The story continues...
Title: Passing into the Present
Rating: PG-13 (sexual innuendo and language)
Warnings: none except, unbelievably, no overt smut!
Word count: ~2400
Disclaimer: For entertainment purposes only. It all belongs to Lady Rowling, blah, blah, blah...
Summary: Sometimes the greatest gift is realizing that what you really want, you've actually had all along
A/N: A big thank you to the fantastic beta work done by pan_alchemist
At that moment, the door to the office swung open and both witches turned and saw the unannounced, tall, ginger-haired wizard entering the room.
“Hello, Parvati,” Ron said with a leering smile. “Long time, no see.” Hermione clinched her fists to her sides, and struggled to catch her breath. No doubt what Ron’s thinking, Hermione thought bitterly, as she imagined him undressing her friend with his eyes, shamelessly, right in front of her.
“It’s nice to see you too, Ron,” Parvati said with a quick nod. “But unfortunately, I must dash. As a matter of fact, I was just on my way out when you came in.” Parvati turned back to Hermione. “Don’t forget to owl me, OK?”
“Thanks again, Parvati,” Hermione waved, watching her friend leave the room and close the door behind her.
Ron drew close to Hermione, and she felt the walls go up around her as if she were performing occlumency. “You look very nice this evening.” She could feel his hot breath as he spoke the words, tickle her neck and radiate down her spine. When he brushed her jaw line with his lips, she abruptly broke away.
“How was your day?” she asked brightly, almost in too much of a sing song voice, she thought critically. Hermione went back to her desk and began organizing the stacks of charts, strategically placing the file of photos in a separate spot of its own.
“Oh, nothing special,” Ron answered, settling himself in one of the leather wing-backs. He crossed his legs, ankle on his opposite knee, his long legs overwhelming the delicate chair. Ron then rested his cheek on his hand in an expression of obvious boredom.
“So, nothing new then?” Hermione pressed. The tide of her anger was beginning to rise again, and she fought to reign in the crescendo of her raging emotions.
“It was nice to see Parvati again, wasn’t it?” She continued, not allowing a chance for Ron to respond. “I rarely see anyone from our year at Hogwarts anymore. What about you, Ron?” Hermione smiled, determined to keep her voice sweet and even.
“Mmmm…hmmm,” Ron answered distractedly. His thoughts certainly seemed to be elsewhere.
Hermione stood behind her desk, staring at Ron, waiting for him to respond. As the silence grew, Ron realized that he was supposed to say something.
“Oh, yeah, me neither,” he added quickly. “Be nice to see the old Gryffindor gang sometime, huh?”
Hermione’s mounting fury was crashing hard upon the levy of her control. She instinctively crossed her arms over her chest, and said with a breathy urgency in her voice, “Parvati mentioned that Lavender Brown was back in
Ron glanced up at Hermione, who now felt like she was towering over her desk, him, and the rest of the room. He quickly looked back down to the arm of his chair, shifted in his seat, and answered, “Really?” Hermione caught the slight crack in his voice that he had not been able to hide. “No, actually. I hadn’t heard.”
The floodgates of Hermione’s rage broke with his blatant lie. She had hoped he would have been honest, begged for forgiveness, but she knew Ron, and she knew this is precisely what Ron Weasley would do. If he really loved her, and knew her, like she knew him, he would have made the right choice. If the infidelity were not proof positive that their relationship was over, his lie certainly was.
With all her Gryffindor courage, Hermione forced a deep breath, filling her lungs to their remotest depths. With her chest puffed out and shoulders back, she seized the incriminating file from her desk, stormed around to Ron’s chair, and threw it onto his lap.
“OH REALLY?” She spat, her voice resounding through the office like she had spoken through a magical megaphone. She stepped back from Ron and leaned the small of her back carefully against the front of her desk, grasping the edges on either side with her sweating palms for support.
Ron carefully opened the file, and as his eyes scanned the images in front of him, Hermione watched his skin tone change from the barest pink to a deep crimson. After what seemed hours, Ron rose from the chair and tossed the folder into the seat. “Hermione,” he said, breathing hard. She watched the rapid rise and fall of his chest. His blue eyes were not full of regret or shame, but in them she saw hate and anger that were shooting forth like daggers.
“What in the bloody hell were you doing tailing me?” he shouted.
“And what in the BLOODY HELL were you doing with Lavender Brown?” she retorted. “Oh wait! Never mind I asked! I think it’s OBVIOUS what you were doing in that car with that stupid bint!”
“Now wait right there…” Ron countered, his voice shaking with rage.
“Oh, and so you’re going to defend her now, are you?” Hermione jeered. “Or I guess you conveniently forgotten that I’m the one who is supposed to be your girlfriend.” Hermione turned her back on Ron, refusing to let him see the rogue tears escaping from her eyes.
Hermione bit the inside of her cheek to keep from crying. She counted to ten silently, and waited for Ron’s next reply.
“No, I haven’t forgotten,” he said slowly. She could hear the deliberate attempt at control in his words. “It just seems to me that you’re the one who’s forgotten you’re my girlfriend.”
“Excuse me?” She turned around and spat with rage,” What is THAT supposed to mean?”
“You know EXACTLY what I mean…” Ron’s eyes were full of accusation. “Harry.”
“Oh, that’s rich!” Hermione rolled her eyes in protest. She had already covered this once today and was in no humor to do it again. “So when, all of a sudden, did you start believing the rumor mill?”
“Tell me Hermione,” Ron challenged, his eyes blazing. “When’s the last time you came to a Cannons game if Harry couldn’t make it? And tell me again, exactly why is it that Harry needs a spare key to your flat? And can you explain to me how is it that every time I catch you watching him when you think I’m not looking you’re ogling his arse?”
. “How DARE you!” she screeched. “Do you honestly believe Harry and I are having an affair?”
Ron’s face was almost maroon. The ticking clock accentuated the silence, as they stood facing one another down in hostile stares. “No…” Ron shook his head. “No, I don’t think the two of you are having an affair. Harry’s too damned noble to do it. But I’ll tell you something, if it were up to you, you sure as hell would be.”
Hermione’s mouth was open, ready to defend herself, when Ron cut her off short.
“Well, on second thought, “Ron said with a nasty smirk. “We both know Harry’s a sucker for really beautiful women with long legs and great tits. Let’s face it, Hermione, you’re not exactly his type, now are you?”
“You bastard!” she screamed. She wanted to hit him. If she had her wand in her hand, she likely would have hexed his bits off. “Go ahead, accuse me of anything you like, but you know damned good and well I’m innocent. I’m not the one who’s cheated, Ron. YOU’RE the one who’s betrayed the trust in this relationship.”
Hermione crossed her arms and raised her head high, looking him square on. “Oh, and I suppose the next thing you’re going to tell me is that I shouldn’t be upset at all since you couldn’t actually shag that brainless whore!”
As soon as she’d said it, Hermione knew she had crossed the point of no return. Of all the cruel things she could say, this was undeniably the worst. She had thrown this in his face because she wanted to hurt him; hurt him as mercilessly as he had hurt her.
At first, Hermione had reassured Ron it just happened with men sometimes, especially during periods of extreme stress. But in spite of all her reassurances, potions from St. Mungo’s, and even the Muggle medicine she had cajoled him into trying as a last resort, Ron’s “problem” never got any better. If anything, the more they tried, the worse it became. Eventually, they started avoiding any possibility of intimacy, and they stopped even mentioning it anymore. It had become the invisible Hippogriff that always sat in the room between them.
Hermione stood there, looking at Ron, waiting to defend another barrage of insults and accusations, but when she saw him staring down at his feet, looking up at her only in quick glances from the corner of his eyes, Hermione knew. In that brief moment of recognition, it was if she were underwater and had taken a huge gasp that flooded her lungs after she could no longer continue holding her breath.
“You shagged her? You were able-?” Hermione choked out in shouted whisper as her body began to shake with rage.
Ron glared at her in silence. By the nasty smirk on his face, he seemed almost pleased by her epiphany. Finally, after a stillness had settled between them Ron said, anger thick in his voice, “I think the only real problem I seem to have is YOU.”
At that moment, another knock sounded upon the opening door, and with a start, both Hermione and Ron turned to see Harry. Recognizing he had just interrupted something quite private and sordid, he looked from Hermione to Ron to Hermione again and motioned silently to ask if he should leave.
“No, Harry,” Hermione said with a sniff, trying to regain her composure. “Ron was just leaving.” Hermione looked at Ron with an expression of pure revulsion as he raised himself up to his full height.
“That’s right, mate,” Ron sneered, his own hate-filled eyes never leaving Hermione. “I was just leaving…” he paused as he seemed to struggle with his temper. Then he added, his jaw visibly clinched tight, “She’s all yours.”
Hermione watched in soundless indignation as Ron stormed across the room. When he reached Harry just in front of the door, he knocked into him with his shoulder so hard she could hear the dull thud of the impact. Harry simply regained his balance, shaking his head, as Ron slammed the door behind him.
“Ummm…sorry to interrupt,” Harry said, coming to stand alongside Hermione. “I had no idea you two were…”
“Oh, don’t worry about it Harry,” Hermione sniffed. “I was actually rather glad you arrived when you did.” Hermione wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. She knew Harry never did well with crying women, and she was not about to join the ranks of the Human Hosepipe.
“Ronald is just a…just a complete arse… that’s all. Looks like I’ve broken even for my birthday so far,” a tight smile confirmed her sarcasm. “One early birthday present received, one boyfriend lost. Seems about right, doesn’t it?”
Harry looked at her reproachfully. “Hermione?” he asked, puzzled by her cryptic comment.
“The file, on the chair behind you, Harry. Take a look for yourself.”
Hermione watched as Harry picked up the folder and looked through the photos. Harry’s expression turned from one of unease to complete determination. “Get your things,” he ordered. “You’re in no shape to Apparate anywhere. You’re likely to splinch yourself all over
Hermione gave a small giggle. “Thanks for the vote of confidence in my magical skills, Harry,” she said with a slight sniff.
Harry looked at her sternly. “It’s not funny, Hermione. Come on, we’ll walk over to my place; it’s just down the block. Let’s get you out of here.”
The slight evening breeze that stung her tear-stained face felt surprising good, Hermione thought as she and Harry walked through the
“It’s OK, really, Harry. I’m fine,” she replied.
“Take it,” he ordered, and before she could protest more, Harry had slowed a pace behind her and draped the jacket over her bare shoulders.
“Thanks,” she said, the heat from Harry’s body that had warmed the jacket flooding through her. The satin lining caressed her arms, and she took a deep breath in, reflexively, catching the scent of laundry soap and cedar, with the slightest hint of broom polish. That wonderful, comforting smell was unmistakably Harry.
“I know you must be cold,” he said and Hermione noticed he looked down as soon he spoke. Was he blushing? Oh, Sweet Merlin, she thought, remembering she had chosen the black lace bra to match the dress, not one of her usual, slightly padded ones. Harry saw my--- My pathetic excuses for breasts, more like it, she interrupted herself. Ron’s nasty insult still burned in her mind.
As if he could hear the embarrassment and denigration going on in her head, Harry turned back to her, his eyes full of sweet sadness. “You really look beautiful tonight.”
Hermione tutted. “Apart from the tear stains, the ruined make-up, and now the wind-blown hair, I’m sure I must be simply a vision of loveliness.” She appreciated his efforts, but she knew he was just lying to make her feel better.
“No,” Harry replied in an offended tone that took her by complete surprise. “I mean it, Hermione. You’re beautiful in spite of glamour charms, not because of them.”
Harry looked away as they reached the corner opposite his flat. They stopped, waiting for the light to change, and her mind quickly hit rewind and replayed not just what he said, but how he had said those words. That feeling of rustling wings in her chest returned, even more noticeably now than it had earlier.
Lost in thought, Hermione felt someone from behind push into her, and then she felt Harry grab her hand, steadying her balance. She pulled her hand back, feeling awkward at the recognition of his touch, but Harry only tightened his grip. A tingling heat emanated from his confident fingers that ran its way up her hand, up her arm to her neck, and then lower. Only the tug from his arm jolted her attention from the delicious sensation.
“Come on,” he urged. “Let’s get you home.”