The Broken Road, Chapter 18 :: Judgment
Whoever said that falling in love was easy had been right, he thought. It was the falling out of love that was a bitch.
He sat on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, and wept. It had been a long time since Harry Potter had cried – the last time he could remember doing it was when Sirius had died.
He wept for what he'd had, and then tossed aside. He wept for what might have been. And he wept for Hermione, and the mess that he'd gotten her into. At least that was the one constant in his life – he always had the ability to muck things up good and proper whenever it seemed that anything was going too well for him.
He pulled his glasses off and wiped his eyes angrily with the sleeve of his shirt. He'd been emotionally stunted ever since he could remember, and everyone who had ever been close to him understood that. Why was it, then, that Ginny didn't seem to anymore? It wasn't his fault if he was terrible at maintaining relationships – it was the direct result of being brought up in the Dursley home. She knew that.
Ginny had been a wonderful girlfriend, and an even better wife. Though he would have liked to have spent more time with her, things were still good between them. But he'd grown bored with having the same thing every day, and not seeing his home life as finally having the stability he'd always wanted, he'd sought out something new and exciting. Hermione.
He nearly snorted. If anyone else knew that he thought Hermione was exciting… well, people would just laugh at him for thinking such a thing, wouldn't they? But to him, she had been exciting, because being with her had been different from being with Ginny. Where Ginny had always been a sort of independent woman when it came to matters of the heart (or the bedroom), Hermione had been shy and retiring and completely willing to let Harry take the reins of her heart and guide her wherever he wished. That kind of power over someone was intoxicating, and he'd let it go to his head.
He'd let himself think that he was in love with Hermione because of it.
Once he'd left Ginny and moved in with Hermione, however, things had changed drastically. Suddenly Hermione wasn't exciting anymore – she was clingy and jealous, and if he were completely honest, sometimes she was downright whiny. He still cared about her, but it wasn't what he'd thought it was before he'd moved in.
Now Ginny was exciting again, and the realization of that had hit him hard. He had actually loved Ginny. He must have, because he'd never once considered her clingy or jealous or whiny. He'd always enjoyed spending time with her, because she was interested in so many different things like he was – unlike Hermione, who was mostly interested in her books.
But now he had a problem, and a serious one at that. They were divorced, and she was seeing someone else. Not just anyone else – she was seeing Draco fucking Malfoy. How in the hell that had happened, he had no earthly idea. He had no doubts that the blonde was doing it just to get back at him, but why was Ginny doing it? Surely she wouldn't be so callous just to do it as a personal stab at him, would she? No, he decided, shaking his head. Ginny had too much pride to do something just to get back at him.
Perhaps he didn't know Ginny as well as he thought he did. He'd been convinced when he'd started his affair that if Ginny ever found out, she would cry and throw a tantrum and they'd fight, but he'd never once imagined that she'd divorce him. She'd filed those papers and never once looked back, it seemed. How was it that she was able to let go of him so quickly?
He thought he'd already let go of her when he'd started sleeping with Hermione, but apparently that had only been temporary. Now she was a constant in his mind; his thoughts of Ginny and Hermione often mingled so much that he'd started to get confused. He'd even caught himself about to call Hermione Ginny when they'd been having sex a few days ago – thank Merlin he'd stopped before he'd spoken.
He rubbed his aching temple before rising from the bed and padding slowly into the bathroom. Hermione was at work, which in truth was where Harry should have been as well – but today he hadn't felt like it. He hadn't felt like going in and pulling his shift as a guard at Azkaban.
Babysitting criminals hadn't been the idea when he'd decided to become an Auror, after all.
Perhaps he would go over to Ginny's flat today (how odd that it should be just her flat, when in truth he'd been the one to pick it out) and have a little chat with her. Maybe see how her life was going, and ask her out to dinner one night – just a friendly dinner, with no strings attached, to show that there were no hard feelings on his end. It was just a friendly gesture.
Or at least, that's what he kept telling himself.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Ginny hummed to herself as she dusted off the mantel above the fireplace. Draco had been gone on his trip for a total of six hours, and already she found herself lamenting the fact that she would have to sleep alone tonight. She missed his touch, she missed his smell – but most of all, she found that she missed his company.
Strange that Draco Malfoy should grow on her the way he had, she thought with a smile. When they were alone together, he was really quite charming and pleasant. When they were out in public, he was still charming, only it was a different kind of charm. Ginny could see right through it, and knew that he was doing it for the benefit of anyone that might be watching.
What she didn't understand was why it seemed so important to him to hide the fact in public that he genuinely enjoyed her company. She frowned as she pushed a stray hair away from her face. Maybe he was too on edge to really enjoy any company in public. Maybe he was a better actor than she thought, and he was only pretending when they were alone. Who knew why he did the things that he did? And why was she wasting her time trying to figure him out, when she knew it was impossible anyway?
After all, she thought wryly, she'd thought she'd had Harry figured out.
She shook her head and took out a bottle of Mrs. Scower's Magical Mess Remover. She spread some of the solution on the floor in front of the fireplace and began to scrub the soot away. If she'd inherited nothing else from her mother, Ginny had at least gotten the yen for manual labor when she needed to think, or when she needed to work off some extra energy.
Today it was nervous energy that she was trying to purge herself of.
She pushed another wisp of hair out of her eyes and tried desperately to put Draco out of her mind. She knew that if she didn't, she'd think about him all weekend and drive herself mad doing it. Frustrated with her lack of progress (whether on the soot or her thought pattern, she wasn't sure), she threw the black washcloth down and clambered to her feet, abandoning her cleaning for the moment.
A shower was in order. Perhaps that would make her feel better. She padded into the bathroom and stripped her sweaty clothes off before stepping beneath the hot spray and closing her eyes. Immediately she was bombarded with images of Draco; memories of the previous day, when he'd taken her to Italy. Her eyes flew open and she swore loudly.
Why in the hell couldn't she shake him from her thoughts? She finished her shower more quickly than she normally would have, and wrapped a towel around herself. What she really needed was a drink, she decided. She thought about flooing Neville to invite him along, and then decided against it. No, what she really needed was some time alone.
She dressed quickly and ran a brush through her hair before heading to the Three Broomsticks. After stepping inside, she chose a booth near the back – the furthest away from the door that she could manage, since it was chilly outside and she didn't want the draft from the opening and closing door to bother her.
Once the bottle of firewhiskey had been brought to her table, she wasted no time in downing a glassful. The second glass she took her time with, enjoying the slight buzz she'd gotten from the first glass. As she nursed the drink, she allowed herself a quick glance around the establishment. When her eyes fell on the unruly mop of raven hair at the bar, she stiffened.
It was just her luck that at that same moment, he turned and caught her looking at him.
She groaned silently when he stood up and began making his way towards her. She stopped drinking – if he was going to start a fight, she wanted to be able to wallop him good and proper, and not be drunk when she got her chance.
He sat down uninvited and gave her a watery smile.
"Hey," he said softly.
"Hi," she answered, her back straight and proud. "What do you want?"
"I don't want anything," he said, shaking his head. "I just wanted to say hello and see how you were doing."
"As you can see, I'm perfectly fine."
"Why does it have to be this way?" he asked brokenly.
"This way," he said, spreading his hands in a helpless gesture. "With you always snapping at me and never treating me like a decent human being."
"Excuse me?" she snorted. "If I am treating you subhumanly, then I can assure you that you deserve every bit of it."
"I thought we could move past this and be friends."
She stared at him, trying to gauge his staidness. When she finally decided that yes, he was sober, and yes, he was indeed serious, she shook her head. "No, we can't."
"Ever?" Was that a hint of desperation in his voice? She wondered.
"Not as far as I can tell," she said, making sure that she met his eyes, so he could see how serious she was. If he was using his Legilimency, then he would be doubly sure of the sincerity of her answer. "You betrayed me, Harry, and that's something that I don't take lightly."
"So there's no chance for me to repair this?"
"There's nothing here to repair anymore," she said, shaking her head again. "I've moved on. I thought you had, too – by the way," she said, craning her neck to look around the bar. "Where is the little woman?"
"She's visiting her parents," he lied. She arched an eyebrow at him, and he was suddenly reminded of the man she'd been keeping company with. "Where's the ferret?"
"None of your business."
He stared intently at her for several moments, and then dropped his eyes to the table top. "Ginny, please. Give me a chance to make this right. I promise I won't screw it up."
"What exactly are you asking of me, Harry?" she wondered aloud. "Are you asking to be my friend, or are you asking to share my bed again?"
"Both," he answered honestly. She frowned and tilted her head to one side, studying him.
"I have friends already – and as I'm sure you know, I don't need anyone else to share my bed; that position has been taken already, too."
"Yes, almost immediately after I vacated it, it would seem," he snapped. She gave a light shrug of her shoulders before reaching into her pocket for her money.
"If that was the case, he would have been sharing my bed before we were even divorced – and we both know that that's not what happened. Really, what upsets you more? The fact that Hermione is old news now, or the fact that I've moved on and am sleeping with someone else?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said defensively. She rolled her eyes and placed her money on the table. When she stood up and started to make her way towards the door, he jumped up and moved in front of her.
"Harry, move," she said impatiently.
"Not until you listen to me."
"I think I've listened to you quite enough, thank you," she snapped, her eyes turning cold. "I've certainly given you more time of day than most ex-wives would in my situation." She tried to sidestep him, but was startled into stillness when his hand darted out and grabbed her upper arm. "Take your hand off of me."
"No," he said, his grip tightening painfully. She winced. "You have to understand that I made a mistake, and I want to fix it now."
"And you have to get it through your thick skull that you can't fix it!" she snarled, trying to pull free of his hand. His grip tightened further, and Ginny yelped in pain. Surely there would be a bruise on her arm in the shape of his hand when he finally released her.
"You're going to see," he said, lowering his voice. Several patrons had turned to look, as well as Madam Rosmerta, who was staring at the display unabashedly, her jaw hanging loose. "I'm going to make you see."
A shiver of apprehension ran down Ginny's spine at the decidedly dangerous look in Harry's once beautiful emerald eyes. They burned with a sort of intensity that made unease spring up in her stomach and sent warning signals to her brain.
"Harry, you're hurting me," she said quietly, glancing down at his hand on her arm for emphasis. "If you're trying to be my friend again, this is a damned poor way to go about it."
He dropped his hand as though it had been burned, and his expression became one of horror. "Oh, Gods, Ginny – I'm sorry, really. I didn't mean-"
"You never do," she interrupted, avoiding his eyes as she stepped around him and walked steadily towards the door. Once she was outside, tears clouded her vision and made everything blurry.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Draco had never been more relieved to see the inside of his bedroom. The trip had been a long and exhausting one, and the new labor contracts had taken forever to negotiate. The meetings had been tedious for more reasons than that, though – his thoughts kept sneaking back to a red-headed woman that he knew was home, just waiting for him to return. A slow smile crept to his lips as he tossed his heavy cloak onto the foot of his bed.
The day before he'd left, they'd had an extremely pleasant day. He had to admit that it was one of the best days he'd had in a long time – and the enjoyment was compounded by the knowledge that she'd been enjoying herself as well. From the serious conversations to the flirtatious teasing, he'd enjoyed every last moment of her company.
It was too bad, he thought, that he hadn't asked her to accompany him on his business trip. She would have been a welcome distraction from all of the boring businessmen who had fought for his attention. He sniggered softly – no, he would never have even gone to the damned meetings if she'd been with him. She hadn't spent the night with him after their trip to Rome, and that made it three consecutive nights that he hadn't been near her; three consecutive days and nights of not being able to touch her or taste her or even look at her.
He found that he actually missed her smile almost as much as he missed the feel of her skin on his, and that was somewhat surprising.
He loosened his tie and started to kick off his shoes before he realized what he was doing. He had been home less than two minutes, and he was obsessing about his mistress. He frowned at the thought and forced himself to continue undressing. Mistress sounded so crass when he thought about it – it suggested intimate physical contact, but nothing more, and that was definitely not what was going on between them.
What was going on between them, exactly?
She'd agreed to the terms he'd set forth when they'd started seeing each other, and why? Just so she could share his bed? His frown deepened. That didn't sound like something she'd do, and he had to wonder about it. Did she really enjoy his company that much? She'd asked for nothing of his, and he'd demanded everything from her – her time, her attention, and even a meeting with her family.
He cast a cursory glance around his room before lying down on his bed and closing his eyes. His entire body ached to be near her; his hands itched to touch her satiny skin. He would not give in to this urge, however – she would take it as a sign of weakness on his part if he sought her out immediately after his return.
He tossed and turned for nearly an hour as he tried to banish images of her from his mind's eye, to no avail. Finally, when he could hear the giant clock in the hallway striking twelve, he rose from his bed and slipped his shoes on. Damn his pride, and damn his stubbornness – he needed to see her.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Ginny sat up in her bed when she heard the sound of someone flooing into her flat. There were only a handful of people who were allowed access to her floo, and for someone to visit her at this time of night, something had to be wrong.
She threw the covers off and stood up, but before she could leave her bedroom to investigate, the visitor showed himself. As soon as she saw the cool slate of his eyes and the flaxen strands that hung loosely around his face, her knees began to feel weak and butterflies erupted in the pit of her stomach.
"You're back," she said, feeling stupid. He folded his arms over his chest as he leaned against the doorframe, and drank in the sight of her.
"You have a gift for stating the obvious," he drawled. She rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips.
"Thanks for pointing that out," she said sarcastically. Then her expression softened. "How was your trip?"
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Are you?" he asked, arching an eyebrow as he looked at her. The gesture was a normal one, but for some reason it made her heart leap. He cocked his head to the side. "No, I don't think you are."
"Don't be stupid," she said, struggling to keep her voice steady. "Of course I am. Did you think I wanted you to go away and not enjoy yourself?"
"And by enjoy myself, you mean what, exactly?"
"I didn't mean anything by it," she said, her face turning red. "I just meant that – oh, sod it all," she said, throwing her hands up in exasperation. "Never mind what I meant!" Draco's eyes narrowed into slits.
"What did you do this weekend?" he took a stealthy step towards her, and she blinked.
"I did some cleaning, and I went out for a few drinks."
"Alone?" he asked suspiciously.
"Of course I went alone," she said, bewildered. "If you don't believe me, you can ask Rosmerta. She saw me there."
"And what in the bloody fucking hell is this, then?" he snarled, indicating her right arm. She looked down and paled – she'd forgotten about the bruise that Harry had bestowed upon her. Four perfect, slender finger-shaped bruises were plainly visible on her arm where he'd held her. She took a steadying breath before meeting Draco's eyes, which had gone cold with pale fury.
"Someone wanted me to have a drink with him, and I said no."
He glared at her for a moment, and then his lips tightened into a thin line. "I don't think I need to ask to know who it was."
"No, I'm sure you don't," she said softly, looking down again.
"Were the two of you fighting? What else happened? Do you have bruises anywhere else?"
"We weren't fighting, but we were arguing. I don't have bruises anywhere else, although you're welcome to check if you'd like," she said caustically.
"I will, actually." She blinked, startled.
"I want to have a look," he said calmly, the anger still there, but held in check. "He's already going to pay for this, but if I find that he's left marks anywhere else-"
"He hasn't," she snapped finally. "I was trying to leave, and he grabbed my arm. That's it. Like I said, ask Rosmerta if you don't believe me – she saw everything."
"Why didn't you contact me when it happened?"
"I didn't want to bother you while you were on a business trip," she said incredulously. "Besides, what would you have been able to do?"
"I would have hexed him to hell and back."
"In front of all of Rosmerta's patrons? You'd have been in Azkaban before you could blink! And while I'm sure that Harry would love to see that happen, I wouldn't!"
"Why?" he asked suspiciously.
"Because I care about you, you great stupid git!" she yelled, stomping a foot petulantly. He fell silent and simply stared at her. He stared for so long that she started to squirm under his gaze.
Without speaking a word, he closed the distance between them and slipped a hand behind her to cradle her head, and brought his mouth to hers. She kissed him back with equal fervor, and he moaned as she pressed herself against him. His desire for her was obvious as it pressed against her leg, and her pulse began to race so fast that she wondered if she might go into some sort of shock from it.
Then coherent thought stopped as his tongue parted her lips and gained entrance. The kiss was wild and made Ginny's head spin crazily. Her arms were locked around his neck as he backed her towards the bed. When the backs of her knees hit the edge of the mattress, he pushed her gently, falling onto the bed with her.
His mouth moved from hers to explore her neck, creating a tingling sensation on her skin wherever it touched. She closed her eyes and arched her back, needing to be closer to him. She'd done nothing but think about him for the last three days, and now he was here, and in her bed, and touching her. Nothing else mattered.
She tugged at the shorts she'd been wearing as pyjamas, and he helped her tug them off. Just as quickly, his pants were gone, and when he slid into her, she let out a low moan of satisfaction. His eyes slipped shut as he savored the sensation of being inside of her after imagining it for the time he'd been gone. Somehow his imagination had managed to forget how good this felt; had neglected to convey the glorious heat and perfect fit of her slick walls.
He stayed still for a few moments, simply enjoying the feel of her surrounding him. When she wriggled her hips slightly, he was spurred into action. At first his movements were slow and rhythmic, but when she began bucking her hips against him, his control snapped. His thrusts came hard and fast, causing Ginny to cry out his name repeatedly. When she climaxed, she wrapped her legs around him and brought his face to hers, capturing his lips in a brutal kiss. The combined feel of her walls tightening around him and the demanding kiss was enough to push him over the edge as well. Their mouths remained locked together as he emptied himself inside of her, causing him to moan inside the kiss.
They stayed locked together for several minutes, and finally, when his breathing had steadied, he lifted his head to meet her eyes.
"Welcome home," she said, smiling wickedly. A slow grin spread across his face, and he shook his head.
"And you like it."
"Was that a welcome home shag for me, or was it an 'I'm glad you're back' shag for you?"
"Both," she admitted, laughing. He pulled away and lay beside her, rolling onto his side and propping his head up with his hand so he could look at her.
"So you admit that you missed me desperately, then," he said, smirking. She rolled her eyes.
"Of course, since I ran right to the Manor the moment you got back," she teased. His cheeks turned slightly pink.
"I didn't come here the moment I got back," he said, sounding defensive. She reached over and touched his cheek gently.
"I was only teasing. I'm glad you came over."
"Are you?" he asked softly, his eyes roaming over her face.
"I am. I'm very glad you came to see me," she whispered back, letting her hand drop. She watched his eyes move down and stop on the bruises that marred the pale skin of her upper arm. The marks had turned a violent purple shade, and looked very much out of place on her otherwise creamy complexion. He frowned and bent his head, catching her by complete surprise when he pressed his lips lightly to the angry marks.
"I'll kill him for touching you," he swore, lifting his eyes to hers. Emotion rushed through her like a tidal wave, constricting her throat and making it hard for her to breathe.
"I don't want you to do anything that's going to get you thrown into Azkaban," she returned, her voice shaking. "Harry has three shifts a week as a guard there, and there's no telling what he'd do to you when he was unsupervised – and you wouldn't have a way to defend yourself against him."
"I've got to do something," he said angrily, shaking his head. "I can't just let him think that he can get away with this."
"I know that I can't talk you out of this," she began, her eyes fairly glowing in the dim light of the room. "But whatever you do, please be careful. I don't want you to get caught and-" she stopped herself. She'd been about to say that she didn't want him to do anything that got him taken away from her. The thought made her cheeks burn.
"And what?" he prompted, his eyebrows shooting up. She shook her head and glanced away from him, and he had the answer to every question he'd been asking himself earlier – she didn't see this as a simple agreement between them, after all. He didn't know why it had happened, and he wasn't sure how, but he knew that she'd been telling the truth earlier – she cared about him. The realization that he was more to her than just a casual shag made his head feel foggy.
"I just don't want anything to happen to you, okay?" she asked softly, her eyes focused on the sheets. He reached out and tilted her chin up with his forefinger, forcing her to look him in the eye.
"Would you miss me terribly if something happened to me?" He smirked.
"Quit being a prat," she said exasperatedly. "You're not taking me seriously at all!"
"Oh, kitten," he said, shaking his head. "I'm taking you very seriously."
"Why do you call me that?" she asked curiously.
"Because you remind me of one."
"That's sort of disappointing," she said, laughing. "Kittens are tame and weak."
"Kittens have sharp claws," he corrected her, lightly running a finger over her bottom lip. Her breathing became ragged as his finger trailed down over her chin, back across her jawline, and down the length of her throat. When his finger traced her collarbone, she shivered. "I would call you a wildcat, but it doesn't have quite the same ring, now, does it?"
"No," she agreed, her eyes slipping shut.
"Do you dislike it when I call you kitten?"
"No," she admitted, another shiver racking her body.
"I didn't think so. Now why don't you tell me your idea of getting back at Potter – the one that will keep me out of Azkaban?"
"I don't have a plan," she said breathlessly, opening her eyes. "But it has to be something that he doesn't see coming, and it would work better if it were subtle."
"I would tell you to date me, but since you're already doing that, I have no idea what to do."
"I thought you didn't like being a tool for revenge," he said, highly amused. His finger was tracing the outline of a breast now, and he was thoroughly enjoying the way her nipple hardened as he watched.
"I don't mind it so much anymore," she admitted, her eyes hooded as she looked at him. "I rather think that I'm getting the better end of the bargain."
"Oh?" he asked interestedly. "And how is that?"
"I don't have to worry about impressing anyone. All I have to worry about is the next shag." He laughed before he could stop himself – a deep, throaty sound that shot through Ginny and went straight to her core.
"Who said I was trying to impress anyone?"
"I'm not stupid, Draco. I know you're using me to get to Harry."
"And that doesn't bother you any longer?"
"Not really, no."
She didn't speak – instead, she held up her bruised arm and glanced down at it.
"I see. So it took him physically hurting you to make you see what an incredible jackass he is?"
"No. It just made me realize that he can be dangerous when he wants to be."
"Are you frightened of him?"
"I'm not scared of him, I'm scared of not really knowing what he's capable of."
"In that case, are you frightened of me as well?"
"I can be cruel."
"And you're still not frightened?"
"No. Should I be? Am I in danger when I'm around you – are you planning something that I don't know about?"
"Everyone is in danger when they're around me," he said, arching an eyebrow. "I would have thought that your family would have ingrained that belief in you."
"I like to judge people on their merits, not on their reputation."
"That's very diplomatic of you," he drawled, his finger moving down across her stomach.
"Am I in danger around you?" she repeated softly.
"What do you think?"
"I don't feel like I am."
"Then I suppose you're safe, aren't you?"
"How do I know for sure?"
"This is not the time to start doubting me, kitten. You're in a decidedly disadvantaged position, in case you hadn't noticed," he smirked, indicating the path of his wayward finger. She sucked in a ragged breath as his hand moved below her navel.
"You play dirty," she observed, moving her hips slightly. His smirk turned into a satisfied smile.
"As if there were any other way to play."
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