I sat cross-legged on the sofa, watching the rain lash violently against the windows, the individual drops running against the pane for a moment before joining with others to create a cascade of water. Lightning flashed brightly overhead, illuminating my dark flat. I pulled the afghan more tightly around my shoulders and shuddered in anticipation, counting down slowly…five…four…three…two…BOOM!
A crack of thunder shook reality, the very fiber of the world seeming to come apart in that moment of chaos. The building shook from sheer force and I shivered involuntarily, pulling my knees closer to my chest and rocking from side to side.
Another bolt of lightning broke through the dark clouds and I yelped in surprise, curling myself up even tighter. I silently mouthed the numbers to myself again and right as I mouthed the word one the world shook again. I moaned in agony, abandoning my rocking efforts in lieu of falling forward and burying my face in the seat cushion.
Would this never end?
I banged my face against the pillow, mumbling obscenities under my breath. This was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. Me, a grown woman, and an Auror to boot, afraid of a loud noise. This really was all that thunder was – just a peal of noise – a moment of complete and utter insanity in which if one really listened he could hear the world collapsing around him as the elements took over.
Wiping a tear from my eye I looked up as a minute passed without the horrible noise. I glanced cautiously out the window and to my great relief the rain seemed to be receding somewhat. I took a deep shaky breath and stood up. It was over. I would be fine. A nice cup of warm tea would calm my nerves though, and soothe my churning stomach.
I shuffled into my adjoining kitchen with my afghan still wrapped protectively around my shoulders, the long end dragging on the floor. I flipped the switch on my electric kettle and listened as the water began to bubble contentedly. With still shaking hands I reached into the cupboard above and grabbed my favorite blue mug, cradling it gently in my fingers.
So far so good.
The kettle let out a high pitched scream and I quickly turned to turn it off. I grabbed a teabag from the box next to the refrigerator and dropped it into the mug before picking up the kettle and pouring the steaming water on top of it. The warm steam from the water rose up off the top of the cup to massage my face and I shivered slightly at the sensation. I had not realized I was cold.
I took a sip of the hot tea, enjoying the burn of the hot liquid sliding down my throat. I could feel it settle in my stomach and sighed happily. Tea always made me feel as if it was burning away all of my fears, letting me ignore the pain and memories brought about by storms. The only other thing that equaled this type of ecstasy was being held in his arms. Speaking of which…
I cast an anxious glance at the phone that lay innocently in its cradle, unmoving and silent. Shouldn’t he have called by now? I looked at the clock that ticked guiltily on the wall. Nine twenty-eight. He should have been done in the office by now. The Muggle Prime Minister had to have a life too. Unless something had happened…
I jumped in fright, sending my blue mug flying through the air in a spray of scalding hot liquid.
“Look at yourself!” I cried from where I cowered under the kitchen table, shaking in terror. “You’re a grown woman Hestia! Merlin’s beard, you’re an Auror! Pull yourself together!”
Thunder rumbled overhead again and I squealed in fright, burying my face in the cold tile and beginning to hyperventilate. A horrid montage of images played behind my closed eyes… his dead body lying on deep gold carpeting, his big brown eyes blank, a trickle of blood escaping his lips… a flash of green light…my mother’s scream…
“NO!” I screamed, rocking back and forth without lifting my head from the tile. Suddenly there came a loud knock on the door, and I froze stiff, terror flooding through me.
“Hestia!” someone called from outside the door, still knocking, “Open the door!”
My heart was racing. I could hear my blood pounding in my ears. “Hestia, open the door!”
I screamed in surprise as another boom of thunder sounded overhead.
“Hestia!” the person outside the door yelled, now pulling at the door handle. I instinctively reached into my pocket for my wand my fingers scrabbling against the empty pink fabric. I knew exactly where it was too. I had abandoned it on my nightstand when I heard the first drops of rain hitting the windows. Cursing my own stupidity I stood up and crept cautiously to the door, letting the afghan fall to the floor.
I grasped the door handle for support and peered through the peephole. The first thing I saw was a giant brown eye staring back at me before the person recoiled. Then I saw the giant gold earring and a long, somewhat crooked brown nose and I almost tripped over my own feet to get the door open.
“Kingsley!” I shouted, throwing myself into his arms, completely ignoring the fact that he was soaking wet or that there was a large puddle growing around his feet.
“Hestia,” he whispered hoarsely, pulling me tightly to his broad chest as I smothered his face with hasty kisses. “You’re all right.”
“I’m much better now,” I whispered against his throat, nuzzling my face into his neck. Even freshly washed with rain he smelled so good, so familiar.
“Maybe we should go inside,” he said, although he did not release his grasp on my waist.
“Why?” I whined, pulling back a bit to pout.
“We’re causing a scene,” he mumbled, his deep voice seeming to bounce around the entire hallway, sending shivers down my spine.
I stood on my tiptoes and glanced around the hallway. All of my neighbors were peeking out from behind their doors, inquisitive and somewhat wary expressions on their faces.
“Oh,” I said meekly, feeling a blush creep up my neck. “Yes, why don’t we go inside?”
He smiled my favorite lopsided smile and I felt my cheeks go crimson again. “You’re so beautiful when you’re embarrassed,” he whispered in my ear as he brushed past me into my flat.
I stood rooted to my spot in the hallway, completely oblivious to the stares and incredulous whispers of my neighbors. Oh dear Merlin. I hadn’t seen him in a while.
A crack of thunder broke the silence and I uttered a small cry, jolting me out of my more than impure thoughts.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled to my neighbors, turning around and marching back into my flat. I found myself instantly wrapped up in Kingsley’s strong arms.
“I missed you,” I mumbled against his chest.
“I missed you too,” he said, kissing the top of my head.
We stayed like that for a few minutes, a comfortable silence hanging over our heads. Our reunions were always like this. Simply being near each other, after days or weeks or sometimes months apart was enough. Of course there were times that we were able to stay together for just as long, but as of late with the rise of Voldemort and our involvement in the Order our time together was seriously decreased.
No, our time was limited. It was something we both knew and understood when we joined the Order of the Phoenix, but that did not stop me for worrying incessantly over him every second that we were not together. Because it’s not exactly confidential data that Kingsley and I are on Dumbledore’s side. We’re strong. We’re Aurors. We’re prime targets for Death Eater attacks.
“Why were you screaming?” he asked, breaking the silence.
“I was scared,” I whispered against his chest.
“What are you scared of Hestia?” he asked, his voice heavy and husky.
I shook my head and snuggled in closer to him. “It was nothing.”
“That didn’t sound like nothing.”
“Why do you always have to be right?” I complained.
He chuckled softly and I looked up into his face for the first time that night. He looked exhausted, his mocha colored skin drawn taught against his cheekbones and dark circles ringed his eyes. A long cut ran from his temple down to his jaw. How had I not noticed that before?
“You’re hurt,” I whispered, trailing my finger down the length of his wound. I could not help but grin as I heard his sharp intake of breath.
“It’s nothing, Hestia,” he said, but he inclined his head to the side, making it so that my whole warm palm was pressed against his cool cheek. “And don’t change the subject.”
“Fine,” I pouted, squirming out of his grasp and sitting down in the nearest kitchen chair. “Don’t let me take care of you.”
His big arms lifted me out of the chair as if I was weightless and held me still while he sat down before he pulled me onto his soaking lap. “You won’t let me take care of you,” he whispered, his hot breath on my neck sending chills down my back.
“This is different. This is something I have to take care of on my own.”
He chuckled. His big chest moved up and down rhythmically with the noise. I could feel the rumbling that came from deep down inside his soul.
“It doesn’t look like you are doing a very good job,” he laughed, holding up my newly repaired blue mug.
I turned my head slightly to glare at him. Mirth danced in his wide brown eyes and I knew I could not stay mad at him. There was not much to be happy about in these troubled times. Anything that made him laugh was good in my book – even if I had to be the butt of the joke.
I turned back around, laughing a bit myself. That was one of the things I loved about Kingsley. He had the uncanny knack of making everyone around him feel good and light no matter what mood they had previously been in it. That’s when I saw it. The bright flash of white out of the corner of my eye. How long had it last been since the crash of thunder? Why had I stopped counting?
My hands balled into fists full of Kingsley’s drenched robes and I bit my lip in determination, starting my internal countdown. Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…five…four…three…two…one…
The thunder made the windowpanes rattle in their frames and I could not help the shriek that escaped my lips, nor the chills that ran down my spine.
“Hestia?” Kingsley asked, concerned. “Are you all right?”
I shook my head no, tears now cascading down my cheeks. Another steak of lightning illuminated the sky and I began to shake violently, not able to stop my body’s natural reaction to the flood of terror that was coursing through my veins.
“Hestia!” Kingsley cried, his giant brown eyes wild with worry. “What’s wrong?”
The thunder crashed around us and I screamed outright this time, shaking more violently than I had all night. It was all catching up to me. I couldn’t stop the floodgates of memories that came washing back over me. Kingsley was here, but he was hurt. The storm was getting worse. It was if every single one of my greatest fears was coming to a point at this very moment.
“HESTIA!” he cried, shaking my shoulders hard. My head snapped up in alarm and I stared at him through blurry eyes.
“Is is the thunder?” he asked after a moment of making sure I wasn’t going to have some sort of attack again. “Are you afraid of the thunder?”
“Yes,” I croaked, choking on my words and shaking again.
If it was even possible he pulled me tighter to his chest, holding me as if he was afraid to let go – as if I was going to crumble to bits if he wasn’t there to hold me together. I probably would have crumbled too. I would have laid on the floor in the fetal position all night long, blubbering like a child.
Eventually my sobs lessened into sniffles and he released his grip a bit, holding me back from him to see my face. I could feel a hot blush creep up my neck at the scrutinizing way his eyes traveled over my face. Another tear trickled down my raw cheeks, but he reached up with his thumb and wiped it away before it could sting my cheeks even more.
“I’m so embarrassed,’’ I said, swatting at the tears that just did not want to stop falling.
“Do not be embarrassed,” he replied, kissing my forehead gently. “Everyone is afraid of something.”
“What are you afraid of?” I asked, shifting in his arms until I was straddling his waist, my head placed against his chest so that I could hear and feel his heartbeat.
“I’m afraid of a lot of things – You-Know-Who, death, and losing someone I love – those are my three greatest fears,” he said seriously, stroking my hair.
“Those are all so rational!” I cried, banging my head against his ribcage in frustration.
“And being afraid of thunder isn’t rational?”
“Not for a grown woman! Maybe for a toddler, but I’m an adult, Kingsley!”
“I always said that you had the maturity of a five year old,” he chuckled, tugging at a strand of my short black hair.
“Sod off,” I growled, poking him hard in the chest with the tip of my finger. “Seriously, this is not a joke.”
“I know it is not a joke, Hestia,” he said, still playing with my hair. “I just wonder why you are so afraid of thunder in the first place. Like you said, it is common for young children to be afraid when they do not know it is just noise, but surely you’ve learned what thunder is by now.”
“Of course I know what it is,” I snapped, feeling stupid.
“Well then why are you scared?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Talking about it can help you get over your fears,” he said suggestively.
“I know,” I sighed. “It’s hard for me though.”
“I understand,” he said absently.
We sat like that in silence for a few minutes, his fingers playing with my hair. I didn’t know what to do or say – I was afraid I had offended him in some way by not telling him. Should I have told him? He looked to be deep in thought, his brow furrowed and his eyes faraway. I huffed in frustration at myself and he seemed to stir a little.
Suddenly he stood up and I tumbled from my perch on his lap to the floor.
“What are you doing?” I cried, glaring up at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, grabbing my hand and pulling me up before kissing my palm. “I did not mean to knock you over. But I have an idea.”
“About how you are going to get over your fear if you won’t talk about it.”
He smiled at me challengingly. Damn it, he knew I couldn’t resist a challenge. I smiled back, winking at him. He chuckled softly and gripped my hand tighter, towing me towards the door.
“Where are we going?” I asked when he pulled me out into the hallway.
“It’s a surprise,” he said.
I sighed and allowed myself to be dragged down the hallway to the stairs. He grinned back to reassure me, and I felt a wave of comfort wash over me. Now I knew why Minerva had sent him to talk to the Muggles I would be picking up at the end of the week. He had the power to make anyone feel calm – with his kind, deep set eyes, his low, rumbling voice and the honest demeanor that seemed to envelope him.
I was already halfway down the flight of stairs when I realized that this was a very, very bad thing. Because now I knew where we were going. And it was not an option. I’d rather die than go down there. Damn him.
“Oh hell no,” I hissed as we rounded the curve to the other staircase that would take us to the street level. “I am not going out there. You cannot make me.”
“You will be fine, Hestia,” he said, his eyes going wide in a doe-like expression that screamed ‘trust-me-I’m-a-good-guy-even-though-I’m-trying-to-murder-you’.
“You don’t know that,” I said, shaking my head and attempting to free my wrist from his iron-grip.
“Yes I do,” he replied simply.
I huffed angrily. He was so calm it was infuriating.
“Hestia,” he whispered, reaching a finger up to trail down my jaw line softly, “would I let anything happen to you?”
“No,” I whispered back. Shivers that had nothing to do with the fact that I was about to confront my worst fear ran down my spine.
“Okay then,” he said louder and removed his hand from my face. “Trust me.”
I knew in that moment that I would do anything for that man. I would follow him to the ends of the earth. I would give up my job, my home, my sanity, and even my life for him. Because, no matter how much the idea of it scared me, I loved him. And deep down inside I knew he loved me too.
“I do,” I whispered.
He didn’t say anything, but he grinned and gave my wrist a little squeeze. I felt a small smile graze my own lips and allowed him to continue to lead me downstairs. We arrived at the glass paned doors that lead out onto the street much too quickly.
“Kingsley,” I said, the crushing weight of an oncoming panic attack making my voice sound strangled.
He paused with his hand on the handle, turning to me and pulling me into his arms. My breath was coming in shuddering gasps and my heart was beating erratically. His fingers pressed into the small of my back and worked their way up my spine. “You are safe, Hestia,” he murmured against my hair.
“I know,” I mumbled, but I could not stop shaking.
He opened the door at that moment and the cold night air blew into the neat little lobby like a bull in a china shop. With one last reassuring glance at me he stepped out into the raging storm, pulling me with him.
I yelped as the first drops of freezing rain fell against my warm skin, chilling me to the bone. My entire body was convulsing from the cold and from fear. Kingsley’s arms enveloped me again and we stood together in the rain, getting drenched.
The first roar of thunder broke through the night and I screamed. It was so close. It was so much more real out here, without any walls to protect me. Hot tears ran down my cheeks and mixed with the cold rain.
Lightning flashed and I closed my eyes tightly. It was too real. It was too much like that night – too much like the horrible green and red flashes.
Then it came again and I felt my knees give out from underneath me. Kingsley’s strong arms held me up and if it was possible held my body tighter to his.
Even from behind my eyelids I could see the next bolt of lightning and I tried to ready myself. The crash of thunder was closer this time and I trembled again. “No,” I groaned, shaking my head. This was too much. It was too painful.
“What is it Hestia?” he asked.
I shook again as the sky rumbled again overhead, threatening to collapse upon us.
“Tell me,” he begged, his soft brown eyes pleading.
I took a deep breath and gazed up at him.
“Okay,” I said my voice barely above a whisper.
“It was my eleventh birthday. I knew because I had been counting down the day for three months on the Weird Sister’s calendar my dad had bought me before he left. My mum and I had just finished dinner. She had made spaghetti, my favorite meal.
‘Make a wish, baby,’ she said softly, her arm wrapped around my waist as we stood next to the kitchen counter, the candlelight flickering off of her prematurely lined face.
I gazed down into my pink and blue frosted cake that my mum had made for me that morning. I closed my eyes and wished before taking a deep breath and blowing all twelve of the candles out in one go.
‘Yay!’ she cried, clapping her hands and kissing the top of my head.
‘Mum,’ I laughed, taking one of the candles out and licking the icing from the bottom, ‘I’m not a baby anymore.’
‘You’ll always be my baby,’ she replied, cutting us both pieces. We giggled as we walked back to the table and sat down. We ate in silence for the most part, sometimes giggling at the amount of icing that the other had gotten on their face.
‘What did you wish for?’ my mum asked.
‘I wished that it hadn’t been storming today so that we could have gone to the park,’ I replied.
‘That’s a good wish,’ she replied.
Suddenly we were interrupted by a knock on the door.
‘Stay here, Hestia,’ my mum said, becoming serious. She got up from the table and walked out of the dining room.
Of course I didn’t do as I was told and followed my mum out of the room. I heard her open the door and then slam it again quickly. I heard her lock the deadbolt and run back to me.
‘Hestia,’ she panted, coming to a halt around the corner when she realized that I wasn’t in the dining room where I was supposed to be. ‘Run. Hide. Get out of here now. Leave Mummy and go.’
‘But,’ I said, confused and scared of the wild look in her eyes.
‘No buts!’ she said. ‘There isn’t time Hestia. Always know that mummy loves you.’ She kissed me swiftly on the head and pulled me tight to her chest for a moment. Then there was a loud crash from the other room and she released me.
‘Go,’ she said fiercely, giving me a rough push in the opposite direction.
I turned and ran. I fled into the dining room where we had been innocently eating cake less than a minute ago and through open the window. Using all the strength that was left in my body I climbed out the window and onto the fire escape. I pulled the window back down and hid to the left of the window so that no one could see me, and yet I could see in. It was pouring rain.
I saw my mother back into the room, her wand in her shaking hand. A hideous man with red eyes followed her. He said something to her that I could not hear. She fell to her knees at his feet and I could see that she was crying. I was shaking with terror and I wanted to go back in there and tell the man to leave my mother alone but I could not move out of fear.
He raised his wand and pointed it at her. Thunder crashed overhead and then I heard it. My mother’s piercing, high pitched scream. I saw her laying on the ground, writhing in agony, her mouth open as she yelled and yelled. I tore my eyes away, tears flowing down my frosting covered cheeks and mixing with the rain.
She stopped screaming and I breathed a sigh of relief. The thunder rumbled overhead again, tearing at the fabric of reality. My mum started screaming again. I wanted to run away, so I wouldn’t have to hear it anymore but I was so numb from the cold I could not move. And then she stopped. It continued on that way for half an hour. Every time the thunder rumbled she would start screaming again. I started to pray that it would not go again so that she would not be in pain. I started shaking every time it boomed, the horror of what was happening too much for me to comprehend.
Finally when the thunder rumbled louder than I’d ever heard it I saw out of the corner of my eye a bright green flash. My mother’s scream stopped. The thunder rumbled overhead again. She did not yell anymore.
By the time I had finished telling him my story I was sobbing hysterically. I didn’t know if he had even heard half of that, but from the grip he had on my waist I knew he had understood. He rocked me back and forth in his arms and I continued to cry – continued to mourn the loss of my mother and let the emotions that I had bottled up since I was eleven come pouring out in one angry burst.
The storm still waged around us, but I was not aware of what was happening. I felt cracked, like a wall that I had not known was built around me was slowly crumbling. I was terrified of the feeling, and yet it was the best feeling I had ever known.
With each new crash of thunder I felt my resolve waver a little bit more, felt a little bit more of my shell crumble. And yet, I was not as scared as I should have been. He was here, protecting me. He was here, and he had set me free.
I reached up impulsively and grasped the back of his neck. He gasped at the sudden movement, but did not object as I pulled his head down towards mine. “Thank you,” I whispered, our lips a centimeter from each other.
“I love you,” he replied.
Feeling lighter than I ever had in my life I brought my lips up to his. I wrapped my arms around his neck and I felt his arms slip from my shoulders to my waist. His lips crashed down hard onto mine, responding with just as much vigor.
We pulled apart after a few moments, panting for air.
“I love you too,” I mumbled. He pressed his lips lightly to mine again.
We stood there grinning at each other, and it was only then that I realized we were standing in front of my flat in the midst of a raging thunderstorm, drenched to the bone. From the bemused smile on his face it was obvious that he had noticed too.
“Maybe we should go inside now,” I chuckled. Without saying anything he took my hand in his and lead me into the dry, warm building. We walked silently this way all the way back up to my flat, through the door, and into the bedroom.
“Here,” he said, crossing the room to the dresser and pulling open the top drawer – his drawer. He threw me a long white t-shirt. For himself he pulled out a pair of long navy sweat pants. We dressed in comfortable silence. When both of us were in dry clothes he took my hand again and pulled me out into the living room.
He pointed his wand at the fireplace and it was instantly filled with warm, glowing red flames. Then, without warning he grabbed me round the waist and pulled us both to the floor in front of it.
“Thank you for sharing your story with me,” he said, brushing my wet hair back and kissing my neck.
“Thank you for making me tell you,” I replied. I stared off into the fire, watching the flames dance and trying to decide what shapes were which. I felt content with the world.
Suddenly I found myself lying on my back with Kingsley perched on top of me, his face centimeters from mine.
“I won’t let that happen to you ever again, Hestia,” he said seriously. I gazed up into his face and I could see how deeply troubled and upset he was. It almost hurt me to see how this had affected him. But at the same time, it was his nature. And as he had told me earlier, losing someone he cared for was one of his greatest fears. Maybe it was time I helped him get over his troubles too.
“I’m not worried,” I replied, reaching up to softly kiss his nose. “But I know. You are my protector. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
He grinned down at me and kissed my forehead before sighing and returning to his spot on the carpet next to me. I snuggled in closer to him and he wrapped one arm loosely around my waist. I could feel his deep heavy breaths against my back and his hot breath against the back of my neck. Soon his breathing became low and even and great, his rumbling snores echoing throughout the room.
I grinned lightly to myself and traced my thumb over his dark hand that held my abdomen protectively. Those great snores were the only rumblings that had any merit in my life anymore.
I looked out the rain soaked window again and saw a bolt of lightning illuminate the sky. Five…four…three…two…one…
The crack of thunder echoed through the night and yet the usual feeling of panic that accompanied them did not come.
Beaming triumphantly I closed my eyes and let the exhaustion over take me. I would not be bothered by the storm tonight.
A/N: Please review! I'd love to get some feedback on this one-shot. Thanks for reading. I really hope you enjoyed this. It's probably my favorite one-shot that I've written.