Chapter 1 : Affair
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"Et sous tes caresses, je sens une ivresse qui m'anéantit"
- "And beneath your touch, I feel a drunkenness that destroys me"
Rufus Wainwright, Complainte de la Butte
‘Don’t go ; not yet.’
Hermione was pulling on her boots when she felt his hand slowly massage her shoulder.
‘I have to. You know that.’
‘How long is this going to go on ?’
She heard him sigh and his hand removed itself from her shoulder. She still didn’t turn, sitting on the bed and staring at the wall opposite her, a grain of irritation finally beginning to plant itself. In the pretence of smoothing the bed sheets, she sighed.
‘When are you going to stop asking these questions,’ she muttered angrily. When she didn’t receive an answer, she finally faced him.
Draco was lying on his side of the bed, arm tucked behind his blonde head, an expression of unmistakeable annoyance on his face. Hermione awkwardly ran a hand through her hair.
‘Stop giving me questions for answers,’ Draco said promptly. He sat up and cautiously put two hands on either of her arms. ‘Why did we start this if it wasn’t because it was supposed to take us somewhere?’
Hermione’s eyes were doubtful. She knew what her answer was, but did not dare give it. Hermione had always been careful, but Draco had a way of making her reckless. She had to think twice when she was in his presence – she forgot herself when she didn’t. That was partly why she had agreed to this – this sordid, sinful way of living.
Perhaps Draco saw something he didn’t like in her expression. He put his arms around her and pulled her into a hug. As ever, she relaxed in his closeness.
‘If I ask, it’s only because I care for you,’ his words sounded, and Hermione sighed again. Before she knew it, he had pulled her down to the bed, so he was gazing at her from above. With tender, thoughtful gestures, he played with strands of her hair. ‘I know you’re unhappy. I hate seeing you unhappy. God, Hermione, if we could jump from enmity to lovers, we can certainly do this.’
Lovers. Yes, that was what they were. Not husband and wife, not legally bound. She could not romanticize it. She was his mistress. Hermione shuddered and pulled away from him, finally standing up. Draco, as if he knew he had said something wrong, got to his feet as well and put his arms around her. He was making things so difficult. He was giving her this gift, this affection she so craved for, and week after week, she was forced to turn it down.
‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered behind her, kissing her ear, ‘I’m sorry.’
She placed her hands over his, resting on her stomach.
‘I have to go now,’ she repeated. She turned around. His eyes were, as every time she left him, dark with disappointment, jealousy, regret. She placed her hands on his cheeks. They relished in the silence, the eye contact, the knowledge that this moment, however short, was theirs. It was what they lived for.
And like every time she left him, Hermione knew she would see Draco again.
‘Thank Merlin you’re home,’ Ron sighed as Hermione walked into the small living room. It was littered with toys and crayons; the round coffee table was overflowing in Ron’s business papers and empty cups of tea.
Hermione removed her gloves and scarf and leaned down as Ron reached for a peck. There were dark circles around his red eyes. In his arms, he cradled two-year old Rose, who was letting out sobs of misery every ten seconds. Hermione threw her purse to the floor and picked up her daughter. Ron let out a sound of gratitude.
‘What’s wrong, baby?’ Hermione crooned, accepting Ron’s handkerchief as she dried Rose’s eyes.
‘I missed you,’ the girl cried, her red and blotched face sopping wet. Ginger locks fell down prettily over her forehead.
‘Well, I’m back now, lovely, so I really would be rather happy if you stopped that dreadful sound,’ Hermione said, slipping in something of an authoritative tone. Rose rubbed a small fist against her eye and then pulled Hermione’s head in for a hug. Hermione felt her insides flood with guilt. She had left her two-year-old daughter, crying and unhappy, for –
Trying to resist the urge to throw up, Hermione walked over to the couch and sat down, focusing on Rose, and Rose alone. She could not think of Draco. She could not think of her guilt. She could not think of these shadows, these lies she told every day, for her pleasure, and her pleasure alone. She mustn’t. Rose closed her eyes sleepily. The safety of Mummy had her falling asleep immediately.
‘You’re so good with her,’ Ron smiled, looking up from his papers. ‘Aren’t you glad I managed to change your mind anyway ?’
Hermione gave a half-smile as her answer. Glad? Changed her mind? Rose had been an accident, as Ron well knew. Hermione had sworn off children, at the very least until her thirties, preferring to focus on her blossoming career. It had been difficult to make Ron understand that she most certainly wasn’t a Molly Weasley, satisfied with running the house and feeding babies all day long.
It was a silly glitch; her Healer had recommended that she lay off the pill for a while – her body was responding strangely to it, and stress at the Ministry had taken its toil. She and Ron lost themselves in a moment of passion – surely once couldn’t hurt? – and next she knew, she was staring, wide-eyed, at her Healer, happily informing her and Ron that there would be a new addition to the family come September.
Ron had been overjoyed, of course. So things were a little ahead of schedule – who cared? That had been their first real fight – the first one bad enough to result in Ron spending the night on Harry and Ginny’s sofa. Hermione had viciously blamed him for getting her pregnant, though she knew it was hardly his fault. He had retorted with a painful attack of her selfishness, accusing her of ruining what was supposed to be the happiest moment of their lives. He didn’t want to wait ten years for a child. If the war had proven anything, it was that happiness was rare, time was short, and life a miracle. Why could she not just embrace that? Stop being so selfish?
She had thrown his pillow at him and told him to embrace it somewhere else. He wasn’t the one who had to live with morning nausea ; he didn’t have to take six months off his job to look after a baby all day long. Hermione had wanted to give her children a better home than this – ‘For fuck’s sake,’ she had yelled, ‘this place isn’t even big enough for the both of us! How the hell are we going to fit a child in here!’
Eventually, they had made a truce. But it had taken Hermione a long time to forgive him. She knew it was silly; knew there was nothing to forgive, that it was her fault as much as his, but a part of her felt better blaming him.
With Rose’s birth came a new life, one Hermione had so desperately tried to avoid. At 26 years old, she had barely reached an acceptable income at the Ministry, and Ron had only just managed to obtain a post as an Auror after messing about in George’s jokeshop for years. That had taken a good deal out of their relationship as well; Ron attempting to replace his brother, Fred, had never been all right with Hermione. She stayed home for six months, trying to get accustomed to being a mother. Molly was a saint in that respect, as were her own parents, volunteering to babysit at any opportunity.
These days alone, without Rose, gave Hermione time to think. When she had married Ron – at the tender age of 23 – she hadn’t really given it any thought, it had simply been the next step. The next step was always a comfort to Hermione. Getting married to her childhood sweetheart was natural. They were wildly in love, she was one of the most promising Wizarding Law students at the Ministry: the future was bright. And now here she was, ten steps ahead of plan, with a baby, a maternity leave and nothing to look forward to.
‘I’m going to make dinner,’ Hermione declared, placing Rose gently on the couch and covering her with a blanket. Ron smiled at her again.
As she measured rice and poured water, Hermione silently shivered. She wished she were happy. God, she wished she were. How easy had she not had it before? Happiness made everything seem so trivial, so extraordinarily simple. Going back to work again had been like breathing oxygen after months in a dark sea. Using her mind, her brilliant, unexercised mind, was just what she needed. She was happy then. She was no longer just Mummy, she was Hermione, a thriving attorney.
And next steps were planned. Savings were put aside for a bigger place. Ron was working hard for a promotion, as was she. They shared goals, a dream and a child. So what happened? How had she reached this – this state of being? This sinful life?
‘I missed you today,’ Ron murmured in her ear. She jumped. He placed his arms around her. Just like Draco had barely an hour ago. She swallowed the bile in her throat.
‘Really? You had your work.’
‘You smell amazing,’ Ron laughed, turning her around to face him. Hermione tried not to look as fearful as she felt. She did not want to kiss Ron. She was afraid of tasting of Draco. She could still feel Draco all over her skin, feel his caresses, his lips… Ron would surely notice. Surely notice that she was someone else’s?
Hermione forced a smile and gave him a peck on the cheek.
‘I think I’ll make a curry,’ she said, her voice sounding slightly shaky. She breathed deeply into her stomach, forcing herself to calm down. ‘Did you do the shopping?’
‘I think we’re going to have to cut down on meat and chocolate, prices have never been this high.’
‘Rose has to have some sort of nourishment.’
‘If we want to get her a bigger place, we need to keep saving.’
Ron sighed, leaning against the small table. The kitchen was so cramped that they were barely touching. Hermione worked against the sink, back turned towards him, but she could sense that he was about to say something unpleasant.
‘I thought we might use it on… something else.’
‘Something else?’ she repeated testily, slamming the pot of rice on the stove.
‘It’s just… George is having some trouble with the jokeshop – and I thought –‘
The guilt rummaging in Hermione’s stomach turned to ice cold fury. She felt indignant. Struggling to find words, she lit the stove and turned around, forcing a tone of finality in her voice.
‘If you think that we’re going to put five years of savings into my brother-in-law’s fucking jokeshop, you’re sadly mistaken.’
‘Hermione,’ Ron grumbled, ‘George hasn’t been the same since –‘
‘The war finished almost ten years ago, Ron,’ Hermione hissed degradingly, ‘George is married and has children, if he’s not responsible enough to take care of his own business –‘
‘It’s an investment, Hermione –‘
‘Not with my money, it isn’t!’ Hermione roared, her face flushed with anger. How he could be so selfish was beyond her. ‘Now get out of my fucking kitchen!’
His eyes flashed with fury. Ron gave a beastly growl and left the room. Hermione heard a door slam.
She felt no guilt.
When he returned an hour later, sitting down to dinner with her, eating her curry and drinking wine, his face plastered with a calm, fake smile, as they made conversation, pretending that nothing had happened, she thought of Draco.
The vindictive streak in Hermione Granger-Weasley, a decent, clever attorney, felt a raw, savage pleasure as she fantasised of another man across the table from her husband.
And, as always, she knew she would see Draco again.
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