I'm so, so sorry for the long wait. I had a bit of writer's block. I had this next scene, with Charlie, written out, and I have the epilogue, which will be the next and final chapter, but I was stuck on the middle bit and then Real Life got in the way. I won't make you wait as long for the ending, I promise. And also, I'll finish multi-chaptered fics before I begin posting them, so I don't have this problem again. Hope you like it.
He had already planned to take the next two days off from work, like the previous month, but he had forgotten to send her another note. He knew she'd stop by at her first opportunity, but it wasn't until nearly one that there was a knock on his door. He held his breath again, resting his glass of firewhiskey on his stomach. It always helped to calm him down a little. Sometimes he would even drink enough to pass out and sleep through the night.
"Bill? Are you home?"
It was Charlie. Hermione had probably recruited him to come with her.
"I'm alone, I swear."
It was like he could read his mind. Bill sighed and opened the door with a flick of his wand. Charlie peeked in, his eyes having to adjust to the dim light, since Bill had all the curtains drawn.
"I knew you were here," he said, closing the door behind him and sitting in the armchair next to the sofa where Bill lay with his drink.
"Bully for you."
"All right, you prat, what's your problem? Let me tell you, I'm not exactly thrilled to have my date with Gloria, or Karen, or whatever her name was, interrupted by your girlfriend showing up at my door last night and crying and snotting all over my best shirt."
Bill's gut clenched. But he'd expected that, right? That she'd be upset? "She's not my girlfriend," was all he said.
"Bollocks. Have you been here all along? She said she came by yesterday and left a note on the door because you weren't home. But I think you were."
Charlie threw up his hands and collapsed back in the chair. "So why the hell didn't you answer the door? I was taking a nap when Ron started a row with her yesterday, but she thinks maybe you heard it from inside."
"I did. But he's right."
"Ron right? Unlikely."
Bill sat up quickly, slamming his glass down on the table. "Tonight's the full moon, in case you haven't looked at a damn calendar!"
"You're not a fucking werewolf, Bill. You're apparently just a right arse."
"Ron is right. I did scare Fleur. She couldn't even look at me anymore, wouldn't let me touch her, locked me out of the bedroom. She was afraid of me."
Charlie sighed, and Bill watched his annoyance drain away. "Hermione's not a delicate little French narcissist," he said, quietly. "She's rather feisty. Besides, do you honestly think Hermione Granger hasn't done her research? Honestly, she knows as well as I do that this is all mostly in your head."
Bill didn't answer. He wished that were true, but just knew it couldn't be. Charlie hadn't seen the looks on Fleur's face, hadn't heard her cutting words.
"She could be the best thing that ever happened to you, if you let her." Charlie stood and grabbed the mostly-full bottle of firewhiskey from the table. "I'll be taking this with me. Hell, I should drink it to get you back for ruining my date. She's going to come by to see you when she gets off work. You had best be here, be sober, and you had best open the damn door."
He didn't wait for Bill to answer before he let himself out, slamming the door behind him for emphasis.
He'd stayed on the sofa for most of the afternoon, finally getting up to change his clothes and brush his teeth before five. He nearly had to sit on his hands, to keep from repeatedly running them through his hair as he nervously waited for her to knock on the door.
It was only five after five when she did. Always punctual. He slowly opened it and they just looked at each other for several long moments. She looked as exhausted as he felt and there was little color in her cheeks. Her eyes were vaguely red and he wondered if she'd hidden in her office all day, still crying. He hated that he hurt her. He hated that the scent of her perfume was easily overpowering his heightened senses and making him want her more than he thought possible when he was supposed to be letting her go.
"I'm sorry," he finally said. "I should have talked to you...explained...things."
"You don't have to explain anything," she replied. "I'm not scared of you. I'm not her. I don't want you to push me away, I don't want to go away, I only want you."
"I want you, too," he choked out, finally breaking and slumping slightly against the doorway. "Gods, so much."
She reached out and put her hand on his chest, over his heart. "You have me. I'm just asking you to keep me. I don't care about Greyback, or your scars, or your rare steaks. I wouldn't care if you were a full bloody werewolf," she said, with passion. "You seem to see everything through this lens of Fleur's reaction to your attack and you think you've suddenly become a different person than you were four years ago. But you haven't. No more than the rest of us. Do you see me any differently for this?"
She held out her forearm, where silvery lines spelled out a cursed word. He shook his head, mutely. He never thought of it, really.
"Do you see George differently without his ear? We could have lost our lives or our minds, but we're all still here. And you didn't do anything wrong, to push her away, she did all of that on her own, because she wasn't brave enough for the things she witnessed. She pushed it all on you, made you think it was your fault, made you think you became some sort of monster because of a few scars and personality quirks."
His chest tightened painfully as he let her words sink in, filtering through his mind and his veins, slowly choking out his memories of Fleur's words, the look on her face, her suddenly cool distance.
She gave a choked laugh, and he realized her eyes were full of tears. "I'm a little moody once a month, too, you know. I think we should balance out just fine."
He nodded, not trusting his voice and he could see her tense muscles finally relax with relief. He put his hand over hers, that was still pressed against his chest, and swallowed hard. "If-if you change your mind, I don't know...I don't think I could take it."
"I know," she said, softly, stepping closer. "I know you were trying to push me away first and save yourself the heartache. But I'm not going anywhere. I don't want to be anywhere but here with you. I'll say it everyday until you believe it."
"I might need to hear it from time to time. I'll try not to be such a moody bastard anymore."
He managed a faint grin and she returned it with one of her own.
"We're not always going to have good days," she said, brushing her free hand across his cheek. "You're going to be a moody bastard, or I'm going to be a bossy swot or maybe we're going to argue over the last cup of coffee, but we're going to have more good days than bad, and I wouldn't want to argue over coffee with anyone else."
"I wouldn't either."
Her hand curved around to the back of his neck and she leaned toward him. "Then would you please let me in your flat and kiss me before I lose control and do unmentionable things to you in the corridor?"
Well, bloody hell. He adored her. He tugged on her wrist, pulling her through the doorway as he leaned down to kiss her. She met him with the same desperation he was feeling and as she wound her arms around his neck, making that noise in the back of her throat that he loved oh so much, he felt something in him shift into place. It was like coming home.
He pushed her back against the door, shutting it. She found her wand as he moved his lips down her throat, sucking on the skin over her pulse. He heard her cast locking and silencing spells before she cast a contraceptive charm. Her wand clattered to the floor as she returned her hands to him, tangling them in his hair. She pulled his mouth up to hers again, pulling on his lower lip with her teeth as one hand withdrew from his hair to begin to pop open the buttons on his shirt. He didn't bother with the buttons on her blouse, pulling it over her head in one motion, diving back down for another kiss. The rest of their clothing fell away just as quickly. He started to turn them toward the bedroom, but Hermione pulled him back, wrapping her arms around his neck again as she hitched a leg up around his hip.
"Here, love, please."
Her voice was sultry and breathy and he couldn't hold back the low growl that emanated from his throat. She didn't seem to mind in the least, giving him a wicked grin as he lifted her, his hands under her bum, and pressed her once more against the front door. She wrapped her other leg around his waist, hooking her ankles behind him. She rocked against his arousal and moaned as he angled his head down enough to catch her nipple between his teeth, sucking hard, then soothing with his tongue. Impatient, she worked her hand between them, wrapping her fingers around his hardened length and stroking slowly up and down, running her thumb across the tip.
"Shit," he hissed against her neck. "Hermione, gods!"
She lined him up at her entrance and he pushed in quickly, his groan echoing hers at the overwhelming sense of completion he felt. Her nails dug into his shoulders and her teeth caught his earring, pulling gently before releasing.
"I won't leave you," she whispered, her breath hot against his ear. "This is it for me, Bill. You're it for me."
He couldn't find his voice to respond, but caught her lips in a searing kiss. He began to move his hips quickly, barely pulling out each time, feeling her move slightly up the door with each thrust. She was soon gasping in time with his movements and he knew he wouldn't last much longer-at least not this first round. Unable to let go of her hips, he adjusted his angle just slightly and, finding the thumping pulse on her throat, he sucked on it gently.
"Come for me, love," he gasped against her neck. "Come."
With a shout, she did just that, as though the demand had wrenched it from her. He was spilling into her the moment he felt her walls contract around him and he buried himself deep inside, groaning and gasping against her skin. The silence of his flat was broken only by their efforts to catch their breaths and he reluctantly slipped out of her, letting her feet return to the ground as he wrapped his arms around her back and pressed himself against her.
Pulling her with him, he staggered backwards toward the sofa, where he collapsed, welcoming the weight and warmth as she fell on top of him. She pressed a kiss to his collarbone before laying her head down.
"Sweet Merlin, I think you've been holding back on me," she finally said and he barked a laugh.
"I thought we'd been doing rather well," he replied, closing his eyes as he turned his face into her curly hair and kissed her forehead. "You know, before I was an arse."
"Oh, I have no complaints," she said, saucily. "I just think I might be paying a bit more attention to the lunar calendar from here on out."
He didn't reply, but continued to run one hand up and down her back. She lifted her head to look at him again and he brought his other hand up to cradle her face, running his thumb across her cheek.
"I meant what I said," she said, quietly and seriously. "You're it for me."
As he looked at her, he suddenly saw her for everything she had become in his four-year absence, he saw little curly-haired, freckled children running around the Burrow, playing with their cousins. He saw that same wild hair of hers, only with silvery strands running through it, saw an older version of her lovely face the way she looked when she cried out his name and came in his arms.
"I love you," he suddenly said, with a passion he didn't know he had, even after their recent actions. "I should have said it yesterday or a week ago or the first day I was home and I saw you in Gringotts. I love you."
Her eyes immediately filled with tears, then she smiled an absolutely radiant smile. "I love you, too."
He smiled back, then her lips were on his and he made a conscious decision to let it go. All of it. Fleur and being nine years older and every argument he'd ever thought up that had convinced him it was possible to let her go. Her breath hitched as she felt him begin to respond again and she broke the kiss, quirking an eyebrow at him.
"Again? So soon?"
He tried not to blush. "I thought you knew what you were getting into," he said, his tone teasing.
The look that slid over her face was positively wicked. "Lucky, lucky me," she whispered against his mouth.