The After Life

Phoenix Rising

Harry pushed open the door to the Head Common Room. He couldn't think of a better name for it, so that would have to do. He actually kicked the door open, once he'd somehow manoeuvred the door handle down. With his knee, no less. He was actually quite pleased with himself for the achievement. His hands were out of action, already occupied, weighed down with an armful of heavy textbooks.

"Harry! Its about time! I thought you'd forgotten the way."

"Excuse me, this is my third trip up and down those stairs," Harry protested. "You try doing this without magic."

"I have, for seven years," Hermione pointed out. "Just because you never checked any books out of the library..."

"I would have, but you had them all!"

Hermione poked her tongue out at him, so adorably cute that Harry ached at the sight. It stilled his grouchiness in a heartbeat.

"I offered you my satchel. Just because kittens aren't your thing...its not my fault."

Harry frowned down at Hermione, who was smirking up at him from one of the couches in the room. She already had a ring of open books around her. They looked like paper satellites to Planet Hermione. There were yet more on the table, haphazardly stacked, most with rolls of parchment tucked between pages and trailing to the floor.

Harry was overwhelmed by the sight. It was as if Hermione was trying to catch up on all her subjects at once. And there were a few.

"Is there any subject you aren't taking?" Harry asked wearily, as he tipped his latest armful of books into a spare armchair.

"Careful with those!" Hermione shrieked. "Some of these volumes are ancient!"

"I think you'll be ancient by the time you get through this lot," said Harry waving his hand at what looked like half the library dotted around the room. "You are allowed time off, you know. You were badly injured."

"That's no excuse," said Hermione curtly. She began chewing the end of her quill. "I may not be able to move properly just yet, but that doesn't mean I can be idle. I've missed enough classes already. I'll be so behind."

Harry shook his head with an exasperated sigh. "Anything I can help with?"

Hermione looked over at him, smiled shyly. "Just be here with me. Keep me company."

"I can do that," Harry replied. He quelled a nervous flutter. "But wait - are you trying to say I can't help you? Or do you just not want me to. I'm not that bad, you know."

"Of course you're not," said Hermione lightly, not quite meeting his eye. "Homework proficiency's not high on your skill set though, is it?"

Harry wanted to argue, but he didn't want to lie to Hermione. She was right, of course. But he wasn't the kind to give up so easily.

"Come on, try me," Harry challenged. "I might surprise you."

Hermione cocked her head at him, narrowing her eyes. "I'm suspicious."


"You, that's why," said Hermione, studying him. "Wanting to help me with my homework. Its the wrong way round. What are you up to?"

"I don't know where the trust went between us," said Harry, shaking his head in mock indignation. "I'm not up to anything. I take it back. I'm too hurt to help you now. I don't try and do something nice for an invalid..."

Hermione made a face at him. Harry smirked back. "My body's broken, Harry, but my mind's as sharp as ever. Your forget how well I know you...hmmm. Fine. I still say this is shady, but if you really want to help, lets see what you know."

Harry sat up, and crossed his legs beneath him on the opposite couch to Hermione.

"Hit me."

"Okay...Ancient Runes first," said Hermione. "What do you know about the sowilo rune, apart from the fact that it matches your scar?"

"Does it match my scar? Let me see."

Hermione handed him the textbook. Harry looked at the image.

"Oh yeah, it does look like my scar," Harry agreed. "Weird. That's actually the first thing I know about that rune. About any rune actually. Sorry, you're on your own with that one."

Hermione grinned at him. "Let's try Potions instead. Any idea of the brewing schedule for the antidote to a vampire bite?"

"There's an antidote to a vampire bite? I didn't know that."

"I take it you don't know how to make it then, either?" said Hermione. She looked like she was fighting not to laugh. She was making this hard on purpose.

"No,but I bet it has to be done at night."

"Actually, you're right about that bit. The potion has to be infused with moonlight as a binding agent. I'm impressed."

"See, told you," said Harry sitting back smugly and linking his hands behind his head. "When it comes to moonlight binding things as an infusing agent, I'm all over it."

"Uh-huh," said Hermione, still fighting that giggle. "If you could be a doll and catch some moonlight for me later that'd be a big help, thanks."

"Er...sure, no problem," said Harry. How was he supposed to catch moonlight? Oh...wait.

"That was just a joke, wasn't it?"

"I'm only playing, Harry, don't be too mad with me," said Hermione.

"You know what, I'm going to find a way to catch some moonlight, just for you," said Harry grumpily. "Just to prove you wrong. Don't ask me how...but watch this space."

"I look forward to it," said Hermione. "It'd be nice to have a jar of moonlight for myself! But I think you'd better leave the homework to me."

Harry harrumphed and gave in. He was more of a hindrance than a help.

"Good job I can still fetch and carry for you, isn't it? Its nice to have a use in life."

"You have plenty of uses, Harry, as you well know."

"But your favourite is having me as a slave."

"I could get used to it, that's true," said Hermione, blushing furiously and looking steadfastly down at the scroll in front of her.

Harry didn't know how to rightly answer that. So he stayed silent. It was quite nice, just sitting there, not speaking. The only sound the occasional scratch of Hermione's quill on the parchment. He looked at her. He found it very difficult to take his eyes off her, actually. She was back to where she was most happy, most comfortable, and it made Harry strangely contented to just sit there and watch.

But his thoughts were somewhere else entirely.

He was plotting. Scheming away in his mind. He was going to tell her how he felt about her. He'd determined on that now. He couldn't go on feeling what he did and not knowing if she might return the sentiment. If there was a chance that wonderful, glimpsed future he'd seen could come true, it had to start somewhere. So Harry was going to do it. It wasn't sure how, but he was pretty set on the when.

Hermione's birthday. Tomorrow.

It had come around awfully fast since he'd made the decision. He thought if he gave himself a set date it would stir him to action. He just hadn't expected the last couple of days to fly past so quickly. It was so nerve-searingly close now. And Harry still had no idea what he was going to do.

He had never asked a girl out before, not with premeditated cognition. Not with thinking time. He had just blurted it out at Cho. He didn't want to think about Ginny. Neither were the same. And, in any case, he hadn't been in love with either of them. This was Hermione. His sweet, wonderful, beautiful best friend, who he now desired so much it hurt. That made this so much different, and so infinitely more frightening.

But he had to do it.

He didn't know how much longer he could stand not being with Hermione. It was all he could do to not just out and grab her, hug her silly, kiss her breathless. He had toyed with the idea of doing just that on her birthday. It had its merits as a plan. It covered all the bases, made it pretty obvious what he wanted. And if she wanted it, it would be a nice present for her.

Which brought him to other possible courses of action. Make it obvious in the gift he bought her. His conversation with Catrin in Diagon Alley had given him that idea. His thoughts on this ranged from vaguely suggestive costume jewellery, to the downright extreme of buying her an engagement ring. That seemed a step far, and the jangle of Harry's nerves at the concept of marrying Hermione robbed him of his senses for several hours.

She looked up at him at that moment. Her gaze was penetrating. For a wild, fleeting second he wondered if she knew what was on his mind. She had a habit of doing that, Harry had noticed. Just looking at him at random moments. He felt a deep swell in his chest that he could distract her from homework just by being there. This was some power, indeed.

"How are you feeling now, Harry?" When he looked questioningly at her and didn't answer she went on, "I know you had another nightmare last night. I heard you get up."

Oh, she knew about that did she? Harry was embarrassed. He thought he'd gotten away with it. He didn't want Hermione to know he was still suffering.

"You should have come to me," she continued. "This is too much to deal with on your own."

Harry turned his eyes to the floor. "I didn't want to wake you. My problems shouldn't be your burden."

Hermione sighed crossly and put her quill down. Harry glanced up at the movement.

"How many times do I have to tell you that you aren't alone in this? I'm here for you. Right here. You can't hide from me, Harry. Not anymore. Your problems are my problems now."

Harry looked up and scrunched his eyes at her. What did she mean by that?

"You know I appreciate that," said Harry. "But you do enough for me during the day. These dreams are horrible. I won't let them disturb your nights, too."

"You don't get it, do you? They already do."

Harry looked hard at her. "What do you mean?"

"Haven't you noticed it?" asked Hermione. "Or maybe it isn't the same for you..."

"What isn't?"

"I've just noticed, ever since the phoenix ritual, that I sort of, sense you more. Haven't you felt it? Its not like mind-reading, so don't fret about me suddenly knowing your deepest, darkest secrets. But I pick up on your moods better now. I feel them myself, in a way. Especially when your emotions are particularly strong, like when you have nightmares. I know what you're going through, so there's no use trying to pretend with me."

"I'm sorry, I didn't know you were being affected like that," said Harry, ashamed. "I had to put some of my magic into you during the ritual. I suppose I didn't think it would connect us so blatantly. I'm sorry."

"I'm not," said Hermione. Her voice was soft, but her words firm and unyielding. Harry felt his heart skip a few beats as they exchanged an intense, blazing look

"You-you're not?" Harry stammered.

Hermione shook her head, smiled beautifully at him. Harry felt like he should look away. But he didn't. He held her gaze steadily, forcing his eyes to lock onto hers. Maybe he could tap into this new connection himself. Perhaps he could know for sure...

"I quite like knowing how you're feeling," Hermione said. "For good or bad. I've gotten quite fond of it. I'd miss it if it were gone, that's for sure. Its comforting."

Harry scoffed. "You clearly haven't seen my dreams, then. Comforting isn't the word I'd use."

Hermione looked seriously at him now. Her expression stony and stolid.

"Harry - I want you to promise me something, right here and now. Whenever you have one of these nightmares, you'll come right to me. If I'm not awake, wake me. I'll be cross with you if I find out you haven't. I don't mind you simply slipping into bed with me either, if it will make you feel better."

Harry's heart flipped. What the hell did she just say? Harry felt his jaw fall open. Hermione's gaze didn't flinch. She wasn't joking.

"But...but what if I'm far away?" Harry somehow managed to say. His mouth had gone arid.

"I'll just have to not allow you to be. I've neglected you once before, I'll not do it again, I promise you that. I'm not letting you out of my sight until I think you're better."

"And if that takes years?"

Hermione smiled at him again. "Then it takes years. And now, thanks to Solaria over there, I'll know when that time comes."

The baby phoenix chirruped from her nest, as if in concordance. Harry, it seemed, had little say in the matter.

"You're taking on a hell of a lot, you do know that?" said Harry warningly.

"Of course I do," said Hermione gently. "Shall we seal it with an Unbreakable Vow? Will that convince you how serious I am?"

", I believe you," said Harry.

Shaking, he stood up and crossed the room to her. Hermione looked up at him warily, chewing her bottom lip, curious as to what he was doing. He knelt on the floor beside her. His blood was throbbing in his ears. They held a trembling gaze. Quickly, before his courage failed him, Harry slid his arms around Hermione's neck and drew her tenderly towards him.

"Thank you," he breathed into her hair. Merlin did she smell good. "I wish I wasn't so weak, so bloody broken. I wish that I was stronger, so that you didn't have to...I wish I...I wish I didn't need you so much. But I do. Thank you for being here for me."

"Oh, Harry," she whispered back. Her hands had slipped up and around his shoulders. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll always be here."

She turned her head into his chest, nuzzling her bushy crown under his chin. Harry was delirious. He didn't want to move. But now wasn't the time. It wasn't in the plan. He didn't want his confession to be tainted, provoked by his darkness. He drew away slowly. Hermione loosened her grip reluctantly. Harry almost gave in and maintained the hold.

"Will you sit by me while I work?" Hermione asked breathlessly. "You're too far away to talk to sat all the way over there."

Harry grinned. "If you like. I'll try not to think too much in case it distracts you. Which one of these massive books is the most boring?"

"Shut up, Harry," said Hermione, swatting at him playfully.

She scooped up a book from the couch and patted the now vacant cushion beside her. Harry climbed up. They were pressed tight together as they relaxed back against the couch. Harry, with a jolt of electric thought, realised he could see down the top of Hermione's robe from this angle. He struggled hard not to look, but that shadowy curve was just visible and it was so enticing...

"You okay, Harry?"

"What...yeah, fine. Why?"

"Don't know. Just had a weird...spike inside. Don't think that's my emotion. It must be you."

"How can you be sure?"

"I'm reading about Ancient Runes," Hermione replied. "Its not exactly stirring stuff. Besides, I always know when its you and not me."

"Tell me."

Hermione put down her book and looked up at Harry thoughtfully. His eyes flew up to her face. He was confident she hadn't caught him.

"Its just a different sort of sensation," said Hermione. "I've always known how my own feelings, well, feel, but its got a different tone when they're yours. It's really intense. Do you always feel like that? That strongly?"

"Depends what its about, I suppose," Harry replied. "I've never thought my feelings were particularly strong, no different to anyone else's anyway. I know I get angry and passionate sometimes, but everyone does. I think I know what you mean, though. I always knew when Voldemort was feeling particularly evil. They were my feelings, but not. I could tell the difference."

"I suppose what we've done is sort of the same, isn't it?" Hermione mused. "Voldemort gave you a bit of his power, now you've given me a bit of yours."

"At least I didn't have to curse you and kill your parents to do it," said Harry bitterly.

"Ooh Harry! I felt that! Wow...that's...that's...what is it?"

"Dark? Hatred tends to be."

"Wow, that what you've been carrying around with you all this time? Oh my word! You poor thing! I can't have that. He's gone now. You're with me. You're safe, you know that don't you? You don't have to feel like that any more. I'll look after you, you can..."

Her words tailed off. She was looking at him such such intense gentility it left Harry in no doubt what she was feeling now. For a new emotion was swelling and surging through him. If this connection was as strong as she said, she'd know...

Hermione looked away suddenly, her chest rising and falling rapidly. It drew Harry's eyes back to the neck of her robes. The increased movement made everything a little more exposed. Harry really wished he had the composure to look away. If Hermione worked out that, too, he'd be done for.

"I...I really didn't know you were being affected so much by my moods," said Harry quietly. "I'm sorry. I'll try harder to contain them. I'm pretty good at it by now."

"No, Harry...please don't. Don't shut me out. I - I don't want you to. Its, that's all. Good new, though. If you know what I mean."

"How can feeling my anger, my rage be good?" cried Harry sardonically. "My demons are anything but good."

"That wasn't demonic...what I just felt, Harry," said Hermione. She looked up at him so warmly his face felt on fire. "That was...beautiful. Feel that again for me. Whatever you were thinking when you felt that...think it again. It was incredible."

Harry needed only think three words. And in twenty-four hours time, he was actually going to say them to her.

Hermione lay in bed for hours that night. She was too energised to sleep. She should have been exhausted. She'd gotten through twelve rolls of parchment during her marathon day of homework catch -up. Her wrist ached from all the writing. She had been astonishingly productive and, for her, that was saying something. But she couldn't really remember a single word she had written. It might have been utter drivel. She might have to toss the whole thing in the fire tomorrow and start again.

But if that meant a repeat of this day with Harry, she would do it happily.

She had been vaguely away of this new link to him ever since she'd woken from the effects of Ginny's curse. It was like a dull hum in the back of her mind every time she was around him. But, as she grew steadily better, she found the connection getting stronger with her. She studied it in quiet moments when she could look at Harry without him noticing. She needed to explore and examine it if she was to properly understand, and it was harder when he was looking at her. His eyes were too pretty. They distracted her.

But, whether she was delving into it or not, the link was getting more pronounced, clearer. And Hermione was feeling it from further away. She was getting used to how it felt, compared to her own emotions. It had a different vibration almost. At first it was jarring to have Harry's emotions inside her, but now she couldn't imagine being without them. She hadn't been lying when she said it was comforting. She loved having a part of him always with her. It felt familiar, even after such a short space of time. She already recognised it as easily as the sound of his voice or his scent, and every time she did it stirred her heart and made every single inch of her skin tingle.

But boy did his mood's vary, from one extreme to the other. And so often, too. It didn't take much for Harry to lurch from one sensation to the next, it would seem. The abruptness often caught Hermione off guard, like missing a step on the stairs. It was startling. She didn't know how he managed to stay so sober with such drunken movements hitting him so randomly.

And then there was the intensity. Wow! Harry didn't do anything by halves, did he? It was a case of go hard or go home where his emotions were concerned. He hated so powerfully, so fundamentally. Hermione was even a little scared of that. When he'd thought of Voldemort...that was almost enough to tear strips from her own body. Such acidity. She knew Harry hated him, of course she did, but she had never fully appreciated the depth of it. She didn't think her Harry was capable of such pure detestation, that anyone was. He was kind and sweet, brave and loyal, and all sorts of good. But that was its equal and more.

It made her step back a moment.

Ok, so that's there, she thought to herself, inside him. She weighed it, measured it and accepted it in one breath. It changed nothing for her. She would help him deal with it. She would so not allow him to carry that around forever. She wouldn't stand for it. It was gnawing at him like a huge parasite. She'd felt it squirming around as the abhorrence of Voldemort's memory passed through his system. Poor Harry! She would rid him of it. She swore to herself she would.

But then there were the other emotions, at the other end of the scale. Merlin had they been powerful, too! If that was what Harry felt for her, which she was happily telling herself it was, then she could scarcely comprehend it. She knew how she felt for him. She knew this was love. It was more powerful than any emotion she could ever remember having.

But it seemed to be dwarfed by that surge of emotion she'd felt from Harry.

That didn't sit well with her. She loved him more than anything. She'd only admitted it two days ago but she'd never been more certain of anything in her life. To think he felt even more for her made her slightly cross. She was the girl. She was supposed to feel emotions more keenly. But this was Harry with his ridiculous intensity. How could she hope to compete, really. His life had been so extreme, it followed logically that he would love in much the same way.

And it seemed undeniable now that he loved her.

Hermione thought her head might fall off at the notion. She had tried all day to cling to her last niggle of doubt, like it was some irrational safety blanket. But she was losing her grip on the denial. How could she deny it any longer? She'd felt it so powerfully, and for so long. It hadn't wavered. When she'd asked Harry to pull the emotion back, so she could share it, he did it almost instantly. It hit her as quickly as the dark wave that accompanied the mention of Voldemort and his parents' murder - and overwhelmed her nearly as much. But he'd held it there, as he'd held himself to her.

For they had stayed touching for hours. She couldn't believe it when Harry hugged her. As much as she loved hugging him, she was hard pressed to remember a time when he was the one who initiated one. Especially when she excluded the times she was in mortal danger which, she thought sadly, accounted for about half of them. Harry hugged back, never hugged first. Until that very afternoon downstairs. And after the hug had broken, Harry had sat right next to her. The couch was full of books, but surely that didn't account for Harry sitting so close. So close that their thighs were pressed firmly together. If Hermione had shifted just right she would probably have ended up sitting in his lap. But neither had made any attempt to change the seating arrangements. For hours.

They had both been so comfy just as they were, it would seem.

Hermione still couldn't believe she had just out and told him he could hop into bed with her any time he wanted, either. That was brazen of her. She meant it as a sort of open invitation for when he was vulnerable, but she would be happy for him to take her up on the offer whenever he liked. If he liked. Which she was now sure he did. She remembered how his mouth had fallen open at the offer. She almost laughed out loud at the sight. But he didn't complain, or say it was inappropriate. Just pointed out certain logistical issues. Typical Harry.

Merlin they were being silly about all this.

Hermione giggled to herself. She felt like she was fourteen again and first smitten with Harry. This sort of behaviour might have been acceptable then. But they were adults now, forced to grow up quicker, too, on the account of the cards life had dealt them. Why couldn't they just deal with this sensibly? She knew full well why, but the issue of the Weasleys annoyed her, her own stupidity on that score a source of personal chagrin. And then there were Harry's internal struggles, and her own insecurities. But they'd be banished at a stroke when they got together.

For that was so going to happen. And soon. It wasn't even a case of if in her mind anymore.

Hermione felt it like she was waiting to ride a wave on the ocean. She was eager for the moment to arrive, she yearned for it. This ache for Harry was ensconced deep in her very bones. If she didn't do something about it soon she feared it would drive her mad. She didn't feel it was a million miles away as it always had been. It was just on the horizon, coming now into sharp focus. The last few days had proven that.

For something had undoubtedly changed between them since the phoenix ritual, that was certain. They had been drawn closer. Physical space between them was something to be abhorred, removed if at all possible. Harry was taking the lead on that score, which both surprised and pleased Hermione. He was all too keen to ferry her around on the floating chair, and she felt sure it was just so he could touch her when lifting her to and from it. The way he trembled and his skin grew red hot was testament to that. And he'd hugged her twice over the past few days. That was the loveliest thing. But he was the boy and, like most boys, he was physically-driven, Boy Who Lived nonsense or not.

She knew enough of that from where she'd caught him staring down her top, earlier.

Hermione knew she should be scandalised, for Harry to have objectified her so blatantly. But she found she didn't mind in the slightest. It made her skin blush all over, but it was a pleasant sensation, one she'd happily experience again. In fact, she truly hoped she would. It was the absurdity of it that struck her, really. To think that Harry Potter was openly staring at her boobs was just a ridiculous idea. It made her belly laugh as she thought about it. But as her laugh died, she thought about something else. And it made her head spin.

It must mean that Harry fancied her...that he thought of her sexually.

Wow, that made Hermione sit up. Her attention pinched. She had accepted that Harry might love her, that he was emotionally attracted to her. But physically - for some reason, she'd ruled that out, separated the two. Now she was forced to pair them back together. She was hardly anyone's idea of sexy. She'd put back on the weight she'd lost after the Horcrux hunt. The lack of decent sustainance for all those months had left her more wiry than she liked, but she wasn't exactly toned or athletic now. The idea worried her. Harry seemed to have a type - the Cho and Ginny mould. Hermione was neither of them. Concern crinkled her brow.

Stop being stupid, she said to herself. He spent the afternoon staring at your boobs, didn't he? He must have liked them.

Hermione was cheered at the thought. Buoyed by it. To think that Harry physically desired her made her feel rather dreamy. Of course, she fancied the arse off of him. He was practically edible. And she'd start with that arse when she got her hands on it. Fucking firm as a peach. Yummy. She could crack walnuts between those cheeks. Maybe it was a bit kinky to start with that sort of thing, though.

The idea stirred between her thighs. She was tempted to indulge a fantasy or two. But Harry was too close. If he needed her during the night, it wouldn't do for him to walk in and find her pleasuring herself. Or maybe that might be the ultimate tonic for him. A sexy little show to take his mind off more sinister things. Hermione was running red hot with these thoughts, in high aroused gear. But she checked herself.

Then she was startled by a sudden rush of emotion she recognised immediately as coming from Harry.

The distance of their bedrooms seemed nothing to their connection now. The previous night, Hermione only knew Harry was up and about as he entered the washroom connected to the communal area. It was closer to Hermione's side. She heard him before she felt that sickening wave of anguish coursing through him. Her heart had bled at the sensation and she dearly wanted to go to him. But by the time her body started responding to her commands and she pulled herself gingerly out of bed, she could feel Harry moving away.

But now, she could feel him from his room. It was faint, not nearly as strong as when she was curled up to his chest earlier, but she knew it was him. She rather fancied that the strength of Harry's emotions might carry when they were especially potent. And this one was. She tried to focus on it, to see which one it was.

For she was developing a sort of system for them, to help her decipher Harry's feelings. She was assigning colours to them. When Harry had felt that insanely powerful burst of love - burst of love for you, she amended - she felt it as a wave of pink. She couldn't have said why, but it fit. The anger was green. But this didn't feel like either of them. The closest colour she could approximate it to was the one which accompanied that odd sort of spike of emotion she'd felt earlier, when she'd caught Harry looking at her boobs. She'd felt that as a sort of red, or reddish-purple.

Was that his lust? Was that was that was?

If it was, it was certainly strong right now. What did that mean? Was he dreaming? She shuddered at the thought. Harry, so very close by, in the throes of feral passion. It made her throb incessantly down below. Then she had a sobering thought. What if he'd somehow felt her emotion? She'd been fantasising chronically about him just as she felt this surge from his room. Maybe he had picked up on it. She obsessed a moment on what he might think about it.

Hermione couldn't deny being slightly disappointed that he hadn't felt the phoenix connection in the way she did. But then again, she thought, he has had a lot more on his mind just lately. She'd shared enough of his jumbled emotions to accept he might not notice a new source of confusion in his overly fraught system. He was consumed by darkness, then light, then more dark again on a daily basis.

It was simpler for her. Her mind hadn't been assaulted in the past the way Harry's had. From the literal assaults of Snape and Voldemort, to the more subtle attacks of the Dursleys and even his peers within the school. He really had been through the mill, when you broke it down. It pulled at Hermione's heart to consider it. Her poor, wounded love! It depressed her greatly to think of all his suffering. She felt guilty that she'd held this one thing against him, even though she only now realised she was doing it.

Maybe he would feel it more keenly once his fractured psyche was healed. That was something to hope for. She truly wished she could find a way to communicate her feelings for him in as potent a way as she now felt his for her. He was bound to be doubtful, cautious. Love was fragile in his world, hatred and anger a much more visceral set of forces. She would have to make it robust for him, something he couldn't deny. Knowing more about how these sorts of bonds worked would certainly help. She made a note in her brain for another topic of research in the coming days.

But for now, she was focused solely on the feeling she was getting from Harry. The one thing she wished was that she could get details of the emotion, without having to obviously ask. Harry had mentioned Voldemort, his mood soured. Hermione had made her pledges to him, to be there for him, and he bowled her over with that flood of affection that had her name all over it. But to be able to accurately identify the thoughts behind the emotion would be something else. It would help now, for example.

For Hermione couldn't shake the idea that it was lust she was feeling from Harry. It was one of those things that just felt true. The problem was, she didn't know what was causing it. Harry could be fantasising about anything, or more irksomely, anyone. She felt possessively jealous at the thought. If she had greater insight, maybe she would stop being so irrational. Harry had been ogling her that day. That thought might still be in his mind somewhere. Maybe he was reliving it, elaborating on it. If only there was some sort of magic to see his thoughts...

Hermione's breathing hitched? Dare she? It was such a violation, she couldn't possibly...

But she was heaving herself up and reaching for her wand before she could stop herself. It seemed to take an age to cross her room and limp downstairs. Each step was an ordeal. It was so much easier when Harry had helped her to bed earlier. The time gave her opportunity to think. She couldn't do this. Harry would flay her if he knew she planned to try using Occlumency on him in his sleep. But she still couldn't stop moving towards his room. It was like she was being Accio'd.

The handle to the room turned easily, the door opened silently. It all seemed fated. Hermione tiptoed inside. Her eyes took a while to adjust to the gloom but she eventually picked out Harry's head from the shadows. She looked at his eyes where a sliver of moonlight fell across them. They were soundly shut. Hermione allowed herself to breathe. She crossed to the bed, her socks muffling any sound she might have made on the carpet.

She studied Harry's face in the moonlight. He was really quite gorgeous, her mother was right. Right now, his expression was relaxed and serene. His dream must be a good one. He was muttering lowly. Hermione couldn't make out what he was saying. But he was laying resolutely still. A flutter of sordid disappointed slicked across Hermione's brain. What had she been hoping to see? She mentally cuffed herself.


Harry's voice rang out, suddenly clear. Hermione froze, stiff as a board. She glanced down. Harry was still asleep. He hadn't moved. But he'd said her name...

And his emotion hadn't changed. Reddish-purple. Burning like an inferno.

Hermione held back a gasp. Whatever he was dreaming about, she was there. Her insides were fluid again.

"...don't care..." Harry murmured lustily. "'ll be back soon...ten minutes is plenty...ha ha...that tickles...he naughty...ooohhh...ha ha..."

Hermione tried not to laugh at Harry's sleepy babbling. She wished she could see what he was seeing, be the Hermione he was seeing. But she was struck with a sudden thought. What was that he was saying...about kids? Their kids? Was he dreaming of some sort of future, where they were snatching saucy moments while their kids were elsewhere? She fell back at the idea.

She had seen it before, the memory rushed at her now. But she would attend to that in a while. For now she wanted to bask in this swirling energy. Harry was dreaming of a time when they had kids! It was almost enough to send her mind into a tailspin. It was the final confirmation she needed. She wanted to cry out gleefully, but instead she backed away and edged from the room.

She had to think. It wasn't easy. The throb of Harry's pulsing emotion was reverberating through her, and now she knew what it was about. She knew, one hundred percent, that she was the cause of it. It set her world on fire. For all the doubts she'd ever had, for all the barriers that had ever flown up between them, Hermione was passionately assured of their destruction now. Despite everything that had conspired to keep them apart, of Ron and Ginny, of Voldemort and the War, all of it, Harry secretly dreamed of a day when he could be with her. When they'd have a family together.

It made Hermione want to screech for the joy of it.

She settled her fragile body into one of the squashy armchairs and curled up. It was if she was trying to knot herself into a ball of pure ecstasy. She didn't want to go back to bed, in case she fell asleep and found she'd dreamt all this. She threw her wand onto the table. It couldn't conjure anything as magical as that which she was feeling right now. She just hugged into herself, allowed that wonderful sensation of red-purple heat to flow over her, to envelope her.

Imagine how this would feel when Harry was actually here with her to share it, to enjoy it? When he was all over her, when they were tangled up together? Hermione couldn't picture that. It was too wonderful to even begin to dream up. The reality would be so much more than anything she could fabricate. She was going to do it. She was resolved. Maybe soon. No, definitely soon. Maybe tomorrow.

That made her shiver with restless excitement. Yes. Tomorrow. No excuses. She had all the facts she needed. Harry didn't. She had been too coy with him for too long. That was disgustingly shameful. But she had never imagined he'd fancy a bit of her, let alone dream of marrying her and starting a family with her. She wondered what their kids would look like, what they'd be like.

Then she remembered that dream.

Had it been a dream? The recollections were startlingly visceral. Oddly real. She could only remember bits. There had been green tea involved. That was a bizarre thing to remember. But there had been children also. Two of them. Two girls. She strained to remember their names, but the fact eluded her. She could see their faces, the older one specifically. She had Harry's eyes, but her mass of hair. Hermione felt a pang of longing to see that little girl again.

She would. It may be years down the line, but she was determined to meet her daughter again. The very phrase set her heart to hammering. She was going to have children with Harry. They were going to be a mother and father, a husband and wife, too. She knew Harry loved her, that he wanted to be with her in the most intimate way. Forever. And she knew she loved him too. It raced anew through her fibres, empowered and with more force than she'd ever credited to it before. It was giving Harry's intensity a run for its money. She'd never loved anything as fiercely as she loved him right now. As she always would.

And, tomorrow, she'd tell him. He couldn't possibly refuse her.

Not on her birthday.