A/N: This is an angsty bit of experimental magic I've been sitting on for weeks, so tell me what you like, or dislike.
It's already past nine when I look up. A deep sigh escapes me as I put down my quill on its resting place. The stress has built up over the past few weeks as I knew it would. Loneliness bites at my nerves, Rose and Hugo wrote twice already but the house being so empty is too much of a distraction.
I try to spend more time at work. An exercise in futility, even the job of a department head runs out after two weeks of fourteen hour work days. Patricia chastised me for trying to micromanage her and trying to do her job. She was right of course. Ron doesn't mention my absence any more, the fights are gone and so is our marriage. I think he knows.
My hand trembles with exhaustion. I get up to the break room to pour myself a cup of coffee, just to get some warmth in me. It occurs to me I haven't eaten since noon, more than eight hours ago. The beverage tastes awful, but it lets my mind drift to nothing, the insomnia catching up with me in a haze.
I close my eyes for a moment and take in the sounds of the late night office, it's near empty. The fluttering of a handful of memos down the hall. The mechanical sound of a lift dinging. Footsteps of three or four people and an assured voice humming, others joining in its cadence.
My heart soars as I recognize it and I wonder if the slightest smile I feel on my lips would show. He loves his job, it's apparent in the hurried confidence of his pace as he approaches. I brace myself on the counter.
He smiles slightly in the entrance and moves beside me to get a cup as well. "Evening, boss." he says. I don't move to give him space, enjoying the clandestine closeness my awkward position near the coffee can provides. It's a silly thing to do, but he has a way of making me act twenty years below my age. "Hello, Harry."
"You look awful." he says, turning to rest beside me. I watch intently as he stirs his drink and drips the spoon silently above it before discarding it in the sink. A week into my transfer to law enforcement I told him the sound of a spoon clanging against ceramic irritated me. He never repeated it.
"It's easier for people to hate me if I look terrible. Can't be too friendly with my employees," I say, trying to keep it light. "Your tricks don't work on me, Mrs. Granger," he says playfully, "but seriously, you look a bit tense. Something bothering you?"
His look disarms me so completely I want to pour my heart out to him, but I manage to stay strong for a while longer. The surreptitious pull makes me shift on my right leg towards him and when he closes too it's the happiest I've been since the kids left. "You know how it is, the house feels so empty now." My tired brain doesn't let me say much more, but I don't need to.
"I know they're fine," he says, "they're smart kids. And Hogwarts sure is a lot safer these days… But yeah it's hard, I miss 'em too." His smile doesn't betray the same doubts I have, but then he's always been good at hiding it. Maybe there's just nothing there. I retreat from him as I avert my eyes, but a hand on my shoulder pulls me back. "Let's go to your office for a bit." As we walk, I shiver.
He tries to follow but I let him lead. He holds the door open and nods to the couch. I obey, like a good girl, my addled mind fantasizes. I smile as the thought hits me, because I know how out of place it is. He would never force me into anything. His thoughtfulness is one of the reasons I can be so unguarded around him. He sits on one end while I lean back stiffly. "Drink?" he asks.
"Yes." I surprise myself by how husky my voice is, but I don't falter. I play with a loose strand of hair and his eyes linger on me before he summons two glasses and the bottle of scotch he got me for my fortieth. He doesn't have to ask, this is ours, the missing quarter bottle we drank in previous but similar nights. I deliberately brush his fingers as I take it from him, he notices, his breath stops.
I smile at him before drinking. The liquid burns my throat and the taste of oak fills my nose. I let the glass rest in my lap and my neck buckles backwards and turns to him. My eyes must seem begging when the loneliness fills me again. He scoots closer and puts an arm around me, it only makes it worse.
My head drops on his shoulder and I feel his hand on my neck, teasing my collar. It feels good. "You are tense," he says rubbing along my nape, "take off your jacket." I know his intention is chaste but my heart still beats faster. I put my glass on the table. He helps me take off my jacket, making me fight not to lose my inhibitions. Don't ruin this for yourself, you deserve this.
He folds it neatly on the couch and pulls me back between his legs. "Thanks" His hands dig into me, loosening muscles as he goes. I close my eyes enjoying his touch and the relief it brings. His hands make me feel so small. Fingers brush my ribs when he pushes into my back and I moan longingly. "You're so thin," he says.
I hitch a breath at his concern. For a moment I feel anger at my husband for not showing the same care, but it passes. Those feelings are a remnant of days long past, replaced with apathy and politeness. His hands move to my arms and neck and something breaks inside of me. I fight a whimper as I feel the warmth between my legs.
I'm not surprised when my mind plays against me with games of what if. Sadness hits me like a train and my arousal plays second fiddle to my emotions. I hate myself for denying even this small comfort. My whimpering reaches my ears before I can stop it, his hands go still and then rub circles on my back. I can't catch my breath and it only grows louder. I blame my hormones, the exhaustion, anything but him, anything but us.
I hear his voice but I can't make out the words, I can't see a thing through my tears, but I feel him turning me around. He pulls me closer and I fall apart against his chest, heaving. He holds me like I'm built from glass but I shatter anyway. I'm done pretending, I'm done holding back, I don't think I have the strength left to do so. I burrow into him, he smells of comfort and after-shave, it takes me back to so many places I wish I hadn't wasted. I want to go back in time and slap sense into myself.
It takes time for me to regain a semblance of composure, and as I do I prepare myself to spill, something I should have done ages ago. He talks. Idiot. I look up, forcing my eyes on the stubble of his neck, the moment is gone. "I'm getting a divorce." I freeze, not knowing what to say, I don't dare to hope. "Things 've been bad for a while, but it's better this way. The children are gone to school, it'll be easier for them now." I hear sadness in his voice. "I put in the papers two months ago, we'll go over to the Burrow next week to talk to her parents."
I chance a look up and I am jolted by the sight. He looks as hurt as I am. What a pair we make. My eyelids feel swollen and the skin of my cheeks raw, but I smile. "You're always ahead of me, aren't you?" He laughs, I haven't felt this alive in years. Not too long ago I would have retreated without a second thought, not tonight. "Will you wait for me?"
He just jumped off a cliff and I'm trying to catch him, just like old times. It's fine this way, everything is fine. My cheeks start to hurt from grinning, it's good to see him smile with me. "So we're giving this a shot?" he says. I nod emphatically. "It's long overdue."
"Rossini's is still open." he says. The memory of fresh oven baked pizza fills my mind. "Good, I'm starving." He stands and lifts me up by my hands and holds my jacket in front of him. I slip into it and he pulls me into an embrace ,buttoning it closed himself. I'm giddy as hell from alcohol on an empty stomach and days of sleep deprivation, but mostly from him. I could stay here forever but ahead of me lies the promise of so much more. I run my hand on his arm and tap it twice.
He grabs my hand and we run to the apparition station. Giggles fill the empty halls of the Ministry. It's going to be alright. He glances back and I find myself once again following him wherever he'll lead me. We stop at our destination and I put my arms around his neck. "It's going to be alright." I say to no one in particular. He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear with the gentlest touch, I lean into it. He strokes my cheek.
"Yeah. It's going to be alright."