Groaning and straightening my tie, I whispered out of the corner of my mouth to Harry,
"Why are we here again?"
He just shot me an annoyed look and told me for the fiftieth time that night,
"Heather wanted me to come but her friend flew in from out of town and didn't have a date. Hence, both of our presences."
"Lovely." I groaned dramatically just as the two ladies in questions strolled up to us.
It was a Christmas ball for Heather's department and I was continually bemoaning myself for agreeing to come just as Heather pulled Harry away to introduce to some co-workers. I hadn't been paying attention to the girl I was supposed to be 'escorting' and when I shot her a half-smile she rolled her eyes and stalked off into the groups of people allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief.
It was as I was walking towards the buffet table that my eyes caught onto a figure standing elegantly up from her chair as the Christmas lights flickered off of her skin in a tantalizing way. She wore a simple but elegant blank strapless dress with honey-colored hair, from my distance at least, pulled up into a soft twist. Shapely legs came from beneath the hem of her dress, soft curves graced the material, but it was when the person turned in my direction that it felt as if all the air in the room had been sucked out.
EIGHT YEARS AGO
"I'm not saying it was Harry's fault!" She yelled at me in complete frustration with her face screwed up in anger.
"No, but you damned near implied it!" I threw back at her just as angrily with my fists clenched at my sides.
"I did nothing of the sort Ronald so you take that back right this instant!" She stamped her foot hard upon the ground.
"Admit it! You think all that went wrong that night will always be on his shoulders." I all but sneered at her making her eyes widen some.
"I can't believe how callous you're being! I'm trying to talk some sense into you two wandering off into the Forbidden Forrest looking for a mess of death eaters and you're making me out to be the villain?" She questioned with raised eyebrows.
"You've been continually reminding us of that fateful night and you damned well know it!" I shot back with my eyes blazing.
Things between the three of us had been tense all through seventh year with Harry loosing Sirius fifth year and then Remus at the tail-end of sixth. He had become more reclusive and harder to reach but what had brought tonight to a boiling point was me finding out that Hermione and Dean Thomas were now going together. I had just about brought up the courage to tell her how I felt about her and asking her to the next Hogsmead when I found out the news and this was how I let loose my frustration.
"Of course I am! Do you want there to be any worse consequences…" She began to say but Harry, who had remained quiet throughout the entire yelling match, startled us all by standing up and bellowing fiercely,
"THERE ARE NO WORSE CONSEQUENCES!"
I watched Hermione jump in complete surprise while her mouth opened in disbelief just as she whispered softly,
"Of course not, I didn't mean to insinuate…"
"No, you didn't think." Harry cut in angrily with a scowl.
The scolding instantly turned Hermione angry against as she pointed her finger at him and snapped,
"I miss them both too Harry, but continually putting yourself in harm's way to seek vengeance won't…"
Once again she was cut off as Harry all but growled,
"You know nothing about this situation."
I got sick pleasure out of seeing her slowly deflate in front of our eyes, knowing that at least I wasn't the only feeling like that today.
"Harry, I've been by your side for seven years now. I think I understand…"
"Is that what this is Hermione? A debt you feel that should be paid to you?" I asked with a pointed look and my happiness edged down a notch when I saw her flash me a look of complete sadness.
"Of course not, I'm just trying to be a friend right…"
"Well stop, you're efforts aren't wanted." Harry spoke harshly with, surprising me at the words.
We all continued standing in a tense silence and I could see Hermione's shoulders shaking with repressed sobs until she seemed to get a hold of herself and ask almost spitefully,
"So that's it then? Seven years of friendship stretched by bounds of the unimaginable is being thrown aside because of implications and miscommunications?"
When no one argued with her, she shook her head in complete incredulity before fleeing up to the girls' dormitories. The end of seventh year ended without Harry or I ever confronting Hermione about what had happened. Rumors had whirled around about what could have caused the split between the infamous trio but no one would truly know the depth of what had happened.
I watched in stunned disbelief as she looked right at me and her almond eyes widened in shock while her whole body seemed to freeze. There hadn't been a day that'd gone by when I lamented the things I had said without ever apologizing. Watching her here now felt akin to how I felt hearing about her and Thomas.
It was almost a mutual assent as we both began taking hesitant footsteps towards each other, stopping when we reached and letting our eyes run over one another. She was absolutely beautiful with a glowing presence about her that just made all the feelings I still had stored up inside for her whirl around with greater energy.
"Hermione." I whispered in a daze.
She continued staring at me looking as if she couldn't quite believe I was actually here before whispering in that sweet voice of hers that had tormented me for years,
My heart was thudding wildly against and knowing that I had to break the silence somehow, I cleared my throat and told her sincerely,
"It's really great to see you again."
My heat picked up its speed when she let one corner of her mouth lift into a tiny smile before she said hesitantly,
"It's good to see you too."
We continued staring at each other in almost awe before she asked confused,
"This is a muggle benefit, what are you doing here?"
"Harry brought me along." I explained without thinking and winced when her eyes shifted to the floor in pain.
"I hear you two are top Auror's now." She finally commented casually.
I just nodded and asked,
"What about you? What are you doing these days?"
"I'm teaching at Hogwarts actually…Transfiguration." She said with another small smile.
Before I could commend her on that, I watched as a man walked up behind her with his head still turned and smiling at the group he had just left before wrapping his arms securely around her and nuzzling against his neck.
"You're amazing luv, I'm taking you to every single one of these from now on. My boss absolutely loved you."
I had to keep myself from clenching my fists together just as the man looked up and started in surprise when he saw me standing there.
"Sorry, not interrupting am I?"
Hermione smiled at him while placing a hand over his that was on her stomach and told him,
"Not at all, this is an old class-mate of mine from school, Ronald Weasly."
I tried not to outwardly cringe at her description of what I was to her before I grudgingly shook the man's hand as Hermione finished the introduction with,
"This is David Guaram…my fiancé."
The world seemed to shatter around me at those words and automatically my eyes flickered down to the ring on her finger that was now glittering with pride almost mockingly.
"Damn, George is calling me over again, I'll be just a moment and then we can leave for mum's. It was nice meeting you Ron."
I just nodded my sentiments without letting my eyes stray from the woman in front of me until it was just the two of us once again.
"He's a lucky bloke." I finally choked out and she whipped her head up to me in surprise for a few tense moments before letting her face soften into a smile and she murmured her thanks.
It was then that I realized we had been standing in the middle of the dance floor while a slow song had begun moments ago all around us. It seemed as if this dawned on her as well as she hastily told me,
"I should go grab our coats, it was nice seeing you again Ron, please tell Harry I said…hi."
She went to turn around and walk away but letting instinct take over, I reached out and clasped her wrist pulling her back and practically begged,
"Dance with me, and then we can go our separate ways."
I watched as her head slowly lifted towards mine and noticed tears developing in her eyes before I pulled her willing body closer to me.
"Just one dance." I reassure her before placing my hand on the small of her back and then grasping her other hand in mine. My body went aflame as she slowly and cautiously brought her other hand up to place on the top of my shoulder.
The strings of the song wrapped around us while I led us in a tiny slow circle, just reveling in the feel of having her back in my arms and the natural scent of her wafting and wrapping around my senses. I pulled her in closer so our bodies molded together softly and she placed her cheek against my chest, letting herself relax against me with a small sigh. Closing my eyes, knowing this would more than likely be the last time I'd see her as she started her new life, I let the dance slowly take us away as I held her close to me in my arms, taking this moment for all that it was worth.
I absently let my thumb rub against her back, up and down, wondering just what it would have been like for the two of us had that fateful night never happened. Continuing with our soft swaying, I felt content to just stand here forever as she let her hand drop from my shoulder to cover over my heart naturally. Pulling her hand that was entwined with mine closer in-between our bodies, I brushed a soft kiss against her knuckles to get her to look up at me.
"I'm sorry." I finally whispered while looking straight into her eyes, seeing more tears spring forward but she slowly nodded her head in complete understanding of what I was apologizing for.
The last notes of the song evaporated around us and we slowly pulled away, a piece of my heart going with her as she smiled tremulously up at me with tears streaking down her cheeks saying,
"Thank you for the dance. Take care of yourself."
I just smiled and leaned forward, pressing a soft but lingering kiss against her forehead and for the sake of her pride I ignored the way her body shuddered with a sob at the finality the act seemed to hold. I took one more breath of her as I moved away while she took more and more steps away from me, leaving me to feel even more hollowed out every second before she gave one last watery smile and turned, disappearing back through the crowds.
"Congratulations luv." I whispered huskily to her vanishing back, not bothering to wipe away the lone tear making its way down my cheek as I watched the only woman I'd ever love walk towards the man she'd always love.