Title: Demolition Lovers 1/3
Author: Empath Apathique
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J K Rowling. No profit is being made.
Warnings: Very bad language that girls are supposedly not supposed to use, and allusions to lots and lots of hot monkey sex.
Summary: Words didn't mean anything. Only a man who was absolutely sure of what he wanted—or was far too comfortable where he was—could tell a woman that she was the only woman he'd ever love then run off to bed another.
Note: I am SO sorry that it has taken me so long to upload the final chapter of Demolition Lovers here. For awhile, I didn't upload it because I hadn't had the time to uncode the story. I'd left a note in one of the other chapters that it was finished on my LJ, which I assumed would lead everyone there to finish it, until I'd found the time to post the last chapter here. I am very sorry for the wait. It has been nearly two years. This story has been finished for two years. I can't apologize enough for those who I made wait. I hope that this chapter appeases your appetite, though, given how long it's been, you may want to go back and reread the story, to really fall into everything that's going on. Look for the note at the end.
- - - - - - - - -
"Why do you hate Valentine's Day?" she asked him suddenly.
"Because it's stupid."
"That's not a good enough reason."
"It is for me."
"Yes, well, it isn't for me."
"Nothing is a good enough reason for you. You probably want me to make icky color-coded charts with two-dimensional house elves drawn onto the paper that answer your questions when you don't understand something."
"I do not," she said, feigning offense. There was a pause. "Well, I wouldn't want the house elves. They have enough to do as it is."
"Don't get angry with me because I can read you like a book."
She rolled her eyes. "You still didn't answer my question."
"I did. I'll repeat myself in case you don't remember: it's stupid."
"I want the other answer?"
"Which 'other' answer?"
"The real one."
He laughed despite himself. "Why do you like Valentine's Day?"
"I don't know… I just do. Sometimes, I feel as if Valentine's Day is the only day people actually pretend to care about one another. And really, it's nice when someone does something special for you on this day. I know today isn't any different than any other day really, but still." She sighed. "I just… I just do."
He was quiet for a moment, his breathing deep as he slowly ran his hands up and down her thighs. "Will you do something special for me today?"
"Perhaps," she told him cryptically.
"Oh really?" he asked amusedly. He rolled then, bringing himself atop of her. It was the first time she'd seen his face all morning. His hair was tousled and his eyes dark. He was absolutely breathtaking. "Did you have something specific in mind already?"
She lifted one of her legs to wrap around his back, pulling him closer to her. The amused look left his eyes and his they darkened even further, the beginnings of lust. She recognized the look well. She reached up and took his face in her hands, one of her hands holding his face while the other brushed softly against the delicate skin of his cheeks. She kissed him.
"Will this be a repeat of last night's activities, then?"
She smiled. "We'll see."
- - - - - - - -
Draco had a flat approximately twenty minutes away from a station off the direct line of The Tube. Hermione ran there in nine.
She'd always been an athletic girl, and she excelled at running. Ron had tried to tell her that running was not a sport, but that was just because Quidditch was all anyone cared about in the Wizarding world. She'd responded that, where she was from, Quidditch wasn't even a sport, and that had been the end of that. She often went jogging in the morning; usually two to three times a week as the weather and work permitted; far more often if she were stressed. She enjoyed the rush of wind against her face, the burning in her thighs and calves, the furious pumping of her heart as she continued to push herself forward. It was delightfully exhausting, and if it didn't help her to clear her head of her problems, it helped her to pass into a much needed deep sleep so she could forget them in her rest.
It was part of the reason why she ran so fast that night. The other part was simply because she needed to get away from him, and from all the things he'd said that had positively rattled her brain.
At first, she'd thought he was chasing her, hearing the exclamation of her name behind her as his phantom presence pressed heavily against her mind. She'd pushed herself past what she'd grown accustomed to calling her limit and had practically fallen down the stairs of the station in her haste to get away, forgoing even the fare as she rushed onto a waiting train.
He hadn't followed her.
The realization hit her hard after she'd collapsed, a quivering mess, onto the seat, her muscles screaming with pain. She'd looked through the train windows, expecting to see him; however, he wasn't there. She sat, stunned, trying to figure out why it hurt so much that he wasn't.
Only one other person was in the train car with her—a homeless man buried beneath a mountain of old, secondhand clothing. She didn't know which line she was on, or where she was going. She didn't recognize the names of any of the stops, and before she knew it, she was bawling uncontrollably. She couldn't focus enough to Apparate away, and that fact alone made her cry harder. She wrapped her arms around herself and cried, not even caring how utterly stupid and unsafe it was to be on the train so late—witch or no. She passed out in her seat a short while later.
She had a fitful though dreamless sleep, the soft shaking of her shoulder waking her hours later. Her head hurt something awful and she felt as if she'd been slapped in the mouth. She groaned, the night before coming back to her in bits and pieces. She could see Terry's face, then Draco's. He'd been so angry, she thought, and something inside her clenched. Oh, Merlin, what had happened between them?
It wasn't until she began to shift around that she realized she was not, in fact, lying on a train seat, and that there was a soft, warm bed beneath her aching form. Panic began to boil inside her and she made to sit up. Two hands gently pushed her down onto the bed.
"Hold on there now, dear. Don't sit up so fast."
Hermione opened her eyes, wincing from the bright light in the room. Everything was blurry for a moment, a mix of light and undistinguished lines. A figure was standing over her, and she squinted her eyes to focus. A kindly looking old mediwitch was standing over her, looking down at her with a concerned expression.
"Don't excite yourself, Mrs. Boot," the older woman said. "You've had a rough night."
She let out a relieved breath as she recognized that she was at St. Mungo's. A few years previously, a program was initiated to locate distressed wizards and witches in Muggle-heavy areas in order to reduce the attacks made on Muggles by frightened magic folk. Once a 'distressed' person was found, an Auror would be immediately dispatched to assist them.
Hermione happened to be one of those 'distressed' persons.
She was located and 'assisted,' then brought to St. Mungo's, as was protocol. Her husband was informed of her admittance to the hospital, and Hermione barely managed to get two words out her mouth before he made his presence known, rising from his seat at the other side of the room and walking to her bedside. He told her that he'd been worried about her, and that she was to never give him such a fright again. Hermione had stared at him in a half-dazed state, too out of it to form a reply. He kissed her forehead and then told her he was going to go himself some lunch.
To her horror, she had begun to cry as soon as he left.
The mediwitch tried to console her, however all her efforts were in vain. Then, the door to her room opened, and Nymphadora Lupin nèe Tonks stepped into the room. Hermione had ended up on an empty train in Chigwell, where Auror Tonks—Hermione could never call the woman otherwise—lived with her husband and two children. Because it was so close to her home, the bubbly klutz was sent to assist Hermione, though the older woman had no idea at the time of whom exactly she would be assisting. When she did find out, she'd taken her straight away to St. Mungo's, calling in a few favors to ensure that she received the utmost privacy. The press had always loved to create stories about Hermione Granger, and everyone knew it. Information that she'd been found passed out on a train and had been hospitalized afterwards wouldn't have been good for her reputation.
Hermione was eternally grateful to her friend for the measures she'd taken on her behalf.
Tonks let Hermione rest awhile longer to regain a little strength. They talked animatedly over a late lunch. She and Tonks were still friends, though Hermione didn't realize how much they'd drifted part until she talked with her again. She missed her.
Other than the friendly concern Tonks had for Hermione, however, her reason for being in that room was clear: she needed to find out what had happened for the Auror report. When she finally got around to asking Hermione what had happened to her the night before, Hermione had closed up immediately, refusing to answer. She hadn't been the victim of any unlawful act, but she still felt the need to keep her lips firmly sealed on the issue.
Tonks seemed to remember how stubborn Hermione could be then, and sighed in defeat after only five minutes of questioning. She told her that she should report it if she had been assaulted in any kind of way regardless of how close she may have been to her attacker. Tonks seemed to think that Terry had done something to her, and Hermione had to resist the urge to laugh outright in the woman's face. He may have been an arse, but she wholly believed that Terry knew better than to put his hands on her.
But, then again, maybe he didn't. Terry wasn't verbally abusive, though he was overly protective and distrustful of her. He questioned her every action, wanted to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of everything she did. He was always calm when he questioned her, even though she openly yelled in his face and called him a few distinctly unladylike things. But perhaps she hadn't pushed him to his limit yet. No one relatively normal could remain perfectly blank after near daily fights with their spouse. She knew he was an unbalanced wanker and subconsciously, she had been waiting for him to snap. But why? So she could see a spark of fire—of passion—in his eyes?
So she could see in his dull green orbs what she saw in Draco's?
And oh, God, she nearly retched when she realized what was going on. She'd always been an argumentative person, but this trait had come to define her interactions with her husband. She had always known that he was nothing like Draco, but holy hell, that was what she'd been trying to do. She'd been trying to push him, bombarding him with hateful words and insults to find chinks in that carefully blank armor he wore when he addressed her. She'd been trying to get him to snap.
She'd been trying to get him to be Draco.
She knew how to make that man snap—every knob to twist, button to push, and lever to pull to get him to completely lose control. But Terry wasn't Draco Malfoy. Was nothing like him, really. It was stupid of her to even try, consciously or not.
And what would she do when Terry did finally snap? It was bound to happen eventually. Men could take only so much from a woman before they reached their breaking points. Even seemingly indifferent tossers like him had limits. And Hermione seriously doubted she would have seen anything in Terry's eyes that would even vaguely remind her of something she'd seen in Draco's.
There was something just beneath the surface of Terry's uninterested demeanor—something dangerous. Unbalanced was the perfect word for him. The only way he maintained such a calm air was because he fought to have everything balanced out in his head. It was the reason why he always had to know everywhere she was, everything she was doing; why he accused her of this and that, and why he always walked away from her when things got especially intense. She was the only thing in his life that he couldn't control, the one thing that kept him off kilter. It was why she hadn't noticed any of his weird personality quirks while they were dating. She hadn't been living and breathing in the same place as him then; he hadn't felt the need to control her yet.
Terry could never let lose, be free. He'd lose his freaking mind when he did.
And he'd fucking kill her if she was around.
Hermione wasn't even aware that she was hyperventilating until Tonks began to shake her, and she looked up at the woman with glassy brown eyes, wide and fear as a cornered doe.
She didn't remember what happened next. When she woke up that night, Tonks was still at her bedside. She informed her that her husband had come back to check up on her a few hours ago, and upon being told that she wouldn't be leaving the hospital until the next day, had left.
Tonks asked her again if anything had happened to her and still Hermione refused to respond. She told her that it was best to talk about these sorts of things—that it would help her work through it, get over it.
Talking about it, Tonks said, would help her admit to herself that it had happened—would help her to be honest with herself. But Hermione already recognized that it had happened. She didn't need to relive everything by talking about it. Tonks left shortly afterwards, leaving Hermione with an open invitation to come by whenever she liked, be it for a small chat or if she needed a shoulder to cry on.
"Besides," she told her, forcefully cheerful. "We have a spare bedroom, and I'm willing to bet that the bed is a bit more comfortable than a plastic bench on a train."
- - - - - - - -
He was on top of her, kissing her neck and making the biggest love bite imaginable on her skin. Her eyes were shut tight and she was squirming against him in need. He knew how to drive her absolutely wild, and that spot… oh, God. Soft mews escaped her lips as he made her near delirious with pleasure. But… no. They couldn't do this now.
"Draco…" she called softly.
"What… what time is it?"
He stopped for a moment, raised his head and looked down at her in amusement. "You're thinking too much, I think."
She opened her eyes, looking up at him with a both dazed and puzzled expression. "What are you—?"
He ground his hips into hers then, and her back arched off the bed as she moaned involuntarily. He smiled; kissed her forehead, her cheeks. "Can you hear yourself?" She didn't respond, and he ground his hips into her again. She nodded quickly. "That's all I want to hear from you from now on, okay?"
But he was inside her then, and the rest of her sentence trailed off into a mix of incoherent squeals and moans as he continued to drive into her.
"But what, sweetheart?" he panted.
She didn't respond.
- - - - - - - -
She went home from the hospital early the next morning. Terry was already at work, though Hermione was trying very hard not to think about him or the realization she'd had about their relationship the day before. Being alone in the flat gave her the chills, and she decided then that she could no longer stay there. She was through with this—this lying. Whatever she'd felt for Terry before had now dissolved into nothingness. She was torturing the both of them by continuing the relationship. She started to pack her things. Tonks had said she needed to be honest with herself, and now she was.
She was in love with her best friend. She always had been, and she probably always would be.
She knew he loved her, but she wasn't sure of if he'd be willing to talk to her again after last night.
Because she fucking admitted it—it'd been all her fault. She'd gone there for the exact reason why he said she'd gone there. She'd wanted the comfort of his touch—sex—and he knew it.
For all that she lamented him breaking her heart with the multitude of women he slept around with, she'd probably broken his back in turn every single time she'd gone to him in the middle of the night, wanting him to drive her into unconsciousness, into forgetting.
He was rude and edgy, but so unbelievably sensitive that it wrenched her heart to think of what she'd done to him. She'd hurt him impossibly; hurt him every time she went to him for a quick shag when she was in a relationship with another man, and hurt him when she'd purposely avoided him for the past five months. Knowing him as she did, it was completely natural for him to treat her the way he had that night. He'd thought that she didn't care.
And how messed up was this. He thought that she didn't care, when all the while she thought that he care didn't either. It was so tragic, so heartbreaking; so undeniably them.
He hadn't gone after her that night, and he wouldn't. Not yet. She wouldn't see him again for weeks.
She'd sent nearly all of her things to a storage service in Diagon Alley and was shrinking her suitcase to fit into her purse when Terry came home. He looked around the virtually empty flat and asked her what was going on. He had the same blank look on his face as always, and his voice was still in that calm, easy tone that used to drive her out of her mind. It made her visibly uneasy now, and she had to resist the urge to Apparate straight out of the flat.
She told him that she was leaving.
He asked her why.
She told him that she didn't love him.
He didn't respond.
A few minutes went by in silence. Hermione busied herself with gathering the rest of her belongings and she could feel his eyes watching her every movement.
He asked her who it was that she loved, and Hermione started noticeably.
He asked her if it was Neville—if that was where she'd been that night, before they found her on the train.
Hermione laughed at him. Laughed at him so hard her sides ached and tears fell from the corners of her eyes. Seeing him there—in her flat—asking her if she was having an affair with Sweet as Sugar Neville was just the icing on the freaking cake.
Dear Lord, this man was her husband. What had she been thinking?
She could find loads of other men who would be better for her than this tosser. She had only found one so far, but there were bound to be others out there. There had to be. What the hell had she been doing with Terry? There were other, better fish in the sea. Hell, did she really even need a man anyway?
And then, like a brick to the face, it hit her.
She'd grown dependent upon men.
She searched frantically for a time in her life when she hadn't had a man in her life—for a time where she hadn't defined herself by her relationship with a male. As a child, she'd spent most of the time with her cousin Melvin, enjoying the adventurous life of a riotous tomboy. Hogwarts had ended their relationship, and all alone in a strange new world with nothing to guide her but her beloved copy of Hogwarts: A History, she hadn't a clue who she was.
As a teen, she'd found herself almost exclusively with Harry and Ron, becoming their 'brain.' She fell into their shadows as she tried to maintain platonic relationships with both, all the while growing into a confused young woman with her own feminine problems that absolutely refused to be ignored.
After Harry and Ron, there had been Draco, who'd paid homage to her womanhood with an excessive amount of sex. She'd been sexy then. She'd been beautiful—wanted. A host of boyfriends that hardly meant a chipped nail had followed after her riotous fuckship with the blond began.
And really, it was such a pity that he was the first one to really see her in that light. The Fates had never made life easy for anyone, but it had to be some sick joke on their behalf that two people obviously bound for great love would begin their story with a relationship based entirely on sex. And everyone knew that relationships that were based on sex didn't work out.
After her realization that Draco didn't want an exclusive relationship with her, she'd still been defined by her relationship with him. She felt undesirable then, unwanted. And wasn't it freaking lovely that the man who made her feel like she was worth something—that someone wanted her—had made her feel the exact opposite when she realized that he no longer wanted her?
With Terry… Hermione didn't know who she'd been with Terry. Lost, she guessed. In a limbo somewhere as she tried to find a way to live a life devoid of Draco without losing her mind.
But now, without her cousin Melvin, or Harry and Ron, or Terry, or Draco, who was she?
Hermione didn't know.
Terry continued to speak to her, however she left the flat without responding.
She never went back there again.
- - - - - - - - -
They were back in the same position they'd started in, he sprawled out on his back with her on top of him, half lying his chest with one of her legs thrown across his waist. Hermione couldn't think of a more comfortable place to be. "You never answered my question."
"I didn't, did I?" He sounded as if he'd been falling back to sleep.
"You should be getting around to doing that now. This should be interesting—why the infamous Draco Malfoy doesn't like Valentine's Day."
He chuckled. "How about I distract you with my sexy body again?"
"Sorry, love, but I believe it was me that distracted you with my sexy body."
He snorted. "Yeah, right. But… if you're willing to go for a rematch—"
"That won't work on me, you git," she told him, cutting off the rest of his statement. "Who do you take me for? Some common broad who'll fall for your every charm?"
"You sure scream like one."
She pinched him, and he yelped. "For the sake of parts of your anatomy which are very dear to me, I'll pretend as though you didn't say that."
"Stop abusing me!"
"Then stop trying to distract me."
"Why does it matter anyway?"
"Why don't you want to tell me?"
He sighed dramatically. "Fine."
"I'll tell you."
"Then do it."
- - - - - - - -
Her divorce to Terry Boot took a grand total of one month, which, taking into consideration the six months they'd dated, made the total time she'd allowed herself to be drawn into some kind of relationship with him one full year. She nearly cried tears of joy when the judge announced they were officially divorced, and she was Hermione Granger once again.
She'd been trying to figure out who that person was since she'd left Terry in her empty flat. Surprisingly, she'd gone to Tonks'. She'd accepted the invitation and cried freely on the woman's shoulder before Remus and the children had gotten home for the day. She'd stayed there for two weeks before finding a new place. The Lupins had welcomed her to stay longer, but Hermione needed to do this on her own. She really didn't know what she was doing, but she knew it was something that she had to do alone.
And it was hard, of course. Nothing in her life had ever been easy, and soul searching, by definition, was supposed to be hard. That was what it said in all the self-help books, at least. One thing she knew was this: she was Hermione Granger—an intelligent, successful woman who hadn't known exactly where she'd been before but was on the way to finding where she was going now.
Hermione began reconnecting with different people she'd lost touch with over the years. She and Tonks were talking regularly again, and after bumping into each other at Madame Malkin's, Luna had invited her out for drinks with Hannah Abbot and a few of the other girls who worked at The Quibbler. She'd gone out and had a good time. The girls had even gone with her shopping to decorate her new place. Luna had had some strange suggestions, but it'd been a wholly enjoyable outing.
She started running more often, dancing. Having all sorts of fun that she'd never had before. The best thing about it was that she didn't need to be with people to have fun. She was doing things all on her own, and she was loving it.
She started doing things for herself. A mani-pedi once a month, actually going to get her hair done by a professional, allowing a few girls from work to drag her away to a weekend spa retreat. She bought clothes and shoes on mere whims sometimes, and Hermione had never felt so open in her life.
She felt like a person. She felt like… herself.
Hermione hadn't dated in the month since her divorce, though not for lack of opportunity. Seamus Finnegan had asked her to dinner a week ago and she'd declined. He was interested in starting a serious relationship with her, and he'd made his intentions clear. He took her refusal as a sign that she wasn't ready to get into a new relationship yet and told her that he was willing to go slow. She'd told him that wasn't the problem.
She'd just gotten out of a bad relationship and was trying to discover what she wanted for her life. So she was alone, and happy, but at the same time she was lonely too. Tonks told her that constantly having a man in her life would have that affect on her now that she no longer did.
The loneliness became more bearable as time passed, and Hermione truly came to believe she didn't need a man in her life right now anyway. She still wanted the white picket fence and happily ever after, but that could wait.
If she wanted to have a man, and truly love him and be good to him, she had to be comfortable with being alone first.
Tonks had used more of her persuasive powers and had kept a tight lid on the pending divorce; however, there was no way to control the spread of information once it was finalized. News of the annulment was run in the tabloids for three weeks straight.
Hermione had been leaving her flat with a scarf and shades on since the story had first appeared in the papers. It stopped a lot of people from recognizing her, though some still did. Some pointed. She'd been accosted by reporters left and right for days, and she'd contemplated simply locking herself in her flat and throwing away the key until the whole thing blew over. She was coming out of Florish & Blotts when someone grabbed her arm. She'd been grabbed four times that afternoon by pushy reporters, and was so upset she was about to hex the hair off this next one.
"Listen, you," she started, taking out her wand and wiping around to face her assailant. Draco Malfoy was looking down at her with an expectant expression.
She almost dropped the books she'd just purchased in shock.
"D-draco," she stammered.
He tipped his head in greeting. "Granger."
She didn't say anything for a long moment. She was blushing, but she couldn't find it in herself to care. This was the first time she'd seen him since the night of their fight, and she took a moment to drink him in. He was still as handsome as she remembered, still as impeccably dressed. Still smelled the same, stood the same. And, she would've said he still looked at her the same, but he didn't. There was something else in his eyes, something frightened, insecure. She tried frantically to think of something to say, but could find nothing light enough—or safe enough—to suit the situation. She settled on something simple, something stupid.
"Hi." She wanted to smack herself as soon as she said it.
He gave her a look that clearly said he wasn't impressed, and Hermione smiled. His slightly disdainful look was so familiar—so welcome after the long months without it—that something inside her warmed.
"Are you busy?" he asked her, the growing insecurity in his eyes mirroring her own.
"No, not particularly." She gave him an expectant look. What could he possibly want with her?
He sighed in what Hermione assumed was relief. "Good," he said easily, more surely. He took her parcel of books from her and began to lead her away by the hand that was still on her arm.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked, confused. She had to walk quickly to keep up with him, and he slowed when he realized this.
"The Leakey Cauldron."
The Leakey Cauldron. "Why?"
He looked at her incredulously. "Why? Because we're going to have lunch, you bint."
- - - - - - - -
"My mother loved Valentines day," he was saying, his voice steady and deep. "She would plan huge banquets every year when I was a child, having the house elves prepare everyone's favorites. The dining room table sat sixteen, and it would be completely covered with food, just for the three of us."
"Must've been great for you, then."
"What do you mean?"
"We never got to eat anything."
"What about him?"
"We were waiting for him."
"Where would he be?"
She felt him shrug beneath her. "Not sure exactly. There used to be a brothel down Knockturn Alley back then, and there were rumors that he was sleeping with Lady Parkinson, so I can't be positive about it."
"Wait." She sat up and looked at him. "You mean to tell me that your father was having an affair?"
"Affairs, Granger, affairs. Emphasis on the 's'."
"And you knew about it?"
"Yes." His hand was on her hip, and he was staring at a birthmark near her navel, tracing it with his eyes, not looking at her.
"Did your mother know about it?"
"Of course she did."
"And she… she didn't say anything?"
"But why not?"
"What was there for her to say?" he asked her, finally raising his eyes to hers. "She loved him, and she knew that he loved her."
She looked away from his eyes, the situation hitting too close to home for comfort. "But he was cheating on her," she whispered in outrage.
"Such is the state of pureblood marriages."
Hermione lay back down on his chest, not wanting him to watch as her blush continued to increase. "Did your father know what you mother had planned?"
"I don't think so. My mother always had the house elves clear away the meal if he wasn't home by eleven."
"Was he ever home by eleven?"
"Did… did you ever tell him about it?" she asked quietly. This was dangerous ground she was treading upon, she knew; the topic of his father was always taboo. She half expected him not to answer.
"It wasn't my place."
"What do you mean?"
"My mother did this for as long as I can remember. A part of her always hoped that something different would happen—that he would come home. He never did, and every time the clock struck eleven and the house elves cleared the dinner away, she would go into his office, sit in his chair, and cry. When I would go to her, she would tell me over and over again that it was okay, that she understood. I never did, but she said that was okay too. The next morning, there would always be a package waiting for her at the breakfast table. Diamonds and roses and the newest, prettiest robes that my mother had ever seen. She would hug my father and smother him with kisses then, and over her head, my father would always wink at me, as if trying to tell me something that I never understood."
"Do you understand now?"
A few moments passed by in silence. "You never told me that before."
"Why are you sorry?"
"Because you had to witness that."
He shook his head. "I'm sorry. I witnessed that—knew what it did to a woman—to my own mother—and still did it to you."
"It's okay," she told him quietly.
Minutes went by before Hermione whispered "yes" into the quiet of the room. And, in that one moment, it felt as if everything changed. After more than a year of trying and waiting, everything was fresh and highlighted. She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her chest, and for a moment, it was hard for her to breathe. But, then, she could breathe again. And the world had never been such a wonderful place.
- - - - - - - -
The papers would run stories about her lunch with Draco Malfoy in The Leaky Cauldron for weeks. The conversation hadn't exactly been smooth sailing, and they had let their emotions get the better of them on more than one occasion.
It was a long, embarrassing talk. He called her a bitch, she called him an arsehole, and they glared at each other more than once.
She'd never been so happy to argue with someone in all her life.
Even when they hit rough patches, and she was about to cry, she was happy that she was doing this—going through this—with him.
And whenever she got choked up in explaining her relationship with her ex-husband, and why she'd kept everything from him, he'd grab her hand, rub soothing circles on her palm until she calmed and could continue once more with her story. It didn't matter what name she had just called him before, or what furry rodent she'd compared him too. He was there for her through the hard parts, the dark parts.
They talked about everything.
She apologized for always using him.
He apologized for sleeping around.
She apologized for not telling him that he hurt her.
She apologized for avoiding him those six months she was married.
He apologized for not telling her sooner that she had hurt him.
He apologized for his short temper; for the yelling, the name-calling, and not listening to anything that she said.
She apologized for always expecting him to fix her problems, and for going to him that night expecting something from him even though she'd completely excluded him from her life for months.
He apologized for not going after her, for not coming to her sooner.
She thanked him for not going after her, for giving her space.
She told him that she missed him.
He told her that he missed her more—that he'd been missing her for longer.
She told him that that was impossible; that, if anything, she had missed him more.
They argued about who had missed whom more for a few minutes.
They agreed that they were both stupid, and both sorry. And that they both had missed each other equally.
They agreed that they should never stop talking again—that they should never stop seeing each other again. In a purely platonic sense, of course. She added that last part. He merely stared at her and nodded his head.
They talked and laughed with each other for the rest of the night, catching up on the goings on in each others lives—Hermione's promotion to Deputy Mistress of Muggle Relations and the deal Draco had struck for the import of something to do with brooms with the Americans. They talked about Hogwarts and Uni and France, carefully avoiding talking of their relationship. They told each other stories of things that had happened to them while they hadn't been talking, and things that had made them cry while they were apart suddenly made them laugh uproariously now that they were together again.
It was after one when the two actually took notice of how long they'd spent speaking. She now lived in a chic flat not far from Diagon Alley, and he offered to walk her home. They continued to talk and laugh during the walk, and sat on the stoop in front of her flat so they could continue their conversation. It was half past two when she first attempted to disengage herself from the conversation; another hour passed before she actually did.
Draco walked her up three flights of stairs to her apartment, and she didn't think he'd ever hugged her quite as tight as he had then. She hugged him back equally tight in turn, and they must have stood there for minutes—or hours even—just holding each other.
She tried to pull away after awhile, but he wouldn't let her. She realized then that his shoulders were shaking, and shock made her go completely rigid.
"Draco?" she called to him tentatively.
"I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
And then she was crying too.
- - - - - - - -
"I think you're afraid of me."
"Must we play this game of repetition? I know you heard me."
"Yes, well, pardon me if I think I'm hearing things. Because really, the man I know as Draco Malfoy has never said anything quite so foolish to me in all the years I've known him."
"Stop trying to be funny."
"I am funny," she told him.
"You think you're funny."
"Why are you always laughing at the things I say then?"
"Because you're idealistic and stupid. And I find your complete and utter seriousness amusing."
She smacked his shoulder. "I think you should stop trying to be funny now…"
"But I am—"
"I still think you're afraid of me."
"Come on, Granger. I've known you for what? Fifteen, sixteen years? You trust me with everything except this."
"That doesn't mean I'm afraid of you."
"It does. You're afraid I'll hurt you again."
- - - - - - - -
He was kissing her, her back against the door and his hand cupping her bum.
The tears seemed to just roll out the red carpet for this. He'd touched her face for what she assumed was to wipe her tears, but had kissed her instead. Things had quickly gotten out of hand.
Familiar sensations rushed through her, setting off sparks inside her heart and making her soul practically explode. And fuck, why was it that you never truly knew how much you missed something until you got it back again? She tried to remember which pocket her keys were in, needing so bad to open the door and get them inside the house.
They hadn't slept together in years. The last time had been while they were living together and bloody hell, that had been almost two years ago.
She needed this, to feel him and live him and breathe him and just to—
What was she doing? She pulled away from him, and his lips moved immediately to that spot on her neck. Her resolve momentarily faltered before she regained control.
He didn't answer and she called him again.
"What?" It was more of a grunt than an actual word.
He didn't stop, and she didn't think he'd heard her.
She put her hands on his head and pulled it up so they were face to face.
His eyes were wide and he was breathing heavy, and neither of them said anything for a while. She could see the tear tracks on his cheeks. She touched them gingerly with her fingers.
"Stop," she whispered.
- - - - - - - -
"I'm not afraid of you."
"I don't believe you."
- - - - - - - -
This couldn't happen.
He didn't look at her as she told him this. He leaned against the wall next to her as she talked, his head bent and eyes cast down to the floor.
She could not—would not—get into a relationship like this with him again. They were supposed to be friends above all else, and friends didn't shag friends. It messed with the flow of things, and had already left their relationship discombobulated in ways they didn't even know things could be discombobulated. If he wanted to have a place in her life at all, it would have to be as her friend—only her friend.
He didn't agree, but he nodded his head anyway. He didn't have much choice.
She hugged him again, rocking back and forth with him as she told herself that she absolutely would not cry again. She did, and he'd kissed her tears away before bidding her a goodnight and leaving.
She'd never found it quite so hard to watch someone walk away.
She had a horrid night, trying to get at least two consecutive hours of sleep and failing miserably. She flooed in sick to work as soon as she woke up. She hadn't been in bed five minutes before there was a knock at her door. She managed to drag herself out of bed and opened the door for none other than the man who'd gotten her into such a state to begin with.
He was freshly washed and groomed. And smiling. She wanted to hit him.
"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty," he told her merrily, stepping past her and into her flat. He made a low whistle as he took in the décor. "Whoa, Granger. Nice."
Hermione closed the door behind him, a most bemused expression on her face as she followed him from the sitting room and into the kitchen where he put down the bag he'd been carrying.
"What are you doing?"
He was unpacking the bag now, and he looked up at her when she asked. "Making you breakfast."
"Making me…" She watched as he continued to unpack the bag. He took out eggs, cheese, milk, bagels, and an assortment of other breakfast foods.
"Yes, breakfast." He unpacked a jar of apricot jam, and she snatched it from him greedily.
"Sweet Merlin, I love you," she whispered. The room got very quiet, and she looked up at him confused, not realizing what she'd said until she saw the expression on his face. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.
He shook his head. "I knew you would like that."
"It's my favorite. You know that."
He shrugged, and continued unpacking the bag. "Some things never change."
Oh, how true was that. "Why are you doing all this?"
He was going through her cabinets now, muttering about a frying pan. She went into the one beneath the sink and got it for him.
"I'm doing it because I'm your friend."
"My friend?" she repeated, not quite convinced.
He flashed her a grin. "Yes. Isn't this a 'friend' thing to do?"
- - - - - - - -
"Tell me why you think I'm afraid of you."
"Because I want to know."
"I thought it was apparent."
"Well, obviously it isn't, because I'm asking you. Tell me so I can prove you wrong."
"I don't know, Granger. It's a long and boring story about a guy and a girl who botch up everything that has to do with their relationship."
She laughed. "Hey, I think I know that story…"
"Ah, so you know why the girl is afraid of the guy, then."
"She's not afraid of him."
"So says the girl. The guy thinks differently."
"The guy shouldn't try to tell the girl how she feels."
"The guy would never!"
"The girl is not afraid of the guy."
"Really?" He was unconvinced. "And how do you know this?"
"She told me so. She loves him." He didn't say anything. "You know that, don't you?"
He was very, very quiet.
"I want to know how this story ends," he said.
- - - - - - - -
Hermione pushed her plate away from her, an unpleasant expression on her face. "The eggs are horrible, Draco."
"But you're eating them."
He shrugged. "I'm used to my cooking."
She watched him to continue eat his eggs and read the paper, astounded. "Well, what do you make that's edible?"
He pointed to the toast.
- - - - - - - -
"You never told me why you think I'm afraid of you."
"You never told me how the story ends."
"Stop avoiding my questions."
"It's a long story."
"You know what I think?"
"No, but I'm sure you're about to tell me."
She rolled her eyes. "I think the guy is afraid of the girl."
"Oh, please let's not start this again."
"I—I mean, the guy—is not afraid of the girl!"
"What on earth would make you think that?"
"Because he hasn't asked the girl to be with him again."
There was another pause. There had been way too many of those this morning. Hermione held her breath, her heart rate increasing as she waited for him to respond.
"The guy…" His voice cracked. "The guy didn't think he needed to."
"Is that so?"
"The guy thought the girl knew exactly what he wanted, and that he was willing to wait for her for as long as it took. How was the guy supposed to know when the girl was ready?"
"Well, maybe the guy should ask her again to see."
She sat up then, her face looming not a foot from his as she stared into his eyes. "The girl wants what the guy wants, Draco. I want what you want. I always have. I've just been so—"
"Silly, insane? Bloody infuriating?"
"I thought you said you weren't afraid of me."
"I'm not," she said, looking away. "I'm afraid of me."
There was yet another pause, and it wasn't until Draco cupped her cheek that she looked at him. "Don't be afraid," he told her.
"I can't help it," she whispered, adverting her eyes again. "It's me, Draco. It's us. I… I just—"
"Shhh." He gently brought her face down to his and lightly kissed her lips. "You don't have to be afraid."
She closed her eyes when he kissed her again.
- - - - - - - -
"Mmm…" Hermione hummed in contentment, munching happily on her bread.
"Good toast?" he asked her.
She snorted. "Good jam."
- - - - - - - - -
And, once again, they were back in the position they'd started in. "We should go back to sleep," Hermione said.
"Are you serious?"
"Why not? We have time."
"It's ten after eight."
Hermione sat up then, looking to the clock on the bedside table. He was a liar. It was fourteen after eight. She looked down at him. He was staring at her, a half smile on his lips as he waited for her to do something. To get up, she supposed, her head tilted to the side in thought.
She lay back down next to him, half atop him once more.
"Granger?" he asked, obviously confused.
"It's ten after eight. Remember?"
"It's fourteen after eight."
He snorted. "Getting up, then?"
He'd said the same exact thing earlier that morning. She smiled. "No."
"We're already late," he told her.
She hummed in agreement, turning her head and placing a kiss on the hollow of his throat. "Then we'll be late."
"Yes." She looked into his eyes, brushing his bangs away from his face as she smiled. "I want to spend the day with you."
- - - - - - - -
End Note: I like to think that this story has a very subtle ending, like many of my other stories. It does not offer much closure, but I don't think that there's closure in life. Concrete, life-altering decisions aren't decided all at once. Things usually happen far more slowly, and sometimes, words aren't truly needed to express how, or the reasons why. Because "I want to spend the day with you" says it all, I think.
I look forward to your comments.