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I usually would have Apparated but the air was so crisp, and the wind so gentle, that I decided I’d walk. The London Tower Bridge was only a five minute walk from mine and Draco’s apartment, and I needed time to brace myself for whatever waited for me above the River Thames.

I kept my head bent as I wandered the streets of London. I guess to anybody watching my steps looked a little aimless, but I knew where I was going, just a little hesitant to get there. Things had been so perfect this morning, or even yesterday. But now, since that moment we shared in the alley, I was worried Blaise was having second thoughts.

Shouldn’t I be slightly relieved, though? I mean, this entire time I’d been ‘frolicking’ with Blaise, I’d been unfaithful to Draco. I loved Draco with all my heart, so didn’t that mean I should be glad to end things with Blaise? I didn’t know. It was all far too confusing. I guess I would know as soon as I saw Blaise.

But I didn’t.

When I finally reached the bridge, I saw him. He stood there in his fancy black jacket, gazing out over the river. He was so beautiful, especially under the mild moonlight, but his face was overcast, and his violet eyes dejected.

I approached him hesitantly and stopped at his side. He didn’t acknowledge my presence, so I didn’t acknowledge his. I leaned against the barrier and stared out over the river. It was at its most beautiful at night, when it was too dark to see its dirty colour. I liked the way it flowed with purpose, as if it was on a mission and it wouldn’t let anything get in its way. If ever I felt confused, I would come here and gaze at its rushing waters until I found an answer for whatever was going on in my head.

It was funny. This was the first time the river had ever failed me. I was still confused as hell.

We stood like that in silence for a while. I guess I didn’t want to be the first one to speak. I was worrying about Draco, but I was also so taken by Blaise’s presence, as I usually was, that I couldn’t focus on much else. It was strange to think that not long ago Draco had been the only object of my affection. Now there was someone else to overpower that love, a feeling that seemed much stronger but couldn’t possibly be.

I hadn’t waited all my life to find love and then have it taken away from me.

“She died.”

I looked up, startled by Blaise’s words. At first I was more shocked that he had spoken, just as I had gotten used to the silence, but then as the words sunk in I couldn’t quite process what he meant. “What? Who?”

“My mother,” he said, his voice gentle like the surrounding wind.

I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t, so I mumbled, “I’m sorry,” and continued to stare out at the constant river.

When he did, it was like he hadn’t spoken about it for a while. The words just tumbled out – not a lot of them made sense – and he didn’t seem to know what to say first, and what came next. But it sounded like he’d done a lot of thinking. I just listened, uncertain as to what I could possibly say to make the situation easier for him.

“I was in Egypt when her current husband phoned me. He said she just didn’t wake up one morning. He couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, just that she was pale and it was like all the life had been sucked from her body. They told him it was self-inflicted. She’d killed herself. She’d taken her own life with her own hands.”

I pressed my lips together, trying not to imagine the dead corpse, and a man holding her to him, unaware that she had passed on from this world. I shuddered when the image came into my head, anyway.

“I never said goodbye to her,” Blaise continued, his voice suddenly lost with the wind. “I just upped and left for Egypt without a word, and I never called her after that. She probably wondered what she did wrong. I guess I was sick of the string of men she married after my father. I was never brave enough to tell her, but I regret that now. Every single day since she died I regret not telling her how I truly felt, and that I still loved her despite the fact that she was evil.”

I don’t know how it happened, but I suddenly found myself clutching tightly onto his hand. This seemed to shock some life back into him, because he suddenly looked down at our entwined hands and then at me. He turned his body so that he was facing me, and took my other hand. He squeezed them both tightly, and I felt the desperation in his grip.

His violet eyes flashed with passion. “Hermione, I can’t go on like this. This past week or so … all the feelings I had for you back at Hogwarts just came rushing back, stronger than before. I’m sorry if I’ve been forceful, or if I’ve put pressure on you – I’m especially sorry for creating a barrier between you and Draco. I just …” he trailed off, at a loss of what to say.

I stared at our hands.

“The thing is, I’ve grown up thinking love was something you didn’t keep. My mother was constantly getting married, and each time her husband would mysteriously disappear and then she’d get a new one. That was normal to me. I believed if you loved someone they would disappear and you’d never see them again. And then I met you.”

My heart was thumping out of my chest.

“You were so different from everyone else. You didn’t care what people thought about you, and you knew what you wanted. You were just so intriguing. And the best part was you didn’t disappear. It took me two years to work up the nerve to tell you how I felt, but then I realised you were too good for me. I don’t know how that came about, I just knew I had to be more than the person I was to win you. So, as soon as we graduated, I left for Egypt.

“It took me a while to find myself, and I had only finished doing just that when I returned to London. I tracked down Draco, and that was when my world fell apart. The moment I apparated into your flat, I knew it had all been for nothing. You two were together, he’d made you his in the amount of time it had taken me to realise I was in love with you. I was so upset, yet so drawn to you that I couldn’t help my actions when I kissed you.”

There was a lengthy pause as he stared down into my eyes, gazing past just my outward appearance and into my soul. I had thought Draco was the only one who could see my soul until I met Blaise. Blaise could see my soul and read it. I was so transparent to him that I wondered if he could read my mind. I really prayed he couldn’t read my mind right now, because I might just die.

“Hermione,” he breathed. My name sounded so sweet on his lips, like they had been made purely to speak my name and nothing else. “Hermione, I love you. No, I am in love with you. When you disappeared for that entire week, I almost died. After getting used to you in that way, it was difficult for me to be away from you. I felt so lost, especially after losing my mother. It was like you were the only person keeping me alive. And today, when you said you had to get back to Draco, I felt the most powerful jealousy I’ve ever felt. I can’t describe it … I hated Draco with every breath in my body because he had you, you who are so perfect and amazing and you don’t even know it …”

He affectionately brushed a stray lock of hair from my face and tucked it behind my ear. Where his fingers touched my skin there remained a trail of fire. I closed my eyes against the bite, afraid of what it meant. My head was a mixture of thoughts and feelings, and I couldn’t decide how I felt, how this conversation was affecting me. All I could think about was Blaise’s violet eyes as they bore into my heart and soul.

“I asked you to meet me here tonight, Hermione, because I need to know how you feel.”

The sentence was so abrupt and unexpected that I found myself hanging onto it, peeling back each word so that I could understand what they meant. He was asking me to put down into words what was going on in my head? I could no sooner pick a star in the sky and bring it down to Earth.

His cold, burning fingers stroked my cheek, leaving more fire. “I can’t keep doing this if I don’t know what I mean to you. Is this just something you can escape to when you’re sick of Draco, or does this mean more to you? Please tell me, Hermione, because I feel so far out in the deep end right now.”

I kept my eyes closed. I didn’t want to answer the question, but I owed that much to Blaise. He had been so kind to me, so wonderful, and he deserved to know the truth. How could I word it, though? I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. Staring into his eyes about destroyed me right there and then.

“I never intended to hurt Draco. I’m not the kind of person that runs around having affairs. I truly love him with all my heart, and when I said I would marry him I meant it. He made a vow to me, I made a vow to him, and I had ever intention of keeping that vow for the rest of my life. And then I met you.”

The words seemed to come easily after that. They had all been bottled up inside me for so long, and to have them flow from my mouth as if they had been written as a script was such a relief. I found it hard to stop once I started.

“I hated you for making me surrender to you so easily. It was like you were sent from my own personal hell to torture me, and you didn’t even seem to care. I wanted to kill you that night at the restaurant, as you stared at me with that stupid smirk. I wanted to wring your neck until you slumped against the table. But at the same time I felt drawn to you, more so than I had when I’d first seen Draco all that time after Graduation. I can’t describe the pull I felt toward you … It was like the universe was pushing us towards each other relentlessly.

“It was so easy to succumb to you after that, because everything I felt was real. When I slept with you it was the most amazing feeling in the world. But after I felt so sick and guilty that I couldn’t face you. I needed that week away from you, to gather my thoughts. I guess I felt that if I stayed away from you it wouldn’t matter as much that I had gone behind Draco’s back. But I didn’t realise until I saw you again that day in Diagon Alley that I had missed you while I’d been gone. It was like everything started to make sense again after that.”

I paused as I tried to think about how to word this next confession. I sighed.

“You have to know I never meant to hurt you, either. I wanted you. Being with you just felt right, like I was a whole person. But then when I went back to Draco, that made sense, too.” I didn’t know how to go on. My heart was telling me to stop, but my head insisted I continue.

I stared at Blaise, reading his soul, and finally said, “I can’t let go of Draco, Blaise. As much as I’ve enjoyed your company, I can’t just say goodbye to him. I love him. We’re getting married. I can’t run away from that just because we slept together a couple times.”

It was like I’d slapped him across the face or hit him with a stunning spell. His grip on my hands loosened, his arms fell back against his sides, and his entire body went rigid. It was like watching someone instantly freeze. It was the most horrible and frightening thing I’d ever witnessed.

I took a step back, confused, concerned and scared all at the same time.

And then he started shaking with anger.

“How can you go back to him after everything we’ve been through? Can’t you see that I’m here, right now? I’m here, Hermione. I’m still here because of you. Why … why can’t you see that?” None of it made much sense, but it was the tone that got to me.

His anger, his shouting, his pure rage, it sank deep into my veins and boiled my blood. There was nothing to stop me now.

“You can’t expect to suddenly show up unannounced and sweep me off my feet, Blaise! Not after everything I’ve been through with Draco. You … you’re a bastard! You forced me to be unfaithful to Draco!”

“I never forced you! It was every bit your fault as it was mine!”

“Don’t you try to blame me! I love Draco! What else can I do? I can’t just drop everything I have with him for you! How do I know you won’t drop me, too, once you get bored of me?”

Now it was like I’d set the killing curse on him. His shoulders suddenly slumped forward and he backed away from me.

“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice low and derisive, “for ever thinking you were the one for me. You’re just like my mother’s dead husbands. You’re just like them!”

And then he was gone. With a deafening crack, he was gone. Just like that.

I stood staring at the spot where he’d been standing just a second ago, infuriated beyond control, breathing heavily and pulsing with rage.

And then I just seemed to fall apart at the seams.

The ground suddenly swallowed me up and I cried. It didn’t end. It felt like my heart had been ripped in two and I was no longer a whole person. I don’t know how long I was there for, on the ground, curled up into a little ball.

The crying stopped after a while, and when I started to get cold, I got to my feet and apparated home. Draco had moved to the bed when I dragged myself like a zombie into the bedroom. I took one look at him, and my heart broke further. It was no longer just two parts. One part belonged to him, the other to Blaise.

Only one part belonged to me, and it was the smallest part of them all.

I collapsed into bed beside him and crawled into his embrace. I wanted to hide beneath his arm forever, to never show my face again. I wanted to be there for eternity so no one could see the shame I had committed myself to, not even me.

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