Wow. I really can't believe this is the end. I'm so proud of this story; I love how it turned out. I put a lot of heart and soul into this story. A lot of me. Thanks for all the reviews. I've been writing like a maniac lately (if you didn't notice), so I'm sure I'll have something new for you all soon.
You don't do it on purpose
But you make me shake
Now I count the hours 'til you wake
With your baby's breath,
Come on, sweet catastrophe
Well, maybe this time I can follow through
I can feel complete
Stop paying dues
Stop my rain from falling
Keep my oceans calm
This time I know nothing's wrong
- SoCo, Hurricane
The Wrong Shade of Red; Part Five
I wake the next morning to a warm body curled against mine and locks of auburn spread across an unfamiliar pillow. I smile sleepily to myself, at Ginny Weasley's sleeping form, and the fact that it wasn't all a dream in my head. Our nakedness and the fact that I'm even here says it all.
I feel a shiver run down my back and realize that I'm uncovered. I glance over at Ginny and see that the bed sheets are wrapped around her like a cocoon. I scoff a little, but can't help but smile again: some things never change. I start tugging at the blankets, murmuring at her gently to get her to give them up. After a few more tugs, she grumbles something back at me and complies, the bed sheet still warm from her body heat.
I find myself examining her face, as I always used to do. Her freckles have, perhaps, lessened in numbers over the years, but there's still a light sprinkling of dots across the bridge of her nose and under her eyes. A lock of her hair is hooked on the other side of her nose, curling outwards; it's so adorable I can't help but start laughing.
"Why are you laughing at me?" she whines sleepily, yawning before the last syllable has left her mouth. She moves her hand to wipe the sleep from her eyes, and I catch a hint of silver on her hand. A ring?
"Because you're too adorable for your own good," I tease her gently, nuzzling our noses together. "Good morning."
She smiles at me, her eyes bright and sincere. "Good morning, Hermione."
Oh, her eyes – they always catch me. I'm mesmerized by them, the clear blue-grey with a hint of green around the pupil; the same color they always were when we were together and laying like this, happy and oblivious of anything wrong in the world. In them, I could see the ocean, the stars, our first kiss, our last kiss. Everything worth knowing, everything worth seeing, was encompassed within them.
"What?" she asks, uncomfortable and blushing.
I grin. "Your eyes," I tell her softly, "are absolutely gorgeous."
Her blush deepens and she covers her hands with her face, but she's sure to poke her eyes out from between her fingers. Her embarrassment is real but she loves the attention I give her; it's a contradictory nature that we both share and revel in.
But now my eyes aren't seeing the blue, but the silver on her left hand. I focus in and feel something sink in my stomach. A… claddagh ring, heart facing towards her, taunts me in its perfectly detailed silver.
"I have to go," I hear myself say, the perfection of this world I had created crashing down around me at super speeds. All my stupid ideals destroyed by the glance of an eye.
I start to lift myself off the bed, but resistance keeps me grounded. Her hand is on my wrist, encircling it, keeping me down with her. I stare at her with a fearful, hurt look in my eye; she stares back in confusion.
"What are you talking about?" she asks, hurt and confused.
"You…" I can't even say it. I finger the guilty ring with my free hand.
She bites her bottom lip and looks away, eyes glistening. Is she crying? "Right," she whispers with bitterness and pain in her voice. "That."
"What is that, Ginny?" I demand, perhaps harsher than I should. "Were you even going to tell me?" I start to move again, but again, I am held down.
"Don't leave, Hermione." I look down at her. Yes, she is crying. I feel my own tears stinging my eyes. "Please, don't leave me again. It's not…" She sighs. "It's not like that. And yes, I was going to tell you."
"Do you love her?" I blurt, the words burning the back of my throat like bile.
But I am saved; Ginny scoffs immediately and shakes her head. "Of course not," she replies, as if the idea is ridiculous. "I love you. Didn't you hear me last night? It's always been you. I don't want to be with anyone else."
I feel a blush and a smile on my face before I can help it. I collapse back onto her body and bury my neck in my face, tears still spilling from my eyelashes. "I love you, too," I mumble into her soft skin. Those words are liberating. Somehow, this is going to work.
"Do you mean that?" Ginny's breath tickles my ear.
I nod. "When is your… When is she coming home?"
"At noon." I glance at the clock on the night stand: 10:16.
"I should go, then," I say reluctantly.
I move my head so I can look her in the eyes again. They look sad, but knowing. A confrontation would not go well. We know this. We've lived this, or something like it.
"I'll stop by your flat later," she tells me.
I smile. "I would like that." I kiss her again, softly, though somehow, it quickly becomes heated. All of a sudden, we're scrambling for each other, hands everywhere, grabbing hair and breasts, legs intertwined and hips moving, emitting gasps… My head becomes clouded as the moment takes control, all thought of leaving pushed aside.
The sound of a door closing catches both of our attentions. We pause and look at each other, then the bedroom door.
"Did you hear that?" I whisper to her. She nods, once, an uncertain expression on her face.
"Apparate out of here."
"I don't have any clothes on!" I protest. "There's not enough time—"
The bedroom door opens. Ginny quickly pulls the sheets over both of our heads, pushing her body hard against mine. I want to tell her that it won't do any good; it's very obvious there are two bodies in the bed - their bed – but a woman's voice interrupts me.
"What the fuck, Ginny?"
Ginny sticks her head out from under the sheets. "Look, this is easily explainable," she says slowly and loudly, trying to keep her voice calm.
"Like hell it is. Who the fuck is she?"
I hear something breaking; Ginny doesn't reply for a few moments. "Listen, Kate, can you just wait two minutes for us to get dressed?"
"That's fucking ridiculous, Ginny, and you know it."
"Please, Kate," Ginny pleads.
I'm trying to keep myself from freaking out. I want to Apparate away, clothes be damned. Harry and Draco have both seen me naked before. Besides, they might've expected this. "Is she a Muggle?" I whisper.
Ginny glances at me. "Yeah."
"So it would be a bad idea for me to Apparate."
"I'll meet you in the living room, I guess," Kate snarls, and I hear the bedroom door slam shut again.
I allow myself to relax a little. Ginny runs her hands over her face and sighs, loudly. "I'm really sorry, Ginny," I mumble, guilt washing over me like cold water.
"No, it's fine," she replies. I give her an odd look. "No, really." She grins at me. "This is… This is what should happen, right? We need to be together, Hermione. Everything's going to be okay." We kiss again, though manage to keep it tame. "I love you, Hermione Granger, and no one else in the whole world is going to change that."
Tears sting my eyes again; her sentiments have always gotten to me. "I love you, too," I echo softly, before following her lead off the bed to get dressed.
Ginny holds my hand as we leave the safety of the bedroom, to the confrontation waiting for us in the living room. Kate is waiting for us, sitting on an arm chair with her legs and arms crossed, a small suitcase sitting on the floor next to her feet. I swallow; I have a feeling this is going to go badly.
"So, uh, I guess you've sort of already met," Ginny fills the silence awkwardly. "Kate, Hermione."
"Is that your real name, or your street name?" Kate spits at me.
I look at her in shock. "Excuse me?" I say indignantly.
"Kate, chill the fuck out –"
"I find you in bed with some whore and you tell me to chill the fuck out?" Kate shrieks.
I'm shaking with anger; being insinuated that I'm just some whore, lacking substance and importance, by some woman I've never met, is making my blood boil in rage.
And yet… Wouldn't I have done the same thing?
I try to tell myself it's different. But it's really not.
Ginny's talking; she's dropped my hand. Kate's standing and screaming at the top of her lungs, flailing her arms, spitting insults like a cat. Ginny's grabbing at her arms, trying to get her to sit down, screaming back, defending me.
And here I stand, wondering of the fairness of this situation.
"You ruined my life!" Kate screams at me, straining against Ginny's weight to come at me. "Ginny loved me, and you fucking ruined everything!"
"If Ginny really loved you, do you really think she'd go to bed with someone else?" I scream back before I realize what's happening. "Ginny doesn't do that to the people that she loves, no matter how bad the situation is. She doesn't hurt the people she loves like that."
Kate goes quiet and stops struggling. I feel the silence in the air like a heavy fog, suffocating my lungs. Ginny's staring at me with three years ago reflecting in her eyes. Kate's staring at me with the shock of now slapping her in the face.
"She doesn't love you," I say, softly but matter-of-factly. "Don't you understand? It's never been you. It's always been me."
She doesn't protest or raise her voice again. She doesn't say anything at all, but sinks back into her arm chair, my words sinking in with her. After a few long minutes of silence, she speaks. "I think you should leave now, Hermione," she says slowly, without looking up from her hands.
"Indeed, I should," I agree, and look at Ginny. Ginny nods, gestures to the front door. I smile softly at her; she returns it half-way, then mouths 'I'll come by later' before my back turns, and I exit.
Hermione sat in the mirror trying to fix her hair. The strands of cinnamon brunette twisted around her hands, becoming tangled and even more unmanageable, and every time the girl thought she had finally won and achieved the hairstyle she wanted, the locks would fall back limply around her shoulders.
"Having problems?" asked a redhead, face and body half-on, half-off the glass. Half her mouth was amused and smirking.
"I can't get it to do anything," Hermione grumbled in complaint to her, attempting again with more fervor to get it to submit to her will. "No matter how much product…"
Ginny moved and came up behind her, her hand snaking around to run softly down her body, resting on her hips. Hermione stopped breathing and watched their bodies, pressed together, in the mirror.
"You don't need anything like that," Ginny whispered in her ear, watching them as well. "You're beautiful, Hermione. Besides, if you put stuff in your hair, how am I supposed to run my hands through it while we're making love?"
Hermione blushed, but didn't want to rise to the bait that easily. "Who says you're going to get any tonight?" she asked, one eyebrow cocked.
But Ginny just grinned and nipped at her neck, her ear, making the brunette gasp softly. "I do," she said. "And I know you want me, too. Because we were made for each other."
They kissed their way back into the bedroom, and didn't make it to their movie date that night.
I fuss with my hair in the mirror but finally give up, letting it hang in its curly, wavy glory to gently brush my shoulders. I'm waiting for her to come to me, a lost lover on the casement or on the seashore, looking for a horse or a ship or some telltale sign of her. Fortunately, all my tragedies have already happened, so there's little chance I'll end up with a gun to my chest or a knife to my wrist within the next hour. But I can feel the frustration and impatience flowing through my veins like adrenaline and alcohol, worry making me snippety and unwilling to converse with my fellow roommates.
But I exit my bedroom anyway and return to the living room, to restlessly flop onto the couch and turn on the television. Commercial after commercial greets me, American shows with bad actors and wicked grins, French shows with strange humor and no real plots (since that night with Fleur, my opinion of the French has gone down considerably).
"This is so ridiculous!" I snarl, tossing the remote down and stomping to the kitchen. "It shouldn't be taking this long!"
"Well, if you think about it, they were living together," Harry reminds me, as he hands me a cup of tea. I take the stuff gratefully and start sipping it; anything to do with my mouth and hands. "I'm sure they'll now have to negotiate furniture and other things."
"Ginny just sold the apartment," I say sulkily, but grudgingly nod my head. "I guess. But it's almost two o'clock. I left four hours ago. How long could it take? Unless…" I can't finish that thought past the cold feeling in my stomach. She wouldn't – would she?
"Give Ginny more credit," Harry warns me. "She obviously sacrificed a great deal to even see you to begin with, to get this all figured out. And I know that she's missed you. She wouldn't be foolish enough to let you slip through her fingers again."
I shrug a little. I know he's right, but insecurity has always plagued me.
"Damn straight I wouldn't," I hear a voice behind me, and nearly melt with relief. I turn to see the redhead of my dreams standing in the living room, three duffel bags over her shoulders.
"I let her in," Draco says proudly from behind her.
I grin and put down my tea cup to throw my arms around her, kissing every inch of skin I can get a hold of. She laughs and returns the greeting threefold, making me laugh and blush. I haven't felt this lighthearted in years. She's the only person who's ever been able to do this to me.
Draco and Harry took the duffel bags from her and put them in my bedroom. With the two men gone, a rush of self-consciousness swells over me like an ocean wave, and I'm caught soaking in the presence of a goddess, white t-shirt, no bra. Another thing the redhead excels at: making me nervous.
"We're going to cook dinner," Harry calls to us on his way to the kitchen, Draco trailing behind him like a blonde puppy. I see him wink at us mischievously before raising his hand to smack Harry's ass.
"Draco!" we hear Harry yelp as I lead Ginny into my – our? – bedroom, and laughter slams into the door as I shut the door gently.
"Sorry about them," I mumble, casting my eyes to the floor. Why am I so afraid?
Ginny shrugs. I see it out of the corner of my eye. "I'm just not quite used to them being together, y'know?"
I nod, half-grinning. "Yeah, try living with them," I joke.
We go quiet for a few minutes. Finally, Ginny says, meekly, "I thought… that's what I was going to do."
I swallow a little and look up at her through my eyelashes. A blush is rising on my cheeks. "Yes," I reply softly. "You are."
"I mean, I really don't have anywhere else to go," she continues. "I sold our apartment, as you might've guessed, and all of our furniture… All my clothes are here now." She gestures down to the duffel bags. "I just have to go back soon to get the rest of my stuff from Kate's place."
"How did she take… everything?" I ask, out of curiosity.
Ginny sighs. "Better than she did initially, but it still wasn't good," she admits. "There was a lot of explaining that she still didn't understand and a lot of yelling and more explaining… In the end, I think all she got was a vague picture of you and me having a relationship that wasn't crap like hers and mine was. I just feel bad for her, I guess."
"That you didn't love her like you should've?"
"That I didn't love her at all."
Silence falls again. We're not even touching. I don't know what to do.
I breathe in deep and try to speak. "Are you sure you want to do this again?" I muster the courage to look her in the face, voice frank and questioning. I want to know. I need to know.
Ginny's mouth twitches on one side, up to that infamous half-smile. "Hermione, I would be sure even if we had broken up a thousand times. I'm never going to give up on us."
Her voice, in all its sincerity, makes my eyes sting and my throat constrict. Yes, this is what we both want, isn't it? I feel her pulling me into her arms as the tears begin to fall; somehow, we manage to be lying on the bed, bodies curled into each other comfortably.
"Obviously, we won't really be able to pick up where we left off," I murmur into her neck, just enjoying the feeling of our warmth melting into each other's bodies.
She nods. "No, but… It'll still be nice. We'll just see how everything goes."
I smile and pull away a little, to look at her. "Yeah, we will."
She kisses me and I run my hands through her hair. We smile at each other. The simplicity, the perfection, it's creating something like happiness in me. No, it is happiness. I'd just forgotten what it all felt like.
"So, what's this I heard about a pixie girl and clubbing?" she asks point-blank.
I blush and sit on top of her, fingers still playing with her hair. "Who told you?" I demand, red rushing to my face.
"So it's true?" She cocks an eyebrow teasingly.
"I – I was drunk!" I sputter. She starts laughing.
"Hermione, I'm not mad," she says, reaching up to touch my face. "If I were mad, I wouldn't have brought it up. I'm glad that you got some nice action while I was gone."
"It wasn't that good," I mumble.
She shrugs. "And I heard you were in a relationship not too long ago…"
"Yeah." I blink when I realize how little time has passed since Hannah and I broke it off. "About a week ago, actually."
I smile a little. "It was nothing; along the lines of Harry's ex," I explain. "Her name was Hannah. She was a real bitch. She was a redhead."
Ginny's curiosity is peaked by this. "A redhead?"
I shake my head a little. "It didn't work out."
"How come?" Her fingers trace my lips. I shiver from the contact.
"It was the wrong shade," I answer honestly.
Her smile is slow in coming, but it blossoms like a beautiful flower and calls butterflies in my stomach. They flutter throughout my body, tickling my heart, and I kiss her again.
"I love you, Hermione," she whispers into my lips.
I smile into her. "I love you, too, Ginny."
"I think it'll be nice to get to know you again," she says, playful now, her hands trailing featherlike over my stomach and sides. "And I'm really glad you finally gained some weight. You're beginning to look more like you did when we were at school."
I shrug a little self-consciously. "Living with Harry was good for me, I think," I reply, mostly thinking out loud. "He's a boy, so he doesn't buy into female drama and body issues and the like… He pretty much crammed food down my throat at every possible moment."
"I'm glad you listened to him, at least." Her eyes glance over to the clock on the nightstand and she sighs a little. "I should go pick up the rest of my stuff while Kate's at work," she tells me reluctantly.
We pull ourselves off the bed, untangling our limbs as we go. I feel fear returning to me like a bad disease that makes me weak in the knees and stung in the eyes. I don't want her to leave again. What if's attacking my brain like a bad record playing over and over again.
"You're coming back, right?" I ask anxiously. I pick at the hem of my top.
Ginny half-laughs and pulls me into an embrace, forehead to forehead. "Of course I'm coming back. I'll see you in an hour."
Her words calm me. I know she's coming back.
We kiss again and she waves goodbye to the boys as she Apparates, her body disappearing with a pop. I go to the kitchen to help the boys finish dinner, dreaming of a life I'll have with a certain redheaded goddess.
It's crazy how much can happen in a week. Lives change, twist, turn to take new meaning, a new direction, or back to an old path that one had disregarded. Ginny lives with Harry, Draco, and I and life is how it should be. It's not perfect. It's not always extraordinary. And yet I've felt a peace of mind and heart I haven't felt in years. I laugh and smile. I feel alive again. That certain shade of red, that color of passion and love, is back in my life and painting the world around me. It's always been my favorite color. She'll always be the one for me. No matter how many lives I may live, no matter how many times we might quit, our hearts will never be the same without each other. That, in itself, is extraordinary. I never want it to be any other way.