Chapter 1 : September Moon
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Outside, Hermione was in his yard, grabbing armfuls of fallen leaves and throwing them up into the air and then spinning with her arms out as they swirled to the ground around her. The little neighbor girl, Leila, was doing the same, her face shining with happiness and innocence. Hermione's now-long hair swung out around her as she spun, mirroring the movement of the long skirt she wore. She bent down with Leila to gather another armful of autumn leaves, her cheeks rosy from the broad smile she was wearing.
To Harry, in that moment, she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen in his entire life. She had always been beautiful, he supposed, but never had the mere sight of her (or anything, for that matter) affected him so intensely before. He heard her girlish laugh ring out into the cool September day, breaking him out of his reverie, and he realized he wore a stupid grin on his own face. He found his footing and moved closer to the door, watching the two witches at play.
Hermione had come to Godric's Hollow on business, to discuss a recent law passed by Randolph Colitri, the new Minister of Magic. He, the minister, had now made it law for all not completely human magical beings to be required to register as sub-humans, when trying to find employment or enrolling for a school. This, of course, had enraged Hermione. She had come today thinking if Harry went with her to the Ministry, maybe he could throw a little weight around and help to get the new law amended, or thrown out all together.
But Leila had interrupted their meeting, insisting that one or both of them come outside with her and play. Hermione had obliged, while Harry had opted to stay inside and read over the paperwork she had brought with her.
But Harry had been unable focus on their political problems for long. And now he could do nothing but watch, mesmerized almost, as Hermione hit the ground in a fit of laughter, the younger girl atop her and tickling her with her little hands. They were drowning and now barely visible in the sea of crisp, golden leaves and blown flower petals, and so Harry inched closer still to the door to be able to see them again. He could hear them more clearly then too, for his beating heart was not the loudest sound in the universe anymore.
"Okay! Okay, I give!" Hermione panted, giggling.
Leila leaned off of Hermione, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder haughtily, proud of her torture-tickling capabilities. But once the young girl's guard was down, Hermione launched her own attack, leaping onto Leila and pinning her down into the leaves.
Harry laughed softly to himself, touched by Hermione's easy way with the child. It made her seem so very womanly, feminine, and kind, too. He slid the glass door open, and cleared his throat. Both girls looked up, their faces pink with exertion.
Leila grinned. "Harry!" she cried. She ran to him, throwing her little arms around his waist and burying her head against his stomach.
"Hi, Leila," Harry said, watching Hermione.
She was trying to straighten herself, pulling leaf fragments out of her hair and running her hands down her skirt to de-wrinkle it as best she could.
"Are you going to play with us?" Leila asked, looking up at Harry.
He raised his eyebrows at Hermione, then shrugged. "Yeah, sure."
Leila ran from him, pulled a handful of leaves from the pile, turned, and threw them at him. She tensed, her eyes smiling, and waited for him to engage. Hermione grinned at the game, and took Leila's hand in her own. Harry brushed the leaves off his shirt and face and hunched low, letting them know he was going to give chase. Leila squealed and tugged Hermione's hand as she turned to run, and Harry dashed after them.
Hermione ran with the little witch, their long hair fanning out behind them in the breeze and their skirts flapping around their legs as they dashed about the yard. They wove their way through the garden, then along the back fence line. Harry Apparated right in front of them once, forcing them to double-back and eliciting an indignant "That's cheating!" cry from Leila.
The game went on for almost an hour, when finally Leila's mum leaned out of her kitchen window three houses down and called her daughter home for dinner. She waved to Harry with one hand, a dinner plate in her other, and Harry waved back. He got on well with all his neighbors, but he was rather close with the Delphine's, who were Leila's family. They were always sending him pies and leftovers, perhaps feeling sorry for him that he was living the bachelor life there at Godric's Hollow, all alone in his late parent's house.
Hermione stepped up beside Harry, waving to Mrs. Delphine as well and trying to catch her breath. Leila bounced off across the back yard and towards her house, shouting her goodbyes behind her as she went.
Harry turned to his friend, and felt his heart somersault in his chest when her eyes met his. The look she was giving him made him feel that she knew all he was feeling inside, and seemed to hint that she maybe felt the same, too. She smiled almost shyly and looked down at herself, brushing non-existent leaves from her shirt self-consciously.
"That was nice of you, to come play, Harry."
Harry shrugged, and surprised himself when he found he could speak. "You looked like you were having so much fun," he said.
"I love the fall," she said wistfully, taking a moment to glance around at the world that surrounded them.
"Mmm-hmmm," Harry agreed.
When the silence between them grew awkward, as never it had before between the two friends, Hermione began fidgeting nervously again.
"I must look a mess," she said, blushing.
Harry eyed her up and down, frowning, as if he were considering her statement. He stepped closer to her, and her face grew serious. He began to pull the tiny little bits of leaves from her hair that she'd missed, one at a time. He could feel Hermione's warm breath on his neck when she exhaled, and it sent a pleasant tingle through his body, all the way to his toes. When he thought he had her hair devoid of all debris, he looked down at her, and the tingle grew into an electric shock. For her dark eyes were already on his, staring into him it almost seemed, and it was that level of intimacy with her, that contact, that was responsible for the intensification.
"There," he said, barely above a whisper.
Harry nodded. He tried not to let them, but his eyes fell down to her mouth then. Her lips were slightly parted, she was still breathing rather unevenly. He wanted to. God, he wanted to so badly. He wondered what it would be like, what it would feel like...to kiss her.
"Have you had a chance to look over that file I brought?" she asked.
"What? Oh. Er, yeah. Yeah, I did."
"Isn't it ridiculous?" she demanded, her voice growing steadier as her mind shifted to the more comfortable and upsetting matter that had brought her in the first place.
Harry nodded again. The new law was ridiculous. He intended to go to the Ministry with Hermione first thing in the morning, like she'd asked him to, to talk with Colitri about it.
"Yes, it is. He can't do that."
"Not only will it turn loads of people against him, but it could affect Hogwarts too! Anyone with non-human blood in them will be afraid to enroll their children, if they have to register their kids as 'sub-humans'! A law like this will have effects and consequences that he simply cannot foresee, honestly, they're just getting more and more idiotic up there!" she said, irritated.
Harry let her rant, then bent down and grabbed a handful of leaves slowly. He rose just as slowly, giving her fair chance of escape. She shook her head as if warning him to not even think about it. He raised his eyebrows at her, pulled his arm back. He didn't want to spend a day as lovely as this one worrying about the Ministry, he wanted to play with Hermione some more. She turned and ran, and he followed.
The sun began to sink behind the line of the treetops, spilling orange and red ink across the sky. A foggy mist began to grow and gather on the forest floor behind his parent's house, swirling closer as Harry and Hermione ran and laughed like children in the twilight. They were winding down just as the first few stars began to appear in the eastern sky, sparkling like diamonds against an ocean of indigo.
Hermione fell over a fallen tree branch, crying out in surprise and pain as she hit the ground.
Harry came to her, knelt down. "Are you alright?" he asked.
She was hunched over her ankle, her long, bushy hair obscuring her face from his view. Before he realized what was happening, she yanked her head up at him, and he was struck with a ball of leaves that she'd managed to gather discreetly. Harry fell backwards, spitting out his mouthful of dirt and leaves, and cursing. Hermione laughed.
"That wasn't fair," he said. "You can't feign injury like that!"
"It worked didn't it? You got plastered!"
"Only because I was worried that you'd gotten hurt, and off my guard!"
"Well, it's not my fault you can't rid yourself of that hero-complex."
Hermione crawled over to him and helped him sit up. He shook his messy hair, and she began to pull leaves and dirt from him like he'd done for her. Harry sat very still, his body temperature rising whenever her feather-light touch found his skin. It was almost comic, the effect she now had on him, when he'd known her so long and had never felt anything more than friendly affection for her in the past. He didn't know when the change had come, he only knew it had, and now things were completely different. And he didn't think there was any chance in going back to how it was before he'd begun to feel...whatever it was he was feeling.
It's love, a small voice inside of him taunted. You love her. Say it. I dare you.
Harry cleared his throat, though he had no intention of doing anything of the sort. He looked around. It was dark almost, and the fog from the forest's floor had silently made it's way to his yard now, bathing he and Hermione in it's eerie mist. In the blue shadows that they were draped in her brown eyes looked nearly black, and full of energy, emotion.
"We should get inside," Harry said.
She just sighed. She fell back on her hands, holding herself in a sitting position as she gazed up to the night sky. She closed her eyes, and took a slow, long breath. Harry stared at her profile, burning the memory of her and this moment into his mind. Her long chestnut hair, spilling down her back to the ground, the elegant line of her jaw and neck, the soft curves of her face, the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, the melodic sound of her breathing. When he thought he had it all committed to his heart forever, he leaned over to her and, impulsively, kissed her cheek.
She seemed to have been expecting his kiss (perhaps she'd even willed him to do it somehow), for she was very still as his lips met her skin, she did not jump at his advance. He let his lips linger longer than they should've, before pulling back to calculate the effects of his sudden bravado.
When she opened her eyes and focused them on him, Harry felt his stomach flip over. He'd never seen the look she was giving him on her face before, or at least, never had it been directed at him prior to this moment. She bit her lip, and above her dark eyes her brow furrowed up. She swallowed thickly.
"Harry..." she started slowly.
"No, it's not that. That...the kiss...it was fine," she stammered.
Harry waited, watching her and feeling a blush rising to his cheeks.
"It's just, well, I don't want to ruin things between us. You're my best friend, Harry. I don't want to lose that. I don't want to lose you, the way I lost Ron."
"But you and Ron are still friends," Harry said.
"Not like we used to be. After we broke up, everything changed. It's not the same anymore, we've...drifted a bit."
Harry had noticed that. He nodded, giving her time to go on.
"It was hard enough to feel that distance with him, I don't want to ever have to feel it with you," she said.
"I don't either."
"Then you agree it's a bad idea?"
Harry blushed harder. "I...that's-"
"I mean, well, that's what you were - right? You...you kissed me so I thought, or were you just...oh, dear," she said, her own cheeks growing visibly pinker in the last, dim light of the evening.
"Yes," he said.
"Yes, I was...er, I've been...I've been thinking...about you...us."
"I thought so," she whispered, looking down to the ground.
"So you have too?" he asked.
"And you think it's a bad idea?"
"Well, yes. I mean, we've been friends for so long. Just friends. And now, if we...you know...well, what if something happens, and then we break up?" she asked, her face screwed up in anxiety.
"What if something happens, and we don't break up?" he countered.
Hermione stared at him. "What?"
"What if...what if we fell in love?"
There. He had said it. He had put voice to the question that had been plaguing him for awhile now. His words seemed to hang in the space between them, swimming from his mouth to her ears with a maddeningly slow pace and echoing in the silence that they sat in.
"You don't then?"
"Love me," he said.
She looked down again. "Harry..."
He wished she would look up at him now, at this impossibly crucial juncture. Come on Hermione, where's that Gryffindor courage?
"Nevermind. Look, I'm sorry I kissed you like that. I shouldn't have, you just looked so beautiful," he said. "We don't have to do this. Talk about this, I mean. Maybe it's better if we don't, like you said, and anyways-"
"Yes," she interrupted.
She looked up to him then, like he'd wanted her to. Her eyes were darker than ever before, and sparkling in them was a reflection of the harvest moon that had finally crept out to join the stars.
"Yes, I love you," she clarified.
She nodded. "Of course I do."
"No, I meant-"
"I know what you meant. And the answer is still yes. I'm...I'm in love with you, too."
Harry smiled, he couldn't stop himself. She smiled too, tears spilling down her cheeks suddenly, tears which she wiped hastily onto the back of her hand.
Harry leaned forward, moving slowly, slowly. Hermione let him, taking a breath to ready herself. He drew himself up to her, their breath mingling as she closed her eyes in anticipation of him. Harry let his eyes trail over her features once quickly, before closing his own eyes and putting his mouth against hers. Her lips were warm, salty from her tears, but sweet with something else too. He pulled back, opening his eyes to see her face again, to see if she would dispute his brazen move. She still had her eyes closed though, and when he hesitated she leaned towards him, her mouth open slightly and very inviting. Harry kissed her again, and this time he put a hand to the back of her head, holding her to him as though he were afraid she would reconsider this silent commitment they were making.
Memories of all their time together began flashing through his mind as they inched their bodies closer and continued kissing. Every look she'd ever given him of love, or kindness, or trust, or pride. Every time she'd ever twisted her hands up in knots with worry for his safety, all the times she'd proved her loyalty to him, the time she'd almost died in the Department of Mysteries, when the thought of losing her had brought him to his knees.
He should have known then. He should have realized so long ago, that it was more than just friendship between them. They could have had ages together. Why hadn't she said something? She was the smart one, why hadn't she figured it out sooner either?
Hermione leaned into him, draping her arms around his neck and pushing her fingers into his hair. She opened her mouth and flicked her tongue against his, and Harry took her cue, deepening their kiss. She was weighting him down, and so he went, leaning with her until they sank into the loose pile of leaves with a rustle-crunch.
Harry moved the hand he'd put in her hair down, sliding it down her satin cheek, then over her shoulder, down the length of her bare arm, finally bringing it to a rest at the concave dip of her waist. He pulled her body to his slightly, and she came, breaking their kiss to shift her body closer to him. She glanced up into his eyes, and the eye contact sent another bolt of lightning through him.
"Do you love me, too?" she whispered.
Harry wanted to tell her...everything. Yes, he loved her. He loved her so much, it ached. She inspired emotions and feelings in him he'd never felt in his whole life. She'd made him crazy these last few months, with just the little ways she moved or spoke to him. He wanted to tell her he loved everything about her. Her strength, her courage, her kindness, her brilliant mind, her lion heart, her fierce loyalty to him and to all that she believed in. He wanted to tell her all those things, but all that came out was a choked, "Yes."
It seemed to be enough, or perhaps she read his thoughts through his eyes, because she rewarded him with another kiss then. Harry lost himself in it, pouring all the emotion in him into her through the places where they were connected, and drinking in all the emotion she was reciprocating. They kissed like that for Harry didn't know how long, and it was sweeter than anything he'd ever known. Harry kissed her forehead, her eyes and her cheeks, the tip of her nose, her chin, her jawline, her ears. She shivered and gasped softly in his arms, her hands on his shoulders, pulling him tighter to her.
"Hermione," he breathed into her ear.
He slid the hand he had at her waist around to the small of her back and felt warm skin there. Emboldened, he ran his fingers up into the back of her shirt, letting his hand trace the long, sleek lines of her body. Beneath his touch her shape changed, and she arched herself towards him. Every sound that escaped her, every movement, every look or touch from her, it pierced Harry with a desire and need for her that began to reach a fever pitch. He did whatever he could to keep eliciting those noises of pleasure and delight from her, hoping that he was having even half of the effect on her that she was having on him.
"Take me..." she murmured.
"What?" he asked, his body responding uncontrollably to such a statement.
"Take me inside," she said.
He locked his arms around her, told her to close her eyes, and Apparated them to his room, to the bed that had been to big for him for years now, but which was just right for he and Hermione to share, he discovered.
"Is this better?" he asked.
"Do you want anything?"
"I want you."
Harry sighed, overcome by the waves of desire that were washing over him. He traced the features of Hermione's face slowly, lazily. She smiled when his touch reached her lips, and then she kissed his fingertips sweetly. He shivered.
"Are we really going to do this?" she asked.
"This...you know..." she said modestly.
"I don't care what we do, Hermione. I just want you to stay. I want to be close to you, I want to touch you, feel you," Harry said.
She smiled, nodded.
"Stay with me?" he asked.
"For how long?"
"For as long as you want me to."
She kissed him, so tenderly that Harry felt his eyes stinging behind his closed eyelids.
"I love you," he said, sometime later, in the darkness.
"I love you," she whispered back.
They spent the night like that, kissing and touching softly, and Harry wondered more than once if he'd fallen asleep over the Ministry files and had merely dreamt the events of the past few hours. But Hermione's warm curves, her butterfly touch and her whispered endearments always brought him back, told him he was not dreaming. She was real, her love was too, and it was evident in every gesture she made.
The moonlight found his window eventually and splashed across their faces, painting her skin a surreal, silvery hue. They fell in and out of sleep, dreaming and only believing themselves to be dreaming sometimes, until the rose-colored glimmer of dawn told them the night had gone.
If they both lived to be one hundred, he didn't think he could ever repay her all that he owed, he didn't think he could return all the love she'd given him...but, God help him, he was sure as hell going to try.
A/N:Hey, Chris, how was it? :)