The silence of the room was deafening. Draco sat in an armchair while Hermione was perched with her knees drawn to her chin on the windowsill. Both stared vacantly out the window preoccupied by their own dark thoughts.
Hermione felt so incredibly torn. Draco was a compassionate man now. He had a strong sense of right and wrong, and was unfailingly loyal to the people he cared about. At the risk of losing his own freedom, he had been instrumental in trying to save Ron’s life, and for that she would be forever grateful.
He was also the closest thing she had to family now, but there in lie the problem. She just couldn’t let go of the fact that he had tortured her parents, and let them die. she also knew it wasn't some little thing that she should get over. She had allowed herself to push it to the back of her mind because, at the time, there was too much going on to really let it sink in. But now that things had calmed, a gnawing bitter pit kept turning itself over and over in her stomach.
She knew he felt horrible about it, but a hateful part of her didn’t care. There was nothing that he could do to change it, and he was sorry. She wanted to forgive him, and she tried. Merlin, did she try. She hoped in time it would pass, but she just couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding that this would eventually drive a wedge between them. That notion of all things terrified her the most because, as angry as she was, she knew she couldn’t live without him in her life. It would be her fault if they fell apart.
Draco shifted uneasily in his chair. He felt he was going to drown in the tension between them. Ever since he’d come back to St. Mungo’s, he had found it nearly impossible to ignore the tightly reigned in hostility coming off of her in waves.
He had a pretty good idea why, and he couldn’t blame her. Instead of feeling upset and affronted, he simply sunk deeper into his sadness and self-loathing. He knew he deserved it. What was even harder was the fact that she was still trying to be his friend.
As much as it pained him to even consider the prospect, he thought the only viable option was to go their separate ways. He had nearly come up with a way to severe their connection without having to resort to cruelty or lies. She would argue and fight against it, but if her demeanor toward him over the last 48 hours had been any indication, it wouldn’t take much convincing.
Finally gathering enough courage, he took a deep breath and held it.
She jumped slightly startled by the interruption of her thoughts.
“Yes?” She answered distractedly.
“There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“If this is about you having to work for the Ministry as a Cursebreaker, I already know.”
‘Damnit! I hope that didn’t sound as bitchy as it felt.’ She thought to herself.
He flinched slightly but continued on regardless.
“No, no, it’s something altogether different. I was just thinking... thinking that when we get out of here… Maybe we should each find our own place... apart.”
Alarmed, Hermione sat up quickly and let her feet drop to the floor.
“What? Why? We haven’t lived apart for almost six years.”
“I know, it’s just… Maybe it would be better for all concerned.”
Hermione’s mind was racing. He knew. Of course he knew. No one could read her like he could. How could she be so stupid? How could she let this happen?
She took a confrontational step forward.
“Better? How could it possibly be better?” she demanded.
“Hermione…” He said standing up.
“No, this is a terrible idea, and I don’t want you bringing it up again.”
“Hermione, my mind’s made up. I want to live alone.”
“Well, I don’t. And don’t even try suggesting Ginny, or Harry, or Ron even. The only person I know I can live with is you.”
“Hermione, we’re not healthy. This…” he motioned back and forth between them “… This is not healthy. I think it would be the best thing for both of us.”
Suddenly, the door opened, and both Draco and Hermione turned their heads, and shouted simultaneously. “Not now!”
Lavender jumped slightly at the very unfriendly welcome she had just received, and said. “I’ll come back later.”
Hermione shot him a vicious glare, and took a step toward him. In a low voice, she gritted out. “We are not done talking about this.”
She moved briskly to leave but as she passed Lavender, she caught the other woman’s eye, and gave her an apologetic smile. Lavender took a shaky breath, and offered her a small nervous smile in return.
Hermione gave her an odd look but shook it off, and walked out of the room closing the door behind her.
“Hi.” Lavender offered apprehensively.
“Hello.” Draco responded sitting back down, and clasping his hands.
“What was that about?”
Draco waved his hand dismissively, and said. “Nothing, nothing.”
Lavender nodded, and looked around anxiously.
“How are you feeling?” She finally asked.
“Fine. Still a little tired, but fine.”
“Good, good…" She took another steeling breath before continuing. "Listen Draco, I’m just going to get right to the point. Due to everything that’s happened over the last couple months, and my own inexcusable behaviour, I’ve decided to resign my position here at St. Mungo’s. Healer Patil will be continuing as your therapist in my stead.”
Draco’s eyes shot up from his hands to meet her face, and he stood abruptly. “What? Why?”
She swallowed down her nerves. “I… I can’t be objective. My feelings have, and will continue to cloud my judgment. I can’t knowingly allow this to go on.”
He understood her reasoning, but couldn’t help feeling there was more to it.
“There’s something else, isn’t there?” He asked suspiciously.
She couldn’t meet his eyes. She walked passed him to the window, and focused her gaze outside.
“I was offered a position in Egypt… and I’ve accepted.”
He felt as if all the air had been knocked out of his lungs.
“Excuse me?” He finally managed.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
“But Egypt? That’s so far away. Why?”
“I need some time to think about who I’ve become.”
“Why in Egypt though? I don’t understand. Can’t you do that just as well here?”
He wasn’t making this easy for her. She turned and looked directly into his stormy grey eyes.
“I don’t know who I am when… when I’m around you, and that scares me. A side of me comes out that I don’t recognize, and I can’t control. It takes over, and undermines everything else that I am. I’ve never felt like this before.”
“Then obviously you’ve never been in love before,” he growled.
Shocked at his candidness, Lavender sputtered out, “Of course, I have. Just because you…”
But before she could even get another word out, Draco’s hands flew into her hair, and he crushed his lips to hers. Forcing his tongue passed her full lips, he deepened the kiss without permission, and moaned at the feel of her tongue lacing with his.
She made a halfhearted attempt to struggle against him, but quickly gave over to the maddening sensations his touch was driving through her.
Her hands fell weakly to his chest as his moved to gently cup her face. What had started as a forceful encounter had eased into a soft embrace. She whimpered, and he moved his hands down to lightly caress her forearms.
He pulled away slightly, and looked down at her through hooded eyes, but she refused to meet his gaze focusing instead on his lips.
“Please, don’t leave,” he implored.
“I can’t stay,” she said trying to hold in a sob.
“But I… I…”
Without warning, she captured his mouth in a searing kiss then wrenched herself away, and ran quickly from the room.
He could only stare dumbly at the doorway paralyzed by the shock that she had walked out of his life, and he had let her.
After a minute, he sat heavily into the armchair behind him, and placed his head in his hands.
Ginny stood at the Healer’s station pouring over her charts. She was so tired, and every one of her muscles seemed to be screaming at her.
She reached up, and rubbed her palm back and forth over her forehead seemingly trying to erase the headache that was overwhelming her.
The six-hour healing with Ron three days before would in and of itself be considered exhausting. But to make matters worse, she had only been able to get a few hours of sleep since then. Her mind just wouldn’t shut off.
Even though everything pointed to Ron’s body accepting the healing and replenishing charms, she couldn’t help feeling anxious that she might have missed something along the way. And it didn’t help that he was still not awake. She couldn’t live with herself if he slipped off from them simply because of some stupid oversight. So now she found herself reviewing his treatment schedule for the fifth time.
“Gin?” A voice cut through her mind’s tiring circles.
She looked up to find Harry shifting nervously beside her. He looked so much like the boy she knew from Hogwarts in that moment that her breath hitched slightly.
She shook her head to clear the ridiculous notion. She must really be tired to be falling back on those feelings.
“Harry, is there something I can help you with?”
“Um… Yah. Any news on Ron?” He said with a tremor in his voice.
“He still hasn’t come out of his coma yet. When he does…”
Harry nodded, and pulled at his bottom lip anxiously as he looked around.
“Harry, listen to me. The wounds and damaged organs seem to be responding positively to the charms we placed. My only concerns are in relation to how much blood he lost before we were able to help him. I won’t have the answers I need until he wakes up.”
You mean, if he wakes up.”
She gasped slightly at the dark turn Harry had taken.
“Hey, none of that now. We have to stay positive.” She said grabbing his forearm and giving it a quick shake.
“Gin, how can I stay positive when my best friend may be dying?”
“Because there’s a bigger chance he’ll live, Harry.”
“When I thought we’d lost Hermione… it almost killed me, Gin. But that was different from this.”
His breath was coming in short gasps now, and his voice shook violently from the force of the emotion ripping through him. Ginny had never seen Harry quite this upset before.
“Hermione just disappeared, and we assumed she was dead. But Ron... Ron is right in front of our eyes. There would be no assuming, Gin. He’d be dead! He can’t die!”
And with that, Harry broke down completely.
Ginny felt incredibly awkward. It was obvious the man before her needed to be comforted, but she wasn’t sure what to do. He’d always pushed her away in the past even after the war was finished. Losing Hermione had affected Harry just as much as it did Ron. After that, he hadn’t allowed himself to get too close to anyone.
She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and let out her breath in a slow, even stream.
‘Just follow your instincts,’ she told herself.
She opened her eyes, and took in the sight before her. Her heart clenched. Harry didn’t know how she felt. All he knew was that his best friend may be dying.
She cautiously reached out, and ran her hand through his dark mess of hair.
That was all it took. He turned immediately to her, wrapped his arms around her small waist pulling her to him, and buried his face in her shoulder. She heard his gentle rasping sobs close to her ear as he desperately clung to her.
She was dumbfounded at first, but gradually, let her arms fold gently around him.
Hermione poked her head into Ron’s room hoping for a moment alone with him only to find Mrs. Weasley knitting, Charlie staring absently out the window, and George talking softly to a still unconscious Ron.
She quietly moved into the room, and cleared her throat drawing all three’s attention.
“Oh hello, Love.” Mrs. Weasley said getting up, and putting down her knitting.
Hermione moved into Molly’s outstretched arms, and took the proffered hug.
“How is he?” She managed despite Mrs. Weasley’s fiercely tight hold on her.
Pulling back, Molly said with a note of sadness in her voice. “Oh, the same. No change really. Ginny said he really should be waking soon. Though she seemed a little anxious that he still wasn’t conscious.”
Hermione withdrew into herself, and simply nodded in response.
Mrs. Weasley eyed her shrewdly, and was fairly certain she knew the reason for the young woman’s visit.
Molly stepped out of the hug, and said. “Well, we should be off. Dinner won’t make itself.” And she moved to the armchair to collect her cloak and knitting.
George made his way over to Hermione, and asked quietly. “Hermione, can I have a word?”
“Of course, George.”
He shifted awkwardly averting his eyes from her, and cleared his throat.
“I was just wondering how Ma… That is… how is Draco doing? Is he alright?”
The genuine concern in George’s voice stunned Hermione. There wasn’t an ounce of derision, or hatred in his tone.
“He’s much better. Thank you, George. He just needed to rest. You should visit him.”
“Oh, I don’t know…” George began uncomfortably.
But Molly’s voice cut through interrupting him. “That sounds like a wonderful idea. Do you think he would be up to seeing us now, Hermione?”
She laughed a little. “He might be.”
“Poor boy probably has no one in the world who cares for him, other than you of course.”
Feeling guilt wash over her immediately, Hermione shifted awkwardly, and looked down and away.
“We’ll stop by his room on our way out. George, Charlie, come along.”
Mrs. Weasley gave Hermione a quick kiss on the cheek, and with one last look back to Ron, made to leave. George and Charlie offered their goodbyes as well, and followed their mother out of the room.
Once Hermione was sure they were gone, she moved to the end of the bed and placed her hands on the frame. Her eyes greedily drank Ron’s every feature in. He was so pale that the freckles on his face stood out in glaring contrast. His full lips were white and dry, and his breathing so shallow, it almost appeared as if his chest wasn’t moving at all.
“Hello Ron,” she said finally breaking the silence.
“It’s me, Hermione. I’ve come to see if you want to go for a walk.”
Even as she said this, she gave a small nervous giggle, and a wave of emotion began to swell within her. She felt her throat constrict, and her lips began to tremble involuntarily. She swiped at the errant tears that had flooded her eyes with the back of her hand.
She cleared her throat, and said, her voice still quavering slightly. “Maybe some other time, huh?”
She walked around the end of the bed, and took a seat on it near Ron’s feet.
“I’ve actually come to talk to you about something quite important, so I would appreciate not being interrupted.”
She paused, and watched him for a moment praying desperately that he would.
“Never thought I’d see the day when I’d be able to talk without you trying to get a word in edge wise.”
She looked down to the two mounds beside her that she knew to be Ron’s feet. She hesitantly reached out, and with one finger began to gently stroke the side of his left foot.
“I remember when this would have made you riggle like mad, and driven you into a laughing fit,” she said thoughtfully.
She swallowed hard to subdue the rising emotion. She had to get through this.
“There are other things I remember, you know. Like how you didn’t think I knew you were looking at my ankles when I was climbing the stairs in front of you back at Hogwarts.” She smiled warmly still focusing her gaze on his feet.
“Or how in the morning, you could never seem to get enough food in your mouth. It really didn’t matter in what order it all went in either. You’d take pancakes, eggs, and bacon with a side of potatoes all in one mouthful. And you could never seem to keep your mouth closed. Food went everywhere. I have to say Ronald, I still find the image truly disgusting to this day.”
She had moved from using one finger, to placing her entire hand onto the top of his foot. She took a moment to just stroke his ankle with her thumb.
She looked up into his still serene face, and pushed herself to continue.
“I also remember how you held me at Dumbledore’s funeral. I remember thinking how I had never felt so safe, and yet so absolutely alive in my life.”
Blushing madly, she began to laugh shyly.
“You’ll think I’m daft, but it felt almost like I had electricity shooting through me. Bet you didn’t know that, did you? At the time, I couldn’t imagine how we could possibly be any closer.” She sighed heavily. “I was so wrong.”
She grew quiet, pulled her feet up beneath her, and turned herself more fully toward him.
“I remember our first time Ron. How nervous you were. How nervous we both were. You were so sweet, and awkward, and truly adorable. You completely shattered all my romantic delusions that it would be some lust induced, raw, passionate thing. It still makes me laugh that I had to basically order you to touch my breast. And when you did, the squeak you let out nearly sent me into a fit of giggles. You have no idea how much will power it took to not laugh outright.”
She began to chuckle slightly.
“I’ll tell you what did stop me though.” She paused to study his face once again. “The absolute reverent look of wonder in your eyes as you watched yourself cup my breast, and gently run your thumb over me. It took my breath away. And when you looked back up and kissed me, it was so honest and needful, I couldn’t do anything but give over to you completely. I wanted to be with you so much.”
She felt herself losing the battle to control her emotions. She fought desperately to keep the rising tremor out of her voice.
“Ron, I will carry everything about that first time with me for the rest of my life. How we fumbled nervously with our clothes. How you hovered over me on the brink. How you moved into me, through me. It was the single most wonderful experience of my life. And after it all, while you were still inside me, how you wouldn’t look at me because you didn’t want me to see that you were crying. Crying because you thought you had hurt me. Crying from the shock of what we’d just done. I’ll never let this memory go.”
The tears were now falling freely down her face.
“But Ron, I’m here to tell you that it's not enough.”
Her breathing was becoming laboured.
“I need more. I need more of you. More fights. More laughs. More everything. It’s not fair, Ron. I want to have the memory of marrying you. I want to be able to look back on the day I gave you your first, and second, and even third child. Or however many we end up having. I want to be in your arms on the day that one or both of us leaves this world. What I don’t want, Ron is for that day to be today.”
She bit down hard on her lip and tasted a touch of blood in her mouth. She edged her way forward to where she was sitting against his hip.
“You have to wake up Ron. I won’t ever forgive you if you leave me now just when I’ve finally remembered how much you mean to me. Please…”
She started to sob violently, and let her head fall forward to rest gently against his chest. She stayed there crying softly, and pleading with him until her tears had run their course.
After some time, she sniffled, and brought her head up slightly to look into his face. His expression was still as clear as the moment she’d first walked into the room.
She looked back down, and took a moment to wipe the wetness from her eyes, nose, and mouth before pushing herself back up. She regarded him for a moment. Should she really do what she was now planning to?
She looked to the door, and then back to Ron, and thought ‘What the hell!’
She crawled up toward him placing both hands on the bed at either side of his neck, and positioned herself precariously over him studying his face closely. Being extremely careful to hold all of her weight, she leaned down, and pressed her lips to his in a simple, but passionate kiss.
Pulling away, she regarded him again, and reached up to move a lock of his hair from his forehead. She took a deep breath, moved herself to his left side, and laid down facing him resting her head on his pillow next to his.
Glancing down, she could see the almost imperceptible rise and fall of his breath. She reached out tentatively, and placed her hand on his chest over his heart. She felt the steady beating, and the sensation instantly soothed her.
Feeling the overwhelming need to close her eyes, she dragged her gaze back up to study the strong lines of his features. She categorized them: his long nose, his full lips, and the shock of brilliant red hair. She mused to herself as her eyes slowly slid shut that her most favourite of his features lay behind his closed eyelids. She made one more conscious choice before falling off to sleep. She would be there when he woke up no matter what.
Soon, Hermione’s breathing evened out, and all that could be heard through the stillness of the room was the combination of their gentle breaths.
After a few moments though, Ron reached up, and placed his right hand over hers. Without opening his eyes, without moving in any other way, he gently stroked the back of her fingers with his thumb, and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before drifting back to sleep.
A/N: I’ve decided to end it here. I was going to do an Epilogue, but a friend has encouraged me to do a third and final part to this overall storyline instead. Too many loose ends need to be tied up for just a little Epilogue. It’ll be called “The Dark Side of Light”.