Chapter 8 : In Deep
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"Alright, so spill the beans?!" Monica prodded her as she poured their third round of drinks. Hermione had never really drank before and she was definitely feeling the effects. If her mum only knew!
"What?" Hermione blushed as they both looked to her. They had each in turn shared how they had met their husbands and gossiped about all of their quirks and attributes.
"Ah, come on! We gave you all the dirt on us, now it's your turn!" Monica encouraged her. Hermione gulped. Well, she had started all this, she had to open her big, fat mouth!
"Har-" Hermione caught herself. "James... he's - he's just... really nice," Hermione blushed under their intrigued gazes.
"Nice, huh?!" Monica and Joyce laughed together, teasing Hermione. "Naughty girl!" Monica wiggled her eyebrows at her. 'MUM!' Hermione wanted to balk.
"Well, he is!" Hermione defended herself. "And he's genuine, he's just real... the realist person I've ever met..."
"That's a little better," Monica said.
"And he's got the biggest heart in the whole world..." Hermione went on, her voice ever softening, the words coming to her with greater ease. And it was true, his whole savior complex, but she couldn't talk about that. “And the most untamable hair I've seen," a smile cracked across her lips, "almost as bad as mine!" she flung her locks back with a laugh. "And his eyes, those green eyes..." Hermione trailed off as if she were losing herself into them right then, "the way he can just look at you and tear down any wall... and he's just... he's my best friend..." Hermione was interrupted by an eruption of giggling. Hermione frowned.
"Forgive us! To be young and in love!" Monica sang.
"Well you asked for it!" Hermione blushed. She had to remind herself that she was just playing a role. Those daiquiris!
"Come on, let's go see what they're up to!" Joyce jumped up.
. . . .
Hermione spotted him paddling out into the waves as she and the two other girls made their way down the narrow, wooden boardwalk. She stopped to watch. As Harry turned to catch a wave, his board suddenly surging forward with the energy, Harry bounced up, balancing himself atop it. Hermione tensed as the other two cheered.
Hermione watched with baited breath as Harry road it, slicing through the water in a way that oddly reminded her of seeing him on his broom. He held it all the way into the shallows, before finally slowing and losing his balance, he toppled over into the water.
Hermione could not contain her excitement any longer and jumped up with her own excited squeal, breaking away from the rest as she raced down to the beach.
Her dad, Wendell, and Joyce's husband Tom were racing through the water as well, high stepping across the waves as they cheered and pumped their fists into the air for Harry.
"Har - James! You did it! You were amazing!" Hermione ran splashing right into the water. Harry came up all smiles, thrusting his own fist into the air with Wendell and Tom, as Hermione slammed into him. Harry caught her in his arms and swung her around in a circle.
"How bout that?!" Harry laughed.
Hermione leaned in close, "Better than your broom?" she whisped to him.
"Almost!" Harry laughed. "Almost!" But then as he set Hermione back into the water, he caught his first real glimpse of her. His eyes bulged.
Hermione took a step back, startled. Harry's face seemed first to turn to a shock of horror but then... his eyes trailed up and down her lean body with what could only have been described as a lust filled gaze.
Hermione suddenly remembered she was dressed in that skimpy bikini Joyce had lent her. Hermione shrunk down into the water with embarrassment.
But Harry was not the only one caught gawking. As Hermione took in the full sight of Harry, his soaked body glistening with the beads of water, her thought's wandered into a dangerous zone.
Clad only in his swim trunks, Harry's hardened physique was laid nearly completely bare. Seven years of war could do that to a young man. Hermione's eyes gave away a hint of desire as they moved across his swollen chest and lined and well defined abs.
"Wow! Did you see that?!" Wendell turned to her, breaking her trance. "Can't believe he's never surfed before!"
"I know, he was splendid!" Hermione clapped her hands. "He's always been a natural!"
"Nice! Well done James!" Tom added, finally awakening Harry.
As Harry's eyes rose to find Hermione's waiting on him, he burned red with embarrassment and first sank back into the cool water himself before coming back up to turn his attention to Wendell and Tom. Hermione watched him closely as his hands flipped his wet, dark hair back out of his face.
"What do you say, should we give it another go?" Harry asked.
"You kids surf your hearts out! But we're having a big feast tonight in celebration of you newly weds and I've got to get back to get started on it before my wife comes after me!" Wendell waved to Monica on the shore. "Well done James, I'll pick it back up with you tomorrow after you all see the reef! Have fun!" Wendell turned and made his way to his wife awaiting him on the beach. Tom followed him to his awaiting Joyce. Harry and Hermione were left to enjoy the beautiful beach alone.
Harry tried teaching Hermione how to surf, and while she tried to be a sport, she never really got past learning how to paddle while laying flat atop it.
They wasted the afternoon away lounging in the sand, etching their names into it before the surf scrubbed it away. They worked together to build a sand castle, Harry's first, and with the addition of a small little hill meant to be Hagrid's hut, they dubbed it little Hogwarts with a good laugh and smiles, admiring their handiwork.
They started exploring, walking several kilometers up and down the beach, splashing playfully in the shallows, soaking up the Sun, collecting intricate sea shells and sand dollars until they eventually found themselves at the foot of the small mountain of the rock out-crop.
“Race you to the top?!” Harry eyed it like a promising adventure.
“I don't think so...” Hermione did not share in his enthusiasm, but with a little begging and pleading from Harry, he eventually convinced her to let him help her up.
“I feel like I am at the top of the world!” Harry shouted into the wind. He held his arms straight out like a bird as the wind whipped around him, almost like he was flying.
“It's so beautiful...” Hermione added as she gazed about. The vast ocean spread out endlessly beneath them. Spinning in circles, it seemed like you could fit all of England in their sight and yet they were the only ones there.
And then it finally hit them. Settling, not as some burdensome weight, but as a dawning of a new day.
“I can't believe it...” Harry was talking more to himself than Hermione.
“What's that, Harry?” she glanced at him.
“It's just... here...” he struggled to find the words, but there was no strain on his face, only admiration for the immense blue sea below. “I've never felt so free...” he summed up his emotions.
“Yeah,” Hermione smiled feebly. “Almost...”
Harry kicked himself for his poor choice of words. 'Almost...' they still had to bring her parents back, but Harry had no doubts. Seeing her stress return and without another word said, Harry slipped his arm around her shoulder and she accepted him, leaning into him as they watched the deep orange Sun dip into the horizon.
. . . .
The long wooden table, covered from end to end with every morsel imaginable, reminded Harry and Hermione much of Hogwarts - the good ol' days.
"You're drinking?" Harry leaned towards her as her very own mother served her the first of the evening.
"Would you like anything, James?" Monica interrupted them.
"No... that's o-"
"He'll have the same!" Hermione cut him off with a smile.
"Well," Harry turned to her, "you're getting on really well with this whole wife thing," he poked at her, but only in jest.
Hermione snorted, choking on the drink she happened to be sipping at the time.
"What are you doing?!" Harry scorned. Their roles had become quite reversed and Harry did not like it from this end. It made him feel like an old maid or something.
"Celebrating!" Hermione said happily, undeterred by Harry. "Isn't that what you said earlier?"
Harry rolled his eyes at her. "Have you forgotten what we're doing here?" he said only to her, the rest taken up in their own conversations. Ever more their roles seemed to have been swapped.
Hermione frowned. "No, I haven't," she said low and briskly. "What I do know is that we've been hanging on by a thread for the last year, Harry, and now, here, safe and away from it all for the first time, with those I love most, I feel like it's finally behind us," she gathered her breath. "And I want to celebrate!" she finished matter-of-factly before hiccuping.
“Looks like you've had a few to celebrate,” Harry smirked at her. But, now that she said it though... it did make sense – perfect sense in fact. And what better place to be than here, free, in this beautiful paradise? No one watching their every move, no one hunting them, no one trying to kill them, not a single person with the slightest clue as to who they were. Yes, they still had to awake Hermione's parents, but they were here with them, safe and sound.
"Cheers!" Harry took his drink and lifted it to Hermione, giving himself over.
"Hey, you cheersing your new bride?! Let us here it!" Wendell beckoned him from the head of the table, holding out his glass. Harry stalled. Hermione's eyes frowned with apology. But as sixteen other smiling eyes all turned to him, Harry felt obliged. For Hermione, Harry stood, raising his glass.
Looking down to Hermione, catching her eyes in his, he began softly and with compassion, "To the most beautiful, caring, brilliant, most wonderful person in all the world..." Harry had to take a breath to steady his voice, "to my best friend, who's helped me through my worst, who's kept me grounded at my best. Who gives me courage when I am afraid, who gives me strength when I feel weak. Who's shared with me all the happiest moments of my life, who's taught me how to laugh, who's taught me how to live, who's taught me how to love. I could not imagine my life without you beside me..." Harry reached out his glass and clanked it gently against Hermione's, but she did not move. She was not breathing. Her brown orbs were locked onto his green ones, shimmering with coming tears.
"To Anna!" the whole table saluted, followed by a round of clinking glassed and the slurping of drinks. Harry finally tore his eyes from hers, lifting his drink to his lips, he took a long drought before abruptly sitting back down.
"Aw, that was so beautiful, James!" all the women harped, Monica even with a tear in her eyes.
The rest of the dinner, unfortunately, now passed awkwardly between Harry and Hermione. They dared not speak to one another less it was to pass the potatoes or the rolls. They would then each look to the other, only to catch each others eyes with a redness burning in their cheeks before abruptly looking away.
The daiquiris, fortunately, began to do their work, chiseling away at their inhibitions. Hermione's dad surprised her with yet another new talent, playing the guitar. He was even pretty good, and Monica sang for them as the couples all abandoned the table to dance to the music. Harry and Hermione were not permitted to decline.
As their hands came together and Harry placed his other on Hermione's hip and she placed her's on his shoulder, flashbacks instantly hit them of their dance those many months ago within the tent...
That road stretched out long behind them, with a thousand memories and a thousand tears, and thousand smiles, and thousand laughs. It was a familiar road, one they had shared together, and each was so grateful to have the other with them now, continuing down that path into uncharted territory, together.
. . . .
As the moon rose into the later hours of the night, the two older couples Harry had not really gotten to know, excused themselves to their rooms as Joyce suggested the spa.
They all sat around in a large circle, talking and gossiping, laughing and teasing. Hermione was struck on how much her parents – whether they knew they were or not – had changed, and how happy they were. They seemed to take to Harry especially, with Monica doting over him on every little thing he said or did, and Wendell couldn't help but talk his ear off.
Harry seemed happy to oblige him though, and they got lost in a conversation about surfing, with her dad sharing with him tips for tomorrow, and Harry made him promise to teach him a little on the guitar, which her dad gladly accepted.
Endeared by it all, Hermione mimicked the other girls who were all hanging all over their boys and dared to scoot closer to him, wrapping her arm around his and wove her fingers into his hand. Harry accepted her without pause, still going on with her parents as she talked with Joyce and Tom.
"You two are just so adorable!" Hermione heard Moncia suddenly blurt out excitedly, changing the conversation. "How long have you been together?"
Harry and Hermione looked to each other, blushing. "We met our first year of school..." Hermione said, looking over into Harry's eyes. She leaned further into him, needing his support.
"You could say we've "been together" this last year," Harry finished her sentence, beaming down at her as if it were true.
"Oh! High school sweethearts! Just like me and my Wendell!" Monica said glowing.
'Something like that...' Harry thought to himself.
As the conversations and the drinks carried on, the tension in the hot tub began to rise with the heat. Harry and Hermione abashedly watched as the others eventually wove themselves into tangles. Witnessing it, their eyes came together, but as an unnerving horde of butterflies attacked them, they were not able to hold.
It was the most awkward thing, but eventually Monica saved them... or so they thought. "Well, it's getting late for us old folks! You kids have fun! Breakfast will be served at nine, but feel free to sleep in and come when you like," she winked at the newly weds. Harry and Hermione felt their heightened fever rise another degree or two.
Hermoine's unknowing parents had no more than disappeared into the shadows then Joyce and Tom locked arms around each others necks and began to outright suck each others faces.
Harry scoffed slightly, just between he and Hermione, and rolled his eyes at the lewd scene before them. Too many daiquiris!
“Geez!” Hermione twisted herself away from it, turning her back to them as she floated over before Harry's knees. She shared a mock face of shock with him and Harry laughed hysterically as he took her other hand in his.
"Guess it's getting late..." she giggled, blushing for Tom and Joyce.
"Yeah, I guess..." Harry sighed as he gently parted his knees, pulling Hermione closer to him by their interwoven fingers.
“Well, should we call it a – hiccup – night?” Hermione screwed her face comically at her continued hiccups. They both broke into laughter as Hermione floated ever deeper between his legs.
“Sure...” Harry was not eager to end this day, but with Tom and Joyce making-out just beside them, he felt the need to give them their privacy.
Hermione slowly made to stand, balancing herself against Harry as she trailed her way up his chest. Their faces came uncomfortably close to one another...
Harry caught her. Hermione stopped. Their eyes met.
Looking back and forth to one another, something happened. There was something deep, something profound lost within each of their orbs and they struggled to search and understand it.
Staring deep into her eyes, Harry reached up to gingerly fold one of Hermione's fallen strands back behind her ear. Hermione's eyes fell to Harry's lips as her hands unknowingly came to rest upon his hard chest.
Leaving the strand in place, the tips of Harry's fingers trailed ever so slowly back down around her ear, catching her cheek in his palm. Hermione brushed her face into his touch as their eyes continued their battle, and then suddenly, like something just snapped, they saw all they needed and could want to see.
Harry drew his fingers along her jawline, to her chin, his thumb brushing ever so slightly against her lips. Hermione gave it the faintest of kisses.
A shiver ran through him with the touch of her soft lips. Harry cupped her face once more as he drew closer still. Had they not been lost in their drunken haze or well of emotions from trying to put this last year behind them, their minds might have sounded an alarm, but all their senses seemed to abate them. There was only this sudden rush of raw emotion and need. Their eyes closed in unison. Their breaths ceased. And their lips came together.
It was soft and gentle and it held for the longest time. Harry wavered first though. With his eyes closed, pressing his forehead against hers, their noses together, their lips grazing, their breaths intertwining, he faltered between what he knew he must do, what was right, and what he wanted to do. What all his hormones and senses and rush of emotions were telling him to do.
He kissed her softly on the corner of her mouth and Hermione's lips reacted by reaching for his. Several short pecks followed, their lips gaining ever more courage.
Harry then began to work his way down, kissing her chin, leaving a trail of nibbles along her cheek and jaw, all the way to the base of her ear.
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione gasped aloud.
They both jumped as she let out his real name, anxiously turning to see if the other couple had heard. No. Joyce and Tom were both wrapped up in each other, just as Harry and Hermione had been. The two turned back to each other and laughed.
Hermione was still between Harry's legs, realizing now that she was pressing up against him. Harry looked into her eyes and saw so much. He could kiss her again, but he knew he shouldn't. She was his best friend. She was his best mate's girl – or something like that - and they'd simply had too much to drink. With their heightened passion ebbing, Hermione frowned deeply as Harry pulled away.
"Harry?" she asked with sad eyes, clenching at his fleeting hands.
"Come on, lets get out of here..." Harry had to force the words. A disappointed Hermione took his offered hand and he lifted her to her feet.
They walked back to the room in silence, but with their hands together. Hermione rested her head on Harry's shoulder as they were both lost deep in thought.
They took turns changing in the bathroom. Hermione was to have the bed while Harry took the couch. They started there. Harry even obediently stayed in his place, much to his darker side's chagrin. As the minutes stretched into hours, the two, for the first time since the final battle, were finally able to just sit and talk and let it all out.
They recalled their early years, meeting on the train, of she mending his taped glasses. They laughed about Harry sticking his wand up the mountain troll's nose! They spoke of Buckbeak and Sirius. They replayed the Triwizard Tournament, chastised Rita Skeeter, remembered Cedric.
But as their conversation gradually drew to their most recent, darker times, Hermione found herself on the couch with Harry, taking comfort in his arms. They guessed about what schemes Hagrid was up to, and what antics Gwarp, his giant of a half-brother, was causing in the Forbidden Forest. The two talked long into the night about their last seven years, reminiscing, remembering, mourning, celebrating, laughing, crying, sharing, and eventually, sleeping in one anothers arms.
. . . .
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