illuminated the room, casting Harry in a bright, white glow just barely long enough for her to catch the shimmer of wetness pooling in his eyes. Instinctively, her body rose from the bed. She was struck with the strong urge to touch him, to hold him in her arms and run her fingers gently across his chest, but she made no movement towards him.

"I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I came here because I wanted to be here, not as some last resort." His voice was low and Hermione had to lean forward to hear him. Her lungs burned and she realized, for some time now, she'd been holding her breath. "I'm so alone, Hermione. At Hogwarts, it's harder than I imagined. Everything is just so…so much harder. I'm alone. I'm alone and everyone…" His voice cracked with emotion and Hermione swore her heart physically broke. "…you…you feel so far away."

The words had barely even registered in Hermione's brain before she felt herself moving across the room in a blur. Harry had instinctively done the same and in an instant they had covered the space of carpet separating them. They collided halfway, lips crashing together in painful, starving desperation. She felt his arms tighten around her as he pulled her closer to him, crushing her into his chest so forcefully she could hardly breathe.

Her lips opened under his urging and he flicked his tongue lightly against hers, gently testing the new, unexplored terrain.

"Harry," she breathed into his mouth, feeling her knees begin to buckle under his weight. She stumbled back a few steps, Harry staying pressed against her all the while. She untangled an arm from around his neck and reached her hand behind her, feeling for the bed, continuing to ease slowly backwards. When she felt the back of her knees hit against the frame, she carefully lowered herself to a sitting position. Harry did the same, moving his hand to cup the back of her head.

They continued, tongues wrapping and unwrapping frantically around each other's until, abruptly, Harry pulled back with a groan and twisted forward. Resting his elbows on his knees, he buried his head in his hands. Thoroughly perplexed by the entire situation, Hermione took a deep, steadying breath and then rested a palm gently on his shoulder.

"I'm so sorry, Hermione."

Hermione stiffened against the feeling of crushing disappointment and pulled her hand away as though she had been burned. How could she have been so stupid? He was obviously in a precarious emotional state. His attraction to her was based off a need to be close to someone, a desperate desire to feel. Her heart sank as she scolded herself for not further savoring the way his lips felt on hers for what would certainly be the first and last time.

"It's all right," she whispered, inflicting as much cheeriness into her voice as possible.

Harry lifted his head and shook it violently from side to side.

"It's not all right. All these years, all the danger I've put you in, you've stood by me and without ever asking for anything in return. Now, it's all over and I have no way to even begin to repay you. I screwed up your life, and for what?" He turned to face her as he said the words, looking pleadingly into her eyes for forgiveness.

The wheels in Hermione's head began turning and understanding went off like a Wildfire Whiz-bang in her head. She was a bit ashamed of the relief washed over her as she realized he was not apologizing for kissing her, he was apologizing for the hardships endured over last seven years of their lives. Hermione laughed softly and grabbed his hands from where they rested on his lap, squeezing them tightly in her own.

"You can't be serious, Harry. Didn't ask for anything in return? I guess you don't remember the eager, friendless, frizzy haired twelve year old begging for adventure and intrigue and the feeling of belonging back in our first year. I didn't want to be that girl – the know-it-all with a head full of knowledge, but no outlet, no one to share it with. I wanted to be this girl, the girl I am today – the girl you helped me become. Unlike you, I chose to be a part of this. The reward was the experience itself. The reward was accomplishing something I'm proud of with people I care about. Having the entire Wizarding World forever indebted to me for my services isn't so bad either."

She was shocked to find her eyes glistening with tears as she finished. She released her grip on his hands and brushed at her cheeks, feeling her face flush with embarrassment.

"Oh, bollocks! Look at me making a fool of myself now!" Hermione shook her head trying to regain her composure, breathing deeply through her nose. Her attempts were interrupted, however, by a gentle chuckle that quickly grew into deep, rumbling laughter. Hermione's eyes widened as she watched Harry literally double over in hysterics.

"Find something funny?" she asked, whacking him playfully on the shoulder. He waved his hand in response as his laughter echoed throughout the darkened room. "Hush! You'll wake my mum and dad!"

Harry clamped his hand over his mouth and a few moments later straightened, having brought his fit under control. Hermione stared at him, eyebrow cocked in mock annoyance.

"You're amazing, Hermione, you know that?"

Hermione rolled her eyes but felt her face grow hot. Harry Potter thought she was amazing. Her thoughts had little time to register beyond that fact because suddenly Harry's lips were pressed back up against hers. The kiss was very chaste for a few moments, just a gentle pressing of skin on skin; then his tongue darted out to trace her mouth, and it changed. Once her lips had been delicately outlined, he slid his tongue between them, making her moan softly. He deepened the kiss then, pressing his tongue forcefully against hers. He placed one hand behind her neck to hold her in place while the other moved to rest gently on her hip.

Eventually, she broke off the kiss, both to draw air into her lungs and also to reaffirm that this was all actually reality. As another flash of lightening lit the room, her eyes locked into Harry's intensely green ones and a characteristic boyish grin slid easily across his face. Hermione marveled over how much the energy in the room had changed since Harry had first appeared, but had little time to dwell on the fact as Harry suddenly eased himself to the floor on his knees, insinuating himself between hers. For an agonizingly long moment, they simply stared at each other, both silently acknowledging the looming point of no return. Hermione felt her head dip in a nod, her cheeks growing warm in surprised at how easily her body gave her away. Harry, however, was less timid and the small affirmation was all he'd needed. He grabbed the hem of her long t-shirt and pushed it up towards her neck.

Hermione knew she ought to be more embarrassed of the extremely intimate view she was now providing Harry, but the logical part of her brain seemed to have switched off somewhere in between Harry's appearance and his current position between her legs. Instead, she bit her bottom lip and pulled the garment clear off, satisfied when Harry's eyes widened in response. All barriers had been broken and there was certainly no turning back now. She was surprised at how quickly they'd abandoned niceties and gentleness, but far from disappointed. While Hermione had never said the words out loud, her thoughts had often flitted dangerously on the edge of admitting the feelings she had for her best mate had surpassed platonic way back in their fourth year. If Harry had shared these feelings for half as long, it was no wonder things were moving so fast.

She ran her hands through his messy mop of hair as he placed his palms firmly on her thighs, reaching up to suck one taut, pink nipple into his mouth. His tongue rolled it with firm strokes, over and over again, and she gripped his head to press him closer, her breath coming in short gasps. Before long he was moving his attention to her breast's neglected twin, leaving the first throbbing in the cool air, and when both had been equally loved, he pushed at her shoulder gently with his hand, indicating that she should lie back. Hermione complied, though her heart leapt into her throat, rendering her incapable of breath.

"Can I?" Harry asked almost shyly, from between her legs. "I mean, is it okay?..."

"Yes," Hermione said breathlessly. "It's okay."

She knew she was wet and the realization gripped her with embarrassment, but the shame was instantly forgotten when Harry's tongue unerringly found her clit and began to massage it gently. She moaned and her legs spread wider on their own accord. She felt his tongue dip lower and slip between her folds, inside, tasting the source of her wetness. Hermione could feel her climax building quickly. She had only ever been explored like this once, in a clumsy display of affection by Krum during their fling over the Triwizard Tournament. It had been awkward and rushed and far from enjoyable. She also hadn't loved Krum the way she loved Harry.

She gasped then, not only from the explosions of pleasure Harry was creating with his tongue, but also from the sudden realization. Her feelings for Harry were not merely a step away from friendly. She loved him. As the thought registered, she felt one long finger accompany Harry's tongue and then her mind blanked. As he worked his finger in and out, his mouth moved back to her clit. Hermione's legs desperately splayed apart, trying to spread far beyond their limits and open her further. Ignoring her physical plea, Harry lazily licked circles around her nub before sucking it, hard, into his mouth. Without a second of warning Hermione felt herself being tossed over the edge. Harry must have anticipated her orgasm because his mouth was suddenly on hers, muffling her scream. She shook as waves of pleasure assaulted her body, writhing on the bed until they slowed then stopped, leaving her completely spent.

Harry moved up to the bed and laid his body down next to hers. Braced on one extended arm, he looked down at her affectionately. Using his free hand, he ran a finger softly over Hermione's cheek. She smiled weakly, barely able to make him out in the darkness, her eyes half closed as her body recovered. As far as she was concerned, the night was still young and years of lost time were left to make up for.

After a few more minutes of recuperation, she rolled onto her side to face Harry. She slowly lifted a hand to where Harry caressed her face and twisted her fingers around his. Squeezing lightly, she brought his hand down and rested it on her stomach.

Harry groaned, feeling her bare skin beneath his fingers. The night so far had played out far beyond any of his fantasies, and he suddenly realized that there had been fantasies…of Hermione. He had not come looking for or, even in his wildest dreams, expecting this. He had needed her to be there for him, like she always was. He had needed to feel her in his arms, if only disguised by a platonic hug. The fact that Harry could now add 'bringing Hermione Granger to orgasm' to his long list of life accomplishments was shocking, even to someone as accustomed to surprises as The Boy Who Lived. He knew he had been in a very dark, bad place when he had first arrived, but now he was happier than he could remember being in a very long time. And that had changed even before she pulled off her nightshirt. He had meant it when he told her she was amazing.

Returning his attention to the present, he began rubbing light circles over the flat, taut skin of her stomach, warming her up for what he hoped would be round two. He continued to trace patterns with his fingers until her breath started to come in soft pants. Letting his hand roam farther south, he felt the brush of her curls against his palms and silently wished there had been more light. He wanted to see her - to inspect every inch of her skin, to commit every freckle, every curve, every perfect imperfection to memory. Maybe next time, he thought hopefully, suddenly aware of just how desperately he wanted there to be a next time.

He felt a tugging sensation near the hem of his shirt and realized Hermione was trying, unsuccessfully, to pull it off. She made a sound of frustration and pouted. Harry laughed and then lifted his torso off the bed to aid her progress. When the offending garment had been removed and discarded, she pressed her body flush against his. He could feel her nipples hard against his chest and he looked down to see if there was any way he could get them to his mouth. He also noticed that the movement had trapped his arm between them, and that his hand was now stuck between her warm flesh and a rather large bulge that was now straining against his jeans.

It wasn't that this particularly surprised him, but the truth was that he'd been focusing his complete attention on Hermione. She had offered him emotional release and freed him from his growing depression almost instantaneously. He had merely been hoping to match what she had given him, in a physical way. His throbbing erection, however, was growing tired of his prioritizing. Overcome by primal urge, Harry shoved the bottom half of her body away from him, freeing his arm, and pushed her thighs apart. In the same motion, he rolled up over her, moving in between her legs. She giggled, but the sound was lost when Harry covered her mouth with his. Her lips provided little resistance and he was able to quickly dart his tongue out against hers, hoping the renewed desperation in his movements conveyed how badly he wanted more of her.

The message must have been loud and clear because suddenly her hands were on him, stroking him through his pants. Harry was unable to repress the string of cusses that flew from his mouth, even though profanity had never been in his nature. He pressed his forehead against Hermione's, his breath growing more labored as she ran her fingers over the bulging fabric. He groaned with relief and appreciation as her attention moved to the button and zipper of the garment. Without wasting any time, Harry helped her slide them and his boxers down. With his erection free of the restraints, he kicked both articles of clothing off from his ankles and into the darkness as his heart hammered in anticipation.

He didn't have to wait long before Hermione's hands had moved to grasp him. A growl escaped his lips as the initial crash of pleasure from her touch slammed against his body. She made quick work of it, as was true Hermione fashion, sliding her hand up the length of his shaft, only to roll her palm over its swollen head and back down again. There were only a few moments of this before the stroking turned into more of a tugging and understanding flicked on like a light switch in Harry's mind. He opened his eyes, which had been closed as he savored the feelings of her warm hands on his cock, and pushed his forehead away from hers. It was dark but he found her eyes, and for the second time that night she smiled and nodded.

Harry couldn't stop himself from grinning wildly, still not fully believing what they were about to do.

"Wait," Hermione whispered.

The sound was odd against Harry's ears and he realized that it had been a long while since either of them had spoken.

"My wand," she continued. "It's on the bedside table."

Harry rolled away from her, towards the table in question. He groped around frantically, afraid she'd change her mind if he took too long, until the thin, wooden object made contact with his fingers. He grabbed it and scooted back to where she lay, holding out the instrument.

She took it from him, pointed it towards her abdomen and recited a spell he was not familiar with. When she finished, she tossed the wand aside and giggled in a way Harry knew meant she was both nervous and blushing.

"We don't need to be forming a new kind of Golden Trio anytime soon," she offered and Harry let out an 'ohh' of understanding. It was all the assurance he needed and he moved back between her knees, pressing a smattering of kisses down her neck. Although he made a show of being slow and tentative, it wasn't long before his body ached for her. He pushed his knees beneath her legs and sat up, then used both hands to spread her legs wider. Taking his erection in his hand, he leaned forward. Suddenly, her voice broke through the darkness again.

"Just go slowly," she whispered sheepishly. She bit at her lower lip in a way that made Harry want to do anything but go slowly. "I've read the first time can be painful and…"

Harry's brain tried frantically to process exactly what she was telling him. He had been positive that she and Ron had already delved into this territory, but her words were telling him otherwise. He also couldn't help a small smile. The night certainly had shown him a new side of Hermione, but the core of what he like most about her was still unrivaled. It was very overwhelming to process, so he simply brushed the hair gently off her forehead and smiled.

Hermione didn't say anything more, just shrugged and continued to worry her lower lip between her teeth. Something pulled at Harry's heart as the magnitude of her words struggled to settle in. He locked eyes with hers.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Harry struggled to force the words from his mouth, even though he knew it was the right thing to ask. What if she changed her mind? He had just given her a way out. What if she took it?

Much to his relief, she nodded seriously and smiled warmly. "I'm sure."

Again, he leaned forward, erection in hand, just inches from her opening. He savored the last few moments before Hermione Granger's most precious gift became his. His body pleaded with him to get on with it, but something deeper kept him from moving forward. What he had done before, when he had made her come, that had been different. That had been something he had wanted to give her, something to show her how badly he desired her. But this, this was different. This was something they would share. This would mean something, something to both of them and he needed to make it special.

Not much of Harry Potter remained virginal, especially following his popularity after winning the Triwizard Tournament, but there was one thing he could give to her; something she'd had for years, which he'd only just realized. His heart. Even in his head the admittance sounded corny, so he settled for something else – something less emasculating, but more powerful and just as true. Something he had never let himself say in his head, let alone out loud.

"I love you."

Hermione's eyes, which had been screwed tight in nervous anticipation, flew open. She propped herself up on her elbows, her jaw hanging slightly.

"I love you. I do. I love you. I've always loved you." Now that he had said it out loud, the words continuously burst from his mouth. He wanted to tell her he loved her a million times, wanted to make her understand how much she meant to him. He would have continued spouting the sentiments if not for a certain throb in his nether region that was getting extremely impatient.

"Harry, I love you too." Somehow, Hermione had found her voice, and though the words were strangled with emotion, they were coherent. And, while Harry would have liked to savor her admission a bit longer, they were all he needed to hear to lose all self-control. Forgetting her plea to go slowly, he eased his length entirely inside her in one smooth thrust.

She cried out, and wrapped her arms around his torso, clinging to him. Harry immediately paused apologetically, holding his breath as he waited for admonishment, but was met with a much different reaction.

"Fuck me, Harry," Hermione breathed, lifting her hips pleadingly.

Harry didn't think he could ever remember a time when Hermione had said something more out of character, but it was the most beautiful string of three words imaginable. Fueled with dizzying lust, he leaned over her body and used his hands to pin her wrists down beside her head. He lifted his hips, pulling out just slightly, then sank his erection back in. Hermione hummed with pleasure. He took his time and did it again, over and over, until their bodies began a slow rocking motion that had her raising her hips to meet his thrusts, desperately seeking more. His cock teasingly caught her clit on the down stroke, and her sighs grew into gasps. Her vocal enjoyment wasn't helping him prolong their activities, as every sound of pleasure she made inched him closer and closer to release.

He began to move faster, pulling out farther and entering again more forcefully until her gasps turned in to loud moans and he knew she was close. He continued, moving at a frenzying pace, so hard that the slap of skin against skin echoed in the dark room. He could feel her start to tighten around him before the shock of orgasm even registered across her features. She screamed his name as her muscles contracted and her body bucked uncontrollably against his. Harry smiled, realizing Hermione had forgotten her own rule about keeping quiet.

After watching her, it was only a few more erratic thrusts before Harry's own orgasm hit and overflowed. He collapsed under the intensity and buried his face against her neck and shoulder as his body jerked and shivered spasmodically. His mind exploded in bursts of colour, like the misfiring of a wand.

When both bodies finally became still, Harry rolled lazily onto his back and Hermione sighed contentedly. The mattress shifted as Harry moved and, for one terrifying second, Hermione wondered if he would disappear as quickly and unannounced as he had come. Her fears were extinguished, though, when she felt a strong arm around her waist, pulling her up off the bed. She groaned, but didn't resist as Harry pulled her to a standing position, supporting her fully by his arm around her hips. She watched as he pulled back her bed covers then guided her back down, waiting as she lifted her legs up onto the bed.

"Please, Harry. Don't leave. Stay with me tonight."

Harry grinned and gave a small laugh.

"I wasn't planning on leaving."

Hermione sighed with relief and slid over to make room. Harry climbed in next to her and pulled the bed covers up over both of them. He snuggled against her, resting his head on her chest. They were both quiet for a long while then Harry cleared his throat. Something had been weighing on his mind.

"Would it really be so bad?" Harry tilted his head up to meet Hermione's eyes.

"Hmm?" Hermione had no idea what he was referring to and was far too exhausted to give it any real thought.

"Us…being part of another Golden Trio." To emphasize his point, Harry rested his palm gently against her abdomen. "I mean, not now of course, but maybe one day."

Hermione's voice caught somewhere in her throat, but nothing could stop the giddy grin from sliding across her face. All she had ever wanted was a place in Harry's future and, as far as she was concerned, he had just confirmed that he wanted her in his.

Seemingly content with her reaction, Harry settled his head back down on her chest. It was possible a post-Voldemort world would never be everything he had expected, but maybe, just maybe, it would be even better than what he'd hoped for. And with that thought, the weeks of restless nights ended as The Boy Who Lived slipped into a peaceful sleep.