A/N: Standard disclaimer is present in chapter one. Don't sue me.
Again, thanks to Daily Prophet Reporting for shepherding this into existence, and for the grammar lessons.
Thanks to my fiancée, who gave me inspiration when I needed it.
all my gentle readers who read and enjoyed chapter one, this has a very
different tone. For those who look for only fluff, turn back now.
Remember that every relationship must be tested by fire, and Ron and
Hermione are no different. Unbreakable bonds are the ones forged with
Easter 1997, Sixth Year
Harry and Ron waved as
they watched the Express pull out of Hogsmeade Station. The Easter
holidays had begun, and the times being what they were, most students
had gone home to be with family. Hogwarts would be nearly empty.
Hermione was going home to see her parents, and Ginny was going back to
the Burrow as well. Ron had decided to stay and keep Harry company.
Harry never went home on holidays and Dumbledore didn't want him to
leave anyway. Harry and Ron were pretty sure they would be the only
denizens of Gryffindor Tower.
Ron watched the train until it
had disappeared beyond the bend. He'd been officially "going with"
Hermione for a while now, but Harry could sense that they were on the
edge of acknowledging something big between them. It would be shifting
from knowing they enjoyed each other's company and had fun together to
knowing that they would be with each other forever – to knowing they
were soul mates.
"She'll be all right, mate," Harry prodded,
wanting to get back to the castle and seeing Ron's distant face as he
stared down the tracks at the now invisible train. "She knows how to
take care of herself."
"I know," Ron sighed, turning and
starting to walk with Harry back to the castle. "I just worry.
With…everything…you know?" Ron waved his hand around them
indiscriminately, signifying nothing and everything all at the same
time. Harry nodded. He did know. Death Eater attacks had been rising in
number. Several Muggle-born students – though none they knew personally
– had been threatened and one had withdrawn from Hogwarts when his
parents decided to disengage from the magical world completely. Another
Muggle-born student's parents had been killed only a few weeks ago. As
frequently as Harry was awake with his nightmares, he knew that Ron
slept very little these days.
"I know," Harry said. "Why don't you come kick my arse at chess for a while, get your mind off it?"
-- -- -- --
watched the boys disappear as the train rounded the bend and she
dropped her hand from the window. She turned to look at Ginny.
be all right, Hermione," Ginny promised her. "Harry will look after
Ron; Ron will look after Harry. They'll both keep an eye on
Crookshanks, and Dumbledore will keep them from doing anything stupid.
They're safer at Hogwarts than anywhere else."
Hermione sighed. "I know. I'll miss them though."
"It's only for a couple days, and your parents will be glad to see you. And besides, don't you mean you'll miss my brother?" Ginny giggled.
Hermione blushed. "Yeah, I suppose you're right."
"Do you love him?" Ginny asked suddenly.
Hermione paused. "I…I think so."
Ginny looked at her carefully. "You think?"
"No…I know. I know I love him." She froze. Was that her voice that just said that? Saying it out loud somehow made it very real. "Oh Merlin, I love him! Ginny, I'm in love with him!"
Ginny looked smug. "I knew it!"
"Yes…but now what?" Hermione asked. I'm in love with Ron. I love Ron. Does he love me? Have I always loved Ron?
"You should tell him," Ginny announced.
"How?" Ron, I love you, and I think we're perfect for each other…? Yeah, that'll send him running for the hills.
Ginny hesitated. "I don't really know. I mean, I'm almost positive he loves you too."
"You think so?" Hermione asked. Please let her be right.
"I'm pretty sure. It's like…well, this is going to sound silly, but he sounds like dad when he thinks no one is listening."
you know, you've probably walked in on your parents being sappy or
snogging or whatever. Ron talking to you sounds like dad does when he
talks to mum."
"Oh." Was that a compliment? I'm confused.
"See? You understand then."
No, I don't. "We've only been seeing each other since the beginning of the year? Isn't it a little early for love?"
"Oh, you've loved each other for years. You're just now coming to accept it."
"You think so?" Please be right, Hermione begged. Please be right.
"I know so."
-- -- -- --
the Express arrived at King's Cross, Hermione said goodbye to Ginny and
Mrs. Weasley and caught a cab across London to Kensington, where she
got on a Muggle train. Her parents were at work and had promised to
meet her at the station in Cambridge. That was one of the reasons she
had decided to travel light, leaving her trunk and Crookshanks back at
Hogwarts. She had a few things in a knapsack under her seat. Her wand
was tucked in her belt and concealed by an overly large jumper she'd
nicked from Ron. And she had something else with her. She fingered the
small box in her pocket and remembered her talk with Professor
McGonagall as the scenery went by.
"As you are aware, Miss
Granger, these are difficult times. Given your circumstances, the
headmaster has asked me to provide you with this." The deputy
headmistress had handed her a small box. She opened it and found a
small compact mirror. "It is an emergency Portkey. We've started to
provide them to Muggle-born students to use in the event of an
emergency. We're also working on something for Muggle parents as well."
train had halted at the Cambridge station, and Hermione saw her parents
through the window. Banishing thoughts of her troubles, she smiled and
got off to meet them.
-- -- -- --
Ron and Harry were
playing their fifth game of chess. Harry was losing again when Ron
suddenly stood up and started pacing the floor.
"Relax, Ron," Harry said without looking up from the board. "She's fine."
"I know, Harry, I know…. I just…" He paused. "Have you ever loved someone?"
was about to tell him that he loved all his friends when he realized
that wasn't what Ron meant. "No," he replied. "I've never had the
chance. Certainly not in the way you're talking about."
can't believe I'm talking about it," Ron said, collapsing into a chair.
"I can't stop thinking about her. And not just in a silly, girlfriend
kind of way. I worry about her safety. I see her in dreams – dreams of
a future together: married, with children. It's scary, Harry. I can't
even imagine life without her anymore."
Harry, whose eyebrows
were somewhere around his hair line, looked at his mate over the top of
his glasses. "You should tell her."
"I know. I just wish I knew how."
"You'll figure it out."
The fire crackled on.
-- -- -- --
was lying across her bed scribbling in her diary about her day and her
conversation with Ginny. Her mother and father were cleaning up from a
long family dinner where they had sat for several hours, catching each
other up on their worlds. She was happy and contented. Almost, she thought. She missed Ron.
Suddenly, there was a crash from downstairs. It sounded as if the door had been kicked in.
"What is the meaning of this?" her father roared. Her mother screamed. Hermione seized her wand and was stepping toward the door when her blood froze.
"There will be no more Mudbloods," she heard. The voice was Lucius Malfoy's. "Avada Kedavra."
"NO!" Hermione shrieked.
RUN!" her mother's voice rang out. She was frozen. Part of her wanted
to charge the Death Eaters and save her mother, but the other part of
her knew it was already too late.
"Don't let here get away!"
Malfoy's voice bellowed, and there were heavy footsteps on the stairs.
She grabbed her diary and lunged at the box on her dresser. Her bedroom
door burst open just as she tore open the box and reached in. She felt
a familiar, nauseating tug at her naval and the world spun. She was
-- -- -- --
Ron had retuned to the game of chess and was idly petting Crookshanks, who had taken up residence on his lap.
"Still can't believe she trusted you to take care of him," Harry muttered, moving a pawn.
probably figured you'd keep an eye on me," he said. Suddenly the cat
jumped up out of Ron's lap and across the chessboard, scattering the
pieces everywhere. "Hey!" Ron called out. Crookshanks was standing by
the portrait hole, making mewing sounds at the door and occasionally
looking back at Ron and Harry, as if he expected them to follow him.
cat," Ron muttered. Harry shook his head as if to clear it, but a small
nagging at the back of his mind wouldn't let go of the cat's behavior.
He turned back to the chessboard, where the pieces were helpfully
reminding him and Ron where they had been standing.
-- -- -- --
found herself on the floor in Professor McGonagall's classroom, just
outside the deputy headmistress' office door. For a split second of
disorientation, she couldn't remember where she was, or what had
And then she did.
She couldn't stop herself. Mum…dad…she
began to sob and tears began to flow. Professor McGonagall appeared in
a tartan dressing gown, investigating the disturbance.
"Miss Granger?" She was shocked to see the girl on her classroom floor.
"Professor!" Hermione sobbed. "My parents…Lucius Malfoy…" She couldn't form words.
"Oh Merlin…" McGonagall knelt down and gathered Hermione into an embrace.
came in…. I heard Malfoy…the Killing Curse…. My mother told me to
run…." She was sobbing uncontrollably. McGonagall got her to stand up
and set her in her desk chair.
"Hermione, I need to fetch the headmaster."
She left Hermione, stepped over to the fireplace, and tossed powder in.
"Albus! Albus, my office immediately," she called out.
moment later, Dumbledore appeared in the fireplace. It only took a look
at Hermione to know what had happened. He knelt down beside the chair
and gave her a hug. "You poor child. You poor, dear child." He patted
her on the back as she sobbed into his shoulder. "Minerva, I believe
there are two gentlemen in Gryffindor Tower…"
McGonagall nodded and left.
-- -- -- --
Crookshanks was wailing now, and both Ron and Harry were giving each other uneasy looks across the chessboard.
"Harry," Ron began, but was interrupted.
The portrait hole opened and Crookshanks bolted out. McGonagall entered and Ron and Harry jumped to their feet.
"Where is she?" Ron asked. He was pale.
"How did you…?" McGonagall was astounded.
"Crookshanks, Professor. He's been moaning for the last ten minutes," Harry answered.
"Where is she? Is she okay?" Ron demanded.
"Ron, calm down," Harry ordered.
been an attack, boys. Hermione is all right, but her parents…" She
trailed off, unsure how to go on. Ron felt hollow in his stomach.
was it?" Harry demanded. His green eyes had taken on the coldness of a
bitter winter as he stared at McGonagall. His hand was clutched around
his wand. His voice was glacially calm.
"We're not sure," McGonagall began.
"Who. Was. It?" Harry demanded slowly.
Potter, put your wand away. Even if I could tell you, there will be no
missions of vengeance tonight. Miss Granger needs you here."
"Where is she?" Ron snapped again.
"In my office." They were gone before she could turn around.
-- -- -- --
was still crying when Crookshanks leaped into her lap, pushing his head
up against her chin. She felt like she could cry forever. Dumbledore
was speaking to her softly but she didn't hear. And with a rush of
thudding feet, she felt familiar arms wrap around her.
"Oh Ron! Harry!" she sobbed.
"Shhh," Ron whispered in her ear. "I've got you…. We're here now."
"Hermione, I'm so sorry." Harry touched her shoulder.
gone…Ron, they're gone. I heard the Killing Curse from upstairs," she
sobbed. "They came for me. Malfoy told them not to let me get away."
Harry jerked upright.
"Malfoy?" His voice was very soft.
She nodded, burrowing her head against Ron's chest. Harry drew his wand and was preparing to Accio his broom when Dumbledore put a hand on his shoulder.
is not the time, Harry," Dumbledore spoke so only Harry could hear.
"There will be a time when all debts are paid: for the Grangers, for
Sirius, for your parents. Right now, Hermione needs a friend, not an
Angel of Vengeance." Harry lowered his wand. "You will want to blame
yourself, but don't Harry. Hermione would have been a target even if
you went to Durmstang. She was at risk simply by being Muggle-born."
Harry closed his eyes and nodded slowly.
she will need you, Harry. The comfort you can give will be different
from the comfort Ron can give, but no less important. Yours will be the
comfort of experience."
Harry nodded again.
"Harry?" Hermione called to him, and he rushed over and touched her hand.
"I'm here, Hermione."
"Don't go doing anything stupid," she ordered. "You and Ron are all I've got left," she sobbed, "all I've got left."
forget you have all of us, Hermione," McGonagall spoke quietly. "You
have all of us too." Ron looked up in surprise at the Professor, who
looked dangerously close to tears herself.
his wand, and McGonagall's desk moved silently away and the desk chair
became a couch. Ron continued to hold on to Hermione as he pushed her
over and seated himself on one side of her, while Harry sat down on the
other side, rubbing her back softly.
"Minerva, please go wake Poppy. We'll need a Draught of Dreamless Sleep."
She nodded, sniffing a little and surreptitiously wiping her eyes.
and Ginny Weasley came into the room, although Harry couldn't remember
anyone being told to go get them. Ginny looked as if she'd been crying
too, and she sat down next to Harry. If Ron was fazed at all by his
mother seeing him with Hermione's head buried in his chest, he didn't
show it. Molly touched Hermione's hair and murmured at her. "She should
get some rest, Albus," Molly said.
"I've sent Minerva to wake Poppy." Molly nodded.
continued to sob. Every so often she'd hiccup once or twice and Harry
thought she'd stop, but she continued. Harry put himself in her place
and realized if the roles were reversed, he probably couldn't have
McGonagall walked in with a cup with a wisp of steam rising from it.
"Hermione, you should drink this," she said, holding out the cup.
"C'mon honey," Ron said softly. "You need some rest." I can't imagine what she's going through right now. How am I ever going to fix this? I can't. Ron had never felt so helpless in his life.
She shook her head and clung tightly to him.
"Hermione, please? For me?" Ron pleaded softly. I can't even get her to drink Sleeping Potion.
"Promise you won't leave me," she sobbed. "Don't let go Ron. You…you're all that's left. I love you. Don't leave me."
And just where would I go? Without her, I'm nothing. Ron tilted her head up. "I'm not going anywhere, love. But you need to sleep."
"Don't leave me Ron," she begged.
won't leave you, Hermione. I love you too. We all love you. Harry,
Ginny, my mum and dad – we all love you. I love you. I won't leave you,
I promise. Now you need to take this, please? I love you." I'm
going to spend the rest of my life trying to make this woman happy
again, and I will, even if it takes me the rest of my life, Ron promised himself.
kissed her forehead and gently eased her up to a sitting position so
she could drink. He took the cup from McGonagall and handed it to her.
"We're here for you Hermione," Harry said as she looked at him through her tears.
"Yeah," Ginny agreed.
sniffed. "The brother and sister I never had…you guys are wonderful."
She drank down the cup and handed it back to Ron, who passed it back to
McGonagall. Then she looked deeply into his eyes. "Don't ever leave me
Ron. Please don't let go." She rested her head back on his chest and
clung to his robes, clutched in both fists.
Ron looked at his mother, Dumbledore and McGonagall. Try and make me leave.
"I won't," he soothed. "I'll be right here when you wake up." He
stroked her hair. She hiccupped a few times and gave a few more quiet
sobs before her breathing evened out.
"I think she's
asleep," Ron whispered. He continued to stroke her hair while Harry
rubbed her back. Ginny was rubbing Harry's shoulders as she quietly
sobbed. Harry's eyes stung with tears.
"What should we do now?" Harry asked.
"I'm not leaving her, I promised," Ron said, half looking at his mother and his teachers, half expecting an argument.
I wouldn't ask you to, Ron," Dumbledore said. "Miss Granger is going to
need you all. Class is no longer in session; you're welcome to stay
here for now. When she awakes, you can take her up to the Gryffindor
common room. Molly, I'm going to need your help. There are arrangements
that need to be made. Minerva, I'll need your help as well."
stood up suddenly and went to stand in front of Dumbledore, his green
eyes boring in on him. "We agreed to no more secrets."
"Yes, Harry, we did. What is it you'd like to know?" Dumbledore asked.
holding up my end of the bargain," he spat. "If Draco Malfoy sets foot
in this castle again, he won't walk back out." And he stormed out of
the room. Molly and Minerva gasped, and Molly made to go after him.
him go, Molly," Dumbledore said, putting a hand on her arm. "He's
entitled to be angry. He's just found an available target for his rage,
not only for the Grangers, but for Sirius and his own parents. I'll
speak to him later, when he's had some time. But come, there is much to
Ron and Ginny found themselves alone with the sleeping Hermione.
"Ron, are you doing okay?"
have to be strong for her, Ginny. Inside, I feel awful. I feel sick. I
feel angry, like Harry. But I have to be strong for her." I would kill to make her happy again, but that will come later. Lucius Malfoy will pay. Maybe not right away, but he will pay. Harry and I will make sure of that.
Ginny smiled in spite of herself. "You're growing up Ron. And you really love her, don't you?"
he admitted. "I'd give anything to fix this. But I can't." Ron shook
his head. If someone had told him first year that he would fall in love
with Hermione Granger, and want to build his whole world around her, he
would have tried to have him committed to St. Mungo's. But that's
exactly what he wanted to do. And it was eating him alive that he
couldn't help her right now.
"I know. I can't imagine losing mum and dad," Ginny said. "I don't know how to help her."
"There's one person who can," Ron pointed out. "She's going to need him, whether he likes it or not." Harry needs to learn some patience, Ron thought. That's
why he's so bad a chess. He can't wait for things to develop slowly.
The difference between Harry and I is that he wants Malfoy to suffer
right now, whereas I know he will, and can satisfy myself with that for
now. It's only a matter of time, and we've got plenty.
"I know," Ginny sighed. "I'm going after him. Maybe I can talk some sense into him."
"Good luck," Ron snorted.
got up quietly and left Ron stroking Hermione's hair. She went to the
Gryffindor common room. Harry wasn't there, and her anger with his
behavior began to rise, so she stomped up the stairs to the boys'
dormitory. Harry wasn't there either. She saw that his trunk had been
opened and did a quick inventory. The cloak was gone. She humphed.
"Accio Marauder's Map!" The map flew out from under Harry's bed.
"Idiot…if you're going to go hide, why leave this behind?" she
She laid her hand on it. "I solemnly swear I am up
to no good." The map formed, and she saw he was on the roof of the east
wing. She was temporarily stumped, as she had no idea of how to get up
there. She spied Harry's broom leaning against the wall next to the
bed. She opened the window and mounted the broom, kicking off and
heading in his direction. She touched down on the roof a few moments
"I know you're out here Harry Potter! If you wanted to
hide effectively, you should have taken the map with you! Now come out
where I can see you!"
Nothing. Ginny pulled the map out again.
He wasn't far. She was walking in his direction when she stopped. She
could hear him…crying?
"Harry?" she said timidly. "Harry?"
there was a shimmer and he appeared, dangling his legs over the edge of
the castle roof and sniffing. She sat down next to him.
"Sure, they send one of the two people I can't hide from. And you're right, I should have brought the map with me."
"One of two? Who else?"
"Dumbledore can see through the cloak."
"Oh. Why me then?"
"I don't know," Harry confessed. "But I can't hide from you."
Harry sniffed once more. "I must have made a complete prat of myself back there."
She was stunned; she had expected to have to beat it into him.
"Don't say it. I know I was. I'm just so…so…angry, dammit!"
he swore loudly. He jumped to his feet and shook his fist at the moon.
"It's not fair, damn you! It's not fair!" He kicked a stone off the
roof and watched it fall. "Dammit, who else's parents!? Who's next,
huh? First my parents, and then Sirius and now this? Who's next? I've
had enough for one life, thanks, so screw you!"
Ginny put her
hands to her mouth and gave a little squeak. Harry spun, as if
realizing she was there for the first time. He turned bright red and
dropped his hand, and his fingers slowly uncurled. "Uh…I'm sorry,
Ginny. I forgot you were there." Harry hung his head.
"It's okay," she said. "I've heard worse from my brothers, on occasion. I just never pictured you saying those kind of things."
"Ruined your mental image of me, huh?"
"Do you feel better?"
"What?" Harry furrowed his brow at the non sequitur.
"Did that make you feel any better?"
shook his head. "I'm not sure. I don't quite feel like I want to rip
someone's head off anymore, but I'm still angry. I just can't get
over…seeing her…like that. Hermione…she deserves better…and I know it's
not my fault…but…but…it's just not fair."
"I know, Harry. But she's going to need us to help her get through this."
it's not helping to have me storming around, threatening to kill people
and making her think that I'm going to end up in Azkaban, far away from
her, when she needs me close by."
"You're getting it. I'm impressed," Ginny said. Harry snorted.
just not fair. We should be able to have normal childhoods. Hermione
should have her parents, you and Ron shouldn't have to worry about your
mum and dad every night. I should have Sirius and my mum and dad, and I
shouldn't have to worry about killing Voldemort before he kills me!"
Harry was agitated again.
"Wait, what?" Ginny was confused.
"What?" Harry looked at her, and then paused as if replying the conversation in his head. "Oh…" Harry sat down.
"Harry, what did you mean by that?"
"It's very simple Ginny. You remember the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries?"
"Yes, I thought it was destroyed."
"No, a recording of the prophecy was destroyed. The person who the prophecy was given to can still remember it and share it."
"Dumbledore." Ginny put it together.
"Right in one. Professor Trelawney gave it."
probably only had two real prophecies in her life. But anyway, this one
said the one who can defeat the Dark Lord would be born as the seventh
month dies, and that the Dark Lord would mark him as an equal. And
neither can live while the other survives." Ginny was shocked. "Yep,
Gin, it's either him or me," he snorted bitterly. "I ought to just send
him a message, and we can face off on the main street of Hogsmeade at
high noon, like in those American Muggle movies. 'This town ain't big
enough for the both of us,'" Harry parroted.
"Did you tell Ron and Hermione?"
should, but I never found a good time. As if this is a good time to
tell you. My big mouth just got ahead of me. I'm a stupid git like
that. But now that you know I've either got to murder him or be
"It wouldn't be murder, Harry. It would be justice," she pointed out.
"I still have to kill him. And the killing will go on," he said flippantly.
"If you don't kill him, he'll kill more people like Hermione's parents!" she yelled at him.
stared at her, then turned away. "I deserved that," he muttered. There
was a long silence. "I'm sorry Ginny. I shouldn't have told you all of
that. I'm just not dealing with it well. And this…well, I'm a disaster.
I'm alternating between bawling at the unfairness of it all and such
burning anger and hatred that I want to make up curses worse than the
Unforgivables to use on the Malfoys." Harry shuddered. "I want to give
them pain – bone-crushing, life-draining, emotional pain."
Ginny didn't know what to say.
"I think that's a perfectly natural reaction, Harry."
Ginny jumped. Harry didn't move.
"How long have you been there?" Harry asked Dumbledore without turning around.
Ginny was aghast to find the headmaster standing behind them. "Long enough," Dumbledore said. "Lemon drop, Ginny?"
She hesitantly took one from the headmaster.
"Harry, we all deal with our grief in different ways," Dumbledore pointed out. "Your reaction, though, is quite typical."
"For once, I'm normal," Harry said wryly.
of you to stay on the bright side, Harry. Unfortunately, we all must
find ways of dealing with that anger. Your little tirade earlier was a
good start. But you must find constructive outlets. I would venture to
suggest that perhaps a bat and a Bludger? A good hour or so of that
might burn some of the anger out of your veins."
"As for Mr.
Malfoy," Dumbledore sighed, "I had hoped that Lucius might come to his
senses after his stint in Azkaban, however brief, and come seeking
asylum. Now I know that is not the case. Miss Granger's testimony alone
will be enough to sentence him to the Kiss, if in fact we ever regain
control of the Dementors. I've told Kingsley Shacklebolt to have the
Ministry place Narcissa and Draco Malfoy in 'protective custody' at the
Ministry, if they can be found. I highly doubt that young Mr. Malfoy
will return to Hogwarts, under the circumstances.
does return, however, Harry, he will be treated no differently than he
has before. You understand why this must be, Harry. A son cannot be
held accountable for the father's actions. And believe me when I tell
you that I understand how much that would pain you and the others. I
imagine there would be many a student out for blood after this latest
outrage, to say nothing of the ones with red hair. Unfortunately, or
fortunately, depending on your point of view, I don't believe that
Draco will be returning."
control of our anger is something we all do once in a while, Harry. But
right now, none of us have the luxury of doing so. You know that you'll
need to be there for Hermione. Ron can't do it alone, and you do have a
certain perspective on matters that she might find enlightening."
Harry nodded again. "I know. But it must be so much harder for her. At least I never knew any different."
one sense, you are correct, but I think you'll find Hermione will tell
you that she would rather have it this way than not know her parents at
all. One day of something beautiful is better than no days at all."
Harry nodded again.
should both get some rest," Dumbledore said gently. "The next few days
will be very busy. Professor McGonagall will be taking Hermione
tomorrow to have arrangements made for her parents. You will be allowed
to attend the funeral, although in your case, Harry, that had to be
forced upon Moody, who doesn't think you should even leave the castle."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Please, return to your dormitories. Tomorrow
will come soon enough. You'll find that there is a vial of Poppy's
Sleeping Potion for each of you in the common room, should you have
need for it."
"Thank you Headmaster."
"Thank you," Ginny said. Ginny picked up Harry's Firebolt and handed him the Map.
closed up the map and put it in his pocket. They walked in silence back
to the dormitory. As Dumbledore had promised, there were vials for each
of them on the table.
"Thank you Ginny. You helped a lot this evening," Harry said, surprising her.
"I don't know what I did," she said honestly.
listened. You did more than you know. And I promise, sometime soon,
after the funeral and after I give Hermione some time, I'll tell them
about the prophecy. I won't make you carry that alone."
"It's okay Harry. But you're right, they should know."
Harry nodded. "Goodnight Ginny."
Harry and Ginny walked up to their dormitories, swallowed their potions, and collapsed into bed.
-- -- -- --
brought a plate of food into the Gryffindor common room. He was
welcomed by the sound of quiet sobbing from the corner by the
fireplace. The others in the room spared him a sympathetic glance. The
rest of the school had begun returning that morning for the resumption
of classes the next day. Not that he'd be going.
gotten up Saturday morning and attempted to act as if nothing had
happened. In many ways, for Ron and Harry, it was a flashback to third
year, when she had been on the brink of loosing it before dropping
Divination. After returning with McGonagall Saturday evening, she'd
lost control again and fallen asleep crying. On Easter Sunday, the
process repeated itself. She'd started the day calmly enough, but by
midday the calm projection began to break down. She snapped at Ron, who
just let it roll of his shoulder and didn't say a word. That, of
course, had caused Hermione to snap when she realized what she had
done. And she hadn't stopped again that day. It was now Monday, and her
parents' funeral was the next day. In the morning, she'd gone to the
library to study, and Ron had let her go. He'd gone to check on her
around lunch time and found her huddled in the stacks, a letter from
her parents clutched in her hands. It had fallen out of one her
textbooks and set her off.
Ron had gotten her to come back
up the common room and was holding her on the couch. Harry had gone
down to get some food, and then he would trade with Ron so he could
eat, too, and get some time to himself, to sort through his own
emotions. While he was here, he needed to be strong. But he needed to
let go, too. Dumbledore had cast a Silencing Charm over the roof of the
East Wing and had given Harry and Ron permission to go there to vent
their anger. Harry had spent most of yesterday afternoon out there,
screaming, crying, breaking old pottery, and beating a Bludger that had
been charmed to keep coming back at him.
"Hey," Harry said softly, touching Ron on the shoulder.
"I brought up some food," Harry said, setting the plate on the table. Ron nodded.
"Honey, I've got to go for a minute, okay? Harry's going to sit with you. I'll be back."
nodded, still sobbing quietly. Ron stood, and Harry took his place,
putting his arm around Hermione. She put her head on his shoulder.
tried to be strong for her, but he was terrified. He didn't cope with
grief well. The last time he was here, he'd just sat with her. Ginny
had encouraged him to try and talk with her.
"How are you
doing?" Harry asked. Hermione just continued to sob. "That was stupid,"
Harry said. "I mean, if I were you, I wouldn't stop crying either, I
suppose. I…" Harry was aware he was rambling.
"How do you do it?"
Harry gave a little start. "Do what?" Harry asked.
"Live without them?"
parents?" Harry paused, and Hermione looked at him expectantly through
watery, red eyes. "I guess, I mean, I don't remember any different. I
mean, I miss them, but it's more like…a dull ache of unrealized
possibilities." He hesitated. "I guess the closest comparison I can
make is losing Sirius. That hurt, a lot." He pursed his lips. "I was
angry. Angry with the world, with myself." He closed his eyes. "I
destroyed Dumbledore's office."
"You what?" Hermione was so shocked she stopped crying.
was so angry about everything I started smashing things in his office.
I wanted to know why. Why all this has happened to me."
"What did he say?" she asked.
Harry swallowed. He didn't want to bring this up now.
told me some stuff. It's not important." Harry waved it away. "What I
was trying to say was that I didn't know how to deal with how I was
feeling. My problem was I bottled up all my grief. I didn't really
grieve until I got to the Burrow this summer, but before that it ate at
me, burning me up inside. At least you're doing it the right way. You
know enough not to keep it bottled up. And at least you realize we're
here for you. I wanted to push you all away. That was just stupid. This
is hard for you now, but we'll help you through it."
Hermione nodded, sighing and sniffing a little.
"We're both a lot alike, Hermione," Harry pointed out.
"How do you mean?" she asked.
we both grew up as Muggles. We're both pretty bright, although you're
smarter than me. Between you, me, and Ron, we have the distinction of
gaining and losing the most points for Gryffindor. We're both only
children." He looked at her. "We both love Ron." Hermione nodded. "And
we're both orphans now," he sighed. "I've never had a sibling, though I
always wanted one. I guess what I wanted to say is that, since neither
of us have any family left, maybe we could be family to each other.
Brother and sister."
Hermione looked at him, blinking her
watery eyes. "Harry, that's quite possibly the nicest thing you've ever
said to me," she admitted. "I'd love to be your sister Harry." She
smiled for the first time in days.
"I wish there was a way
to make it official, but I don't think there is. Just know that I love
you and Ron like a sister and a brother, but if he ever hurts you, I'll
hex him into next week."
Hermione might have even chuckled. "You're so sweet, Harry. You're a great brother."
"It's not going to get any easier, Hermione," Harry sighed, after a pause. "But we're here for you."
"I know Harry." She sniffed a little again. "I know."
was a long silence while Hermione sniffled and they stared at the fire.
"I only realized Friday how desperately in love I am with Ron."
Harry looked at her in surprise. "Friday was the first time he
mentioned it too. I think I've known for a while, but that was the
first time I'd heard either of you admit to it."
"What did he say?" Hermione asked, curious.
said he couldn't imagine life without you anymore. You have no idea how
worried he was when you left. And then when McGonagall came
up…Hermione, if anything had happened to you, I think it would have
Hermione nodded. "I know. I'd feel the same way
if something happened to him. It's like he is a part of me now, an
extension of my being, and I'm not complete without him. I'd sooner
live without my arm or my leg. Do you know what I mean?"
"No," Harry said, shrugging, "I really don't. But maybe I will someday."
sorry, Harry," she said, brushing his arm. "What did Dumbledore say,
anyway? Why is this happening to you?" she asked. "I did notice you
dodged that question."
"I'm not sure this is the time to get into that, Hermione." Harry looked down at his feet.
"Why? Why are you keeping this from me, us? Who else knows?"
"Ginny, but only because I let my mouth run away with me. I was waiting to find the right time to tell you."
if it's that bad, there's never going to be a good time. Why not now? I
could use a distraction, and maybe I can work on thinking a way out of
whatever bad thing you think is going to happen to you."
snorted. "I doubt that, but if you insist. I'm not going to tell this
story more than once more if I don't have to. So why don't we go find
"Find me for what?" Ron said, coming up behind them. Harry looked up at him.
"I thought you were going out?"
"It's raining," Ron pointed out. "I take it you didn't notice."
Harry shook his head. "No, sorry. I guess I didn't."
"So what is it you need to tell me?" Ron asked, settling himself on the couch. Hermione reached out her hand and took Ron's.
took a deep breath. "Well, it's like this…" he began. When he finished
telling them, they were staring at him, eyes wide. "And that's why I
can't escape. He isn't going to just leave me alone. And now you know.
I could hope that this would mean you'd go away and not be close to me
anymore so you'd be safer, but it's probably too late for that. You
won't, I'm sure. Selfishly, that makes me happy. But if you want to
leave, I won't complain."
"Harry, we're never going to leave you. We'll stand by you," Ron said.
we're family," Hermione pointed out. "We'll be here for you, just like
you've been here for me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. How
much I appreciate it from all of you."
"Hey, what's going on? How are you doing Hermione?" Ginny asked, rubbing her eyes and coming down from the girls' dormitory.
"Harry was just telling us about the prophecy. He told me you already knew," Hermione said.
"Yeah," Ginny said. "What made you decide to tell them?" she asked Harry.
"It kind of came up." Harry shrugged. "I couldn't really put it off any more."
thank you for sitting with me last night," Hermione said. "Come sit
with us." Hermione scooted over next to Ron and patted the couch
between her and Harry. Ginny came around and sat, sighing and setting
her head on Harry's shoulder. The four of them sat on the couch and
Hermione sniffled a little. "You guys are all coming tomorrow…right?"
"We'll be there for you, Hermione." And they sat on the couch and watched the fire burn down.
-- -- -- --
wind was cold in the cemetery as they stood by Hermione, who clung to
Ron for support. The service had just ended, and Hermione's relatives
were talking among themselves. Hermione's aunt and uncle had stepped
forward to serve as Hermione's guardians after a long talk with
Professor McGonagall. Their part was carefully concealed, so as to put
them in as little danger as possible. With the summer holidays fast
approaching, it was decided it would be best for Hermione to stay for
the summer at Grimmauld Place, where she would be safer. Her aunt and
uncle seemed to understand this. They clearly loved Hermione deeply,
but they understood that they couldn't give her the protections she
needed. They also seemed to understand that Hermione was no longer a
part of their world.
Hermione had finally stopped crying again
and was now only sniffing occasionally. She was dressed in a black
dress with a veil. Professor McGonagall had Transfigured Ron, Harry and
Ginny's wizarding mourning robes into appropriate Muggle dress. Ron
kept pulling at his tie, but Harry kept shooting him glances to leave
it alone. They were the only students allowed to attend, despite
requests from Lavender, Parvati, and Neville. Arthur and Molly had
come, along with the twins. Harry had been watching, and he was pretty
sure Mundungus was dressed as a groundskeeper, always floating around
just at the periphery of the graveside ceremony. He wasn't sure he
recognized anyone else, but he had a suspicion one of the limo drivers
was actually Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Hermione, c'mon. We need to get back to school," Ron said gently.
a minute Ron." She laid a hand on each of the caskets in turn. "I love
you mum, dad. I'm going to miss you." She sniffed once more, and then
turned away. "Let's go." She clung tightly to Ron, head on his
shoulder, as they walked away, hands twined tightly together. Nothing
would ever be the same again, Harry thought as he watched them walk
away. Ron leaned down and lightly kissed the top of Hermione's head. Then again, sometimes that's not a bad thing. He drew his overcoat around him tightly against the bitter wind and followed.