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“I could give you everything, you know,” she didn’t turn her head at his familiar refrain, instead watching as the moon rose, its rays drifting through the lace curtains. “You would only have to say yes.”

 

To me.

 

To us.

 

“Tom,” Hermione said, her exasperated tone one he knew all too well.

 

"Hermione," Tom mocked, his hand resting on the small of her back. He felt every vertebra of her spine, his fingers lightly tracing them. She was so small in comparison to himself, ore like the little bird that he'd once called her than he cared for her to be. "Or is it 'Mione now?"

 

He was careful, ever so careful, as he felt her stiffen against him.

 

He didn’t let go, instead, shifting to hold her closer. He knew that she needed him there, the warmth of his body seeping into hers. His arms slipped around her naked waist and pulled her back flush against his chest. No, he thought. He would never let her go again, no matter what she said.

 

He had already lost his wife, his mate once, and wouldn’t do so again.

 


 

Mione.

 

The nickname made Hermione tense, as she shook her head. Gods, what was she doing? Here with him? Tom, her ex-husband, while Neville was off at an international conference -

 

Leaving you alone again, a voice whispered, and near Rose’s birthday, no less.

 

Her chest ached at the mere thought of her daughter, her birthday being the catalyst for the owl she’d sent to Tom. She knew she wasn’t the same, not after the day when Neville had carried her into St. Mungo’s with blood seeping down her legs.

 

She swallowed, feeling as Tom traced circles across her breast; drawing her attention back to him, as he’d always managed to do. Once, he’d been her world.

 

“Never to you,” Hermione said, feeling her cheeks darken. She would always be Hermione to Tom, never Mione. It was a nickname that she’d never wanted at all, one of Neville’s co-workers coming up with it for her.

 

Her gaze never strayed to the portrait in her room, one that displayed her laughing on her wedding day, while Neville pecked her on the cheek. Her relationship with her husband was nothing like the one she had with Tom -

 

Nothing, she thought, as her chest ached.

 

Their couplings were always frenzied, near wild encounters, as he took her wherever and whenever he pleased. The wall behind the kitchen door still had a dent where he’d smashed it in, desperate to find her after their game of hide and go seek, one that had lasted several weeks. She knew the forests as well as he did, having once made them her home before Hogwarts itself had called to her.

 

Hogwarts -

 

A distant dream by far.

 


 

As a child of the forest, Hermione had often wished to belong.

 

She felt uncertainty beneath her skin, restless energy that she couldn't exert. It was the thousandth time she'd wished on a star, that she had met Tom - only he was a mere fox to her then, a fox that had been outcast from his home.

 

I’ll be your friend,” Hermione had told him, “it’s awful to be all alone here.”

 

The fox had regarded her outstretched hand with suspicion, its golden eyes burning bright. Her stomach had curled when it hissed, saliva dripping from its fangs; until she’d slowly rummaged in her pocket, and offered some wild berries she’d found, hours earlier. The fox, or Tom as he introduced himself later had snatched them from her hand, and gobbled them down; all while watching her with weary eyes.

 

Yet, he’d never left her side after that.

 

You’re a boy! A real boy!" she'd cried, the first time the fox had transformed into a dark-haired, and distrusting, little boy. He'd scowled at her for starting the obvious, and they'd bickered - until she'd stepped on a fallen wasp's nest, and they'd had to run (very, very fast). He'd dragged her along, his hand tight about hers until they'd reached a wet cave to hide in. There, they'd covered themselves in mud, and something between them was sealed.

 

They were the children of the woods; the ones that hid in the thicket and learned how to scamper and jump from tree to tree. They observed the centaurs at a distance, and made friends with the giant frogs that fished from the rivers, and slept in the embrace of a hippogriff, one that often followed them deep within the forest. Whether Tom scampered on all fours or led on two feet, he never strayed far from her.

 

You’re mine," he'd told her one day after she'd worked up the nerve to ask him why.

 

She'd bristled at his comment, and tossed her curls in response. Still, she hadn't disagreed, as she felt magic itself entwine their hands together. He was the only one that she had ever wanted, and she thought he felt the same in turn, until the day that they came.

 

With swirling black robes, and masks covering their face, they explained that children couldn’t run away, and make a life of their own in the forest or the sea, or wherever they might please. They all had to grow up one day, and the magic that ran through their veins - yes, magic -

 

It wouldn’t be constrained. It couldn’t.

 

You wouldn’t want to hurt anyone, now would you?”

 

One of the men had taken Hermione’s hand in his, while Tom disappeared.

 

Come back!”

 

Hermione blinked, realizing that Tom had turned her to face him, and drawn the covers up to her chin. It was just like when they were younger, and he would pull the sole blanket they had across her, knowing how she liked to bury beneath it. Even on the coldest nights, she and Tom had felt warm in their burrow; his furred body often wrapped around hers.

 

It was in the Gryffindor dorms that Hermione felt the coldest, without a friend beside her. She had learned to scurry through the ancient halls alone and took refuge in the library, the likes of which she had never known before. She had no memory of her life before the forest, no fleeting sight of her parents, or siblings, or even a beloved toy. She knew nothing outside of flora and fauna, and the feelings that swept through her veins.

 

She never told Tom of the nights that she'd spent alone in her bed, trying her best to stifle her tears with her pillow, or the days that she spent hiding from her classmates. She was an outcast among them, no one having any use for the girl who came from the Forbidden Forest and had neither family nor name. It was no small comfort that magic didn't feel the same, as she quickly excelled at putting the magical theory that she read about into practice, and gained her House numerous points.

 

It was toward the end of her second year, when she neared the Forbidden Forest’s edge to look for a familiar fox, that she’d met Neville. Sweet, and timid Neville who’d dropped his basket full of herbs, when she said hello to him.

 

Hermione had scampered to help him collect the herbs, along with his familiar, Trevor, that had been nestled in the basket too. It had taken hours to find him, while she and Neville whispered about the plants that grew deep in the forest, and trees that grew leaves until the entire forest was dark, even amid a summer day. Neville was fascinated by her stories, and when thick, globs of tears ran down her cheeks, he’d wiped them away with his sleeve. “I-I’m glad that you’re here, Hermione,” he’d confessed, “I don’t think I could ever find Trevor by myself!”

 

Neville had often sought her company after that and had promised to tell her if he heard of anyone spotting a fox come near the forest’s edge. Hermione hadn’t told him of her friend, Tom, only of a fox -

 

She couldn’t say more than that, her heart burning in her chest.

 

It was a secret of her own, one that she didn’t want to share with Neville. No, she couldn’t share it with him, nor the dreams that she had of Tom coming back to her. (How many times had she passed by a window, looking toward the forest, and wishing that Tom would come home? Or she was his home, she reasoned, the same as he was hers.).

 

And Neville had never asked, not even in their sixth year when Hermione awoke from his bed and approached the dorm windows. There, she’d seen a fox pacing on the edge of the lawn.

 


 

Tom -

 

It was Tom!

 

She hadn’t thought, she hadn’t stopped for a moment, as she ran through the castle, and found her way to the wet lawn. She’d run toward him in her bare feet, and her arms outstretched before the fox had launched himself into her arms.

 

Tom! It’s you -“

 

It’s me,” he’d whispered, low and urgent as he was a boy once more.

 

Only he wasn’t, she realized, as his body had covered hers. He was a man, the boy that she had known left far behind, the same as she wasn’t the girl that he had known. (Was she? Her breath stuttered and -) His gaze had searched hers, bright, golden eyes boring into hers as if he knew her anxiety -

 

Tom,” she’d choked. “You came back -“

 

He’d kissed her then, wholly, and fiercely. He’d left no room for her to breathe as he swept her into his arms, and made all thought flee her mind. She wanted nothing more than for him to take her then, feeling more than she’d ever felt toward Neville. She was shameless as Tom knelt before her, and nuzzled his face against her bare legs; before she shuddered and felt his tongue upon her.

 

He lapped at the come running down her legs, the mix of Neville’s seed and her own, virgin release. He went up and up, until he rolled her nightgown up too, and nosed her cunt with his face. He wanted to have her there, and she wanted him too; her hands burying themselves in his dark hair. This was what she had dreamed of, this was who she had always needed. He was relentless in his greed and his desire, his tongue thrusting inside her. She cried his name as she came, and then -

 

He had her again, as he positioned her into place, urging her on to her hands and knees, on the wet ground itself. She trusted him, as she placed her heart in his hands as if nothing had ever changed between them again. He took her then, the same way that they had once seen centaurs take one another as if they were animals in truth. As if she were his mate. There were no thoughts of debasement or abuse as she writhed beneath him, breathy cries escaping her lips.

 

He sent a relentless pace; one that left her gasping and her fingers made searing marks in the ground, as his hips snapped against hers. He was so, so much larger than she was, shielding her from the world. He sank his teeth in her shoulder, making her collapse against the ground; pleasure burning through her veins. It was like nothing she’d known before, Neville’s fumbling’s only an hour before having no comparison to Tom. After they came, he pulled her against him, and nuzzled her cheek, as sweetly as the boy he had once been.

 

He’d whispered to her a fantastically terrible story, one of Aurors and deceit, of him giving way to his nature as he crashed through the forest, and swam through countless rivers and brooks, to hide himself away. “There was a man once,” he confessed, as she nuzzled her face against his bare chest. “I was caught in his snare as a child, and he thought he could own me. He tried his best to, as he took me home, and confined me to one of his rooms.”

 

What happened to him, Tom?”

 

He’d cradled her face in his hands, making her eyes meet his once more. “Do you want me to tell you, little one?”

 

They both knew that she already knew the answer in truth; the day that she had met him in the woods, blood had stained his muzzle. Still, she held him near and wanted nothing more than for him to claim her as his own.

 

And he had, over and over again, until the sun rose, and he fled to the forest once more.

 

She had never wanted him to let go.

 


 

“Come home,” Tom whispered, both of them in the present once again.

 

“It’s too late,” Hermione replied, wanting to close her eyes as she felt his spend on her thighs. Tom offered her an impossible dream, one like the months Hermione had spent with him after graduating from Hogwarts, the sole year that Neville knew little about. He had never asked, and she had never offered, as so many things stood between them.

 

Tom had waited on the green after her graduation, sweeping her into his arms and whispering how proud he was. He was a man then, a man who hid the beast inside him. They married in the heart of the forest, pledging their love for one another, and wrapping flowers around their hands.

 

They found a home near the forest, a small cottage where no one would look twice at them, and she could write to her heart’s content. They spent every night together, laying beneath the stars, or in their bed; where they knew the touch of each other more than they knew their name.

 

But he hadn’t left the beast behind, no -

 

Hermione had known that well, after finding the prior owner of the cottage buried near.

 

Tom was more than a man, Hermione admitted amidst bitter tears, he was a beast. He took what he wanted, and had never learned the morals of the world around him, nor did he wish to have them. He was unburdened and free, and his bruising kisses took her breath away. He was too much, and not enough, and she ran without looking back.

 

(That was a lie. She’d sobbed as she ran, looking back once, twice, and again.)

 

“And if you carry my young?” Tom asked, his hand moving to cup her naked breast. She shivered at his touch, her own body betraying her. She never could hide herself away, not from Tom. “If your breasts become heavy, and your stomach rounds, what will you tell your husband then?” he skimmed his lips across hers, sweet and gentle. “The husband that hasn’t fucked you in months, Hermione.”

 

I wanted you here,” he said, “ I wanted you with me always, Hermione. I still do.”

 

But she hadn’t been, as the Aurors had taken her to Hogwarts and he hid behind. The forest’s edge was as close as he dared to come, until the night she’d allowed Neville to fuck her -

 

You’re mine,” Tom reminded her, with every encounter. “Not his. Never his.”

 

It was his jealousy, not his love for her that had driven him out. It was this that Hermione remembered, the times she rode Tom’s face until her come soaked his skin, and his lips were left red. She’d slip back into bed after, sometimes turning her back toward him entirely, as she waited for him to go.

 

 Other times, their hands entwined as he took her, and there was nothing between them but one another. She would watch his face as his brow grew taut, and he groaned her name, before spilling warm rushes of his seed inside her. Those were the times that hurt the most, as she wrapped her legs around him, and urged him deeper inside her as if she could keep him there without end.

 

Sometimes she would finger herself after he left her, spreading the remains of his come over her clit, and up, up across her stomach and her breasts, where she would paint her darkened nipples with it. She would lick her fingers after; his salty, even musky taste one that she knew well, and always wanted to taste again. These were things she never would share, things that she would never do for Neville.

 

Only for the one that she’d always wanted.

 

I wish you’d come sooner -“

 

I wanted you here -“

 

Neville saw me, as no one else did -“

 

“Tom,” Hermione whispered, “I…I don’t know what will happen,” that was something she never thought she would say, yet it was the truth, as thoughts of her affair kept her awake at night. “I don’t.”

 

She had a home with Neville on the very grounds of Hogwarts, after he’d taken up the position as the Herbology professor, and she wrote mystery novels. She had a familiar of her own, Crookshanks, a half-kneazle that Neville had purchased for her when they were in their third year, and she still cared for Trevor, while Neville was away.

 

But every moment with Tom, she felt alive; truly, and wholly there.

 

She hesitated a moment, before pushing three, little words forward with her tongue. They were words that she could never take back, words that she had little intention of dismissing. “I just know that I love you, Tom.”

 

“You do, don’t you?” Tom asked slowly, as if it were an impossible thing, that he wanted to believe in.

 

“I do.”

 

And he said it too.

 


 

It took only a drop of his tincture in her tea to make her sleep.

 

Tom spared a glance in the car mirror, observing her in the back seat again. He felt a warmth in his chest from her and her alone; one that had become an unbearable ache, a terrible coldness, when he was away from her.

 

Something that wouldn’t happen again.

 

He knew, this time, how to hide the beast behind the man. He had been careless and arrogant, he admitted, before. He’d expected Hermione to stay with him, despite the blood on his hands. He’d forgotten how she’d belonged to the world of man, far longer than she’d been with him, in the forest once more. She wanted him to be more than he was as if he too had been dragged to Hogwarts like she was.

 

But now, he had learned every lesson Hermione wanted him to know well. He'd gathered her books and other, special knick-knacks in the trunk, as well as the clothing she wore most often. He felt a thrill of pleasure when he realized that she favored creams and blues, the colors he’d always favored on her.

 

The rest, Tom left behind in the home that she had made with Neville, the home that he would never allow her to flee to again. Flames danced and leaped, lighting the midnight sky, as their home burned to the ground.

 

(Oh, Tom knew well that Neville wouldn’t be home for weeks, and there was no one in the house - Hermione would have nothing to fear, nor cry over.) And by the time her wayward husband did return, she would be long gone, with him.

 

“I’m taking you home, little one,” Tom murmured, his heart light in his chest. “To where you belong.”

 

With me, always.