Disclaimer: This story was originally written as fanfiction, loosely based on the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling.

A/N: I especially welcome criticism regarding the disclaimer - if the story does not stand alone, as fiction separate from HP, it needs work! Please let me know.

Chapter One: Seven Years

Seven years down the line they're still treading in circles.

First of all they have never been guided by emotion so much as convenience. He is very rich. She is very beautiful, and makes him seem kinder by association; she looks fabulous on his arm: he appreciates her in much the same way that she tolerates him. He has never been certain why she agreed to marry him.

On a rainy Wednesday she can be found dressing to go down to the local shelter, where she will arrange a donation. She is choosing each article of clothing with her usual care, while her husband changes in the next room.

"I made a reservation for seven o'clock," he calls. "You can make it, can't you?"

"Mm…" She winds a scarf around her neck, considering. "I suppose… I'll be in a conference till six thirty."

"Where?" He comes up behind her.

"Down the block from Chianti's. Is that where you'll be?"

He smiles. "You know me. Shall I pick you up?"

"Oh, I'll walk. The fresh air will spur my appetite." She tries to smile back, her lips a little tight. He doesn't notice.

"If it runs late give me a call, I can always get them to set it back half an hour."

"Thank you, Darren." She slips into a coat and kisses his cheek. "I'll see you this evening."

It's seven o'clock. Twelve hours from now they will be sitting across from each other, swilling ice around their glasses, looking for something to say. Not finding anything.

Chapter Two: Lovers

Kayla feels a familiar pair of arms wrap around her waist, and smiles into her pillow. Eric buries his face in her red hair, breathing her in.

"Mmph," she says. "Ger'off me."

"I don't think so, little lady. Get back here."

She has shaken him off and is making her way to the bathroom. He flops against the bedpost, grinning after her. "Kay," he calls.


"Kay, c'mere."

She leans around the door, toothbrush sticking out of her mouth. "What."

He holds out his hand, but she shakes her head. "I have to go home and make a nice breakfast for my husband."

He sighs.

"You're getting clingy, love," she says.

"This isn't clingy," he says, his voice muffled with his face pressed to the mattress. "This is guilt."



"I love you."

He lays his head on his arm and sighs again. "Just tell Darren about us, will you?"

She is shocked. He's never suggested anything like this before. "Why?"

"He's my best friend," Eric says. "I love him."

"You love me, too," she reminds him.

"I know, I know. I just can't let him throw away his life on…" He lets the sentence hang. She knows what he was starting to say.

"If I've cheapened myself with this, so have you," she snaps. He tries to follow her into the bathroom, but she's leaning against the door to pull her shoes on. He rests his forehead against it.

"I know. I've just been thinking this isn't going to work."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because of Darren. We can't remove him from this and you know it."

She pulls the door open suddenly, and he stumbles. "He doesn't love me."

"Of course he does. He married you, didn't he?"

She is shaking her head. "No, you don't understand. He's never loved me. It wasn't about that."

"Then what was it?"

"It… I can't explain it. It's complicated, all right?"

"You mean you don't love him."

"We don't love each other."

"Kayla," he says, his face at the hollow of her neck. "He talks."

"What do you mean, he talks?"

"He says things to his friends."

"And what does he say?" She's trying not to shiver, Eric's body against hers, Darren at home maybe loving her after all. She tries to pull away.

"He says he loves you, Kayla. What do you think?" He lets go of her, and she steps back.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I needed you."

She looks at him, eyes dilated in the dim light. A narrow band of green around each pupil.

"I wanted you, then."

"That's what I thought." She's trying not to cry now, feeling dirty where he touched her. She cradles her arm, caressing the skin in an unconscious effort to scrub it clean. "You don't deserve him."

"Neither do you."

"Yes, by all means let's be childish about this." She presses her fingers to her face, palms against her mouth. "You used me. You used us."

"Oh, so it's us now."

She glares.

"I thought you didn't love him."

"Of course I do," she says, "I was misguided."

He lets out a harsh laugh. "You mean you liked fucking me more than your own moral standards."

"It's not like you minded," she mutters, unable to meet his eyes and so looking to the floor for comfort. Eric's neatly tiled walls, the detailing paid for by her husband. She pushes past him. "I have to go."

He doesn't stop her. He must realize that there isn't anything more to say. She shuts the door behind her, gently by habit. She still feels the burn from touching him back.

Chapter Three: Pregnant

Kayla comes in from her early morning jog looking exhausted. Darren tries to contain himself but instead sweeps her up and swings her around. She is laughing and asking him what's going on. He has a letter in his hand.

"It's our baby," he says. She stops laughing.

"What – what?"

"Look," he says, showing her the letter. Her check-up results from the doctor, where she had gone last week. She's been feeling off for a while now. She presses a hand to her forehead, then her belly.

"I'm pregnant?"

"Yes," he whispers, holding her close. "The three of us."

Kayla feels sick. There were never two of them – no way to tell him that now. She can only hope he never finds out.

He kisses her and tells her he loves her. She doesn't know what to think. She doesn't know what to think. But at last she feels what he long left unsaid. A love as strong as his conveyed in more than words.

Chapter Four: Beginnings

Kayla met Eric Gull at a dinner party, held by their co-worker Charles. They have both changed jobs since then, but at the time they were at opposite ends of the same office. Kayla recognized him and sauntered up. This is what attracted him to her, he tells her now, that she approached him. Usually it was the other way around.

"Hey," she said, sticking out a hand. "Kayla."

"Eric Gull." He started to caress her knuckles but she withdrew, looking around the room. He waited, intrigued, as she tilted her head toward him with a small smile.

"You look familiar, Eric Gull," she said, softly so that he had to lean in as well. "Did I meet you by the copy room the other day?"

Then she laughed, dropping the whisper. "I've got to go. Say goodbye to Charlie for me." She touched his arm and walked away.

He had said two words to her, but she is sure she was in love. Even now when all the masks have been packed away, she convinces herself of this. Not sure if it's to make herself hate him or not, his charm behind that slow grin.

She let him take her home eventually; not as soon as either would have liked. Progress, she called it. Games, he laughed back, when she felt she could tell him the whole thing. They were making everything into a funny story at the time.

This all changed when she dropped by one afternoon to find Darren, not Eric, at the flat. Eric was gone for the weekend, Darren said, inviting her in.

They talked. It had none of the fire, but a wonderful sense of co-dependency that didn't come with Eric. Kayla's mother told her to love Darren because of this. After her mother's death, Kayla, to remove that damnable survivor's guilt, decided to marry him.

Eric hadn't known about Darren in much the same way that Darren never knew about Kayla's continuing relationship with Eric; the lies being too easy for her to stop them left his and Darren's joint business venture when he heard. It was a little harder to leave Kayla, but impossible to tell Darren; they were all in too far to back out. Over their heads until even Kayla, loved by two such men, could no longer enjoy the deceit. The love almost gone.

So it is with a certain sense of relief that Kayla leaves Eric at last. She even considers telling Darren, but thinks that to trust Eric's advice in anything, particularly matters of the heart, might be foolish. Darren won't care; surely he doesn't love her. But then he runs to her saying Our baby, Look. Joy. Anticipation.

She's exhausted.

Chapter Five: End

"Jesus Christ," Darren is saying when Kayla comes in the next afternoon. She comes up behind him quietly and, seeing Eric, backs out of the room. Darren continues and she stops to listen.

"What the fuck do you mean, it could be yours?"

"Darren," Eric starts miserably, head hanging. His inability to meet Darren's eyes keeps Kayla undetected for the moment, because they are both looking away. She has covered her mouth to keep Darren from hearing her sudden deep breaths. Eric has told Darren. She starts to feel dizzy and nauseous. She is rooted to the spot or she might have run to the bathroom, a mixture of terror and what she supposes is a first bout of morning sickness.

She was going to tell him, until this thing came up. Then she thought they could overlook it, forget it, make a happy family. They could learn to love each other, get to know each other.

Now this.

"For Christ's sake," Darren says, dropping onto the couch across from Eric. His legs are stretched out casually but his tense figure tells Kayla that he's about to crack. She waits for the explosion. "How long?"

Eric swallows. "Before she met you. I didn't know about you either until…" He trails off, trying to find words that don't shift the blame from himself. "I should have stopped it, Darren. She chose you."

"Apparently not," Darren says bitterly. "Jesus."

"It's over," Eric says. "Before we knew about all this, we wanted to end it for your sake."

"You're late," Darren snaps. "What did she do, come crying to you while I was out working my ass off for her? You thought she was lonely?"

"Well, she was. You barely know each other. It isn't your fault," Eric adds quickly. "It's just how it is."

"I should have worked less," Darren mutters. "No, never mind, she was with you the whole time."

"I think –"

"Don't tell me what you think, like you know my wife better than I do. Harping out solutions, will you just shut up? If I wanted to hire someone to sleep with my wife I would have done it." Darren is suddenly furious. "God knows I've given her everything else she's ever wanted. Fuck, what the hell am I going to do?" He covers his face with his hands. "I might have seen it coming from her, but come on, Eric."

Eric is as close to crying as he'll ever get: his voice is steady but his hands are shaking. "We tried to end it after she married you. I mean, I did end it. But she's just – no, I don't want to say that. It wasn't all her. And it was… It's harsh to think but Darren, it was hard on all of us. It's been hard on us too."

Darren glares. Eric and Kayla were not an 'us' that he had ever worried about. All those weekends he went away and left them with the house, the chummy afternoons spent together, those were the days of smart people with a mutual friend. Not lovers. Not traitors.

He's known Eric for too long for the charm to work on him, which Eric has unconsciously turned on in the vain hope that Darren will forgive him. "Get the fuck out, all right? If it weren't for that child, I swear to God…" Darren runs his hand through his hair, yanking it straight up. He hasn't done this in years but even so Kayla feels a twinge of annoyance at his nervous habits, and endless energy. She wants to lie down, knowing she should stay to talk to him.

Oh, hell, she thinks. To hell with both of them. She crawls into her bed down the hall, listening to the sounds of Darren telling Eric not to bother coming back, and handing him his coat, and the door slamming. Then Darren calling the locksmith.

Kayla knows that what she did was wrong. She thinks of the way she had twisted her mother's wishes and of the damage she has caused to Eric and Darren. She loves Eric and can't quite bring herself to regret it all: a part of her blaming Darren for not being good enough.

So she doesn't cry. She blinks into her pillowcase, focusing on the way her eyelashes scrape against it, and when she can't help it anymore she invents ways that she could be with Eric, that Eric and Darren could still be friends.

When Darren comes in she is sleeping. He looks at her, loathing her, his body still loving her as his mind rejects her. He sits beside her and strokes her hair and looks out the window, down the street. He is crying.

Chapter Six: Happy Family

Darren comes home from work and scoops his son into his arms. "Hiya, Gary," he says, doing patticake for him. "Where's Mom?"

Kayla comes out of the kitchen, covered in flour and snarling. "Where did I put that cake pan?"

"Wonderful wife! What's the occasion?"

She sends him a look. He grins and winks.

"Let me guess. Is it Daddy's birthday?"

Gary, sucking his thumb, shakes his head.

"Is it Mommy's birthday?"

Another shake.

"Is it Bazoo's birthday?"

Gary looks at his fish, thinks a moment, then shakes his head.

"Well I can't think of anyone else. Maybe Mommy thought it would be a nice surprise."

"It's Gary's birthday!" she exclaims, wrestling him away from his father. "And we went to the park today and Gary walked all on his own!"

"What else did you do?" Darren crouches in front of his son, as Kayla is now trying to demonstrate walking with a very wobbly Gary. "Frisbee? Tag?"

"We bought ice cream, didn't we, love?" Kayla says to him. "And we chased the funny ducks…"

Darren had never told Kayla that he knew, and Kayla never brought it up. Once, cautiously, she asked after Eric. She hadn't seen him since he had left that day; she tried to contact him a few times but he was gone. It crossed her mind that he might have left town.

On Gary's first birthday she opens the door and he is there. He looks grim and she, turning around, sees that Darren is also severe in his own way. He invites Eric in, and now he is showing off his son and pretending it's like old times. Meanwhile his face is struggling to remain unreadable, flashing between love and pain and hatred.

Kayla spends the time quietly. Darren thinks it is guilt but mostly she's annoyed. Darren sprang this on her when she wants more than ever for Gary to be happy. Her whole life is now centred on this hope: to forget and rebuild.

Darren has torn that down. He seemed to have been working with her, these past two years. There he stands, holding his son, facing his best friend, his face a happy mask, and she tries to understand. He has always worshipped her, she doesn't know why. He is pretending to have forgiven Eric. And he is ruining Gary's birthday.

She watches him and waits for the explosion.

Chapter Seven: This Cold Tenth Month

It is late in October. Eric has been coming every day for the past weeks, and has barely looked at Kayla. Darren watches them silently but doesn't make a move.

Gary adores Eric. There have been more than a few awkward times, when Gary has chosen Eric over his father, and none of them are quite sure what to do. But Gary smoothes it over with his smiles.

Right now Gary is with Charles, their old friend from work. They'll be back in half an hour or so; Kayla wonders whether Charles might have known the situation when he offered to baby-sit. She looks between Darren and Eric, sipping her tea, and knows that it's coming.

Even so it comes with a jolt. "So when were you going to tell me you were fucking him, Kay?" Darren asks. She was looking at her tea and continues to do so, feeling a flush rising in her cheeks. She sets her cup aside.

Eric is staring at her, not daring to look at Darren; then realizes what he is doing and switches his gaze to the floor. She forces herself to relax. "The morning we found out I was pregnant."

"I see. And was this a mutual decision? Or I guess Eric just went ahead with it."

She doesn't have anything to say to that.

"I take it you aren't surprised that I know."

"You've been a little tense ever since," she says, then winces at her wording, hoping he won't catch on.

"Ever since what?"

Damn him.

"Ever since you overheard Eric telling me?"

Damn him to hell.

"Darren," Eric says, "you're rightly angry, but you called me back here so we could talk, not incriminate."

He sounds so reasonable Kayla could just scream. She knows what Darren's reaction will be.

"You're in my house, Gull, shut the fuck up."

That wasn't so bad as she expected. Though she's starting to feel a little scared under Darren's collected stare. This is too thought-out for him. He's too calm. She risks a glance at Eric and meets his appealing gaze. He wants her to help him set things right.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, looking at her husband and feeling the lie.

"No, you aren't."

"I am," she says, "truly I am. I didn't mean for it to go as far as it did. It was just – I can't explain it." She remembers telling Eric the same thing about Darren and stops herself, her breaths shallow as she panics. "You love him too, Darren, can't you understand how it is?"

Eric sinks slowly back into his chair. He's watching Darren now, he doesn't want to look at Kayla. He sees Darren's fingers tighten on the arms of his chair, his jaw clenching, and knows that Kayla won't notice and will plough on through.

"You never loved me," Darren says. She makes a small noise to deny it but it comes out all wrong.

Eric starts to stand. "Do you want me to –"

"Did you love her?" Darren asks. Eric sits back down.

"Yeah – well, I guess it was… I don't know."

"She loved you?"


"And what about me?"

"I love you more than anything, Darren, you know that," Eric says quietly.

"I'm having a little trouble understanding why you fucked my wife, then."

"It wasn't –"

"It was," he says. "You fucked me over when you stayed with her. You knew what it would do to me and you screwed her anyway."

Kayla is still trying to deny it. "Darren, it wasn't like that, he didn't –"

"He did everything he could to hurt me."

"Not on purpose!" Eric says in a strangled voice. "It's over, Darren, please!"

"It was my fault for marrying you," Kayla says, "I should have known better."

Eric goes very still. Darren pushes himself up slowly.

"My mother thought I loved you and I was guilty that she died."

Eric closes his eyes. He has hated himself for a long time now, so it isn't hard for him to face Darren's reaction. Kayla has obviously never seen him really angry. She would lie, lie her pretty ass off to save herself if she knew what he was about to do.

Darren is reaching into his pocket for his gun. The doorbell rings.

"Why didn't you ever give Charles a key?" Kayla says reproachfully. She gets up to answer the door, not looking at Darren. "Gary's going to catch cold waiting for us."

Darren pulls the trigger. He isn't even sure he'll be able to, as he wasn't sure up to that moment whether he wanted it to end this way, but it does. He turns to Eric, who is facing him wide-eyed. Eric is speechless.

Darren says, "I want you to know that I blame you fully and hope that you rot in prison." Then, "It's a good thing Charles never trusted you."

When Charles comes in, Eric is standing over Kayla and Darren's bodies. Later he wonders if he imagined the look on Eric's face. As the police take Eric away laughing he decides that he must have. An Eric in pain isn't something he quite recognizes; Eric laughing makes much more sense.

Over the years, Charles watches Gary grow up with Darren's looks and Eric's temperament, so that he begins to question what happened.

"They were a lovely couple," an acquaintance was quoted as saying, "though unfortunate in their choice of friends. They made many great contributions to society during the years given to them."

"They loved each other very much," Charles told the same newspaper, glad that his doubt wouldn't be conveyed in print. The editor didn't see fit to include his last word, "I never would have believed Eric to be capable of such a thing."