Harry & Hermione
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MattD12027 - Harry Potter and the Eternal Right
Chapter 24 - Begun Again
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related plot events and characters are the property of JK Rowling.
Summary: PostHogwarts. Harry must deal with the horrors of war, and in doing so he will embrace his heritage and leave a lasting legacy on the world.
A/N: Remember folks…this is rated Mature. Enjoy and please review!
Chapter 24: Begun Again
It had been a long day. Hermione felt that with distinct clarity, because she was physically and mentally weary. She loved her new job, and she loved the kids she'd had so far, but it was certainly tiring. She supposed that once she got used to the routine it would get better, but she found it hard to believe that teaching Transfiguring was really more trying than being an Auror.
It probably didn't help that she had many other things on her mind; she was trying to juggle being a competent Professor and her own jumbled and confusing private life. That was what she was wrestling with at the moment. It was now late in the evening, and her private life had asserted itself over her professional life once again. She sighed and turned around.
Hermione couldn't decide what to wear. She stood in front of her wardrobe, staring at the many clothes hanging there, putting the question to herself: what was she really trying to accomplish? She knew she was about to go to Harry and try to work out whatever was between them, but what did she want? The answer wasn't easy, or clear, so she just stood staring for a few moments longer.
She finally reached in and parted two pairs of jeans, and found what she was looking for. She took out the modest black cocktail dress and held it up to herself—the color in her skin and her lighter hair actually made it look better than she thought it would have. She pulled off her slacks and her blouse, which she had been wearing under her robes all day, and started to pull the dress over her head. She paused for a second, though, as her reflection caught her eye in the mirror. Her scantily clad image stared back at her, as if to taunt her with thoughts she didn't need at the moment. The black material slipped over the revealing attire, covering the smooth contours of her body just as she tried to cover the jagged edges of her psyche by pushing away the thoughts that had risen.
She frowned at how her hair looked, but ultimately decided to just pull it back into a tight ponytail—if she tried anything else she'd be there for another hour. She thought about applying makeup, but then questioned herself as to why she would be doing that. She looked fine; the dress accentuated her curves nicely, while still being reserved, so she didn't need to advertise herself any more. She found a pair of open-toed party shoes, and slipped them on. She smoothed the hem of her dress, took a deep breath, and turned away from the mirror.
As she stepped out of her suite into the corridor, several students were walking by. They were all older boys, and he saw them eye her appreciatively. It made her slightly uncomfortable, and she gave them a stern glare. Their eyes snapped to the front and they quickly went on their way. Well…at least she knew she had something good to look at. Maybe Harry would be able to see that, even though that really wasn't a priority. She just wanted him to talk to her, and tell her what he was really feeling, so that all of their pretenses could be dropped. It had been going on for far too long.
She could hear the incessant beat of the rain on the castle, and standing there in the dark hallway, it made her feel quite melancholy. She almost had everything she wanted—she was back in England and she had a great job…but she had a feeling that if things didn't work out with Harry, she would have to leave. She didn't know if she could face the past twice in one lifetime. The constant pall the weather pushed over everything reminded her of the worst moment of her life—Ginny's funeral. The weather had been just as mournful then, and she was reminded of that…
Hermione shook her head. She had to stop that. Tonight she would find out if she really had a place back in England, or if she should just disappear again. If she didn't…she'd be like she was when she'd first come to Hogwarts: friendless. She slowly let out a long, low sigh; she turned and started walking in the direction of Harry's suite, hoping that he was there and that he would be receptive of her.
Helen was restless. She hadn't been able to sit still for very long, and had finally just taken up pacing around her suite. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her brow was creased, and she walked with a quick fluid step. She ended up near the window, and stopped for a moment to stare out at the dreary night. The lights from the various windows lit up the ground around the stone walls, but beyond that, it was lost in the inky blackness of the rainy night.
She thought back over the long day that was now coming to a close. She had taught her first three classes—successfully, she thought—and had even attempted to make civil conversation with Hermione at lunch. The results of that little experiment had been mixed, but Helen thought that was more because Hermione was confused at Helen's new tone. She had seemed a little bewildered when Helen had greeted her warmly, and the entire meal had been like that. Hermione had been overly cautious and Helen had maybe been a little too cheery.
She blinked and shook her head a little. She was still staring out of the window. She turned away from the night and glanced at the clock on the wall, seeing that it was eight o'clock. She had Flooed Paul earlier and told him that she wanted him to come to the castle tonight. She told him eight thirty, so that gave her a half hour to get ready. She paused though, as she thought about what she actually wanted to happen this night. Her father had made a lot of sense, but she couldn't help but feel reservations anyway. In some ways, she almost had to prove it to herself that she wasn't tainted in any way, but that was hard to do.
That required her to face her demons in the most direct way, and she didn't know if she and Paul were necessarily ready for that—well, he might have been, but she wasn't sure if she was. She knew that slowly, over their time at Hogwarts together, their platonic feelings for each other had slowly turned into something more, and that they were extremely comfortable with each other, but…
But they had never really talked about that next step. It just wasn't something they'd ever really thought about, but now that she was questioning her own sexual worth, as she liked to see it, it was an answer that she was looking for—she had to ask the question first, though. And she supposed that was part of the reason why she'd asked Paul to come, to put that out there. She also just wanted to see him and be with him, because he made her feel comfortable.
Helen walked over to the bathroom and ran the hot water for a moment. She splashed some on her face, trying to force her cart wheeling thoughts into line. She straightened up, squared her shoulders, and scrutinized herself in the mirror. Her straight, silky brown hair hung loosely around her head, framing her tanned and beautiful face. She knew she was very pretty, so she was comfortable in thinking that. Her eyes dropped to her bared shoulders and arms, nicely toned from all the working out she did. They were then drawn to the modest amount of cleavage the dress she had on exposed, and was happy that she had inherited at least something worthwhile from her mother.
Helen was very comfortable with her body—there wasn't really anything else she wanted into that department. Physically, she was in top shape and knew, as a sexual being and a teenager with raging hormones, that she was attractive and physically desirable. Did that go all the way, though? If, and when, Paul found out about what happened to her, because she was planning on telling him when he showed up, would she still be as desirable in his eyes? Her father said yes, and some part of her did as well, but there was still a small part that had reservations. That small part wanted to be safe and secure in the knowledge that she wouldn't ever have to know, that she wouldn't ever have to find out…but that wasn't how she could live her life.
Realistically, if she never found the answer to that question, at some point she would stop living. She would be deluding herself if she thought she could take not knowing forever, and even if by knowing she confirmed her worst fears, it was still better than the unknown. She had faith in Paul, though, and also in herself, especially after what her father had told her. She was set in the decision to tell him when he came, and she was pretty sure—as sure as she could be, at least—that he would be supportive and understand her.
In all honesty, she still remembered a few images and a few distinct feelings from that night in the Orphanage, but the overall vision was fading. Sometimes, she still dreamt of it, but it would be skewed slightly. Occasionally, her father would come earlier and prevent her abuse from ever happening; other times, she would fight the man off with skills she'd acquired since.
Helen squeezed the sides of the sink in frustration, and forced her thoughts away from that subject. Dwelling on it wouldn't get her anywhere; no, she had to face it once tonight and then she'd be past it forever. She was about to turn away from the mirror and exit the bathroom, but her perfume caught her eye. On a whim, she puffed some out onto her wrists, and rubbed a little on her neck. Why not? What could it hurt?
A knock came from the portrait, and she went into the sitting area. Paul was there, and her moment of truth had come. What would he say? How would he react? There was only one way to find out, and she waved the portrait aside.
Harry just finished buttoning the last button on his shirt when a knock came at his portrait. He cocked his head to the side when he sensed Hermione's magical signature—that was ironic, considering that he was getting ready to go see her himself. He looked down at himself, taking stock of his black slacks and chic dark button-up, and mused for a moment on what his plans were.
He shrugged. It was too late to figure that out now, especially since Hermione was waiting outside of his suite. He wondered what she would think when she saw the way he was dressed. Would she wonder where he was going, or if he had had anything else planned? His feet carried him over the to portrait, and he waved it aside. Hermione stood there in a form-fitting black dress; she cocked her head at him, presumably at his attire. He just raised his eyebrow, and stepped aside. She came through the portrait, and it slid closed behind her.
"You're dressed well, tonight," Harry said.
Hermione cocked her head once again. Harry had to suppress a smile at the endearing motion. "So are you," she said, but it was inflected more like a question than a statement.
Harry just smiled slightly, and motioned toward the couch. They clearly both had a similar idea for the night…
"I was actually just heading to your suite," Harry said, as they both sat down.
"Really?" Hermione crossed her legs, which drew Harry's gaze for a moment. He raised his eyes back to her when she continued. "That's kind of ironic, isn't it?"
"I guess…" Harry trailed off. He needed to phrase his next question correctly. "Are you going somewhere tonight?" he asked, indicating her dress with a gesture of his hand.
Hermione looked around as a coy smile spread over her face. "Oh, I don't know…maybe."
She leaned back into the cushion of the couch. "I was thinking of coming here," she said, and then looked Harry right in the eyes.
"Ah…" Harry intoned. "Well…what's on your mind?"
"Why don't you tell me why you were going to my suite?"
"Hermione…you know it's not polite to answer a question with a question," Harry teased. The conversation had a weird feel to it so far, and he wasn't sure why.
She wasn't forthcoming, however, and merely looked at him, with that same demure smile on her face. "Alright…I wanted to talk to you," he said. He noticed that her face became slightly more curious.
"About?" she prompted.
Harry sighed. He was going to get into it now. "You know what about, Hermione—about us. I wanted to talk to you about you and me."
She chuckled lightly, but it wasn't just humor that was in her laugh. There was something else there—perhaps nervousness, or hope? Harry couldn't tell.
"More irony, it seems," she said, "because that's exactly why I came here. I wanted to talk to you about us. I think it's past time that we do."
Harry nodded. "That's exactly how I feel. I can't continue to do this dance; I'm tired of it."
Hermione's eyebrows narrowed. "Wait…what do you mean…?"
Harry held up his hands. "Wait, wait…don't jump to conclusions. I only meant that it's time we work things out or we don't. Either way, it's time."
Hermione didn't say anything and didn't move for a few moments, and then slowly slid over to the couch until she was right next to him. She tentatively laid her head on his shoulder. He made no move to reciprocate the tender action, yet.
"What do you think, Harry? What do you really think about us…about this whole situation?" she asked. "Be honest," she added.
Harry took a moment to organize his thoughts. "At first, Hermione, I was completely bewildered. Absolutely gob smacked, if you will."
"How so?" she interposed.
"I never expected to see you again. Never. The only time I'd talked to you in the last year or so you were in Britain was right before you left. And then to see you back here, standing in that doorway…it just went against everything that I'd led myself to believe."
"Why was it such a shock, though? There was always a small possibility that I might have come back…" she said, softly.
"Because…because I had to convince myself that that part of my life was over in order to put it all behind me, and you were part of that. I had to make myself believe you were gone. Anyways…that's why I was so cold at first. I had to…er, unconvince myself. And that took time."
"If I hadn't come to Sicily, where would we be?"
"Not as confused?" Harry joked, and was rewarded by a small chuckle from Hermione. He felt her shake slightly against him as the sound escaped her pouting lips…he refocused his eyes on his owns hands, which were in his lap.
"Yeah, I suppose…but then again, I wouldn't be here with my head on your shoulder," she said. In almost imperceptible motion, she snuggled a little more into his side.
"Going back to Sicily, though," Harry said, "what do you think happened there?"
He felt her draw in a breath and let it out. "We, uh…we might have jumped the gun a bit." She paused for a moment. "But I don't regret it. I wouldn't be here right now if I did."
Harry finally felt cause to bring an arm up and slip it around her shoulders. Her skin felt cool against his arm. He knew what he had to say. "I don't regret it, either," he imparted, and squeezed slightly. She slipped an arm around his waist, kicked off her shoes, and brought her legs up onto the couch.
"I'm glad, Harry." They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, enjoying the closeness they were sharing. Harry leaned his cheek against the brown hair by his head, and breathed out slowly. Wisps of it blew out in front of his face, and he watched as they lazily wafted back to rest on her head.
"What are you thinking right now?" she asked him.
"How circular things can be," Harry responded, because he was indeed thinking about how his life had seemed to come full circle. "And how I wouldn't want it any other way."
"I…" Hermione started. She paused, seeming to collect herself, and then continued. "I love you, Harry."
Harry didn't respond immediately. It wasn't because he was unsure of his response; rather, it was because he wanted to make sure it was the right time for it. Here he was, with a beautiful, vivacious, and intelligent woman in his arms—one that he'd loved for probably close to twenty years now, even if he hadn't realized it until recently. It was the right time for it.
"I love you, too." Hermione turned her head and looked up at his face, and then closed her eyes and moved towards him. He leaned down and met her lips with his.
"Hey Helen, how are you?" Paul said as he stepped through her portrait into her suite. She leaned into him and let him peck her on the cheek, and then led him over to the couch.
"I'm good, I'm good…it's been a long day, though," she said. They both reclined against the cushions, leaning against each other. That familiar ease that she felt with him came flooding back, sending warm ripples through her body.
"Students give you any problems?" Paul asked.
Helen shook her head and smiled gently. "No, they were all wonderful. Teaching is tiring, though, that's for sure. I can't complain too much, however, because I really enjoyed it today. They all kind of remind me of myself."
"They can't be as smart as you, though," he said, lightly. Helen giggled and rested her head on his shoulder.
"Are you trying to flatter me?" she asked, sweetly.
"You don't need to be flattered, Helen. You're already flattering enough."
Helen felt a blush rising in her cheeks. She turned and pecked him on the lips, and then leaned back, staring into his eyes. "You're sweet, you know that?"
"I try," he returned, and leaned into her lips. She returned the kiss for a few moments, but she had to lean back. Paul must have sensed something wrong, because he gave her a questioning look.
"What's wrong, Helen?"
"I…there's something I have to tell you," she said. She leaned her forehead against his.
"Ok…" Paul said. "What is it?"
"Well…it's just…we have something pretty good between us, right?" she asked, somewhat tentatively.
Paul nodded, and embraced her lightly. "We do, and I love it, and I love you."
Helen returned to the embrace for a moment, and then backed out of it. An errant tear slid down her cheek, but she made no move to wipe it away. "You have no idea how much that means to me, you know," she said.
She watched his eyes trace the trail of the tear down her cheek. He reached up and wiped it away. "What's the matter?"
Helen took a shaky breath. "Something happened to me…when I was a small girl…that you should probably know about." Paul merely raised an eyebrow.
"You see…you remember Voldemort's Death Eaters?"
Paul nodded. "Yeah, they were his henchmen, right? His followers."
"Yeah…before I came to Hogwarts, I lived in the Orphanage in Diagon Alley, because my parents were both killed when I was very small."
"I'm sorry, Helen…"
Helen shook her head. "Don't be. I'm not. Harry has been the greatest father anyone could ask for. But…anyways, one night the Death Eaters came to the Orphanage, and they, well, they came and, uh…" She trailed off. It was so hard to say what she needed to.
"They what?" Paul asked, gently.
Helen bit her lip to stop it from trembling. "They took advantage of me," she said, very, very quietly. She waited, looking at the floor, for Paul's reaction. When none came, she slowly raised her eyes to his face. The only thing she saw there was compassion.
"They…the Death Eaters, they raped you?" he queried. There was a slight amount of disbelief in his voice. Helen nodded.
Paul's eyes clouded slightly. "How old were you?"
"You were SIX? How could they do that?" he asked, in utter disbelief, this time. There was also some anger there.
Helen shrugged her shoulders. "I stopped trying to justify it long ago." She locked eyes with Paul. "I just felt like I had to tell you," she stated, and then looked away again.
Paul was silent for a while; Helen could here each individual tick of the clock on the mantle, and to her, they each felt like an eternity. She wished he would say something—anything.
He finally cleared his throat and said, "Why didn't you tell me before, Helen?"
Helen let out a quiet noise of frustration. "I don't know…I guess it's because I've always been ashamed of it…"
"Why would you be ashamed?" he asked.
She curled her hands into fists. "Because I felt soiled, alright! You have no idea what it's like to be taken advantage of like that, and how it feels afterward to know you can never get that back," she said. She could feel the tears coming, but she didn't want to cry. It was not what she wanted at the moment.
"No, you're right…I don't. But I do know that it's ridiculous to feel ashamed. You did nothing wrong—there's nothing you could have done. No one will think any less of you because of it," he said, and gently held her face in his hands. He turned her head so she was looking at him.
"I don't know what you're feeling, but I know that you don't have to be ashamed with me. You're still the same smart, beautiful, and funny Helen that I've always known."
Helen didn't respond. She couldn't. She had been so afraid that his reaction would be entirely opposite that she'd never imagined how good it could have felt to have him accept the knowledge with an open, compassionate heart. She wanted to hit herself—if only she'd had more faith in her friend.
Friend. It was an interesting word, and one that held new meaning for her. She knew they had something more than just a platonic relationship, but how much more? Could it be as much as she wanted it to be?
"Thank you…thank you, Paul. You have no idea how much that means to me," she said, and leaned into his hands. She closed her eyes and rested her cheek against his palm. She felt his lips brush her forehead, and that same warm feeling from before rocketed through her.
"And you have no idea how much you mean to me," he responded. She opened her eyes, looking into his. There was a fire there, a passion, which she'd never seen before. He brought his hands down and captured hers. He brought them to his lips and kissed them.
"You've been my friend for a long time, about as long as I can remember, actually. And I couldn't imagine a life without you, Helen."
Helen couldn't hold back those tears, and the first few leaked out of her eyes. She smiled and sniffed once, and squeezed Paul's hands.
"I was hoping you'd say that," she said, and leaned forward to kiss him. She met his lips somewhere in the middle, and they were soon lost in the passion they'd both had for each for a long, long time.
Harry's hand was still resting on Hermione's bare shoulder, and he gently and carefully moved a few fingers under the strap of her dress as he deepened another searing kiss. Her tongue had, at some point, worked its way into his mouth, and he was letting her work her magic with it while he explored the curves of her wonderful body with his other hand.
It traveled over the smooth satin of her black dress almost effortlessly, and Hermione arched her back when it moved across the stretched-tight part over her chest. The friction between the dress and her skin made it so that Harry could feel two certain nubs, as they had hardened considerably under his ministrations. His hand moved down over the smooth expanse of her stomach, and he felt the slight depression through the material of her dress when he reached her navel.
He moved his lips from hers along the base of her jaw, and his hand went to her back to pull her closer to him. He felt like a schoolboy again, and the giddy, heady feeling he was having was threatening to overwhelm him. He had to cool it a bit, or think of something less…enticing…if he was going to last. It had been a long time since he'd been with a woman. Hermione put her hands on his shoulders and gently pushed him back, looking him in the eye.
"What are we doing?" she asked, a little breathless. Harry couldn't help but notice how her chest looked when she took those deep breaths, straining against the black fabric. Damn women! They made coherent thought so impossible.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment and collected himself. He felt himself settle a little, and opened them. Those small speckles in her irises were staring back at him, and he realized that he noticed them at the oddest times.
"What we both want to," was how he finally responded. Hermione's face remained impassive for a moment, and then a warm, loving glow came into her eyes and into face. She gave him the most beautiful smile he'd ever seen, and leaned in to kiss him once again. She was only on his lips for a moment, though, because she was soon trailing kisses along his jaw and down his neck. Harry's hands went to the straps of her dress once again, and he slowly slid them over the apices of her shoulders and down her upper arms. She shifted position slightly, and the dress soon fell away from her bra-clad bosom. Her fingers went to the buttons of his shirt, and she was working them apart as Harry pushed her dress down further, revealing her smooth, tanned stomach.
She worked the last button apart and then, with her palms across his chest, pushed the shirt off of him. He shivered against her warm touch, and he felt his pectorals contract at the sensations of her palms rubbing over his nipples. She then stood abruptly, and Harry watched with salacious eyes as the dress fell down her body. She was left in her bra and a barely-there pair of knickers. Harry stood as well, and Hermione's hands immediately went to his belt. He clenched his jaw against the sensations flooding through his body—Merlin! He wasn't even undressed yet.
Harry stepped out of his pants, trying to ignore Hermione's giggle at the tent in his boxers, and stepped close to her to embrace her. She latched onto him and lifted herself from the floor, wrapping her arms and legs around him.
She looked into his eyes once again. "We've always loved each other, haven't we?"
"I think so," was all he said, and leaned forward to meet her lips. Very slowly, her hands found their way down his body, over his muscular frame, and slipped past the waistband of his boxers. Harry moaned slightly as he felt her grip him, and she renewed the kiss with a gusto that was matched by the back-and-forth motion her hand had taken up. Harry couldn't remain standing for very long…not when she was doing that to him. Very carefully, so as to not disturb her actions, he carried her into the bedroom of the suite. She let herself down and stood back, smiling mischievously.
"I think it's time to remove those," she said, and waved her hand. Harry's boxers vanished. Hermione gave an appreciative nod at what she saw.
"Magical strength…physical strength…and now this? Very impressive, Mr. Potter," she said, and giggled at the blush that Harry knew was in his cheeks. However, two could play at that game… He waved his hand, and her bra and knickers disappeared.
She just put her hands on her hips, exposing herself a little to him. Harry liked what he saw—there was no doubt about that. He raised an eyebrow at her. "Now I'll never know if you're bushy everywhere," he stated, and then laughed at the redness that rose in her cheeks. Payback was fun. She swung her hips a little as she moved toward him, and gripped him once again.
"Be careful, Harry…you never know what a witch like me could do," she stated, and then promptly kneeled in front of him. Harry watched her eye him for a moment, and then she leaned forward, capturing him in her exquisite mouth.
Helen was in heaven—this is what it felt like to be loved and cared for, in the ultimate sense of the word. She let Paul slowly push her down on the couch, and met his demanding lips in a hungry kiss of her own, pushing her tongue in to meet his. They dueled each other for moment, and her hands slid up his back, under his shirt. One of his hands went to the strap of her dress and slid it slowly down. She wasn't wearing a bra, and soon one of her breasts was exposed.
His lips moved away from hers, down her neck, across her clavicle, and over the swell of her breast. He captured the nipple with his mouth and gave it expert attention that had her heart racing, her back arching, and pleasurable waves cascading down to her core. She could feel a certain part of his anatomy pressing against one of her legs, but she welcomed it—to her, it meant she was still desirable and that what happened to her hadn't tainted her. She pulled up on his shirt, and he leaned back to let her pull it off completely. He pulled off the other strap, and leaned down to give some attention to the other pink nub, which was desperately in need of some. It was fairly throbbing.
She pressed her breast into his mouth, arching her back some more, and grazed his back with her fingernails as another wave of pleasure passed through her. This felt so good…but she needed more. She needed it all. She lifted his head and looked him in the eyes, and bit her lip.
"What is it?" he panted. His voice was laced with passion.
"Do you really want to do this? You know…all of it?" she asked, and she could hear that same lust in her voice. It made it slightly husky.
"If you want to," he replied, and smiled at her. "If you want to, then yes, I do. If you don't, then we won't."
Helen shook her head. "No, I do want to." She smiled back at him. "I love you."
"And I love you," he said, and stood up, pulling her with him. She let the dress fall down, revealing her in nothing more than a small pair of knickers. She reached out and undid the button of Paul's pants, and he stepped out of them. She eyed the bulge there favorably—it wasn't really that important, but the more the better. Her cheeks warmed at her own thoughts, and she stepped to Paul, reattaching her lips to his. His hands went to her firm, round butt, and squeezed slightly. Her legs wobbled slightly as a surge of pleasure sped through her.
She tentatively brought a hand down between them, grasping the waistband of his boxers, and pulled them down. As they fell to the floor, she felt him spring up against her thigh, and she smiled into her kiss. He moved a hand from her rear and took the tiny waistband of her knickers in his hand, and pulled it down as well. She stepped out of them, and moved her lips along his jaw to his neck. She shivered in gratification as she felt his fingers lightly graze over her most sensitive area. She bent slightly and worked her lips down his chest, stopping for a moment to tweak his nipple with her teeth, and then continued down. His member came into focus, and she appraised it with a critical eye for a moment.
"You could satisfy a lot of girls with this thing," she said, and then blushed at the audacity of her own words. Paul seemed to be embarrassed as well.
"Errr…thanks," he said, "but I only want to please you."
She growled slightly in her throat, out of some sort of animal passion, and leaned forward, trapping him in the grasping, sucking wetness of her mouth.
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and considered everything that had happened in the last several months. The smooth, almost routine flow of time had been interrupted, and he had Hermione to thank for that. And he really did want to thank her, because he had wanted Harry to find some happiness before he died. He thought that that was why he'd lasted as long as he had, because he knew that his job in this world wasn't finished until he'd gotten Harry onto the right path. He'd made excellent progress in the past ten years, but there'd always been something missing…and Hermione seemed to be it.
He couldn't lie to himself, though. At first, he'd been very reluctant about her coming back at all, because he didn't want Harry to revert to the person he'd become during her last few months in Britain ten years before, but those fears had been proved unfounded. She and him had reached some kind of solace in Sicily, and though they were dancing around each other now, he was sure they'd eventually come together.
There was something weird about that…because ever since Hermione had come back, the magic in the castle had felt slightly unsettled. It was almost as if it was in limbo, waiting for something to happen to solidify the bond Dumbledore knew Harry and Hermione had.
But that wasn't it. There was another part of that magic that was related to someone else, and Dumbledore was pretty sure that person was Helen. For a few weeks now, that had also been unsettled, at times more violent than Harry's or Hermione's ever felt. He guessed that it had something to do with her past traumas, but he had faith in Harry as a father to her, so he did not ask her about it.
And finally, there was one more thing. The weather had been bad lately, which wasn't altogether unusual—it happened—but it had been bad for so long now. This wasn't a normal cold front, or just a passing storm. It had been like this for weeks. Dumbledore couldn't exactly discern what it was, but something about it felt abnormal. There was no magical feel to it, but it was almost as if the weather was reacting to something abnormal, and therefore it was acting irregular.
Tonight, however, two pieces of the puzzle seemed to be settling. The feeling related to Harry and Hermione was ebbing away, being replaced by something much more warm, or even appealing. He guessed that it was the feelings they'd had for each other for a long time, but had never been able to accept. He couldn't explain it, because it seemed to be rather sudden, but he welcomed it. If they finally got past whatever final hurdle was between them, he wished them the happiest lives they could ever want. They were both extraordinary people with unfortunately hard pasts, and they deserved some peace.
And that went for Helen as well. Something in the way the castle reacted to her magic was settling too, and he was happy for her. She was just as extraordinary, with a just as hard past, and she needed some happiness and peace in her life as well. Harry was an excellent father, with an unmatched capacity to love and understand, but that wasn't all she needed. She needed to find love of a different kind, and it seemed like she might have been doing that. If she was getting over whatever had been bothering her, then perhaps she had found someone to share her awesome intellect and classical beauty with.
But if those two pieces were settling, the third seemed to be doing the opposite. Dumbledore couldn't explain it, but the unease he felt connected with the weather seemed to be growing. Whatever was causing it, if anything actually was, must be coming to a head at the moment, because there was an inexplicable sense of disquiet. It was unnatural, that was what bothered him. The world had been at peace for so long, and as he knew, history was cyclical—there was bound to be another conflict sooner or later. He just hoped that it wasn't nearly as trying or tragic as the last one had been.
He was very old, and he wouldn't be around for much longer. Sometime soon he'd have to sit down with Harry and make sure he wanted the responsibility of being Headmaster, as well as being the most powerful and most respected wizard in the world. He handled his fame well, but the Defense Against the Dark Arts position wasn't as open to scrutiny as the Headmaster position was.
Just as he felt sleep coming on him, as he sunk a little lower in his plush chair, the Floo roared to life. An urgent voice called his name.
"Albus? Albus!" someone yelled.
He sat upright and opened his eyes, staring into the Floo. Amos Diggory's head stared back at him, with a panic-stricken look.
"What? What is it, Amos?" Dumbledore demanded. His age melted away as he assumed the natural position as the leader of the Wizarding World. He still had some of the old fire left in him.
"There's been an attack!" Diggory shouted.
"Where? And by whom?"
"The Ministry of Magic and…well, we don't know who did it," Amos answered.
"How could you not know?" Dumbledore asked.
"It happened too fast, Albus. No one saw a thing."
"How bad is it?" the Headmaster asked. He was already formulating ideas in his head of who or what had caused, but all were a little too fantastical for his tastes. There weren't any groups radically opposed to the Ministry at the moment.
"Not as bad as it could have been, but it was very brutal. The entire atrium and lobby of the Ministry have been wiped out—there were no survivors," Diggory replied, sadly.
Dumbledore slumped in his chair for a moment. Whoever had done it had been cold and efficient. They were obviously very strong.
"Alright," Dumbledore said, collecting himself. "I'll be over there shortly." Amos nodded, and the fired died away. Dumbledore had to collect a few people before he went over there.
Harry couldn't take any more and still have enough self-restraint to last, so he gently pulled Hermione up from her kneeling position. He looked lovingly into her eyes, and saw the emotion reciprocated there, and led her over to the bed. Just as he was about to lay down with her, the Floo in the room crackled to life. Hermione let out a startled gasp, Harry went red, and he immediately conjured a sheet to cover them both. He focused on the Floo angrily, but that changed into embarrassment when he saw his clearly uncomfortable Headmaster and colleague staring back at him.
"Er…" Dumbledore started, and then cleared his throat. "I'm so sorry, but I need you two. There's been an attack at the Ministry, and I want you two to come with me. Meet in my office when you're…dressed," he said, and the fire died out.
Silence pervaded the bedroom for a moment, which was then slowly broken by Hermione's giggles and Harry's laughs, which soon turned uproarious. They both sobered, though, as the Headmaster's words hit them.
"Well, I'm sorry, but it looks like we'll have to continue this another time," Harry said, unable to keep the slightly forlorn tone from his voice. Just when it had been getting good…
Hermione winked at him, and then squeezed his still rock-hard member for good measure. "Don't worry; we will," she said. They both began to get dressed, although Harry to wait a few moments for his…excitement…to wane.
Helen moaned as intense sensations wormed their way through every nerve of her body, and she pressed Paul's head into her as he worked with his tongue against her most sensitive spot. She didn't know that something could feel so good, and she didn't want him to stop. She arched her back and bit back a scream as the pressure broke free, and she felt her muscles clench over and over again as she flew along on a high she had never known before. She grasped the sheets within her fists, breathing deeply as the feelings slowly ebbed away.
She looked down at Paul once she had regained her composure, and noticed that the ever-present desire in his eyes was even more pronounced. She just nodded to him, and watched as he stood up. Before anything further could happen, though, the Floo roared to life. She panicked for a moment, and conjured a sheet around Paul and then one over herself. She sat up to glare at whoever had decided to Floo her, but that changed to morbid embarrassment when she saw that it was Dumbledore. He looked embarrassed as well.
"What is with you and your father?" he mused, more to himself, it seemed. He shook his head. "I'm very, very sorry, but I need you, Helen. There's been an attack at the Ministry, and I would like you to accompany me there. Please meet in my office." He nodded to Paul. "Mr. Lowell," he said, and then the fired died out.
"Please tell me that didn't just happen," Paul said, but Helen could here the amusement in his voice.
"It did," Helen said, but then her mind went to what Dumbledore had said. An attack? What could that mean?
"I'm sorry…we can try this again tomorrow night," Helen said, sure what there was a twinkle in her eye.
Paul smiled back at her. "I look forward to it."
Harry tandem Apparated Hermione and himself into Dumbledore's office. Before he had a chance to talk to the Headmaster, Helen Apparated in as well. He noticed her cheeks had some color in them.
"Again…to all of you…I'm sorry about that," Dumbledore said, clearly still a little embarrassed.
Harry was about to tell Albus there was no harm done, but Helen beat him to it. "Don't worry about it, Albus. It's nothing that can't be continued later…" she trailed off, and the color deepened in her face. Harry turned to her and raised an eyebrow, to which she just raised her own, and glanced at Harry and Hermione's hastily rearranged attire.
"Well…we're going to the lobby of the Ministry of Magic. Harry, you can Apparate Hermione there, and Helen and I will follow." Harry nodded, and wrapped his arms around Hermione. He watched Helen smile slightly at their closeness, and willed himself and Hermione away with a faint sigh of shifted air.