AN: The Following story is a GiftFic for Madeleone, who won a 100-500 word drabble by me. As you can see by just a quick peek, I made a hash of the concept of Drabbling. Her prompt was: Crisp Autumn nights, a full moon, and the Autumnal Equinox I have said it before, and I will say it again, I suck at coloring inside the lines...
Special thank yous go out to Dressagegrrrl and Hebe GB, who literally were ask to beta and britpick this at a moment's notice, and dropped everything to indulge my utterly obsessive response to this amazing prompt. I was crazy about getting in done for the actual Equinox, and I did. :D Thank you as well to Whitehound, who was a valuable resource, as always.
Hermione stepped out into the garden of the Bed and Breakfast and took a deep lungful of the crisp Autumn air, feeling it seep into her bones and calm her fears. The ability of nature to affect her like this was still new and precious to her. She drank in another breath, smelling the loam and the ripeness of the world around her and exhaled the fears and insecurities that had plagued her these last three months. She set off barefoot through the little painted wooden gate and trekked past the end of the village, venturing out into the fields.
There weren't that many others visible on the path, but there were a few. As yet, they kept to themselves as they made their way to the festival. It was early in the afternoon, and there was an air of meditation that asked for and granted a momentary solitude before joining the crowd.
Hermione looked at the golden stubble fields, a mix of golden stubble and swaying amber ripeness. The harvested fields were shot through with green shoots that thrust through the dirt as if summer refused to give hold even on this last day.
She smiled. It was certainly a summer to remember, and she was loathe to see it give way as well. She took a deep breath as her fears flared at even this glancing touch on the future. The future would come, and she had already decided her fate. That didn't make it comfortable.
She felt a shudder of magic as she passed through the anti-Muggle wards, and as she looked through the trees, she began to see the Wizarding tents and the colorful pennants that showed the festival area. She could also smell the food. Hermione couldn't tell if it made her hungry, or if the smell of grease made her a little sick.
She joined the crowd—noting how it was much smaller it was than her first time—and blended in with a smile. She made her way to a stall and bought herself some pumpkin juice, a leg of roast turkey, and a crisp apple, and then went to find her usual rock to perch on. She carefully tucked her cloak and loose robe around her legs and daintily sipped her drink. She stared at the people walking by, wondering if he was here already. Was she looking at him right now? She'd tried to put together what she remembered, but was always too leery of forming a picture. What if she was wrong? Better to let him be who he was without her needing to make him something he wasn't.
She let the faces of the crowd blur and lost herself in her thoughts. Occasionally a face would come into focus, and she would return a cheerful smile or ignore a lusty grin. She might not have built up a picture of his face, but she knew him, and he would never openly give her a lusty grin in public. No. His smile would be full of sensuality—a carnal power that didn't need crude embellishment.
How strange. It was all still so strange to her.
Was it really only last Spring when her eyes had been opened? Was it really only a few months ago when life had changed irrevocably?
She and Ron had decided to go for the whimsy. It was a silly way to blow off steam for the first anniversary of the Defeat of Voldemort. There had been ten of them that had wanted to go, but then most of them had backed out. When Harry found out that Ginny was forbidden by her mother, he'd stayed home. Neville had been too busy at work, and George had had to stay at the shop. In the end, it had been her and Ron, along with Seamus, Parvati, and of course Luna. It had been her idea. Hermione had actually almost backed out as well.
"But you must come, Hermione!" she'd said. "You and Ron will have a chance to see yourselves in your Lunar forms. It will be fun."
"Ron wants to wait until we're married, anyway. What's the point of going to a midnight orgy if we're going to just sit there?"
"Sitting can be very beneficial for aligning yourself to the oneness of things. Besides, do you have anything better to do? And it's much more than that. No one is obligated to have sex. More than half don't. It doesn't have to be more than just a fun party, with dancing. You and Ron can still have a lot of fun."
"Luna, it seems like a long way to go to sit around a bonfire and get tipsy."
"Don't be silly. Only Muggles just have a bonfire and drunken sex in the name of the old gods. We know it's so much more. It's a chance to allow one of the Elder Spirits to merge with you, to fulfill their ancient desires for them. It's been cancelled the last few years because of the Dark Lord. It will be bigger than ever this time! It will be absolutely beautiful. I want to find my Lunar mate."
"Lunar mate? And what makes it beautiful?"
"That's what I've been trying to tell you, silly. When the sun sets, and the fire is lit, you release your magic. When the tides of the moon touch your magic, your aura flares. You won't see faces anymore. You will just see colors. And if you see your Lunar mate, then you will see their true colors."
"What color will they be?"
Luna had sighed. "You really don't understand. You see, if one of the old gods blesses you, then when you view your Lunar mate, only you will see them that way. To anyone else he will be attractive in his colors, but to you, he will be different. Dazzling. You will know him, even if there are a thousand wizards there. If he is your Lunar mate, you will hear all of his voices."
"Are we talking Soul mates?"
"Don't be silly. Soul magic is something completely different. Soul mates to continue something started in a previous life. We're talking about Lunar magic. You and your Lunar mate continue something started before man even came along."
"You lost me."
Luna's eyes took on a mischievous glint. "I give up. I guess there are just certain types of Magic that don't interest you. Ancient traditions and rites of passage that you couldn't be bothered discovering. Deep mysteries of magic that—"
"Okay!" Hermione laughed as she threw her hands up in surrender. "Okay! If Ron says he wants to go, we'll go."
And so they had gone.
It had been fun right from the start. The music and food and even the shopping, with artisans displaying their wares outside colorful tents, had been enjoyable, but as the evening drew down, the mood grew expectant. The Beltane celebration picked up in earnest. Older witches and wizards walked amongst the crowds, instructing the newcomers on the proper wand movements and the incantation.
Ron and she, already slightly intoxicated, had practiced together—joking about how they would know they were Lunar mates because he would light up Chudley Orange, and she would turn a deep maroon that would match the cover of the latest annotated edition of Hogwarts, A History. They held tight to each other's hands, a little nervous at the prospect of not being able to recognize each other if they weren't side-by-side when they said the spell.
The sun set, the fire was lit, and nearly a thousand people raised their wands and cried, "Signiversicolori!"
Hermione was dazzled. All around her people flared into light. There were thousands of colors. It seemed that there were colors she'd never seen before. Ron was caramel with golden streaks. Seamus was vermillion with tan-colored blotches. Parvati was a beautiful indigo with fiery-orange flares of light that skittered across her form, chased by light pink sparkles. Luna was a calming Mediterranean blue with aqua overtones when she moved.
Hermione raised a hand up to her face and saw… a hand. Whereas the others had completely lost their features, becoming human-shaped forms of solid light, Hermione couldn't make out any light on herself. She felt her stomach sink until she heard Seamus and Parvati complain of the very same thing.
"Oh, you can never see yourself on the outside," said an amber-colored woman near them with a laugh. "Just as no one else can ever see the you inside unless at a festival. It's balance. Everything is about balance."
They all began to babble, assuring each other that they all saw the same things.
Parvati informed Hermione that she was deep purple, with red and green stripes.
"Blech," she said. "Why do I have to be an eyesore?"
"Aw, don't worry, Hermione. You're my eyesore."
He dropped his arm heavily around her shoulders, and they watched as Luna, Seamus, and Parvati joined the ring of dancers around the fire. The music swirled up into a loud, playful, stomping tune, and the dancers took off in a rainbow swirl around the fire.
Ron cuddled her as they relaxed against the large rock, sipping their ale and laughing and pointing at the people made of color as they swirled by. A magenta arm flew out of the crowd and snatched Ron's arm, pulling him into the ring of dancers with a whoop.
Hermione laughed at first, but was a little disturbed to have lost him so quickly without warning. The bright kaleidoscope of people made it impossible to pick him out of the crowd. She waited for the circle to turn a few more times, but when he didn't reemerge, she became anxious. She turned and scrambled up onto the rock to get a better view by looking down on the dancers. Still she couldn't find him. She thought about joining the dance, throwing herself into the madness of it all, but was too intimidated. This mad roiling of color was not for her.
As she watched the crowd, she felt a flare of pleasant warmth ripple across her body, as if someone had passed her with a torch on a cold night. It came again and stayed. She turned away from the crowd, trying to orient on this heat source, and saw a man, thirty feet away on the other side of the bonfire. She could easily tell it was a man, even if she couldn't make out his features. He was long and lean, and his colors were a dark grey, like hematite, flickering with silver lightning. After the rainbow assault of the crowd, he was soothing to her.
Even without seeing his eyes, she knew he was looking at her. She knew instinctively that she was actually feeling the heat of his gaze. She wondered if he felt the same from her, and safe in the anonymity of her eyesore colors, she stared back. He took a step towards her but stopped and withdrew again, shaking his head slightly. He turned away, and she felt suddenly bereft—chilled—as if the sun had passed behind a cloud.
She climbed down from the rock. She hadn't made a conscious decision to go seek him out, but there was no doubt that that was her intent. She skirted the outer edge of the crowd slowly, making her way clockwise around the fire. She had lost sight of him as soon as she had jumped down. She made her way to where she thought he would be, but when she got there, she'd lost him. She looked around, craning her head around people who suddenly made her eyes hurt, but to no avail.
She sighed and turned back to the dance. The swirl of color was no longer amusing, the jumble of shades and hues threatened to bring on a headache. She stepped back into the shadows, out of the reach of the fire, and looked up at the full moon overhead, feeling its light pouring down on her like a balm. She sighed and closed her eyes. It seemed like she could almost feel the moonlight touching her and she welcomed it.
She opened them again when she felt the warmth. She turned her head and looked back over her shoulder and saw him, ten feet away in the shadows, dark, metallic grey with flickering lightning. She took a step towards him, and he took a step back. She stopped, and they stared at each other for a long moment. He took another step back, farther into the night and away from the dancers. She set off toward him. He nodded and turned his back, leading her away from the crowd. She felt no fear, no trepidation, no sense of threat, just a mild curiosity and a rising excitement.
She lost sight of him when he walked around one of the large stones left behind by a long-forgotten ancestor. She panicked and hurried her pace, dashing around the rock and straight into him. He caught her and held her steady; his touch felt like fire chasing up her arms. He lifted a hand and traced the outline of her face, and she shivered. She reached up to touch his, but he flinched away. She demurred and let her hand drop, feeling suddenly young and naïve and clumsy. A croon rumbled in his chest, and he pulled her into his arms and soothed her, splaying long fingers through her hair as he tucked her head gently against his chest. She could feel the play of muscle under her cheek and knew he had come in the traditional garb of a light robe… and nothing else.
"Who are you?" she asked, but then was too distracted by her own voice to have paid attention to any answer he might have given. She raised a hand to her throat. Her voice had seemed to shatter and echo, sounding like several voices at once. "What is this?" she said, again with the same bizarre vocal distortion. She sounded predominantly younger than she normally did, and yet with an undertone in an older, earthier voice, and an overtone in a thready, frail voice.
"Lunar magic," he replied. She shivered as his voice echoed with the same effect. She heard a rich, deep voice, overlaid with young and old echoes.
"I don't understand," she said.
"Has no one told you? Have you never been here before?"
"No. This is my first time. I'm Muggleborn and have never even heard of it until a few days ago."
He stared at her in silence for a long while. The silence didn't grow awkward. In fact, it became rather pleasant.
"Your colors are so beautiful," he said finally with awe in his voice.
"You think? I've been told I'm rather loud, with the purple and red and green."
"That is what they see. I see green, light green. You're the color of new grass with shimmers of golden yellow, like the sun, when you move." His voice was intoxicating, and she drifted closer to him as he spoke.
"You make me sound so beautiful," she whispered.
"You are," he said. "It has been a long time since I have seen such beauty."
He caressed her cheek again, and she leaned into his touch.
"You look like—"
"I know what I look like," he said defensively.
"You're beautiful," she said anyway.
She felt his gaze grow more intense and she flushed from the heat of it. His hand slid down to her chin and tilted it up as his lips came down, touching hers with the lightest of caresses. She felt her magic stir and marveled. His touch felt familiar and foreign, brand new and deeply missed. She pressed her lips more firmly against his, and the hand in her hair tightened in response. His breath was sweet, and his lips tasted like the mead he'd obviously been drinking earlier. He nuzzled her face with his nose as his lips trailed across her cheek, and she was sure he left scorched brands in their place.
She brought her hands up to hold his stubbled cheeks so she could capture his mouth again. She needed to capture this one. She remembered that he had escaped before when they'd danced this dance. She'd been so close once, but her chosen one had danced off with one selected by another God, and still she craved the darkness. She needed to claim him, to make this one hers, after all this time.
She slid her hands down his neck. He shied from her touch, but didn't pull away. He only kissed her harder. She explored the contours of his shoulders, the bones barely hidden by the muscle and sinew that flexed under her touch, and then ghosted her hands down the planes of his chest. She felt him shudder, and an exhilarating sense of power surged through her. It was a new and scary feeling.
He swiped his tongue across her lip, grabbing it in his teeth and tugging on it gently until she opened up, surrendering to him. He pulled her in tight as he claimed and explored her mouth, breathing heavily through what had to be a rather large nose. His hands roamed down her body, exploring, but when he felt the waistband of the jeans she wore under her robes, he stopped. He pulled his mouth away from hers, and she fell forward a little, settling on kissing his prominent collarbone through his robes before he pushed her back gently.
"Tell me why you are wearing clothes," his trebled voice asked.
She blushed. "I wasn't planning on taking part in the celebration," she answered, stroking the steel-hard muscles of his biceps where her hands had come to rest. He might be thin, but he was no weakling. Ron's arms were huge, but not near as defined.
The random comparison of this man to her fiancé pierced the stupor she'd been in, and she became aware that she was kissing a perfect stranger, and that there was something not right about it. And yet, when she tried to think of what exactly was wrong, she grew agitated with confusion.
"I came here with my fiancé, Ronald. We were only going to watch." She knew as soon as the words were out of her mouth that she had made a mistake. This now-constant sense of déjà vu seemed to wail in her ear that she had just lost him, and he would never return. She would lose her chance until this one passed and another was chosen. It had been so long since he had given in to the call and come. This one was so strong. She sensed his need for renewal.
He stiffened and backed out of her arms, but she followed him, and he ended up with his back against a rock.
"Please," she whispered. "Don't turn away from me. At least kiss me one more time. I've never felt anything like that before." Her exotic voice shifted, sounded less young and more womanly, and she marveled.
She reached out slowly and tentatively touched his chest, as if he were a wild animal that might turn and tear her to pieces. When her fingertips landed on his pectoral muscles, they spasmed and twitched violently under her. She pressed the flat of her hand against them and stroked. His breath rushed out, and his hands came up and pulled her closer. He leaned his weight against the rock and pulled her against him. She felt his need press against her through the thin robes as he bent down and kissed her gently again.
It was her turn to become skittish. She and Ron had yet to consummate their relationship. He'd wanted to wait and use their virginity to strengthen their bond when they married. He had never allowed things to get to the stage where she could feel him through so few layers of cloth. She felt every ounce of her inexperience in that moment. The fleeting instant of feminine power she'd felt before evaporated.
He gave a low, quiet laugh, and she knew he was now aware of her thoughts. She felt something primal shift the dynamic between them, and his kiss turned scorching as he marked her as his. He had always been compelled to seek her in spring, but he'd resisted for long years, and when he had come, he'd rejected all of her offerings. This time was different. This one was accepted. A sudden need for balance made her bold, and she parted his robes and grasped his hard cock in a small hand. When he threw his head back and hissed, her smile was feral.
His hand reached up and cupped her breast through her layers of clothing, and he brought his mouth down and kissed her again, leaving a trail of aching need from her lips to her jaw and down her neck. He opened his mouth and bit her, soothing the mark with his tongue. She tightened her hand around him and explored, feeling steel wrapped in heated velvet for the first time. Her fingers grazed his sack, and he let out a moan and spread his legs. His hand left her breast and wrapped around hers, showing her the rhythm that he needed, and she began to stroke him in earnest, feeling more powerful with each ragged breath he took and every violent tremor he couldn't suppress. He might have marked her as his, but she would claim him as hers.
She felt her magic flare and surge as it built up inside her and saw the flickers of lightning tear across his steel-colored aura.
She increased her pace, and it wasn't long before his hoarse panting was filled with deep moans as he was left powerless. He thrust himself at her hand as he clawed at her clothes, trying in vain to overcome her armor. He let out a tremendous shout and spilled his seed into her palm and onto the ground. She felt triumphant euphoria surge through her.
He sagged, and his hands gentled, stroking her as they shook. He leaned in, kissed her tenderly, and then lifted up a corner of his own robes to wipe her hand clean.
"The Goddess must be pleased with you," he said enigmatically.
He pushed away from the rock and straightened his robe before sweeping an arm around her and pulling her up against his body. "There are many ritual grounds. Only come to this one," he said fiercely, and he claimed her with his mouth again before stepping away from her. She started to ask him what he'd meant, but he turned into a spin and disappeared with a crack and a lightning-shot swirl of grey robe
As soon as he was gone, the spell broke, and she was left standing there in shocked desolation, with no understanding of what she'd done. And with an utter stranger, no less. She burst into tears of confusion and stumbled away to find the tent they all shared. She couldn't stomach the thought of going to seek out her fiancé with another man's seed drying on her hand.
The celebration had continued until sunrise when the Lunar magic had been broken by the coming of the sun and everyone had seen each other for who they really were. For Hermione Granger, the rite had ended with a crack of Apparition. Whatever primal ritual she'd been swept up in had been complete, and she'd been very, very frightened by it.
She sat on her rock, sipping her pumpkin juice and looked back at how naive she'd been, how utterly young and innocent. It had been so apt. The perfect virgin offering, not just sexually, but intellectually.
Ron had eventually found his way back to the tent after sun up, and one look at his dazed, shamed face and she'd understood he had been caught up in it as well. They'd smiled and laughed with the others until they were alone back at the Burrow, and then they'd clung each other and cried.
They'd gone out together the next day and bought a contraceptive potion and had spent the next four days furiously trying to glue back together what had been broken with sex. Their fumbling had turned into knowing, but they both were open and honest about how it wasn't enough anymore. They loved each other, but their innocence had been shattered, and it lay in jagged, broken pieces between them. In the end, they had held each other in tears as they said their private good byes, before telling their families the wedding was off.
She'd spent the next week staring at the walls of her parent's house, wondering why they didn't seem to fit anymore. She had finally moved into a tiny flat of her own.
Once she'd finished unpacking, the questions had begun to burn her. She'd drained Luna dry as a source of information within one fifteen minute conversation. She'd gone to Hogwarts, skulking along the shelves in the library with Headmaster Snape's permission. She'd enjoyed being in the school again, but at the same time, she felt disconnected. Her former teachers constantly found reasons to seek her out as she tried to research her new interest, excited to catch up on gossip, and she found it disconcerting how much they treated her like an equal.
McGonagall and Flitwick had been more interested in chatting than teaching. They were both full of sympathy that she and Ron had parted ways, having read it in the paper along with the rest of the Wizarding world, and they both told her what they knew about Lunar magic in an annoyingly casual way. Professor Sinistra had been patient with her many questions, pointing her toward one or two useful texts on the subject, as well as huge, thick tomes on Solar magic, Tidal magic, and Weather magic. Professor Trelawney even made a special appearance to tell her that her inner eye had seen that the Goddess had awakened in her, leaving Hermione to wonder if everyone could suddenly tell that she'd finally gotten laid. Even the Headmaster, as austere and forbidding as ever, had silently dropped a book on her table in the library, with a raised eyebrow and an amused smirk, and walked away. That book had been the most illuminating.
Armed with her new bit of book knowledge and half lit understanding, Hermione had casually asked Luna if she's wanted to go with her again for the Summer Solstice celebration. Luna turned around and asked everyone again, but they all had begged off. Hermione had squirmed when she found out Luna had asked Ron again. She knew he was still torn up over the fact that Beltane had destroyed their relationship. Hermione knew he was equally upset that the morning after Beltane, when he'd finally seen his magenta-colored witch, he'd also seen her wedding ring.
She'd felt dreadful for inadvertently salting the wounds.
Luna and she had gone alone, and instead of borrowing a tent, they'd found the Muggle Bed and Breakfast. They went to the ritual grounds later in the day, finding it more crowded and relaxed for the Solstice festival than it had been for Beltane.
Luna and she had smiled and laughed and drunk a bit too much as Luna chattered on endlessly about how sure she was that her Lunar mate would be there this time, surely. Hermione never told her she'd found her own. She just laughed in encouragement and scanned the crowd incessantly for a tall, thin stranger with long hair and a large nose.
When the fires were lit and the incantations said, the magic and the music swirled into a frenzy as the people around her exploded into color.
"Oh, Luna! You're different! You're cooler. A calmer blue with white, like clouds! So pretty!"
"You are too! You're all kinds of summer colors, you look like a paisley garden! Much prettier than last time!"
Hermione watched as Luna skipped into the crowd and joined the age old dance. The rhythm of the music practically forced people's feet to fly along to keep up, and Hermione found her feet tapping the ancient rhythms as well.
She found the colors grew hard to watch much sooner and squinted, trying to find her secret lover. She moved around the edges of the circle, looking constantly at the shifting crowd. There were more people along the borders watching this time, and as she squirmed her way through, she was groped several times causing her to burn with embarrassment. She'd worn the traditional robes and felt vulnerable and exposed. She backed out of the crowd and found the big rock she'd stood on when she'd first spied him. She climbed up on it, quickly finding purchase with her bare feet, and stood up.
She felt the warmth flash across her almost immediately, a blooming of heat that was gone the next instant. She scanned the crowd in the direction it had come from and saw him, making his way through the crowd, fighting his way through the human waves to reach her. He was lighter in color, a soothing, dove grey with soft white rippling across him as he moved. His view cleared, and when he looked up at her again, she felt herself flooded with his regard.
Her heart started to pound, and she foolishly dashed off the rock towards him and was immediately dragged away into the dance. She cried out, but it was lost in the cheers and the laughter and the singing. She struggled to break away, but it was useless. She eventually turned into the movement and used it to angle her way towards the edges. When she popped back out of the dance, she was disoriented. She took several deep breaths and then backed farther away from the bonfire.
There he was. He'd climbed onto a cart filled with emptied kegs of ale. As soon as she found him, he spun around and saw her. She raced for him, and he leaped down, landing in a graceful swirl of robes. They crashed together, arms grasping, and lips seeking each other immediately. They drank each other in. He clung to her, and she rejoiced, knowing that the claim she had laid on him in spring had sunk as deeply into him as his had into her. She felt a surge of triumph flow through her and marveled at her new understanding. Her Goddess was pleased.
She pulled back and took his hand, leading him away from the fire. She looked up and saw the full moon looming just above a copse of trees and headed for it. He followed docilely behind.
She filled her lungs with the smell of the loam underfoot and the sap flowing under the bark, and when they passed through the stand of trees into the field beyond, she rejoiced in the smell of freshly mowed grass.
She led him down to an open place where the moon poured her light down unhindered, and she stopped. She removed his robe, the soft, shimmering grey falling to the ground as an inert pool of absolute darkness. She stripped herself, feeling no shame at all for being naked in front of this man, and pulled him down to the soft grass. He lay there, panting, as she let her hands roam across his body, feeling his strength waiting for renewal.
She sucked in a sharp breath at what she couldn't see, but her fingertips found. Scars. Dozens of scars, that told of a life spent in pain. She wanted to take that pain away, to absorb it and expel it like the poison it was. His body shook, and she tasted his salty tears as she kissed them away and began to make love to him. He yielded to her in every way, surrendering to her greater strength. And when she climbed on top of him, and took his maleness inside herself, her blood sang to hear his cry of pleasure.
This. This was why she and Ron had gone their separate ways. They had both known that this utter completeness would never be possible with each other, and once tasted, neither of them were able to settle.
He worshiped her with his hands as much as with his cock. She groaned as he gently tugged at her nipples, and he rasped, "So beautiful…" His trebled voice had shifted, the old man's dry voice ascendant, with the other two an overlapping chorus. She smiled, as book knowledge was replaced by understanding. He was the Dark God, and his strength was at its lowest ebb while hers was at its strongest.
Their positions would reverse at the other end of the cycle. Starting tonight, her strength would begin to wane while his would wax until it was she who would surrender so completely to him. She felt herself pulse at the thought and felt the Goddess within her tremble in anticipation. He moaned and when he thrust up into her again, her last conscious thought popped like a soap bubble, and she let her mind go as the primal took over, and she took her pleasure from this willing, human sacrifice.
When she found her release, she saw the true face of the Goddess and was nearly shocked out of the experience altogether. The Goddess smiled as he spilled himself inside her with a cry, and then she vanished, leaving Hermione to collapse down upon this stranger who wrapped his arms around her and held her as if she were infinitely precious. She fell asleep, safe in his arms. His whispered thank you was the last thing she heard.
She woke alone when the sun broke over the horizon. She'd been carefully wrapped in both her own robe and his long black one. She'd sat up and looked around, only to see other revelers across the fields waking up and turning towards their partners with a happy cries or awkward laughs.
She wasn't the only one alone in that field, but she couldn't believe any of them felt as empty as she did in that moment. Or had they all seen the face that she could only now vaguely remember?
Hermione sat on her rock and watched the revelers gather for the Autumn Harvest festival, wondering if he would even come. She'd never gone to Lughnasadh in August. She'd just found out she was pregnant.
There had been a reference in the old books that in some cases, the power of the rites would override the strongest charms or potions, but that book had been written three hundred years ago, and she'd foolishly thought that modern potions would have been designed better.
The irony was amusing in a way. The triple aspect of the goddess was well reflected in her. In the beginning of May, she had been an innocent maid. At the end of June, a woman in all her feminine power. Now, as the fields were ripe with golden grain at the end of September, she was ripening with a child that was due on at the next Beltane festival.
As she looked at the future, she shivered and felt old.
She ate a bit of a turkey leg and sipped some more from her drink and waited. She wished she'd asked Luna to come. She hadn't spoken to any of her friends, claiming herself too busy with work. Luna had indeed found her Lunar mate last June, a young man recently returned from South America. They had been seeing each other steadily since. Lunar mates were always compatible—the Elder Gods ensured it was so—but in Luna's case, he was perfect. He hunted wild and strange creatures to catalogue them for scientific study for the Wizarding world. Luna was deeply in love and not about to go to any festivals without her mate.
Hermione felt alone and deeply vulnerable. She'd told no one about her condition and knew time was running out. She would begin to show in another month. Her studies had shown that the rate of conception during the festivals didn't differ from any other time of the year. The odds should have been in her favor. However, whatever had transpired between her and her lover had been deeper, and more elemental than what Luna had described. There were older and far more primal things afoot when they came together, and so it was not completely shocking that her potion had failed, and she'd ended up with child.
In ages past, a child of the Gods, one conceived at the bonfires, was considered a blessing for the village, but that tradition had been dust long before the Victorian age had crushed the right of women to be sexual creatures. Now she would just be an unmarried mother who didn't even know who the father was.
She took a deep breath and rubbed her belly. It didn't matter. Her child would be special. She wasn't the first, and she wouldn't be the last, judging by the knowing smiles and anticipatory energy of the people gathered at this lesser festival.
She smiled and pulled her cloak tighter about her shoulders, flipping a fold over her bare feet to ward off the chill as the sun set, limning the Autumn leaves in fire.
She watched with bemusement as the fire was finally lit, the incantation shouted in a joyful chant, and the people around her burst into a cacophony of color. She said her own spell in a quiet voice and wondered what she looked like now.
She didn't stand on her rock and scan the crowd this time, for some reason. She just sat and watched. She was high enough off the ground to see the fun and close enough to feel the joy. It was enough. The coolness of the night on her back was perfectly balanced with the warmth of the fire. She glanced away from the dance and watched the swollen moon rise above the trees across the field, looming over the celebration as if she wanted to come closer to watch.
The dance had been spiraling in its eternal circle around the bonfire for about thirty minutes the when she felt the first flicker of warmth. She closed her eyes and smiled. He'd come. She opened them and stood up on her rock and spotted him right away. He was dark—oh so dark—with silver fire licking up from the hem of his robe. He didn't skirt the circle, but knifed through it. Dancers flowed out of the way, and the colors swirled and eddied about in his wake as he came straight for her.
The Goddess awakened inside, and she felt a surge of strength and joy course through her. When he was only six feet away, she let out a peel of laughter that sounded like a girlish giggle, lusty laugh and a frightening cackle all at once and sprang off the other side of the rock and ran away.
He gave a shout, the deep, rich voice making her skin tingle as the boyish glee and the knowing bark of the Ancient One infused it with power as he gave chase.
She skipped nimbly around the revelers hanging back and threaded her way in and out of the vendors' stalls, before taking off across the fields toward the forest in the distance. She knifed through the golden grain and raced straight towards the moon climbing above the trees, knowing that once she'd made the safety of the forest, her creatures would protect her. Her power might be waning, but it would be months yet before she lost her strength. If he wanted her, he would have to catch her before she disappeared back under the earth.
It wasn't long before she heard his feet pounding the ground behind her, her heartbeat echoing his steps. Leaves crunched underfoot, and the Autumn air cleansed her lungs as she approached the rich, leaf-mould scent of her forest.
She let loose a triumphant laugh as she passed into the shadow thrown by the forest. She was only a few strides from freedom, her creatures were gathering to pounce in the underbrush of the tree line, when she felt his arm snap around her and palm a breast as he dragged her away with a victorious shout. He swept her up into his arms and kissed her soundly before he carried her off.
He took her to a fold in the earth that lay in deep shadow and stripped her of robe and cloak. The cool autumn air felt glorious against her naked skin as his kisses stole her breath. His hot hands scorched her flesh, demanding and taking what she had only withheld for the length of the chase. He broke the kiss and shed his own clothing, and she watched as he stretched out his hand, and their clothing swirled up and spread themselves out in the shadowed darkness. His body was glorious to look at, his sleek lines of shadow cascading sheets of silver fire. He pulled her roughly back into his arms, and she opened her mouth under the assault of his demanding kisses. His hands were all over her, teasing a peaked breast and burrowing into her hidden places, and she lost her control and broke apart in the sheer fury of his lust. He kissed her deeply, turned her away from him, and then forced her down to the earth. She ended up on her knees, and he dropped down behind her and pulled her back against him and ravaged her neck while he kneaded and tweaked her breasts. He pushed her down onto her hands and growled as he buried himself deeply inside of her. She moaned as he took her, rutting like a wild animal, and when he reached his release, his bellow echoing across the countryside, she felt herself fly apart. She clamped down on him, and he let out a high pitched whine as she stole more of his seed than he'd been willing to give.
He collapsed down on top of her, and she felt his heart slam in his sweat-slicked chest. She smiled wickedly as she felt his trembling body struggle for control as his cock and his seed spilled out of her. He lifted slightly and pulled her back into his arms as he collapsed to the ground, wrapping her robes and cloak about her before digging for his wand and casting a warming charm over them both.
The moon rose above the treeline and bathed them in her silver glow, as the smell of the fire carried on the crisp night air. She found herself filled with a sleepy lassitude that was like a drug.
He leaned back against the hummock and cradled her in his lap between his long legs. His hand settled over her belly, and his trebled voice murmured in her ear, "I would claim this child, if you would let me. I would claim you as well."
She sagged against him and couldn't stop the tears that sprang into her eyes.
"How did you know?"
"Your colors. You were Spring green at Beltane, and deep emerald at the solstice. Now you are an incredible warm gold of ripeness, but you carry a bright green spark right here. The God knows and is pleased. He recognizes his own." He hugged her gently and dragged a hand slowly up her body. "Besides, your breasts are bigger. I hope I wasn't too rough."
"No," she reassured him with a sleepy yawn. "I will have you. The Goddess has claimed you for my mate."
"Wait until morning to swear yourself to me. It might not be as easy as that."
"Is that why you always leave me? You fear if I know who you are, I will reject you?"
He didn't answer, which was an answer unto itself.
She nestled into his arms and closed her eyes. "Stay this time," she said, unable to fight sleep any longer.
"I will be here, Hermione."
Her eyes fluttered open, but the lethargy that had overtaken her was too much, and she merely clutched at him before she drifted off to sleep, listening to the sound of his steady heartbeat.
She slept the night through, always knowing on some level that he watched over her. She woke with the dawn, when she felt a renewed Warming Charm flow across her like an added blanket. She was wrapped in her robe and cloak and held securely in the protective arms of her lover. She stretched languorously and opened her eyes, seeing two long, and gracefully-shaped, pale feet sticking out of black cloth in the pale light. At some point, he had dressed. She pulled both of his arms tighter around herself when she felt him stiffen. She stroked his hand before flipping it over and tugging his sleeve back, looking for the mark she hoped would be there. When she saw it, she sighed with relief and turned her head slowly, looking up into the expressionless face of Severus Snape.
She smiled and felt him relax.
"The Goddess has claimed you for my mate," she repeated.
"The Dark God has chosen his consort," came the ritualistic reply.
He pulled her tighter against him and slid a hand into her robe, caressing a breast first, before sliding down and palming her flat belly, as he looked out across the field. The thick mist slowly dissipated as the sun gained height. She felt at peace for the first time in longer than she could remember. Severus Snape had claimed her as his own and allowed himself to be bound to her. Of course there were conversations to be had, boundaries to learn and respect, obstacles to overcome, and certain important words that she knew with a certainty would eventually be spoken. It would all come in time.
Sitting here, protected in his arms, she felt the duality. He was who he had always been, but he was so much more than what people saw. Vibrating just under the surface was a protective Dark God, ready to exact a terrible retribution on anything that harmed his chosen mate. Hermione thought of the long years of hell he had endured to ensure the complete and total destruction of the man who had killed his last chosen mate, and the bitter irony that Lily had rejected him and crippled his strength. She couldn't have known what he was.
Hermione was not that stupid. He was hers now.
It was a little intimidating, like having a pet elemental that would never harm her, but would easily destroy everything around her if she found it displeasing. She stroked his forearm and felt his rumble of pleasure throughout her entire body, and she settled deeper in his arms to watch the day begin. She smiled.
They married at Yule. A whirlwind courtship, the papers said, and people smiled knowingly after they read the words "Lunar mates." Only the young and uninitiated were scandalized, and they were tolerated with benign amusement, and in some cases, pity.
The ceremony was held with proper decorum. The feast afterwards was the talk of the town, and when the Headmaster and his young bride slipped away, there were more knowing nods and even more looks of envy.
That night, as they stood under the full moon next to their own raging bonfire, he was made of purest darkness, and she was white as snow as she surrendered to him utterly.
ANd another thing... All rituals, and the spell they used, were invented in my twerked brain. Any resemblance to existing pagan rituals is just from influence, and not intended as instruction. But if you want to paint yourselves pretty colors and run in circles 'round a fire, be my guest. I'll be off in a field with my Snape. Or something.
Reviews feed the Muse. Leave me one, and I'll finally post one of the other fics that I've finally finished. Yup. I will.