Image of You
I can see her. So close.
God this is torture. Mind numbing torture.
Her hair flowing down her bare back.
His body close to hers.
Her eyes sparkling with happiness.
His chin nuzzled into her shoulder.
Their hands lazily playing with each others.
Christ, why did I agree to this stupid dinner? Engagement dinner to be precise. Their engagement of course; like fate would be merciful enough not to let that be the case.
I feel my eyes dull and gloss over as I go on external auto pilot. Nodding, smiling, laughing at the appropriate moments.
Pretend to be fascinated by their anecdotes of love and hilarity. Pretend to be touched when she describes how he proposed. Pretend to be happy for them. Pretend to care. Pretend not to die inside.
Block it all out. The feelings. The desire, the love, the hate, the need, the complete system meltdown whenever I smell her perfume. Block it all out and pretend to be normal. Pretend I don't want to reach out and touch her. Graze her arm softly and have her smile at me. Slide my hands around her waist and gently pulls her close. Inhale her scent. Inhale her until I go giddy and weak at the knees. Inhale her til I can't stand it any longer and kiss her. Softly, gently, carefully, tenderly. Stroke her hair and face to comfort her. Kiss her earlobe to excite her. Slide down her dress to tease her and--
"You alright?" Harry hisses into my ear. He gives me a dig to my ribs which snatches me out of the jaws of ecstasy within my fantasy. "Where have you gone?"
Nowhere I want anyone to follow.
"Nowhere. I'm right here," I whisper back, careful not to attract their attention. My darling brother is now regaling the group with the story of their first kiss.
Give me focus. Give me patience. Give me a stronger stomach, and a weaker heart.
"You just don't seem yourself."
I don't dignify this with a reply. How would the man I've woken up to every morning for the past 3 years know how "myself" I am?
Now they turn to us; Harry and I, the seemingly happy couple. The Boy Who Lived and the youngest of the Weasley clan. And we are; besides the fact I'm deliriously in love with someone.
Yes, delirious is a good word to describe it. Delirious from the pain of unrequited love. Making my head dizzy like a cigarette high.
Which makes me crave a hit. Right now.
"So Gin--" Ron starts, before I stand up, smiling and waving a hand.
"Sorry, bathroom. Back soon," I lie. Smoothing myself down as I pass faceless restaurant patrons, I exhale deeply. It's like I'd been holding that in all evening.
Rummaging through my purse as I nod to the Maitre D at the door, I find my pack and lighter neatly tucked inside. Tipping it up, my lighter slides past my grip and tumbles onto the stone pavement.
As I bend down to grab it, I hear a voice above me.
"How'd I know that I'd find you here?"
He slender, smooth legs are presented to my eyelevel. Holding my breath, my gaze travels up her body, perfectly clothed in a sundress which ends just above her knees. Travelling further up her hips, waist, chest then to her face. She smiles down at me.
She doesn't know.
"Hermione," I smile back, hastily getting off of the ground. I take a cigarette and light it.
"Old habits die hard?" She jokes, albeit lamely.
"They do indeed," I sigh, exhaling a cloud of smoke. I tip the pack towards her. "You want?"
"No thanks, you know what Ron's like with that."
"Yeah. It's a good thing I'm not marrying him."
She smiles bizarrely at me. "I've not seen you in ages."
"Been busy. The ministry don't let me out often."
Playing it cool. Playing it aloof. Playing it safe.
"You enjoying it there?" She asks, folding her arms as she feels a stiff breeze whip past.
A silence falls as I try to suck in as much nicotine as possible.
"Gin..." She pauses. "Gin are you OK? You just seem really, I don't know, distant and I can't help think that something's on your mind. Is everything with you and Harry OK?"
"Yeah we're great," I nod, trying not to look at her. "Not quite at the matrimony stage like you and Ron but no, we're fine."
"I know Harry's away a lot, so if you get bored or lonely then we could go out. Or stay in. Just catch up. We've really fell out of touch."
Guess you could say we fell out of touching, huh Hermione?
"Yeah, I suppose that's what happens when you grow up," I say, shrugging. Stealing a glance at her, I see that she's staring down. "But yeah I'll definitely give you a call."
She looks back up at me and smiles. Our gaze is locked and that's what I was afraid of. There's no looking away from Hermione Grangers' eyes.
"Great. I'll look forward to it. I should get back," she announces. "You coming?"
"I'll be back in a minute," I tell her, gesturing to my half finished cigarette. She nods, smiles, turns and walks away from me. Again.
Angrily, I throw my butt on the ground and crush it viciously with my foot. This is what happens. After I see her I'm so wound up with frustration and desire than it mutates to rage. I can't stand to be around her. To be placid. To be platonic.
Inside I want to scream; a scream that would echo around the Muggle and Wizarding world. One which would cause empires to fall and children to cry.
On the outside I am normal. I push my hair back behind my ears, take a mint and walk back inside.
All of my unstable, potentially explosive feelings aren't entirely because I'm losing my grip. Part of it is her fault. The past is her fault.
Take a picture; it won't fade. Unlike Hermione and I's friendship which did. The picture is this: Hermione and I in Hogwarts. The closest of friends. Studied together, ate together, laughed together, cried together - even went on dates together. Summer before I went into 6th year Hermione stayed at the burrow, like Harry.
Being old enough, we'd go out into the nearest town or sometimes to London. Hermione showed me Muggle places and people and practises I didn't know existed. Anyway, one day she suggested we go into this place for something to eat since we would miss dinner at the burrow. As soon as we went in, the smell of alcohol and cigarettes hit us, followed shortly by a cloud of warmth. Even though we were under the Muggle allowed age for alcohol, we had no problems.
Hermione went up to the bar at first and came back armed with two cokes. Once I'd finished mine, she grinned.
"That taste different?"
"A bit. Why?" I asked, eyebrows raised.
"Oh no, it was just a normal coke. With a splash of vodka," she laughed. I smelled the glass and looked up.
"You gonna get me another one then?"
That night we'd gotten completely intoxicated. At the time it was very strange and all very muggle. But now, it's as normal as putting milk in my cereal. We giggled all the way to the Burrow and then hid behind a tree while we attempted to sober ourselves up.
"Hermione, sshhhh! Ron and Harry will hear us," I hissed, pulling her down in a heap at the base of the tree.
"Not they won't," she waved. "But they'll hear THIS!" She bellowed. Immediately I clamped my hand over her mouth. She giggled behind my hand until I took it away. "You're my best friend Ginny, I love you!" She declared, throwing her arms around my neck. Pulling back slightly she placed her lips on mine for an innocent, friendly kiss. After pausing to look at me, she kissed me again, this time deeper. The passion of it and the sheer quantity of spirit I'd consumed threw me back on the ground.
I used to remember it much more clearly though now it just seemed like a drunken haze. I won't lie. When she kissed me, I didn't come alive. I didn't fall in love with her in that instant. It didn't stop my world.
The thought of it does now. But at the time it was a drunken girly snog that was fun and only happened because we were too drunk to care. It was a night for chances and for spontaneity.
After the fun we had that night experimenting with muggle substances, we used any opportunity to smuggle a bottle of vodka, rum,gin or on one occasion, whisky into Hogwarts. It wasn't easy to slip it past Filch. It required spells of a very difficult calibre, which Hermione mastered easily. We were learning, while breaking the rules.
I think that back then Hermione got such a rush out of it. Secretly, the Head Girl was sneaking in bottles, downing shots and snogging a girl. To the outside world she was infallible; perfect.
We never got caught either. Ron or Harry didn't know. The Room of Requirement became our party hall every month. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary we were doing, not compared to muggle teens our age. We would drink and dance and talk about everything. More often than not, it ended up in a drunken kiss all in the name of fun and letting loose.
But like all good things, according to the proverb, it came to an end. I remember the last time, right before our exams. I was late, as usual. Hermione had started drinking before me, as usual. The instant I had come through the door, I felt her body crashing into me and pushing me up against the wall. The alcohol on her breath was tangible, fusing with her strawberry lip gloss. My memory of her taste hasn't faded over time. Her lips crushing against mine, and her hand pushing up my shirt and finding it's way to my bra.
I remember gasping, mostly out of surprise. The kisses before hadn't exactly been innocent but they were grope-less. We joked about boundaries before, how we were pushing the boundaries between best friends and how half the boys in the school would kill to catch us in the act. Now here was Hermione obliterating the boundaries as her other hand was exploring my thigh under my skirt. I felt I should have stopped her then. I didn't know how much she had drank. If she woke up the morning and remembered it all then surely our friendship would be on shaky ground.
But I didn't stop her. I gave in. We passed out in the Room of Requirement entangled and soaked in spirit. Nothing more than that happened, although it seemed like a huge deal at the time. I suppose everything is a big deal when you're seventeen.
A few days after that night, I hear a rumour about Ron and Hermione going to the Leavers Dance together. Thought nothing of it. She wasn't exactly gonna take me, was she? It was no big deal, they were just friends. Like Hermione and I were. She had no obligation and neither did I.
Morning after the Leavers Dance it transpires that they're together. A couple. Parvati said they had been flirting for a month and had several moonlight encounters after lights out.
She had been straddling the fine line between Ron and I for a month. And I know that Hermione and I had nothing. It was drunk and stupid and placed firmly in the category of 'I can't remember what we did last night, how funny!' Still, I was her best friend. I knew nothing about it. No mention of Ron, of a new guy, of anything.
I'd like the record to show that I never started any of it. She always made the first move. She fucked me up and left me that way.
Which is why I can't stand to be around her now. I don't think Ron has a clue about it. He doesn't know that my tongue was in the very same ear he had been whispering sweet nothings into in Hogwarts.
And now they're engaged. And I'm with Harry.
The summer after Hogwarts I met him in Diagon Alley. He suggested dinner to catch up. Don't remember much about the meal except from the wine. I woke up the next morning in a room at the Leaky Cauldron with his arms around me and clothes strewn about the floor. We just kind of fell into a relationship. Fell into living together. He fell into loving me while I fell into denial of who and what I really want. I adore the man he's become, he's my best friend but I can't stop myself from hurting him.
Poor Harry, he deserves so much better than me, someone so much more faithful than me. Not only in thought but in deed.
Harry's job requires him to travel a lot. He's away for days, sometimes weeks at a time. I don't sit at home feeling sorry for myself. I usually grab a drink and head down to the Pink Lounge. I know the doorman so getting in isn't a problem on busy nights. In fact, they all know me. I'm notorious. Drink in hand, I go in search of a girl. Any girl, just so long as they have brown hair and brown eyes. Then wake up in the morning with another notch on my bedpost and no closer to happiness.
Harry comes back and he's none the wiser. I don't even bother to look for and hide any belongings the girls might have left. Removing the long brown hairs that clearly don't belong to me isn't an issue. I just don't care. A part of me hopes he catches me. Comes back early from and trip and finds me between some random womans legs. Undeniable proof; so I can't lie my way out of it. As much as I want that I know he doesn't deserve it.
Living among Muggles hasn't changed me. I like it. I like London. I like people not knowing who I am, which family I come from, if I'm pureblood or not. Being faceless makes it easier not to see people for what they are and them not to see me for who I am.
Back at the dinner, the never ending canned laughter and cutesy behaviour is giving me a headache.
"I'm leaving, I have a headache," I tell Harry while putting on my coat. "Stay if you want, I don't mind. I'll see you in the flat."
"You OK, Ginny? You've been really off all evening," he says, handing me my bag.
"Yeah. Like I said, headache," I try to smile. "I'll be fine--"
"Sis! Where you going?" Ron interrupts, putting his arm around me. "We've hardly had a chance to catch up. I never see you anymore. Stay. We've got some announcements."
"What, she's pregnant too?" I mutter under my breath.
"Hermione, come over here!" Ron beckons. "Our little Ginny's sneaking off into the night. You have to ask her before she goes."
I turn and see Hermione, almost in cheesily slow motion. Her lips spread into a smile as she reaches us.
"Leaving?" She asks.
"Yeah. Early start tomorrow," I lie, looking at my brother. "And a headache. It's best I just leave."
"OK, well since Harry's going to be Ron's Best Man, I thought it would be great if you would be my matron of honour. Would you, Gin?"
I catch my breath. Well, this caught me off guard. One thing I did not expect her to say. And there's no way in Hell I'm doing it.
"Wow, uh, that's a surprise. Honoured to be asked but I just don't think I'm the right person for the job," I say quickly. "Have a nice night and I guess I'll see you at the wedding." Even though I'm sure I'll be ill on that day and sadly unable to attend.
I leave quickly before any of them can say anything. Finding the exit through the masses of bodies and chairs isn't the easiest task at a moment like this.
Once outside I breathe deeply. Grabbing my cigarettes, I light one quickly and starting quick walking down the street.
It's her. I can hear her catching up to me. There's no convenient taxi to escape into like the movies. So I stop and turn around.
"Ginny, what was that?" Hermione asks breathlessly. She looks completely puzzled, as if there's no reason that I would want to abstain from the position of matron of honour. "Why'd you turn it down and then run out of there like the place was on fire?"
"I understand Hermione," I hiss. "You're just engaged, your life is centring around your wedding in a weeks time. Sorry to say I don't feel the same. I don't care about your perfect dress, perfect place, perfect man design. So I'd go right back into the restaurant if I were you, cause I'm going home."
"Hey, what the hell did I do to deserve that?"
"Sorry Hermione," I say sarcastically through gritted teeth. "You want me to be happy for you? All right. I am. Ecstatic. Congratu-fucking-lations. Have a happy fucking life together."
I spin around and start stalking down the street. I hear her run after me. I feel her hand gripping my arm and spinning me back round.
"Gin, what the Hell has got into you? Did I make you mad at me for something? Is this about Ron?" Her voice has reached that high pitch whenever she hits incomprehension on her emotion meter.
"No, this has nothing to do with my brother," I growl.
"Then what?" Her nails are digging further into my arm as I try to twist away.
"Like you give a shit."
"Jesus, Gin, what the--"
"No reason you can think of?"
"No reason at all that I wouldn't be over the moon at this announcement?" I ask her, stepping closer, so close I can feel her hot, angry breath.
"Nothing at all?"
"Christ, I don't want to play games." She says exasperated. "What are--"
I can't tell her. I can't simply explain. I have to show her.
I grab her arm with my free hand and kiss her, hard. Crashing together, then delving my hands into her hair. Once I realise she's not resisting - not only that, but she's kissing me back - I go softer. I cup her chin and plant soft kisses on her. I run my tongue gently along her bottom lip before giving it a playful tug with my teeth.
Now I know. I let her push the kiss deeper, tasting strawberry again. I never forgot.
Drawing back for a moment, I whisper against her lips:
"I knew you'd remember."