Another one shot, that may or may not have a sequel (don't get your hopes up on the "soon" factor; but maybe someday). This is probably the most emotional story I've written, just to forewarn you. (By the way, she didn't want me to say, but there's a certain lovely fanfic writer who contributed a sentence to this story.) The song is "Chloroform Perfume" by From Autumn to Ashes.
Partir (to leave)
"Hi, you have reached Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger at -"
The receiver jingled metallically as the scratched-up black payphone was slammed down to rest. Near tears again, and her face was already streaked with running mascara. Her freckles were hiding beneath reddened skin. A check to the mirror showed the handprint that still resided on her cheek. She spit at her visage and watched the clear liquid slide down her glass chin. Tears upon her real face followed. They shook her body, made her knees quiver. She wanted to give up and simply slump in this telephone booth, stare wide-eyed and unblinking at the rain that was playing in her head.
It wasn't really raining outside. The night was clear; the stars that peeked in through their false earth counterparts were shining. The moon was a sliver of silver, but she could see its silhouetted belly.
Like she could still see the past six hours in her head. Oh, how the images burned her retinas, stung her already raw and burning eyes. But she knew, her calculating brain still at work, that everything in the past weeks had been leading up to this. That scared her heart. Her mind had known the entire time. It had dropped subtle hints. Somehow, her mind had thought that her heart would be just as intelligent as it was. But it wasn't. It couldn't be.
She pushed herself out of the booth and forced her feet to move, creating a steady pattern with her shoes - black canvas and dirty white rubber. They were falling apart. She needed new shoes.
Her feet picked up pace at that thought, but her mind quickly squashed their urgency. It was three in the morning. She had to bite back the laugh that bubbled in her throat. She knew it would be hysterical, maniacal, and everything would fall apart. So she would just keep quiet, let the tears run silently down her face. The constant blur of tears was making the streetlights flicker.
Her fingers pulled out the half-crumpled pack of cigarettes from her jeans pocket. They searched for a lighter once the black stick was placed between her lips, but there was only a box of matches. Five tries later, she had the cigarette lit. The flame just wouldn't stay.
As she puffed the smoke danced around her, enveloping her body in a ghostly embrace. In reality, she hated what the smoke was doing to her body - a worried mind nagging at her, lung/throat cancer, her mother's voice in her head and a redhead's delighted smile when she took her first puff. It had started with licking the filters, enjoying the taste that reminded her of kissing, of sex. Now she smoked when she was lonely. She was addicted now.
You look so sexy when you do bad things. Haunting; a barely-contained sexual growl. It had made her flesh shiver in anticipation. Now her body shook with sobs, exploding again - a constant war, unyielding gunfire on her tear ducts. When would it stop hurting?
She was in an unrecognizable part of town now, the houses melting away to a commercial district. A shopping center, complete with a new 'n' used bookstore, had neon lights that flickered half-heartedly in the nighttime. The orange and purple, clashing colors, burned into her eyes and made her wince. Too much light, too many harsh reflections. She didn't want to be seen by the passing cars, afraid of what they would see: a hopeless sobbing woman, eyes red and cheeks streaked with make-up and salt. That's what she saw. That's what was keeping her from going home.
But was it really hers now? Her throat gagged with another choking sob at the thought, another lurch of her stomach. It was threatening her with mutiny if her thoughts strayed too far from its set path of ignoring the situation, ignoring the fact that she was alone on the streets of some suburbia she wasn't accustomed to, hallucinating rain in her head because it was so fitting but so lacking, watching the world through tear-blurred vision, while the supposed love of her life was busy, taking a sharpened knife to their relationship and hacking away at it with every moan that selfish whore emitted from her lying mouth.
"Hermione? Hermione Granger?"
Familiarity like a pile of bricks on her head. Hermione turned her head to find a black car stopped on the street next to her, the stop light glaring like a warning. Nestled inside its sleek frame was a white woman, skin pale, eyes pale, hair pale - a moonlit maiden guardian angel, or just Fleur Delacour. Hermione was done with trying to think of miracles that would save her from this mess, but Fleur was good enough for her mind to latch onto and run with.
"What are you doing out here by yourself?" continued the blond-haired woman, leaning out the passenger window from her seat behind the wheel. Her cleavage was falling out of her designer top, dark as freshly spilled blood. Hermione focused on the mounds, but continually imagined them slightly smaller, tan, scars littered across the supple flesh (why was it that ghosts came in all forms?).
"Hermione." Voice sharp, a flimsy razorblade authority. "You look a mess. What's wrong?"
Sharp voice - "What are you doing with her?" - sharp eyes - "It's none of your business." - the slamming of two doors: the bedroom and the front door, the lock catching on both.
"Get in the car." A command, she was too weak to not comply. Fleur shrunk like a flower at night back to the driver's seat and Hermione half-stumbled into the passenger's seat, feeling too plain, too messy for the sleek black leather design. Digital green lights danced on the CD player front, announcing in bold letters the names of bands that Hermione didn't know.
They drove in verbal silence, letting the music carry through their potential conversations for them. Melancholy and melodic, then fast and fierce, then screaming anguish. A medley of mood swings, the ones that were cradling Hermione now, pushing her this way or that. Sick lullabies, they numbed her brain and stilled her raw eyes from letting any more tears fall.
"I'm going out tonight." She couldn't stop the helpless look from traveling to her face. "But - I thought tonight was -" "Not tonight. Maybe - maybe some other time."
"What are you doing with her?" "It's none of your business." "Ginny, please don't -" "Just get out, Hermione."
"Hermione." The hint of a French accent snagged her to the present. Her eyes traveled, pulled by a hook, to the Frenchwoman's face, a concerned look and hauntingly gorgeous light blue eyes staring at her. Her eyelashes were long and colored black. "We're here."
Here was a self-proclaimed late-nite diner with more broken neon lights. Hermione stared up at the lit letters, waiting for them to break, but they only flickered, and Fleur pulled her gently through the glass and metal doors.
No hostess - they just sat down at a booth on opposite sides. Fleur handed her a menu from the stash resting between the wall and the condiments, and while her eyes scanned the list for something appetizing, she wasn't focusing. She wouldn't eat. There wasn't any point.
She noticed a lack of no-smoking signs and fished out another cigarette, feeling heartsick at the cinnamon-flavored filter, the Ginny-flavored smoke. Past her shaking hands, she could see Fleur's cocked eyebrow.
"You don't seem like the smoking type," she commented.
"I'm really not," Hermione answered, voice weak and hoarse from crying and lack of use. "The taste reminds me of her."
"Ginny, you mean," Fleur clarified, and Hermione nodded. The blond frowned and decided to skip pleasantries for the point. "Did something happen between you and Ginny?"
"I'm going out tonight."
"We got into another fight," Hermione whispered. Fleur leaned in closer to hear her. The brunette could smell her floral perfume over the scent of the cigarettes. "She's been leaving a lot lately, and -"
Their waitress had arrived. Hermione couldn't focus on her features, and Fleur pulled away to her own side of the table. Fleur ordered a cup of coffee for both of them and two slices of apple pie. Hermione was just glad she didn't have to open her mouth.
The woman left again and Fleur nudged her with a soothing voice. "You were saying."
Hermione cleared her throat, flicked ash onto the stained ashtray. "She's been leaving a lot, going to clubs, parties, I don't know, around town. She doesn't tell me where she goes. But she'll call me sometimes from these places, telling me in a drunken slur or a quiet voice that she's so sorry, she slipped up, she kissed another girl, but she'll be home in an hour and we can talk about it then."
She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to ignore these new tears (she always thought they would be done, but her tear ducts seemed to be infinite). She felt a lukewarm hand resting on hers: Fleur's. She found the half-shy, half-concerned smile comforting.
She continued. "So we'll talk about it - or, rather, fight about it, until we're both screaming at each other, and then everything will just - be okay."
"What do you mean?"
"If I had wanted to date a whore, I would've just hung around downtown London for a couple of hours," she shrieked, venom dripping.
"That's rich, coming from the woman who spent her last two years at school fucking everything in sight," the redhead retorted bitterly.
"At least I grew out of it." Daggers were flying, tears were falling - a rabbit-hole of no return, no ending thud. "Obviously you're too immature to stop acting like you're a goddess of snogging and sex appeal."
Dead silence. "Hermione." A suddenly calm voice. Blurred red hair and dark blue eyes closer to her, a strained face. "Look, I'm just - I'm really sorry." She burst into tears, and Hermione felt her anger dissipating. They wrapped their arms around each other and cried, then kissed their way back into the bedroom.
"How long has this been going on?" Fleur asked in a shocked voice. "That's - really fucked up."
"A few weeks now," Hermione confessed. It felt good to relieve herself of these memories. She hadn't told anyone else of her relationship problems. "I don't know what's been going on with her…"
She took a deep breath, smiled at the waitress when she returned with the coffee and the pie. Fleur poured both of their cups, and Hermione took a sip - burnt. She reached to her right for creamer and sugar, added both liberally. Maybe that would take the burnt taste from her mouth.
"What about tonight?" Fleur urged her on, squeezing her fingers.
"Tonight was a lot of the same," Hermione replied, fighting to keep her breath even as the past six hours came back, crippling her.
"'Mione, I think I'm going to go out for a few hours." A jingling of keys, a hooded look.
"But I thought tonight was supposed to be our night. You were going to stay home." She couldn't stop the helpless look from traveling to her face.
Hesitation. "Not tonight. Maybe we can - maybe tomorrow." Hand on the doorknob.
"Why do you keep doing this to me?" She flung the words out, desperation biting. "Why do you think you can just keep on doing this?"
Open, close, lock. Her answer. She fell into a pile on the floor and did not move.
"I'm sure it's a lot more than that," Fleur told her softly, and Hermione took in a shuddering breath, then another sip of coffee - it was too sweet now. She grimaced, then smiled shyly and pulled her hand away from Fleur's at the waitress's third return, this time with their plates of pie. It looked a few days old, the crust a dull brown instead of crisped to a perfect gold, and the apples were oozing lethargically from the cut sides. Hermione was going to ignore it altogether, but Fleur picked her fork daintily from the table and sank it into the flimsy morsel, depositing a small bite into her mouth. A half-smile appeared on her lips; it reminded Hermione of a smirking cat.
"Pas mal," the Frenchwoman declared, and burned her eyes into Hermione's until the brunette took her own bite, choking down the sugary sweetness through the thump in her throat. "Continue, please."
"I don't know if I can," Hermione whispered, a small whimper following. She was afraid of what had happened, afraid of the truth she'd been trying so hard to ignore. There was too much baggage in so few minutes; the night had shrunk so suddenly. How could she even begin to describe?
Fleur's hand found hers again. She blushed at the sudden contact, her body happy to be comforted, to be touched. Ginny hadn't touched her softly like this in some time; their relationship had been nothing but primitive: sex, fighting, sleep, in varying sequences, some repeated steps. She hated it. She liked this. Being with Fleur, it reminded her of what had once been.
"Memories are only as painful as you let them be," the blond told her in a low, husky tone. Hermione took this to heart and pulled in another breath.
Door opening. Curled up on the couch, a box of tissues, an old Muggle movie in black-and-white glory. She found some energy to lift her head at the sound of the lock moving, the creak of the door. She waited for Ginny's slurred/mumbled hello.
Two voices. Both female; one, Ginny's. Her breath caught in her throat, her stomach clenched and became an unsolvable knot. It had never come this far. It had never amounted to this.
She wanted the redhead to yell at her, scream at her, bait her into another fight, another frenzy of words meant to maim. But they didn't come. She moved out to the hallway. Ginny and a raven-haired woman were moving towards the bedroom.
Her bedroom. The bed she had shared with Ginny for two years; three in only five more months. They'd picked it out, bought it together. The sheets were blue and matched the color of Ginny's eyes. There were three pillows: two for Hermione, one for Ginny, but the redhead hardly used it. She preferred to let her head rest on the mattress.
"What are you doing with her?" she demanded, hated the desperate and fearful whine to her voice. She saw the raven-haired woman's eyes flicker uncertainly, from red to brown, from blue to hazel.
"It's none of your business," Ginny replied between clenched teeth, a strained but sharp voice.
Blood boiled in her veins. This wasn't right - this wasn't the way it was supposed to go. She wanted to scream. So she did. "Like hell it isn't! Do you think I'm stupid? Do you think I don't know what the fuck you're trying to pull here?" She was shaking - with rage, with fear, with the need for reassurance. She wanted so badly to be wrong, and ignored the little part of her that wanted just as badly to be right.
"Then maybe you shouldn't ask questions you already know the answers to," Ginny retorted in a low, dangerous voice.
"Maybe you shouldn't try so hard to fuck something up that doesn't need to be fucked up any more than it already is." In her head, she could see the daggers in her hands. In her head, she could see them slice into Ginny's flesh, and the lines of scarlet red that followed.
Her head was suddenly to the side. She could feel the burn of a handprint on her cheek, looked at Ginny in horror. Ginny's wrist twisted and opened the door of their bedroom. Hermione watched in anguish and rage at the hand now resting on the small of the raven-haired girl's back; the place Ginny always touched her. It had always made Hermione feel protected, safe, wanted. Seeing her touch someone else in the same manner made her want to vomit.
The girl went into the bedroom at Ginny's silent prompting. Blue eyes slid towards her and held a resigned sort of anger. "Just get out, Hermione."
The slamming of two doors: the bedroom and the front door, the lock catching on both.
Somehow when she had been talking the check had been brought and paid for. Fleur was still holding her hand. She was crying. She didn't even notice until the water droplet hit the ceramic plate.
"You've had a really rough night," Fleur told her - as if she needed reminding. She could see Fleur calculating something in her head, wheels turning slowly and deliberately to come to some reasonable decision - for what, Hermione had no idea, until Fleur spoke again. "I doubt you want to go back home right now, and you probably don't have anywhere to go to, so why don't you stay with me tonight?"
Reasonable, logical, generous. Hermione felt herself nodding before she had a chance to think. Yet something was ringing in her head, some kind of - it disappeared. She frowned, and they stood together.
There was more music on the way back to Fleur's residence - wherever that may be. Hermione watched houses and trees and city landscapes pass from her position down the straight highway, towards the main city. Her mind was clinging to a song that Fleur had played for her.
The end result of so many meetings
In late night diners with no one eating
We sit in corners and sip burnt coffee
Count the tiles upon the ceiling
Skip this pretense and cut straight to dying
Don't pick me to keep your eyes from crying
You said so much without even parting your lips
It's past 3 a.m. and I'm still far from sleep
This is a habit that I can't break
You're my only company
I'm skipping stones
Streetlights flicker like this match in my hand
Streetlights flicker like this match in my hand
Streetlights flicker like this match in my hand
Begging to strike, begging to strike
And I keep repeating, but this payphone tele stopped receiving
Flat out of change now, and I'm sure you won't accept the charges
It's all the same 'cause tomorrow I'll be halfway to Colorado
Or someplace like that
The car stopped, the engine and music died away. Without speaking, they emerged from the car and Fleur led her through a series of hallways, up an elevator and two flights of stairs, to an unmarked door.
The inside was elegant - all white and black and red. Sleek, modern, expensive. Hermione found herself sitting on a black leather couch with a glass of something toxic in her hands. The liquid was golden brown and smelled of alcohol.
"It'll take your mind off of things," Fleur had assured her with a gentle smile, as she sipped her own glass. "Don't be afraid, mon amie."
She touched the liquid to her lips and let it slip down her tongue. It burned the back of her throat, almost made her gag, but she downed the rest of it anyway. The burning felt good all at once. Without prompting, Fleur poured her another glass.
She hated the taste but loved the feeling. Her head was light and her body was heavy. Her tongue was loose and speaking in a language she had half-forgotten. There was laughter. It felt strange in her throat, like the alcohol. Burning, but a good sensation.
"Hermione," the Frenchwoman said huskily, calming Hermione down from her last fit of giggles. Fleur's French accent was thicker now, and the woman was half-speaking in her native tongue. "Je veux faire l'amour avec toi."
She didn't give Hermione's mind the chance to translate. The woman was there, straddling her on the sofa, mouth on hers, hands grasping her shoulders. Her mind was too foggy, too drunken and stupid. She wasn't herself; Hermione was screaming in the back of her head to stop, pulling at hair. This drunken girl was pulling at Fleur's clothes; this drunken girl's tongue was dancing with the Frenchwoman's, whose teeth were biting deliciously at her bottom lip.
"She doesn't deserve your love," the woman half-hissed in her ear, before nipping gently at the earlobe. The drunken girl moaned. Her shirt was pulled off; her pants were lying in a heap on the floor. Blond hair was cascading over her shoulder, a body was pressed into hers - pressing into hers. She gasped at fingers between her legs, pushing in, pulling out. A tongue raced across her body like lightning and dipped, playing and biting at fleshy nerve endings, making her body thrash, making her hips move off the leather couch, making her come. Between her thighs she felt a smile against her slick flesh.
She didn't remember returning the favor, but she remembered Fleur's quaking body over her, those pale blue eyes shut tight and her mouth wide open in a carnal cry of passion. Hermione quickly pulled her hand away, found it covered in come.
She was whispering, she was chanting. "No, no, no." This was all wrong. Hermione regained control of herself, though her mind was still vaguely moving her body. Her hands were pushing up at the bony woman on top of her, her ears refusing to hear Fleur's confused protests. She was standing. She was screaming. "No! No! No!"
Pants pulled up, zipped, buttoned, shoes slipped on and ties ignored. Her shirt, where the fuck was her shirt? She was crying again. This wasn't how it was supposed to be.
"Just get out, Hermione."
Hermione found her shirt, damp from her drunken betrayal, and pulled it on. Her jacket was soon to follow. She was at the door before she remembered she had been going there.
The door opened and Hermione was gone.
She vomited promptly when her feet hit concrete. Pie, burnt coffee, alcohol, hate, agony burned her throat and left a disgusting taste in her mouth. She spit until it was tolerable and kept walking. She just kept walking.
Cigarette in her mouth. Smoke filling her lungs; it was like a comforting disease. She wished it would kill her now, instead of this slow descent into unhealthiness. It was so late; the sky was turning lighter. The streetlights were flickering as it grew, confused, stuck between this dawn and the night before. Hermione felt hollow, husk of a woman, filled with smoke, filled with another woman's fingers. She inhaled again to quell the urge to vomit again.
A cab stopped and offered her a ride. She pulled out cash from her pocket and hopped in, watched the world begin to wake. She wished there were other cars on the road, so this cab driver of unrecognizable ethnicity could maybe hit them on her side, cause her to die.
"Do you think it hurts much to die?" she whispered, surprised at her own voice.
The man was surprised, too. "Uh, what did you say, miss?"
She shook her head, afraid of her question and afraid of the answer. She didn't know the answer to everything. She just didn't.
"Then maybe you shouldn't ask questions you already know the answers to."
Her apartment. She paid him, tipped him, and removed herself from the uncomfortable upholstery. A light was on in the kitchen. Her stomach lurched again, knotted and locked. She killed the cigarette with her heel.
You said so much without even parting your lips
It's past 3 a.m. and I'm still far from sleep
This is a habit that I can't break
You're my only company
I'm skipping stones down a south suburban street
She keeps on asking, "do you think it hurts much to die?
It's hurting so much more to stay alive now."
She's gonna find out how much it hurts to die
She laced her perfume up with death
Feel it in my lungs
So I'll pull in the deepest breath
And drop my head
"You were out late," Ginny commented as she walked through the door. The redhead was pouring coffee; she grabbed another mug.
"You told me to leave," Hermione replied. Her voice was dull. Her head was pounding already with hangover. "So I left."
"Why did you come back?"
"Why did you bring that girl home?"
A draw, and silence. They sipped their coffee in silence, Ginny leaning up against the counter, Hermione sitting at the kitchen table. This coffee was good. She and Ginny only bought the good, expensive stuff.
"I didn't sleep with her," Ginny said quietly, hours, days, or maybe only minutes later.
Hermione felt her body sinking somewhere out of sight. Her hand holding the handle was the only thing keeping her grounded. "What?"
Ginny was looking at her oddly, eyes dark. "I didn't sleep with her," she repeated flatly. "I thought I could, but I love you too much to do something like that."
"She doesn't deserve your love."
A pang of pain hit Hermione between the eyes. She winced and felt her stomach want to regurgitate the coffee, but she held it steady. She couldn't - no, it wasn't like this - it wasn't supposed to be like this.
"I slept with Fleur," she found herself whispering. She saw her reflection in the toaster. Her eyes were wide, face stark white and still streaked with the tears from the night. Her lips were still bruised and reddened from where Fleur had kissed her.
"What did you say?" Ginny's tone indicated that she had heard.
Tears, again. She hated herself, she hated herself, for crying, for cheating, for being so stupid, for drinking - regrets leaking from between her eyelashes. "I thought you were going to sleep with that girl," she replied, hoping for any way to redeem herself. "I thought you were -"
"But I didn't!" Ginny shouted, slamming her coffee mug down. "I didn't, and you slept with Fleur? What the - how the fuck did that happen?"
"She found me wandering around and picked me up." Shut the fuck up, Hermione, she pleaded with her mouth, but her tongue kept moving, lips forming the words of her demise. "Took me to a diner, then back to her apartment… She gave me something to drink, some alcohol I didn't recognize…"
"So you fucked her because you were drunk," Ginny ended flatly. "So you fucked her because you thought I was fucking someone else." The redhead snorted, retrieved her verbal razorblades from pockets and began the incisions. "I never slept with anyone - anyone but you. It's only just been you. It doesn't matter how many girls I've kissed, snogged, flirted with, because I never slept with them. I had the decency to draw the line somewhere."
"If it's only just been me, then why did you always have to leave me?" Hermione found and tossed the words out before they were processed. She found her daggers between her teeth and used them. "Your apologies ran out as soon as you started doing it every week, every day, what the hell else did you expect from me? Did you just expect me to not assume you were going to fuck some girl in our home, after dragging her out here, after swearing up and down that you'd never kiss another girl behind my back again, that you'd never do anything to fucking hurt me like that -"
"And you think it's automatically okay to cheat on me just because you think I'm cheating on you?" Ginny growled, eyes narrowed and teeth bared.
"And you think it's an automatic scott-free for you just because you didn't fuck the girl you intended on fucking in the first place?" Hermione was standing. The coffee spilled across the newspaper and stained it brown.
"Get the fuck out," Ginny said, voice low and dangerous. Her fists were balled at her sides. Ginny was much stronger than her.
"No." Hermione met Ginny's hardened eyes without flinching, mirrored the look until lightning struck between them. "You're the one who started this whole mess. You leave."
One, two, three, four, five, six heartbeats. "Fine."
So Ginny left.