Chapter 22 : Hallway Confessions
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Godric stood in the library, near the fire, and finished plaiting the last of the braids back into his hair. He slipped the remaining tricolored bead around it, compressing the soft metal between his finger and thumb, molding it to the end. He gathered his arm cuffs from the mantel and refastened them around his wrists.
The warding was now complete, the castle grounds protected. There hadn’t been as many dead things in the soil as he’d expected, likely due to the lesser, ancient wards he’d discovered, and removed, before sowing his own.
Gryffindor soil was clean earth, strong and potent. His wards had intensified that potency to a nearly palpable degree. Indeed, as he’d walked over it, returning to the castle proper, he’d felt the power of his wards humming beneath his heels.
None of Salazar’s magic would be of any avail to him on the castle proper portion of the estate now.
Upon completing his task, he’d washed up and hurried to the library to advise his descendants that the job was done. He’d found the twins and their wives cozied up to a crackling fire.
There was not a single place he could look in the book lined room that did not bring to mind intoxicatingly memories of his night with Hermione. Their bodies had come together with every bit of the explosive passion he’d known they would.
The entire time he’d been laying wards, he’d kept his thoughts tightly focused on the task at hand. However, not they burst free of his tight rein and turned hungrily, desperately to his woman.
“How is she?” he asked.
It was Gwen who answered. “Furious and hurt.”
“Even her friend Harry could not persuade her to come out of her room,” Jenna added.
“What did you expect?” Drustan said stiffly. “You seduce her and doona tell her you’re drying? Have you no honor, kinsman?”
Godric said nothing. He’d not explain himself to Drustan, nor to any man. Only one woman’s opinion of him mattered, and even that wouldn’t have stopped him. He’d done what he’d done and didn’t wish it undone.
Undone, he’d not have gotten his night. Though Hermione may think him a thousand kinds of bastard, he would have another night with her, and another still. As many nights as he could beg, borrow, or steal from her until he was naught but dust blowing on a dark Scots wind.
“Where is she?”
The mirror still hadn’t reclaimed him. It had been imperative he lay the warding, but now that ‘twas done, he wasn’t about to fritter away another precious moment of his time free of the glass. As Gwen opened her mouth to reply, the library doors eased open and Hermione poked her head in.
Her broody gaze fixed on Gwen. She obviously had not seen him.
“I was wondering where…Oh!” The words died on her tongue when she saw him. “There you are.”
Godric assessed her with the instincts of a hunter born for the kill. He’d slammed up against that sleek cool wall inside her skull so many times he no longer bothered trying to read her that way. He read her body language instead.
So that was the way of it. The same need I have so do you.
He devoured the space between them in a few aggressive strides. Her eyes widened. She wet her lips and they parted, not in protest, but in instinctive preparation. Her eyes dilated, her legs moved slightly apart.
He closed a hand on her shoulder, opened the door, backed her out into the corridor, and yanked the door shut behind them, dispensing with the Gryffin’s with a single slam. Just like that, they ceased to exist. There was only Hermione.
The corridor was long, high ceilinged, lit by pale yellow wall torches and the fiery glow of a crimson sun sinking beyond tall mullioned windows. He backed her across the hall, pushing her up against the wall. He could feel the heat rolling off her, knew it was coming off him too. He could smell her arousal, could smell his own. What was between them was quite simply a force of nature.
As she hit stone, she gritted, with a little oomph of breath, “You son of a bitch!”
“You said that yesterday. I heard you then.”
If he’d had enough time, like a lifetime, to do things differently, he’d never have given her a reason to call him such a thing. If only he’d met her when he’d been but a score in hand in the Highlands, his life would have been so different.
He would have been a deeply contented man, and on that snowy night Salazar had knocked, he’d have been in bed with his wife. Maybe even a babe or two nearby as well.
The dark arts and enchantments would have held no lure for him. Nothing would have, not beyond this woman. He would never have accompanied Salazar to Ireland, would never have ridden beside him on a sweet spring day, only to usher in the night with the blood of an entire village on his hands.
“You ruthless bastard!”
There was no denying it. What he had done was wrong. He should have told her from the beginning. He should have given her the choice to decide whether she was willing to give any part of herself to a man condemned to die.
“You are a heartless demon of a man!”
“Aye, woman, all that and more.”
He’d known who she was all along. He’d known from the moment he’d first laid a hand on her, back there in the office of her university, when he’d swept her behind him to protect her from Roman. He’d felt it right then, in the marrow of his bones.
That thing he’d waited so damned long to feel, that had never come. He’d thought thirty years so unbearably long to wait. He’d never have imagined it might take him 1,133 more years to find her, and then he’d only to get twenty days in which he’d have to cram a lifetime.
He’d blinded himself to the truth, all the while determinedly pursuing her, because if, at any moment, he’d admitted she was his one true mate, his soul mate, he might have wavered in his resolve.
“I can’t believe you thought it was okay to lie to me!”
Knowing she was his mate, knowing she would live on after him, and undoubtedly find a husband and make a family with some other man; he’d tried to burn himself into her, to conquer some small corner of her heart.
He was supposed to have been her man. He was supposed to have been the father of her children. Not some twenty-first-excuse for a wizard that would never be good enough for her. Not that he was good enough for her, but still, it was supposed to have been him.
“I hate you for this!”
He flinched, hating those words. “I know.”
“So what do you have to say for yourself?”
He clamped her face between his hands and stared into her eyes.
“Fourteen days,” he hissed. “Tis all I’ve left. What would you have me do, apologize? You’ll get none.”
“Why?” she cried, tears springing to her eyes.
“Because I knew the moment I saw you,” he ground out savagely, her “I hate you” still ringing in his ears, “that in another life, a life where I didn’t become so dark, ye were my wife. I cherished ye, I adored ye, and I loved ye until the end of time. I doona get to have that life. So I’ll take you any way I can get you and I will nay apologize for one moment of it.”
She went motionless in his arms. She stared up at him, her lovely eyes wide. “Y-you l-loved me?”
He inhaled sharply. “Aye.”
Staring down at her, something in him melted.
“Och, lass,” he relented, “I will rue for all eternity every moment of suffering I’ve caused ye. The entire time I’m burning in Hell, I’ll regret each tear I made ye weep. Yet, if Hell were the price for twenty days with ye, I’d condemn myself again and again.”
She sagged back against the wall, her lashed fluttering down, her eyes closing.
He waited, watching her, committing every last cell of her face to his memory. From her tousled raven curls to her thick, dark lashed staining sooty crescents on her cheeks, glistening with a sheen of unshed tears, to her dainty nose to her soft lips to the stubborn chin.
He was going to die remembering it. He felt as if he’d been born already knowing her face. That he’d been watching, always waiting to see it coming at him from just around the next corner, but it hadn’t come, and he’d stopped believing in the Gryffindor legends of a soul mate, straying into the dark arts.
“Mine,” he whispered fiercely, looking down at her.
Her eyes fluttered open then. In their depths he saw pain, rawness, and grief, but he also saw understanding.
“You know what the sad thing is?” she said softly.
He shook his head.
“I think that if you’d told me the truth from the beginning, I’d just have slept with you sooner.”
He winced, as time lost never to be regained sliced like a knife through his heart. Then he realized that she’s just granted him an absolution he could never deserve. She’d said, even knowing, I would have anyway. The wee woman sure had the heart of a warrior.
“So take me, Godric. Take me as many times as you can.” Her voice broke on the next words. “Because no matter how many times we get to have, it’s not going to be enough.”
“I know, love, I know,” he said roughly.
He wasted no more time. He took her. Cupping her face between his big hands, he kissed her. Threading his fingers into her silky curls, he cradled her head delicately, tipping her at just the right angle.
Hermione melted against him. You were my wife, he had said. I love you until the end of time. She had wanted such words. She’d neither expected nor been prepared for them. The moment he’d said them, she’d realized that it would have been kinder if he’d not said them at all. If he’d let her think him a callous prick, let her hate him, but his words would keep her from ever being able to hate him.
They’d ripped her open, ruthlessly exposing her heart. Her anger had dropped away as if it had never been, leaving only a desperation akin to his: to have whatever she could have of him, for so long as she could hate it, because she felt it too.
As if they were supposed to have made a direct hit, to have had a full long crazy wild passion filled, child strewn life together, but somehow they’d come at each other from the wrong angle, and missed what could have/would have/should have been.
If she thought about it, it would tear her into little pieces. She refused to drown in sorrow. She would drown instead in the exquisiteness of this moment. There would be time for grief later, but now, her man was kissing her.
Now, his powerful hands were hot on her bare skin of her back beneath her sweater. Now, he was gripping her by the waist, and lifting her against him.
She wrapped her legs around him and locked her ankles behind his back, as he backed her into the wall, kissing her passionately. She had now and she wasn’t going to waste a single precious moment of it.
Gwen smiled over her shoulder at Drustan as followed her to the door. Shortly after their ninth-century ancestor had risen without a word and stalked from the room with Hermione, Gwen had realized it was nearly dinnertime. A good thing, too, as she’d completely forgotten lunch in all the fuss today and her stomach was growling hungrily.
However, upon Godric’s departure, Dageus and Drustan had promptly gotten into a heated discussion about him. It had taken her a good ten minutes to regain their attention and propose they move their conversation to the dining room.
Now, opening the door, she began to step out into the corridor.
“Oh my,” she said faintly.
She retreated right back into the library and gently closed the door.
“Um, why don’t we just, um, stay in here in the library for a little while? Who wants to play scramble?” she said brightly. “I’m not as hungry as I thought I was.” She turned and butted nose to ribs with Drustan.
He caught her by the shoulders. “Why lass? Is aught amiss? What’s out there?” Drustan stepped back, staring down at her, perplexed.
“Nothing, nothing at all…”
He raised a dark, slanted brow. “Well, then, let’s be off.”
“Oh no, not just yet,” she said beaming up at him. Backing herself flush to the door, she draped herself casually against it. “Let’s stay here another half hour or so, that should be, er, just about right.” She blinked, looking uncertain. “I hope.”
Drustan cocked his head, studied her for a moment, and then began to reach behind her for the doorknob.
Gwen sighed. “We can’t leave just yet. Godric and Hermione are out there.”
“So, will we not fit past them in the corridor?” Drustan asked blankly, stopping midreach.
“I’m sure we could if we tried. I’m not sure we’d want to,” Gwen said meanfully. “You know, they’re out there.”
Drustan continued to regard her expectantly.
“Oh,” Jenna cooed excitedly, “I knew that woman wasn’t stupid.”
“Wait a minute. They’re out there?” Dageus said disbelievingly. “The two of them are out there in the corridor? There are over a hundred rooms in this castle, and they are bloody out there in the bloody corridor as if they couldn’t find a door to a chamber? ‘Tis not as they are concealed, there’s only one every few bloody paces or so. Is it so much effort to turn a doorknob?”
A muscle leapt in Drustan’s jaw, his eyes narrowed. “Lass, are you telling me that Godric and Hermione are tooping in that corridor? Is that why you closed the door?”
Blushing, she nodded.
“You saw this? Nay, that was a stupid question. Of course you did. What exactly did you see lass?”
She folded her arms over her chest and stared off at a point somewhere east of his elbow not wanting to answer.
“Gwen?” He crossed his arms and waited.
“He has her up against the wall and all I saw was his butt, and I closed my eyes the minute I saw it.” She admitted reluctantly.
“His bare arse?” Drustan said frostily. “Had the man any clothing on at all?” He began reaching past her again, for the doorknob.
She waved his hand away. “For heaven’s sake, Drustan, you know that all he had on to begin with was his plaid. What do you think?”
Drustan’s nostrils flared. “I think the man’s a blethering savage.”
“Aye,” Dageus seconded.
“Like I need to remind you of some of the places you and I…”Jenna said laughing.
“Case argued and won, lass,” he said hastily.
“I hardly saw a thing,” Gwen assured Drustan. “Though I have to admit he was certainly every inch a Gryffindor,” she broke off hastily realizing that she had spoken out loud. “What I meant was that you Gryffindor males are a fine looking lot of men and I should probably just shut up now.” She pressed her lips together.
“That seals it,” Drustan said calmly. “I’m going to have to kill the man.”
It was Dageus who put things back into perspective.
“You doona mean that, Drustan, nor could you if you did. So long as he is bound to the mirror he can’t be killed, but doona fash yourself. The poor bastard will be dead in a fortnight anyway and he’ll ne’er toop his mate in our corridor again.”
Drustan winced and a bleak expression entered his eyes. He stared down at Gwen a moment, then gathered her gently in his arms and held her.
Dageus pulled his wife close, as well, remembering a time when he’d not believed he had much time with his mate himself. Half an hour later, it was a somber foursome that peeped cautiously out into the corridor before attempting to go to dinner again.
Hermione awoke late at night alone in a bedchamber.
She and Godric had eventually become aware of where they were, and just how public it was, and had stumbled from the corridor into a nearby bedchamber.
She stirred in the great big, down filled, canopied bed, nestled in a warm mound of velvety blankets. She pushed a hand through her wrecked curls; she didn’t need to see a mirror to know she had major bedhead. At the edges of her consciousness a terrible reality knocked, seeking entrance to her thoughts, but she refused to grant it an audience.
She smiled. She’d fallen asleep in bed with her Highlander’s strong arms wrapped around her, spooning her backside to his front side, with one of his powerful legs draped over hers. A perfect memory, she committed it to a special corner of her mind where each moment she had with him would be immortalized.
These memories she would make with him now would have to last her a lifetime.
She pushed herself up and slipped from the bed, dropping barefoot onto the floor. She dressed swiftly and hurried for the door, wanting to be with him every possible moment, but when she ducked her head into the dimly lit library, the castle had been put to bed along with its occupants hours ago, the mirror wasn’t where she’d last seen it, and a stab of blind panic made her chest feel dangerously tight.
“We moved it, lass,” a soft voice cut through the darkness.
She jumped, peering into the dim room. By the soft red glow of the embers of a dying fire, she could make out a man’s shape in an armchair near the hearth. Stacks of books surrounded him on both sides and he was paging through another.
“Drustan or Dageus?” By voice alone she couldn’t tell them apart.
“ ‘Tis Dageus, lass. Are you all right?”
She shrugged. What could she possibly say? I’m both happier and more alive than I’ve ever been and I feel like I’m dying too? I suspect that before this is over, I’ll wish I was.
Instead she said, “Where is the mirror?”
“We moved it to the great hall at his request. When the castle was built four wardstones were placed beneath the entry: east, west, north, and south. They are massive stones and were spelled with protection. He sensed their potency and asked that the mirror be hung on the landing of the stairs. ‘Twill grant him the greatest protection. He is determined Salazar not be able to reach the Dark Glass.”
He paused, and she had the sense Dageus was not pleased with his ancestor. “He will have his vengeance, lass, not matter the cost.”
She already knew that and was in no mood to discuss it. There was a bitter stew bubbling inside her, but she was not yet ready to ladle deep down into it. She would taste the richness of his last days first.
“Thank you.” She slipped from the library.
Twenty minutes later, Hermione had want she needed.
While she spread the comforters and throws and pillows at the base of the mirror on the wide expanse of landing in the great hall, Godric stood framed in the mirror, watching her every move. When she was cozily scrunched into the blankets, curled on her side, facing the mirror, she smiled drowsily up at him.
“Goodnight, Hermione, dream sweet.”
He was kind enough to not remind her that he neither slept nor dreamed while in the mirror, and with that Hermione made a sleepy entry into her mental diary.
Memory/ Day Fourteen: We said good night tonight like a married couple who’d been together for years and years.
So what if he was in a mirror and she was sleeping on the floor. It was still a fine memory to keep.
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