A/N: I started writing this pretty soon after I finished Eclairs but then lost the feel of it a little. However, I re-read Eclairs today (the things one will do to avoid seminars) and got all geared up for it. So I've finished it, and I hope you like it. Also, some of you may be interested in the fact that I have started planning a new Tom/Hermione multichapter. I miss writing them so much that I've spent a good portion of the day wracking my brains for a plot. It's sort of forming. And finally, if you want to stay updated on my writing, feel free to follow me on twitter, the link is in my profile, and my username is Flaignhan, same as here. That's all, hope you enjoy this, apologies for the long note! =]
Just a House.
She pushed open the splintered door with her finger tips, jaw hanging low, wand gripped tightly in her shaking hand. Everything was gone. The carpets, the curtains, the furniture, even the bannister had been ripped away from the staircase. She stepped inside, back against the wall, listening intently as hot tears spilled down her cheeks. First, she checked the lounge – empty. Their wedding photo was lying tattered on floor, frame long gone now. She looked over her shoulder and picked it up, holding back a sob when she saw the large rip cutting straight through Cedric's face.
She turned, leaving the lounge and inspecting the kitchen, followed by the dining room. She was certain they were gone by now, but it was with a lump of fear lodged in her throat that she climbed the stairs, wand raised.
The bedrooms were empty. They'd taken her clothes. She pushed the door of the bathroom open and found a dusty space. They'd ripped the shower and bath out, even the toilet. She was surprised they still had a roof on the house, they seemed to have taken everything else, why not that too?
She went back downstairs, shoes clonking loudly on the bare wooden floorboards. It was her fault. All her fault. She'd been late for work this morning and she'd forgotten to cast the charms. She'd nagged him so many times about it and the one day she forgot was the one day they came.
She slid down to the floor, back against the wall, and curled into a ball, head resting against her knees. The tears were coming thick and fast now and she shook as sobs racked through her.
She didn't know how long it was before the door creaked, and her head snapped up. He was home.
A fresh wave of crying hit her and she buried her face in her knees once more. Within seconds his arms were around her, holding her tightly, rocking her backwards and forwards as though she were a child.
"Are you all right? You didn't get back while they were still here, did you? Are you hurt?"
She shook her head, fingers gripping his dark robes, trying to pull him closer even though their bodies were already touching.
"Look, it's okay, we can fix it."
"They've taken everything," she sobbed. "Only thing they left was this." She pulled the ruined photograph out of her pocket and handed it to him. He stiffened and stood up. Hermione watched him pace about the kitchen, fists clenched into balls, knuckles popping out of the skin.
Something silver erupted from the tip of his wand, and moments later, Harry and Ron appeared with a loud crack.
"You are going to find the bastards that did this, do you understand me?" he accentuated each word with a shove to each of them in turn as they looked around, unable to take in the sight of the wrecked home that had last night been utterly perfect.
"You," Cedric continued with a growl, "are going to do your bloody jobs because I am sick to death of hearing about people having every single possession destroyed by these maniacs. Why the hell haven't you caught them yet?"
"We've got some Aurors working undercover, Ced," Harry said, keeping a wary eye on Cedric's balled fists. "We're doing the best we can."
"Well do better then."
"Stay at mine tonight," Harry said, "we've got room, Ginny can get the spare room sorted out in no time, and we can figure out how to put this right tomorrow, all right?"
Hermione shook her head.
"Well you can't stay here," Harry argued.
"Go," she said thickly, and Harry sighed.
"If there's anything you need, you know where to find us," Ron's voice was uncommonly soft, and he touched her shoulder gently before the pair of them disapparated.
"How the hell did they get past the charms?" Cedric fumed, pacing around the room, his fists clenched.
"I forgot to - I was late for work and -" she didn't manage to choke out the rest of the sentence as a new round of tears hit her. She covered her face, not wanting to see the expression on Cedric's. His silence was enough to tell her that he was furious with her.
"So all that nagging you did to me and you're the one who leaves our house unprotected?" he kicked a splintered, uprooted floorboard against the wall and Hermione flinched as the resultant crash echoed through the empty house.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"Oh well that's all right then."
She wiped at her eyes and looked up at him. For the first time ever, his eyes were full of rage, and they were looking at her. He'd never looked at her like that before, not even when they'd had their fiercest arguments. She buried her head in her arms again, if only to try and block out his look, but she could still feel it.
"I need to get out of here."
His footsteps sounded loudly as he left her, the front door banging as he flung it shut behind him.
Hermione leaned her head against the wall, wiped at her face, then looked at the photograph once more.
He was smiling the biggest smile she'd ever seen, his arms around her. The end of his body and the start of hers would have been indistinguishable, were it not for the contrasting colours of their clothes. She sighed, and put it back in her pocket.
She missed him already.
Sitting on the floor crying, however, was not going to do anybody any good, and so she got to her feet, drew her wand, and got to work.
It did not, however, go at all according to plan.
Half an hour later, she was still standing in an empty room. The only one of her spells which had worked was Incendio, and a fire was crackling in the grate, providing the only source of heat and light in the room.
She had tried to repair the broken floorboard, but it had simply sprung back moments later. She had tried to conjure a sofa, and it worked, until she sat on it. It disappeared in a puff of purple smoke, and she landed painfully on the floor. No matter what spells she did, none of them took any effect.
She sent a Patronus message to George, and he arrived moments later with an exaggerated, dramatic crack.
"Blimey," he said.
He let out a long, low whistle as he took in the site of the ruined lounge. "Ced know?"
"Yeah, he stormed out though."
"I forgot to cast the charms before I left this morning."
"I can't conjure anything though," her voice cracked with frustration, a lump forming in her throat. "Any time I try to put it right it just goes back. I can't work out what's stopping me."
George scrunched his nose, narrowed his eyes and began walking slowly around the edge of the room, taking in all the details.
"I've read about it in the papers," he said, "Three times in the last month it's happened. No one's been able to put it right by magic. Not for a few days, anyway."
"So it's a curse then? Maybe Bill knows how to - "
"Nah," George said, waving a hand dismissively. "Curse breakers act like they're fantastic but really they're only good at breaking in to places."
"I thought maybe you'd know something...it's almost like a practical joke, I thought maybe - "
"Practical jokes are funny."
"That's why I said almost."
He smiled slightly, and placed his hands against the walls. He frowned, then slid his right hand higher. "That's interesting."
"What's interesting?" Hermione asked, crossing the room quickly. She placed her hands on the wall but could feel nothing.
George removed his hands from the wall, shrugging. "I got a twinge of...I dunno."
"Is it in the walls?"
"The curse, is it in the walls?"
"Oh, no, I was just stretching," he half smiled and walked over to the window, looking out onto the street, where a fox was rummaging through some bin bags.
"Any ideas then?" Hermione asked.
"I'm gonna have to mull it over," he replied. "Sorry, nothing makes sense right now."
Hermione nodded, trying not to feel too disappointed.
"You'll be able to set it right in a few days time, but I'll have a think. Might be able to get you back on track a bit sooner."
"If you need somewhere to stay tonight - "
"It's okay, but thanks."
He nodded, put an arm around her in a half-hug, then disapparated.
Hermione sighed, sat down on the floor, and waited.
She wasn't sure if an hour had passed, perhaps it was two, but when the sky outside had turned pitch black and the fire in the grate was slowly dying, she heard him come home.
He arrived in the lounge, silhouetted by the street light glaring in through the window.
She got to her feet and moved forwards, arms circling his waist as he pulled her close in response, pressing a kiss to the top of her head and heaving a sigh.
"I shouldn't have blown up like that."
"It's my fault."
"It could have happened to anyone."
"But it was still my fault."
"It doesn't matter."
"I tried to put it right, but none of my spells -"
"I know, I know."
"I'm really sorry."
They were silent for a while, and Hermione fell into a serene, dream like state as she breathed in his scent and let the heat from his body transfer to hers, warming her all over.
It was Cedric who broke the silence.
"I've been shopping."
"Oh?" Hermione said, pulling away just enough to meet his gaze, but not so much she broke the hug.
He nodded. "Muggle shopping. It was all rather confusing, but I think I managed it well enough."
"Where did you get muggle money from?"
"I might have charmed one of those money machines in the wall."
"Cash point," Hermione corrected, pursing her lips. "You mean you stole money?"
"Yeah," he said off-handedly, breaking their contact, his hand going into the pocket of his coat and pulling out several incredibly tiny shopping bags. With a wave of his wand they were life size once more, and the largest object caught Hermione's attention.
"An air bed," she said simply.
"Well I figured we'd need something to sleep on, and seeing as we can't use magic to get anything in here..."
They spent the next twenty minutes taking it in turns to operate the small foot pump that had come with the bed, exchanging frequent looks of exasperation as the bed began to take shape, excruciatingly slowly. While it was Cedric's turn, Hermione unpacked the large squashy sleeping bag that he'd also bought, and two large pillows. She then began to peruse the contents of the other bags, and quickly found a bottle of red wine. She pulled it out and held it up to Cedric.
"What are we celebrating, exactly?" she asked, hand on hip.
"Oh," he said sheepishly, glancing down at the almost-inflated air bed. "I thought if you were still mad at me I could get you drunk and hope that you'd forget all about it."
"Oh how lovely," she said, though her sarcasm was obvious. She rooted through the bag and soon came across some wine glasses, took two from the cardboard packaging, and gave them to Cedric to hold while she opened the bottle.
"So the wine was a good idea?"
"Not for the reasons you were intending it for...but all the same, I need a bloody good drink."
He smiled, the first proper, teeth exhibiting smile he'd smiled all evening, and Hermione could feel her heart swell in her chest. It was going to be all right. It was just a house. As long as she had him, it would be okay.
"This feels like a sleepover," she said as she crawled into her sleeping bag, careful not to knock over her refilled wine glass.
"A sleepover with your husband?"
"Yeah," she giggled, picking up her wine glass once she was comfy and taking a long sip.
"Mrs Diggory, I do believe you're drunk."
"Don't care," she kissed him on the lips, but pulled away before he had a chance to really enjoy it.
"Look what else I got," he said, pulling a carrier bag towards him.
Hermione let out an ooh as he pulled a large box out of the bag, and visible through the cellophane window on top were four chocolate éclairs. He slid one finger under the flap of the box and pulled out the plastic tray. He offered one to her and she took it.
"How d'you want me to do it?" she asked, her head swirling as she looked at him, waiting for an answer.
He leaned forward, his stubbly jaw grazing against her cheek as he whispered in her ear.
"Dirtier than ever."
"Okay," she said, swaying slightly. The unstable nature of the air bed did not help her slightly tipsy state one little bit, and almost all her concentration was set on staying upright. "But you have to do something for me first."
"Kiss," she said simply, looking up at him with expectant eyes.
He smirked, took a bite of the éclair in her hand ("Mr Diggory, how dare you!") then went in for a creamy, chocolatey, wine-y kiss.
Hermione dropped the éclair to the floor, where it remained for the rest of the night.