Pairing(s) : Kingsley/Hermione, past Ron/Hermione
Prompt or Summary: inell's bunny was "Post-War. Working together with a growing awareness/attraction. Can be any rating. Just something sexy and romantic."
Word Count: 2,400
A/N: Many thank yous to my wonderful proofreaders, secondsilk and ragdoll.
Hermione poured herself another glass of punch, looked up, and saw Ginny. She turned away before their eyes met, and started to push her way through the party attendees. She mumbled apologies as she trod on toes and the hems of robes. Finally reaching the Atrium's wall, she leaned gratefully against it and closed her eyes. She could barely hear the music and the crowd's babble, for the pounding of her heart. She wasn't ready for this.
"Hi," said Ginny from quite close by.
Hermione yelped and almost dropped her glass.
"My brother's a stupid berk," said Ginny amiably as she slumped against the wall beside Hermione. "Want me to kick his arse?"
Hermione took a long, steadying drink. "Wouldn't that be an abuse of power?"
"It would," Ginny agreed, bobbing her head. "But what's the point of being an Auror if I can't use my position to intimidate my brother? Besides, d'you see Ron going to Kingsley – or to anyone – and admitting that his little sister kicked his arse?" She rolled her eyes. "Men. I ask you."
Hermione's heart had slowed, but her chest still hurt. She found she couldn't meet Ginny's gaze, so she looked down at her cup. Small chunks of strawberry and pineapple bobbed unappetizingly in the red liquid. She touched her tongue to her lips, tasted fruit laced with rum.
"Anyway," Ginny said, "I don't know what my boss thinks of Ron, but he adores both of us—"
"Kingsley Shacklebolt adores me?" Hermione's laughter sounded to her like icicles shivering in a stiff wind. "We barely know each other. I mean, I saw him now and then during the war, but we don't talk at all. We nod hello when we see each other in the corridor, but—"
"He likes you a lot," Ginny said with vigor. "You remember how he went at the Edgecombes when they tried to – you know."
"I don't, really," Hermione said. "I mean, I remember Marietta's parents trying hard to get me sacked, of course. Even though the pimples did fade, eventually. I don't remember Kingsley doing anything."
"He doesn't do things to get noticed. Trust me, though. He was fierce. He doesn't say much to anyone, but he really admires what you've been doing with house-elves. Some of his ancestors were slaves in… Barbos?"
"Barbados?" said Hermione. "How do you know, if he doesn't say much? About what he thinks of me, I mean."
"I read between the lines. Line," Ginny corrected herself, with a giggle. "Well, line or two. I'm good at deduction."
"You're a little pissed, I think," said Hermione gently.
Ginny waved a dismissive hand. "Just a little…loose. I am good at deduction. I got full points on my Auror exam. Though I reckon it wouldn't take an Auror to deduce that Ron's to blame for everything?"
Hermione looked away again. Her mouth suddenly tasted sharp and metallic, like she'd been sucking on rusty nails. "He's not, really. We both need time away from each other. A lot of time."
Ginny touched her shoulder. "Want to go and talk somewhere quiet?"
Hermione shook her head. "I want to go home. I'm not feeling very festive."
"Neither am I. You should come back to my flat. I've got some red plonk and some Honeyduke's chocolate. We could get really pissed, and abuse my brother behind his back. We can sleep late, and make it to the Burrow for Christmas lunch. I think Dad's cooking this year. Ron won't be there. Mum and Dad invited him," she continued, over Hermione's half-formed question, "and he said no."
"He had other plans?"
Ginny shrugged. "He is a stupid berk, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's staying away so you won't feel like you have to."
Hermione appreciated Ginny's candor, though it didn't help. "I'm supposed to see my parents, actually. I don't really want to go anywhere, but I promised. They're expecting me early," she added, looking up and smiling apologetically. "So, I shouldn't…"
Ginny's coppery brows pinched together, just like Ron's did when he was concerned. At least Ginny's eyes were brown, Hermione thought, and not blue like Ron's.
Muttering, "Happy Christmas," she slid away from the wall.
She had left a few things in her office, so she took the lift up. On the way back down, she was joined by three other wizards – among them, Kingsley Shacklebolt. She watched surreptitiously as he wound his scarf around his neck, and wondered if Ginny had arranged this somehow.
He caught her looking at him, and gave a faint smile. She smiled back and felt something small and warm flutter in her belly. It was the punch, she thought, and the surprise of seeing him after talking with Ginny.
Whatever its source, it pushed the cold away, and kept it away until she was almost home.
At least the flat wasn't empty. Crookshanks, curled up on the kitchen table – where he knew he wasn't supposed to be – looked up when Hermione walked in and blinked his yellow eyes sleepily.
"Bad kitty," Hermione admonished half-heartedly.
Crookshanks yawned vastly, put his head back on his forepaws, and closed his eyes.
Hermione got a kettle and a tin of mint tea out of the cupboard, changed her mind, found a half-empty bottle of red wine and some mulling spices. As the wine heated, the smell of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and orange peel filled her mouth and nostrils. She took her steaming cup into the bedroom, changed quickly, and slid under the covers.
The bed felt too big at first, but two long sips of the wine set things right. It caused the edges of things to blur, at least, so that size became impossible to determine. Hermione slumped against her pillows, spread her legs, and stared at the opposite wall.
A calendar hung there. Squinting, Hermione could make out the individual boxes. Ron had left on the second of December, which meant that they'd been separated for more than three weeks. And in all that time, no word – just a letter from Harry in Hogsmeade, letting her know that Ron had spent a night on his sofa and that he'd looked awful. Hermione wondered where Ron had gone after that. Not to the Burrow; Molly might have tried to trick them into meeting, but not Ginny. Harry would probably have told her if he'd stayed in Hogsmeade.
She hoped he was somewhere nice, somewhere warm and sunny. She imagined his freckles melting into his tan. He'd been so keen on taking a holiday, had nagged her about getting away so many times, but she had always been too busy…
Something heavy settled over her heart. She took another long sip of wine, swallowed hard to get it down, and then set the cup on her bedside table. She fumbled for her wand, and muttered, "Nox."
The bed seemed to rock gently, as if it had become a boat and she had conjured water instead of darkness. She spread her legs wider, flung her arms out, and stared up at nothing.
Kingsley Shacklebolt adored her.
Liked her, anyway. Admired her work.
More than could be said for Ron.
That was not true and she knew it. But vindictiveness felt good at the moment.
Thinking about Kingsley felt better.
She wondered if he was single. She had never heard him mention a wife or girlfriend, and she could not recall seeing a ring on his finger. Not that all married Aurors wore wedding bands – at work, anyway.
She wondered how old he was. Going by a conversation she had once overheard, he was at least in his forties, since he had known James Potter well enough to say that he and Harry had similar mannerisms. His eyebrows were still black, his skin lined only faintly, at the corners of his eyes and mouth. It occurred to her that she had never thought of Kingsley as old or even older, not even when they'd first met and she had been rather young. Not mature, either. She had been mature – or so she'd always thought, and so everyone said.
Kingsley Shacklebolt was…adult. Like whisky. Like driving her parents' car. Like making rules instead of following them. Like sex. Good sex.
Suddenly she was rolling over, the pressure on her chest forgotten, and she was fumbling through the drawer of her bedside table. She pushed aside hair bands, condoms, tasseled bookmarks, a couple of Crookshanks's catnip-stuffed mice, quills, and bottles of ink. At last she found the small tube.
She rolled onto her back again and unscrewed the cap. A single drop in each eye, a murmured incantation…
And she was away from her flat.
The charm took her back to her office at the Ministry, which made her smile wryly. "Some fantasy," she said as her gaze swept the pile of scrolls on her desk. Maybe the drops were old.
"You would have preferred someone else, then?" someone behind her said.
The voice was Kingsley's. Hermione bit her lip, put her palms on the desk and lowered her head so that her hair spilled over her shoulders, hiding her reddened cheeks.
"No," she mumbled at length. "This is new for me. And you're my friend's boss. That's all."
She didn't hear him come closer, but suddenly she smelled him – musky, masculine.
"Also," she whispered, "I don't really know you."
"So?" He put one hand on her waist. He had big hands – she hadn't realized until just now. His palm was hot through her shirt.
"So." She swallowed. "It seems a bit strange to say this, but I usually fantasize about people I know. For a long time, it's been just one person. But now that's all fallen apart, and. I just don't know."
He reached around her, took her wrists in his hands, pulled her close against him. "This is your fantasy," he said. His breath tickled the hair that clung to her cheek and curled around her ear. "We don't really know each other, but I'm very flattered to be here. Ginny was right. I admire you a great deal."
He let go of her wrists and began, slowly, to unbutton her shirt. She still had her back to him, but his fingers didn't fumble.
"She said you were – um – fierce when the Edgecombes tried to get me sacked."
He peeled the shirt away from her shoulders. She sighed as it fell away, tilted her head back. He lowered his lips to her neck.
"I should…" Hermione began. Do something, she had been about to say, but decided that that would have sounded silly. While he nuzzled her shoulder, nipped at it, then licked soothingly, she unbuttoned her skirt and tugged it down.
It stayed awkward for a little while. Ron had been her only lover for so long, and just now she wasn't really sure what she needed. She just stood there when Kingsley unhooked her bra. She whimpered a little when he cupped her breasts.
I'm being so stupid. And this isn't even real.
"Hermione." Kingsley's voice seemed to rumble all around her. "What do you need?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "For you not to be Ron, for one thing. Not that he did anything wrong. I mean—"
"Am I like Ron?" He sounded amused. He squeezed her breasts gently.
"No. Well, in some ways, probably. You're very brave. Ron can be brave sometimes. To be honest, I don't want to talk about him. I don't want to think about him. This is supposed to be a fantasy. But I barely know you. And I don't really know—"
But she had to have known what she needed – on some level, anyway – because he spun her around and kissed her hard on the mouth. Then she was kissing him back hungrily, not really caring how much – or how little – she knew about him, caring only that he liked her, liked her work, and wanted her.
He pushed her onto the desk, sending scrolls and quills flying. She tried to help him undress, but he batted her hands away, did everything himself.
She tried not to idealize him. He wasn't all that handsome in real life, she reminded herself. Cool-looking, but not a movie star. She made him muscular, but gave him a few pale scars on his arms and chest; he'd been an Auror for a number of years, after all, and had fought in two wars.
"You could have them hidden," she said as she traced the scars with her fingertip. He was bent over her, his chest to hers, his erection nudging her thigh.
She considered his answer. He could say, They're reminders of the dangers I've faced, but that was idiotic – a line out of some insipid romance novel. He might say, But then you wouldn't do what you're doing, but that was as bad, if not worse.
In the end, she had him smile and kiss her lips. Then push her legs apart and lower his mouth to the damp heat between them. She bucked when his tongue flicked out. He had no hair for her to grasp, so she touched herself. Her own hands were so small compared to his, seemed so inadequate – until he pushed his tongue inside her and the world began to explode bit by bit, and nothing else really mattered.
She did idealize the tongue.
Slowly, very slowly, she came back to herself. Her hair and nightgown clung to her damp skin and her clit throbbed with the memory of something that hadn't really happened.
But it could, Hermione thought as she hiked up her nightgown and slipped her hand into her panties.
She would have to talk to Ginny. Perhaps Tonks would be sympathetic as well. They needn't know what she'd been thinking exactly, just that she had been thinking about their boss.
Hermione thought of Ron then, and felt a pang. The finger on her clit stilled.
I don't even know if that door is closed forever or not. I think it is, but I don't know.
She would figure it out. Later, of course. Just now, she wanted to recapture her fantasy and think about a future in which anything could happen.