...you'll learn to see, to
find the man
behind the monster: this...
seems a beast, but secretly
dreams of beauty,
—"Stranger than you dreamt it"
The Phantom of the Opera
The warm light in the Eighth Year girls' dormitory in Gryffindor was always complimentary, much more so than the light in the Great Hall, or the Potions Lab, or outdoors.
Or perhaps it was that Lavender had got used to it, or that (she strongly suspected) Parvati had charmed their mirror to be kinder than most. Either way, she was grateful for the flattery, especially first thing in the morning when she, as her mum would say, 'put on her face'.
She dipped two fingers into the Plasticity Salve she'd ordered from the Apothecary; apparently, simple healing balms weren't enough, would never be enough to save her expressions. The Plasticity Salve had an analgesic (which made smiling tolerable on the damaged side of her face), but also loosened the skin enough to let the corners of her eyes turn up or down, depending on her mood.
There were some things glamours could do, like 'cover up blemishes' (great ugly scars) or change the colour of one's skin or eyes. But they could not mimic a range of movement that did not exist.
Lavender had to be careful around the eye. It was critical that she get enough salve into the skin around them; she couldn't open her right eye entirely without it. Yet getting it too close to a tear duct would leave her crying a river, quite literally.
She sighed in relief as she finished the task. Yes, she did it daily, but she also mucked up the job about once a month. Getting through the functional part of her make-up routine was the most difficult part.
That done, she layered on Cosette's Concealing Cream (shade: Golden Vanilla, with extra-strength Concealing Charms) and Blemishless Blusher (shade: Coral Breeze), and swept a light grey shadow over her eyes. She cast a mild distraction spell over the right side of her face so that her left side would get better attention, and pulled on her casual robes.
Half an hour already, and she hadn't even started on her hair.
"ZONKO'S COSTUME SHOPPE!" flashed the sign outside their joint venture. Similarly garish was the voice hawking the Halloween Special Sales over a conjured calliope.
"Come on," giggled Parvati, grabbing Lavender's hand. "We don't want to be left with whatever the Seventh Years have left behind!"
Lavender suppressed a wince at the intensity of colour and noise. She wasn't a werewolf, quite, thank Merlin...but she had enough of the infection that she sometimes wished she'd been Sorted into a house with more subtle people. Or even more boring ones. She raised her free hand to block the glare and took a look at the window display. "We don't really need to think of ourselves in competition with Luna and Ginny for the best fancy dress, do we?" she asked plaintively.
Parvati snorted. "You haven't seen what Ginny's been getting up to lately, have you?" she retorted. "Come on!"
The inside of the shop was even worse. Robes and gowns and masks floated throughout the store as if worn by ghosts. If Lavender even glanced at one, it would come over and start...well, the costumes hadn't any mouths, of course, but they had been charmed to emit sales pitches that could even answer questions and cajole reluctant patrons into making a purchase.
"I'm sorry, I'm not at all interested in dressing as a vampire this year," she tried to tell one costume, a wine-red sleeveless gown with a plunging neckline and a brocade choker accompanied by a shining set of teeth. Not that she could even wear off-the shoulder costumes anymore.
"Oh, dear, why didn't you say so?" the voice for this outfit seemed to emerge from the teeth, which Lavender had to admit was a clever bit of magic. It floated away and returned with a grass skirt and bikini top.
"Aloha," said the flowery necklace floating above the bikini.
Lavender bit her lip against the ache in her voicebox, against the heat in her eyes. "That's it, I'm leaving," she said to Parvati, who was eagerly examining a short skirt and sleeveless top whose megaphone was shouting about American teenagers. Muggle teenagers, even. As Parvati glanced her way, another costume bustled over to broadcast its merits.
Parvati barely waved goodbye; she was distracted by the rather short black-dress-with-white-apron announcing itself to be a Muggle French Maid.
Squaring her shoulders, Lavender headed to the Three Broomsticks. A butterbeer would do her quite a bit of good.
Unfortunately, the Three Broomsticks was nearly as overwhelming as Zonko's had been. "Stupid students and Hogsmeade weekends," Lavender muttered as she scanned the room for a place she could ward to be quieter. Thank goodness the lights were softer here, but that was a small comfort against the chatter around her.
"Bugger all," she finally said, giving it up as a bad job. Might as well trudge back to the castle, then, since all the fun had been sucked out of a Hogsmeade weekend. She did need to stock up on some more of Honeydukes' Finest before she left the village though. Chocolate was about all that got her through the day sometimes.
Not for the first time, Lavender thought pseudo-lycanthropy must be similar to living amongst Dementors.
The shop clerk, thankfully, had come to know Lavender in the past few months and had a stack of chocolate assembled in a box, waiting for her approval and payment. "Thank you," she breathed as she pressed several galleons into his hands. "I'm not sure I could stand having to spend enough time in here to find all of these."
"You can also Owl-order, Miss Brown, if that would be easier," the young clerk—Chuck, she thought his name was—said kindly.
"I just may do that," she said, giving a little wave as she exited the shop.
She'd never thought herself the type of girl to spend a Saturday in the library, of all places. In past years, Saturdays had been for shopping, or lazing about in the sun, or playing games of Exploding Snap or Gobstones.
Or snogging your boy of the moment. Can't forget that hobby! she thought wryly.
No boy would have her now, of course. She knew her greatest asset had been her beauty, not her sparkling wit. Not that she particularly wanted any of the boys available to her now, either. Most of the boys in her year were so...milquetoast. Oh, they were brave, of course, and there was an attractive scruffiness about some of them now, as if they had decided that life was too short to bother with Shaving Charms. But they did tend to treat most of the girls as if they were delicate flowers or some such rot, despite the fact that nearly as many girls as boys in the upper years had fought in the Battle of Hogwarts.
Lavender, despite her name, was decidedly not a delicate flower.
She sighed at the thought. Parvati, bless her, seemed to revel in the chivalrous treatment. Then again, she hadn't been mauled, and didn't have the same wolfish desires. There were some days Lavender wasn't sure how she was going to control her appetites—for fighting, food, or sex.
And then there was the greater rub: most of the boys didn't smell terribly good to her anymore. Some of the girls, however...
Lavender knew Greyback had preyed on any children he could find, but preferred molesting members of his own gender. She had heard rumours about Professor Lupin, too, before he went and married that Tonks woman (may their souls rest in peace). She wondered, some days—hell, many days—whether Greyback's homosexual tendencies had been passed on along with his lupine ones.
Lavender looked up. A new smell—feminine and less mothball-ish than Madam Pince—had entered the library.
Of course. Hermione Granger would have come back early from Hogsmeade as well.
Lavender refocused on the text before her. It was much less taxing to consider the properties of Moonflower ground into Moonstone than to engage in social conversation.
Not that Hermione had ever been able to take a hint.
"Mind if I join you, Lavender?" Her voice was low and polite.
Why she would want to join Lavender rather than spreading out all her materials like the swot she was, taking up an entire table when a scarce few first and second year students were the only others in the library was something Lavender couldn't grasp. Unfortunately, she couldn't grasp a polite way to refuse the other girl, either. She grunted, which Granger took as an invitation to sit. Lavender rolled her eyes and returned to her book.
"What are you working on?"
Lavender sighed again and looked up. "Independent project in Potions."
"But you're not—"
"I never said it was for class." Lavender watched Hermione reach across the table to investigate the stacks of books and notes. "Do you mind? Only I wasn't planning on sharing this with anyone. It's just for me."
Hermione snatched her hand back. "Oh! Sorry. I'm just curious—"
"You always are." Lavender took a deep breath. Really, it took every ounce of energy she had not to grab her things and flounce out of the library. "But this is something I need to do on my own, okay?"
Hermione seemed to consider her for a moment. "Right, then. Sorry to intrude." She pulled out her own stack of parchment and books. "Thanks for letting me sit, by the way. I'm hoping if Ron comes back and sees me quietly working at a table with another quietly-working student, he'll leave me alone."
A year earlier—well, two years earlier—Lavender would have been all over that remark like a Niffler on a Galleon. Now, every uninvited statement was like another flea instead. She grunted lowly, and scribbled something on her parchment.
To Hermione, it might look like a careful note about whatever potion was. In actuality, it read, Insufferable swot, leave me the fuck alone.
Lavender had grown rather immoderate with her language since being bit.
Fortunately, Hermione was quickly absorbed in her own studying. She left Lavender alone as she sank into whatever project she'd decided to pursue.
Lavender, on the other hand, had difficulty re-acclimatising to the pursuit of knowledge. The library was a bit draughty, and Hermione's warmth seemed to seep through the air along with her scent. Which was spicy and ripe, like peach-flavoured yoghurt with nutmeg mixed in. Lavender shook her head. No point in such odd observations. Still, the smell was a distraction. As was the warmth, and the little hums and sighs Hermione emitted as she learnt new things, and the flecks of gold the sun deposited into her bushy brown hair.
At least those faded as the sun sank past the windows. In fact, the warmth of Hermione's body was fading a bit as the chill of autumnal evening set in. It would soon be time for dinner in the Great Hall.
Indeed, before long Hermione was clearing her throat. "I'm off to supper," she said. "Coming?"
Lavender suppressed a snort. "Hardly," she muttered. She raised her voice to answer directly. "Go ahead; I'll be along after most of the rest have eaten." At Hermione's raised brow, she continued, "I prefer quieter, softer places these days."
"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed. She sat down again. "I can wait, if you like. After living in the woods for a year, I find the Great Hall overwhelming at times, myself."
Lavender stared at her. "Do you, now?"
"It's just... I have a hard time figuring out which noises and colours require my attention. In the woods, everything that wasn't the sound of a tree frog or cricket, anything that wasn't green or brown or ginger-headed did."
Lavender snickered. "The ginger-headed didn't need your attention?"
It was Hermione's turn to snort. "Well, he didn't need it. Demanded it anyway, more like."
Lavender nodded. That was the way of Ronald Weasley. Most other boys, too, if she were honest. And most girls. Including the one seated across from her. "Well, last year pretty much everything here needed attention, too. But it's more the onslaught of different voices and smells that gets to me at mealtimes. Classes are bad enough."
"I've been wondering how you manage," Hermione replied. "I know Bill found the wolfishness to be problematic, even though he was bitten even further from the time of the moon than you were."
Lavender cocked her head a bit and sniffed. Neither aggression nor fear wafted off Hermione's body. Just...curiosity.
Hermione Granger is the curiosity that killed the cat.
Fortunately, Lavender Brown was about as far from being a cat as one could be.
"I manage," she said, "mainly by avoiding places where lots of other students are."
"Like Hogsmeade. I'd never seen you in here on a Hogsmeade weekend before," Hermione said, her voice low and a tad sorrowful-sounding.
Lavender nodded. "I tried shopping for fancy dress for the masquerade, but needed to get out of the shop before I decided to maul one of the costumes."
Hermione winced. Lavender sensed a small frisson of fear in the other girl. It excited her to know she could draw that reaction from someone who had come to represent all that was Gryffindorish in the world.
"It must have been... particularly bad today." Hermione's words, for once, were halting, unsteady.
Lavender smiled, feeling predatory. "It was. Especially as I am hardly going to purchase what they expect women of our age to wear, hm?" She watched as the gears clicked in Hermione's head, saw when the Lumos lit her mind. Her smile broadened as Hermione's face fell.
"Surely," the swotty, feminist witch said, "there must be some outfits that don't aim at tarting up the girl inside?"
Lavender eyed her. "Did you see any?" she asked.
"No, but I didn't look very hard," Hermione admitted. "I hadn't thought I wanted to go, so I just looked in for a moment."
"Well, I'm not sure I want to go either, if I'd have to dress like that."
"I mean, I thought the idea of fancy dress parties was that they were supposed to hide who you were. But those outfits are just..."
"Too revealing?" Hermione suggested, filling in the space Lavender hadn't wanted to acknowledge.
Lavender bit her lip. "Yeah," she muttered as a tear crawled down her face. She turned away.
But Hermione had seen it. "Hey," she said softly, "we'll figure something out. Maybe something Muggle?"
"Muggle girls don't tart it up for Halloween?" The words had to force themselves past the golf ball that had lodged itself in Lavender's throat.
Hermione frowned. "Er, well. Yeah, many do. But not all of them! My mum, for instance—" Hermione's laughter was both unexpected and jarring.
"Er, yes. My mum used to dress up every year as a witch!" Hermione's eyes closed as she chuckled at the memory. "That was before we knew I was one, of course. And really, she wasn't dressing as a witch so much as a Hag. She wore robes and a pointed hat and all, but the mask was of a green-faced woman with a great ugly nose that had a wart on it, and hairs on the chin... And she would pretend to be quite nasty... The prejudices Muggles teach about witches are very much like the ones we wizarding folk have about Hags, actually, though Muggles tend to think of those ugly wicked witches as sort of an archetype rather than a class of humans to be discriminated against..."
"Oh!" said Hermione. "Sorry. It's such an odd memory, though, and so funny since I was a witch all along."
And indeed, it was almost a relief to hear Hermione nattering on about justice and looks and her Muggle childhood instead of hearing her try to analyse and sympathise with Lavender's poor fortune. Or so Lavender told herself. And she smells brighter, somehow, when she is excited like this.
Well, that wasn't a thought worth the time it took to think it. "I don't want to be a Hag, either, Hermione," Lavender broke in.
"No, of course you don't! You wouldn't at all like to be disrespecting another type of Being, would you?" Lavender didn't correct the assumption. "We'll have to think of something different, then. But I'm sure we can, the two of us together." She looked at Lavender eagerly. "Shall we brainstorm a bit after we finish our homework tonight?"
Lavender had no intention of working on her homework after she left supper. But... "How about nine o'clock in the dorm?" she suggested.
Hermione's very skin seemed to glow with eagerness.
First, Lavender realised, the two of them had very different cultural backgrounds. Pureblood tradition had ingrained in Lavender the idea that she ought to disguise who she was rather than pretend she was someone different; Hermione's upbringing had emphasised putting on the character of someone else.
"You know what would be great for Halloween?" Hermione mused. "Polyjuice."
"Polyjuice," Lavender said in disbelief. What on earth is she thinking?
"Yes!" Hermione sounded both excited and strangely breezy about it. "I Polyjuiced into Bellatrix Lestrange last spring – for the break into Gringotts. That would be a terrifyingly good costume!"
"Except for the flashbacks among the other students." Really, Hermione, even you can't be that socially inept.
Hermione's face fell. "Shit," she said.
The word was so out-of-character—or at least out of the character Lavender knew the other girl to be—that Lavender nearly laughed aloud.
"Well," Hermione continued, "that costume would have taken too long anyway, since the potion takes a full lunar cycle."
"And is too hard to brew for the sake of a fancy dress party."
"Pfft. I brewed it when I was thirteen."
"Know-it-all," Lavender said, but couldn't keep admiration from creeping into her voice.
"I can follow directions," was all Hermione had to say to that. "How about a cursed mummy?"
"Ew," Lavender said. "Can we get away from monsters? I've had enough of monsters to last a lifetime." And it's not like I'm not already a monster the rest of the year.
Hermione hummed, then nodded. "Well, sometimes Muggles dress as characters from the telly or cinema or something. Or theatre. Or books, even." She paused. "Have you ever even seen a telly, though?"
Lavender shook her head. "My dad wanted me to be 'fully cultured', though, so I've been to the theatre a bit." She smiled. "Muggle theatre as well. He took me to the West End to see musicals sometimes."
Hermione's eyes widened. "Perfect!" she said. "What was your favourite? I loved Les Miserables."
Lavender laughed. "Of course you loved Les Miserables. I did like that one, too, though for me it was because of the music." She lifted a hand to shut down Hermione's protest. "Oh, I'm sure you loved the music too, but I'd bet Galleons that you were taken by the politics of it."
Hermione flushed. It was oddly attractive. Lavender found she liked flustering the other girl.
"Anyway, my favourite was Phantom of the Opera."
Hermione bit her lip, obviously thinking. "It's too bad the only iconic character in that one is the Phantom himself," she said. "Unless..."
Lavender could see where Hermione's train of thought was going. The track was laid very neatly, the station of her conclusion brightly-lit.
It was comfortable, too, in a way that took Lavender by surprise.
"I, er, could see myself as a sort of Phantom of the Opera," she said quietly. "If we could find a mask to cover just the right side of my face, it would be a great character disguise and also simplify the rest of my makeup routine for the night."
Hermione nodded thoughtfully. "That would mean the world to you, wouldn't it?" she asked, her voice as soft as Lavender had ever heard it. Lavender had to blink back tears again.
"It would," she said.
She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply to calm herself. To her left side, a flash of pale pink moved. She felt the weight of a hand drop onto her arm.
Lavender turned, taking a moment to appreciate Hermione in fancy dress. She was wearing a taffeta gown in shades of pink and gold, a mask of gold sequins and feathers in shades of pink completing the costume. Lavender had helped her friend (and she still reeled with the realisation that they were friends now, rather than just housemates) work Sleekeasy Potion into her hair and pile it atop her head. The tendrils they'd carefully arranged around Hermione's face were slightly damp with her perspiration and stuck a bit to her forehead and the back of her neck.
The potion burnt Lavender's nostrils while they were putting it in, but had settled into a rather mild fragrance. The musty scent of Hermione's enjoyment by now overpowered it. Lavender smiled.
"Yes, thank you. It was just a bit much for a moment." She lowered her voice. "And thanks for coming with me. You make a lovely Christine."
Hermione's blush was slight, but under Lavender's focus it seemed bright as the flare signals the Triwizard Champions had sent up from the maze. The sharpness of her sweat increased a bit as well. But Hermione didn't pull away. She moved closer, standing on her toes to lean in to Lavender's ear.
"And thank you for the compliment. You have no idea how alluring you are like this; the other students have been pestering me all night about who my 'date' is. So many of the girls—a few blokes, too—have found you sexy as all hell."
Lavender chortled, but her pulse quickened. "Must be the mystery." She deepened her voice into the sort of hollow baritone that promoted theatrical events on the wireless. "Who is the man behind the mask, and all that."
"Mm," Hermione responded through her giggle. "You do cut rather a dashing figure in that outfit."
This was true; both Lavender and her mirror had been astonished when she had finished fixing her hair and donning her costume. She had transfigured a crimson-lined cape from her winter travelling cloak and Hermione had borrowed a set of dress robes from Harry. At first, Lavender had been concerned about the starched shirt. Where would her tits fit beneath it?
Hermione had fixed that right quick, though.
"Expansion charm," she'd said. "If we could fit an entire library into my handbag, we can fit your chest into that shirt."
And nobody was the wiser. It was remarkable that nobody had thought to apply the glamour associated with wizardspace to clothing before.
The piece-de-resistance, though, was Lavender's new haircut. "Hair grows, especially for magical folk," Hermione had said as she snipped away at Lavender's mane. Lavender had felt a chill run down her spine at that contact.
She felt a similar tingle as Hermione reached up and wove her fingers into the shortened hair at the base of Lavender's neck, pulling her even closer.
"I rather love that I'm the only one who knows what is behind your dress and your mask," she said before drawing Lavender's head in for a kiss.
Hermione's lips were soft and slick with lipstick, and tasted of its oil; when Lavender slipped her tongue past them, she tasted the sweetly astringent punch Hermione had been drinking.
It was like a drug, or like Imperius. Lavender's arms seemed to rise of their own accord to wrap around Hermione's torso and pull her closer. Deep inside her chest, a growl erupted.
Hermione stilled in her arms, and Lavender pulled back. "I—I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you." She became suddenly aware of many sets of eyes focussed on them. "Or attract that much attention." She dropped her arms and took a small step back.
"I'm not frightened," Hermione asserted, though a frisson of fear wafted off her. Lavender chuckled at her bravado.
"Sweet Gryffindor," she said fondly. "I'll see you back at our room." She shook her head and waved as Hermione placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don't," she said. "It's probably better not to do this, especially here." I'm not sure whether I can control myself.
Hermione glared at her, not letting go. Her hand ran down Lavender's arm to her hand. "I'm coming with you."
Hermione's grip had tightened as she tugged Lavender away from the staircase when they reached the seventh floor.
"I checked; the Room of Requirement still works. And it's much nicer than a disused classroom or a dormitory we share with other girls. Unless you'd like Parvati to join us?"
Lavender shook her head. No. Parvati would want to be treated like a princess. Besides, Lavender was still irked at her supposed best friend's lack of understanding about the difficulty of fancy-dress parties when one was half dark creature.
She let Hermione lead her down the corridor, watched as the other girl paced before the patch of wall in which the door hid.
As they entered the room, Lavender noticed a slight taint of acrid smoke still clinging to the air, but as she wrinkled her nose against it, it faded, only to be replaced by the scent of Hermione.
Hermione. The girl still smelled of yoghurt and peaches, but the scent was rounder now, almost with a tinge of blood to it. She smelled salty. And the room had magnified the fragrance of her arousal to obscene proportions.
Lavender growled. She couldn't help it. She watched as Hermione's cheeks flushed and eyes dilated; her own vision sharpened. She pushed the other girl by the shoulder until her back pressed into the stone wall.
Hermione whimpered, but the scent rising from her grew even stronger. Lavender wanted to devour her.
She grabbed Hermione's updo and pulled the girl's mouth to her own, relishing Hermione's gasp. Lavender bit at Hermione's lips before licking them, and when Hermione's mouth opened, Lavender thrust her tongue inside roughly, possessively. Claimingly. She pushed her own body forward, planting a knee between Hermione's legs, growling in approval as one of those legs bent to bring Hermione's thigh into contact with the seam of her trousers.
"Good girl," she groaned. Her voice was more guttural than she'd ever felt it being.
She bit Hermione's lower lip again, this time tasting blood.
She sucked at it. Gods, that tasted good. Almost as good as the writhing against her felt, almost as good as the scent of Hermione's want. "Like that, do you?" Lavender whispered.
"God, yes," Hermione moaned. "Why did you stop?"
Lavender laughed at that. "Savouring the moment," she said. "This is probably your last chance to change your mind, Hermione. You taste fucking amazing."
Hermione's eyes sparkled. "You've barely tasted anything yet."
She gasped again as Lavender used the hand supporting her head to pull her neck taut and licked a stripe up from her shoulder. As Lavender whispered into her ear, Hermione began to shake.
"I'll taste every bit of you I can, Hermione Granger."
Lavender didn't let Hermione respond before she started making good on the promise. She nibbled on Hermione's earlobe before beginning to leave a trail of quick, hard bites down her neck. Standing up, she pressed forward once more, pressing her chest against the soft breasts of the other girl, grinding their fronts together so that her own nipples chafed against the fabric that restrained them.
This time, when Lavender bit at Hermione's lips and forced her tongue through, Hermione bit back and sucked the tongue further into her mouth. The feel of taste buds abrading the slick-underside of her tongue drove Lavender mad. She thrust her tongue over and over into Hermione's mouth and let her thigh, her breasts do the same to the lower parts of the other girl's body.
Hermione's hands pulled Lavender's shirt from her trousers and cummerbund. Lavender felt her nails, sharper than she might have expected, digging half-moons into her lower back. She moaned.
"So good," Hermione gasped, "to know I can affect you, too."
Lavender growled and tore herself away, roughly using the grips she had on Hermione's hair and shoulder to turn her and press her face-first into the wall. Hermione twisted her head so that only one cheek mashed against it. Lavender reached down and began gathering layer upon layer of chiffon into her hands, hiking up Hermione's dress until she finally saw the knickers beneath.
She scratched at the hose covering Hermione's legs before letting her fingernails catch and rip through them, exposing the skin. She let her fingers trace the emerging gooseflesh, her excitement growing as it spread.
The smell was overpowering. Intoxicating. She stepped forward again, one hand between herself and her prey, the other pushing its way between Hermione and the wall to roughly grab a breast. As Hermione arched back into her, Lavender leaned forward to bite whatever she could reach. Neck. Shoulder. She could feel a nipple poking against the fabric beneath her right hand; she pinched it as hard as she could, and Hermione cried out.
Lavender thought it was a pleasurable cry, but at this point she didn't really care. The hand over Hermione's knickers rocked into the covered folds, rubbing abrasive cotton into quim, and Lavender didn't care whether Hermione was moaning in pain or ecstasy, so long as she kept making those noises.
"I am going to make you come so fucking hard, and then I am going to eat you up, and make you come again. And there's nothing you can do to stop me."
Hermione was already shuddering, squirming as she tried to force her clit harder against Lavender's fingers. "I—I—Fuck, Lavender, why the fuck would I want to stop you?" Her hands were braced against the wall, contracting like claws against the stone. Lavender could hear the tattoo of Hermione's pulse as it beat against her veins, feel the pulse of it through the fabric that kept her hand from feeling the slick, slick flesh of Hermione's cunt.
It was time to demolish the rest of Hermione's dress. Lavender removed her hands, her body, from the places they were pressing against Hermione and rent the gown asunder; she did the same to the panties beneath it.
Hermione, damp and glowing, stood before her in her dancing shoes.
Lavender took two steps back in astonishment. She inhaled: a deep, shuddering breath. She felt like she swimming in a pool of Hermione's pheromones. She was beginning to smell her own as well. She smiled.
Then she grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her toward the conveniently turned-down bed behind them.
"I fucking love magic," she declared, and used her lycanthropy-enhanced strength to lift Hermione and toss her on the bed.
Hermione bounced a bit; the bed was surprisingly springy. Lavender licked her lips as she watched her lover's breasts and belly jiggle. Hermione laughed.
"You look like a starving woman before a four-course meal," she said.
Lavender nodded. "I feel like one," she admitted, taking off her own shoes and climbing onto the bed, her ardour slowed by the banter.
"I'd invite you to eat," said Hermione, "but you've already made it clear you aren't waiting for an invitation." She frowned. "Why are you still in your full costume?"
"Seemed less important to get my kit off than yours," she admitted. "Besides, I thought you liked me in my fancy, fancy dress."
It was Hermione's turn to growl. "What I like about it," she said, "is knowing that there are breasts under there that only I know about, and that there is a face beneath that mask that has more character than most of our fellow students could even imagine. I like that the only other person who knew just who was beneath that dashing costume was the woman wearing it." Her next words were at a level of bossiness usually reserved for idiotic best friends. "Now strip off. I want to see what I expect is mine."
"Yes, Hermione," Lavender said.
She shrugged off her cloak and hung it on a peg by the door. Lavender returned to the bed, sat, and pulled off her shoes and socks, then stood and shucked her trousers. She loosened and removed the bow tie. Then her knickers.
Those were the easy parts.
Lavender bit her lip as she began to unbutton her shirt.
Nobody but Madame Pomfrey, her mum, and the doctors at St Mungo's had seen the full extent of Lavender's injuries. Not until this evening. Her fingers trembled, and a button popped off the shirt entirely.
"Come here." Hermione's speech was impossibly soft, almost a whisper, but without the hiss of extra air. Lavender was glad of that; the sound of whispers made her wince these days. "Let me help with that."
Lavender shuddered and nodded. What the fuck had happened to her confidence? She took a deep breath.
Amazingly, Hermione's arousal hadn't dampened; the tinge of fear in the air was Lavender's own.
It was unusual, to say the least, for Lavender to smell herself; it was usually like so much static to her nose. Now, however, her anxiety was tightening her muscles and seeping out of her pores. She restrained the urge to whine. Her eyes skittered to where Hermione sat at the head of the bed.
The other girl was pale but muscular, with an attractive bit of extra meat at her midsection. Her breasts were luminescent in their whiteness, as though their skin had never seen sun at all. Her erect nipples and pebbly areolas were a darker shade, rosier than Lavender's honey-coloured ones.
And where her legs parted, Lavender could see dark, gossamer strands beginning to clump together under the weight of Hermione's juices.
"Come here and let me help," Hermione repeated, crooking a finger and a corner of her mouth. "I'll only bite if you want me to."
Lavender huffed nervously, a near-mockery of the chuckle she wished she'd made. She walked along the side of the bed and sat.
"Good," Hermione murmured, reaching up and stroking the bare side of Lavender's face. "You really do cut a striking figure in that ensemble, and the mask adds to the mystery."
Lavender nodded, hoping against hope that this would mean Hermione would be satisfied to leave the mask on her face.
"But, as much as I'd love to anoint your mask with my juices—and you did promise to eat me—you might want to use this again sometime." She ducked her head a bit, but Lavender could see and hear her swallow. "Besides..."
When the silence seemed destined to stretch into utter awkwardness, Lavender reached out and took Hermione by the chin once more. She tilted her lover's face up so their eyes met. "Besides?"
A bit of anxiety slipped through the air again; the taste of it was sharp in the air now that Hermione's palms had begun to sweat.
"I want you. All of you."
Lavender bit her own lip. "You wouldn't," she said.
"No?" Hermione raised her voice. "You think I don't know what Greyback did to his victims? You think I imagine you unharmed, unblemished?"
"You haven't seen me! I'm... monstrous."
Hermione paused, as if considering which words were best.
"Maybe I prefer monsters," she said. "Please?" She reached for the mask.
Lavender lifted her head. "Alright."
Hermione ran the fingers of both her hands along the edge of the mask, tracing the outline of it against Lavender's skin. Lavender felt that skin tingle as those warm tips passed over it, felt it continue to tingle as the fingers moved along. Hermione leaned in and kissed Lavender gently, so gently, before finally drawing back, taking the mask with her.
Lavender knew what she looked like underneath. She hadn't used anything but Plasticity Salve on her face before donning the mask; it hadn't occurred to her that anyone would want, could want, to see her with it off. Her face was still pink, the epidermis taut and new over the extensive damage to muscle beneath it. There were gnarls and indentations where the apple of her cheek used to be.
Lavender's eyes closed. She shuddered and whimpered as Hermione's index finger ran delicately over the damaged terrrain.
"You are a hero," Hermione said. "You are scarred," she kissed Lavender's cheek, "and powerful," she kissed Lavender's nose, "and unbelievably sexy with the amount of passion you've grown." She kissed Lavender's mouth, teasing it open with her tongue as her hands began to work on Lavender's shirt. "And I want every part of you that you've been hiding from the world." She lowered her voice. "And I want you to find everything I've been hiding." She punctuated that statement by running her hands around Lavender's breasts (scars and all) and squeezing them.
Lavender gasped and surged forward. The blouse opened, a curtain to hang around two sets of breasts nestling together as the women bearing them mashed their mouths and torsos together. Lavender's legs, now bare, straddled one of Hermione's thighs. Their tangle of legs became damp with sweat and natural lubrication. Hips thrusting, they clung together, the desire for throbbing closeness the only guide they followed.
Hermione's hair escaped its pins and surrounded her hair like a cloud. Lavender could feel her lover's breath hitch in the chest trapped beneath her own as she angled her thigh to rub more and more of Hermione's cunt.
Among Hermione's gasps and cries were very few intelligible words; even these were limited to demands for "more!" and "harder!"
Lavender gave her more, gave her harder. Remembering Hermione's earlier reactions, she pulled hard on Hermione's hair to expose her neck once more and bit strongly as she ground her leg down into Hermione's quim. She kept her teeth planted, squeezing, as Hermione bucked and tried to toss her head from side to side.
Hermione's nails dug so deeply into Lavender's back that the hot-then-cool sensation of trickling blood soon distracted her. Finally, she pulled back.
Lavender licked her lips, smiling in satisfaction. Below her, Hermione was still shaking. Lavender began to kiss her lover's breasts, took each nipple into her mouth in turn. She opened her mouth, trying to swallow as much of the breast she suckled as she could.
She had once been an excellent cocksucker, after all; Lavender was sure she could get the skill to translate.
"What—What are you doing? Don't—don't you want to come, too?" Hermione was attempting to push herself up onto her elbows, in almost a seated position.
"What did I tell you I was going to do?" Lavender growled. Orgasm hadn't made the smell of Hermione's desire less sweet; it was still driving Lavender wild with the desire to own, to devour.
"Make me come and then eat me." Hermione's eyes were wide, pupils still blown. "You were serious about that?"
Lavender slid lower on the bed. "You have no idea," she growled. She sat up, her bum between Hermone's ankles, and pressed her own heel into her clit. Hell, a girl needs some friction, she thought. Then she bent at the waist and tasted.
Tangy. Sharp. Sweet. Salty. All of these tastes drenched Hermione's vulva. Lavender was in heaven, burying her nose against Hermione's clit as she let her tongue dig around in the open, open hole beneath it.
Mine. Mine. Possessiveness consumed Lavender's personality. All of this nectar belonged to her, and she was going to drink all of it. Hermione's pelvis tipped up, offering her core for easy plunder.
But the clit beneath her nose was a treat of its own, and it wasn't long before Lavender was wrapping her lips around it to suck.
It wasn't that different from a cock, actually, though it didn't swell to near the same size. Lavender's own hips were thrusting forward, pushing her cunt against the back of her foot. But her focus was on the bundle of flesh in her mouth, under her tongue. She sucked at it; she fluttered her tongue as fast and hard as she could against it. And as it pulsed in her mouth, she couldn't resist.
Hermione shrieked, but it wasn't a shriek of fear, nor one of displeasure. Lavender couldn't smell anything but Hermione's cunt, but that still smelled aroused, perhaps even more so. She crooked the fingers in Hermione's hole against the spongy bit right beneath the clit.
Hermione did not shriek again. She bellowed.
The sound was so uninhibited, so sexy, so alive that Lavender's own body bucked, her head knocking into Hermione's pelvic bone as she climaxed. Around her hand ran a stream of hot water. She pulled it out, slowly, trying not to tug the skin around it, and moved both her arms to rest against Hermione's sides.
Hermione was still shaking. Now Lavender shook, too. Her teeth began to chatter.
Lavender felt the hands that had somehow made their way into her hair grip it. She looked up, and saw Hermione's head bent towards her.
"Come up here," her lover said.
As Lavender crept up Hermione's body, covering half of it with her own, a duvet materialised over them. She chuckled, her throat raw.
"Yeah," said Hermione, stroking the short hair on Lavender's head.
Lavender let her left hand trace one of Hermione's nipples. "You smelt so good, Hermione, tasted so good. I'm not sure I can give you up."
Hermione pulled just far enough away that she could lock eyes with Lavender.
"Then don't," she said, and pulled the covers tight around them.