The awning protected him from the falling rain but it was bloody cold and he knew he should have just stayed in his miserable little room at the Leaky Cauldron being miserable. He’d done enough damage in the past two weeks so it was downright masochistic to go see her when he was already in a foul mood and the weather was awful.
He tightened his grip on the small box he was holding and told himself he wasn’t deliberately seeking her out because he missed her. After all, he was the one who chose to end things. What had begun unexpectedly with a simple touch of his hand to her elbow when she’d nearly tripped one day in the hall at the Ministry had turned into something far too complicated. He’d had to end it, of course. It was beginning to interfere with his work and that just would not do at all.
He stared across the street and his gaze immediately found the window for the corner flat that he’d foolishly called home for several rather blissful months. That had been the beginning to the end. They never should have cohabitated. Sex was one thing. It was enjoyable for both of them and there hadn’t been such difficulties between them when it was a date here and there followed by a great shag.
There was a list he kept in the pocket of his robe at all times. It was a list he’d made during his final year at Hogwarts when he’d looked at the future and decided what he wanted. He put everything in order of importance and vowed then to accomplish every goal in order of the list. Thus far, he had marked off ‘Get a job at the Ministry’, ‘Get a flat of my own’, ‘Advance within one year’, and ‘Date a nice girl’.
True, his advancement had not yet reached the levels he hoped to obtain one day (those were goals further down on his list) but it wasn’t very bad considering the war had interfered with his plans, much to his annoyance. It was over now, though, and his family had managed to survive with only a few minor injuries. He’d begun working on his list again shortly after Voldemort’s death.
There was not room in his life for falling in love. Not until goal number 8, which was on his list after a ‘promotion to a position of power at the Ministry’. His current title as an assistant was nowhere near a position of power. He would never advance if he was distracted by love and other foolish nonsense. It wasn’t his fault that moving in with her had seemed like the natural thing to do once it was brought up one evening after a very enjoyable shag.
It had been rather difficult to resist her, and he refused to accept the blame for making the suggestion in the first place as he was quite confident she’d entertained such thoughts and just hadn’t had time to mention them. She should have known about goals and lists, though. She had one of her own. He’d seen it on her desk one day and glanced at it to see a list of various items with an asterisk beside each one. Several had been crossed off, including ‘Obtain a position at the Ministry where I can do some good for the world’.
She worked in the Department of Magical Creatures and had a title that was somewhat better than simply assistant, acting as a liaison for various creatures that needed help. Instead of being resentful of the fact she had such a fantastic job by the time she was twenty-five, he was more proud than she probably even realized. It’s not every bloke who can claim a girlfriend who is not only uniquely beautiful and charming but also intelligent and focused.
Percy looked away from the window and watched the rain splash on the street as it fell. She wasn’t his girlfriend any longer. He’d moved out twelve days and, a quick glance at his watch, three hours twenty-six minutes ago. There had been no tears or hysterics that he might have expected with other girls. Instead, Hermione had simply sat curled on the sofa and looked at him with unreadable eyes as she asked why.
He’d told her, of course. He explained that it was too much of a distraction and he couldn’t fall in love or do any foolish romantic nonsense that might be expected in the future. He even showed her his list with its neat handwriting and carefully crossed through items. When he’d left, he kissed her forehead and told her he hoped they could eventually be friends before he’d walked out of the flat. He told himself that he imagined the soft sob that followed his closing the door because Hermione wasn’t likely to shed tears over him.
For nearly two weeks he had barely been making it through his days. He was irritable and had even snapped at his boss recently. Food seemed to have lost its flavor and he couldn’t particularly taste anything. Sleep was elusive and he woke most evenings several times when he reached for someone who was not there. According to Fred, he looked like Hippogriff shite, which was apparently worse than he normally looked.
When he had found one of her shirts and a pair of socks mixed in with his clothing, he’d decided he needed to return them. Besides, there were a few books and miscellaneous items he’d forgotten to pack that he needed to pick up. He chose to ignore the fact that he’d slept with the shirt around his pillow because it still vaguely smelled like her and that he’d actually worn her socks just to feel close to her. Such things were better left forgotten.
They were now laundered and perfectly folded within the small box he carried. He should cross the street and go up there right now to get his things. With a determined set of his chin, he removed his spectacles and put them in his pocket, pulled his coat tighter around him and stepped into the rain. By the time he reached the other side, he was soaked and he could already feel his hair curling even more now that it was wet. He didn’t stop to perform a drying charm for fear he’d lose his nerve and not go to the third floor.
A brisk knock on her door once he reached the third floor did not betray his anxiety. When she opened the door, he stared. Her eyes narrowed when she saw him and she seemed to tense and hold the door tightly.
“Is there anything I can help you with, Mister Weasley?” she asked in a cool voice that only barely shook when she said his name.
“I’ve left a few things,” he told her crisply even as his gaze moved over face hungrily. His curled his fingers into his palms because he couldn’t touch her. There would be no touching.
She sighed and suddenly looked so very young and unhappy. “Fine,” she said quietly as she stepped back and opened the door. “Please just get them and leave.”
He nodded and stepped inside. “You’ve rearranged things,” he said with a slight tone of disbelief. Gone not even two weeks and she’d already changed things?
“Yes, I have,” she said matter-of-factly as she shut the door and walked past him, ignoring his shock. “It is my flat, after all. I wanted something new so I had some friends come over to help paint and then I moved things around. I like it.”
“It’s---just---the sofa is facing away from the window and the chair is crooked,” he stammered as he resisted the urge to straighten the angle of the chair.
“Get what you came here for and just go, Percy,” she told him as she walked to the window and turned her back to him.
“I brought you something,” he told her tightly, “a shirt and socks that were discovered amidst my clothing.”
“Set them on the table,” she replied without looking at him.
“The table?” He gaped at her and shuddered at the idea of not quickly hanging up the shirt and putting away the socks. She was watching the rain and ignoring him, which was really quite infuriating. He put the box down and stared at it. “How have you been, Hermione?”
“I’m bloody fantastic, Percy,” she said in a tone laced with sarcasm. He cringed and looked at her, surprised to see her shoulders slumped and her palm against the window. “Please don’t make this anymore difficult than it already is. Just get your things and leave. I can’t---please just go.”
Percy removed his wet coat and laid it across a chair to dry. He fidgeted with his tie and kept looking around the flat and then back at her. She was right. This was more difficult than anything he’d ever experienced. He unconsciously walked to her, wanting to hold her at least one more time before it was well and truly over. As he neared her, he realized she was wearing a ratty old jumper that was rather familiar and nothing else. “You---you’re wearing my jumper.”
She stiffened and he felt his resolve beginning to crumble. He had to stay strong. He moved his hand into the pocket of his trousers to grip the list that was a firm reminder of why this was necessary. “I’ll wash it and owl it to you,” she whispered as she rubbed her arms and sighed.
“No need,” he said softly as his other hand reached out to touch her hair. He inhaled her scent and tried to remember every nuance for cold lonely nights. He stepped closer and removed his hand from his pocket. Both arms wrapped around her as he pulled her against his chest. He buried his face in her hair and refused to believe that the dampness he felt on his cheeks was really there. “I’m sorry, Hermione. So very sorry.”
“Why?” she asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Because I’m the world’s biggest fool,” he muttered as he brushed a kiss against her neck. “I can’t lose you, can’t lose this. I---I need you. I…” He struggled with the word and tightened his embrace before he hoarsely said the word. “Love you.”
“You can’t,” she said. “It’s not on your bloody list.”
He turned her around and stared at her, needing to know. What he saw in her eyes gave him hope and he wondered for a moment how someone as smart as Hermione could ever forgive him for being such a stupid prat. “The list?” he asked and he flinched when he heard his voice trembling. He reached into his pocket and found the list. He pulled it out and looked at the old parchment, folded and smooth from years of examination. “This list?” He maintained her gaze as he ripped the parchment once, twice, until it was just small pieces.
“Percy, you are the world’s biggest fool,” she informed him as she blinked away tears and pulled at a string on the hem of his jumper.
“I already told you that,” he pointed out as he nervously shifted, wishing suddenly that he’d spent more time learning about this foolish nonsense so he’d have some idea what he was doing.
“If you ever hurt me again, I’ll hex you,” she warned him firmly.
“I’ll allow the hexing if I hurt you,” he relented cautiously, uncertain if it meant she’d forgiven him or not. “Will you, that is to say, am I forgiven?”
“The chair is staying where it is,” she told him, “and I don’t care how crooked it is. Understood?”
“Yes, Hermione. Fine. I don’t give a damn about the bloody chair,” he said impatiently even as he wondered if he could study up on seduction and possibly persuade her to let him eventually straighten the chair.
She smiled as she wiped her cheeks with the sleeve of his jumper and slowly nodded. “I guess I’ll forgive you this time but you really are the world’s biggest prat, Percy Weasley! The past two weeks have been horri---“
He prevented her upcoming tirade before it could begin by placing his lips against hers. She moaned softly and moved into his arms as he pressed her against the window and began to apologize without words as the rain began to let up outside.