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Chapter 4 : Unexpected Arrivals
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Harry felt his hands begin to tremble. Hermione was the person he was most anxious to see. Hearing her yell “Are you mad?” at Ginny made his stomach turn. He thought about how her eyes would light up when she saw him, how she would break down in tears of happiness, and how she would probably suffocate him. At least, that’s what he expected from what the Weasleys described. He would’ve been happy with a handshake and a smile.
Ron and Fred were bobbing up and down on their heels impatiently in front of him. For a brief moment, Harry could see Hermione between their shoulders. Her arms were crossed and her eyebrows were knitted together in what looked like annoyance, but Harry still got a stupid grin on his face. Then Fred and Ron parted and her face completely dropped.
Harry stood nervously waiting for Hermione to explode or something, but all she did was stare at him. And it wasn’t even an emotional stare; it was an indifferent one. Harry would have preferred Hermione be angry but that emotionless look – like she didn’t care he was there – hurt a lot. Had the Weasleys been lying to him? Were they just buttering him up because she really didn’t care about him anymore? Was she really that upset with him for not replying to her letters? Harry didn’t understand. If anything, he thought the Weasleys (minus Ginny) had been upset with him, what with the abrupt cease to their letters. He just knew for sure Hermione would’ve at least cracked a smile or... something.
The awkward eyes of all the red heads around him was getting eerie, so in a last-ditch effort to get some sort of reaction out of his best friend, he thought he’d try to be funny and say, “Surprise!”
It didn’t have the desired effect though; Harry watched the tears well in Hermione’s eyes. So she was sad? Sad about what? But maybe they were happy tears, maybe she was so glad to see him she couldn’t move... but he pushed that theory out of his mind once she stormed out of the house.
“It’s just The Sickness, Harry. Don’t worry about it,” Fred said sitting down beside his mother.
Everyone ignored his comment.
“I’ll be right back,” Ginny murmured, following Hermione.
Mrs. Weasley stood up and patted Harry on the shoulder, a nonverbal “It’ll be alright,” then began clearing the dishes. Ron asked Harry to help him move his trunk and Hedwig’s cage up to his room. Glad for something to do, Harry took Hedwig’s cage in one hand and a side of his trunk in the other, and took it upstairs with Ron.
“Hermione. I’m sure it’s just The Sickness.”
“Yeah,” Harry started, sitting on Ron’s bed, “what is this ‘sickness’ thing?"
“Every once in a while, Hermione’ll get all hormonal and moody. She’s like that with everyone, I wouldn’t dwell on it.” He stretched his arms.
“I just don’t get it. You guys were making it sound like she was going to...”
“Not exactly what I was thinking, but yes, in a sense."
It was Ron’s turn to laugh.
“Like I said, she gets like that sometimes. Mum usually tells her to go lie down or something. Trust me, by dinner tonight she’ll be practically fighting for the seat next to you.”
“Hope you’re right,” Harry sighed.
“I know I am.”
Harry stood up and walked over to his cot. As he was about to sit down, he noticed something poking out from under his trunk. It was a white, plastic-looking bracelet and had deep purple writing on it. He bent over, pulled it, and flipped it around to read it:
Patient Name: Ronald Billius Weasley
Date of Birth: March 1, 1980 (15 years)
Floor Number: Four - Spell Damage
Harry looked over his shoulder to see Ron peering over his own. Ron’s face dropped at the sight of the hospital bracelet. He grabbed it out of Harry’s hands and chucked it in the bin. "I meant to throw it away before you got here," said Ron.
Harry didn't say anything; he was still staring at his empty hands.
"It'd take more than a couple of Death Eaters to do me in, you know that."
Harry turned around and stared at the hospital bracelet protruding out the bin.
"Mum's going to be wondering what's holding us up," Ron said, slowly making his way to the door. "C'mon, Harry, just forget it.
"Yeah... yeah, okay," Harry replied absentmindedly. He tore his eyes from the bin and led Ron out his room. He heard Ron go back into his room before following him.
Ron was wrong. At dinner that evening, Hermione made sure to sit at the opposite side of the table from Harry, between Ginny and Fred. She finished her food quickly, cleaned herself up, and went to bed early. No one said anything about it. Harry figured they were thinking it was one of those "don't-think-about-it-and-it'll-go-away" situations. Maybe for them it was, but they didn't have their best friend avoiding them at all costs.
He also learned that Mr. Weasley had been promoted to the Head of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects. Harry thought Mr. Weasley would've been happier just staying in his Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, but his new job was very important; fake protection could lead to dangerous results. Although, from the conversations he overheard between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley at night, it didn't sound as though Mr. Weasley was only going to the Ministry: He was doing secret work for the Order as well, most of which included finding out who Voldemort was going to target next. At those points in the conversations, however, Harry would just creep away to wherever he was supposed to be.
Starting near the middle of the week, Ron, Fred, Ginny, and George had begun distancing themselves from Hermione (who was still distancing herself from Harry). When he asked about it, they all said the same thing: This was around the time Hermione caught her Sickness and they tended to just leave her alone until it passed. Harry wasn't exactly sure how they knew the difference between regular Hermione and Sickness Hermione, but as he was getting a variation of Sickness Hermione all the time, he thought it best not to question it.
But according to Ron, Sickness Hermione never came. "It's been a week and a half, and she's still being pleasant. Well, pleasant with us, anyway. Sorry mate," Ron whispered to Harry as they at outside by the pond, playing Gobstones. Harry glanced at Hermione, who was watching Ginny and the twins playing Exploding Snap. She caught his eye and he smiled, but she quickly looked away. Harry frowned.
"I'm gonna force her to talk to me before we get on the Hogwarts Express," said Harry angrily, overshooting his Gobstone and having it squirt in his face.
"Ooh, bad luck. Well, you have about... eleven days to work that out."
Ron handed Harry a rag to wipe his face.
"I'm sure you'll get her to-"
"Okay, I don't get it!" George's voice came from behind them. Ron and Harry whipped around while some cards exploded.
"Good job, George, you were on a roll!" Ginny said.
"I don't care! Hermione," he said, turning to her, "why are you being so nice?"
She frowned. "What do you mean?"
"The Sickness, The Sickness! You haven't been bitter at all! I was hoping to catch it on camera!"
"Well, if you want me to be rude to you, I can assure you, I have no problem with it." She crossed her arms.
"I think Harry's getting enough of that for all of us," Fred stage-whispered.
George seemed to have tuned them out. "I mean, I was going to use one of your many faces of contempt for an advertisement, but ever since Harry got here-" He stopped abruptly and got a devilish grin on his face, as did Fred.
"Since Harry got here," they repeated together, a knowing look on their faces.
"What?" Ron asked impatiently.
Fred sighed. "Ever since Harry got here-"
"Hermione's been a right treat to be around-"
"(Minus whenever Harry's around her, but we'll ignore that for now-)"
"Get to the point!" demanded Hermione.
"It can be proven-"
"Scientifically," Fred added.
"-that Harry is the cure for Hermione's Sickness."
"Which ultimately has to mean," Fred continued, "that Hermione has an ickle crush on Harry."
Harry could see Hermione's face turning crimson. "That's complete rubbish!" she yelled, standing up.
"Says the girl who's blushing," Ron teased. "Well, at least we all know why she won't speak to you, Harry. She's too afraid of looking like an idiot."
The Weasleys all laughed. Harry cracked an apologetic smile at Hermione, who was giving him a death glare. She clenched her jaw and stalked into the house. Harry sat for a moment, listening to Ron yelling and laughing about how he was just messing around, before getting up and following Hermione.
This is it, I'm getting her to speak to me, Harry thought determinedly as he pushed open the door Hermione had slammed minutes ago. He then thought that this wasn't the best moment, but Hermione had already seen him walk in. There was an expression on her face Harry couldn't exactly put his finger on, but he was sure it wasn't a good one.
She motioned to him as if to say, "Get on with it."
Harry took a deep breath and thought carefully about what he wanted to say. This could be his only chance to make things right between them, even if he didn't know what was wrong in the first place. He was evidently taking too long, because she shook her head and began walking out of the kitchen. "Wait," Harry blurted out. She stopped but didn't turn around. "I know you don't like me," he said slowly, regretting every word as it came out.
"Aren't you observant," she said sarcastically while she walked away.
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