A/N: This is a stand-alone one-shot, companion piece to Book of Misremembrances. I do truly think it would not be necessary to have read BoM to appreciate this, but I hope you'd like to read the full story!
Hope you enjoy!
Thank you to Celesticbliss for pinch-hit beta-ing and to Chaz, Ro Nordman, and Deb24601 for pre-reading.
The most chilling campfire stories are told by none other than the deceptively mousy-looking mother of Miss Hermione Granger.
Even now, approximately two hours later, I lie awake with my arm under my head, a rock poking my back and her daughter curled up a safe foot away from me so nothing pokes her.
The tale, in brief, goes like this:
On her third birthday, pig-tailed Hermione came skipping down the stairs to celebrate and was ecstatic to see a full set of encyclopedias wrapped in a giant, pink bow from her grandmother.
There ensued deliberation about whether to store them or sell them – and gentle prodding that Mr. Granger might do well to remind his daft mum that her tiny granddaughter had no use for them.
"But Mummy, I like books," she'd said.
"Of course you do, Hemmy-Jean, but you can't read."
"I can read! I just haven't learned how yet!"
This story is followed by laughter and washed down with some bizarre, charred foodstuff called "toasted marshmallows" that I presume was invented based upon a dare or more suited for packing material. I haven't the foggiest why anyone would willfully choose to consume them. Hermione loves them and told her mother next time they should make "s'mores."
Ick and no more, thanks.
Not that marshmallows didn't have their redeeming points. Hermione had scavenged a long stick from the forest and roasted one after the other while and I watched, transfixed, as she pulled the impaled, gooey things free, laughing… biting… licking her fingers.
Apart from that, I can honestly say that one was plenty and whatever was in them is an undigested lump in my stomach while I come to grips with how truly intense my girlfriend is (since infancy, it seems), that I will never best her (not that I wanted to), that I will do anything I can to make sure her natural spirit never breaks (no small feat considering how often she's taken to task for being a know-it-all) and that I am perfectly at peace with learning alongside her (because there is not much left I can possibly teach her.)
It's the idea of teaching her anything that terrifies me.
The wind howls lowly and Hermione shifts in her sleep, her chilled feet slipping between mine. Her touch, any touch, even this, is dichotomous; a wave of relaxation replaces an anxious ache I don't realize I harbor in wait of her, while I become aware of the movement of blood in my veins, like the strings of a cello drawn taunt in a low hum.
A tune that I want…I want to teach her.
I know exactly two things she doesn't know.
Maybe three. Chances are, if I asked her, she could clarify.
Thoughts of trying to actually guide Hermione Granger through a subject she has not already mastered makes my heart seize up behind my ribs.
Pretty much like every single time I see her, just more so.
Or think of her.
It's a sensation that pulls at me from tethers I didn't know I had contained within myself. A tug from my behind my navel, almost like the surge of a portkey, only more pleasant. Usually.
But not when the tips of my fingers itch to learn the skin of her back.
Not when my mind overruns with imagined images of the parts of her that match her lips.
Not, definitely not, when my ears perk up at the low sounds she makes when a particularly fascinating factoid presents itself in the library.
Oh, her sounds! Merlin, aid me.
Those moments are rather like my heart was snatched from my chest by the talons of an upward soaring hippogriff and squeezed until the chamber walls touch and the red musculature seeps out between boney digits.
That is, if that sort of thing felt even the least bit nice in an inexplicable way.
Somehow this girl, who is only younger than me because of the laws of time, makes that a treasured feeling.
I watch her turn over in the sleeping bags we've zipped together. She is so very small next to me, which is yet another trait I find fascinating about her.
I mean, where does she put it all?
The information, the theories, the history. Not the mention the nuances of practical application and all the what-not-to-dos. Her compassion, her loyalty. Her fire.
I try to be honest with myself as much I as swear to always be honest with her, so I must admit my fixation is not just the wonder of how all the minutia gets crammed into her head.
She is beautiful.
Last week, my mother called her an unconventional beauty. I balked and left the dinner table unexcused. The term is derisive if applied to Hermione. What is there 'unconventional' about porcelain skin, bright eyes, or a soft waist that curves up to the swell of breasts I imagine perfectly fill a wine goblet if-
I turn over within the bags.
Try to clear my thoughts.
She's curled up on her left side, pillow abandoned for her arm and nestled back against me from the knees down. She'd found a spot in the crook of my arm before nodding off that felt as natural and right as sun in summer, but I told her I was afraid her father would not be pleased if he bothered to check on our tent during the night.
So, no cuddling. Knees down seems casual enough, practical even, considering the weather is sharp and the night not at all suitable for camping. Definitively not for camping with purely muggle gear; we're in a tiny tent my feet would easily poke out of if only it didn't fasten shut. It has to fasten shut, though, because we aren't allowed to use an insect repellant charm – instead we are olfactorily assaulted with candles I believe I heard Hermione's mum gleefully refer to as "Citrus-Hell-Yeah" or some rubbish.
Trust me, actual rubbish would smell more pleasant and be only marginally less effective in keeping bugs at bay.
I frown, not proud of my ingrateful thoughts. The Grangers were kind enough to invite me on their family outing – which is a damn sight more accommodating than my parents have been. And I understand that her folks have never been around much magic since Hermione's still underage so not allowed to perform magic out of school. Still, it seems like a senseless hardship. But then, so does leaving hearth and home to sleep on the ground in a sack, yet people seem to enjoy the experience.
Her breaths are even and soft beside me. It's as if only she and the starry night exist.
I become one of those people who like camping.
Hermione seems unphased by the out-of-doors; I would lay odds she'd manage just fine living in a tent for an extended period of time as long there was some mental activity to occupy her time. Unlike other girls. At least other girls I've known.
Unlike, for example, Cho. The corners of my mouth turn down. Recollections of her make me feel a bit nauseated. Not that we did that much together, but I really can't recall why I ever wanted to in the first place now. Curiosity mostly.
Oh, she's a nice enough girl, pretty, and she isn't what I'd call dumb - she was sorted into Ravenclaw, afterall - but she doesn't exactly apply herself. Just flightly. More concerned about a new hair clip or who Katie Bell got caught snogging in a cupboard. Often, it seemed her biggest goal was for us to be caught in a similar situation. Though it isn't nice of me to even think it, I can't help but wonder if Cho's lack of dedication to studies might find her unexpectedly still in a Hogwart's uniform a year after her anticipated graduation.
Hermione stirs beside me and falls back flush against my side. Electric sensation blazes wherever we touch. Despite our earlier agreement, Sleeping Hermione does not adhere to minimal contact.
I am certain that she not only is more knowledgeable than me on a host of subjects, but such will always be the case no matter how many books I crack open. Because she never stops learning. Just ceaseless.
I know more than she does about only a couple of things. Regrettably, one of these is physical…
My mind rushes up to finish the thought with the word "pursuits" but I shove that thought away. The connotation behind that particular word makes me feel every bit as lecherous as I will never admit I'd like to be.
Since we began to spend time together, my opinion of myself most days exists in a flux between letch and bumbling adolescent to romantic fool with no more directive than the wind. But then, it is the wind that carries the fresh, uncomplicated scent of her toward me most days. No potions or perfumes or tonics. Just clean and Hermione. The smallest of announcements and I have a surge of anticipation and a second to compose myself. Or so I like to think I hit composed most days.
Outside, small twigs crunch under her father's stiff hiking boots; he must think I am unaware he is watching me with a focused determination that would shame a peregrine falcon.
As well he should.
He's an intelligent man.
He'd have to be for someone like Hermione to be any part of him.
Someone wonderful like her.
The zipper's teeth slowly, near silently, separate. Moonlight spills around her father's darkened form into our impossibly small muggle tent. I try to freeze my face in a mask of sleep rather than smirk at how his spying would have been far more effective if The Grangers proper had been more receptive to my suggestion of an undetectable extension charm aided tent.
As it is, the wee light to make sure his daughter is not despoiled by her older, libido-mad boyfriend is less that a broom-width from my face. No one could sleep through it and yet I can plainly tell it doesn't illuminate the tent well enough to reveal if we were three feet apart or naked and writhing in the throes of passion.
I really didn't need to know that.
He zips back up to leave and Hermione stirs against my thighs. I fight the urge to cast a silencing charm and kiss her soundly, parental supervision be damned.
Maybe I'm thinking out loud because a whispered "muffliato" fills the tent.
Okay, so I've gone mad. Good to know. I adjust myself and it seems safe enough to turn and give into the pull that has my arms burning to drawn her against me.
Of course she was pretending to sleep. The tone of question in her voice tells me I may have fooled her as well.
"Please. Cast it, please."
I pause for a moment. Partly because Hermione is polite enough, but she's not one to say 'please' rather than straight out state what needs doing. So, her wish for silence is probably centered in something about which she is not feeling confident.
Pretty sure I know what that is…
And that gives me reason to pause even longer. While I toyed with the notion of sealing the world out and kissing her like I want to, like she deserves to be kissed, giving in and holding her and touching her and feeling her hands on me like we've managed to not do yet in months together…there are reasons not to start down that path. While it's a technicality, she is a month shy of…well, of age.
It's been discussed. And perhaps it shouldn't matter, but maybe it really, really should.
"'Mione," I whisper, "I don't think that's such a good idea."
She huffs and rolls to prop up on one arm and face me. "Cedric, do you not want more with me?"
Oh, blast. Here we go. "That's not fair. You know I do."
"Do you, now? I understand at school, but we're alone and have been together the better part of a year, so it's only natural we should explore amorous affection as physical beings-"
"Shh! Your parents," I whisper frantically, and raise my eyebrows toward their tent even though it's probably too dark to see my face. I won't be able to do any of the things I hope to do with her ever if her father roasts a precious part of me over the fire.
"The problem is easily remedied."
"Fine." I try to sound irritated, but find that I can't. "Muffliato."
"You recall me telling you about the Time Turner I used third year?"
"Did you truly just have me silence our tent to rub that in my face?" I tease her, but it does irk me that I must have failed to seem trustworthy enough for McGonagall to ever entrust me with one.
"Well, it isn't as though one is in stasis when they travel back. And I used that throughout the entire year. Hours upon hours. Every day."
I feel her hand glide over my arm, across my hand, trace my knuckles slowly.
"Cedric, you do understand my meaning," she says without real question.
"That I owe you a present?" I hedge. I do understand. I need a moment to contemplate.
"Honestly, Cedric!" Wow. She is more frustrated that I thought; she took a Ron tone with me. "I'm telling you that this is the body of a woman who is old enough to make decisions about what to do with said body and you need to stop with your misgivings because I am giving, well sharingit with you."
Mushroom cloud. That's about it.
The bags rustle and she is flush against me.
Every cell is alight. My mind races. We need ground rules and limits and-
"Ready?" She says brightly and in the space of time it takes me to mentally form even the glimmer of an idea that I need to say words that would've probably have been about 'above the waist' and 'let me know if you're not comfortable' her arms are under and around me, her hair drapes around us to tickle against my ears and I swear I'm not going to let myself feel emasculated in the future when I recall that I gasp like a maiden and she sticks her tongue past my tonsils.
My hands run over her shirt, tracing her sides, learning her lines. She's humming and smiling and working so hard at kissing it seems she's trying to get as much experience logged as possible before we have to stop.
Or, should stop.
She's pressed so closely against my chest and side that I can feel all the tension of her body. Every breath. Every tremor. I try to memorize every time she shudders when I touch a certain spot – behind her ear, inside her wrist - or move my lips against her a certain way – wet along her neck, pressure over her pulse - and file it away so I can make it happen again.
She tastes so good.
A shiver wracks her frame. I wrap one arm firmly across her back, palm splayed just above the hem of her jeans. I'm vaguely aware of my other hand as it skates lower. Thumbs rub circles. Fingers dig. I fist her shirt, stretching the cloth to expose her collarbone, she quakes when my tongue traces its delicate plane.
Every gasp and touch is precious. We can't always be doing this. I've been afraid to start, like the icing on a birthday cake, I'm afraid once I've started tasting I won't be able to stop until I've had it all.
Her fingers trace upwards, along my jaw, into my hair, finding new places, each with its own colour and it's all too overwhelming to follow and record in the moment. The realness of it all assaults me. This is really her…in my arms, this is Hermione…my Hermione… how she tastes of minted tea, smells like sunshine and fresh parchment, feels like…nothing feels as good as she does.
My fingers twist into her hair and I kiss her with everything in me, the way I've envisioned for months. She stills, as if sensing that I'm in need here. My lips skim over hers, soft pressure against her skull and she opens and I explore her mouth. Her body rocks against mine softly, her hands sliding under my shirt, bunching it up under my arms. Suddenly, she's gone and I grab for her in protest as my mind whirls trying to suss out what I've done wrong, but before anything makes sense she's back and draped over my torso. All I sense is relief…for about a second until I realize there is nothing between our chests and that her shirt must be discarded somewhere in the tent.
The sound that escapes me would have to be frightening in any other situation. Guttural. A near roar. I doubt I have much gentle left in me.
My hand on her hips anchors her to me and the other drags up her ribs until I cup the swell of her breast in my palm.
Thoughts flash for a moment to ponder how my mouth compares to a wine goblet.
So much skin. So much of us in contact, electric and raw.
Desire threatens to swallow me, consume me – and not just for her – but the wish, the need to show her with every choice in how I touch her or move my lips against her or the whispered words that sneak past my breaking filter that she is valued and adored and wanted. This girl wrapped up with me, that I'm wrapped up in, she doesn't understand that I wake to thoughts of her, that I note events in my life with the sole intent to share them with her, that it's a small kind of mourning whenever we part.
Every part of her calls to me.
My hand grazes the underside of her hip and if she's startled I can't tell. She wants more. I want more.
I've passed wanting.
Softly, as softly as I can manage with what little blood is left in my head pounding in my ears, I cup her ass (finally!) and wrap my fingers around the flesh I've watched walk away from me so many times. Firm and soft at the same time.
Her heart races against my chest. Kisses and touches and discoveries. I wonder why I've been procrastinating on this.
We can handle this.
I pull her lip into my mouth, sucking it. Between her shoulder blades, her skin is softer than silk. Her leg bends across my thigh and my hand slips along her jeans just enough that my fingers unexpectedly land where her ass meets her thighs and excited heat.
Fuuuck. So warm.
I hear my moan in both our throats.
Her breath is ragged and her fingers burrow into my shoulders and she places tiny kisses that try to belie how nervous and exposed she may feel. The only thought I can piece together is that I need to show her she's not alone in this, that I'll never leave her alone. My thumbs thread into her belt loops and hoist her unceremoniously on top of me.
She gasps and lifts her head away from me and I panic because I may have just crossed a line here.
"I-" she begins.
"I'm sorry," I say and make to slide from under her but she holds fast.
"No, don't." Her voice carries some form of desperation. "I didn't…I thought…oh, nevermind!" she practically yells and begins to rock against me. She clings to me as if she were slipping from a high branch, her breath harsh in my ear.
Everything is warm and want and pressure. Grinding against one another clothed is not glamorous and I know it and she deserves better and what we have deserves better, but there is no way I'm going to risk her feelings and reject her at this point. I hold her face in my hands, trying with my one remaining shred of reason to convey how much she means to me, and attempt, amid elbows and bumps and gasps, to kiss her as gently as I ever have.
Through fog, her voice reaches me. "I want…I…"
It's a sentence she can't finish; she doesn't know what she wants.
I pull her against me and roll until she's under me and I'm over her and we move against each other, mimicking so closely what I want with her that it's all I can do not to tear at my clothing and hope it can happen, too. A part of my mind tells me this is an excellent idea and that we are mature and most everyone does it and why not because I am so much in l-
My hands go under her. Hold her ass. Rock against her that much harder, that much faster. Her feet dig into the backs of my knees, lifting and meeting each thrust. The seam of her jeans, hot and damp, plows along my length, over and over again.
More passes and she meets me every time and mumbles half thoughts against my neck and damn I want to be inside her so badly it snatches the breath from my lungs. I tell her this in a ragged whisper and her breath catches and her arms wrap around my neck as she cries out her library noise times a thousand.
I want to feel every change, swallow every sound, but coals in my belly burn white hot, my ears close and then I'm gone too, saying her name and trying to find air.
When clouded edges fade from my sight, Hermione's curled into the crook of my arm after all, fighting sleep.
I give a short laugh.
"Oh, it's stupid really." I think back on my earlier metal battle with myself. "I was thinking that there's actually something I know that you don't." I cringe because, you know, I just opened up a vile of lacewings flies with that one.
She perks up. "What is that?"
"Nope. Not going tell you." I smile and kiss her nose.
"Why won't you tell me?"
"I'd have to show you."
"Fine," she huffs. "Show me then."
"It would take forever."
And it would and I will.
For her to understand what I know, what she is to me, would take forever.
Because that is what she is to me. She is my forever.