Rating: MA - Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains adult themes.
Story Note: A series of prompts led to the telling of this tale. It's not my usual poison, but I'm practicing for the rare pair challenge at Granger Enchanted. The prompts and a longer author's note are on the bottom. Many thanks to A True Dreamer for the prompts.
She grits her teeth.
He casts a worried glance at her watery eyes before bending his head to look more closely at her gaping wound.
"Tell me if it hurts," he repeats the words again, ones he'd uttered so many... far too many... times before.
Hermione's jaw clenches. She focuses on a thick swath of dark hair that sweeps over his brow. She catches herself, yet again, wondering just exactly when the clumsy Neville Longbottom of her schoolgirl memories had grown into this very fine and truly competent model of a man.
He murmurs a sorry when she winces at his clinical movements. His quiet, comforting bedside manner has Hermione secretly regretting that she never did tell him how truly wonderful and supportive he'd been at Hogwarts, when she'd been chronically belittled as the ugly, little know-it-all Mudblood. Maybe things would have been vastly different now if she'd only taken the time to show Neville just how much she'd always cared for him.
Watching him work so skillfully, it is clear to Hermione that she'd made a woeful mistake in choosing the man with whom she was now bound for a lifetime.
"It's just a flesh wound, Neville," she hisses as he gingerly touches his wand to her side. Her eyes grow round with admiration as he expertly casts an incantation that not only knits her skin together but serves to shield her from the pain of his mending. He shakes his head, silently wondering how long she was going to keep on denying her dreadful truth.
"I became a healer to relieve people of unnecessary pain, Hermione," he states softly, unsure if he is truly prepared to brave her infamous sharp tongue with his renewed appeal for her to heed her own safety. "You need help, love. This can't go on." Neville was convinced, one day her cowardly bastard of a husband was going to level a killing blow.
Today, however, Hermione, was going to have none of Neville's censure.
"How's Hannah?" the bushy-haired witch inquires, feigning light curiosity, desperate to draw the subject away from herself and her own domestic problems.
"She's left me," Neville replies tersely, running the light touch of his fingertips against her bare midriff where he sees no scarring had occurred in the healing process. She shivers at his now familiar touch— a sweet, loving kindness she hadn't realized she'd been desperately craving. He presses his full lips together, pleased to see he'd managed not to mar her skin in his attempts to fix her hurt.
"When?" she breathes, her eyes wide, worried now that she had caused him some personal strife. He sends her a rueful smile, shaking his head to indicate the unimportance of the answer and then concentrates on straightening her blouse with his large, but nimble hands.
"It's a hard thing, Hermione, learning to accept that what you believed was undying love simply isn't any longer. It took a lot out of me not to follow Hannah when she walked out." He shifts between her thighs and draws closer, shining a bright light in her eyes, checking to see that she hadn't received a concussion from the latest blows. He shakes his head as he squints into her dark, dilated pupils. "I respect Hannah enough, though, not to punish her for making good on the decision to leave me. She had just cause, after all. It wasn't her fault and... and though she's rejected me, I know how to take it like a man."
Hermione frowns at Neville's clear accusation against the one who had laid his hands on her— the man she'd married, the husband to whom she'd vowed to honor and obey.
She'd found refuge in Neville's home, today, far from the almost too public setting of his office at St. Mungo's. Her abrasions, though, are mere cat scratches compared to what she'd greeted him with months ago, when they'd first been reunited.
Hermione had discovered Neville working at the hospital when she'd come requesting bandages for wounds that needed far more than an Episky. It was on that wretched day, when she could barely see through the swollen slits that had been her eyes, that she'd discovered the gentle, strong man that Neville had become. Between shallow breaths and the waves of relief that beat back the pain offered by the mediwizard's various anti-pain potions, she felt Neville's hands hold her wrecked body with such respect and reverence that she could only wonder what sort of memories and feelings he held for the spunky young girl she'd once been. As she lay in her anesthetized stupor, he'd spoken words of comfort, soothing and healing so many of her invisible wounds. So tender was his way that she longed to shed tears she no longer had inside. It had been at that moment, of gazing into his concerned gaze that she knew Neville would never cause her such breath stealing agony. He'd become her salve from the world of pain that had become her life. Hermione longed to stay in his silently offered loving embrace, but feared, truly feared, this secret desire.
The call to remain with Neville was deafening today. It had been a bad night at home, the worst since that first time Neville had healed her. This time, it was her own thoughtless stubbornness that put her in harm's way. When her husband's malevolent shadow fell over her, he'd grabbed her up without warning and stormed into their bedroom where he coldly commanded her to strip and get ready for him. She knew it was different this time. Something had happened at work or had triggered his violent need to punish. As always, Hermione was the nearest punching bag. Hermione had learned to protect herself from his worst as the man she'd once adored had gotten caught up in what had only been some playful sadomasochism at the start.
The violent dominance had come to a head last night when he'd demanded she scream, "I'd die for you," as he brutally entered her. The old, stubborn Hermione Granger, asserted herself at last, refusing to cower and utter such a blatant untruth. After all, she feared saying such dangerous things might be construed as some sort of warped promise in the mess that was currently her husband's very sick and twisted mind.
There had been a time she would have gladly laid her life down for him, but as she received his cruel and unusually violent punishment for her refusal to speak the words he so desired to hear, Hermione realized, there was no way she would ever sacrifice her life for this monster who had once called her his heart. For if indeed she was his heart, his unholy love for her had become so demonic in its strength that is was sure to leave them both grasping onto the remnants of their scarred life... too battered, bruised, and broken to remain together.
In the cold morning light, the truth of this shone ever brighter. Neville's careful touch against each lingering black and blue mark on her body served a wake up call to Hermione. Somehow, she had to figure out a way to sever her marriage vows as quickly as wizardly possible. She just didn't know how— not from a husband so picture perfect, so beloved by all society, that revealing his darkest most disturbing secrets would ruin her and condemn the man she once loved so unwaveringly.
And this was the primary reason she found herself secretly turning to this other wizard, for his unique ability to heal what the other so thoughtlessly desecrates.
"Please don't start, Neville," she whispers, clutching his sleeve as he gently encourages her to shift so he can examine her other side. "You know I can't leave him yet. He won't abide by that."
Tight-lipped, Neville nods, apparently done with his examination. He places a warm palm on her knee. His other rests lightly on her thin waist.
"All done, Hermione. You're all patched up again."
The words are what one might expect from a doctor satisfied with his patient's care, but she hears the strain in his attempts at such normalcy. She reaches out a hand to glide down his stubble roughened cheek, hearing the soft catch in his breath. She stares at him meaningfully, then carefully slides off his transfigured examination table, steadied by his sure hand.
"Have some tea before you go," he urges in an unfamiliar pleading tone that causes her to pause at the door. "Let the potions work just a bit longer, Hermione, until you are stronger to leave..."
...to face him again.
They both hear his unspoken entreat.
"You're too much a temptation, Neville," she half-teases, knowing that perhaps too much of her jest is true. "If I stay," she whispers regretfully, "I might never go."
"Then, Hermione, never go."
His impetuous offer hangs boldly in the suddenly tense air between them.
She flashes him a look of apology, before closing his front door behind her. Her woebegone smile reminds him of when they were ten, and she'd cursed him stiff and silent. He wonders at how these days she no longer needs a wand to effectively stupefy him. He mutely watches her follow her heart again— a heart so blinded to Neville's own, which calls out only to her.
She'd come home repaired, and his ever watchful eyes stare suspiciously at her obviously pain-free movements.
"Where have you been, witch?" the menacing voice slithers down her spine and she tries not to shudder.
"Nowhere of great importance," she replies demurely, evasively, carefully edging out his arm's reach. "I needed some air. All is well."
He stands suddenly, startling her so that she cannot make herself move away.
"I smell another wizard on you." His voice is gruff, biting in its accusation. He catches her hair in his muscled hand, the well-practiced swiftness come from quidditch and the casting off of harmful spells at work. He yanks her frizzy waves toward his aquiline nose. "I smell him... in your hair."
Her husband's accusation flies from his snarling lips as his fist slams into her newly healed jaw. She gasps, knowing that the potions Neville had just forced her to drink hadn't yet fully worked their magic. She feels a bone shatter, but is too accustomed to the gut wrenching pain to cry out. She waits for the blackness, craves the dark silence when he will leave her broken on the carpetless floor. The last words she hears him speak have her quaking in silent hysteria.
"'This hurts me more than it hurts you, Hermione."
He apparated to the emergency ward as soon as the mediwitches informed him she'd been Floo'd to the hospital again, so soon after their meeting.
Worrying his hands, he shrugs into his hospital whites and back out to her, curled, nearly lifeless in the hospital bed. Neville doesn't have to turn to know that he is there.
Neville nods at the man's gruff, reluctant acknowledgment, but his dark brown gaze never wanders from the petite witch lying in a coma on the bed. In her husband's lone word, Neville detects no worry or apology for what the evil bastard had done to his own wife. The Healer in him shakes his head in disgust. The man in him wants to give the blackguard a taste of his own medicine.
The sound of a possessive growl behind him has Neville taking his sweet time in passing his healing hand over Hermione's body. A fierce expression shines on Neville's concerned face and he knows that if looks could kill, he'd gladly gaze upon Hermione's fiend of a husband to murder the sadist and permanently keep her out of harm's way.
But such was not the Longbottom way. Neville had killed no more than Nagini during the last battle and when he that had happened, he'd felt little triumph in it. It was as though he was the last one standing in the eerie silence of the Great Hall before Voldemort's ear-splitting shrieks filled the room.
Neville barely recognizes his own voice in the unyielding command.
"She's mine," the sinister tone is foreign coming from the man Neville had long admired... that is, until on that otherwise peaceful spring day, he'd found his teenage crush battered and bloody in his examination room.
"No longer yours." Neville sneers just as menacingly, the man in him winning out over the mediwizard... just this once. "You will never touch her, nor so much as owl her again! If you so dare to, every last bit of barbarism that you've committed against Hermione will hit the press so fast you'd think I'd used a time turner to accomplish it."
Neville watches the man bare his perfect white teeth, reminding him of a caged animal. He revels in the satisfaction of knowing her husband's weakness. Privacy. He needed it, could barely stomach the gobs and gobs of adoring fans who hadn't the slightest clue of the terrible beast he was behind closed doors.
"Merlin knows you wouldn't be able to manage life with a spotlight shining so closely on your hard won, sterling reputation," Neville taunts, avidly watching this pillar of the wizarding community turn varying shades of purple in his attempts to maintain face in an emergency ward full of people casting curious and admiring looks his way. "Could you even live with the shame of being known as a wife beater?" Neville seethes. "It's Hermione Granger you're abusing. Come to think of it, this might even be a Kissing offense."
"She isn't worth dying for, Longbottom," the inflamed wizard spat.
"You'll go without a fight, then," Neville states, reclaiming his calm. "We certainly wouldn't want anyone dying."
With the parting whoosh of the wizard's dark robes and the sound of retreating footsteps, Neville turns once again to Hermione to grasp tightly onto her limp hand.
"No, Hermione," he whispers fiercely into her ear. "We wouldn't want anyone dying."
He'd come home after an evening with the lads to find her wearing only one of his hospital whites and something Muggle around her neck that she'd called a stethoscope. Brows knit, she was holding her wandtip against her pointer finger. By the looks of her spray of wild curls and bare long legs, it seemed she felt like playing doctor tonight. Neville smiled indulgently.
Saving Hermione sure had its perks.
Grunting softly, he hauls himself up another step. This effort has him breaking into a sticky sweat, the pain vividly reminding him that saving Hermione also came with some pitfalls.
"Hey, you," she purrs from his desk chair, her mild incantation complete. "I've been waiting for you to come home."
"Hermione," he gasps. The sound of pain is one Hermione knows all too well and it has her rushing to Neville's side.
"You're bleeding!" she cries, pulling up his shirt to determine the source of the scarlet spreading down the dark material of his robes.
"I fell down some stairs," he explains half-heartedly, more focused on the fact that she was undressing him than on any physical pain. She eyes him suspiciously at hearing his words, knowing too well that oft used excuse.
"Don't lie to me, Neville," she warns threateningly. "Both of us are rubbish at that."
He can't stop a smile from forming on his lips at the truth she speaks. She curses loudly, having found the wound he'd hastily closed. She clucks at the piss poor job he'd done stitching himself back together. He'd been drinking, and it was a wonder he'd gotten it mended at all, he thinks, bemused and touched by her obvious desire to nurse him back to health. In his estimation, she was already doing a brilliant job of it.
"Kiss it better, Hermione," he whispers, his dark eyes half-hooded, taking in the delightful sight of a nearly nude Hermione running her hands against him. She shakes her head at his inappropriate come-on. He was wounded for Merlin's sake! She curses Neville's nameless assailant, vowing that if it were up the her, the unknown swine would go down in flames for stabbing her new boyfriend.
"I hope you haven't given yourself an infection," she adds worriedly, grabbing her wand and re-applying the healing incantations herself. "What did you do to possibly deserve this?"
She watches the muscles in his jaw clench and, suddenly, understanding dawns.
"It was him that did this to you, wasn't it?"
"It doesn't matter, Hermione," he sighs, avoiding the scrutiny of her stare.
"Let me see your scars. Did he give you any? What is it with blokes and their unwillingness to accept defeat?" she questions hotly, tears brimming. "Those bloodstains better be his, Neville."
"He was stabbed in the back before he could do any more damage to me," Neville says, with a curious note of regret.
"Is he dead, then?" she asks, almost hopeful.
"Your ex-husband has an exceptionally strong will to live, as do I," Neville replies, morosely. "No, the git's not dead."
"You don't have any deep seeded desire to have my ex- die by your hand, do you?" she asks, slightly alarmed by the tone no Healer should ever use toward the life of another.
"Rest assured, Hermione, even if I did, I have battle fatigue," Neville sighs tiredly. "I'm a lover, not a fighter. Come here, Hermione. Tell me what you were doing at the desk when I interrupted you."
He feels her strong healing spell sweep through him, leaving him with only a slight ache, nothing worse than what he'd felt after a long run that morning. She smiles, at his relieved expression, knowing he is well again. Still, she takes care not to further aggravate his wound as she settles herself on him. His eyes drift closed to savor her lovely vanilla scent and the soft strength of her arms about his broad shoulders. He feels her lips against his and he slowly lifts his eyelids when he feels her pull away.
"I had a papercut," she says with a little pout. He peers at the dainty finger she holds up. She is smiling. "I got it while reading the new book you gave me. Imagine, all of that excitement in my life while you were having your drunken brawl with my ex-husband."
Her profered fingertip travels to the indent of his lush lips, touching the bit of moisture that she'd left there from her lingering buss. "So, tell me, Neville, did I manage to heal you with my kiss?" Her sultry whisper raises his temperature and some other notable parts of his anatomy. She quirks an eyebrow feeling just exactly how well he is.
He smiles, shaking his head to clear himself of this lazy haze of happiness.
"No?" she teases, gliding her hand against his solid torso, sliding buttons open and leaving the warm skin of a wanting male in its wake. "Tell me if it hurts," she whispers against his chest, laving her tongue against his flat abdomen, her hands working him out of the remainder of his robes.
"You could never hurt me, Hermione," he gasps at her ministrations. She smiles seductively at the masculine sound. He catches her feline look, full of sexy promise. "And I promise I'll never hurt you."
He spies a softer expression in the depths of her gaze as she moves onto him, adjusting to place him exactly where she wants him to be. She lets out a soft feminine sound of arousal and satisfaction, dipping her head to swallow his pleased moan with a passionate kiss at their joining. Reluctantly, she pulls her lips away to draw in necessary air. He takes the lead, then, guiding them both into the first steps of this age-old, intimate dance. The music they move to turns sultry with her wanton gasps and his not quite satisfied groans punctuating the beating of their hearts. Before Neville can rocket her off into the stratosphere, Hermione stills just long enough to cradle his strong jaw in both her hands.
"Neville, love," she sighs, "You can heal me anytime."
A/N: I didn't name her husband because I couldn't bear to implicate anyone specifically. So, you pick the abuser. In fact, why don't you tell me who you think it might be. And if you are so inclined, tell me why you think so. I just might be convinced into doing a spin off based on your devious thoughts! :)
Anyway, I took A True Dreamer's prompts as a base for this one. As she did in her NextGen story, I used these in the order as written as I spun this tale. They really helped ground me— otherwise who knows where I would've gone with Hermione and Neville. Probably right into the dirt (of the Herbology classroom) LOL.
Well, I hope you had fun reading.
The phrase prompts (which don't specify a certain pairing) are as follows, maybe you'll want to try it too! If you do, shoot off a PM. I'd love to read it!
1. 'It's just a flesh wound' 2. Sharp tongue 3. Killing blow 4. Take it like a man 5. Catscratches 6. Die for you 7. Sadomasochism 8. Whipped 9. Black and blue 10. Hospital 11. Bandages 12. 'This hurts me more than it hurts you' 13. If looks could kill 14. Last one standing 15. Worth dying for 16. 'You're bleeding' 17. 'I fell down some stairs' 18. Kiss it better 19. Go down in flames 20. Infection 21. Accept defeat 22. Let me see your scars 23. Bloodstains 24. Stabbed in the back 25. Will to live 26. Die by your hand 27. Battle fatigue 28. Papercut 29. Drunken brawl 30. Heal