This is a story that has been sitting around for about a month and a half. I wrote some of it, really liked it, stopped, started again, and on and on. I reread it again a few days ago and really liked it. I consider it a pseudo-sequel to "Partir," though this story actually came first. It's very dark and melancholy, like "Partir," and is in Hermione's perspective. I hope you enjoy it.
DISCLAIMER: All characters, sans Hannah, are property of J.K. Rowling and her many corporate affiliates. They have been borrowed for entertainment purposes, and this story is not gaining unsolicited profit in any way, shape, or form.
WARNINGS: self-mutilation, emo lyrics.
Well, as for now I'm gonna hear the saddest songs
And sit alone and wonder how you're making out
And as for me, I wish that I was anywhere
With anyone, making out
Your hair, it's everywhere
Screaming infidelities are taking its wear
- Dashboard Confessional, Screaming Infidelities
The Wrong Shade of Red; Part One
I never much cared for redheads until she came into my life. And then when she left again - or I left - or we both left each other - I've never been able to date another. Though, my last girlfriend was a redhead, too. She left me just last week. She told me I wasn't giving her enough love, and she slammed the apartment door in my face. The truth is, I was giving her all that I had, or at least trying to. Everything else in me belonged to a redhead I haven't seen in three years.
Well, that's a lie. I have seen her. The Weasley's still invite Harry and I to the Burrow for holidays and random cups of tea. My parents haven't spoken to me since my sixth year at Hogwarts - when news of my "affliction" came to their attention - and it's lonely when it's just Harry and me in the house. Oh, and Draco, now. He moved in last week, two days after Hannah broke it off. We only dated for a month, anyway; I knew it wasn't going to work from the very beginning.
I'm not sure where this is all going, by the way. I'm not sure what's going on in my head, or why I'm feeling the way that I do. My brain keeps on jumping around. I haven't been able to focus for weeks. I guess I could start at the beginning, but that's going too far back. I'll just go back to last week. I've certainly talked about it enough. We'll see what happens from there.
Another unsuccessful game of foreplay, another round of unfulfilling sex. I roll away from Hannah to the other side, leaning over the edge to grab my clothes. I can tell she's looking at me, those narrow hazel eyes loathing me. The sex has never been good, but it's never been this bad. It was my mistake, my slip of the tongue. She'd finally managed to hit the right spot and I'd said the wrong name. A name I haven't said in years.
"Who's Ginny?" she asks me, and I freeze as I'm buttoning my shirt. I don't answer. I can't answer. Not right now, not when my heart is still squeezing painfully in my chest.
Hannah moves closer to me. Her body's too skinny, too emaciated. Her hips dig into mine when she's on top of me. It's not warm enough, either. It's not filled with the fire I've always associated with redheads.
"Hermione," she coaxes, "tell me."
But I can't. I don't even feel that I owe it to her. If I loved her, maybe I could curl back into her embrace and let slip out what I haven't told anyone but Harry. But I don't, even though I say I do. Another deposit to the guilt bank. Another reason why I make myself sick.
"I have to go," I say instead. I finish dressing, pulling up my loose jeans - they used to be Harry's - and slipping into my shoes and I'm striding away from her. She snorts from the bed, in disgust, in anger, but I don't stop this time.
"You're always leaving when something uncomfortable is brought up," she hisses. "I don't know why I'm even with you."
But I don't stop. Her words don't even hurt me. What's really hurting is the reopening of a wound, and I'm crying. I need to get out of her apartment. I can't find my keys - there, there they are, on the counter where I left them. Where our half-full glasses of champagne rest. I gulp the rest of mine down, the burning making me gag, and I Apparate to the safety of the couch in my apartment.
There's moaning coming from Harry's room; I swear under my breath. I forgot; he wanted me out tonight. A hot date. I remember. He was asking my opinion all afternoon of what to wear. From the sounds coming from the bedroom, I can tell that his tight black jeans and loose indigo button-up shirt did the trick.
I watch Muggle T.V. on low volume and let the pictures make me forget Hannah, her too-skinny body, and the red hair that doesn't belong to her at all. It wasn't the right shade, either. It was too simple, too red. Not enough auburn. Not enough gold. It was as if the painter had poured all of his love into her hair, and not enough into Hannah's.
The other redhead starts creeping into my brain again, but I've become good and shutting it off. Maybe the horrors of the war did that to me. Maybe the only good thing that came out of that, besides the final victory. Everything else was death and pain.
I doze; I wake up to sounds in the kitchen. I twist my neck around and peek over the back of the couch to see a messier-than-usual head of black hair rummaging for food, humming to himself. He looks up and we lock eyes; I cock an eyebrow, and he blushes.
"The bed's getting cold," comes a strangely familiar drawling whine. Harry's blush deepens. I look over to the bedroom just in time to see none other than Draco Malfoy emerge from the dark doorway, stark naked and - quite aroused.
"Hermione," Harry says slowly as I try to keep a straight face, "you remember Draco."
I can't help it; I start laughing. I've been holding in too much emotion for too long, and it just bursts out of me in that hysterical laughter until tears are pouring out of my eyes. I'm not one to do that. Harry's just staring at me, that blush taking over his face like a rash, and Draco just stands there nonchalantly, like this is the most normal thing in the world.
"Looks like you grew up," I say finally to Draco, who grins.
"Looks like you did, too," he replies, a playful challenge. "Glad you finally tamed your hair."
"Glad you finally stopped being an asshole," I shoot back, and we smile at each other. I glance over at Harry, grinning. "I'll let you children get back to business, then," I tell him. Draco walks over and wraps an arm around Harry's waist, starts steering the utterly embarrassed green-eyed boy back to the bedroom. The snake that turned into a dragon winks at me before shutting the door.
"'Mione, we need to talk." That's all she says into the phone of the apartment building's lobby. I roll my eyes. She's pretending that this is some dramatic scene when we both knew it was coming. Or maybe I'm just fooling myself into thinking it never was going to work just because I didn't want it to.
But I don't say that; I agree and buzz her up, telling the boys in Harry's bedroom to keep quiet or I'll ground them. Giggling ensues, and then I hear the mumble of a Silencing Spell and a slight wave of magic wash over me - like cold silk. The next sound I hear is Hannah's impatient knock at the door.
"Good morning, Hannah," I greet her politely when I let her inside. "Would you like some coffee?" I have a pot waiting to be consumed. I've already had two cups; I'm addicted.
She shakes her head and we sit down - me on the couch, last night's haven and bed, much to my neck's dismay - and her on the black leather chair Harry insisted on getting last year as a "Christmas present to our apartment." She looks nice. It took effort to even comb my hair, much less take a shower, and I'm still in what I was wearing yesterday. If that doesn't say anything about how I feel about our relationship, I don't know what does.
But she expects words anyway, and she's straight to the jugular. "Yesterday was awkward," Hannah says, "but I'd like to give you a chance to explain what happened. I know things haven't been going well between us, but I… I want to work on that. I want to learn who you are, Hermione. You've never let me." She's twisting her finger in that wrong-shade-of-red hair of hers. Her condescending manner and that fucking hair is making me feel uncomfortable, but I don't say anything. She's waiting for me to. We stare each other down like two lionesses after the same kill. Then she asks, "Who's Ginny?"
I don't notice that I stopped breathing until I choke on my held breath. A flood of memories breaks down the block in my head, the one I bury secrets behind. I'm looking straight at Hannah, but all I can see is her fiery red hair catching the sunlight, the crinkle of her eyes when she smiles. It's not Hannah - it's Ginny. But then I blink, god damn eyes, and it's just Hannah again.
"Hermione, what's wrong?" Hannah looks genuinely distressed. Probably because I'm crying. I can feel it, the bounds of my sanity breaking loose, and this woman that I don't love wondering if I'm okay. I can't take it. I lash out.
"Hannah, what ever made you think that you deserve to know anything about me?" I ask her scathingly, and she sits back, a sour expression on her face. "Things aren't working out, and they weren't working out from the beginning, so why don't you just give up? We're from too different worlds -" I can't help but take a moment to acknowledge the irony, though she's lost on it - "and there's no way they can come together. You're not the person I'm looking for, and I'm not the person you're looking for, so let's just leave it at that and get on with it."
She stands and walks to the door. I follow her, so I can lock the door behind her - nervous habit of mine, but Harry doesn't mind. He does the same thing. She's not speaking, but I can feel the iciness encrusting her.
The door opens and she turns to face me, burning rage behind her eyes. I stare back, unafraid. After all, I've seen worse things in my life.
"You're a fucking bitch, Hermione Granger," she spits at me. "I don't know why I ever bothered my time with you."
And then she slams the door in my face.
I thrust the lock home and leap onto the couch, tears of rage and pain and hate and bitterness burning my cheeks. I'm sobbing noisily, like a child, and I can't stop. I'm crying because I haven't been able to love anyone since that first redhead named Ginny and I'm crying because it's not Hannah's fault her hair isn't the right shade of red or that she's not Ginny or that I'm too fucked up to be in a relationship at all. I'm crying because this is the fifth time this year that I've done this to myself, and the results are always the same.
I thought I would be alone to wallow in my misery, but I hear a door open and two sets of footsteps treading across the carpeting, and I'm being held on both sides by two sets of arms. I didn't realize I needed it until it came. I guess that's the way most things happen.
"I need to stop doing this to myself," I think aloud. Their arms just wrap around me tighter.
My hands are shaking as I pick up the broken glass. I'm careful not to slice open my hands on any of the edges. I'm naked, in my bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror. My face is unreadable, completely stoic. Nothing there. Emptiness. Empty green eyes. Too dark, maybe, around the edges. I don't sleep well and haven't for years.
I close my eyes and turn my head away, towards my leg propped up on the toilet seat. The scars of a thousand wounds are littered like an ashen battlefield across my skin. Some self-inflicted, some not. Some years old, others only months, weeks. I stopped hurting myself just before the first time Hannah and I had sex. She was too emotionally stable to understand that kind of pain.
"So this is now," I say to myself, and pull my skin taut with my free hand. There's the hanging-by-a-thread rush of adrenaline - the first signs of life in my veins. The first cut is always the hardest, because it's like the first time all over again. I'm not sure how deep to go, I'm not sure how far to take it. I still feel it, after all those years.
Finally, I eye a place that I've mangled before. The scars are fading, but still pink. I run a finger across one of them, before unceremoniously dragging the sharp end of my favorite tool across my skin.
There's nothing, at first. Just broken skin.
There - a thin line of red. Like a painter brushing delicately across white canvas. It's not quite the right shade, though; it's too bright, too glimmering. But it doesn't stop - it grows, it beads, it swells. Pain courses through my leg and I shudder. I look back up at the mirror, but there's still that empty girl staring back at me. I turn away just as swiftly and cut myself again, and again, and again, feeling the pain and just the flicker of something pounding into my head. I go blind. Blood roars in my ears. Was that someone calling me?
"Hermione!" Harry shouts through the door, and in my surprise, I drop the glass. It breaks on the floor, and I swear. "You okay?"
"Yeah," I reply, bending over shakily to pick up the glass and toss it in the garbage. "Just about to take a shower."
"When you come out, I have to talk to you," he tells me, then leaves. I don't dwell on it.
I look at my reflection a third time and sigh with relief. Hermione Granger, twenty years old, stares back at me with the pain of four years reflecting in those deep chocolate eyes. I smile. She smiles, too, and a tear slips down her cheek.
There are twenty cuts on my upper thigh, making up a box shape. They're bleeding into each other, making them all burn. I like it. I revel in it. If I didn't, I wouldn't do it.
I shower, hot water washing away the blood. I shampoo my hair, scrub my body raw, and come out a dripping wet and brand new woman. I towel off, patch up my cuts with large bandages in the drawer, wrap my dampened towel around my body, and return to the world anew.
It's rather poetic how Harry is sitting at the kitchen table, calmly and dressed for the day, drinking some tea out of a mug Ginny made for him. The memory of that moment at Christmas stings. She'd smiled at Harry, handed him the present - and gave me this fleeting, unreadable look. I shake myself out of it and sigh, plopping down in the chair across from my raven-haired roommate and try to focus on the poetry within his hands against the burgundy-glazed mug.
"What did you want to talk about?" I ask.
He raises his eyebrows at my lack of attire, but speaks anyway. "Well, it's about… I mean…" He takes a deep breath. I can see a blush rising on his cheeks - something's got my poor little Harry all wrapped up in knots. I almost giggle. "Draco and I have actually been seeing each other for a few months now," he blurts finally. It's my turn to raise my eyebrows. "But I didn't tell you because I was afraid of your reaction. I was going to tell you, I swear," he adds before I can protest at the injustice, "because, well…" He grins and his eyes light up. He's acting like a little schoolgirl; I find it endearing. "I love him, 'Mione. He loves me. And we've been talking, and… I was wondering if it would be all right if he moved in."
My brain goes into shock, so I just say the first thing that pops into my head - a bad habit. "Draco's a member of one of the wealthiest families in the Wizarding world and he's moving in with us?" I laugh at Harry's confused look. "Sorry - I didn't mean that, honest." I look around our apartment. It's made up of a moderately small living room, equipped with a relatively new television set sitting on a neat little stand, movies of all sorts shoved into the small compartment at the bottom; a comfy and well-worn blue sofa; a black leather chair (again, Harry's idea); a coffee table, covered in magazines, books, and random candles; and a bookshelf against the wall, filled with more books and movies. There's no separation between the living room and the kitchen, besides the counter, and it's hard enough to have two people bumbling around in here at once - what would three be like? Our table's big enough to seat four, and we keep it clean. Down the hallway, my bedroom, with an adjoining bathroom - off to the right, Harry's bedroom, with his bathroom across the hall. It's quaint. It's tiny. It's home. Could it be someone else's home, too?
Draco Malfoy… He'd been a double-teammate for the war, but he was just keeping up appearances to the thankfully dead Voldemort while he was smuggling us vital information. I'm sure he and Harry had a tryst or two back then, but I'm sure neither would admit to that now. During the war, I didn't come into contact with the dragon; I just knew he was there, perhaps behind a corner, following me to make sure I was going to survive. Or, at least, the messengers who sent me commands. I was commander of a team of witches and wizards that infiltrated areas of special interest to the Death Eaters and found out why. We also researched ancient weapons and spells that could be used against them. I was the one who found out where the final battle would be fought, and I was present to see The End. I watched Voldemort die.
I pull myself out of the wartime before it can consume me, and think back to the matter at hand. Could I live with that bastardly snake, the boy who had tormented me during our years at school? He seems like he's better. Harry trusts him, and Harry had to deal with a lot more while we were in school. It would certainly make life interesting, having the conniving blonde boy around.
I shrug, finally, I'm sure much to Harry's relief, and say, "I think I'd be okay with that. I'm just glad you found someone to make you happy."
Harry beams and practically leaps over the table to give me a hug. He's practically on top of me; my towel slides up my legs and exposes the wounds on my left thigh. His body is pressing into them; I wince, and he pulls away, giving me a concerned look.
"Hermione, are you okay?" he asks, and then he notices the bandages and the hint of blood seeping through. I don't bother trying to cover them up. He knows me a lot better than that. "You haven't done that for a while," he comments, after a few moments of complete silence. "So that's what you were doing in the bathroom."
"You know what they say about old habits…" I trail off weakly, give him the ghost of a smile.
He reaches over and hugs me again, careful now of my thigh. "It doesn't have to be like that, you know," he whispers into my ear.
I shake my head a little. I'm holding onto him more tightly than I should, but I don't think he minds. "I don't know how else it's supposed to be."
He sighs into my hair. His disappointment makes me feel even worse about who I am, what I'm doing with myself. I'm one of the most respected witches in England. I teach Transfiguration part-time at Hogwarts and have a nice job with the Ministry, working as a liaison and representative to other magical administrations in Europe, as well as the magical creatures that inhabit them. I barter, I compromise, I debate, I teach, I smile so sickeningly business-like and easily that I can feel the sugary fakeness oozing over my skin, a thick layering of confectionary armor. No one but Harry knows about the cutting. No one but Harry knows about the nightmares, the anguish, the unyielding pain. My broken heart peeked out at him and spoke in muttered sentences and half-sobs about a tragic love story, and he's the only one who knows.
Well. The only one who… wasn't involved, at least.
I look fleetingly at Harry's coffee mug and can't help but imagine her hands cradling the clay (raku was her favorite to work with), molding the uncertain form into this beautiful, perfect shape - carefully, coaxing it like a lovers' first time making love. I can't help but remember that that's the way she used to touch me, and that's exactly how she would make me feel: beautiful, perfect, yielding willingly to the master potter's hands.
"I wish it hadn't…" I say softly, letting my sentence drag undecidedly through silence, my lips still poised to finish. I twist my mouth into a frown and shake my head, and before Harry can say anything in askance to my sudden secretiveness, I stand. "I'm going to go get dressed. Why don't you owl Draco and tell him the good news?" I don't wait for his reply, but as I slowly shut my bedroom door, I can hear the telltale sounds of a quill scratching against paper.