Chapter 20 : Price of Vengence
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Godric sat on the floor near the fire, leaning his shoulders back against an ottoman, watching Hermione, entranced.
She was sitting cross legged on a plush lambskin rug before the briskly crackling fire he’d just topped with sheaves of fragrant heather. Her jade eyes were sparkling, she curls were softly tousled, and she had a velvet crimson throw tucked about her hips.
She was talking animatedly, gesturing with her hands, and he had absolutely no idea what she was talking about, he couldn’t hear a bloody damned word.
She was bare from the waist up and he couldn’t seem to keep his attention from wavering. The warm glow of the firelight highlighted chestnut strands in her curls that he had not seen before, and kissed her creamy skin with a brush of gold.
It was all he could do to keep his hands off her, but he knew that if he pushed her too far this night, he’d not be able to have her on the morrow, and the next and the next. He had to pace himself with her, though it was killing him. His palms itched with the need to caress her lush, sweet curves, to take her beneath him again and again.
He stretched out his legs and leaned back on his hands, keeping them well behind him, forcing himself to be contented for a time just savoring the exquisite vision before him.
Hermione Granger: Half nude, all woman, and glowing from his earlier attentions.
He’d known the moment he’d first glimpsed her that it would come to this. That he would have her this way. As certain as his vengeance, she’d been his destiny.
After they’d slipped beneath the desk and drowsed for a time, he’d stirred, roused her, and scooper her into his arms. He’d carried her here, before the fire, laid her back on the plush creamy sheepskin, and made love to her again.
Slowly, gently, showing her that he was more than a great big territorial brute, that there was tenderness in him too. He wanted her to know all the facets of him: ninth century war laird and wizard, and simple man.
They’d drowsed again, then stirred again, and begun talking lazily of small things, lover’s things: favorite colors, seasons, foods, places, and people.
Suddenly her gaze turned serious and she leaned forward.
“How did it happen, Godric? How did you end up in the mirror?”
He leaned forward, too, unable to resist the full, and traced the pad of his finger across her breastbone.
“Och, woman,” he said softly, “you show me Heaven and ask me to revisit Hell? Not now, sweet Hermione. Now is for us. No grim thoughts.”
Cupping her chin with his big hands, he ducked his head and kissed the sensitive area behind her ear.
“Us,” she repeated breathlessly, clutching at his shoulders.
It was the most incredible night of Hermione’s life. It surpassed all she’d ever imagined that special night would be. It surpassed all she’d ever imagined that special night would be. It was searing. It was intimate. It was filled with sounds of passion that she was sure must have rung out from the stone walls, echoing sharply down the winding corridors of the vast, ancient castle.
It was hushed and conspiratorial. It was raw. It was tender. It was perfection.
He’d taken her wildly, roughly on the desk, calling out to and laying claim upon the kindred wildness within her.
He’d made sweet, painstakingly slow love to her before the fire, cupping her face with his hands, staring into her eyes, caressing her so tenderly and seeming reverently that she’d had to turn her face away from him to hide an inexplicable burn of tears.
He was a phenomenal lover!
After their third intense, erotic bout, he had bundled them up in soft woolen throws collected from various chairs, and they slipped out through the French doors of the library and onto a stone terrace beneath the pearly radiance of a half full moon.
He stood behind her and pulled her back into his embrace, resting his chin on the top of her head. She was cocooned by the spicy, erotic man-scent of him. He held her like that in silence for a long time, staring out at the night, gazing at the mountains beyond.
She watched the sky, brilliantly splashed with sparkling stars, marveling. Her life back at the college seemed a lifetime away. She could no longer remember that Hermione who’d so tightly scheduled her entire life.
She realized then, much to her astonishment, standing there beneath that wide open Highland sky in the arms of her sexy Highlander, that she was no longer in such a hurry to finish her PhD.
In fact, hanging out in Scotland and doing a bit of casual, unstructured digging around these mountains could probably keep her happy for a long time, especially if Godric Gryffindor was around to carry her tools and keep her company.
For the first time in her life she wondered what kind of babies she would make with a man. What kind of children they could bring into the world together, she and this big, fierce, handful of man. They would be something that was for sure!
Hermione knew what was happening to her. It terrified her even as it elated her. She suspected she was glowing every bit as luminescent as the moon above her.
Falling in love could do that to a woman.
“We’re coming in now.” The deep Scottish burr of one of the Gryffin twins warned through the double doors of the library.
Hermione flashed Godric a cheeky grin. “Guess they got tired of waiting.”
“Aye, ‘twould seem so, lass.”
She would be so glad when he was finally free of that glass!
It had reclaimed him directly from the shower. In the early hours of the morning, they’d finally ventured from the library and wandered down corridor after corridor, peeking into various chambers, looking for a bathroom.
They’d found one befitting castle and king, with a fabulous shower sporting multiple pulsing heads and a reclining bench.
She’d learned over the long, sizzling night that the forbidding man Godric Gryffindor showed the world wasn’t the same one that took a woman to bed.
That man, the lover, dropped barriers, opened himself, gave in small ways she’d never have suspected. That man watched every flickers of her eyelash, learning what pleased her, what made her smile. That man teased with the playfulness of a man who’d had seven sisters he’d obviously adored.
That man had disappeared while she’d been kissing him, leaving her alone in the shower, bereft and kissing air. She’d fisted her hands with a fierce, hurt scowl.
It had been a bad moment, eased only by the thought that in fifteen more days he would be free of the stupid glass forever. She’d decided, as she had finished rinsing off and stepped from the stall, that in retrospect, they were lucky Dageus had taken their SUV. Things couldn’t have worked out better.
Godric sure would have caused a scene among the students of Hogwart’s. At least now they were still in a highly secure castle, and one that belonged to Godric’s descendants.
She was sure that although his descendants seemed as bristly and testosterone laden as he was they would nonetheless do all in their power to keep him safe from Salazar until after the tithe was due.
And when it was all over, I am going to take a sledgehammer and smash that mirror into a thousand tiny silvery pieces. Who cared that it was a relic? It had held Godric captive for eleven centuries and I want it gone.
“Are you decent?” asked the familiar voice of Harry as he cautiously pushed open the door.
“Nay, but we’re clothed,” Godric purred.
Hermione laughed. He certainly wasn’t decent. The man was shamelessly indecent and she adored it.
Gwen pushed Harry aside hurrying into the library first, trailed by Jenna. Their husbands brought up the rear. Hermione studied the twins with interest this morning. She’d been too tense and worried about Godric last night to look at them much.
Now she examined them at her leisure. They were magnificent men, with identical, chiseled Gryffindor features, golden skin, strong noses, and chiseled jaws dusted by the same dark shadow beards.
Although they were twins, there were significant differences.
Dagues’s long black hair was free this morning and spilled in a sleek fall of midnight silk to his waist. Drustan’s stopped about six inches past his shoulders. Dageus’s eyes were tiger gold, Drustan’s sparkled like shards of silver and ice.
Though both had powerful physiques and stood well over six feet and several inches, Dageus was leaner, ripped with muscle; Drustan was slightly taller, broader, and packed with it.
Both were extradordinary men, but Hermione was willing to bet all Gryffindor males were. All those dominate male, exceptional qualities that shaped Godric so uniquely were still there, present in his descendants, centuries later. There was simply something extra in their pure blood, programmed into their regal genes.
Harry smiled warmly at her. “Well someone looks like she has been having fun, while her friends worry over her well-being.”
“Very funny Harry,” she responded giving him a hug. “When did you get here?”
“About two hours ago. I have been getting to know the twins here. Ginny sent along some clothes for you.” Showing Hermione the bag he held with the clothes in it.
“Jenna and I also rummaged through our closets and brought you a few things. We had a few other items taken to the Silver Chamber for you.” Gwen spoke up from next to her husband.
Surprised and delighted, Hermione pushed away from Harry. Clean Clothes! The morning just kept getting better and better. As she hurried across the patterned rugs, Dageus and Drustan hastened past her, their fascinated gazes locked on the mirror.
“Were you able to find out anything on these runes on the frame, Harry?” Drustan asked.
“Unfortunately there were no records in the Auror office or Hogwarts that even resembled them.”
Hermione accepted the bag of cloth, forgetting about the men for a moment. Ginny had sent along a pair of low-ride, button-fly Paper Denim & Cloth jeans that she could never have afforded herself, a delicate pink tank with a lacy scooped neckline, and a matching, soft woolen cardigan.
She had also sent along panties, socks, boots, and wonder of wonders, a bra.
Gwen stepped closer and said in a low voice so only the women would hear.
“If you’re going to be staying with us awhile we can go shopping.”
“Or if you need to stick close to the castle,” Jenna spoke up. “We can order some things off the internet.”
Hermione blinked, feeling humbled by the two gracious women. Just like that, they’d accepted her. She’d burst into their home, unannounced and uninvited, they didn’t know the first thing about her, yet they’d made her welcome.
“Thank you,” she responded. “I would love that.”
“There’s a half bath just down the hall to the left, by the great hall, if you’d like to change there.”
Nodding, Hermione hurried off, looking forward to wearing clean clothes again.
When she returned to the library, everyone was seated near the fire.
They’d moved the Dark Glass from where it had been slanted against the bookcase, to the wall next to the mantel, facing them. Godric stood, his powerful jean clad legs widespread, his palms braced on something at the outer edges of the glass, she guessed a stone wall on either side, staring out into the library.
He was wearing the black t-shirt again, and the muscles in his tattooed arms rippled beneath the short sleeves with his slightest movement. She’d had those arms around her in just about every way imaginable last night.
She was greatly looking forward to more of the same tonight, or whenever he could be freed next. An ottoman was propped at the base of the mirror to keep it from sliding on the polished wood floor. On a nearby coffee table was an appetizing spread of iced scones, assorted fruits, cheeses and pastries, and three gently steaming carafes.
“The white carafe has coffee, the silver is cocoa, and the ivory one has hot water for tea,” Jenna told her.
Hermione hurried to the table, gratefully poured herself a cup of coffee, and reached for a lightly iced scone, before taking a seat and joining them.
Commandeering a few scones into his mirror, along with the entire pot of cocoa, much to the amazement and delight of both Jenna and Gwen, who made him send it back out and resummons it again.
Godric brusquely explained their situation to his descendants, amid swallows of creamy chocolate and bites of pastries. Hermione had heard it before, and he didn’t add any detail to it now. No one could ever accuse the man of too much information. He advised them that he’d been bound to the Dark Glass by Salazar Slytherin eleven centuries past, thereby securing immortality for himself.
“So, that’s what its purpose is! I couldn’t find any information at Hogwarts or in the office about a mirror matching this one.” Harry exclaimed.
Godric had nodded and continued, telling them he’d been kept hung on one of Salazar’s walls or another for the past 1,133 years. That several months ago something had happened in London that had taken down all the wards protecting Salazar’s property while he’d been out of the country; a group of men wearing black robes and calling themselves Deatheaters had stolen Salazar’s prized collection; and that the mirror had been transferred from wizard to merchant for several months before ultimately ending up in Hermione’s hands.
He advised briskly of the tithe sealing indenture, that it was due in a mere fifteen days, that he must remain free of Salazar for another fortnight, until past midnight on Samhain, and that he was formally petitioning their aid to help him do so, and to keep “his woman” safe.
“What then?” Drustan asked the same question Hermione had broached when she’d heard Godric’s story. “Once the tithe is missed and the indenture broken? What plan you then?”
Godric dropped his head down and forward, resting the top of his head against the inside of the glass. When he raised it again, his gaze glittered with feral fury.
“Then I will have my vengeance on the one who trapped me.”
The room was silent a moment.
Then Dageus said, “You said the gold tithe must be paid every one hundred years in the Old way of marking time?”
Godric nodded. “Aye.”
“And that ‘twas Salazar who originally paid it?”
“Aye,” Godric replied.
“Where are you going with this?” Harry asked confusion lining his face.
Dageus looked to Harry and then back to Godric before saying softly. “That vengeance can be quite the double edged sword, eh, kinsman?”
Godric shrugged. “Aye, mayhap, but in this case ‘tis necessary I wield it.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“Some blood is best not spilled, ancestor.”
“Donna be thinking ye ken me and ye doona ken Salazar. He must die.”
“Why?” Harry clipped in getting annoyed with being ignored. “Because he imprisoned you? Is that vengeance worth everything to you?”
“What would either of ye ken bout the price of vengeance? What would ye ken of the price of anything?”
“Hard to understand your need for such harsh vengeance, ancestor,” Drustan spoke up calmly from his spot next to his wife. “You’ve told us neither how you came to bear such extensive protection runes tattooed across your body, nor how you ended up in that mirror.”
“Protection runes?” Hermione echoed. “Is that what your tattoos are, Godric? I’ve been meaning to ask you if those runes are a language. What are they for?”
It was Jenna who answered her. “They hold the repercussions of meddling with the Dark arts at bay,” she clarified helpfully. “I’ve been reading about them lately.”
Hermione blinked, wondering what dark arts Godric had been messing with. She decided there was too much going on at the moment to press him on the subject. Later, when they were alone, she would ask him.
Right now, Godric was holding Drustan’s gaze, his lips curved in a mocking smile. She wasn’t sure she liked that smile. It was cold. It seemed doubly so after the wickedly heated ones she’d seen curving his sensual lips mere hours ago.
“Nor do I plan to discuss it,” Godric growled. “’Tis of no consequence. What’s been done, cannot be undone. All that matters now is stopping Salazar.”
“I cannot believe Salazar is so much more powerful than all of us combined.” Drustan replied icily.
Godric’s smile dripped dark amusement. “Ah-and there’s the vaunted Gyrffindor ego! I wondered when I’d see it. I made the same mistake. Believed I was so much more powerful and I was. Yet here I am. I didn’t see it coming. I will deal with Salazar. You’ve but to grant us sanctuary here until the Feast of All Saints. If not we will leave with the lass’s friend for Hogwarts.”
Dageus had remained silent while his brother and Godric argued, but now he cocked his head, his golden eyes shimmering strangely.
“Now I understand,” he said. “So that’s why you plan to do it. It made no sense to me, especially after last eve.”
Was it her imagination, or had Godric suddenly gone tense? Hermione eyed him intently.
Her Highland lover’s shrug seemed a bit overdone when he said, “I’ve no idea what ye are talking bout.”
“Aye, you do and you should tell her.”
“Leave it alone, kinsman” Godric said abruptly, low and intense.
“Nay, ‘tis too big a thing to continue speaking around. She has the right to know.”
“’Tis not your decision to make.”
“Tell her what?” Hermione demanded.
“After what transpired between the two of you last eve she has the right to know.” Dageus countered. “Either you tell her, or I will. Tis the only mercy I’ll grant.”
“Godric?” Hermione implored questioningly.
He gazed at her a long silent moment. A muscle in his jaw leapt. He turned abruptly in the mirror and disappeared into the silver. It rippled behind him and went flat.
Hermione stared at the looking glass in disbelief. What could be so terrible that, after the incredible intimacy they’d just shared, he would turn his back on her and walk away?
“What’s going on?” She turned a plaintive gaze on Dageus. There was a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach, and she knew, just knew, she was about to hear something that was going to make her wish she’d cut her ears off instead.
When Hermione heard Godric murmur a short chant, she knew what was coming and a cry of alarm escaped her. A jeweled blade whipped out of the glass and lodged in a wall behind and a hairsbreadth to the left of Dageus’s temple.
“Doona answer her,” came the savage growl from the silvery glass.
“Harm any of mine and I’ll break your blethering mirror,” Drustan said very, very quietly. “Were I not certain you missed deliberately, I’d have done it already.”
Another savage sound rumbled within the mirror, rattling the glass in its frame.
“Just tell me what it is already,” Hermione said weakly.
“I think I might have figured out what they are talking about,” Harry spoke up. “I was doing some research on the Dark Glass and in one of the books I was reading mentioned that the glass must be periodically reaffirmed by gold. As Godric already said, the Dark Glass must be paid every one hundred years, on the anniversary of the original date of binding, at midnight.”
Sorrowful gold eyes locked with hers, and that sinking sensation became a pit of acid in her stomach.
“From what I read,” Harry continued. “If the tithe is not paid by he who initiated the indenture, in this instance Salazar, the indenture will be violated, and all the years lived will be called due. I didn’t fully know whether that meant both Godric and Salazar or just Salazar until now.”
Silence blanketed the room.
Abruptly, everything Godric had told her since they’d met, and she now realized it was precious little, tumbled through her mind, and she apprehended it all in a vastly different light. She shook her head, pressing a hand to her mouth.
Now that she knew the truth, it fit together so neatly that she was stunned that she’d not guessed at it before.
Not once had he ever spoken of any moment beyond his “deadline”. Not even when she’d asked what he intended to do once the spell was broken. There’d never been any mention of something he might like to do once he’d killed Salazar. In fact, there’d never ever been any mention of him killing Salazar at all. Why would there have been? He’d never planned to actually physically “kill” him.
No new beginnings, he’d said.
He’d known all along he wasn’t going to be free in fifteen days. He was going to be dead in fifteen days.
Precisely two weeks and one day from today, Godric Gryffindor, the man with whom she’d just spent the most amazing, scorching passionate, dazzling night of her life, was going to be no more than one thousand one hundred and sixty three year old pile of dust.
She turned numbly toward the mirror. Her own horrified reflection looked back at her, Godric was nowhere to be seen.
“You coward,” she breathed, right before she ran out of the room in tears.
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