She was drowning.
It had been two years since the war had ended. Two years since she'd said good-bye to the life she'd grown to love at Hogwarts and disappeared into the Muggle world. Two years since he'd died. She bit back a sob, her teeth crushing her bottom lip as she tried to contain the sound, muffle it so that no one could hear it.
The walls were swelling inward, and she shuddered. She knew what was coming next. She closed her eyes against the sight.
It's all in your head, she reminded herself for the umpteenth time, knowing that it would do no good, knowing that if she opened them the ceiling would begin its descent, that the walls would breathe outward onto her, that the overwhelming smell of death and fear would invade her nostrils.
"It's not real," she moaned quietly, willing herself from the brink, promising herself that this time, when she opened her eyes she wouldn't find herself back in the cave. She wouldn't be six feet under and sinking quickly.
"Stop," she whispered, but there was no one to hear her, no one to pull her back from the precipice of her own personal nightmare.
She had to get out. It wasn't supposed to be this way. He was supposed to be there, sitting next to her, loving her. He wasn't supposed to be dead. She had to get out. She pushed her way blindly through the room, rushing for the door, praying that the horrible feeling would cease the moment she left. She ran.
Through the doorway, down the hall and out into the street.
Towards the one place she could think of, her one refuge, her safe port from the storm in her mind.
As she reached the corner she stopped and focused on it. The vision rose in her mind: a dilapidated house towering over a ragged garden.
She turned on the spot and felt herself being pushed through the realities of the Muggle world, shoved and plucked through a wormhole to end up standing, panting, breathless in front of the one place where she would be safe.
The Burrow rose in front of her, a single light burning in the sitting room and she sobbed in relief. He was there.
The knock wasn't unexpected. It had happened countless times in the past six months, and would undoubtedly happen countless more before he finally forced her to choose between the flesh and blood that lived and loved her and the memory of the dead that left her behind.
How long can a woman grieve? he wondered, not for the first time, nor for the last. It was question he would ask himself for as long as he lived, staring at the broken woman who used to be his mother as she flickered through the remainder of her existence, looking into the soft, tortured green eyes of the woman he'd grown to love.
He no longer remembered how it had come about, that first time, and he truly didn't care. She had been there, in front of him, pouring out her grief, her anguish, her very soul, and he'd simply fallen. He could no longer remember if she had offered or if he had just taken. It no longer mattered. The specter of the Boy Who Lived would always be between them, but it didn't matter.
Charlie Weasley was in love with Katie Bell. That much he knew, and the rest of it was merely details.
So he opened the door, unsurprised by the tears flowing down her honey-colored cheeks, and opened his arms to the petite brunette. She clung to him, her sobs wracking her slender frame and he enveloped her in his embrace, in his love. And he knew that the decision could wait. Her scent surrounded him, holding him hostage until he was drowning in it.
She was his anchor, his port in the storm of his life, the one thing he knew could save him from the nightmare that it had become, and she was in his arms. He bent, inhaling the delicate fragrance of her shampoo, dropping tender kisses on top of her head until she finally, slowly, turned her face towards his, pressing against him as her lips parted on a sigh and were sealed with a kiss.
His lips moved slowly over hers, and it was enough for the moment just to drink in the other's presence. Their tongues darted out, gently lapping at the other's as his hands slipped from her waist, pushing her closer, pulling her against him as though he was trying to pull her inside of him.
As if on cue, the rain that had been threatening all afternoon began to fall, and as the lightning split the sky, throwing the world into sharp angles and brilliant colors for one blinding moment, the kiss changed. Tongues lashed out, warring for dominance and teeth nipped at the other's lips. He caught her bottom lip between his teeth and drew upon it, slowly sucking it into his mouth to soothe it with his tongue before releasing it, dragging his teeth against it as he did. She gasped, tunneling her fingers into his hair, wrapping the silky locks around her knuckles and pulling. His head fell back on a sigh and she reached out, nipping at his collarbone, licking her way to the sensitive spot behind his ear.
His scent was all around her now, soothing her in its familiar comfort, igniting her as she felt the familiar pooling of her organs into her lower abdomen until she was drowning in her lust.
She pushed at him, knocking him away so she could see the buttons her fingers were too numb to unfasten by touch alone, drawing her bottom lip between her teeth in concentration. The old, worn flannel went sailing across the room as she finished the last button, exposing the sun-kissed musculature of his chest to her, the faint dusting of ginger hair and the copper-penny nipples peeking through it. The rain blew in on her back through the still open door and she didn't care.
She reached for the hem of her shirt, pulling it over her head in one swift motion to go flying over her shoulder. In the morning, she would probably regretting tossing her shirt out in the rain, but at the moment, all she could think of was him. Getting her breasts crushed against his bare chest, teasing her nipples against that shimmering, faintly coarse hair. Burying her face into his neck until she could no longer breathe anything but him.
Her bra was unfastened for her by deft fingers and slid slowly, sensually down her arms to land in a lacy pile at her feet. She barely noticed that her feet were bare, the pink shimmer of her toenail polish shining in the dim glow. Another bolt of lightning tore through the sky, and it spurred them forward. He reached out, grabbing her breasts firmly, tugging and pinching her nipples until they were diamond-hard peaks begging for attention as he backed her into the door frame. The rain drizzled over her skin, but she was so hot that she barely noticed.
She reached for the button of his denims, tugging them open and shucking them down his legs until they pooled at his feet, where he kicked them free. He stood before her, proudly, confident in his nudity and the effect it had on her and pulled her shorts to her knees. He leaned down, reinitiating the kiss before gently running his index finger along the top of her thigh, tracing the line of the pink silk and lace creation, his knuckles brushing softly against the dampness that clung to the material.
He deftly slipped his finger under the elastic, drawing a rough line around her opening with the tip, pressing his thumb against her clit through the wet silk as her head lolled back against the doorframe and she called his name on a sigh. He continued his movements, one hand on his own arousal, the other teasing her, bringing her oh-so-close to the release she was panting for and then stopping.
She was drowning.
And she loved it. She forced her eyes open, looking up at his smug expression through heavy lids and pushed his hands away. She dropped to her knees in front of him, slowly running her tongue along the insides of his hipbones and then down to the juncture of his thighs, taking quick little kitten laps against his skin as she followed the natural crease between leg and hip. He sighed, bracing his hands against the doorframe, his fingers digging into the wood as she took him into her mouth and began to suck, moving her lips along his shaft and lightly grazing the head with her teeth.
He groaned, knowing that this was his punishment for his earlier teasing and vowing to tease her every day for the rest of his life if she would just never stop whatever magic she was working with her mouth, never stop showing up at his house after midnight and giving him a reason to look forward to the next day. He felt himself teeter on the brink of orgasm and stopped her, wrapping her ponytail around his hand and pulling her to her feet.
Later, she could finish him that way if she wanted, but the first time he came tonight he wanted to be buried inside of her.
He released her hair and lifted her by the backs of her thighs, dropping her on the counter in the open doorway, driving into her, thrusting until he was lodged as deep as he could, reveling in her gasp, her moans, gripping her waist and pushing himself inside her slick heat. Her head fell back, the rain poured over her skin and her breasts bounced as he continued driving into her. He'd never seen anything so beautiful in his life.
Her moans grew louder and he bit the inside of his mouth, tasting blood, in an effort to hold off just a few moments longer. He waited, knowing what she would do when she finally came and as the sound left her lips he felt himself lose control.
"Charlie," she breathed, a sigh as her body became boneless.
"Katie," he growled, the sound of his name from her mouth triggering his orgasm. It rocked through him, slammed through his body as his grip on her hips tightened and he pushed himself to the hilt, enjoying her final moan as he released.
Lightning crackled a final time, illuminating the honey and burnished copper skin of the lovers as they rested, entwined in the open doorway. Rain poured down their joined bodies as they both drowned in the other.
And for the moment, it was enough for them both.