The days and weeks passed by and an icy chill from the north brought the first snow for the season, blanketing the grounds and castle in a thin layer of fluffy snow. Hermione and Harry were busy working on their homework in front of the fire in the common room. Ron, as usual was out with his girlfriend and Ginny was busy with her other friends. In fact, more often than not, it was now usually just Harry and Hermione
While Hermione still thought about the war, after her talk with Harry and the exhilarating broomstick ride, things had gotten easier. She hardly ever saw Ron anymore which definitely helped. He of all people reminded her of all that she had lost and all that had come to pass. In fact, Hermione was enjoying the time that she and Harry spent together, she was a lot less sad when she was around him and a smile or a laugh were never far from her lips.
“Finished” Harry exclaimed, closing his book and putting his quill down, “and it's only nine thirty. I'm getting good at this homework thing.”
Hermione smiled at that. It was quite true. Harry had taken a much more serious attitude to his studies this year, possibly due to the fact he could see himself becoming and auror, and he wasn't constantly worrying about being killed. “I'm done too”, Hermione said, putting down her quill and parchment, which was as usual about twenty inches longer than what was asked for. “So what do you want to do with the rest of the night?” Hermione asked.
“Actually, I'm quite happy just sitting here,” with you, he added under his breath. “What about you?”
“I'm happy just sitting here as well.”
“Are you going to Hogsmead tomorrow?” Harry asked, somewhat nervously. “I was thinking I might go down, if you are.” Going to Hogsmead now brought no where near the excitement that third year had brought, or the nervousness of that horrendous fifth year visit. But Harry wanted to go to Hogsmead tomorrow, and he wanted to go with Hermione, and only Hermione. Please say yes Harry thought, feeling his palms going slightly sweaty. He had wanted to ask Hermione for a few weeks now, but didn't know how to go about it without it sounding like a date, which was slightly ridiculous seeing as he had probably asked the same question to Hermione dozens of times. But with the trip the next day, he had no more time to procrastinate.
“Yeah, I am. I need to get some more quills. I'm glad you're going. I thought I was going to be going on my own” Hermione replied hiding the elation that was flowing through her. She had purposely not mentioned to Harry that she had wanted to go to Hogsmead. Deep down she wanted him to ask her to go, but as the trip became nearer she had given up hope. Typical Harry, she though, always leaving things to the day before the event.
“That's good” Harry said, “I don't really need anything, I just want to get out of the castle for a little bit.” Harry smiled at Hermione and she did the same. Harry loved it when Hermione smiled, her whole face lit up and her eyes sparkled with happiness. Then a puzzling thought occurred to Harry. “Didn't you bring about 10 quills this year?”
“Yeah, I did, but I've been writing a lot recently so I need some new ones,” Hermione replied somewhat sheepishly.
This further aroused Harry's curiosity. “Hermione, I know we have a little more homework this year, but unless you are writing your essays on sandpaper, you couldn't possibly go through 10 quills in the space of a couple of months. So what are you writing about?”
“Not much” Hermione said, which immediately sent Harry's eyebrows skyward in a look of incredulity, making Hermione chuckle. “Harry, I'm a girl. Its been a hard year with the war and Ron. I've been keeping a diary, and as with everything I do, I always write a lot more than is needed. Even if all I want to say is that there is nothing more to say, it ends up being about a foot long.”
“Oh” was all Harry could say. He was also relieved that he hadn't stumbled onto something that Hermione was trying to hide from him.
“Anyway, I'm off to bed.” Hermione stated as she gracefully rose from her couch, glided towards him and bent down to give him a hug. “I'll see you in the morning.”
“Night” Harry said as he watched her turn and head up to the dormitory. Get a grip, Harry told himself. But it was no use, his whole body was tingling from the warmth of Hermione's hug. Silently, and a lot less gracefully, Harry rose from his comfy chair by the fire and headed off to bed.
Slivers of sunlight touched Harry's silently sleeping frame, and slowly stirred him into life. Clumsily her reached for his glasses and after several failed attempts, he managed to find them and slide them onto his nose. He lay in a state of semi wakefulness for several moments and then with a start he sat bolt upright as he remembered that today was the day he would be going to Hogsmead with Hermione...alone.
It had taken Hermione ages to get to sleep and she had awoken at the first light of the sun. Excitement ran through her veins at the thought of spending a day out of school with Harry. She tried to sleep for a little longer but it was pointless. Hermione got out of bed, and began getting ready for her day out, taking a little more care today with her hair. She put on the outfit she had decided on last night while tossing sleeplessly in her bed, and glanced in the mirror. Happy with what she saw, Hermione went to the common room to wait for Harry.
Hermione's nerves raced as she saw Harry walk towards her, and she quickly took a deep breath to steady herself. 'So many girls are going to be envious of me today' Hermione thought as she admired Harry's gorgeous features. They went down to breakfast together and sat down beside Dean and Seamus. Ron was nowhere to be seen. In no time at all Hermione and Harry were walking through the brisk air down to Hogsmead, the thin layer of new snow crunching under their boots. The shops were crowded as usual but as they has been in them so many times already, the didn't feel the need to visit them again. The only shop they visited was the one for Hermione's quills.
Hermione found the quills she liked and counted herself out a bundle, feeling her face burn under the scrutiny of Harry who she knew was watching and counting the number of quills for himself.
“10 quills?” Harry asked in disbelief.
“Just to be safe” Hermione said blushing, as she went over to the counter to pay for her purchase.
With no other plans, Harry and Hermione wondered the streets of Hogsmead, both glad to be in each others company. A rumble from Harry's stomach reminded them of the hour.
“Would you like a butterbeer?” Harry asked Hermione who nodded in response. She could feel herself blush and it wasn't because of the cool air. 'Its just a butterbeer' she had to tell herself, 'stop being stupid!'
Harry opened the door of The Three Broomsticks and Hermione thanked him. She walked in a few steps and then stopped dead. Her eyes began to swim with tears, as in the corner of the room, holding hands and gazing sickeningly sweetly into each other eyes were Ron and that girl. In an instant all the pain come swirling back and Hermione fled the scene, just like she had done when she first saw Ron and that girl. The only difference this time, was that when she turned to flee, she bumped straight into Harry, who put a comforting arm around her and started leading her back to the castle.
Not a word was spoken, as they walked together through the snow, Harry's arm warm around Hermione's shoulder. 'Who's that girl?' Hermione thought to herself, 'who is she?'
Harry led Hermione to the the Room of Requirement which he transformed into a cozy room with a roaring fire surrounded by a couple of sofas. He called for Kreacher who immediately appeared. Harry told the house elf his request and he soon returned with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate and a plate of chocolate covered biscuits. Just what every girl needs when she is upset, copious amounts of chocolate. Harry sat Hermione down, placing her quills on the table and took a seat on the opposite sofa. Not a word was said. She just sat there, still and silent, gazing into the flickering flames.
The walk from Hogsmead seemed like a dream. All Hermione could remember was thinking to herself, who's that girl? The warmth of the fire was bringing her back to reality and she looked around not knowing quite where she was. She looked at Harry questioningly and he immediately understood.
“The Room of Requirement, I thought you would need somewhere warm and quiet.” Harry said responding to her confused eyes.
“Thank you Harry, and,” she paused and looked down at her hands, entwined in her lap, “I'm sorry.”
“Don't be.” Harry said with a warm comforting smile
“Who is she?” Hermione asked. She didn't really want to know the answer but she knew that it didn't matter how many times she wished it, she would never disappear.
“I don't know a lot” Harry began, “Ron has never said anything about her and I have never asked. I assume that if he wants to tell me about her he will. I don't see him a lot now though, he usually comes in after I've gone to bed and he is never very coherent in the mornings. She's a Ravenclaw, and I think she is in sixth year. I've seen her around in previous years but I don't think our paths have ever crossed.”
“Oh” Hermione replied sadly. “I thought that I was passed this. I thought I was alright, but then I guess I haven't seen them together since. Seeing them again just brought back a flood of emotions, pain, loneliness, despair, loss. I just don't understand how he can move on so quickly like nothing has happened at all while I stand alone and barely holding on.”
Hermione burst into tears again and sobbed hysterically into her hands. She felt the weight of the chair shift as Harry sat down next to her, put a comforting arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his chest. “You are never alone” Harry whispered into Hermione's ear, as she sat there sobbing, her tears soaking into Harry's shirt.
Time passed rather quickly as they sat there, neither of them saying a word, the crackling fire the only sound. The tears had long died away but Hermione was comfortable, lying in Harry's arms. She felt safe and secure, like the rest of the world no longer existed, it was only them, and nothing would hurt them again. Feeling hungry, Hermione whipped out her wand and whispered a spell which warmed up their mugs of hot chocolate and grabbed a chocolate biscuit from the table. Harry did the same.
“Thanks Harry for being here for me. I know I can be a mess at times.”
“Anytime Hermione. My shoulder is always available to cry on” Harry replied, bringing a smile back to Hermione's face. “Now, lets see what I put into this place”. Harry got up off the sofa and started rummaging through the various cupboards that were around the room, finding a variety of different games and books, both wizarding and muggle. Harry selected a variety of games he liked and set them onto the table. For the next few hours Hermione and Harry laughed as they enjoyed playing exploding snap, go fish and twister, while munching on the plate of chocolate biscuits.
The rumbling of their stomachs reminded them both of the time and they made their way down to dinner. Hermione felt so much better as she left the Room of Requirement but as soon as she saw Ron, sitting and chatting so nonchalantly at dinner everything came flooding back. She managed to keep a carefree visage on the outside, but inside the world that had been so carefully reconstructed over the past weeks, thanks mostly to the presence of Harry, crumbled once again into a heap of painful memories and broken dreams.