Chapter 8 : Of Kissing and Freckle-less Redheads
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Disclaimer: I don't own HP! The beyond amazing author JKR does.
After my row with Ron and after stepping back into Acabus thus sealing my Ron free fate, Zach and I became inseparable for the next five weeks. Since spring had begun Zach and I would go on long walks and talk of books. It's hard to find faults in a relationship when the boy you’re dating owns a chain of bookstores, especially if he's funny and charming. I could tell that he would become irritated whenever I would constantly talk about news or of history. He could tell that I would become peeved when he wouldn't want to further conversations about how great it was that almost fifty percent of house elves had finally taken a stand and were receiving wages; that it annoyed me how he would leave his shoes lying around all over my house. We got past each other’s faults though.
I loved walking to Zach's main bookstore (the first founded 'Slink Sphinx') and sitting in the cafe area munching on my banana muffin on Sunday mornings while I read. I read the numerous books I had missed so dearly when I hadn't had time to read during the war. There is something fascinating about magical bookstores that even being around magic since the age of eleven I had to appreciate. I loved watching the numerous books soaring across the room (sometimes bumping into each other) to and from their respectable shelves, and seeing a person flying across the room when a stray charm had hit them instead of the intended book always extracts a laugh from me. In my spare time I even found time to read ‘Hogwarts a History’ again. I remembered how Ron used to make fun of me for reading that useful book so many times, maybe not really meaning it, but just wanting to start a meaningless fight. I smiled and not even realizing it, I pictured Ron's smiling face in my head and my smile became wider still. Ron, Harry and I had a lot of fun at Hogwarts. It wasn't all fun, but when we weren't in trouble or bickering it really was a great friendship the three of us had had. When I was sitting there in Zach's bookshop ‘The Slink Sphinx’ thinking about my old friends, that was the first time I had ever been able to think about Hogwarts and just smile. Genuinely smile without a second thought. I really owed it to Zach, he was helping me live again.
"Hermione," I turned to see Zach smiling at me, he had such a bright and cheerful smile. He never called me by my nickname: Mione. Which at one time (maybe even weeks ago) I would have been grateful for, but instead I found myself yearning for him to use my nickname
"Hello," I said smiling back at him and closing the book I was reading. "Ready to go?" I asked. Sometimes, like today, I would come to the bookshop after work and wait for him to get off work. He was the owner of ‘The Slink Sphinx’ so technically he didn’t have to go into work everyday, but I admired his effort to make sure his bookstores were ran the best they could possibly be ran. I stood up and slid my arm through his; laughing at the bubbly feeling I felt in my stomach whenever I touched him. He looked at me sideways with the look he always gave me when I laughed about nothing or talked about house elves too much: his raised eyebrow, half smirk look.
Right when we walked out of the front doors of the immense glass building he turned to me and kissed me on the cheek. What a professional, not even wanting to kiss his girlfriend in front of his employees.
"You’re so beautiful with your hair down and so wild like that," he said as we walked down the sidewalk away from his store. I felt so uncomfortable when he said those kinds of things; I guess I shouldn't have because we had been dating for over a month.
"Oh you mean all frizzy and bushy," I giggled, so unlike myself.
He stopped walking and pulled me back towards him. He kissed me hard on my lips and tried to deepen the kiss. I pulled back quickly. A few kisses here and there each day when we saw each other, that's all we'd done. We'd never kissed like this, and although it felt good I pulled away. The thought that it felt so good to kiss someone else scared me; it scared me that I enjoyed kissing someone other than...
"Merlin Hermione, what's your problem?" Zach asked me. I could tell that he became offended or maybe even hurt every time I would pull my hand out of his like my hand would burn if it lingered in his too long, or every time I would pull away from a kiss or hug before those tokens of affection could lead to anything more deep and meaningful.
"Nothing Zach, I just need to take this slow," I knew when I said this that it was a boldfaced lie.
"It's been five weeks damn it," he said in the same quiet voice that always made me feel like such a horrible person. "Oh never mind, let's go to dinner. I made reservations for the nicest table in Acabus, sort of like a five week anniversary." he tried to smile at me to let me know he wasn't mad, but all he could manage to do was make his lips twitch a bit.
"Ok," I said as I followed him into an alley, just in case there were muggles around, so we could apparate to the restaurant.
When we arrived at Acabus the hostess seated at the same table we had had our first dinner at, and I felt more guilty still. After the hostess left us to look over the menu there was nearly a fifteen minute silence between us before my attempt to revive conversation.
"Sorry about that whole thing in the street today...I er have a cold and don't want you to catch it," I said lamely.
"Oh ok," he didn't even look up from his menu.
When the waitress, a short lady with stringy blonde hair that turned blue when she became irritated (or so I gathered from the deep blue color her hair had become when a customer spilled pumpkin juice on her a few minutes earlier), came to take our orders she turned to me expectantly.
When I began to speak Zach cut me off chastely "She'll have some vegetable soup, she has a cold,” the waitress looked at me sympathetically. “I'll have pork chops and whatever comes with them please, and a butterbeer."
Zach shot me a look and I smiled at him as if I really had wanted soup, though we both knew I detested vegetable soup. Normally I would have called the waitress back to our table and ordered my own meal, a meal I actually wanted. Yet seen as how I'd treated Zach earlier I thought the least I could do was to suffer through one of my least favorite meals.
It wasn't until we'd both finished our meals, me actually beginning to feel sick, when Zach broke the awkward and lingering silence.
"We need to talk Hermione," he had a look on his face that seemed to be begging me to stop him from what he was about to do. I did want to stop him. I couldn't lose another person from my life.
"Zach, no I really am sick..." I was going to continue but just then I saw someone familiar walk into Acabus. I froze and stared at the man who had just entered, he had red hair. My head was spinning, could it be... I had to look away. I looked back at Zach to see him stony-faced looking back and forth between the redhead and I with a look of comprehension on his face. So he remembered Ron from our first date, I thought.
"Hermione I can't do this anymore, I know when a girl has feelings for someone else," I wasn't even really listening, just looking at that redhead, if only I could see his face. I knew it would all be ok if I could see his face. "HERMIONE you aren't the right person for me," he yelled it, and I'm sure that he hadn't meant it; he had just been trying to get my attention. Which he most certainly did. I turned back to Zach and already felt my eyes prickling.
"What?" I asked incredulously.
"I said you aren't the right girl for me, I'm sorry but I don't think this will work out between us." I could see in his eyes again that he was really pleading for me to disagree with him, to show him that we were right for each other. But what he said about me not being the right girl stung me hard. I found myself standing up and walking backwards away from the sitting form of Zach. I had just wasted five weeks on him only to be called unworthy of his affections. I don't even know if I could disagree with him, maybe I wasn't the right person for him. Maybe I wasn't the right person for anyone. I'm sure he saw the tears spilling from my eyes, which is just what I hadn't wanted him to see. I shook my head as I saw Zach put his head in his hands, it didn’t need to end like this. I turned around anyway and walked quickly toward the exit of Acabus and past the redhead I thought had been Ron, who was really just some other guy who had red hair and didn't even have the Weasley freckles. Ron never seemed to be there when I needed him most.
Once I was near the door I ran outside into the fresh spring air. It had started raining earlier and the cool water felt refreshing on my skin. Maybe the rain could wash away all my troubles. The image of Ron and I dancing in the rain back in our seventh year flashed into my head and I quickened my pace as I walked down the street.
I had just experienced another huge let down in my life and there was no one to go to. Darden was out with that slob David who introduced me to Zach. I needed someone to talk to. I'd learned the hard way that it's hard to keep emotions intact and to myself, I knew I had to talk to someone and for some reason only one face popped up in my mind. That's why I apparated to that apartment. That's why when I stood in front of his door, sopping wet with rain, I knocked on his door. That's why Ron opened up his apartment door and looked just as shocked as I felt about my stupid spur of the moment decision. The stupid decision that it was Ron I needed to talk to.
A/N: Poor Hermione, she doesn't even realize how much she hurt Zach. Sorry there haven't been many memories…there is one in the next chapter! The plot definitely moves more quickly from here on out...
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