Title: The Girl on the Bench, Part 1: Meetings

Author: DukeBrymin

Word Count: 5892 for Part 1
Rating: PG
Genre: Angst/Romance

Song Lyrics:

Show me, if you want it,
And you feel it, 'cause I know,
That I am somewhere in your soul.
Give me a reason to love you.
Give me a reason not to go home.
"Going Home" - MoZella

Summary: It was, perhaps, inevitable that they should be together. But then Wednesday came along.

A/N: I was rather happy that this challenge (hg_silverlining's Lyrics Challenge) enabled me to slay a plot bunny that's been biting me recently. So, thanks be to the great deities of prompting! And thanks also to my wonderful betas, sassyfrass_kerr and rosiekatriona.

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and AOL Time Warner, and have been used without permission. Rights to these characters and their images is neither claimed nor implied. It is not endorsed by any of the aforementioned parties.

All recognizable characters, song lyrics, settings, and ideas not associated with the world of Harry Potter remain the property of their respective owners and all original characters, situations, places and ideas are the sole property of their creators. Original content viewed here may not be used without their permission.

This story is intended for entertainment purposes only. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

The Girl on the Bench

Part 1: Meetings

It was, perhaps, inevitable that they should be together. After all, they had been a part of each other's lives for a very long time. They had first met when he was headed off to Hogwarts, after having just found out he was a wizard. Later, he had saved her from almost certain death in her first year. As time passed, she had gradually worked her way into his life, until she had become an almost irrevocable part of it. The Yule Ball, his fourth year, was when he started to realize what a pretty girl she was, although he was somewhat infatuated with a different girl at the time. Unfortunately, both girls had already accepted a date with someone else, so he ended up going with neither. But, when she came with him, in his fifth year, to help rescue his godfather from the Department of Mysteries, he began to understand the irreplaceable role she was playing in his life. He began to look at her with different eyes. Or perhaps it was that he chose to open the eyes that he'd always had. Whatever the reason, they had begun to date in his sixth year, and he found that he was happier than he'd ever been before.

The hunt for the Horcruxes was a time best left unmentioned. After Dumbledore's death, he had pulled her aside and told her that, although he loved her, they needed to pretend to the world that they were not a couple. She didn't agree with him, but allowed herself to be persuaded. They staged, not so much a fight as a loud discussion, in the Great Hall, carefully crafted to give the illusion that they had decided they weren't working out as a couple. That made the next year rather more horrible than it could have been--not being able to kiss her, or hold her, or even brush her hair, which was something he loved, but that the other guys had always given him a hard time about. He spent the year dreaming about her vivacity, the brightness of her spirit, and, although a constant source of torment, those memories helped sustain him through the long, exhausting, and painful time when they weren't a couple. But, after he defeated Voldemort, they felt free to reunite, and did so with alacrity, and settled into a rather comfortable routine.


He had a nice flat in London, perhaps three blocks away from that of his girlfriend. Both were somewhat old-fashioned, in that they didn't move in together, or spend the night together, as their other friends did. Her reasons had to do with her parents, and their old-fashioned values. His were a strange combination of fear of commitment, desire to please, and anxiety about the future. But that suited them--they knew they had all the time in the world to move towards a deeper relationship, which, naturally, would include marriage, and a family sometime thereafter.

He was happy in his job as an instructor for the Auror Corps. He had entertained notions of being an Auror for the rest of his life, but after progressing through training at an unheard-of rapidity, and graduating, then spending a year out in the field, he realized that he didn't enjoy it nearly as much as he had hoped. So, when the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement floated the idea of a safe, regular job that let him be home every night, he accepted quickly. He had always enjoyed teaching, witness the DA, and after the first week of his new assignment, decided that he had found his calling in life.

She was happy for him--she had always worried about him being away for such long stretches, and having him safe in his own bed every night provided a peace that she hadn't really known for a long time. Her job kept her busy too, although it was cyclical in nature, as most sports-related jobs are. The Quidditch season was always hectic, but she enjoyed what she did, immensely. So much so, in fact, that he occasionally felt guilty for his half-formed future plans of a family, and children. He just didn't know if he could take her away from the sport that had come to define her life. But he was practiced in self-abnegation; he had, after all, spent his life caring for other people, many times at the expense of his own happiness. This made it rather easy for him to continue in the routine, not to say rut, in which he found himself. But then came the Wednesday. . .


He had made it a habit, for quite some time now, to take his lunch in the park. He found it rather relaxing to be able to just sit and watch people, which was quite the reversal from the norm. Very few wizards, that he could tell, frequented this patch of grass, and trees, and birds, and he found it a welcome break from the normal hurly-burly that came with being such a well-known person. He wasn't upset with his celebrity--he had, after all, been well-known for his entire life, minus the first year-and-a-third, and had finally gotten used to it. But it made a nice change to be able to blend in with the crowd, rather than being the reason for the crowd.

The bench at the far south-west of the park was his favorite. It had the best view of the duck pond, and he found great joy in watching the small children feed the ducks, and run at the ducks, and occasionally run, screaming, from the ducks. He had grown so accustomed to being able to sit there, that, on this particular Wednesday, when he found someone already seated on the aforementioned bench, he was rather taken aback.

"Take a picture, it'll last longer," the girl said, before looking over at him with a smile.

He started, realizing that he had been gaping at her for a good few minutes. "I'm sorry," he managed to blurt out. "It's just that. . ." and here he ran out of words. It wasn't like he owned the bench, after all. But how to explain to someone that they're interrupting your routine, without sounding like a pathetic moron who can't deal with the least little bit of change?

"I took your bench, didn't I?" she asked, good humor sparkling in her eyes.

"Yes, but you didn't know."

She cocked an eyebrow at him.

"I mean, well, it's not that it's my bench, anyway, and you're certainly welcome to sit anywhere you want." The corners of her lips turned up as she tried to repress laughter. Turning a bright red, he made to leave, with a muttered, "I'm sorry, I'll just sit somewhere else, yeah?"

The repressed laughter finally burst forth, and he was pleasantly surprised. This was a girl who really enjoyed laughing. He had known many girls who thought it was inappropriate to really laugh, and who resorted to the infuriating giggles that he felt belonged solely in Witch Weekly, and not the one for adults--the one for teen-agers. His own girlfriend, for example, almost never giggled. He remembered that she had done it, occasionally, back when they were in school, but had grown out of it as she had grown up, for which he was enormously grateful.

Arrested by her obvious enjoyment of the situation, he just watched her, until she finally calmed down enough to talk again. "Well, you're wrong in at least one particular--although I really don't have any clue whether or not you own the bench. . . Oh, I know! You actually own the park, don't you?" She managed to paste an almost-believable inquisitive look on her beautiful face as she looked up at him.

"No! No, I don't own the bench, or the park, or anything around here!" He was almost frantic to point this out. Many people assumed he was richer than the Queen, and he had spent a great deal of his time trying to refute the point, or at least downplay the facts. Thankfully, his girlfriend--here he felt a small pang of guilt over having thought this girl on the bench was beautiful--had known him for a very long time, and if she had ever been overly-impressed with his wealth, she had gotten over that.

"Okay, then, I guess you're just wrong the once," she responded with a smile.

He thought back to their previous semi-conversation. The only thing he could think to say was, "No, you're welcome to sit anywhere you want, I'm pretty sure about that."

The adorable--slight guilty twinge again--girl chuckled again, and shook her head. "No, that's not what I meant either. Where you went wrong was in saying that I didn't know it was your bench." Having said this, she closed her mouth and just looked at him, waiting for his response.

He didn't have a response, other than a kind of shocked immobility. He tried to say something, but the words got stuck in his throat. That was probably a good thing, because he wasn't exactly sure what would have come out of his half-open mouth.

Eventually the silence became overwhelming, and the girl spoke up again. "Perhaps I should explain, as you don't seem to be in any condition to contribute to the conversation. I've been coming to this park for lunch for the past while, and I've seen you sitting here every day. Well, every weekday except for a few of the Fridays. And I decided that I really wanted to talk to you." She shrugged. "This seemed to be the easiest way."

His speaking ability stubbornly persisted in its absence, and the slight grin that the girl had been wearing started to fade.

"I'm sorry--I didn't realize it would upset you this much. I'll just. . . I'll just go then, shall I, and let you eat in peace?"

His heart just about crumbled at seeing the happiness, that she had worn so carelessly, slide down, and eventually off, her face, turning something bright and shining into just another pretty face. In a panic, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

"Do you like ducks?" And his face turned a brilliant red as he realized how stupid that must have sounded.

Taken aback herself, she still managed to sound more intelligent than he did. "Yes, I do. Is that why you like to sit here? And, in case you're wondering, I usually don't bite."

"Yes. Well, that and the kids." The last part of her sentence hit him at that point. "What?"

"I said that I don't usually bite, so it's probably safe for you to sit down. If you're worried about my intentions, I promise not to ravish you today," she giggled as she said this last, and he felt his heart lift, although a traitorous, and guilt-inducing, voice in his head said, 'But what if I want you to?'

Determinedly ignoring both the voice and the guilt, he cautiously sat down, and took out his lunch. As soon as he took a bite of his sandwich, the girl at the end of the bench spoke up. "So, how long have you been coming to watch the ducks?"

He chewed and swallowed quickly so he could answer. Seemingly satisfied with his quick reply, she turned back to look out over the pond. He took another bite, and immediately heard her say, "Do you work around here?" He nodded quickly, but she continued this line of questioning. "What do you do?"

After swallowing another half-chewed hunk of sandwich, he said, "I'm in security--I train a sort of private police force, surveillance, combat techniques, and things like that."

She just nodded and looked over at a particularly rambunctious pair of ducks, and snickered quietly. He wasn't sure, but felt that maybe she wasn't laughing at the ducks, but at him. His suspicions were confirmed when, upon taking another bite, she asked, "And where do you live?"

He took his time chewing, until she looked over at him to see what was happening. Then, disregarding the partially-chewed mess in his mouth, he answered, "In a house my godfather left for me." His suave, sophisticated accent was rather at odds with the bits of food that sprayed out as he spoke. At this sight, the girl broke out into that laughter that he was becoming infatuated with. The laughter was so contagious that he found himself chuckling along with her, spraying more bits of sodden sandwich.

Eventually she calmed down and apologized for the prank she'd been playing on him. He waved it off as unimportant, but privately decided that if he ever saw her again, he'd have to do something equally embarrassing to her.

It was at this point that he realized what time it was--he'd already unknowingly extended his lunchtime by 15 minutes--and hastily gathered his less-than-completely-eaten lunch. "I'm so sorry, I have to run. I was supposed to be back already."

The girl laughed again, and said, "I know--I've figured out your normal schedule, remember, and was trying to see how late I could make you." Turning serious, she looked him in the eyes and asked, "Will I see you again?"

He found himself lost in her direct, refreshingly frank, gaze. Her eyes were brown, and luminous, and seemed to pull at him, causing him to take an unconscious step towards her. Somewhere in the back of his mind came the vague thought, 'Her eyes are the same color as . . .as . . my girlfriend's!' Coming to himself with a guilty start, he shook his head and retreated. "Um, well, I usually eat lunch here."

She interrupted with another chuckle. "Yes, I think we've established that I'm fully aware of your eating habits. What I really wanted to know was if you'll be back tomorrow."

Rationalizing to himself that he was still allowed to talk to other women, since his girlfriend wasn't a possessive hag, he nodded his head. "Yeah, I'll be here tomorrow. See you then?"

She just smiled and nodded slightly. He grinned back at her, then turned away and took off at a trot, hoping that his recruits hadn't had enough time to prank his desk while he'd been gone.


As he left, in rather a hurry, she allowed herself to sink back against the bench, and release the tension that had been singing through her stomach. Up close, he was even more handsome, although 'handsome' seemed a rather anemic word to represent his gorgeous green eyes, than she'd thought originally. Thinking back upon the encounter, she decided that she couldn't have hoped to have it turn out any better than it had. At least, for a first meeting. Tomorrow would be another story.

Gathering up her own lunch, she set off down the path to her own job. Thankfully, it wasn't so demanding that she had to utilize all her brainpower on it, and could replay the conversation she'd had with him, to see if there was any indication, or even a small hint, that he might think she was attractive. It was too much to hope that'd he'd show evident interest at the first, but she couldn't deny that she'd had a good time talking to him, and he seemed to have enjoyed the time with her. But there was some sort of hesitancy in his words. 'Oh no,' she thought. 'What if he already has a girlfriend?' She knew he wasn't married--he had no wedding ring, something she'd managed to discover back at the beginning of her infatuation with him--but that didn't rule out a steady girlfriend. Or worse, a fiancée.

Giving herself a good pep talk, along the lines of, 'engaged isn't married, and until marriage, he's at least semi-free', she set about planning what to do the next day.


Later that evening, feeling even more guilty at the almost-flirting that he had done with the Girl on the Bench, and hoping to assuage his conscience, he went to his girlfriend's flat. They had a standing arrangement to go out together on Friday nights, and spend Saturday afternoons together. Of course, it was rather more miss than hit during the season, but they still worked hard to make sure they made time for each other. She had just gotten back from a long road trip, and he figured that there was a pretty good chance she'd be in, and an even better chance that she'd be happy to see him out-of-the-blue, so to speak. Of course, it was entirely possible that she wouldn't be at home, or too busy to do anything, but he needed to do something to counteract the guilt.

He knocked on the door and waited. He could have apparated directly in, but after having accidentally caught an eyeful of her roommate's less-than-adequately-clothed body, they had agreed that he'd always arrive outside, and knock. Tonight, however, he was rather grateful for the time outside her door. It gave him an opportunity to compose himself, because, in truth, he was more nervous than excited about seeing her. She couldn't tell, just by looking at him, that he'd been chatting up a beautiful girl in the park, could she? Of course not. And once he had a chance to spend some time with her this evening, he'd be able to put his priorities back in line, and forget about the (very enjoyable) lunch that he'd spent with the Girl on the Bench. Knocking again, he forced his mind to focus on seeing his beautiful girlfriend open the door, and the nice time they'd have together. Traitorous mind that he had, though, he started replaying the lunchtime encounter while he waited.

"Hey, you, what brings you over on a Wednesday?" The sweet sound of his girlfriend's voice interrupted a particularly fun recollection of the laughter that he'd listened to over his sandwich and caused him to jump in guilty surprise.

"Oh, hi there! Um, nothing really," he said, while not quite meeting her eyes. He told himself to get a grip, or she'd definitely guess that there was something shady going on. Forcing himself to look at her directly, he continued, "I was just missing my favorite girl, and hoped you'd be up for a movie or something tonight. . ."

Her face fell, and a cold shiver of fear walked up his back.

"Oh, sweetheart! I'm so sorry--I have to go out tonight. The group's getting together to discuss schedules, and told me that I have to be there. Apparently some hot-shot Quidditch professional will be visiting, too, to give us the 'benefit of his experience'. He'll probably be some stuck-up git like the last one." She really did seem genuinely upset at having to miss out on an impromptu date.

"Well, maybe I could come with you?" he asked, grasping at straws to try to salvage his plans.

"I'm sorry, dear. They specified that no outsiders be brought tonight, something secret, I imagine. I can't for the life of me guess why they have to be that security conscious--it's not like there's any new information to be had about scoring goals or catching the Snitch." She thought for a bit. "Maybe I can get out of it--they owe me a favor for saving their bacon . . ." She turned away from the door, leaving it open for him to come in, and crossed to the fireplace. Grabbing some Floo powder, she threw some in and contacted the head office.

He couldn't hear the conversation, although he could tell by the set of her shoulders, and then the sagging of them, that it wasn't going to work out. Sure enough, she backed out of the fireplace and turned to him with a frown.

"I'm sorry, dear, I can't miss this one. But I don't have to be there for another half-hour. . .maybe we could sit on the couch for awhile." The sly look in her eyes let him know that she wasn't planning on just talking platonically with him.

'Maybe this will work out,' he thought. 'I'll cuddle with her, and that will help me remember why I love her, and I can forget about the Girl on the Bench.'

"Okay, if I can't have you for the whole evening, I'll take you for the next half-hour," he responded out loud, and jumped over the back of the couch into his favorite spot.

She chuckled at his enthusiasm, and joined him there, curling up into his arms in their favorite position. He allowed himself to relax, then, and smell the wonderful fragrance that invaded his senses--she had always smelled wonderful to him, although he hadn't really realized it until his sixth year, when he smelled the Amortentia in Potions class, and associated it with her. Small talk gave way to long, leisurely kisses, and he let himself sink into the sensations.

As they snuggled and kissed, he allowed himself to visualize their future. He could see himself coming home from work each evening, walking in through the front gate--which was strange, as he would probably have apparated straight into their home--and being greeted by a set of. . . twins, perhaps. A little boy and a little girl, one with red hair and the other with green eyes, or maybe reversed. Then his beautiful wife would come out on the porch, maybe holding a baby in her arms. She'd smile at him, and ask, "How was work, dear?"

"Fine," he'd answer. "We just got a new group of recruits, and it'll take awhile to get them settled down, but at least they're getting some decent instruction in their Defense Against the Dark Arts classes now before we get them into the Academy."

"That's good," she'd reply. "Did you eat lunch in the park again?"

"Of course," would be his answer. "You know I always do."

A smile would cross her lips, then. "Did any pretty girls try to snag you today?"

"Thousands, my dear, but none of them could hold a candle to you."

By then, he'd be standing right in front of her, with the twins clinging to his legs.

"Good," she'd state. "I'm the only one that is ever allowed to ensnare you on a park bench."

His eyes flew open at that. He'd been daydreaming about the Girl on the Bench! How could that have happened? His thoughts went on in full self-recrimination mode. Even while kissing his girlfriend he couldn't stop thinking about the other girl.

She must have noticed his distraction, and she sat up and turned to face him. "What's wrong?"

He flushed slightly, and tried to think of something to tell her. She knew him well enough that it was almost impossible to lie to her. "Um, nothing, really," he said, but couldn't meet her eyes.

Her eyes narrowed, and he could tell she was starting to get upset. "Don't try to lie to me--something's wrong, and I want to know!"

He looked around the room uneasily, trying to think of a way out. Thankfully, he spied the clock on the mantel, that had her face next to the "You're almost late!" setting.

"Look, dear, I do need to talk to you about something, but I don't want to rush through it, and I don't think you have time right now," he said, motioning to the clock.

"Oh blast, I have to go." She hurriedly got up and patted her skirt and blouse, straightening them out and making sure she was presentable. "But don't think I'm going to forget this! I expect you here tomorrow, as soon as work is over!" Her eyes flashed at him, and he caught his breath, thinking that she really was even more beautiful when she was worked-up about something.

"Of course," he responded. "I'll see you tomorrow then. Love you!" He had to almost shout this as she was already standing in the fireplace, preparing to Floo to her meeting.

"Love you too. . ." he heard, fading off as she disappeared in the flames.

Heaving a deep sigh, he stood up and scrubbed his hands against his face. How was he going to tell her that he was infatuated with a girl he'd talked to in the park? She wasn't the kind to forgive something like this easily. He hoped that he'd only get a couple of hexes and the cold shoulder for a week--he really didn't want to lose her. A though struck him then. If he lost her, he'd lose her family too! He shuddered at this. He'd grown to love her family immensely in the time he'd known her. In fact, he considered her parents the next best thing to having his own. He'd looked forward to becoming a part of their family sometime, and now, because he had been unable to turn away from temptation, he might just lose all of them at the same time.

He sat back down, and forced himself to think, to really examine his feelings for the, now, two girls in his life. First, his girlfriend. Did he love her? He thought back over the time he'd known her, and examined how his feelings had grown and changed over the years. He decided that he really did love her--he wasn't just fooling himself. The next question was whether he wanted to continue growing closer and closer, and eventually marry her. He closed his eyes, trying to envision a life with her. Consciously suppressing the memories of lunchtime, he tried to see his girlfriend as the one holding their baby, welcoming him home to their house. This proved to be rather harder than he'd expected--not like the effortless way that he had daydreamed about the Girl on the Bench. Certainly he could see them together, but his stomach clenched as he realized that he couldn't see them together in a house, with children, but only in a calm, orderly flat that oftentimes echoed with emptiness when she was gone on her trips.

Opening his eyes with a gasp, he sat up straight. "What am I going to do?" he asked out loud.

"I hope you're going to leave soon," came a voice from behind him.

Startled to his feet, he pivoted and drew his wand in one quick motion. "Stupefy!" he yelled as he turned, and a bolt of red light flew a few short feet and hit his girlfriend's roommate squarely in the chest. She bonelessly fell to the floor, and he dropped his wand in shock.

"Oh crud," he silently swore to himself. "She already hates me for catching her in her knickers--now she's going to kill me." After some thought, he decided that he didn't want her to have to wake up naturally from his stunning spell, which had been rather strong, due to his startlement. Being reenverated always lessened the aftereffects of a Stunning, and he could at least do that for her, after doing the stunning in the first place. He also decided that he could definitely do without his girlfriend coming home to find her roommate stunned on the floor. He leaned down and picked her up, then laid her on the couch, straightening out her legs, and making sure she at least looked comfortable. He retrieved his wand and, standing back up, checked the room to make sure he hadn't left anything behind, then walked over to the door. Setting the latch to lock behind him, he stepped out, then closed the door almost all the way. Poking his wand back through the open crack, he whispered, "Reenervate". He pulled his hand back through the crack, and remained peering through it, until he saw her start to move. Pulling the door closed as quietly as he could, he tiptoed away, until he felt he could safely apparate home.


Her boyfriend had certainly been acting strangely that evening. She mentally ran through a checklist of things that were off about his behavior. First, he showed up on a Wednesday night, with some lame excuse about missing her--they had had this discussion already; she needed to be gone often for the League, and he understood that, at least, he had said that he did. Secondly, while he normally enjoyed telling her all about his day, he had been much more close-mouthed than normal with the details. And more tellingly, he had seemed distracted while they cuddled on the couch. She had been happy to see him, albeit surprised, but their kissing and holding and relaxing had been much less relaxing than normal--he had held himself tensely, and then he had started so strongly at the end that she just about fell on the floor.

Yes, there was definitely something fishy going on. At least he was willing to talk about it; not try to gloss it over, or pretend that everything was okay. She had learned by now how to get him to confess his errors, for which she was very grateful. Her roommate had regaled her with many stories about cheating boyfriends, and unfaithful fiancés, and the like, and she felt very blessed to have found her boyfriend so early, and not have had to run the gamut of losers first.

A thought struck her then--what if he had really found someone else? She still had some insecurities when it came to him. She knew very well how desirable he was, how often he was voted Most Eligible Bachelor, even though she never read those magazines. She had hoped and prayed that she'd be able to live up to his expectations. Had she, somehow, failed him? Had he gotten too lonely while she was on the road this last time? Her mind started imagining up countless scenarios where he told her he didn't really love her, that he was more interested in exotic Asian beauties, like that accursed girl from school. Or perhaps he liked girls with clear, porcelain skin and blond hair, like that Norwegian actress, what was her name?

She was well on her way into a grand funk when she arrived at the conference room where they were meeting that evening. Shaking her head, and forcing herself to shelve the concerns in the back of her mind, she entered and took a seat at the corner of the table, the better to keep an eye on those around her. The rest of her team came in, in little groups with what she assumed were fascinating conversations, which ordinarily she'd have enjoyed being a part of, but on which she couldn't focus that evening.

But then, she found her breath taken away. 'This must be the Quidditch god, I mean, professional!' He was gorgeous! And she felt her heart sink within her. 'How can I be attracted to him? I love my boyfriend!' But no matter how hard she tried to calm her racing heart, any time she even glanced in his direction, she found her throat going dry and her mind inventing reasons to talk to him afterward. 'Well, I guess it's good that we're going to be talking tomorrow evening--maybe I can get this guy out of my mind.'

After her meeting, she hurriedly packed up her notes and made to leave, but was stopped by a rather muscular arm blocking her exit.

"Hi there," was all he said, but it was enough to make her knees go weak. He introduced himself, and she fancied that she was too intent on hurrying out of there to pay attention, but her subconscious listened to, and cataloged everything he said. And, to her horror, she found herself agreeing to see him again sometime--". . .but only to discuss Quidditch!" her once-rational brain managed to insert at the end.

He chuckled at that, and said, "But of course. I would love to be able to talk more with such a beautiful woman. But we must keep things. . . professional." But his words were belied by the spark in his eyes as he said that last word.

Cursing herself for her weakness, she Flooed home, hoping that her boyfriend had already left the apartment. Arriving there, she found that he had, but her roommate, standing there fuming and with sparks spitting from her wand, gave her enough grief to make up for it.

Finally she went to bed, dreading the upcoming conversation with the man who, ever since she had first met him, had had such a strong hold on her heart, and hoping that, whatever they decided, they'd both be able to be happy with the resolution.


The night had been a restless one. He hadn't gotten to sleep until around 3:00, and then his dreams were filled with thoughts of his possible futures, which alternated between children and the Girl on the Bench in a riotous, messy, and passionately love-filled home, and a happy, albeit quiet married life with his current girlfriend. Waking the next morning feeling as if he'd been for a three-hour trip on the Knight Bus, he halfheartedly shaved and showered, then walked for seven and a half blocks, until he felt awake enough to apparate to work without the fear of splinching himself. Arriving at the Auror Academy, he shuffled into his office, ignored his In-box, sat down in his chair, and promptly fell asleep. He was awoken 13 minutes later by the department secretary rushing into the room and shouting that he was already 7 minutes late for his first class, and the natives were getting restless.

His trainees that morning were rather more rambunctious than usual, picking up on their instructor's distracted state. The noise level was much greater than normal, and he had to hex three--well, four, if the mild tickling jinx were counted--of the students just to get the rest to listen to him. After a couple of less-than-educational hours, where they talked about concealment charms and the proper use of a Muggle wig, the students were, to a man ("and woman!" his brain filled in fuzzily), flabbergasted when he let them off for lunch 45 minutes early.

Knowing that he needed some time to think, he walked to his park bench and sat down. The dreams he'd had had only served to disquiet him more and serve as notice that he really had come to a cross-roads in his life. Staring blankly out at the duck pond, he put himself to pondering again. Last night he had thought very hard about whether or not he loved his girlfriend. By the light of the noon-day sun, he decided that he hadn't been wrong in his appraisal--he did love her, deeply. He loved her enough to be happy about the idea of marrying her. But then he thought about the Girl on the Bench. When he did so, his heart felt lighter somehow, and, although he didn't know it, his lips curved up in a faint smile. Picturing himself with her, he could see that their relationship would be completely different. She had such a different personality than his girlfriend, and he found himself intrigued with the possibility of exploring what a relationship with her would be like.