The next two days were full of activity as everyone worked to set up
the wedding area while keeping the garden gnomes at bay. Harry and Ron
discussed various topics, such as where Bill and Fleur were going on
their honeymoon, to the changes in Tonks’s hair now that she was seeing
a lot more of Lupin. Harry began to think that having a wedding was a
seriously complex affair and started to see Ron’s attraction to eloping.
the third day, Hermione showed up. Harry turned to see what the big
popping noise was he heard in the yard to discover Hermione standing
out by the reception tables. Ron dropped what he was doing and Hermione
made a beeline for him, jogging as she went. They met and hugged
tightly, obviously very glad to see each other. Hermione pulled back
but didn’t let go, and they stood there looking at each other for a few
moments, arms around each other. Ron leaned down as Hermione stretched
up, and their lips met as their eyes closed. Harry turned away as his
insides went in all directions. He knew Hermione would come looking for
him so he pretended he didn’t see anything, instead concentrating on
checking the reception crystal for spots, sending those that didn’t
pass back into the sink to be re-washed. He refused to let his distance
from Ginny affect him, and he wasn’t about to hint to Hermione that he
was failing at this miserably.
Sure enough, Hermione came in,
Ron in tow, and cried, “Harry!” as she spotted him. Harry turned around
and smiled as she approached. She pulled him into a friendly hug which
lingered for a moment before letting him go.
“How are you, Harry?” she said smiling, though he could hear the concern in her voice.
“I’m okay, keeping busy, you know…” Harry said nonchalantly.
Hermione scanned around before continuing. “Have you changed your mind at all about what you’re going to do after the wedding?”
Harry wasn’t expecting Hermione to bring up the subject so soon, or so suddenly. “No, I haven’t.”
Hermione nodded. “Can we talk about it soon? Ron and I have some thoughts we’d like to share with you.”
Harry let out the breath he was holding. She wasn’t going to press things right now, and he was glad. “Sure.”
Hermione nodded just as Harry heard footsteps on the stairs. “Hermione!”
“Ginny!” Hermione yelled as she went over and hugged Ginny with glee. “We need to talk!”
“Yes we do,” Ginny said as she started back towards stairs.
“What are you two on about?” Ron asked nervously.
looked at Ron just a little to slyly, and Ginny was grinning ear to
ear. “We’re planning Fleur’s hen party,” Hermione revealed.
Harry grimaced, and Ron rolled his eyes. Hermione and Ginny wasted no time disappearing upstairs.
“Women, honestly,” Ron sighed.
* * *
supper that night, Ron and Harry retired to the family room to play a
rousing game of Wizard Chess. After the fourth game (and the fourth
that Harry had lost in spectacular fashion), Hermione came downstairs
to join them.
“Ginny’s off to bed, so I thought this was a good time to talk,” she said.
nodded. “To be honest, I haven’t thought a lot about what I’m going to
do. After I got here, I really didn’t want to think about it.”
Ron nodded. “But you’re still going through with it, right?”
looked at Hermione, who looked back and nodded. “I’ve been talking to
Tonks, Harry. She escorted me home and watched over me occasionally
while I was there.”
Harry started. “You had an Auror escort?”
Hermione nodded. “Given my history with Draco, Moody thought it was important.”
Harry hung his head and looked at the chessboard so he wouldn’t have to look Hermione in the eye. “Yeah, I guess so.”
that’s not what’s important,” she continued as Harry set up his pieces
for another game. “Tonks said the governors are leaning towards keeping
Hogwarts open next year.”
Harry’s head shot up. “You’re joking.”
Hermione shook her head. “No, I’m not.”
Harry turned back to his chess pieces. “What’s your point?”
Dumbledore said You-Know-Who was obsessed with Hogwarts, right?” Ron
interjected. “We figured it would be as good a place to start
researching as any.”
Harry tossed this thought around in his
mind. “Dumbledore didn’t spend his time looking for the Horcruxes at
Hogwarts. He was always away looking for them, remember?”
“But he was only not there when he knew where one was, or when he knew who to talk to, right?” Hermione asked.
Harry thought about this but said nothing.
“Any research he did that he wrote down must be in his office,” Hermione continued, “as is his pensieve.”
was the most convincing argument so far. Harry was forced to admit that
the idea had merit. He let out a heavy sigh. “You’re absolutely right.
I still want to visit Godric’s Hollow, though. I haven’t changed my
mind about that.”
There was a silence then, broken only by the
sound of Ron and Harry preparing for another game of chess. Once they
were done, Harry made his move first.
“There’s something else,” Hermione said quietly. Ron winced.
Harry didn’t turn to face her. “What’s that?”
“You know what,” Hermione said.
Harry let out a sigh. “Look, I already told Ron. I’m happy you two finally got together, really!”
Hermione paused. “Then why are you so defensive about it?’ she asked.
Harry got out of his chair in a huff and sat down on the couch, turning away from Ron and Hermione.
“You’re not thick, Hermione, you bloody well know why.”
stood up and sat on the other end of the couch. Ron stood up, brought
his chair over and sat down in it next to Harry. Harry got the instinct
impression he was being set up.
“And you’re not thick, Harry, and you’re being stupid about it,” Hermione said firmly.
Harry was shocked at Hermione’s choice of words. He would have expected something like noble or valiant, but stupid?
“What are you getting at?” Harry asked.
“Look me in the eye and tell me exactly why you told her you couldn’t go out with her anymore,” Hermione commanded.
Harry’s anger flared as he turned on Hermione. Her face was set in a determined stare.
“Everyone I’ve ever cared for has become a target for Voldemort, and the ones I cared for most have… have ended up… dead…”
nearly broke down, but he wasn’t about to let Hermione have the
pleasure of knowing she was getting to him. Instead he focused all his
courage at staring Hermione down.
“You don’t seem too concerned about me and Ron coming with you, though,” Hermione rebutted.
had caught Harry in a loophole, and he knew it. He scrambled to
recover. “I care about you two, too! You are my best friends!”
“Then why aren’t you insisting on going alone?” Hermione asked.
Harry felt like he was fighting against quicksand. “Because I need help, and you volunteered!”
“And if Ginny volunteered…?”
“No!” Harry said quickly. “No, I can’t let her do that.”
“Why not?” Hermione demanded.
Harry was caught. “Because… I… She’s…”
“Why is Ginny different that me or Ron?” Hermione asked quickly.
“She just is, okay?” Harry blurted out suddenly. “My feelings for her are different. It’s…. it’s complicated…”
Harry turned back around to face the chess set trying desperately to collect his thoughts.
“Well Ron, that’s about as close to a confession as we’re going to get, I think,” Hermione said defeatedly.
Harry rounded on Hermione again. “What confession? What are you talking about?”
Hermione had a guarded, smug look on her face. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”
turned slowly away from her and stared into nowhere in particular. Was
he in love with Ginny? Is that why he was so protective of her? Is that
why he acted they way he did when he was around her this year? The
beast within him tore at his insides, and he fought the emotions that
wanted to break out.
Hermione stood up and sat down on her
knees in front of Harry. “Do you remember when Dumbledore told you that
the power you have that Voldemort doesn’t is that you can love?”
Harry didn’t look at her, but nodded.
“You need her, Harry.”
The beast roared, but Harry fought on.
Hermione turned his face with her hand to so she could look at him. “She needs you, too.”
“What do you mean?” Harry croaked, surprised at the weakness in his voice.
talked to her. The only thing keeping her going is her belief that you
will triumph in the end. I overheard her at the funeral. You know she
never gave up on you, and she’s not about to now.”
“So why doesn’t she tell me this?” Harry asked.
chuckled. “Well, part of it is that she’s as stubborn as the rest of
her family,” she explained. Harry smiled at this. “Mostly it’s because
she respects your decision. She wants to do anything and everything she
can to support you in your fight against Voldemort, and she’s not about
to go against your wishes, no matter what the sacrifice may be.”
words amazed Harry. Even in the few weeks they were together he had not
realized her feelings for him ran so deep. The obviousness of it hit
him like a freight train, and he barely succeeded in keeping his
emotions in check.
“Does… does she love me?” he asked, regretting the question as soon as he asked it.
“Yes, she does,” Hermione answered. “Very much.”
nearly lost it, but just barely managed to maintain control. He took
several deliberate breaths to calm himself down, then nodded.
“Like I said, Ginny won’t press you. You have to take the first step. Don’t push her away, Harry. Please,” Hermione pleaded.
Harry nodded. “I need some time to think. I need to be alone.”
Hermione nodded and gave him another hug. Ron patted him on the shoulder before he left, escorting Hermione up to Ginny’s room.