Love is a Battlefield
- Story Summary:
- Set eleven years after they leave Hogwarts, Harry and Hermione find themselves in a situation they never anticipated - they've fallen in love. Add a nasty ex-girlfriend, Ron and his wife, Ginny and Draco and Hermione's mysterious boss to the mix and see whether they can make it work as lovers - or whether their secrets will tear them apart forever.
- Chapter Summary:
- Set 11 years after graduation from Hogwarts, the Dream Team are now adults. Catch up with Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Draco and all your favourites as they deal with life, love, work, marriage, divorce, babies and kidnapping. Harry/Hermione and Draco/Ginny romantic subplots.
Dedication:This chapter is for Caitlin Allyana, Eire, Enchanted Rose, Nightfall, and Suzanne, who have been with me since the start. Your enthusiastic support and encouragement means the world to me. Thank you!
Sunday, June 1st, 2008
Harry stirred from his sleep, squinting against the bright light streaming through his window. Groaning, he lifted his head slightly to check his watch.
"Damn," he muttered, seeing it was close to 1pm. He couldn’t remember what time he’d finally drifted off to sleep. He’d been up for hours, tossing and turning, unable to keep his thoughts off Hermione.
"Oh, God." He pulled himself up into a sitting position, blinking rapidly and reaching out blindly for his glasses. Sliding them onto his nose, he pulled the covers back and climbed out of bed, making his way to the bathroom.
As he jumped into the shower, Harry wondered if she, too, had had trouble sleeping. His mind went over and over what had happened earlier. He’d kissed Hermione. He’d kissed Hermione. He’d kissed Hermione.
He tried to make sense of it, but couldn’t. Never in a million years had Harry thought he’d ever kiss his best friend like that not that the thought hadn’t occasionally crossed his mind. It was only natural for him to wonder every now and then what it would be like to kiss the woman he’d lived with for the last 10 years; one that he’d known more than half his life. But never, in his wildest dreams, had Harry ever thought it would actually happen. And when it had, it was well, it was better than anything he could possibly have imagined.
Her lips were so soft, so warm. He could remember everything about her with startling clarity. The way she’d smelled, the scent of the milk and honey body wash she’d used in the shower. The look on her face, in her eyes, when he’d kissed the tear away. The way she’d shifted her body to press up against him. The way her skin seemed to burn against his hand. She’d instantly given in to him and he’d pushed her away. He realised it had taken every ounce of strength he could muster to do that. Because kissing her felt so right. Natural. Like it was meant to be.
As he stepped under the shower head, allowing the water to gently massage his body, he couldn’t help but analyse the situation some more. This was Hermione. He wasn’t supposed to think about Hermione like that. He had a girlfriend.
Harry wondered what made him do it. He’d comforted Hermione plenty of times before, and not once had he been overcome with the need to kiss her like that. But as he’d kissed the tear away, a ripple of desire had washed over him, and he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t stop it. What did it all mean?
Sighing, he stuck his head under the spray, allowing the water to drift aimlessly down towards the drain. As he picked up the soap, he wondered if things would ever be the same between them again.
That thought scared Harry more than he cared to admit, so he pushed all thoughts of his best friend from his mind as he dried and dressed. Taking a deep breath, he opened the bedroom door to total silence. There was no noise in the house whatsoever.
Making his way downstairs, he poked his head into the lounge room. Empty. Well, not technically empty, as Crookshanks had taken it upon himself to be sprawled elegantly on the lounge. He lazily lifted his head up, and upon seeing it was only Harry, ignored him and went back to snoozing.
Harry went into the kitchen, which also appeared to be empty. The fleeting thought went through his mind that maybe Hermione was still asleep - until he looked at the fridge.
When they’d first moved in, the three housemates decided to keep a whiteboard on the door so they could leave messages for the others if need be. On it, Harry found the following message:
Have gone into the office to work for awhile. Will be back for dinner with Sirius.
Harry noted, with a small amount of relief, that she’d signed the message using his nickname for her. This meant, he reasoned, that she couldn’t be too upset with him. He read it again, when it struck him. Sirius. He’d completely forgotten that Sirius was coming over that night for dinner. Dammit. As much as he loved Sirius, he really wasn’t in the mood for company.
Still, he pondered, maybe he could talk to him about what had happened. Harry had the utmost respect for his godfather, and trusted his opinion implicitly. Maybe he could help him make sense of this mess.
Harry gave it some thought, but then decided to just forget about it. It was no big deal. It was just a kiss. He couldn’t bother Sirius with something so trivial. It wasn’t like he was a child anymore, anyway. He could figure this out by himself.
Hermione threw down her quill in anger, letting out a loud sigh. She was getting nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. She’d been sitting in her office for close to 4 hours, and had not a thing to show for it. No matter how hard she tried to concentrate, her thoughts kept drifting back to one thing one person. Harry. Her best friend of 17 years, who’d done something the previous night that Hermione never thought he’d ever be able to do - completely shock her.
Hermione couldn’t erase the memory of the kiss from her mind. Nothing worked. Usually, whenever she was angry or upset, she was able to throw herself into her work to forget. But not this time. Absently, she lifted her fingers up to run them across her lips, the memory of how Harry’s lips felt pressing against hers ever present in her thoughts. She couldn’t remember a time in her life when she’d ever felt a kiss as deeply as she had his; her whole body had responded, and she knew that if he’d pushed her onto the bed, she would have given in to him completely. And that thought both frightened and excited her.
But just as quickly as those feelings rose, so did anger. He’d had the gall to kiss her, then push her away, tell her they couldn’t do it, and bolt to his bedroom without so much as a goodbye. What was he thinking? Why had he kissed her? Did this mean he had feelings for her? Could he possibly be no. Hermione shook her head, erasing that train of thought completely. Harry couldn’t possibly be in love with her. That was just stupid, and not worth considering.
How do you know that? A little voice in the back of her head spoke up. What makes you think that it’s not possible? Don’t say it’s not something you haven’t considered yourself since last night.
Hermione felt involuntary tears well up. Never, in seventeen years of friendship, had she ever felt so uncomfortable about Harry before.
She pushed her stool out and got up, pinching the bridge of her nose to stop the tears, and taking a few deep breaths. This was pointless. It was just a kiss, that’s all. Obviously a spur-of-the-moment reaction to her crying. Harry hated seeing her cry, she knew that. He probably didn’t give it a second thought; he just wanted to comfort her.
You don’t really believe that, the small voice said again. You want it to mean more, don’t you?
"Shut it." Hermione said aloud to no one in particular, and she pushed all thoughts of Harry firmly out of her mind. She strode out of the room, got a coffee, then came back and decided it was no use trying to concentrate on something as important as the Jobin project. Now was probably a good opportunity for her to catch up on the more mundane paperwork that she’d neglected for quite some time.
Percy Weasley sat in his plush office, the trappings consistent for a man of his station. Not that he had much to do on a Sunday, mind, but he liked to keep on top of things, and there was always paperwork to be done. Dipping his rare lime green fwooper feather quill into the inkpot, he carefully scribed his comments on the parchment in front of him.
After completing that task, he put the quill down, and picked up the brass name plate that sat at the front of his desk. Settling back into his leather chair, he propped his feet up onto the desk, and examined the name plate, noticing a few spots on it.
Percival G. Weasley, Minister of Magic.
At 32 years of age, he was the youngest Minister of Magic ever. Even he, deep down, would never have imagined he’d be this high in office at such a young age, but he never let it bother him. Obviously, he was the right man for the job.
Sirius Black heard the knock at the door and frowned, puzzled. He never had visitors; the only people who ever came to the house - or even knew where it was - were Harry, Hermione and Ron.
Sirius had chosen to live in a small town in Scotland, away from the Ministry and its seemingly prying eyes everywhere. When he'd finally been cleared, the Ministry had given Sirius enough compensation for him to live comfortably for the rest of his life. He’d chosen to move as far from London as he possibly could while still remaining in the UK. He was also close to Hogwarts, where he did the occasional odd task for Dumbledore, a man Sirius believed had thought him innocent all along. So to say he was surprised at hearing the knock was an understatement.
However, he was even more surprised when he opened the door to find a subdued Harry standing behind it. His godson looked forlorn; Sirius knew instantly that something was wrong. This wasn’t just a social visit.
"Harry," he began, opening the door and moving aside so Harry could enter. Sirius had only enough time to shut the door and turn to look at his godson before Harry stepped forward and embraced him tightly.
Sirius tried to hide his rapidly growing concern and hugged him back. "Hello, son," he murmured soothingly. After a moment, Harry let go and stepped back, and Sirius could see the confusion in his eyes. "Let’s go into the kitchen, we can talk there." Harry nodded silently, and followed Sirius to the kitchen.
He pulled out a chair and sat down, watching as Sirius made them both a cup of tea. However, as soon as Sirius placed the cups on the table, Harry stood and began to pace. Sirius sipped his tea quietly, waiting for Harry to speak. When it looked like nothing was forthcoming, he finally decided to break the silence.
"Harry, do you want to tell me what’s wrong?" Harry opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. He didn’t even know how to begin. He’d let his fears manifest as the afternoon had passed on. Why had she gone into work? She hadn't even stayed so they could talk about it, and that worried him. Hermione was good at wanting to analyse everyone else’s feelings. The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced she’d realised it was all a big mistake and had probably needed to get out of the house - and away from him.
By mid-afternoon, he could no longer stand to sit in the empty house with thoughts of Hermione swirling around in his head, so he’d decided to Apparate to Sirius’ house to talk it out. Trouble was, now he was here, he didn’t know what to say.
"I feel a bit foolish, actually," he confided.
Sirius put down his teacup and eyed his godson with concern. "Obviously, something’s bothering you. Something that couldn’t wait until tonight." He tilted his head thoughtfully, trying to figure out what would have Harry so unsettled. Or, more precisely, who. It was then that he realised. She wasn’t there.
"Hermione." This was not a question. Harry stopped pacing, and stood up perfectly straight. Sirius knew he was right. "Has something happened with Hermione? Is she all right?"
"She’s fine," Harry said quietly. "She’s not here because she’s at work."
"On a Sunday? I thought she’d decided never to work a Sunday - that’s her day off to relax."
Harry snorted. "Yes, well, that was before I decided to kiss her last night."
Sirius felt his mouth drop open, but he quickly closed it, clearing his throat. "I take it you don’t mean a peck on the cheek."
"No," Harry rubbed his scar absently. He heard the sharp intake of breath.
"Harry, does your scar hurt?"
At this, Harry looked up. "What? No. I just have a headache, that’s all."
Sirius was quiet for a few moments, collecting his thoughts and trying to figure out how best to lead the conversation. "Do you want to tell me how you ended up kissing her?" he asked softly.
"Wow," Sirius said, finishing the last of his tea. They’d moved from the kitchen to the lounge room. Sirius had placed himself in the comfortable old lounge chair, while Harry had favoured stretching out on the sofa.
"So, what did she say this morning when you got up?"
"Nothing. I haven’t seen her since it since last night," Harry’s voice dropped, and he sighed again. "I don’t know what to do, Sirius. It’s thrown me for a loop." You’re not the only one, kid, Sirius thought.
He smiled sympathetically. "I’m sure it has. The question now is, what do you do about it? Where do you go from here?"
"Nowhere," Harry’s response was instant. "It didn’t mean anything, it just happened."
Sirius sat forward and stared at Harry. "Liar," he said. "Of course it meant something. You wouldn’t be here if the kiss - and its possible implications - didn’t bother you deeply. Problem is, Harry," he paused, thinking how best to put it. "I don’t understand why it bothers you so deeply."
At that, Harry turned his head to find Sirius’ dark eyes staring at his. "What do you mean, you don’t understand? This is huge, Sirius. I might have just ruined one of the best friendships I’ve ever had in my life."
To Harry’s surprise - and annoyance - Sirius burst out laughing. "That’s rubbish, Harry. Absolute rubbish. Hermione wouldn’t stop being your friend simply because you kissed her. You need to talk to her. Find out how she feels about what happened. Chances are, she’s just as confused as you."
He hesitated a moment, wondering if he should ask the 64 thousand galleon question. "Do you love her, Harry?"
Harry looked at him as if he was mad. "Of course I love her, Sirius. She’s one of my best friends."
Sirius shook his head. "That’s not what I meant, and you know it."
Harry was silent for a long moment. "I don’t know," he said softly.
Sirius ran a hand through his hair, knowing that was the answer he was going to hear. "Well, first things first." He ticked off the points on his fingers as he went along. "One, you have to figure out exactly what you feel for Hermione, if anything. Two, you need to talk to her about it. Find out what she’s thinking. See if she feels the same. Three, figure out what you’re going to do about April."
Harry groaned. He’d completely forgotten about April. Which showed him, with sudden clarity, that his relationship with her had no future.
"It’s over with April," he said.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. This afternoon was just full of surprises. "How did she take that?"
"She doesn’t know yet."
"Oh," was all Sirius could manage. "Well, perhaps the first thing you should do is tell her that."
"I will. I’m having dinner with her on Friday. I’ll tell her then." Sirius nodded in agreement. Harry looked over at his godfather, and smiled at him for the first time that day. "Thanks, Sirius. You’ve really helped."
Sirius smiled back. "My pleasure, son. Although I don’t envy you." He sighed and stood up. "Matters of the heart are always complicated. But I’m sure you’ll work it out."
He looked at the clock on the mantlepiece. "It’s getting late. Are you still planning on feeding me?"
Harry didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed to find that Hermione wasn’t home yet when they arrived back at the house.
Feeding a purring Crookshanks, Harry made Sirius a cup of tea, then set about organising dinner. He decided to stick to an easy to make stir fry, chatting with Sirius about Kellie’s party the previous night. As he finished the vegetables, the front door opened. Obviously, Hermione had chosen to drive.
"Sirius!" Hermione’s mood was cheerful as she entered the kitchen. Dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt, she crossed the room quickly to be pulled into Sirius’ embrace.
Harry noticed how small she looked against Sirius’ sweeping black robes; although Sirius had chosen to all but shun the wizarding world, he still felt more comfortable in robes than Muggle clothing, a problem that Harry and the others didn’t share. Harry much preferred Muggle clothing, although he always wore robes where appropriate.
Sirius kissed her cheek. "You’re looking well, Hermione. How was work today?"
Hermione’s smile faded, and she hesitated. "Not terribly productive, I must admit. I had my mind on other things, but I did manage to catch up on some paperwork." She kissed him back. "It’s so good to have you here, Sirius."
Sirius smiled at her, but had to wonder if this was because she felt uncomfortable being alone with Harry. He sincerely hoped not.
"Hey, Mione," Harry said, trying to sound casual.
Hermione turned at looked at Harry for the first time since her arrival back home.
"Hey, Harry," she replied tentatively. Their eyes met, and they both saw the other’s uncertainty and confusion. Hermione tried to keep her voice steady. "How was your day?"
Harry turned back to the frypan, suddenly unable to look at her any longer without wanting to close the distance between them and kiss her senseless. "Okay. I went to Sirius’ for the afternoon."
"Oh," Hermione smiled knowingly. "Man stuff, huh?"
After dinner, they pulled out some games and played for a little while, the mood lighter than it had been earlier in the evening. Sirius observed, with some relief, that Harry and Hermione seemed to have relaxed around each other; their banter was cheerful and teasing, as it usually was.
After the fifth game of Exploding Snap, Hermione rubbed her eyes and yawned.
"I’m exhausted," she proclaimed. "Time to call it a night."
Sirius’ eyes flew instantly to the clock. It was only 9.30pm. "It’s only early, Hermione." He tried to protest, suddenly feeling like he’d very much overstayed his welcome. He’d wanted to leave to give Harry and Hermione time to talk.
"I know," Hermione stood up and stretched. "But I didn’t get much sleep last night, so I plan to catch up tonight." Both men stood with her. "Good night."
She leaned over and kissed Sirius, then turned to Harry, slowly reaching out a hand and briefly placing it on his cheek. As she pulled away, he grabbed her hand, moving it across to his lips and kissing it.
Sirius left an hour later and, after tidying up, Harry made his way up to bed. As he reached the top of the staircase, he noticed the light coming out from underneath Hermione’s door, which meant she was still awake. He froze, wondering whether he should go in and talk to her or not. Not, he decided. He got as far as placing his hand on the doorknob to his bedroom when he shook his head, took a deep breath, and crossed the hall, knocking on her door.
There was a pause before she answered. "Come in." Her voice was muffled. Harry opened the door to find Hermione sliding off her bed, a book placed face down on it.
"You’re still dressed," he murmured, glancing at her.
"Would you rather I not be?" Hermione snapped back acidly.
Harry’s jaw dropped. "What?"
"What are you doing here, Harry? Come to kiss me again, see if you can get my t-shirt off this time?"
Harry was stunned. Whatever he’d expected, it wasn’t this. The anger was radiating off her in waves. "No, of course not," he said weakly, still trying to get his head around what she’d just said.
"Oh, why’s that then? Not good enough for you, am I?"
Harry shook his head, his mind a jumble. "Hermione, what the hell are you talking about? I just came here to talk."
"I see," The coldness in her voice was unmistakable. "Like you talked to me last night?"
"Jesus, Hermione. What’s the matter with you? I just want to talk, and you’re treating me like your enemy, instead of your best friend."
Hermione stopped to think, trying to keep her anger in check. She’d brooded all day about what had happened between her and Harry, and when Harry had told her he’d spent the day with Sirius, she knew he’d told him.
"Okay, fine," She sat back on her bed, crossing her legs underneath her, and waited until Harry had placed himself on the edge of the bed. "Let’s talk." They sat for a few moments in an uncomfortable silence.
Finally, Hermione asked the question she’d kept asking herself all day. "Why, Harry?"
Harry turned and looked out her window, suddenly very interested in the sky. "I don’t know," he said in a quiet voice.
Hermione felt her anger flare up again. "Is that what you told Sirius?"
Harry’s head whipped back around to look at her. "How did you "
"Harry, I’m not stupid. I know why you went to see him this afternoon. What else could it have been about?" She pushed herself off the bed and stood, moving across to her window, looking out at the stars.
She crossed her arms, unconsciously echoing Harry’s stance from the night before. All of a sudden, all the frustration and anxiety she’d been feeling all day came to a head, and tears welled up in her eyes. She swiped at them, not wanting to lose it in front of him.
"Why can’t you tell me, Harry? Why could you tell him, and not me?" Her voice quavered, and she heard Harry get up and move to stand behind her. The small hairs at the back of her neck stood up, so close was his proximity to her.
"I’m sorry," he said quietly. "I don’t know what to say. I don’t know why I kissed you. It just felt right."
He laid a hand gently on her shoulder, and she flinched. She craved his touch so badly, and that scared her. Everything about the way she was feeling about Harry scared her. She didn’t know what it meant, or how to figure it out. This wasn’t a problem she could solve by going to the library.
He slid his hand down to her arm, and put the other one around her waist. "And all I want to do right now is kiss you again." His voice had now dropped to a whisper.
Hermione shut her eyes as the tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. This was an exact replay of the night before, only this time, she was crying for very different reasons. No, the voice in the back of her head said. Don’t let him do this to you again.
But Hermione could not stop Harry as he turned her slightly to face him and gently leaned in to press his lips against hers any more than she could stop breathing. She found herself instantly responding, pressing back firmly and placing her hands on his forearms as he moved both of his arms around her waist, pulling her closer. They kissed for a few long moments, savouring the taste of each other, before Hermione was able to gather the strength to push him away.
"No," she said breathlessly, tearing her mouth away from his. "Let me go."
He immediately complied, a look of pure confusion on his face.
"I won’t let you do this to me again," Her breathing was shallow, and she willed her heartbeat to calm down, taking deep breaths.
"Do what?" he said, his voice husky. "Don’t stand there and tell me you didn’t want that as badly as I did!"
Hermione visibly took a step back from him. "Don’t you dare make this out to be my fault! You said you wanted to talk you weren’t supposed to kiss me again, damn you!" The tears welled up again.
Harry looked instantly contrite. "I’m sorry," he said in a low voice. He reached out and grabbed her arm, but she shook him off.
"Don’t touch me! Just get out, Harry." She pointed a finger at the door. "Get out."
He stared at her for a long moment, then headed for the door. Hermione watched as he opened it, then turned back to look at her one final time. She could see the hurt in his eyes, the confusion that mirrored hers. Finally, he tore his gaze away and shut the door behind him.
Friday, June 6th, 2008
Ginny pushed the door to the shop open and smiled. She was a frequent visitor to Plume’s Blooms. Owned and run by Debbie Plume, who specialised in exotic flowers, Ginny used the shop exclusively for all her weddings; Debbie's prices were reasonable, and her arrangements always beautiful. The best thing, though, was that Debbie used her own special magic on the flowers - they didn’t need water, nor did they wilt.
As she waited for Debbie to appear from the back room (the small bell above the door heralding her arrival ), Ginny took the opportunity to look around. The vast sea of colour always amazed her, and the smell of the fresh flowers was uniquely pleasant. Ginny loved fresh flowers; Draco often arrived home with a bunch for her, and they brightened up even the dullest of rooms.
"Ginny!" Debbie stepped out from the behind the counter. "I wasn’t expecting you ‘til next week."
"I know, I’m sorry." Ginny smiled sheepishly. "I’m going away for a week. It wasn’t supposed to be until next weekend, but Draco’s got to work, so we moved it forward. I hope you don’t mind."
Debbie shook her head and smiled. "No, of course not." She swept a hand over the empty shop. "As you can see, I’m flat out." Ginny laughed.
"Where are you heading off to for the week?" Debbie asked.
"Santorini " Ginny replied. "I can’t wait! It’s been ages since we’ve been able to go away, just the two of us. Between his work and mine, we never seem to find the time to be alone anymore." She sighed softly, then shook her head. "Anyhow, enough about that. How have you been?"
"Good, good. In spite of the lack of clientele here at this moment, I’m actually quite busy."
"Ah," Ginny responded. "Got room for one more job?"
"Of course I have, Gin. I’ve always got room for you." Ginny grinned. She genuinely liked Debbie, a brunette of medium height and slim build. Ginny found her to be warm, and a good listener. Ginny consulted with her for every wedding on appropriate flowers, and they always seemed to be on the same wavelength.
Pulling her notes out, she ran the wedding in question by Debbie, and it wasn’t long before they’d agreed on a suitable arrangement. Ginny took down notes, then put her things away. Checking her watch, she saw that it was almost 10am. She still had plenty to do before they Apparated out that night.
"I’d better get a move on," she began. "I’ve got heaps to do before we leave."
"Have a great week away!" Debbie said, moving towards the back room again.
"Don’t forget to grab something on your way out."
After an exhausting day running around, Ginny arrived back at the flat at 5pm. After putting her stuff on the lounge, she wandered into the bedroom to find the door to the walk-in wardrobe open. Draco was sifting through his clothes, tossing things he wanted to take with him on a chair.
"Hey," she said, leaning against the door frame and smiling. "Having fun?" Draco looked up and smiled. She loved Draco’s smile; it always sent a surge of warmth through her body.
"Hi ya," he said, reaching out and grabbing her around the waist, pulling her close. "No, but I’m about to." He grinned wickedly at her, and she laughed as he covered her mouth with his. They kissed for a few moments, then Draco released her, turning back to the task on hand.
Ginny pulled a suitcase down from the shelf above Draco’s head, then tossed it on the bed. Using the Summoning Spell, she watched as all her clothes came flying out of the wardrobe, placing themselves onto the bed. She folded them neatly, then packed them into the case. Draco sauntered out of the wardrobe, his task completed; he headed into the adjoining bathroom. She then summoned Draco’s clothes from the chair and packed them as well.
Just then, a tawny owl came swooping into the bedroom through the open window, a note tied to one leg. It perched on the suitcase, sitting patiently while Ginny untied the letter. Without waiting for payment, it flew back out again. Ginny looked at the note, and saw that it was addressed to Draco.
"Babe, it’s for you." Draco came out of the bathroom and came up behind Ginny, resting his chin on her shoulder and placing his arms around her. He took the note and opened it, both of them reading at the same time.
I know you’re going away for the week, but Michel has moved the shoot in the States forward a week so he can be the first to release the new autumn range. Meet me here at the office at 9am tomorrow. Tell Ginny I’m sorry.
Draco groaned. Julian de Raven was the personal assistant of Michel Meriwether, the owner of the fashion house that Draco worked for. Michel had been the one who’d discovered Draco at the wedding five years previously; although Draco’s contract had run out three years ago, he always modelled for them when asked.
"No, Draco," Ginny said sharply. "Owl him back and tell him no."
Draco kissed her shoulder. Saying no wasn’t really an option, and she knew it. Saying no to Michel Meriwether was like the kiss of death in the fashion world. Every model worth his salt wanted to work for him; the fact that he continually used Draco was the reason he was the hottest model around.
"You know I can’t tell Michel no, Ginny," he answered softly. "I’m sorry."
Although Ginny knew it too, it didn’t stop her from being angry. "Dammit, Draco! We’ve been planning this holiday for ages; you can’t pull out now!"
"Beautiful, I have to. I’m sorry." He slid his arms around her waist and held her tightly. "I’ll make it up to you, I promise."
"I am so sick of this!" Ginny raged, pushing Draco away. She walked around to the other side of the bed, trying to keep her anger from bubbling over, but failing. "Your work always interferes, Draco, always! When was the last time we spent any time together, just the two of us?" Draco didn’t have an answer. "Yes, that’s right. You can’t remember, can you? Because that’s how long it’s been!"
"Ginny, I’m not the only one who works, you know," he said, his anger also rising. He was as disappointed as she was.
"Yes, Draco, I’m well aware of that. But I make time for us; I can say I need a break and organise the time off."
"Well, that’s a luxury of owning your own business. I don’t. I’m sorry. What else do you want me to say?"
"What do I want you to say?" she mocked. "I want you to say no, Draco. I want you to come away with me for the week, like we’d planned." They eyed each other, both as determined to win this argument as the other.
"Well, Virginia, I can’t." He crossed his arms and stared at his lover.
She narrowed her eyes at him; he only ever called her by her full name when he was mad. "Well, Malfoy," she said, emphasising his last name. "Enjoy your night alone." With that, she Apparated out.
Harry checked his reflection in the mirror one last time. A deep, unsettling feeling resided in the pit of his stomach. He was due to meet April in Hyde Park in ten minutes. He’d told Sirius on Sunday that he was going to break up with her tonight, and he was determined to follow through.
It had been a strange week; Hermione had apparently decided to forget the events of the weekend, waking up Monday morning and acting like nothing had ever happened. Harry, unsure of what to make of it, had decided to play along. The week had gone by without mention of it, so Harry assumed that she’d decided both kisses were a huge mistake, and he’d not brought it up again.
It hadn’t stopped him thinking about it constantly for the entire week though, resulting in little sleep. But his job as Special Liaison for the Ministry of Magic kept him busy, and he’d been able to keep his thoughts otherwise occupied.
Hermione was in the kitchen when he came downstairs, perched on one of the stools. She was eating an apple, reading that morning’s copy of The Daily Prophet. Her hair was held up loosely in a band, a few strays having crept out to frame her face. The sight of her made him tingle all over. She truly was beautiful, he decided. How could he never have noticed that before?
"Hey you on your way out?" Her voice startled him, and he laughed. She looked up at him and smiled.
"Yep. Shouldn’t be a late night."
"I won’t wait up for you," she said with a wink. Harry grinned, glad to see everything was back to normal with them. He’d realised over the last week that he’d taken for granted how much he enjoyed their relationship; when things had been tense earlier in the week, all he wanted was for everything to be back to normal again. But it didn’t alter the fact that he was beginning to recognise that maybe, just maybe, his feelings for her were changing.
"Have a good time tonight," she said, before turning back to the paper.
April was already there when Harry arrived.
"Sorry I’m late," he said, leaning over and kissing her cheek.
"Don’t be silly, darling," she replied, greeting him with a kiss of her own that was considerably less innocent that his. "You’re not late, I’m early. Couldn’t wait to get here to meet you."
Harry smiled, instantly feeling bad. He knew that all his friends wondered what he saw in April Richardson, but they didn’t really know her that well. Underneath her sometimes shallow exterior, Harry truly believed there was a good person.
She acted differently when they were alone; Harry liked to think that the shallowness was just a mask she wore around others. April hadn’t had a good childhood, and Harry believed that she’d long learned to hide her true feelings from the view of others. This was why he believed she acted the way she did around most people. She was afraid to let them see the real her. Harry could relate to that; this was why he thought they got along as well as they did.
Still, it didn’t change the fact that, while he genuinely cared for her, he wasn’t in love with her, and it wasn’t fair to string her along with a false promise that the relationship could lead to something permanent. Because it couldn’t. He let out a sigh.
"Is something wrong, darling?" she asked, linking her arm through his.
"Let’s walk for a bit, April. We need to talk."
April frowned for just a second, before smiling again. "Okay, Harry."
As soon as he heard her say his name, he felt a little guilty, knowing what was to come. She only called him Harry when she was being serious. She’d obviously detected this was to be a serious conversation.
They walked for a bit, not speaking. It was a beautiful night; not completely dark yet, but dark enough for the stars to be twinkling up above.
"Do you want to tell me what’s going on, Harry? You sounded serious before." April finally broached the subject, and Harry stopped walking. He took her hand in his, and led her to a nearby park bench. Sitting to face her, he kept hold of her hand and looked into her eyes. It was now or never.
"We can’t see other anymore, April," he said softly. Her face fell; her surprise was obvious.
"What? Why ever not?" Her grip on his hand tightened.
"April, I care about you a great deal, but I’m not in love with you. I don’t want you to have any illusions about where this relationship is headed; that’s not fair to either of us. It’s just not working." He paused, and was saddened to see her eyes were glistening. He reached up and placed a hand on her cheek. "You deserve someone special. Someone who’ll love you and treat you how you should be treated. But that someone, I’ve come to realise, is not me. I’m so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you." He brushed away a solitary tear that ran down her cheek.
"Well," she began, sniffling. "I have to admit, that’s not what I was expecting to hear."
"I really am sorry. I hope we can still be friends." He dropped the hand from her cheek, but made no move to let go of her hand. She sat silently for a few moments, studying his profile.
"There’s someone else, isn’t there?" she asked softly. "Is it Hermione?"
Harry shook his head. "No. This has nothing to do with Hermione, or anyone else. There is no one else."
April cocked her head to the side. "Why don’t I believe you, Harry? Why do you look so guilty?"
Harry’s eyes widened slightly. Am I that transparent? he wondered silently. "I’m not meaning to look like anything, April. Honestly, there’s no one else."
April took a deep breath, then smiled weakly. "Okay, then. Guess I have to believe you." She squeezed his hand, then let go. "I don’t suppose I could have one last kiss?"
Harry was surprised at how calmly she was taking all of this; he’d half expected her to go off at him. He supposed a kiss was the least she deserved. He leaned over, and gently kissed her.
Instantly, his mind compared kissing April to kissing Hermione. He was dismayed to find there was no comparison. He felt none of the feelings kissing April that he had when he’d kissed Hermione. Kissing Hermione was like a fire exploding inside him; he’d felt something he’d never experienced before. Kissing April was like kissing a friend. Nice and sweet, but nothing to rave about. After a few moments, they parted.
Harry reached up and gently pushed back a stray hair. "Can I still buy you dinner, as a friend? You must be hungry." He stood, and held out his arm.
April smiled and got up, placing her hand through his arm. "Sure. That would be nice."
Harry had allowed April to choose the restaurant, and she’d picked the most expensive one in Diagon Alley - The Silver Sphinx. Everyone who was anyone dined there; being Friday night, Harry wasn’t surprised to see that it was packed.
However, once the Maitre d’ saw who the newest arrivals were, he was able to clear a table for them, located centrally in the dining area. Harry looked around as they were escorted to their table, and scowled briefly when he noticed none other than Rita Skeeter sitting at the bar. She still worked for Witch Weekly, gathering gossip where she could find it. Harry surmised that she was probably here in hopes of getting a scoop.
As Harry held April’s chair out for her to sit, Rita noticed him. Giving him a jaunty wave, she dug through her bag and pulled out a piece of parchment and what Harry recognised as a Quick Quill. He quickly moved to the other side of the table and sat down, not wanting to look at her anymore.
After examining the menus and ordering, Harry and April lapsed into easy conversation. They chatted about their respective jobs. April caught him up with her next modelling assignment. It was a nice dinner, and Harry was surprised to find that he’d enjoyed it.
They were half way through dessert when it happened.
"How could you do this to me?" April said in a calm voice.
Harry’s spoon paused mid air. "Pardon?"
"How could you do this to me, Harry?"
Harry’s mouth fell open. "April, what are you talking about?" The spoon fell from his hand, and it clattered to the floor.
"I thought we had something special, Harry," Tears began to form in her eyes, and her voice had become loud and shaky. "I thought I meant something to you." She stuck her bottom lip out and bit it, as if trying to stop the flow of tears that threatened to erupt over her eyelids.
Harry was speechless. He couldn’t believe what was being played out in front of him. What the hell was she doing?
"I don’t understand!" she wailed, throwing her napkin drown dramatically. "What did I do wrong?"
Harry was aware that the room had gotten silent, and that every eye was on them.
"April, I don’t think now is the time or the place "
"And for her? How could you dump me for Hermione Granger?" Tears began to pour down her cheeks.
Harry’s face burned. "I didn’t dump you for Hermione," he said quietly. It didn’t matter how quietly he spoke, however; the whole room heard him.
"Ha!" April cried. "You can’t lie to me, I know the truth. I know you’ve been cheating on me with Hermione. Well, no more, Harry Potter. She’s welcome to you!"
With that, she stood up, snatching up her bag. Harry got to his feet, determined to find out what was going on. He reached out and placed his hand on her arm in an attempt to stop her leaving before he could speak. "April, just what -"
But he was quickly cut off when April whirled around and brought up her hand, slapping him soundly across the face. Many people gasped, and Harry just stood there, frozen with shock. Without another word, April grabbed her coat and flounced out of the restaurant, the tears trickling steadily down her cheeks.
Harry couldn’t remember a time when he’d felt more humiliated and embarrassed. A low murmur passed through the crowd; after what seemed like eternity, the rest of the diners turned back to their own conversations. Harry closed his eyes, trying to keep calm. He only opened them again when he heard someone clearing their throat.
It was the Maitre d’. "Your cheque, sir," he said, holding out the bill and a pen. Harry quickly signed it and grabbed his jacket.
As he pushed his chair in, he heard a voice address him. "Good night, Harry. Thanks for the show!"
He froze. He’d completely forgotten Rita was there. He could just imagine the headline of The Daily Prophet the next day. He didn’t trust himself to look at her, so he walked out without turning around.
It was 10pm before Ginny Apparated back to the flat. She’d spent the evening at the Burrow; Arthur and Molly were tactful enough not to ask why she was there. All she’d gotten from her mother was a "Are you staying for dinner, love?".
However, by the time dinner was over and they’d chatted about her siblings and Ron and Kellie’s baby, Ginny had realised that she missed Draco terribly, and wanted to go home and make up with him.
She arrived back in the bedroom to find Draco lying on top of the blankets, still fully dressed. He was curled on his side, his eyes closed. Ginny’s throat constricted. He looked so serene, so peaceful, that she didn’t want to disturb him. Silently undressing, she grabbed a satin nightie from the drawer and slid it on.
She got to the bed and carefully crawled on. Positioning herself so she was on her side, she shifted across to be as close to Draco as she could without actually touching him. Resting her head on the pillow next to him, she watched his chest rise and fall with his breathing. She shifted her gaze back up to his eyes to find they were open. Startled, she gasped.
"I missed you." he murmured softly, reaching out a hand to stroke her hair.
Ginny moved her hand up to place it gently on his chest. "I missed you too, baby." she said softly. They didn’t speak for a moment, just glad to be together again.
"I’m sorry we can’t go away tomorrow," Draco said in a low voice, the rich timbre sounding husky. "But as soon as this shoot’s done, we’ll go to Santorini. For two weeks, instead of one. Okay?" His fingers were still entangled in her hair.
"Okay." Ginny smiled. Nothing made her more upset than fighting with Draco, so she was infinitely pleased that he wasn’t mad anymore.
"I love you." Draco said, moving his hand to the back of her head and gently pulling her forward.
She looked up and smiled. "Hi," she said brightly. "You’re home early. How was your night?"
"Hi," he managed to spit out. Without explaining, he turned to his right and entered the kitchen. Hermione stared after him. Something was wrong; she could tell just by the way he’d said hello and strode into the kitchen. She knew him well enough to know he was upset. Getting to her feet, she followed him into the kitchen. He hadn’t even bothered to turn on a light.
"Harry?" she said quietly. "What’s going on?"
"Nothing, Hermione," he answered savagely. "Just go back and read your fucking book and leave me alone."
Hermione winced. This was serious. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard Harry swear. She said nothing for a few moments, allowing him time to calm down. He didn’t mean to be angry with her, she knew that.
"Harry," she stepped up to him and placed a hand on his arm. "Talk to me." She kept her voice calm and steady.
Harry placed his hands on the counter and dropped his head. "I’m sorry," he said in a whisper, keeping his eyes averted.
Hermione stayed silent, giving him time to compose himself; the look on his face frightened her. He looked weary, shattered. Older than his 27 years.
"Why don’t you sit down and I’ll make us some tea, then you can tell me what happened."
Harry hesitated, then moved across the room and perched himself on a stool at the breakfast bar. There was enough light coming in from the archway to the foyer and the skylight above where Harry presently sat for Hermione to carefully make the tea without turning the light on. When she finished, she carried the two cups over, placing them down and boosting herself up onto the stool next to him. She took a sip of her tea, blowing on it gently to cool it. "Thanks." Harry picked up his and gulped a mouthful, not even flinching at the hot liquid. They sat silently in the dark for a moment, then Harry sighed deeply.
"Tell me what happened?" Hermione asked gently. Harry looked up at her for the first time since he got home, then began to speak.
Hermione listened intently, gasping more times that she thought possible in such a short space of time. Although she would never have admitted it, a not-so-tiny part of her was pleased it was over with April. But she could not, she could not believe that April had caused the scene in the restaurant. Of course, it would be splashed all over The Daily Prophet tomorrow, thanks to Rita Skeeter. She could only imagine how humiliating it had to have been for him.
"Oh, Harry, I’m so sorry," she said quietly. "It must have been so awful for you."
"I wondered why she’d taken it so calmly. I should have known it was coming."
Hermione frowned. "How could you have known it was coming?"
Harry shook his head. "I don’t know. She took it so calmly in the park, I could scarcely believe it. Then when we walked in and saw Skeeter sitting there ." He let his sentence trail off, the implications lost on neither of them.
"Oh well," Hermione said in as cheerful a voice as she could muster. "Don’t worry about Skeeter. Everyone knows anything she writes is crap, anyway."
"Yes, but there was also a restaurant full of people watching, Hermione. They all saw it." Harry pointed out.
Hermione bit her lip, not knowing what to say. Finally, she managed a smile. "Let’s sleep on it, and deal with it tomorrow."
Harry drained his tea and slid off the stool, nodding. "Good idea. I’m exhausted." He placed his cup in the sink, then headed towards the archway leading back into the foyer and to the staircase. But as he reached it, he stopped and turned around.
Hermione was still perched on the stool, having swivelled around to face him. He walked over to her and kissed her forehead. "Thank you," he whispered, before once again disappearing from her view.
Hermione stared after him for a long moment, then hopped off the stool and headed to her own bedroom.
Neither of them slept much that night.
Thank yous: Firstly, a HUGE thank you to Kel, for her magnificent beta. As always, her contribution makes this story so much better.