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Paths of Penance

This fic was written for the fic challenge at rhr_ficrecs and is my first official Ron/Hermione fic. Enjoy...

Challenge: Sense of Touch: Scars
Title: Paths of Penance
Summary: “This was her ritual, what she needed to do to sleep, what she needed to do to be better. Even though it was his body, they were her errors and she kept this compulsive practice to herself.”
Pairing R/H
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Angst/Drama
Timeframe: Post-HBP

Paths of Penance

In the dark she wished that she had been better at Healing Charms. In her mind’s eye she saw them: every freckle that had been lost under the pass of her untrained wand. She mourned them at night while he slept, her tired fingers passing softly, slowly over his adulterated skin. There were lines and ridges there now beyond the work of the brains in the Department of Mysteries; and they were her fault. Maybe some day he would wear them proudly and they would not be a constant reminder of her failure. Maybe.

Sectumsempra, a fine perfectly straight line diagonal across one shoulder blade the length of her hand. Eighteen freckles lost. Expelliarmus, the bark of nearby tree sheering off a patch of skin the width of her first three fingers. Thirty-five gone forever. Crucio,low on his back, just above the waist of his jeans; she winced at the memory as her fingers fled in a web of raised ragged lines, rocks torn into his flesh as he writhed in pain, the size of her palm. Eleven missing here.

Her hand tempted lower, the last she could reach without moving, without disturbing his slumber. Precious sleep, precious boy, precious small places, concentrations of melanin on pale smooth skin. Through the veil thin fabric of his pants, a depression the size of the pad of her thumb, right cheek just before the curve down to the back of his thigh. Fallen down a ravine, tripped while trying to steady her. Blushing, she had done her best to make the blood stop. The first time she had seen that stretch of milky dusted skin, freckles less dense but even here, amazing. Cursing inwardly, she wondered if there had been any lost. She would never know now. Her thumb circled the uneven dent, and suddenly stilled.

There was a low soft moan in the darkness. Her heart raced, she had not meant to wake him in the night. This was her ritual, what she needed to do to sleep, what she needed to do to be better. Even though it was his body, they were her errors and she kept this compulsive practice to herself. She slid her hand away from him and back to her own body, the thin blanket falling again between them. There were no more sounds, his breathing again was even.

Several long moments passed as she listened to him breathing, in and out, shallow but steady. Did she really want him to wake in the middle of her act of contrition? A small part of her did; the larger part of her was shamed by her selfishness. She wanted his arms around her; wanted to feel the scars that were not of her making wrapped around her body. She wanted to feel safe, wanted him to feel whole. Wanted him.

Her hand snaked out almost of its own volition and began again the physical mantra that kept her sane. Sectumsempra: eighteen. Expelliarmus: thirty-five. Crucio: eleven. Fall: unknown. Shoulder, shoulder, small of back, arse.

~*~

He felt her behind him, the warmth of her body radiating across the small space between them, in the same bed but barely touching. He willed his breath to an even rhythm and waited; waited for her barely rough fingers to grace his flesh. He knew their path before they took it. He had memorized it, and as soon as she reached one shoulder his body ached for her touch on the other. Her hand would lie flat on one shoulder warm and solid before it was gone and then three fingers would slide up the other. Soon her palm would be pressed lightly into the small of his back and then… He waited. Just breathe, just breathe, don’t make any sound or she will stop. Her thumb on his arse, the tips of her other fingers barely brushing the top of his thigh through his shorts.

It was worse now that he knew the trail her hands would weave on his back; worse to be begging on the inside for the delicious comfort of her touch on his scars. She seemed to measure them with her own hand: his physical flaws in terms of her own body’s size and shape. She never traced the lines of the brains across his arms, although that would have been safer. She only traced the lines of scars that she had healed for him and only in the dark when she thought that he was sleeping.

In the light he wondered why just those places, why just the white lines? Did she like them? Did she hate them? Did she relive the fights, the curses, that fall? Did she wish to erase the evidence of this war from his body? Did he care as long as she was touching him this softly in the dark under the guise of sleep?

Her thumb finally found its way down, her other fingers whispering against his thigh. So lovely to have her touch him like this, so much and so little, and he moaned. Her hand left him and he cursed himself before trying to resume his steady breathing. She should not feel guilty for touching him, he thought, he belonged to her. He ached for her hands on his skin. He wanted her closer, wanted her warmth to mix with his, wanted her to know how grateful he was for her healing charms, wanted her safe, wanted her in his arms. Wanted her.

It was infinite silence except for their breathing, neither moving but for slight rise and fall of their shoulders next to each other yet so far away. Soundless wishes filled his mind as he begged her to resume her well-worn path over his scars. Touch me again and let me know that you are more than just a sound in the dark. Remind me again that you are really here. And she was back, beginning again her tactile journey.

~*~

With each pass her fingers lingered a bit longer on that emptiness above his thigh. As if by concentrating she would be able to see what was there before. Was it one large shape, perfectly round and reddish brown? Was it a small smattering a group of three or four? Was it two, one larger one smaller almost touching? Barely kissing each other on his pale skin? The thought made her flush, because she always thought in words more than pictures. The word ‘kissing’ seared through her.

She licked her lips, and listened. His breath was deeper but still even. Her hand relaxed and sank into the warmth of his thigh, meeting flesh. He didn’t move. He wouldn’t know if she raised her head just up off the pillow. She had kissed him on the mouth; she had kissed his face, his forehead, his neck even; but not this. Would the lines of her incompetence feel the same under her lips? Would they melt away? Would the freckles return like a lost prince in a child’s fairy tale? Would he wake up?

Sectumsempra, eighteen, she thought as she leaned over slightly and her lips met the pale skin bisected by the thin raised line of the scar.

~*~

He had been lulled into a sense of routine as her hand made its way down his back to his arse over and over again. She paused longer and longer at that lowest scar each time, but this was normal. Usually the long pauses meant that she was relaxing into sleep. Soon, he thought her hand would drift away from the lines of scars, hopefully still in contact with his skin as she finally fell. He would follow her, knowing that the movement would not return until the next time they were allowed this respite.

But, her hand stilled on his arse, flat and warm and uncharacteristic. This was not part of the ritual. This was different and delicious; he fought the urge to shift his hips a few precious centimeters. He warred with himself and the desire to press his flesh into her hand, to give her permission, encouragement. If he did so she would move and take away that comfort. So he stayed still, breathing, breathing, breathing.

He felt her shifting slightly on her pillow and then… So warm, so soft, so delicate, more so than all of her light touches; he felt her lips damp against the scar on his shoulder. She lingered there, he ached for her, to get lost in her warmth and realness and forget what tomorrow might bring and just be. He sighed softly, a sound of contentment filled with longing.

~*~

She felt the sigh as much as she heard it and she froze, her lips still holding their place on his shoulder blade. Maybe if she did not move he would fall back to sleep and never know. The muscles shifted under her mouth. His hand was on hers, closing over her fingers, pulling it away from that dent of a scar. Without rolling over to face her, he slid her hand up over his hip and the cotton of his boxers, over the slight bumps of his ribs, and it came to rest still covered by his in the center of his chest. His heart was beating beneath her hand. She didn’t say a word; she just leaned forward resting her forehead against the soft plane of his back.

“There is another one, here.” He moved her hand allowing her fingertips to graze his collarbone. A jagged line almost burned beneath her touch.

“Nonverbal,” she whispered into his hair, “twelve.” It came into her mind and out of her mouth unbidden. She pulled him to her, suddenly with a desire to touch them all, confess her sins to him. Pushing him down and getting up on her knees she allowed her hands to wander like they never had before.

~*~

She was suddenly above him and her hands were pressing into his shoulders, his chest, his ribs. Words were flowing from her mouth and in the slightest light he could see tears running down her cheeks. A litany of curses and numbers and occasionally the word ‘unknown’ rained down upon him with the salt of her tears as her fingers found every scar that their months of running, fighting and searching had left on his body.

She searched his whole body. She inched down his legs and then back up again, her long wild hair tracing infinitely small lines of heat on his skin. He was stunned, unable to move and knew somehow that she should not be interrupted. Her hands were like fire and he wanted nothing more than to touch her the way that she was touching him. As she returned to his face, she leaned down and pressed her lips to the uneven line of the scar on his collarbone.

“Nonverbal, twelve,” it was like a prayer on her lips, her breath hot against his skin. He finally lifted his hands to her face and pulled her up to look into her overflowing eyes.

“Hermione,” he whispered not wanting to break this trance like spell that had come over her, “twelve what?”

~*~

She almost laughed through her tears, how could he not know, not realize? The numbers were so deeply ingrained in her, as much a part of her as the freckles had been a part of him. But he didn’t know and for a moment she felt foolish. It had been her secret, the thing that kept her mind off of horror when she tried to sleep.

“Freckles, Ron,” she spoke softly into his ear. “That is how many freckles used to be where this scar is now. It’s how many freckles you have lost because of my shoddy Healing Charms.” The sadness washed over her again and she lay her head down on his shoulder and gave into weeping.

~*~

Ron wrapped his arms around her, struck in the heart with her pain. Her failures? That was what she was remembering as she touched him? Her tears were hot and slick on his bare chest and his heart ached; he needed to fix this and fix this now. He turned onto his side, taking her with him and reached a hand up into her hair, clutching the warmth of her body close to his with his other arm. He forced her gaze back to his and fixed her with a look of the deepest love he could summon in the face of her tears.

“Hermione, Hermione,” her lips were so close he could feel her ragged breath glancing off of his mouth as he spoke. “I had too many to start with.” He pressed his lips to hers moving them soft and slow once, twice and again over her breaking smile. Pulling back he watched her eyes open slowly, lashes still glistening with tears. Her fingers were still seeking out scars, brushing over his skin. He stilled her hand and brought it back to his chest to cover the beating of his heart.

“Do you know what I see when I see these scars? Do you know what I feel in here when I feel them?” She shook her head blinking away tears. “I see you. You fixing me when I am bollixed up, you healing me when I am wounded, you putting me back together when I fall apart.” Her face was wide in wonder and confusion as he kissed her again deeper and deliberate in his meaning. “I see, I feel how much you love me.”

~*~

The tears were back in her eyes, but she didn’t care. Relief washed over her in waves as he kissed her again and again. She had not failed him, he was right. She had loved him and she would continue to love him until this war was over. His hands were warm on her skin and she felt suddenly and amazingly alive. Her hands had left his scars and raced up his neck and into his hair. Kissing across her face, he made his way to her ear as his hands found the long jagged scar that crossed her ribs and skirted her breast. His fingers followed it slowly brushing against the raised skin.

“You got this one when we destroyed the locket,” he whispered as he lowered his head and raised her shirt. Her last rational thought as his mouth moved over her scar was that she would wear it with pride.

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Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
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mizufae
Feb. 5th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC)
Excellent! full of passion and lovely details. fabulously fluffy and delicious. i'm so glad that you use your gifts for good and not for evil. :)
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 03:55 am (UTC)
Why thank you dear I do try! I am glad that you enjoyed it. It was my first Ron/Hermione centric fic, so I was a bit worried.
spaceyplum
Feb. 5th, 2006 03:57 am (UTC)
Wow... this was just lovely!
(Deleted comment)
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
Thank you so much from you that is a treasured compliment!
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - ladytory - Feb. 5th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC) - Expand
miz_tith
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC)
*wimpers*

Damn we need to get you writing Ron/Hermione more often.
Brilliant.
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)
Just so you know I am going to put you on my official pimp list with mickawber! Thanks poppet!
(no subject) - miz_tith - Feb. 5th, 2006 06:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ladytory - Feb. 5th, 2006 06:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - miz_tith - Feb. 5th, 2006 06:43 am (UTC) - Expand
coffee_n_cocoa
Feb. 5th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
Here via miz_tith's rec.

That was beautiful. The writing, the characterization, the emotion...gah! Just beautiful!
miz_tith
Feb. 5th, 2006 08:17 am (UTC)
aww it's Neville
*pets!!*
(no subject) - miz_tith - Feb. 5th, 2006 10:31 am (UTC) - Expand
vaguelyalive
Feb. 5th, 2006 09:10 am (UTC)
Beautiful! I love how she thinks he's umaware that she's tracing his scars...and how she mourns the loss of each freckle.

I have nooo idea how I'm going to all the great fanfic that's being submitted!

I absolutely loved yours... :D
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you much!
Your icon cracks me up!
(no subject) - vaguelyalive - Feb. 6th, 2006 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
shocolate
Feb. 5th, 2006 11:13 am (UTC)
Precious sleep, precious boy

That was just lovely.

*big sigh*
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
Awe thanks, I was a little partial to that line as well.
harrysmom
Feb. 5th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, just so wonderful!
natertatersmom
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)
Dear heretofore unread author,

Holy fuck. That was amazing. There are stories that I read that weave spells and this one did exactly that. It lulled me in and made my heart clench just a little and I was so afraid that I would leave it sad...but I didn't. And Ron did just what Ron does best...he makes it all better for Hermione...even if she doesn't recognize it.
Gad. That was excellent. I loved it and I look forward to seeing it on CM where I can rave about it again.
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
Dear heretofore unknown fan,

Thank you so much for your kind review. (and your promise of future reviews) I am so glad that you enjoyed my story and that it moved you. I do try and it is nice to know that it works sometimes.
mrspadf00t1
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
As I told you during the beta...wow...it's just so beautiful. I'm so :: sighing :: along with everyone else. I LOVED IT!!!!!!!

Thanks for blessing us with such a great fic!
SMOOCH!
ladytory
Feb. 5th, 2006 04:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks dear! And thanks again for facing a story with so many fragments and semicolons without fear! I do appreciate it!
violet451
Feb. 5th, 2006 07:54 pm (UTC)
Putting in my "official review".
I like this quite a bit, in spite of myself! *smirk* I think the fact that she's literally agaonizing over each little freckle, is so beautifully angsty and sensual.
*Of course I'm still using my icon in your post!;)
mickawber
Feb. 5th, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
Really lovely--these two have gotten so many scars--real and figurative--at Harry's side. It's wonderful of you to show how those scars would bind these two together!
pili204
Feb. 6th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)
Oh, this so beautiful. It's sweet and heart breaking all at once. I love the tenderness in Hermione, in her touch all while suffering from guilt.

What a wonderful work :)
zebraspots05
Feb. 6th, 2006 02:51 am (UTC)
All I can say is WOW. This is an amazing work of art. I love the mood, the desperateness of her ritual, the ending of hope. Great job.
ncsh
Feb. 6th, 2006 03:56 am (UTC)
Very sweet LT, It's been too long. Youre the best.
discord_harmony
Jun. 2nd, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
OMB ICON LOVE!

*shirks away*
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( 46 comments — Leave a comment )