You can blame this on someone (coughcoughbradcoughcough) for feeding my plot bunnies. Haha, yeah, srsly, sometimes I just can't help it.
Anyway, as it says below, it follows my previous fic, Veiled Truth, so you must read those to understand some of what happens in the flashbacks.
"you could call it a break"
(sequel to "veiled truths" // As soon as the words left their mouths, she became nervous, because they'd dealt with jealousy before and it hadn't ended up well. But then, Neville smiled and Hermione felt relieved. And, really, she should have known better.)
(They had been engaging in this tireless dance since Fourth Year.
The signs were there, the connection, the feelings and the desire; everything was there, waiting for them to act on it.
But Hermione felt terrified. This had the potential of being something great and yet, it also could be disastrous for their friendship. Harry, she knew, was as afraid as she was; he wanted it all but didn't take it for fear of buggering it up and lose it. Lose everything.
She raised her eyes, not surprised at all to find his green eyes locked on her. The quiet murmur of the Library fell away, and while her mind tried to tell her there was lots of homework pending, Hermione could only focus on Harry's longing expression. She knew her face reflected the same sentiment, but as it was, there wasn't much to do about it other than… oh, bugger.
There was some rustling of parchments off to her side, the movement effectively snapping her out of her reverie, and Hermione caught sight of the inquisitive look on Neville's face. Harry must have caught it too, because they both averted their gaze at the same time, blushing.
Now this was another problem, their inherent shyness and insecurity. Although for different reasons, it was there in both of them. And it seemed that neither was brave enough to overcome it, like they so wanted to.
Hermione wondered what it would take them to cross the final line so they could become an official couple. Yes, official. Because they had been one in everything but name-and maybe snogging. Yes, definitely in name and snogging. That one kiss after the Third Task, at the end of Fourth Year, didn't count; Harry was distraught over what had happened in the graveyard and she was only trying to comfort him.
Even if it was a wonderful kiss.
And the one at the end of Fifth Year, after the incident at the Ministry? Didn't count either. She'd been hurt severely, while Harry'd been mourning Sirius' death and felt guilty over what happened to them all. They had both been in need of comfort, and turned to each other. There was nothing about romance in those two kisses.
But now… Now the only thing stopping them to achieve said romance seemed to be their own indecisions and the lack of an opportunity. And the table separating them.
Hermione raised her eyes once more, and again felt into the trap that was Harry's eyes. But there was something different now, about his look, it was determinate, assured, like he had come to a final decision and-oh.
In synch, they both stood up, neither saying a word. Calmly, she led the way over a secluded area of the Library, one rarely used, and that she'd discovered while researching about the Chambers of Secret in Second Year. Once they were far enough down the aisle, Hermione stopped and turned to face Harry.
He didn't waste another second and had her first wrapped in his arms, then trapped against a bookshelf, and kissing her as if his very life depended on it. Maybe it did. She responded in kind, letting her hands roam over his shoulders and chest before slipping under his shirt to caress his skin.
And this kiss, it had everything the previous two lacked. It had romance and passion and desire and love and-and all those feelings they shared.
It was perfect.)
Harry closes the door to Hermione's room with a pained sigh.
At last, the effects of the Cruciatus seem to be decreasing. Still, that doesn't stop his conscious from crushing him with the guilt that all of this is his fault.
They'd known of the Taboo since the beginning, as Madame Longbottom had been sending them information about the Voldemort-run Ministry via house-elfs. He'd known, and yet he'd let his anger at the apparent failure of their mission cloud his judgement and promptly cursed his name.
Then, they'd been surrounded by Snatchers.
Of course, a part of him, the cold and logical part, keeps telling him that their unwilling trip to Malfoy Manor had not been a complete waste-they had learned where the remaining Horcruxes are, they had rescued some prisoners and they had killed three of Voldemort's finest (Bellatrix Lestrange, Antonin Dolohov and Fenrir Greyback).
Yes, but at what cost?
Harry takes one last glance at the closed door before descending the stairs. The house they're currently in belonged to Neville's great-grandparents. A three-story house, secluded in a little muggle town in the cost of Wales, forgotten by all but Augusta Longbottom who, upon hearing from her house-elf of their plight, had sent for help. Subsequently saving their lives. Said help had arrived in the form of three house-elves: Dolly, the Longbottom's elf, Dobby and Winky.
Harry snaps out of his depressing thoughts when he stumbles into the kitchen and into what appears to be a very private conversation between Neville and Luna, if their close proximity and linked hands means anything. He starts apologizing but Neville stops him and motions for him to sit with them. As soon as his bum touches the chair, a delicious-smelling meal appears right before him and Harry digs in.
After a while, the blonde-haired boy breaks the silence. "How's Hermione?"
Harry swallows the food in his mouth, suddenly losing his appetite. He looks up and locks eyes with Neville. It's not fair to call him a boy, neither of them are boys just as neither Hermione nor Luna are girls, not anymore. They're young men and women fighting a bloody war, they stopped being boys and girls a long time ago.
"She's better now," he says at last. "Her body stopped shaking due to aftershocks sometime during the night, so…"
"You can't leave her for long, Harry," says Luna, her voice sounding subdued and flat, not at all like the dreamy quality he'd come to associate with her. Just another thing to feel guilty about; Luna's kidnapping was due to her father's support of him. "We don't have any potion to fight the after effects of the Cruciatus. She needs skin-to-skin contact as much as possible, for as long as it takes her to recover. There's no other way."
He looks at her, into her eyes, and fights not to flinch back. Her once lively grey-eyes seem dull now, haunted. Harry doesn't want to think what happened to her while she was a captive, but to become so subdued-
"I suffered no more than what Hermione went through, Harry, only longer. Don't feel guilty, it wasn't your fault."
Harry blinks rapidly to stop the tears gathering in his eyes, but nods, feeling somewhat relieved that nothing worse happened and a little happy because now she's smiling in the same way she used to.
"Alright. I'll… just go, now. I only came down to eat something and Hermione does need me, so… yeah. See you guys later," he says, kind of lamely, and turns to walk out. It really isn't why he came to the kitchen, but now he doesn't think his idea is so great and he really wants to go back to Hermione.
Neville, however, is not fooled. "Why did you came here for, Harry? Really?"
He sighs and shifts nervously a little, before turning to face his friends. "I don't think-when I came here it seemed like a good idea, I…"
"Just say it, Harry."
"I'm going to ask Hermione to marry me, after she recovers," says Harry, earning surprised looks. "And I wanted to ask you both to stand by our side as… yeah."
Luna stands, lets go of Neville's hand, and rushes to him, wrapping him into a tight hug. Neville is not far behind, and soon he's enveloping both in his arms. They smile, for what feels like the first time in ages, happily.
"Of course, Harry," she says; the young man next to her nodding along. "Of course, we'd love to."
Harry smiles, thanks them, and then goes back to Hermione's room. Once inside he looks at her relaxed expression, happy that she finally can sleep in peace, free of pain. He strips down and slips under the covers, spooning Hermione gently to avoid waking and harming her. He kisses the back of her neck, simply enjoying their closeness and thinking of the upcoming wedding.
Whispering his love for her, Harry is glad to have something to look forward to.
(It was only when they were heading back to their Common Room that Hermione realized they hadn't told Neville anything about their new relationship status. She glanced his way briefly, finding him walking with a light smile on his face. Nodding to herself, she turned to face Harry, her feet not halting to avoid attracting Neville's attention yet.
Harry noticed her staring only seconds later, and turned his head to her, giving her a gentle smile. Hermione felt the blush climbing up her neck rapidly, but ignored it for now along with her boyfriend's smirk. She arched an eyebrow and tilted her head lightly in Neville's direction. Harry blinked, glanced at the blonde-haired boy, and then back to her, a sheepish smile forming on his face as he nodded.
And that was all it took.
Hermione breathed deeply and stopped, watching as Neville took a couple of steps ahead before calling for him. "Neville."
He turned, a curious look on his face. "Yeah?"
She averted her gaze, her blush deepening, before steeling herself for what was to come. "There's something we want to tell you." She paused, focused her gaze on the curious boy in front of them, trying to look like her usual confident self. "Harry and I, we decided to-well, we decided to give… that is."
Neville looked obliviously curious, as if he didn't suspect a thing, yet, Hermione got the impression he knew more than he let on. But that couldn't be, she and Harry were not that obvious… were they?
She looked at Harry, seeking reassurance, and felt somewhat glad to see him as nervous as she felt. He gave her an encouraging smile, and Hermione could practically hear his voice whispering inside her head to do this together. So, she smiled and nodded.
When they turned to face Neville, they simply blurted out what they planned to say. "We're together now, as in, romantically together."
As soon as the words left their mouths, she became nervous, because they'd dealt with jealousy before and it hadn't ended up well. They'd dealt with jealousy once, and they lost a dear friend. Neville blinked several times, but said nothing. A pregnant silence seemed to stretch before them, oppressing, and Hermione started to feel the panic building up in her at the thought of losing dear Neville too. Next to her, Harry squeezed her hand tightly, telling her without need for words that he felt the same.
But then, Neville smiled and Hermione felt relieved. And, really, she should have known better.
"So, you're saying you weren't romantically together before?" His teasing smile gave him away, otherwise there was no way of telling if he was serious of just pulling their leg. "Then what do you call your previous relationship?"
Hermione stared, feeling completely befuddled. Suddenly, Harry started laughing heartily and not long after, Neville joined him. And it was a totally embarrassed Hermione that stalked over her laughing friend, boyfriend in tow, and started slapping his arm.
This made the boys laugh harder.)
When Harry wakes up later, it's past midnight and someone is nuzzling his neck. It takes him a few moments to gather his thoughts, but when he does, he wraps his arms around the person responsible for this pleasant wake-up call. He whispers her name, and then kisses the top of her head.
"Harry…" Her voice is but a whisper, raspy and weak what with all the screaming she did days ago.
He leans back, enough to look at her, searching her eyes for some hint that she doesn't feel okay, but finds none. Hermione smiles at him, a rosy hue covering her cheeks and it's only then that he realizes they're still naked, and that she's probably wondering why.
"It's okay, Harry," she says softly, very softly. "I know all about the consequences of the Cruciatus and how the victim can be cured."
"When did you research about it?" Harry asks, because he can think of no reason for her to do that kind of research.
Hermione blushes even more and averts her eyes. "After the Third Task. When you were in the Hospital Wing, I-I overheard Madam Pomfrey speaking to Professor McGonagall about it, what you'd gone through while in the graveyard."
An incredibly warm feeling spreads through him at the thought of Hermione researching about the despicable Curse just for him. He doesn't want to sound selfish, but why else would she do it? It's not like she thought she'd need it someday.
Pushing those thoughts aside, Harry leans forward and places a tender kiss in her lips. "I always thought that the first time we were naked in bed, together, would be after we'd made love."
Hermione chuckles softly, and gives him an amused glace. "I can't right now, but give me a couple of days and I will grant your wish."
"Actually, I was hoping you'd do something special for me once you recover."
Harry blushed brightly, and swallows down his nerves. This is it, the moment he'd thought wouldn't come for a few more days. "But only if you want to, of course."
"You know I'd do anything for you, Harry, happily too," she says, smiling at his apparent awkwardness.
Why she likes to see him being a bundle of nerves is beyond him. But, it doesn't matter, Hermione has just given him the perfect opening, he isn't going to waste it. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Harry stares resolutely into her eyes.
"Then marry me."
She looks surprised, for several long seconds says nothing, but then her expression softens and Hermione smiles. Biting her lower lip to suppress her whimpers of pain, she struggles to lean over him, once she's successfully hovering, her smile returns and she kisses him.
Harry doesn't need more to know her answer, but it's always better to hear the words.
"Okay, I'll marry you."
Um, there WAS supposed to be a wedding in here, somewhere, but I kinda wanted to keep the shortness of this pieces and, I really wasn't feeling confident enough to pull it off right now.
Hope you liked it though.Document created with wvWare/wvWare version 1.2.7