The coming warmth of the spring hang in the still air as Hermione made the short walk home through the local park to the apartment she shared with Ron. The sun was slowly dipping beneath the horizon and casting a reddish glow upon the puffy clouds. Her mind was in chaos as it spun a million webs of intangible thoughts creating a tangled mess and no conclusions. What was she going to say to Ron, what could she do to bring their relationship back from the brink? He was so defensive when ever she suggested that something was wrong. He had never been one to show his feelings, unless they involved jealousy or anger. Hermione had dealt with this over the years, she knew he loved her, even if he didn't always show it. But then she had also thought that she loved him.
Hermione was quickly brought out of her reverie by a soccer ball careening across the path in front of her, followed by a young man in hot pursuit. She quickly halted as he passed, her eyes following the man who seemed vaguely familiar. He flicked his head back towards her and they locked eyes for a split second. Recognition dawned on his face but was quickly extinguished as his foot slid out from under him on the wet grass. His limbs flailed in all directions as he tried to regain his footing but all to no avail. In a heap, he crashed to the ground, mud and grass smearing down his side.
Hermione burst into laughter at the poor man's misfortune, unable to control herself. She had been so down, so lost in her own thoughts and troubles that she had forgotten that there was a whole other world out there. She didn't have to be unhappy, she was choosing to be. She was not joined to Ron, she was her own person and if he didn't want to join her in pursuing new things then she would do it on her own.
She looked down at the man, lying on his back, slightly winded by the fall, his eyes gazing up at her. “Hermione Granger?” the man questioned sceptically.
“Oliver Wood,” Hermione said, as recognition dawned. She quickly controlled her giggling and politely held out her hand to him. It was the least she could do after laughing at him like she had.
He took her hand with his mud covered one and smiled as he made his way back onto his feet. “I haven't seen you in years, since the Battle of Hogwarts I think,” Oliver said, brushing his clothes down, the action only smearing the mud and making him look even grubbier.
Hermione chuckled at the mud covered man in front of her. “That didn't make much of a difference,” she observed.
Oliver looked down at himself then shrugged his shoulders. “Thank goodness for mud cleaning charms,” he joked. He looked around for the soccer ball that had come to rest a few metres away from him. He ran over to it and kicked it back to a bunch of guys and girls that he'd been playing with.
“So what has the famous Hermione Granger been up to lately?” Oliver asked, a beautiful smile lighting up his face.
“Oh, this and that,” Hermione said happily, finding it nice to have someone to talk to. “I'm working with the legal department of the Ministry at the moment. My main area is in legislation and the rights of Wizards and Magical brethren. It's really quite fascinating all the persecution that has been brought upon house elves and goblins and centaurs. It's no wonder they've rebelled over the years.”
“Wow, that sounds really interesting,” Oliver responded with genuine curiosity. “You'll have to tell me about them sometime. I've always told myself that I need to learn more about our world, especially after the wars, but what can I say, Quidditch seems to always get in the way.”
Hermione was delighted to find someone who wanted to listen to her and she smiled broadly at Oliver as he ran his hand through his brown hair. It was longer than she remembered it being and it fell upon his forehead. She had hardly known him at Hogwarts. He had just been the manic Quidditch Captain who had made Harry practice stupid hours to win the cup. Now, standing in front of her, she saw a handsome man who was confident and enjoying life.
“Are you still playing with Puddlemere?” Hermione asked, remembering the little titbit of information that Ron had told her.
“Yes I am,” Oliver boasted proudly. “Opening line up keeper now. Hopefully it will be the English team next, and you never know, World Cup glory.”
“From what I've seen, you have all the potential to get there,” Hermione said with encouragement, even thought in truth she had hardly seen him play.
“I've just got to work hard. It's why I'm playing soccer now. It uses a similar sort of reflex, makes me a more versatile player, or something like that. You can join in if you want, it's just a fun and friendly game, nothing too technical.”
Oliver's eyes conveyed that the request was more than a polite invitation, and as Hermione looked into them, she felt the urge to just kick off her shoes and join him. She hadn't felt this spontaneous in years and was about to say yes when she remembered Ron. Her face immediately fell as she thought of him sitting home alone, probably starting to wonder where she was.
Hermione sighed, “I'd love to Oliver, but I can't, I've got to get home, I'm already running late.”
“That's a shame,” Oliver said with a slight hint of disappointment in his voice. “We're here basically every Tuesday though, you can come along any time.”
His brown eye pleaded with her own and Hermione's face broke into a grin as she accepted his offer. “You know what, I think I will.”
“Brilliant,” Oliver exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. “I better get back to the game. See you next week then?” He started to walk backwards, his eyes still holding hers within their vision.
“Yeah,” Hermione confirmed with a nod.
“I look forward to it,” Oliver said, throwing her one last smile before her turned and jogged away.
Hermione's heart felt heavy as she watched him leave. He had shown her more interest in a couple of minutes than Ron had in the last few years. His eyes were alight with excitement and life. He had goals, he had ambition, a burning fire within him. His energy was contagious, and even though Hermione now had to go home to Ron, the heaviness that she had felt while watching Oliver leave was being replaced by elation at the prospect of next week when she would see him again.
There was something spontaneous about what had just occurred. Hermione hadn’t played soccer since school sport days way back before Hogwarts, and she was never very good. As a child she had learnt ballet and played the violin, but whilst at Hogwarts, she had always been studying or reading rather than playing sports. Maybe it was the prospect of doing something completely new that had made Hermione agree so readily to play soccer with a guy she hadn’t seen for years. She had felt for several months now that she was stuck in a cycle of work and home and nothing was ever changing. This was the first step to take back control and get out and live again. The reason she agreed had nothing to do with his charming smile and warm eyes.
On arriving home, Hermione had told Ron about meeting Oliver in the park and how he had invited her to play soccer with him next week. He had simply shrugged and said she could do what she wanted. Hermione had suggested he come along too but Ron said he wasn't interested. It nearly brought tears to her eyes as he cast her aside once more. Shaking her head slowly to herself as she turned away, Hermione resigned herself to the fate of their relationship that was slowly unravelling before her eyes.
* * *
Hermione reached the far end of the beach and started to ascend the pathway that led up to the peak of the head land. That day had been the beginning of the end. She should have seen it right then that continuing the relationship was futile. Holding onto something that wasn't there for another six months was nothing short of cowardice. She should have ended that day, but Hermione had held on, hoping that something would change, hoping the relationship they once had would return. But these were just excuses for her being unable to bring such a drastic change to her life.
She had been comfortable, comfortably unhappy. It was easy now to look back and recognise everything that was wrong in her life. Oliver had quickly shown Hermione what life could be again. After their initial meeting, she met him every week to play soccer and found herself surprisingly enjoying herself. After a few more weeks they met up for a coffee every so often. He listened to her, they discussed and debated things together, she listened to his dreams and ambitions. He was so easy to talk to and Hermione found herself telling him more and more. One day she told him she had always wanted to learn to ice skate and he encouraged her to give it a go. On their next meeting, he even came with a whole list of places where she could learn.
Hermione gazed out over the ocean that was now far below her, crashing violently into the jagged rocks that jutted into the sea. The wind blew through her hair, reminding her of how it felt when she had been ice skating. She had loved the eight weeks of tuition she had taken and was considering starting another block course again in a few weeks. Ron had shown no interest when she told him about it and never came to the ice to see what she had learnt. It was Oliver that had come along to watch her. It was Oliver that had congratulated her on how good she was looking, it was Oliver who she smiled at in the stands as she skated and twirled around the rink.
It wasn't cheating, but Hermione knew she was only a kiss away from it and the more she saw Oliver the more she wanted to kiss him. Ron never broached the subject of the amount of time she spent with him, he either had no idea, wasn't interested or was in denial. Three months after meeting Oliver, she knew she had to end it with Ron. It took another three months until that fateful day when he had pulled out the ring.
A/N: Thanks everyone for your reviews so far. I'm really happy you enjoyed the first chapter. The chapters are fairly short I'm afraid but it was just where the natural breaks came. The next update will be in about 3 weeks.
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