A/N: When I say "mature" here I do mean "mature." Also, woah dudes, sorry ff left out the R/H qualifier I stuck on the description at first but have now put back on, let's all calm down a little and not be cunts.




When she stopped crying a few days after he left, and when the heavy chain was around her neck, she felt nothing. It was a heavy nothing and it weighed on her legs and her arms. When she rested her hands, clasped, on her stomach at night, she could barely feel their pressure. The horcrux felt like metal, like iron pressing against her skin, like a collar around her entire body, thin and constricting, but thick like fog.

But she still cried every night. She knew he heard her sometimes. She tried not to be loud but it was hard, because the harder she cried the more alive she felt. Even when she was wearing the horcrux, she could feel her shoulders shake and she could feel the fire falling out of her eyes—it was so cold where they were that her warm tears burned her skin. She could feel only then.

It hurt the most when one day, a week before Godric's Hollow, she was putting up the wards, and she realized that there was no prickle in the tips of her fingers. She was a Mudblood—she had been using that term for herself in her head since he had left—and so magic was a thing she noticed. She remembered picking up her wand in Diagon Alley and feeling the blood catch in her veins. She remembered walking in to Hogwarts for the first time, following those two frustrating boys, and sensing magic glinting in the very air. Now there was nothing. Her hand stopped, midair, her wand still. Behind her, he continued unpacking the tent. She moved her wand again and whispered words, and felt nothing, like the volume was turned down on her sense of touch. She tried to breathe normally. He didn't notice, she knew.

It had been weeks since he left. They were in the forests around York. The trees were tall and cold and dark and she wished she could be afraid, she wished her heart could hurt, but she didn't know if it was there any longer. And when she cried that night, it hurt less than it ever had. She could barely sense her violent shivers.

A small sliver of fear caught her, and she heard herself make a noise unlike anything that had ever come out of her. It was more than a gasp but less than a scream; it was a kind of quiet, wounded shriek. She paused. Distantly she heard the bed creaking above her. She felt the air shift and the shadows move, and a hand touched her shoulder. She did not want to throw the blankets off, but he peeled them back slowly. He had put on his glasses and lit a candle in the corner of the tent. She stared at him, looked into his green eyes without blinking. He looked so sad, though he always looked sad now. But he looked like his own heart was breaking.

"Thank you," she said, very softly.

He nodded, and pressed the palm of his hand to her shoulder. She was not even wearing the horcrux that night. She could see the chain of it dangling under his shirt, the v disappearing between his smooth collarbones. She thought she saw the horcrux pulse, but he shifted, and she was not sure. She squeezed his hand back and he was gone, the warmth of his fingers slipping out of hers and his form disappearing into the bed above.

His handprint stayed on her skin, burnt there.

The next day she moved carefully around him. When he gave her her wand back, she pressed the pads of her fingers to his, and he shifted, then stared at her, swallowing. She did not blink as she looked at him again. His brows angled back some in confusion, or fear, but she parted her lips and took the wand, closing her hand quickly around the warmth his hand had left in the handle.

She tore down the wards faster than she ever had and she could see the wisps of magic in the wind. She could not feel them, but she could see them now. There was still a screen around her but it was becoming transparent.

When she came back to him so that they could Apparate, and when she took his hand, she closed it hard around his. He made a hissing noise so quiet that it was like whispering leaves, and the disorientation of Apparation ate it up.

When they landed on the white cliffs of Dover, she took full seconds to let go, and when she did she thought she could hear the beat of his pulse across the air between them. She looked away from him, into the bright sky to the west, and he backed away, his shoes slipping on loose chalk.

They did not speak to each other that day. They passed as ghosts in silence and without touch. At night she lit a fire, blue and clear, at the front step of the tent, and they sat at it, holding their hands to the flame.

The sky above the sea reflected none of the sun's light except from the moon, which was half empty. A bank of gray clouds slept in the east and she thought she could see flashes of lightning in it, but it could have just been the fire in her eyes. The stars were bright. They were far enough away from Dover that there was very little pollution.

"Look," she said, "there, between Scorpius and Sagittarius." She reached a pointing finger into the sky, and his gaze followed it.

"Ophiuchus," he said, and she turned her face away from the stars to stare at him, surprised.

"You know that?"

"I took Astronomy," he said. "Don't look so shocked." He watched the constellation for a while. "Do you think it represents Laocoon, or Apollo?"

"You never cease to amaze me," she said quietly. "I think it represents Asclepius. Do you know that story?"

"No," he said.

She breathed. "Asclepius was a Greek physician. He studied the behavior of snakes and established which herbs would cure disease, and eventually, would prevent death. Zeus struck him down with a bolt of lightning to prevent him from making humans immortal, and then placed his image in the heavens."

She knew what he was thinking. Snakes, immortality. He who must not be named. And lightning.

He said, "It's cold."

"Yes." She waved her wand over the blue fire, and it went out. "Let's go inside."

He held the tent flap for her. She took paces until she stood in the middle of the tent. The apex of the canvas was shadowed. There were a few candles lit near the beds and on the table. The light flickered as he closed the flap. She did not move as he walked forward. He stood behind her, a little to her north. She heard the air travel through his lips.

The locket was thick and dark and icy on her chest, and it did not make her heart hurt. Her breath tripped and fell over her throat and she gasped, looking down, away, as he came beside her, laying his hand again on her shoulder, saying, "Oh, no, don't—"

"I can't," she said, not crying because she couldn't feel, not right now. "I can't, do this, I—"

"Take it off," he said, his hand sliding to her neck, his other hand coming around to her throat to feel for the chain, "get rid of it for now, just for a night—"

"Just for a night—" she said.

"Yes, just for a—"

His fingers caught on the chain with her fingers and together they threw the horcrux onto the table. His fingers caught in her hair and he pulled her to him. She grabbed the back of his shirt in her fists, bunching the material, shoving her face into his neck. She was not crying. His breathing was close in her ear, halting like hers, and the moisture of his breath beaded on her neck; dripped down, down.

In her stomach, in her throat, she felt something. She was constricted, and she parted her lips, trying to let the constriction out. His skin was so close. Oh, she had him so close. And she kissed his neck, under his ear, and he moaned, and he kissed her neck, beneath her chin, and kissed all the way up to her mouth, and ran his lips around her bottom lip, and touched his tongue to it, and she gasped and opened her mouth and it was fierce, then, great and blistering and vast. She clutched at his arms so hard he shook his shoulders, trying to get her off, while he held the back of her neck so tight she felt like she might faint. He dragged her to the bed and threw her on it and she attacked him, attacked his mouth with hers and attacked his hair and his clothes with her hands. She curled her hands around his wrists, around his neck, and drew him to her, and he came further in to her, shucking off his jeans, attacking her slacks. She batted him off, panting, and undid the buttons herself, and he made noises into her ear until she brought him down again, tooth and nail.

"Are you," he said, somehow speaking; she didn't know how he managed it.

"I, I—" She swallowed a few times, trying to work moisture into her throat. He was on top of her, naked, hot and solid, waiting, his eyes vivid and concerned. "Yes, I am," she said, "be—"

"—careful," he said, "yes," he said, and kissed her with closed lips, and moved, and pain blossomed in her stomach. She opened her mouth against his cheek, to gasp or to scream, but no sound came out. Oh, it hurt, it hurt gorgeously, marvelously, perfectly.

They moved against each other, deep and true, and she did not know how long the stars watched, but after seconds, after days, it came: all of the anger, all of the hurt and betrayal, all of the loathing: it came like shadow being chased away by light. Touching herself was nothing like this. She had never come so hard, so achingly, as this, and she lost track of everything but her body. It was too much: from feeling nothing, she felt everything, every nerve and bone and breath. Her jaw unhinged, she was convinced, and then it fell away, and she came back to herself, and he kissed her, closed-mouth, again.

They could barely move enough to cover themselves with a blanket. The rational part of her mind was telling her that she should worry, but the physical part was falling asleep with her hand splayed across his hot chest. His arm was around her shoulder, and he was curled towards her, and she knew no more as dreams claimed her, and they slept more deeply than they had in years.

"Just for a night," they said, and that was that. When she came to him, later, when she wrapped her fist in a pile of red hair, not black, when she gave herself over, she remembered. She remembered the pain and the candlelight flickering in the tent, and she smiled at it, over his freckled shoulder, but then she closed her eyes and gasped again, and felt.