Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Without a Trace. At all.
He was a fool of a man.
He let the best thing that ever happened to him walk out of his life and didn't do a thing to stop it. No, instead he pushed Hermione away. He pushed and pushed until one day she stopped pushing back and the sight of her tears slapped him in the face and jolted him back to reality. It was too late by then.
Martin Fitzgerald was a stupid, heartbroken fool.
He remembered the long shifts at work, the stress the cases put on him. She was always so damn supportive, too good to be true, and he couldn't take it, he didn't deserve her. So he'd pick fights with her, stayed out later, flirted with other women.
He never cheated, but even in his own head it sounded like an excuse.
He remembered the night that it ended. Oh God how he remembered. His mind's eye drew up the small stress lines around her eyes, evidence of how often they fought. She looked so beautiful that night in her pretty red blouse and black slacks Her hair fell in bouncy, riotous curls and he could recall how he forced himself to not reach for her, to not run his hands through her hair. His fists clenched in reminiscence. Her smile was a little off and it wasn't until later that he realised it was because it hadn't reached her eyes.
He had come home after a terrible case with a worse ending. They found the missing kid, but it had been too late and- and it just wasn't right! The tension he had been carrying around all day tightened his shoulders and he felt in his veins the need to shout, to throw something, to let loose all this building rage at the unfairness of the world. It was bad luck that Hermione was there waiting for him, looking pretty and perfect and so not in tune with the rest of his life that she stood out like a beacon, a target. He can no longer recollect what he picked a fight about. Funny that, he could recall everything else with perfect clarity.
He remembered shouting at her and she shouted back and she looked so breathtaking in her fierce temper, the way her hair seemed to come alive and fight with her. He kissed her at one point, unable to resist her allure, but she didn't kiss back and that... that's when he started noticing things he had failed to notice before, like the packed bags at the door. Or maybe it was later, when she said goodbye in that solemn, too serious voice she sometimes had. She said she couldn't do this anymore, that they fought so often that maybe they just weren't meant to be together. But that wasn't right, he knew it wasn't right because they didn't fight, he fought because he was a thickheaded man who destroyed everything that meant something to him. Someone told him once, or perhaps he heard someone tell her, that he would break if she didn't need him. They didn't know he was already broken.
She cried that night. He could still feel the tears on his thumb from when he wiped them away. He wanted to tell her how sorry he was, how they were meant to be together, how he needed her and loved her and it was on the tip of his tongue to promise to never push her away again if she'd just give him another chance. Instead, he stood in shocked silence as he tried to register her words. He knew this was where they were headed, some part of his mind taunting him that this what he had wanted, what he had been trying to do all along, but he was still surprised. Why did it hurt so much? The pain in his chest was sharp and felt like it had taken permanent residence. It was difficult to breathe.
The door was closing by the time he shook himself enough to yell for her to stop, to beg her to come back and talk and smile with her eyes because he could already feel the loss. That night he drank himself to sleep on his couch with his nose buried in her pillow. He dreamt of better days, of meeting on the Way of St. James, of dancing in the rain, laughing at silly movies. There was a time he would take her to hole in the wall eateries with the best food and she would talk him into visiting museums, telling him stories of the exhibits in ways that kept him entranced. There were nights of passion where he learned every contour of her body and they moved together until they both came undone. Waking up was the hardest thing to do.
The next day was also clear in his mind. The headache was ignorable, but the engagement ring sitting on the kitchen table like an accusation wasn't as easy to dismiss. He had turned his eyes away, unprepared to take in the sight. He headed to the shower in the hopes of washing off the despair still clinging to him, but on his way something caught his attention. He looked around and found her things missing - not just a bag for a couple nights, but all of her possessions save a few. He had run frantically through the rest of the apartment but all he came up with were a few photos of them and a t-shirt here and there. It was clear she wasn't coming back and the next thing he knew was the pain in his knees as they hit the floor. He had been so self-absorbed that he hadn't even noticed her slowly moving out. He wiped his eyes, trying to think of anything else he might have missed.
When was the last time he saw her truly smile or heard her laugh? When did they visit one of those out of the way restaurants? The last time she told him about her day at work and he listened? He didn't deserve her, but he wanted her anyway. His Hermione.
He felt like such a fuck up.
He didn't know how long it took for her smell to fade from his place, leaving it arid, but he knew it was too soon. It took months for him to stop looking across the table expecting to see her going through paperwork with a cup of tea at her elbow gone cold, longer still before he gave up trying to call her. He had been so angry at first - she hadn't even tried to discuss this with him, didn't bother answering his calls or returning his texts - until he remembered how often she had tried to work things out, tried to be understanding, and he had dismissed her efforts without thought. For a while he held on to the hope that she would come to get something she left behind, but his Hermione was thorough and anything left behind was no longer important enough to return for. Like him.
He tried to tell himself that this was her fault, that she was the one who walked away, but the words sounded dull.
It's been a year and a half since That Night and he still carried her ring just in case she wanted to take him back, that they might make a go of it again. This hope was the most painful. The ring burned from where he kept it on a chain around his neck while he watched her laugh and dance with her new boyfriend. He recognised the man, some hot shot ADA that was probably as charming as she was and not as broken as him. She bestowed this man with the smiles that used to be reserved for him alone.
He wondered if Hermione's new lover was attentive. Did he trace the scars on her body? Did he kiss them as if it would take the old pain away? Did she whisper to him the secrets behind the scars that she withheld from Martin? Did he know she hated Easter? That she loved old books and was frustrated with computers? That she liked to sing along with the radio while she cleaned, that she chewed the ends of her pens? Did he know how brave she was? Did he know her like Martin knew her? Did he love her as much as Martin still loved her?
Every inch of him burned with restraint as he kept himself from storming over there and ripping his unworthy arms from around her.
A doctor and a lawyer. He scoffed, but even he could admit that it sounded like a good match, though not nearly as nice as an FBI agent and a doctor.
At least she was happy, he tried telling himself, though it was a hollow sort of comfort. Martin wanted Hermione to be happy with him. He often dreamt of her coming back, and he would show her that she hadn't been mistaken in giving him a second chance. He would give her the wedding of her dreams, no matter how small or big she desired. She would visit him at work, or he could visit her, and they'd go out to lunch. They'd take walks in central park and dance under the moonlight. He wanted to watch her belly swell with his child, and he would be a better father than his ever was. Hermione would make sure of it. They would argue about working but they would come to some kind of agreement and make up and laugh at the silliness of it all. He would do anything to have her in his life again. His colleagues had remarked that he seemed lackluster since she left, but didn't they understand that everything would be okay once Hermione came home? That his life was meaningless without her?
The man looked over at Martin and he saw recognition flash across his face, watched as the man pulled her closer to him in a protective, possessive hold and steered his Hermione away from him.
But she wasn't really his anymore, was she? Hadn't been for a long time, no matter how he wished differently. He convinced himself that the wetness in his eyes was from the burn of the alcohol. He was a fool of a man.
He downed his whiskey and it tasted like the bitter ashes of regret.