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It was such a beautiful thing. It caressed my face, my shoulders, my fingertips. It told me it would keep me safe forever. I succumbed to it and buried my face in its arm. I never wanted to leave its side, because if I did it might just be the end of me.

My eyes were glued shut. I couldn’t bring myself to open them; that would mean facing the light. I couldn’t face the light when the darkness felt so good.

But the darkness told me I had to. It encouraged me in the way it gently stroked my hair away from my face. It told me everything would be all right, so long as I just opened my eyes. I groaned, and it tenderly kissed my forehead in response.

I opened my eyes.


I fell apart.

He gathered me into his arms and shushed me as I cried. He told me everything was going to be all right, that he was there and nothing would hurt me. I sobbed until I had no more tears to shed. He gently rocked me back and forth, now wordlessly, waiting out the storm.

When it ended, I felt empty. Numb.

Draco led me to the bathroom and helped me wash my face. Then he settled me onto the couch and put a blanket over me. He disappeared for a while, and I was left staring at the ceiling, my mind a vast expanse of nothingness. When he returned, he coaxed me into sitting up and handed me a steaming mug of coffee.

After a few sips, my world seemed to come into focus a little more each second. First, I noticed it was cold. Freezing cold. I pulled the blanket up to my chin. Next, I noticed it was morning. The sunlight filtered in through the window, bathing the floor in warm yellow. Last, I noticed Draco’s bloodshot eyes and the pained expression on his face.

Then I remembered.

“What happened to you last night?” I blurted.

His entire body went rigid. He didn’t look at me. “I was upset when you didn’t come home. You weren’t answering your cell phone, and no one seemed to know where you were. I … I don’t know why I caved, I just couldn’t handle it. You’ve seemed so distant lately …”

I pressed my lips together and averted my gaze to the floor. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have an issue with Draco getting drunk. It was my fault for making him worry so much. My intense guilt overpowered every word I would have said if this had been a normal situation. Instead, I closed my eyes and wished for this all to disappear.

I was forced to look at Draco again when his hand touched my knee. “Hermione, what’s going on with you?”

I bit my lip. Looking into his beautiful blue eyes caused me the most pain I had ever felt. What could I possibly say? I wanted to make everything go away. I wanted to go back to that day when Blaise arrived, so I could end things there and have Draco in my arms without complications. But I couldn’t.


Even if I could, would I want to?

The thought came from nowhere. I was shocked.

I couldn’t want Blaise.

No. I didn’t.

This reassurance was enough for me. I placed my hand on Draco’s and offered him my most earnest look.

“There’s nothing going on. I guess I’ve just been a little stressed out from work. I’m sorry if I’ve seemed a little detached. I didn’t mean to be. I just … I wasn’t myself.”

The lie was clear. To me, at least. Draco didn’t notice. He smiled instantly, and my heart melted. He wrapped his arms around me and I fell into his safe embrace. I knew I was home.

“I love you so much, Draco.”

That was not a lie.

He kissed my forehead again. “I love you more than you know.”

He didn’t ask about this morning’s breakdown. Throughout the day, he kept glancing at me worriedly, probably afraid I might fall apart again. I didn’t. Despite how terribly uneasy and upset I felt about Blaise, it was easy to pretend there was nothing wrong and just enjoy being with Draco again, without the strain.

He drove us out to a little wine-tasting town outside of London, and we spent the day joking around and laughing, just like we used to when we first started dating. Then he took me to a carnival and we got lost in the maze and he won me a big teddy bear. Then he made love to me on the roof of our apartment building. It was so honest and refreshing that I became completely lost in him and forgot all about Blaise.

But, in the morning, all that seemed in vain.

I awoke to another sunlit morning. I yawned and stretched, and looked across to find Draco’s side of the bed empty. On his pillow was a little note that read: ‘Getting breakfast. Don’t move.’

I smiled and curled up under the blankets again, enjoying the sun as it danced across my skin, warming my core. I waited half an hour before I started wondering where he was. I got up, wrapped my dressing gown around my body, and ventured out into the living room.

I didn’t even make it to the kitchen when I heard hushed voices from within.

“… have to go, Draco. There’s nothing left for me here.”

Blaise’s voice sent my heart into a palpitating frenzy.

“You can’t go! You’re better off here, where I can keep an eye on you.” Draco urged desperately. I imagined him running a hand through his bed-messed blonde hair.

Blaise snorted. “I don’t need you to keep an eye on me. I need to go back to Egypt. I can’t stay here, not anymore. I … I need to get as far away from here as possible.”

“Just because of your mum?”

I knew it wasn’t just because of his mother. I knew it so well that it caused my heart to break further. Being reminded that Draco was oblivious to the fact that his fiancée had slept with his best friend only destroyed me a little more inside. I felt like I was going to throw up.

There was a long pause before Blaise spoke again. “Thanks for all your help, mate. I really appreciate it. You’re a good man, and I hope … you’re happy.” His voice broke on the last three syllables.

I only heard the sound of his own heart breaking.

There was a click, and the silence told me he was gone. Draco and breakfast forgotten, I turned around numbly and went straight back to bed. I didn’t wake up until night fell, and even then I didn’t get out of bed. I stayed there, barely moving, for three days. Draco assumed I was sick, and I let him believe that. He nursed me, brought me meals which I didn’t eat, and tried to coax me out into the real world. Claudia even visited, once, but she didn’t stay long. I heard her and Draco murmuring outside the door before the front door closed, announcing her departure.

Draco left me alone until the early hours of the next morning. He had alcohol on his breath, but he wasn’t drunk. He merely sat on the end of the bed and stared at the wall.

It had all been perfect.

It had all come crashing down.

Without a word, I pushed the covers away from my weak-from-lack-of-activity body and crawled across the bed to Draco. I put my arms around his neck from behind and stayed there for a long time. Neither of us spoke. There was nothing we could say to outweigh what we both knew in our hearts.

Something in our relationship was going horribly wrong.

He didn’t talk to me that day. I was finally out of bed, and took to cleaning up the house to make up for my inactivity, and also to keep the fear-invoking thoughts from my head. I didn’t really realise he was avoiding me until I made dinner and he wouldn’t come and eat it when I told him it was ready. I sat at our small table, waiting for him, until our meals turned cold. I stared out the window, down to the busy streets below, waiting. When night finally fell, I forgot what I was waiting for.

When I looked at the diamond ring on my finger, I remembered.

It was so easy to pull off. I felt nothing as I slid it from my skin and placed it on the table in front of me. My hand felt empty, like there was a piece of it missing, but the rest of my body had no reaction. Not even my heart, which remained in its carefully broken state. There were no further tears, no palpitations. No regrets.

I was waiting for Blaise.

I was waiting for him to come storming back through the door, sweep me off my feet, and take me back to France, where we could watch the sunset together and forget everything else in the world. I was waiting for him to tell me he loved me so that I could say it back and mean it. I wanted nothing else more than to be in his arms.

I cried again, but this time it was silent. I let the tears run down my cheeks and splash onto my untouched food. When they stopped coming, I cleaned the dishes and left the apartment. My last glimpse of our home consisted of the dining table, and the diamond ring still gleaming on its glass surface.

The walk to work was long. I felt numb, and all I could seem to do was put one foot in front of the other and let my body take me where it wanted to go. I didn’t want to apparate – the physical exhaustion of my body would not allow me to partake in such strenuous activity. Its fragile state would not let me jolt it any further.

The light was on up on the top floor. I stared up at it emotionlessly. It took a while for me to register Claudia must be working late. She was the only one, excepting me, who stayed for longer hours than were required.

I climbed the stairs slowly. The lift was out of the question.

It was quiet in the office. The cubicles looked so alienated as I marched past them like a zombie. I didn’t react when I found the light was coming from my office. I should have, because no one worked in my office but me. I couldn’t remember how to question why Claudia would be in my office, especially when I was not there.

And then it hit me.

It was not a realisation that hit me, nor an unravelling.

It was a high-pitched squeal, resonating throughout the abandoned building – an elongated trill of intense pleasure and satisfaction.

And it was in the form of a single word.


I seemed to lose control of myself at that moment. My hand turning the handle didn’t register in my mind, nor did the subtle squeak of the door as I pushed it opened. But it registered in theirs, and their eyes darted to mine in a split second.

Draco and Claudia.

Claudia and Draco.

My hand fell silently from the handle and to my side. My mind went blank. The darkness returned but it would not enfold me. Instead, it surrounded me, just out of my reach so I could not succumb to its comforting embrace.

The rest was a blur. All I could remember was a quick cuss falling from Draco’s lips, and the thud of high heels against the floor as Claudia jumped from her compromising position on the desk.

I ran from my office as fast as I could, not daring to look behind me at the terrible scene that had split my heart the farthest it could go until it was no longer mine at all. I was alone.

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