Author's Note: Hey everyone. I hope you guys enjoy this chap. It's quite interesting :) Sorry for the delay again. I had a lot of tests, papers, and homework these past two weeks so I've been kind of a hot mess. So since I am a major idiot I have realized that I made a bit of a fact error. In the chapter where Hermione and Harry go to Paris I said it was because they were creating an International Wizengamot kinda like the muggle UN, but of course J.K. Rowling has already thought of it! She created her world very thoroughly. There already exists an IW except it's called the International Confederation of Wizards. The Mugwumps are the elected judiciary and as many of you probably remember Dumbledore was the Supreme Mugwump before his death. So I changed a few things. You don't have to go back and re-read or anything. Just know that Hermione and Harry went to Paris because they were celebrating the newly elected ICW.
I'm going to be redoing some of my brainstorming and chapter plans, so that I can finish this puppy up for you guys. The next few chapters will have a lot of action and drama. I'm hoping to wrap this up as awesomely as possible. Obviously I won't finish before HP7 Part 1 comes out, but I'm hoping you guys will continue to stick with me despite the movie (which btws I am totally stoked for and I've already bought two tickets). Anyway here's the latest. Please enjoy and REVIEW!
Chapter 22- Crash
Kingsley leaned against the sofa's armrest gently, waiting for Hermione to address him. She had led him into the drawing room for their private conversation, but instead of immediately headlining into the reason why she needed to speak with him she remained still.
Her eyes were lost in the depths of the fire, the light flickering off her face as she stood before the great hearth.
Having no idea why he was called there, Kingsley let her be for the moment. By the crease in her brow, he knew her mind was dancing with thoughts just as the fire danced across her features. He did not wish to interrupt her as she composed them knowing all too well the various things that were likely weighing on her.
With a slight exhale, Hermione turned to him. "At the safe house, I asked Arthur if those men were after me. I asked him what he knew… he couldn't answer. I know he's sworn an oath… And the only person I can think he would swear one to is you, so by my logic you must be the secret keeper."
She looked at him squarely. He did not deny her logic nor move to explain; only a small nod in his usual manner was given. The gesture confirmed her claim.
Hermione took a moment to gather what she wanted to say before continuing. "I realize that my life is in jeopardy. Ever since Cesare's death, I have known that my days were numbered." Her jaw tightened as she went on, "With that said, if you are withholding information from me, information that if I was aware of could have been useful… information that could have protected the ones I-" Hermione's throat tightened with the last word knowing all too well what it meant, "love… then I demand to know it."
Her mouth formed a thin, severe line. Under her stony glare was emotion that was dying to ripple up to the surface, but she took another deep breath to keep it at bay.
"I know you are the secret keeper and, although I do agree that sealing information by an oath can be a useful tactic, I do not agree in keeping things that are pertinent to the person they apply to. If anything, we should have learned by the war that keeping things hidden only gets people killed."
Kingsley was silent. His eyes stayed on hers meeting her fierce look as she waited for him to explain. Pushing off from the armrest he began, "The Auror Department has been monitoring your activities and the threats against you since Cesare's death."
"And what do you know of his death?" she questioned already having her own suspicions.
"Probably no less than what you have already concluded," answered Kingsley.
"So he was murdered?" Her gaze turned to ice as she spoke.
"Yes," Kingsley affirmed crossing his arms.
"And you covered it up."
"I encouraged the Italian Ministry to do so, yes."
"At the crime scene there was a death threat saying you were next. I felt it was necessary to-"
"You wanted to use me as bait," she finished for him, cutting directly to the point. "And the match… was that just an opportunity for you?"
"No," he replied honestly. "We didn't have enough time to remove you or anyone else. We were tipped off that an attack was going to happen only forty-five minutes before the whistle-"
"And before the match?" she interjected.
"We have been investigating a number of threats, yes. Besides the match, none have been cause enough for concern."
"Who has been investigating?"
"Only those that needed to be involved have been," answered Kingsley diplomatically. After seeing her menacing look, he quickly conceded and listed, "Myself, Arthur, Ed, Harry-"
"Harry?" she interrupted with a slightly bewildered look. "He knows?"
Kingsley nodded. "He is your body guard." He gave her a moment to let that knowledge sink in.
"He's been assigned to protect me?" she managed in a quiet tone.
"Assigned?" smiled Kingsley. "It was more of a volunteer position… or in Harry's case, a demand."
The older wizard's humor fell on deft ears as Hermione's mind lay elsewhere. She looked down, her eyes darting back and forth as new light dawned on her. "Is that why he was at the match? To protect me?"
"Yes. He's been following you under disillusionment charms as you travel as well… at least on the occasions where you have not invited him to join you." Kingsley paused seeing her still figure. As he caught Hermione's eyes, he sobered considerably. Finally able to regard the young girl before him, he saw the smothering worry and the heart wrenching anxiety of the last two weeks as it lay over her. With soft footfalls, he closed the distance between them and placed an understanding hand on her shoulder. "He knew of the dangers of being at that match, Hermione. There was nothing you could have done…"
Hermione's lip quivered as tears welled in her eyes from the frustration and guilt that she had been holding in.
"He was there of his own doing... and he had all the information. Harry knew what dangers lay in store for him by attending that match."
"He was still hurt because of me," she mumbled her eyes firmly locked on the floor.
"There was nothing you could have foreseen to stop it, Hermione. It was not your fault," replied Kingsley sincerely. His hand squeezed her shoulder in comfort. "The situation was out of your control. And besides, Harry is all and well. You have no need to worry anymore."
Kingsley did not speak for a few moments. Instead, he studied her making sure she did, indeed, believe what he had said. As if she had read his thoughts, she nodded slightly before drawing in a shaky breath.
"Hermione?" Slowly she looked back up at him. "I have been honest with you, but I need you to be honest with me as well. If there is anything… anything at all… that you think we need to know about this case then you must tell us. As you said, withholding information only gets people killed. I need you to be completely forthcoming with me or else we cannot protect you effectively… Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
For brief moment Hermione considered bearing all to the trustworthy and very capable wizard in front of her, but she knew she could not. Long ago she had made a promise and she refused to break it. The knowledge that she held was something that couldn't be dismissed and would have to be acted upon especially by a man of Kingsley's position. Timing was key and she knew, more than anything, that that crucial point in time had not yet come.
So she shook her head, "No. No, there's nothing."
Having just finished his talk with Hermione, Kingsley reentered the kitchen in search of Arthur.
The English Minister of Magic was sitting comfortably next to his wife and across from his two sons as he chatted happily with them. It was evident that Arthur had dearly missed his family for the last two weeks, a feeling that was clearly mutual with how joyfully the group was conversing.
Kingsley hated having to interrupt their reunion, but he knew he must. Clearing his throat he muttered, "Arthur… a word please."
Without hesitation, Arthur excused himself and followed Kingsley out the door and into the hallway.
"What is it, Kingsley?" asked Arthur curiously.
"The safe house, Arthur," stated Kingsley immediately slicing into the matter. "You had to use the safe house?"
"I see nothing wrong with it," replied the redheaded wizard nonchalantly.
"Nothing wrong with it? That house was meant for emergencies only, Arthur!" cried Kingsley incredulously.
"And do you not consider that an emergency?" countered Arthur raising his own voice. "Hermione was in danger and it is my duty to protect-"
"She is NOT your daughter."
"She damn well might as well be!"
The conversation froze momentarily as the two attempted to control their tempers. Neither wished for those just on the other side of the door to hear their current argument, so they both readjusted and lowered their voices.
Arthur exhaled with a loud gust of air. Tiredly he raised his arms in a question and muttered, "What would you have me do Kingsley?"
"I'm not saying that I would not have done the same had it been me," began Kingsley in a much calmer condition. "But you have to understand the position you've put me in Arthur. You ARE the Minister of Magic! And you went missing for two weeks!"
Arthur's hand pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration as he mulled over what Kingsley was trying to get to.
"Arthur, those houses are rare. We used Ministry funds to construct one with the assumption that it would be used for your personal safety. Instead, you wasted it on a situation where nearly the entire Auror Department was present and the threat was damn near extinguished."
"Extinguished?" spat Arthur unable to control his outrage. "How do you explain Harry then?"
"The situation was handled. The spell that hit Harry was a last ditch effort and we captured the wizard that sent it moments after. There was no threat after that," answered Kingsley with an authoritative air.
"Because I removed the target!"
"Regardless of what you think, the Wizengamot will see it as an abuse of your position and as a mishandling of Ministry funds." Kingsley looked at the man before him trying to get him to see reason. "You'll be charged Arthur."
"Luckily I happened to rescue England's best councilor," he muttered dryly with a small smirk.
"This is not a laughing matter, Arthur. You could lose your job."
"Well as it stands right now I am still Minister of Magic," replied Arthur with finality as he attempted for the kitchen's swinging door.
"No! Not another word, Kingsley!" he said harshly in an unfamiliar tone for the Weasley patriarch. Calming himself, Arthur looked up and readdressed his friend, "Let me be… I've been missing for two weeks. Let me be with my family. This can wait till morning."
Kingsley did not have time to concede as Arthur pushed through the door successfully ending the conversation for the evening.
Hermione climbed the stairs slowly, the weight of her feet creaking on each step. As eager as she was to see Harry, another part of her was apprehensive beyond all belief.
She had been so overwhelmed seeing Harry alive and for the most part healed that it took nearly all of her strength to stay rooted to that spot in the kitchen. She had wanted so badly to cross the room, to engulf him in one of her giant hugs, and to feel his arms wrap around her too. She wanted nothing more than to sigh with relief finally feeling that physical reassurance that he was indeed all right. But most of all, she wanted to embrace him without reservation or qualm.
And that she could not do with a kitchen full of Weasleys. Her actions would give her away.
She didn't trust her body. All too well she knew how her brain somehow failed to control her limbs while around him. It was instinctual. Everything with Harry always was. She knew what her reaction was going to be, she knew that her brain would again fail her, she knew she would end up showing more than either of them were ready to show especially to the people that would of course be watching. So she stayed rooted to that unbearable spot in the kitchen and she quietly signaled him to do the same thanking Merlin that he obeyed.
As she reached the landing at the top of the stairs she saw a small sliver of light from a barely cracked door. She heard two voices conversing on the other side as she drew closer.
Peaking in, she spotted Harry sitting on the bed with his button down flannel shirt completely open. His sling was off and lay folded next to him. The mediwitch, Healer Jones, was examining him closely and blocking, almost entirely, Hermione's view.
"The balms seem to be working, Mr. Potter. The scarring should decrease a bit more, but I wouldn't expect by much. You should prepare yourself for that."
"It's ok Jonesy. This may seem surprising but I'm quite acclimated to having scars," replied Harry with a smirk. "Plus I hear the ladies find them fetching."
Hermione could only assume that Jones's expression must've been amusing as Harry let out a chuckle.
"Oh Jonesy don't look at me like that! I'm not really going to parade my scars about."
"Well I wouldn't put it past you. I hear all you hero types have got your heads up your arses anyway," retorted the hard balled elder woman. Harry chuckled softly with her quip. As the calloused witch went about packing up her kit, Harry reached down to button up his shirt.
Healer Jones placed a few vials of potion on the nightstand before closing her dragon skin bag with a click and sheathing her wand. "Now make sure you keep taking those potions. I'll be back at the end of the week to check on that arm again."
Hermione drew away from the door as Jones approached.
As the door opened fully, the gray haired healer's severe blue eyes immediately caught Hermione a few steps shy of the door, waiting anxiously. With a puff of air, she called over her shoulder dryly, "Mr. Potter looks like you can test your theory." Without another word, Jones sidestepped around Hermione leaving the door ajar and descended down the stairs.
Harry stood up pulling his shirt closed as his eyes met Hermione's for the second time that evening.
Her brow furrowed noticing how he was self conscious about her seeing his chest, but she brushed it aside as she entered his room. Quietly she shut the door behind her before turning back around to face him.
Like statues they stood still, silently observing the other. The air between them was thick and heavy, like two creatures who may have stumbled upon each other for the first time. They analyzed each other, neither moving for fear of scaring the other off. Hermione could feel her hands ache to touch him, yet her legs would not move. There was so much between them, and yet nothing but air.
Hermione swallowed. "Can I see?" she whispered, her head nodding a small degree to the hand still clenching his two shirt ends together.
Harry looked down at his hand. She was the last person he wanted to see his body as it was. She would feel guilty about what happened and in his mind she was the last to be blamed for his condition. There was nothing she could have done. There was nothing anyone could've done. "Are you sure?"
Slowly Harry released the two ends of his shirt and then silently began to undo the three buttons he had managed before seeing her. Once finished, his hands fell to his sides limply as he stood before her baring all. He kept his head down and his eyes closed waiting for that sharp intake of breath, that initial shock of seeing the extent of his scarring. Instead, he heard nothing.
Hermione's breath was caught in her throat.
His chest was a web of scarred and wrinkled skin. A large patch on his left side right underneath his heart was mangled the most with different shades of pink and purple knotted flesh. It must've been the place where he'd been hit directly. From it, stemming out like gnarly fingers were scars that branched off to his right side, up to his shoulders, and some even darted down below his belt line. The entirety of his chest was streaked with them as if the curse had worked away from its initial point of contact and seeped out across his body on different paths of destruction.
"Jesus Harry…" she croaked sucking in a shaky breath. Without even thinking, she pushed away from the where she stood and went to him reaching him in just a few short steps. Like she knew he would, he wrapped his arms around her as she buried her face into the crook of his neck.
Harry lowered his head so that his was right next to hers. "Shhhh," he whispered soothingly as he felt hot teardrops fall against his bare chest. Gently he stroked the back of her hair trying to calm her. She only hugged him tighter.
"Why didn't you hug me like this downstairs?" he asked into her hair.
"I couldn't," she mumbled. "Not in front of everyone…"
Harry drew back a bit causing her hands to fall from his neck to the sides of his shoulders. He cradled her face lovingly in his two hands and searched her avoiding eyes. "Hermione, why?" he asked, his voice laced with meaning.
Hermione drew in a deep breath before meeting his gaze. "Don't be stupid, Harry… You know why."
And for right then that was all the confirmation he needed. Without a second's hesitation, he sealed his lips against hers. She returned his kiss with just as much firmness and wanting matching his same emotion. It took only a few moments before the kiss set fire to them. His hands moved south to her hips pulling her flush up against him as her own hands wrapped around his neck.
There was no air between them any longer.
She deepened the kiss opening her mouth to him, yielding to him in every way as his hands took to roaming up and down her lower back igniting a flame wherever they grazed. With a hunger she never imagined she could have for her friend, she kissed him.
They pulled at one another trying to end nonexistent distances, trying to get as close as humanly possible.
Weeks of worrying and months of longing went into it.
Air begrudgingly became necessary. The two broke apart but separated by only a few millimeters relinquishing only the smallest of space. Hermione was still practically stuck to him, trapped within his arms with her chest rising and falling in ragged, shallow breaths against his own. Her hand gently came up to stroke the side of his cheek.
His eyes stayed close as if in a daze, as if afraid that if he open them the dream would be gone.
Hermione studied the face that she had longed to see for two weeks, the one person that had always been there for her, that had always cared and supported her. Suddenly the thought of not kissing him seemed like the most terrible thing for her world.
Her brain was definitely failing, but she could not jumpstart it for the life of her. She knew somewhere there had been reservations about this moment. There had been reasons for not doing what she was doing. There were other lovers and other people they cared about, but for all things holy she could not remember what they were. She could only think of this person before her, this man who had always protected her and loved her.
The world disappeared. Thought went with it. All there was left was him.
Pushing to her tip toes, she kissed his closed eyes as gently as she possibly could. In no hurry whatsoever, she moved down to his nose before turning to each side and placing feather light kisses against his jaw line. As her lips grazed against his once more, her hands pushed the rest of his shirt off forcing him to release his hold on her. His flannel button down fell to the floor as quietly as a leaf does from a tree in the autumn.
Trailing down to his chest, she paused for a moment to regard his marred flesh. She felt a large, guilty lump rise in the back of her throat, but she gulped it back down and delicately kissed his right shoulder where the first gnarly finger of one scar ended. She did that with every single webbed scar, scars she had inadvertently caused with her foolishness. After that there was no stopping her. She moved down his chest with all the Hermione precision and meticulous care that she harbored for any subject in her sights.
Harry's breath hitched as her lips continued to trace every inch of his chest. Every crevice his massive scar reached she made sure to place her lips upon even stopping fondly over his left breast and tenderly kissing the place where underneath his heart lay thankfully beating. She didn't stop until finally she rested at his side where the brunt of the blow had been. Gingerly her fingers touched the spot that nearly cost his life before she leaned down and placed her lips upon that place too.
All that was left were the scarred stems that darted below his pant line.
Hermione looked back up at Harry, his eyes dark matching her own. She leaned forward giving him a soft kiss which he returned wholeheartedly.
Then her hands went to his belt.
"Hermione…" His voice was low and gruff, the sound of it halting her immediately.
Harry tried to find his voice once again, but couldn't. He wanted her to know what she was doing. He couldn't bear the thought of her doing something out of impulse without knowing first exactly what she was getting herself into. The sight of her kissing his entire body was one of the most arousing things he'd ever seen and he was sure he would never forget the feeling of her lips against his skin. The sensation was burned in his mind while his body remained aflame, tingling in the wake of her kisses, as an overwhelming need coursed through his veins. He knew that if she undid his belt he would lose it and he wouldn't be able to stop himself. He was having enough trouble keeping still as it was. But if she kept going, he wouldn't be able to say no, it would be impossible.
Hermione drew closer to him, but did not touch him. Only her hands lay paused on his belt. "Harry?" she whispered back.
Harry shivered from the intensity in her voice. It was so lustful he nearly moaned after she said his name. She was only a sliver of a hair apart from him.
His throat felt dry. He didn't want her to stop, but he was afraid to continue. He knew there was Ron. He knew there was Ginny. But at that exact moment they seemed like dreams, like distant ghosts. They only existed in the back of their minds as the two had been forced to push them there. But now as he stood before Hermione in a heap of sensations, he could not picture Ginny's face.
As hard as he tried he could not recall what she looked like, he could not bring her face into view. There was only Hermione and the sight of her kissing his chest. There was only Hermione and her hands about to undo his belt. There was no one else. No one else.
She had been his thoughts for the last month and half. Her safety. The memory of their kiss. The look on her face the moment he had been hit in the Quidditch arena. No one else existed in his mind except for Hermione. The thought of not continuing and going to bed alone, of spending another second without touching her felt more troublesome to him than the fact that he could not picture Ginny's face. And so, he could not utter the words of sensibility. Instead, he stayed quiet hoping for a resolve that he could not muster.
But Hermione was impatient. She had waited far too long. A fortnight of not knowing whether he was alive or dead, a fortnight to wonder why she always had to hide her heart, a fortnight to wish she had given in and acted on her impulses for once. She had sat in a safe house as her brain took over asking herself again and again why. Why did she push him away? Why didn't she tell him how she felt? Why hadn't she kissed him and made love to him when she had the chance? She couldn't take it. She'd had weeks to mull over if he really wanted her too, if this was indeed the best decision for them, but now here she was needing him so badly and seeing how much she affected him, seeing how her touches sent shivers across his skin… She didn't know how to stop.
It was all far too much.
Closing that sliver of space, she leaned in and captured his mouth in a searing kiss, one that he couldn't help but return. As they broke apart, she knew it was confirmed. She couldn't pull away and neither could he.
"Please touch me," she whispered against his lips.
And all reserve was lost.
Review it! Come on... you know you want to! Does anyone want the full sex scene?