“Kreacher has returned with the thief Mundungus Fletcher, Master!”
Hermione froze. An exciting shiver slowly went through her spine. Kreacher was here? Now? With Mundungus? Why did he have to have such bad timing? She turned towards Harry’s room. She heard no noise, so Harry must still be sleeping. She took one look at the emerald and gold album in her hand and sighed, before heading off towards the source downstairs, pocketing the album as she did so.
When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she saw an unusual sight. She saw a straggly, unkempt man, full-grown, bound and gagged in ropes by the mercy of a small, shriveled elf holding a large frying pan. She would’ve laughed, for it immediately reminded her of a cartoon of a cat and mouse, but the seriousness of it all kept her face impassive.
She pulled out her wand from her back pocket, just to be safe. “Good job, Kreacher,” she said sincerely. She wanted to hug the elf, but knew that he would be disgusted, and she didn’t want that to happen. “Harry will thank you when he awakes.”
The elf seemed to be at war with himself for a moment, as she had seen before. Finally, he gave her a stiff bow, which slightly surprised Hermione. Even Mundungus’s eyes widened at his behaviour.
“What shall Kreacher do with Fletcher, Miss?” He asked, the last word coming out in a half-hiss. Hermione took that as a turn for the better.
“Just sit him in a chair, please,” she said politely, and was awarded with a three-second slack-jawed gape from Kreacher. She really felt sorry for the house-elf, having very rarely heard ‘please’ from anyone. He then summoned a chair to him, facing Hermione, and practically threw Mundungus into it. Amazingly, he landed in an upright position.
Hermione looked at him for a long moment. His hair was matted, his Wizarding robes were incredibly dirty. He smelled of tobacco, sweat, and she was sure that if he talked, his breath would be heavy with alcohol. But, thankfully, Kreacher had him gagged, also. Focusing back on his face, Hermione realized that he looked very nervous. She decided that the sooner she made him talk, the better.
She reached up and pulled the gag from Mundungus’s mouth, and immediately regretted it.
“Wha’ve I done?” He yelled angrily, and her theory on Mundungus being drunk was correct. “Setting a bleedin’ house-elf on me, what are you playin’—?!”
Hermione pointed her wand at Mundungus. It was so close to his face, he almost went cross-eyed. He gulped and looked back up at her.
She had no intention of actually hurting him, but she felt intimidation was the best approach here. “I’m going to ask you a few questions,” she said primly, as if teaching a lesson, “and I want you to answer them all promptly and truthfully. If I even think you’re lying, I know enough cutlery charms to get a different answer from you. Is that understood?”
The man gulped comically.
Harry woke up an hour later. He heard the flip of a page. He looked up to see Hermione sitting on the bunk bed she never really slept on, reading. After they had thoroughly searched the house, they had deemed three rooms absolutely safe. Hermione had decided that in case Harry was to have another vision of Voldemort’s happenings, she would record the messages if Harry repeated the messages aloud. That, of course, required her to stay in the room that Harry was sleeping in. Harry was not sure what the motive was, and Ron was jumping to a conclusion in his mind. Unfortunately for him, he was jumping to all of the right conclusions, but he dared not voice them.
They had a decision to make. They would either tell Ron or keep it a secret for now. That option was brutally stolen from them on their last heart-to-heart conversation.
“I don’t want to be kept in the dark. Sure, I might not agree with it at all, but I still want to know.”
They really didn’t think much of it when he said it. They were really thinking about the war ahead of him, not what happened earlier. And besides, he hadn’t really told anyone about his relationship with Lavender, and this seemed like a situation that they really didn’t need public. Besides, they planned on telling him eventually. Harry and she didn’t even know what their relationship really was at that moment. However, they knew they had to tell Ron something in order to keep his friendship.
However, Harry knew that Ron wouldn’t forgive him. Ron would feel betrayed somehow. While nothing had ever happened between Ron and Hermione, Harry knew Ron would still feel like he was stabbed in the back.
Although Harry nor Hermione had never understood why. Ron had liked Hermione for a few years now, yet he never made a move. Unless you could count the disaster of ‘How to ask a girl to the ball.’ To this day, Ron did not know what he did wrong.
And this really irked her at times. She eventually came to realize that Ron was not very bright, nor was he very aware of the things he says. He has never really said anything nice to her unintentionally; it was always either a very mean thing to say, or just a joke that was taken as an insult.
Hermione shook her head as she kept reading, her mind on autopilot. She had little hope for Ron ever finding a girl that could tolerate him. While Luna would be good for him, he wouldn’t be good for Luna. Ron would never change, she knew. She’s been trying to change Ron for years, but he was the same as always.
She sighed softly. Some things never change.
It was then that she felt that someone was watching her. She looked up to see Harry, sleep-addled, looking at her through misty eyes. She silently closed her book and stood. Harry’s eyes followed as she approached him and knelt down to him. “How was your sleep?”
Harry shook his head somewhat wildly and smiled that grin of his. “Refreshing. How long was I out?”
“About five hours,” She told him. And 43 minutes. But who’s counting anyway? It’s not like she had anything else to do. No one could go to the Training room alone to do spellwork for safety reasons, and Ron never even wanted to enter the room again. So she was stuck here. Not that she minded, of course.
Harry nodded and sat up gingerly. “What’ve you been doing while I was out?”
“Reading, mostly.” Hermione told him, plopping herself on the bed beside him. Harry only smirked in response, and she swatted him in the shoulder, making them both chuckle.
This was what Hermione loved about Harry. Any slightly hurtful joke, comment, or sarcastic remark that may have formed in his mind was never voiced. He had never once insulted her, intentionally or unintentionally. He was always aware of her feelings on a subject, such as her love of learning, or her views of house-elves, and so on.
She loved that about him. She loved him.
And she wasn’t going to let anyone think any different.
The two just stayed like that, sitting together on the bed, relishing one of the peaceful moments that they were sure were going to be scarce in the near future. When they would be hunted.
No, Harry began thinking, already making the decision. When it was their time, they would be the ones hunting. They weren’t going to sit around while Voldemort hunted down his loved ones, then step out when there was no one left. No, If Tom wanted a fight, then Harry was going to train enough to give him one.
Besides, he couldn’t just hide. That would be too…Slytherin of him.
Hermione looked up to see the determined face of her…partner. “Penny for your thoughts, Harry?”
Harry shook his head. “Knut,” he corrected, and she smiled. “I was just thinking. I know we aren’t strong enough to take on Voldemort at the moment…but why do we have to hide like this? We can easily take out those guards outside. We can take your bag and take everything we need with us, cook the steaks and put them on a warming charm or something, it doesn’t matter! We can’t keep hiding like this, especially if they are pretty much sure that we are here.” He scratched his hair, a sign of frustration marring his features.
“I don’t think the steaks will last very long like that, but I’ll see about a preservation charm.” Hermione thought for a second. “I could go to a grocery for some bags.” She stopped and frowned. “We should use what little money we have wisely, though. But I don’t think the guards know that for a fact. The Weasleys have people looking at them and their house as well. They might have people at places you might visit.”
Harry sighed. “In that case, maybe the safest place for me right now would be the Dursleys.”
Hermione gave a sound of distaste. “That reminds me. If they aren’t killed yet, I’m going to pay them a visit someday.”
He saw the gleam in her eyes, and finally decided that whatever she was thinking, the Dursleys had it coming to them. He still felt a bit sorry for them, though; He always steered clear of Hermione when she was mad, on those few occasions that he couldn’t get her to calm down. He leaned back into the headboard and Hermione rested on his shoulder. They were silent for a few minutes, until Hermione broke the silence.
“Have we always sat together like this before?”
Harry smiled and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, mimicking the way they sat together since third year. “Like this, yeah.”
“This…this is the first time that I’m actually thinking that this isn’t right.” She leaned up and looked at him. “Should we stop? I mean, until we decide to tell Ron something.”
As a response, Harry pulled her closer, making her squeak. “If we’re going to tell him anything, it might as well be right now. I’d rather not wait; it’ll only make things worse.”
Hermione considered his words. “I don’t think he’ll take it well. But if we wait longer, he’ll think we’ve had a conspiracy against him the entire time.”
Harry gave a sad smile. “That’s how I feel sometime. Like someone knows something about me that I don’t know.”
She wrinkled her forehead. “What do you mean?”
He leaned his head and stared at the ceiling. “Well, the Dursleys never told me about my parents or about magic. Dumbledore never told me the real reason Voldemort wanted to kill me until fifth year, and I have the training of an average wizard. I could understand if he trained me, and then tell me, but…he didn’t. He waited until I was an emotional wreck that had almost nothing else to lose.” By now, Harry had pulled Hermione closer to him, hugging her tightly, but not the least bit uncomfortably. He was absorbed in his musings, slowly putting his life in hindsight. “No one bothered to tell me about a prophecy that involved me. I don’t think Sirius knew, but I’m beginning to think that everyone else did.”
“I’m sure they didn’t know Harry,” Hermione told him, a concerned frown on her face. They would’ve told him about the reason Voldemort was trying to kill him if they knew, right? “I mean, Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t have told you, but I’m sure Remus or Mr. Weasley would have. And I’m positive Sirius would have!”
Harry shook his head. “They probably didn’t tell know all of it. I mean, I guess he knew that a prophecy exists, but that’s all. Could be the same for everyone else. They probably didn’t even know what they were guarding.”
“Dumbledore wouldn’t tell them?” Hermione asked, puzzled.
He looked at her with a grim look. “Dumbledore never tells anyone anything.”
Hermione was about to speak, but her mouth closed with an almost audible pop. She was trying to think of an example where Harry was wrong, where Dumbledore did tell them the complete story about something. The Philosopher’s Stone? No, he never told them why he hid it in the school, or why he just hadn’t put it in his office, or even his pocket or something. The fabled truth about Sirius being Harry’s Secret-Keeper? Mr. Weasley knew, according to his talk with Harry before they had left for Hogwarts four years ago. Why didn’t the headmaster tell Harry? Sure, Harry likely would’ve gone after Sirius, but he’s a wanted man! Everyone was looking for Sirius, how was Harry going to find him, never mind escape Hogwarts grounds? No, Dumbledore kept that information from him as well. Legilimency? Why did it take five years until Harry found out about mind-reading? Harry didn’t even know that Voldemort could invade his mind through his scar, or that anyone with the mental arts could invade his mind just by looking at him. Dumbledore always gave Harry bits and pieces of information, never the whole picture.
Did he even tell Harry why he liked socks so much?!
“That bastard.” Hermione muttered to herself. Every type of danger that Harry either found or was found in, he did with partial knowledge. Well, except Quidditch. He only came out with just enough knowledge to stay alive! But why? Why would he do all of this? How could he just let Harry get into all of this danger? Sure, Fawkes saved him once. And only once. She only believed in Deus ex machina in movies, but this wasn’t a movie. There were quite a few instances where Dumbledore could’ve saved them, or told them about a danger, instead of standing in the shadows, his eyes twinkling, presuming that everything was going to be alright. Why, though? Why did he have to go through all of those years at Hogwarts, facing dangers every single year, clueless? She wasn’t going to blame all on Dumbledore, though; Harry should have studied once in a while. But study what? She was just as clueless sometimes when she was in the danger with him. Fine, he was clueless for good reason. They never had the material to gain knowledge from…because Dumbledore didn’t want them to have the knowledge. Dumbledore, or an inside source, told them what was mandatory for them to know, and nothing else. He didn’t want them to know, because…because….
Harry chuckled out loud, surprised he wasn’t shocked at her language. Hermione did not take notice. He wondered what conclusions she had reached by now. Knowing her, she was almost at the conclusion he had reached a month ago.
“It was all a test,” She said numbly, her mind seeing no other logical conclusions. “It had to be. Dumbledore knew everything, yet he told you almost nothing! From the Philosopher’s Stone to the Horcruxes –” She stopped, seeming to have remembered something else. “He even knew Draco was trying to bring Death Eaters into the school!” She turned to Harry, his face impassive. “Wait – you knew?”
“I had a while to think about it after he died,” Harry confirmed. “I was trying to think about all he’s done for me. Then, I started thinking about things he could’ve told me, and things he hadn’t done for me.” He frowned. “One list heavily outweighs the other.”
Hermione turned and stared at the wall in shock. Their beloved headmaster, testing Harry (and probably Ron and her) the entire time. Just so it could all lead to that “Final Battle” with Voldemort. Dumbledore was a warrior first, a headmaster second. That was the only reason he would endanger so many students every year. ‘The third-floor corridor on the right-hand side is out of bounds to everyone who does not wish to die a very painful death.’ Yes, tell them the warning without an explanation. They wouldn’t be curious at all!
Hermione was silent for a few more minutes, until she finally said, “Do you think there’s anything useful in that children’s book anyway?”
Harry had shaken his head, but nodded halfway through. “There’s a symbol in it…I’ve seen it before, I know I have.”
“What symbol?” Hermione asked, furrowing her brows.
“Where’s the book?” Harry asked, and Hermione grudgingly left Harry’s embrace to get off the bed and stand. She walked out the room and Harry quickly followed.
When they reached the downstairs room, Harry looked through the open doors to the kitchen to see a crumpled form sitting on a chair, tied up in ropes. He looked towards Hermione, who flushed in embarrassment. She had completely forgotten about Mundungus. She picked up her book on the table and explained. “Kreacher returned shortly after you went to sleep. I didn’t want to wake you back up, so I talked to Mundungus.” Hermione sighed. This was the hard part. “It’s at the ministry.”
Harry frowned. “Okay, we’ll just ask Mr. Weasley to –”
“I was thinking that,” Hermione said, glaring at her friend. “But I didn’t say it.”
“You’re welcome,” Harry said, looking at Mundungus’s prone form before looking back at Hermione. He quickly looked back at the figure in the chair and noticed a welt on the side of his head. “You…actually tortured him?” He looked over to Hermione with a little bit of shock, and more than a little bit of pride.
She felt her cheeks heat up more. “That was Kreacher. He hit him with a frying pan.”
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at the thought, and Hermione chuckled with him. After they shared a good laugh at Mundungus’s expense, Harry quickly sobered. “But what do we do with him? He knows where we are now, and since we’re all secret-keepers, he’s one too.”
Hermione blanched. “You’re right! And since he’s a secret-keeper, we can’t Obliviate the location from him. We can’t alter his memories at all about this place. He’ll definitely tell someone where we are, especially if he gets caught again. If The Ministry looks for him again, word will get to Voldemort and…wait. Why aren’t we worried that Snape can attack us at any time?”
Harry turned away, rubbing the back of his head.
Harry gave a sheepish grin as he turned back to her. “Well…about that. I’m kind of…hoping for it…”
She quickly understood the meaning behind him and hit him on the shoulder. “Harry! How could you! You want him to come in here! So you can kill him! At a time like this! What if he brings a group? We can’t possibly take all of them out! What was your plan?”
He absently rubbed his arm as he grinned sheepishly. “I was just kidding, Hermione. You’re just cute when you’re frustrated.”
She didn’t know whether to blush again or hit him again. So she did both. Harry laughed as he dodged it. “What’s the real reason, Harry?” She asked, shaking her head at him with mirth.
“Actually, I just figured that if he hasn’t revealed where we are already, then he likely isn’t going to. I mean, at first I thought that since he killed the secret-keeper, that he was automatically out of the loop. But Mr. Weasley told me Snape should still be a secret-keeper since he knew of the location.
“I also figured that Snape didn’t want to tell Voldy just yet. I don’t think he wants anyone to know. If he ever decides to step through those doors, it would be by himself. You know as well as I do that he always wanted to kill me personally, if he ever got that chance. Now he does.”
“But what if he doesn’t want to kill you personally? What if he wants to watch while other Death Eaters…torture you.”
That gave Harry pause. “I didn’t really think about that. I suppose that would be the more Slytherin thing to do.
“You’re right; this place is not as safe as we thought. We should be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.”
Hermione agreed wholeheartedly, and they began to pack.
After an hour, all of their own belongings were packed. Hermione only had out her toiletries, the two books (The Nursery Book and the Human Transfiguration Book) and her clothes for the next day. Harry only had out his toiletries and his clothes. He had transfigured one of his old cast-offs into a sack that Hermione could place the steaks into, after applying the right charms (warming, weightless and stasis) and put all of the bags in the kitchen, between the stairs and the basement. That way, wherever they were, they could easily get to it fast enough.
As Harry walked through the house once more, wondering if there was anything of value that he needed to bring with them, Hermione sat at the kitchen table, evaluating the last few days of her life. In her hands, was a seemingly normal pocket-sized photo album. Whatever was happening between Harry and her was because of this album. She just didn’t know how or what happened. Just a few months ago, he wouldn’t even talk to her. Now, he smiles whenever he sees her. There was no doubt she loved the change in him, but why so spontaneous? Harry had rarely shown affection for her before, but after a month of talking to just a magical picture of her, she could practically see the connection between them mend itself and tighten, going stronger every day.
That was what led her to the next topic. Ron. She set her elbows on the table and groaned tirelessly in her hands. She had, in order to distance herself from Harry, come onto Ron the previous year. She felt that she should apologize to him before Harry and she told Ron about them.
And then she remembered the lavender accident again. That always made her angry before. Even now, it did. But she was never once jealous of that moment. It looked quite disgusting, actually, the way they were making out. She could have sworn Ron’s tongue entered her nostril for a moment. She shuddered.
No, she was just angry. Angry at Ron for being a prick. Yes, while she would admit to herself that she was a bitch the previous year for all that she did, she had come to realize her mistakes. She had apologized to Harry, and Harry had forgiven her. And she was slowly beginning to forgive herself. But Ron was completely oblivious as always. There was absolutely no hint that he had given her that he was sorry for what he did. Hermione didn’t need an apology. She had no romantic feelings for him.
But it was just rude. How does he ever expect to get a girlfriend with that attitude? She knew Lavender. She was a nice girl. She was a bit clingy, yes, and could never keep a secret if her magic counted on it, but she was pretty sure Lavender had actual feelings for Ron, despite her…wild… past. Maybe, if Ron decided to return to Hogwarts, he would be with Lavender, or maybe even Luna, and after the war, they could all be friends again?
‘Friends again…’ The thought more or less disturbed her. Ron and she had never really become friends, per se. Sure, they both hung out with Harry a lot, but every time they walked together, Harry was always in the middle. True, they became acquaintances, and Hermione did his homework, but that was it. Looking back, she really shouldn’t have done most of his homework. It was something she had done to herself back in Elementary School; she had done all of her ‘friends’ homework so they would stay around longer. They were more like bullies in the pretense of friends. Over time, she had gotten used to it, and sometimes, she even enjoyed it. But doing it every week for Ron – who never even proofread it, just put it in his bag and walked away, not even saying thanks, like it was her job as his friend – made her tired. Now, it made her angry. Well, angrier.
No, after this, if Ron freaked out and got angry at either of them just because they were…well, seeing where things were going, then she wouldn’t forgive him. Ever. She was honestly bone-tired of being near him. His off-handed insults, his hatred of learning anything worth learning, his utter cluelessness to anything that wasn’t Quidditch or Chess. She just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
What did Harry see in him?
Oh, right. He was Harry’s first friend. And by default, or maybe because she was a girl, he was Harry’s best friend. Hermione couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Harry had met her first, instead of Ron. She smiled at what could have changed.
But there was one thing she was sure of; she wouldn’t want to change it, to risk losing what she had now.
Another part of her couldn’t help but wonder if Hermione had never become friends with Ron. They would have probably been the worst of enemies.
She slowly rose from the table, her chair making an audible creak as it slid backwards. The only conundrum now would obviously be the toughest; if, whatever the outcome, Harry stayed friends with Ron, and they still be best friends, would she be able to spend the rest of her life being around Ron, being his friend, if only to not upset Harry?
Yes. Yes she would.
It wasn’t a hard decision at all, in hindsight. As long as she had Harry with her, she could quite literally do anything.
Just as she started smiling, Harry walked in the door, totally oblivious to her musings. “I told Kreacher what was going on, and he said that all I need to do is shout his name wherever we are, and he’ll hear me.” He stopped when she shook out of her thoughts. “Did I interrupt something?”
“No,” she answered meekly. She decided to tell him after they told Ron. It was his reaction that depended on what would happen next.
She took a deep breath. “He’s probably sleeping. Should we tell him now?”
Harry dragged his hand through his hair, immediately understanding what she was talking about. He looked very uncomfortable, and for a second, Hermione wondered if he was choosing who he was going to confess bad news to. Harry looked back at her and saw the terror in her eyes. “What? What’s wrong?”
Hermione shook her head and mumbled “nothing.” Harry quickly strode around the table, turned her to him and made her look him directly in the eye. “Hermione? What’s wrong? I don’t want to tell him either, but We have to. He’s our best friend.”
She winced. This was going to be a very awkward conversation, and she was not looking forward to it. “Harry,” she half-whispered, half-strained. “It’s not that. Just…I…I’ll tell you after we tell Ron. I think there’s something you should know, but it can wait.”
She almost blurted it out at the look of pure concern and worry on his face. “It’s nothing important,” she stressed, “It’s just that I would much rather not say it now. I promise I’ll tell you after we deal with Ron.”
He wasn’t convinced, obviously. It was something that was obviously distressing her. He shrugged off the uneasy feeling, trusting her completely. She’d tell him later.
No words were needed as they trudged up the stairs. Harry found this an opportune moment to open the book and look for the symbol. He wasn’t really that concerned about telling Ron. While Ron, in the privacy of his dorm, had shown hints that he was attracted to Hermione, he had always been very vocal of the witches he would sleep with when talking to Seamus and Dean. Hermione never came up in the conversation. Well, when Harry was around, at least. So, while Ron had implied feelings for Hermione, there were plenty of other fish in the sea, and Ron had more than implied that he would like to swim with any of them.
But…then again, he did read a book for her.
Harry shook his head of his own musings and flipped back a few pages. He had absently flipped a few that he hadn’t checked thoroughly. He was thinking to hard about this. Whatever happened was going to happen, his only job was damage control. He slipped his wand from his pocket to his sleeve, hiding it from view while gripping it tightly. He didn’t expect to use it, but Ron had quite the temper and Harry wanted to make sure.
For some reason, Harry couldn’t help but wonder if this was really going to change anything. He made his choice and, hopefully, Hermione had made hers. If Ron wasn’t going to accept it, then Harry wasn’t going to put up an argument. They couldn’t have any type of tension while they were searching for the Horcruxes. He almost shuddered when he realized how crazy he would’ve gone if he had to put up with Ron and Hermione’s famous arguments until Voldemort was dead. He was, however, thankful, that it was only one-way sexual tension.
Harry reached the door and without preamble, knocked. He waited a few seconds before he knocked again, harder. He sighed. “No use. He snores like a construction site.” He tried again, this time practically punching the door.
“Alright, alright! I’m up already!” Several seconds later, a disgruntled Ron opened the door, looking as if he needed just a few more days of sleepy. “Waddyouwan?”
Harry had to smile at his best friend’s appearance. This would be the last amusing memory of Ron, something told him. “Ron,” He started, deciding to get right into it, “we need to talk to you.”
Ron nodded and yawned widely before he let them in his room. He hadn’t bothered taking off any of his clothes before he went to bed, so he was only mildly embarrassed when he noticed Hermione was with him.
Hermione still had to sniff at Ron’s lack of manners. He didn’t even cover his mouth when he yawned! They both chose to sit on the foot of the bed while Ron plopped back down, laying horizontally. “‘Bout what?” Ron yawned again, feeling sleepy again.
“Well,” Hermione started, “It could’ve waited –”
“So let it wait,” Ron interrupted, rolling over.
“You told us not to leave you out of anything.” Harry reminded him, wondering if he should douse him with cold water. For his sake or Ron’s, he wasn’t sure.
“And? How important is it?”
“Very!” Harry and Hermione yelled at the same time, making Ron snort loudly in surprise and waking him up fully for the time being. He sat up and looked at his friends’ serious faces. “What? We found a horcrux or something?”
“No…well, yes, but,” Hermione stammered, “that’s not why we –”
“We found a horcrux! Alright! Where is it?”
“Ron, calm down –”
“I can’t calm down! We found a horcrux! Well, where is it?”
“Ron, we’ll tell you where it is if you listen –”
“Listen to what? What could be more important than a horcrux?”
Harry looked between the two, wondering what made him believe that this was sexual tension. “Hermione was trying to tell you,” He spoke slowly, expecting another explosion, “that we, as in ‘Hermione and I,’ need to tell you something.”
Ron stopped glaring at Hermione and looked over to Harry, listening with mild interest. It couldn’t be better than a Horcrux, could it?
“You said a few hours ago, that you didn’t want to be kept out of the loop. That you wanted to know everything that we knew, and not be kept in the dark.”
Ron nodded, wondering where this was going.
Harry looked over to Hermione, who was still glaring daggers at Ron. She felt the need to blurt it out the second he shouted, but that would end in an even louder shouting match. Harry restrained himself from putting his hand over hers to calm her. This has to be done without bodily contact. That much was certain.
Harry released a sigh. “Hermione and I have…well…decided to start…a relationship.” Harry chose his words carefully.
Ron snapped his head towards Hermione, as if he had just been slapped towards her. Now he was fully awake. “What?” He asked her, for the first time in a long time, speaking softly to her.
Hermione waited for a more concrete reaction, while Ron waited for a confirmation. Finally, she relented. “Harry and I had an honest conversation about our feelings for each other,” Hermione started, and before Ron could interrupt, again, she continued quickly. “And we decided to see where it would go from here.”
At first, Ron looked like he did not want to accept it. He just looked back and forth between Harry and Hermione, back and forth, back and forth. They both had neutral expressions on their faces, trying not to show any emotions. They both knew their friend; they waited to see Ron’s reaction, before they jumped to any conclusions.
Sadly, Ron acted just as both Harry and Hermione expected. The tips of Ron’s ears tinged red, and Harry had decided to talk before Mt. Weasley erupted. “We decided on it today, Ron. And Hermione wanted to clear up a few things – ”
“What? What things?” he began, angrier than the two of them had seen in a while from him. “What could you possibly have anything to say about, huh?! And how the hell did this happen? While I was sleeping?” Ron rolled over to the end of the bed to stand, and Harry got up, pulling Hermione up with him. He didn’t let go of her hand. “You know, I should’ve known something when I realized that you couldn’t have done that much sweating from casting spells!” Ron looked at them, disgusted at them both. But they kept an impassive face, but Hermione’s was starting to crack a little. “You know, this is just fucking great! I try to impress you,” he almost hissed at Hermione, “with a bloody book – bet you love that I know how to pick up one of those things – and now Harry decided that he’s too good for my sister and to go after you! Of all people! He could’ve chosen Ginny, Cho, Padma, hell, any girl at Hogwarts, or any girl in the whole bloody world! But he just had to choose the one – the one girl I wanted!” He rounded back to Harry, missing Hermione’s shocked face, as she struggled to keep her emotions under control. “You knew…you knew I wanted her! And you just had to take that away from me, too, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t take anything from you!” Harry spat, “And how was I supposed to know? You never said anything! I like Hermione, so I told her. We talked. I didn’t look from afar and make fun of her while I got my feelings straight! I didn’t argue with her just because I think she’s cute when she cries! I didn’t have to read a damn book to know what she likes!”
“You’re the boy-who-fucking-lived! You don’t need to woo any girl to get into her knickers! I just didn’t know Hermione was that…that… EASY to—”
The very next second was a blur to everyone. Harry slid his wand down his hand and clenched his fist around it, the glimmers of anger starting to adorn his features. Ron was turning to Hermione, who was on his left. He was busy avoiding their entwined hands, and had not noticed Harry holding his wand in his other. He had plenty more words planned for both of his former friends, and he had every intention of reducing Hermione to tears.
Therefore, when the next second passed, He didn’t really know why he falling to the ground, the entire side of his face feeling a large sting, that would, in a few seconds, turn into a hot-red burn on the entire side of his face. He landed with a thump, and shook his lips as the wind in his lungs escaped him, still confused of why he was there, why was he hurting, and which one of them did it.
Hermione shook her wrist, loosening her hand as Ron fell to the ground, sputtering. Harry quickly turned to her, almost forgetting his mounting anger. Hermione, who had only slapped Ron, now balled up her fist, shaking with rage.
Hermione had never liked violence. She never wanted to do anything that involved violence. When she first received the letter to Hogwarts, dueling hadn’t even entered her mind until Defense Against the Dark Arts appeared on her schedule.
Then Harry Potter entered her life.
Hermione couldn’t lie to herself; she had seen more violence than the average girl. Her first year until now was getting bloodier and bloodier. It, of course, all came to a head when Harry killed the man who had haunted her dreams for the summer after her fifth year. If she could be honest, he was partly the reason why she tried to distance herself from Harry. Well, the damage that he caused.
Seeing a man decapitated… changed a person. In some way, shape, or form, he or she will always be changed by an extreme act of violence, at least the first time. That, she knew. However, she had promised herself long ago that if she had ever performed any act of violence, she swore she would never change for the worse.
But she also knew that however affected she was, nothing compared to what Harry had seen in his past. He had seen death at one, lived in an abusive home, had inadvertently killed at eleven, was forced to kill again at twelve, saw the death of a friend at fourteen, saw the death of his own godfather at fifteen, and saw Dumbledore killed just two months earlier.
And now Harry had killed again. He wasn’t forced to, but he did. Because he wanted to kill Dolohov. He had a choice, he could’ve bound him and wait for the Aurors, who by then were all under Voldemort’s control. It was the stupid thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. He could’ve just stunned the two and they all escape scot-free, and let them live. Of course, they would’ve been back, since it was still a mystery of how Harry was found there. But Harry had killed Dolohov for simply no reason.
Or was it really just the reason she suspected? Was it really all because of her? Did Harry kill him simply for Hermione’s sake?
Hermione really didn’t know what to feel about that. All she knew was right here, right now. If Harry was this war-driven, she knew she needed to be helpful.
She had made another promise a long time ago; a promise that was much more important than becoming something she never wanted to become, just for her own sake. She had promised herself that she would never, ever, ever leave Harry’s side, and to help him with her full abilities in whatever he needed help with. Wherever Harry went, she wasn’t far behind. If Harry was this far in the war he had technically started, but never wanted, she wanted to be in the center as well. And if Harry had what it took to take a life, for her, then she knew that she wasn’t far from having to take a life herself in this time of war. Because when it came down to it, she wasn’t going to choose their lives over her own. She had someone to live for.
However, she had something to admit to herself as she shook her hand, and she voiced it aloud. “That felt good,” she whispered. And it was about to feel better for her. Quickly sidestepping Harry, who made no motion to stop her, she approached Ron, her ears ringing with what he had said not ten seconds ago, and kicked him hard in the ribs. Ron screamed in pain as he hunched over. “What was that? What did you say?Easy? I’ll show you how easy I am…” She raised her foot.
“Hermione!” Harry’s voice reached her. Only her head tuned to acknowledge him. Her foot was hovering above Ron’s pelvis, and she was going to bring it down with all her might. Hermione just stared at Harry, her eyes showing the hatred that she held for the man below her. She was going to strike him again. Whether he wanted her to or not.
However, he had not called her to stop. He was angry as well, but Hermione more so. “Do whatever you want. Just…don’t kick him there. Please.”
Hermione considered it while Ron tried to scamper away. “It’s not a kick,” Hermione replied as she swiftly raised a hand and summoned him back. “It’s a love-tap.”
Harry’s eyes widened. Hermione had just summoned a human wandlessly. His books said that was impossible. He knew Hermione was angry, but he felt that being in the same room with her at the moment was unsafe. He decided that it would be best to supervise while Hermione let out all of her tension. Her purely physical tension.
“You demean my chastity, you think of me as an object, and you compare me to a common whore?! I am not something you want, Ronald! I’m not a damn thing!” Hermione screamed, kicking him to give more emphasis to her words. “If Harry wasn’t in here, no girl would have the pleasure of being wanted by you again!”
She stopped to rest her foot. “You’re lucky, you know,” She said casually, her glare being anything but. “You were our friend. If you hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be holding back.” She paused to sit down on the bed. “I don’t really think you were ever my friend. In fact, if Harry never made friends with you, we’d have probably been enemies.”
Ron rolled over to face her, still in a fetal position. He was seething, even as he held his stomach dearly, threatening to release the two steaks he had before he went to bed. “We were friends in the first place because I SAVED you!”
Hermione’s glare intensified, and not seeing a reaction from Ron, she stood from the bed. “My feet aren’t hurting anymore,” she announced, and Ron tried to move, but his stomach was too sensitive to move around. Hermione had to smirk. She always knew that one day, his stomach would get him in trouble. “If you’re talking about our first year with that bloody troll, you didn’t save me,” she spat, approaching him. “You almost got me killed in the first place. And the only reason you were able to use that spell was because I told you how to do it right!” Before she could finish the sentence, her foot was in motion, her frustration and anger from the past six years, simmering, had now boiled over. He had used her for six years, and a new thought surfaced; if she had continued to blindly pursue him, she would have been used for many more. So, without holding back, she began giving him the beating that she knew Ron deserved.
This continued for a full five minutes. During this time, to keep his mind off of what was happening in front of him, Harry had opened the book to search for the symbol again. He was still beyond angry at Ron, but he figured if anyone needed this more, it would be Hermione. He quickly found it on the corner next to the number. He concentrated on the symbol, so much that he had tuned out Ron’s grunts of pain and Hermione’s well-placed kick to his spine. That symbol…looked so familiar to him. He knew it was recent, but he couldn’t really trace it on anything.
Hermione stopped to look at what she had done. She looked and looked. Ron had started bleeding, his lip busted, clutching his stomach and rolling on the ground, howling in pain. He always managed to keep one of his hands cupping himself down there, but she had no intention of dirtying her shoes on it, though the thought had frequently crossed her mind. Her adrenaline rush was not quite over, but she was level-headed enough to look on with shock as she realized what she had done to him. She really didn’t mean to go that far. She was planning on punching his face in a bit, but every time she blinked and saw his face, she remembered every argument they had since year one. Her mind was running a mile a minute, remembering every argument that had left her in tears or almost-tears.
“Eighty-three.” She paused to take a long, shuddering breath. Her voice was barely above a whisper as she kneeled to “Eighty-three times I’ve had to deal with your shit! Two-hundred seven times I had to do your homework! Twelve of them were mandatory essays! Two hundred and eighty-four days of my life I wasted on you, waiting to see if you, of all people would change!”
She refused to cry. Ron would never make her cry again. She was going to admit it; she was proud of what she did. While she had lost her temper, she was almost glad that she did. It was when she noticed the tears that she felt, for the first time in her life, in control. She loved the feeling almost as much as she loved Harry.
Harry…she had just beaten up his best friend in front of him.
Her head snapped towards him; he was sitting on the bed now, his nose almost touching the page he was scrutinizing.
She looked back at Ron and then at Harry, whose lack of reaction she took as a good sign. She slowly took off her shoes and socks and sat on the bed. She looked over at Harry, whose eyes slowly widened at the picture, as if he had just rediscovered it. “You know where you saw the symbol from?” She asked. He didn’t hear her. “Harry?”
His head shot up and looked over to her. “What?” He asked, confused.
Hermione gave a tired smile. “Did you know where the symbol came from?”
Harry smiled and nodded. “Krum. He wore this on his shirt, I think. I’ll have to check with the pensieve, though.” The he remembered why she looked so tired and looked down. Ron was lying on the ground, still and bloodied. “Erm, Hermione? He’s just unconscious, right?”
She lazily looked over to the prone form. “I think so.”
Harry frowned. “So how are we going to fix this? We can’t just Obliviate him, he’s a secret keeper.”
Hermione looked at him. “What do you mean?” She whispered. She had no idea that Harry still wanted Ron to stay.
Harry was about to continue, but seeing Hermione so distressed caused him to want to give in. “We can’t kick him out,” he tried to explain. “What about those Death Eaters outside?”
Hermione looked on the verge of tears. “I don’t know, I’ll apparate him out! I’ll make a portkey! I’m not staying in this house with him any longer! You don’t know how…” she sighed the next word “addicting that was to me. When he insults me again, and he will insult me again, I will hurt him! I will try get stronger every day just to make sure I can pack a better punch! I am tired of this narcissistic, sadistic, incorrigible, alienating… bullying… despicable…”
“Prick,” Harry helped.
“Prick!” Hermione yelled immediately. She stopped and looked back at Harry.
Harry refrained from asking what she would’ve said if he supplied a swear. “Hermione,” he started, “Do you know how to make a Portkey?”
Hermione nodded so fast, her hair was trying to keep up. “I’ll set it for the Weasley’s house!” She smiled, standing up.
“Wait!” Harry called as she was almost out the door to look for something to use. “Do you really want this?” Seeing as she was confused, he clarified. “I mean, this is Ron, our friend of six years. You’re ready to really end it? We may probably never see him again. Plus that, we might have to move, since he knows where we are. We’re gonna have to leave here.”
Hermione leaned against the doorframe and thought to herself for a moment. “I suppose so…” She muttered. She looked over to him. “So we’ll be leaving after we kick him out?”
Harry didn’t know whether to laugh or mourn. “I take it you want this?”
Hermione simply nodded and left the room to get her wand. Harry just stared at Ron’s unmoving body, wondering if this could’ve been avoided in any way. Figuring that while the pain he would be in would be extreme, but durable, he enervated Ron and silenced him. When Ron’s mouth opened in a groan, he decided to speak before he could say anything. “So…” Harry started coolly, making Ron freeze. The dispassionate tone in his voice was meant to scare Ron, but it was forced on Harry’s part. “I know I’m the one that was supposed to be beating you senselessly. So I’ll have to make up for it next time I see you. It is Hermione’s best intention that you stay as far as possible from her and me. With that said, we’ve decided that it’s best that you will not be with us while we search for Horcruxes. And besides, since I see that you clearly don’t approve of our relationship, I don’t think that you’ll like staying with us anyway.” His glare turned into a frown, and his voice finally showed his true emotions. “I’m sorry it’s come to this. I didn’t think you’d both go that far. You knew that you crossed the line, so I guess Hermione decided to join you.
“She went too far. We both know that. I’m sure she knew that. And, in all likelihood, she’ll feel sorry for it later. If I had been the one beating you, she would’ve stopped me before I could throw a third punch.” He closed his eyes. “But I don’t know her pain. It could be completely justified in her mind. I don’t know how many times you guys have argued in the past, and I don’t know how many times she ran away crying, or had had her feelings hurt by you. You never seem to learn that words can hurt.” He blinked in recognition. “So, in her mind, she thinks that the words that you said is nothing compared to physical pain.”
He stopped and stood. “But that doesn’t excuse what you said to Hermione. So I’ll say it. In case you haven’t noticed, let me tick it off for you. One: Hermione never liked you. Two: We would have never done anything behind your back. It was only this morning that we decided to start anything. Three: I could’ve stopped Hermione anytime I wanted. I didn’t. Why, you might ask? Because you went too far. And Hermione got to you first. And four, but I suppose you’ve figured this out already, though: you remember a few years ago? When you betrayed me, didn’t believe me, and overreacted? I forgave you that time, because you were my best friend. No, scratch that. You were my first friend that I made at Hogwarts. Hagrid was my first friend ever. Hedwig was my first friend in the magical word. And Hermione….she’s my best friend. Ithought you were my best friend. She always had my best interests at heart, and I never paid attention. She was always by my side, and I treated her almost like my secretary, never a true friend. Looking back…I was stupid.” His eyes almost became misty reflecting on his past again, before they steeled. “But not as stupid as what you just did. What would you have said if Hermione didn’t hit you, and if I didn’t decide to end you? Would you have kept going on about her? Would you have called me a backstabber, and try to curse one of us? Or would you have just stomped out of here, not realizing that there are two Death Eaters out there, waiting for us to slip up?”
Harry gave a tired sigh, very weary of all the events that happened just today. “Maybe, you were my friend. And maybe, some part of me wants to stay that way. But I’ll move on. Hermione will move on, of that I’m sure. We’re going to do what you couldn’t and move on. Hopefully, we’ll never cross paths again. Just…tell Mr. and Mrs. Weasley we’re sorry for what we had to do. But realize this, Ron. We’re sorry. But wedon’t regret it.”
Ron only groaned. He was in too much pain to feel anything else. Deep in his heart, he knew that he had messed up. He knew that he had completely severed the ties between his two best friends and himself. But there was nothing he could do. His body wouldn’t allow movement, and he could only make short gasps as he held his broken ribs close.
A few short moments later, Hermione strolled into the room with her wand. She was holding a freshly handwritten note, with only a few sentences written, from what Harry could see. She kneeled next to Ron, who slowly peeked up at her.
Ron had nothing to say to her. He forced his eyes closed tight, conveying the message that he was ignoring her. Hermione smiled at the sight. She had nothing else to say to him as well. She dropped the note on his body. Three seconds later, and a bright flash of blue, Ronald Bilius Weasley had left both of their lives.
“I hate him.”
Harry’s frown almost twitched into a smile. “I know.”
She got up and sat on the bed. “No,” she clarified, “I don’t mean just today. I’ve always hated him.”
Harry had a look of pure surprise. “You…you did? Are you sure?”
Hermione gave another tired smile. “I’m pretty sure I know what hate feels like, Harry.”
“No, I mean…you’re not yourself right now. I mean you just beat him up, that’s not something you normally do. It’s adrenaline talking.”
Hermione turned to him, an almost amused smirk appearing. She could kind of see what he was talking about, but she had to make him understand. “Harry,” she started, “I told you that I would tell you what was bothering me as soon as we were done with Ron. I just did.”
Harry was dumbfounded to say the least. “You mean you…and he…I thought you two had at least…I mean, we were all together for six years!”
“No, Harry,” she gently chided, “I was with you, and Ron was with you. I never got to know nor care about Ron until sixth year, and even that was because I thought I had no other choice.”
“So…that famous ‘Golden Trio?’”
“I’d like to think of it as two separate Golden Duos. Or Golden Couples.”
Harry made a face. “Please don’t say that again.”
“Golden Couple… I’m a one witch, no wizard kind of guy.”
Hermione gave an unlady-like snort. “That’s good to know.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and put her head on his shoulder.
Harry immediately felt the difference. Hermione wasn’t tense at all. She was completely relaxed in his embrace. If anyone could compare the Hermione of a few hours ago and the Hermione of that very moment, one could say that she went through weeks of therapy, and got rid of all of her troubles.
Harry had finally found the symbol in the book and recognized, but he dropped the book to the ground in favor of holding Hermione. They both had to leave soon, they knew, so they enjoyed their last comfortable moment in Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
After ten minutes, they stepped out the front door with the invisibility cloak and turned on the spot, their lives and destinies changed forever.
And, I’m back. For the time being, anyway.
I was looking through some of my reviews and I swear, I sniffled a little. Thank you all for your kind reviews and comments. I have no immediate plans to stop writing, and I think I’m getting back into the groove. This chapter was supposed to be the halfway mark, but I figured this would be the best place to end it, and I didn’t want you guys to wait for another three years. I have a basic plan on what should happen for the rest of this tale, but I do not look forward to cross-referencing the book every now and then. Now, I can’t even read fanfictions that hint a Ron/Hermione relationship. But I knew the risk when I began writing this story. I honestly don’t have anything against Ron; it’s just that I love torturing him. It’s so fun! I also think he is the reason I’ve been in this 2 and a half year writer’s block. I honestly saw no plausible way out of this, and as a bonus, everything after this will definitely NOT be word-for-word of the original story, as some reviewers have put it.
As incentive for staying with writing, I decided to finally buy the domain of rihaansfics.com Thank you for reading from the source, it means a lot to me.