AN: Made a mistake in the previous chapter's AN. This isn't the smutty chapter. That's the next one. For anyone who doesn't want to read the actual chapter, if there are any of you out there, if there's anything important I'll put it at the bottom so scroll down and read that before continuing on with the story, kay? ^_^
Twenty minutes later, Harry and Hermione sat at his kitchen table with coffee.
"How long was she pushing you to marry her?" Hermione asked.
"A year," Harry replied. "She started hinting at it about two months after we got back together but I wasn't listening. Finally, I agreed to let her move in because she wouldn't let up. I figured she was the best there was after you walked away. I never really got over that."
"But she can give you what I can't," Hermione whispered, staring at her coffee because it was better than his amazingly green eyes.
Harry's hand was suddenly on hers. "That's not what's important here, Hermione," he said. "There are always alternatives. And you can give me something she can't. Something more important: True happiness."
Before Hermione could think of a reply, there was a pounding sound on the front door of Harry's house. Sighing, Harry stood and answered the door. Hermione continued sipping her coffee. She soon heard raised voices. Harry's was loudest, but she recognized Ginny's and Ron's voices as well. Hermione suddenly felt like the other woman or the dirty secret...or both.
"NO!" Ginny shouted. "Dammit, I am not coming in second to her again! She hasn't even been around, Harry!"
"I talk to her every week!" Harry shouted back.
Hermione heard a crash of sorts followed by stomping. When Hermione looked up at the doorway, she saw Ginny with a face as red as her hair. She strode over to Hermione as quickly as Hermione scrambled out of the chair. She backed herself into a corner and only then did Ginny stop. She pulled out her wand and held it to Hermione's throat.
"Ginny, stop!" Ron called. A moment later, Ron pulled Ginny off of her attack. He shoved her into a wall and held her there, taking her wand. He looked over his shoulder. "Glad you're alive, Hermione, but get the hell out of here," he said.
"She stays," Harry said from the doorway. "You two leave. Ginny, come back for your stuff but that will be the last time you come in here."
"And when she doesn't want you anymore?" Ginny demanded. "What then?"
"Then it's my problem, not yours," Harry said coldly. "Get. Out."
Ginny shoved Ron away from her. He stumbled back a foot and Ginny made her way up to Harry. "You fucking bastard!" she shouted before she shoved him into the fridge. Harry winced as he hit it and stayed there until Ginny hit him. Harry grabbed her wrist and used her struggling to grab her other hand and put them both behind her back. Wincing, he pulled his wand from his sleeve and bound her wrists. "I can't believe you did that," he said, forcing her to her knees. He looked up at Ron. "Leave," he said one more time.
"I'm not going anywhere if you're actually arresting my sister," Ron said.
"I'm not," Harry said. "You're taking her with you and you're going to keep her at the Burrow until either you or Charley can come and get her things," Harry said. "She is not coming back."
"Stop talking about me like I'm not fucking here, Harry!" Ginny shouted.
"Then stop acting like a child, Ginny," Harry spat. He pulled her back up to her feet and pushed her towards Ron. "I am not going to tell you again," he said as Ron steadied his sister.
With a scowl, Ron guided Ginny towards the door. A moment later, Hermione heard it slam and breathed a sigh of relief.
Harry slowly moved to the drawer next to the fridge and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, his hand on his left side. He moved to the kitchen window and pushed it open before he sat down in his chair and lit up. Hermione, shocked, slowly sat down. "Are you alright?" she asked, noticing that Harry was still clutching his side.
Harry shrugged. "I will be in a few minutes," he said, closing his eyes and bowing his head, his cigarette-free hand still over his ribs.
Hermione remembered the wound when it was fresh. "It never healed?" she asked.
Harry shook his head. "No," he said. "Not completely. Ginny exploited that in the living room. You probably heard the crash..."
"What was that?" Hermione asked.
"Me falling into the coffee table that I tripped over earlier," Harry said with a bitter smirk.
"And...when did you start this?" Hermione asked, gesturing to the cigarette Harry was absently ashing through the open window.
"Six months ago," Harry said roughly, getting back up for an ashtray. He sat back down with it and started rubbing the ashes off of the cherry. "I got too stressed out and one of the other Aurors I work with smokes. After I screamed for an hour about what was on my mind, he handed me his pack and told me that I needed it more than he did. After a week of just looking at them, I finally tried it. Been hooked ever since." He took a drag and slowly let it out.
"Stress," Harry replied simply, resuming his ashing. "With Ginny, work, the Weasleys... I couldn't take it so I kept up the habit. Ginny and I had a lot of fights about it. She kept demanding that I quit or she would leave me. Every time she did it, I picked up a cigarette and told her to go. She never did."
"It's been really bad for you, hasn't it?" Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah," he said.
"We talk all of the time," Hermione said softly. "Why didn't you say something before?"
Harry chuckled bitterly and took another drag. "How do you bring that up?" he asked, speaking as he let the smoke out of his lungs. "How do you talk about that when you have thirty people around you, listening to every word you say because they know that call is coming on that day and at that time and they don't know who's on the other end. How do you say 'I hate my life, I hate my girlfriend, and I still love you as much today as I did four years ago when you left'?" he asked, meeting Hermione's eyes for the first time since Ginny and Ron left.
"I guess you don't," Hermione sighed. She took a sip from her rapidly cooling coffee. "I can't help but feel somewhat responsible for this," she confessed. "If I hadn't called..."
"I was already awake," Harry said. "I was outside smoking when I heard the phone ring."
"This would have happened regardless then?" Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. "Trust me," he said. "This is not your fault. I guarantee it would have happened sooner or later."
"I'm sorry things have been so rough for you, Harry," Hermione said softly before she took another drink.
Harry gave a little shrug. He took one last drag from his cigarette and snuffed it out. "Oh well," he sighed. "There isn't much that can be done about what happened."
"So what are you going to do now?" Hermione asked.
Harry met her eyes again. "Well, I'm sort of hoping that you're going to tell me something other than you can't give me what I want when I know for a fact you can."
Hermione sighed. "I have to make a phone call before I can tell you that," she said softly.
"A phone call?" Harry asked.
Hermione nodded. "I've been seeing Blaise Zabini," she said softly. "I have to make sure that his last disappearance is the last one. It's been about two and a half weeks since we last talked, but sometimes he just takes a break without telling me. I heard from Draco that he was planning on going camping this weekend depending on the weather. I have to say, I'm glad his plans were spoiled though he's probably at his apartment with his latest trick..."
"And if this is just a break?" Harry asked. "If he's coming back? Are you seriously going to stick with someone who's cheating on you?"
"He's not coming back, Harry," Hermione softly replied.
"Then what will happen?" Harry asked, raising from the table and getting a fresh cup of coffee. Hermione noticed that this time he didn't seem to be in as much pain from the old wound. "Are you just going to walk out of my life again? Am I going to get one phone call every week where we both clearly lie to each other?" He looked back at her as he stirred the sugar and cream into his coffee. "Is Ginny right?" he asked. "Are you going to tell me that you, not something you've convinced yourself to believe, honestly don't want to be with me?"
Hermione sighed and looked away. Those green eyes were too piercing, too hard, for her to be able to look at him and give him an honest answer. If there was an honest answer.
"I don't know," she whispered.
Harry walked back to the table and set down his coffee cup. He knelt down in front of her, placing one hand over hers and the other on her knee. "Then kiss me one last time and I'll let you go," he said softly. "No begging or pleading, no anger, no yelling... Just one last kiss."
"You're going to want another one if I do that," Hermione whispered, not failing to notice the similarity in this conversation to the one that had led to their year-long affair.
"Is that such a horrible thing?" Harry asked.
A smile tugged at the corner of Hermione's mouth. "No," she said softly as she moved closer to him. Harry leaned in and they kissed for the first time in four years.
Harry reached up and placed his hand at the back of Hermione's neck, pulling her slightly closer to him. His tongue brushed her bottom lip and she felt her heart skip a beat. Smiling, she deepened the kiss by sliding from the chair. Harry wrapped his arms around her and broke the kiss in favor of her neck and ear.
Hermione couldn't stop the moan from escaping her. She had been with others since Harry, but none of them could do what he could with just a few kisses.
Harry met her eyes briefly before they kissed again. Hermione pressed herself against him, almost unable to believe that she was actually kissing him again.
They pulled away from each other, breathing heavily. "I told you you'd want another kiss," Hermione said with a smile.
Harry smirked. "I told you it wasn't horrible," he said before he placed one more kiss on her lips. "Are you sure you and Zabini are still together?" he asked. "After more than two weeks without talking to each other?"
"Anita says I should just move on," Hermione said. Harry stood and held out his hands to help her to her feet. Hermione grabbed his hands and he pulled her up effortlessly. "She says that it's clearly over."
"She's probably right," Harry said as they sat down again. "Then again, I go six days without talking to you and I'm going nuts with it."
Hermione smiled. "You're sweet," she said softly.
Harry made a face. "Sweet?" he asked. "Ouch. I was going for irresistible here."
Hermione chuckled. "You already are," she said softly. "Why else do you think I've stayed away so much?" she asked. "Every time I'm around you, I want to be with you in some way."
"So what's stopping you?" Harry asked, taking another sip of his coffee. He reached for his cigarettes. "And don't tell me it's the baby thing," he said as he pulled one out of the pack. "Do you mind?" he asked. "I never asked you earlier."
Hermione shook her head. "Cigarettes, no," she said. "Anita smokes so I'm used to it. You smoking, yes, I mind, but it's your choice not mine."
"I see the possibility of quitting in the near future," Harry said before he brought the cigarette to his mouth and lit it. "When are you going to call Zabini to make sure you two aren't together anymore?" he asked.
Hermione sighed. "Probably when I get home," she said. "I'd call him now, but it's almost three in the morning."
"So are you staying the rest of the night here or are you going back home?"
"I had planned on staying," Hermione confessed. "If that's alright with you, of course."
Harry chuckled. "Because for some reason it wouldn't be," he said with a smile. "This is the first time you've actually been here, isn't it?" he asked.
Hermione nodded. "Pretty much," she said. "I came by after you moved in for a few seconds to drop something off once."
"The sword," Harry said, pointing into the living room. Hermione looked and saw Godric Gryffindor's sword mounted on the wall above the mantle.
"They actually let you keep it?" Hermione asked. "I thought the goblins wanted it back."
"They did," Harry said. "I told them that if they let me keep it just in case I need it again, I would leave it to them in my will, just to make sure the legalities are tied up so they wouldn't have to worry about another wizard coming in and trying to take it again."
"And they agreed?" Hermione asked, surprised.
Harry nodded. "Turns out I've needed to use it three times since Voldemort's death," he said. "It stays out of the Prophet but there have been a few Death Eaters who have decided that they want to follow his path and a couple of them have even gone as far as making Horcruxes."
"Merlin," Hermione whispered. "It's amazing what is kept from the papers."
Harry chuckled. "You don't know the half of it," he said. "Two weeks ago Theodore Nott, he was in Hogwarts with us remember?" he asked. Hermione nodded. "Anyway, two weeks ago, he tried to rob Gringotts. One of the high security vaults had information in it about the Deathly Hollows. He wanted to see if he could discover what they were and find all three."
"You're the only person who has ever had all three in your possession at the same time," Hermione said softly.
Harry shook his head. "I lost the Resurrection Stone before I got the Elder Wand," he reminded her. "It's somewhere in the Forbidden Forest, near where I met up with Voldemort."
"Near where Voldemort killed you, you mean," Hermione said softly.
Harry sighed. "Yeah," he said.
"I don't think I'll ever get over what happened to you out there," Hermione said softly.
"I don't think I'll ever get over what happened to you before I rescued you from the Death Eaters," Harry replied. He flicked the ashes off of his cigarette and took in a deep drag. "I didn't stop looking for you. The only time I took a break was when I was too tired or hungry to keep going. I was desperate."
"You never told me how you found me," Hermione said softly.
"Malfoy and Snape," Harry said simply, taking another drag. "That's why I spoke for them at their trials. While Snape was protecting Malfoy after killing Dumbledore, he convinced Malfoy to switch sides. They found me wondering around some Muggle village and told me where I could find you. I would have killed everyone around, except that there wasn't anyone there when I arrived. They'd all been summoned for something. I got you out and took you to St. Mungo's."
"And I was out two days later and we were back on the road," Hermione sighed. "Soon after that, Ron found us."
Harry nodded. "And wasn't happy to find out we were together," Harry added.
Hermione shrugged. "If he cared enough, he wouldn't have left in the first place," Hermione said.
"You can't blame him, Hermione," Harry said. "You and I struggled with that locket just as much as he did."
"We dealt with it better though," Hermione sighed before she took a sip from her coffee.
"We had sex," Harry said. "That's not dealing."
Hermione blushed a little as she set her coffee cup back down on the table. "So we did," she said with a sigh.
"I didn't mean that it was only sex," Harry amended. "It was more than that."
"Was it?" Hermione asked, meeting Harry's brilliant green eyes. "I mean it, Harry," she said. "Was it really more or are we just trying to fool ourselves into thinking it was?"
"What do I have to do to prove to you that I love you?" Harry asked."Just tell me and I'll do it."
Hermione sighed and held her head in her hands. "I want to feel again," she whispered.
Harry rose from the table and walked around to stand in front of Hermione. He held out his hand as she looked up at him. "Do you trust me?" he asked.
"Always," Hermione replied, taking his hand in hers.
AN: Don't forget to review please! I loves reviews! ^_^