Hermione had been listening to Ginny's steady breathing all night rather than sleeping. The two of them had earlier had an argument about the whole "ickle crush on Harry" and "cure to her Sickness" thing Fred and George said. Hermione wasn't really upset with her, but Ginny just happened to be there and Hermoine needed to get out her frustration. Every now and then Hermione would see a shadow under the door, which was obviously someone (no doubt the twins) listening in. They argued off and on well into the night, stopping only for dinner and recommencing once they were getting ready to go to bed.
"Honestly, I don't know why you're so mad with me! If you have such a problem with it, take it up with Fred and George! Or better yet," Ginny yelled, pulling the sheets back on her bed furiously, "take it up with Harry! You're being petty with this whole 'I'm-not-talking-to-him' thing, and it's extremely irritating!"
"I already told you why I'm not talking to him, Ginny!"
"Just because he didn't reply to your letters? That's ridiculous and you know it!"
Hermione turned her back to Ginny and began throwing her sheets back to hide her reddening face. When she stormed outside the day Harry came to the Burrow, Ginny had followed her and asked her what was wrong. Hermione told her she was still a bit bothered that Harry didn't reply to her letters, and even though they both knew that was rubbish, Ginny kept her mouth shut about it.
Ginny strided across the room and grabbed Hermione's shoulder to turn her around.
"Did you ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, Harry misses you?"
Hermione didn't say anything.
"You don't see the way his face lights up when you come downstairs for breakfast. The way he goes out of his way to do nice things for you. How often he tries to get your attention. You're blinded by the negative emotions you're feeling to see that, whatever you happen to think about Harry, it probably isn't true."
"I just need to sort some things out," said Hermione shakily. She swallowed to push the lump in her throat down.
"And it takes two weeks to do that? Hermione, he's your best friend! Don't try to say anything about Ron," Ginny added quickly as Hermione opened her mouth, "even he knows you're closer to Harry than he is!
"I know you can't be enjoying not talking to him," she continued. "Goodness knows we aren't."
Ginny walked back to her side of the room and climbed into her bed; Hermione slowly sat down on hers. What Ginny said was indeed making sense. She wasn't enjoying giving Harry the silent treatment. As a matter of fact, she'd love to speak to him. It was just that, every time she saw him, something inside her just wouldn't let her. And she couldn't place a finger on exactly what that something was.
Ginny fell asleep moments later. Hermione envied how easily she was able to sleep after they'd been arguing all day.
Hermione looked at the watch her parents had given her (she told them about how it was traditional to give a wizard a watch on his or her seventeenth birthday and, since her parents weren't too keen on magic, they just gave it to her early, rather than send it by owl) by the moonlight pouring in the window. It had been the next day for almost four hours already. She quickly calculated that there were only ten more days until it was time to get on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. She sighed heavily and tossed her watch to the foot of her bed. Something told her that if she didn't fix it by September first, it wasn't ever going to be right again. But the question was, was she going to be able to?
"Hm?" she moaned sleepily.
"D'you think he'd forgive me?"
"Of course," she breathed, "Harry loves you."
There was a long pause.
"I'm sorry," said Hermione.
A snore told Hermione she was asleep.
I've decided to go on to Diagon Alley to get your school things. I know you all wanted to come, but it's better this way, or so your father says. Fred and George were already awake when I was leaving, and they wanted to go visit their shop anyway. I'll probably be back within an hour or two of you reading this. I've left some breakfast out, take what you will.
Don't leave the house. No magic.
"Did you hear anyone Apparate?" Ron asked Harry, setting the letter back on the table and helping himself to some toast.
"No, I didn't."
"Oh well. Think they're up?" He motioned to the stairs with his head.
"Maybe they finished each other off last night."
They laughed and continued eating breakfast. While Ron's mind was probably on what he was going to eat next, Harry was thinking about Ginny's and Hermione's argument. He hadn't been snooping by the door like Ron and George, but from what they told him, Hermione was mad at Ginny for laughing when George and Fred had said she liked him, and Ginny was mad at Hermione for blaming it all on her. Harry doubted whether this was one hundred percent accurate, but as he wasn't looking to have anyone else upset with him, he stayed quiet.
Dinner that night was awkward. Ron and the twins had positioned themselves so that Hermione had to sit next to Harry and Ginny had to sit across from Hermione. Both girls were looking daggers toward each other, and Hermione was trying her best to scoot her seat as far away from Harry as she would without bumping into Mr. Weasley. There wasn't much conversation, although it wasn't like it was necessary; George, Fred, and Ron seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Eventually Hermione cleared her plate and left the table, Ginny following soon after. Just as everyone else was rising from the table, they began arguing again. Mrs. Weasley went upstairs and managed to subdue it for a while, but it blew up again just before Harry was going to fall asleep.
"From what she said, I don't know why she isn't speaking to you," Ron said after he'd come back from his latest bit of eavesdropping.
"What was said?"
"Hermione doesn't enjoy not talking to you. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what someone said. And if that's the case, why is she torturing everyone?"
Harry pondered the same thing all night.
"Good morning," Ginny yawned as she sat down.
"Are you and Hermione still going at it?" Ron asked, lowering his voice.
She smiled. "Good morning to you too. And no, I don't think so."
"Where's Hermione?" Harry asked.
"Still sleeping. Where is everyone?"
"They went to Diagon Alley to get our Hogwarts things," replied Ron, motioning to the note.
"Without us?" she asked incredulously, reading the letter from her mother. "Things must really be getting bad..."
"Where'd everyone go?"
They all looked towards the staircase and saw Hermione peeking around the corner.
"Diagon Alley," they all replied.
"Oh. Alright." She sat down next to Ron, across from Ginny. She poured herself a glass of milk and stared at it, twisting the glass in her hands.
"Good morning," Harry said to Hermione. She looked at Harry -truly looked at him- for the first time. Harry tried not to blink.
Harry wondered whether it would be inappropriate to get up and go a quick happy dance. But as soon as it had happened, Hermione dropped her gaze back to her glass. He looked at Ginny and Ron gloomily, but they shrugged as if to say, "Well, it's a start."
Which it was. And Harry was glad for it.
When Fred, George, and Mrs. Weasley returned, they not only had their school things, but a ton of products from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Fred was set on showing them all how everything worked all the way up into dinner. Mrs. Weasley eventually decided to just shove them outside until it was time to eat. Harry and Hermione stayed in though, because she had asked them to help set the table. She even left them alone for a while to try and talk, giving a hopeful smile to Harry.
Harry tried talking to Hermione, asking simple questions. Unfortunately, he also got simple answers:
"Fred's and George's things from the shop were pretty cool, right?"
"I suppose, yes."
"Could you pass me the spoons?"
"Do you need help?"
Even if it wasn't lengthy conversation, she was at least saying something to him, which was a lot better than before when she'd leave the room just to get away from him. Whatever Ginny said to her, it had done something. He made a mental note to thank her later.
After they finished setting the table, Hermione sat down at the middle of it and stared into her lap. Harry took this as a good sign. She wasn't leaving, so that had to mean she wanted to be with him, right? Maybe she didn't want to be rude, or maybe she finally wanted to talk about what was wrong? Believing the latter, Harry took up the seat on her left.
"So," he sighed, "how are you?"
Okay, Harry thought, you have to ask questions that require longer answers. "How was your summer? Before coming here, I mean."
She lifted her head and stared coldly into his eyes. "The whole lot of it wasn't that great."
Harry, slightly taken aback by the bitterness of Hermione's glare, blinked a few times and said, "Oh. Why is that?" As Hermione opened her mouth to reply, the Weasleys all filed into the kitchen and sat down.
Harry cursed them for their terrible timing in his head.
Dinner was going smoothly. Hermione was passing him plates and bowls as he asked for them, rather than letting someone else do it. She was looking at him when he spoke, rather than comepletely ignoring his existence. Everyone seemed to notice, too, for they were all smiling at Harry and raising their eyebrows. It took everything in Harry to not just grab Hermione and hold her all night; she had no idea how much that small communication meant to him.
Afterwards, everyone was around the house, doing random things: Fred and George had gone back outside with their products, Ginny and Ron were debating about whether Clabberts originated in northern or southern America in Ron's room, Mrs. Weasley was out tending to the chickens, Hermione was curled up on the couch reading her new text books, and Mr. Weasley was poring over some documents from the Ministry at the kitchen table.
Harry was in Ron's room enjoying the arguement (because it was well known that the Clabbert was from south America), but it began getting bothersome so he pulled out his old copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and proved Ginny right. After gloating a bit, Ginny returned to her room to finish up some homework and Ron hopped in the shower.
Now alone, Harry decided he'd try to find out what was wrong with Hermione again. He came to the bottom of the staircase with a loud creak in the floorboards, which caused Hermione to look up abruptly from her book. She smiled, sat up a bit straighter, and closed her book; Harry felt this, too, was a good sign. Just as he began walking into the living room, Mr. Weasley called him from the kitchen. Harry shrugged apologetically at Hermione, but she just slouched into the couch and began reading again. Feeling terrible, Harry made his way into the kitchen.
"You called, Mr. Weasley?"
"Yes, yes." He waved his hand dismissively. "Have a seat."
"What did you need me to do?" Harry asked, taking the seat catty-cornered to Mr. Weasley's.
"Nothing, I just wanted to chat."
Harry figured this was coming. He'd hoped everyone had just forgotten about it, since it was about two weeks he'd been there and no one had mentioned anything, but what could he really have expected? All of the Weasleys cared about him like he was their own family, they wouldn't just forget something like that.
Harry took a deep breath and held it, ready for whatever questions Mr. Weasley was going to ask.
"How are you, Harry?"
"I'm fine, doing just fine."
Mr. Weasley chuckled.
"Now how are you really doing?"
"Honestly, I'm fine. I've dealt with... everything already." Harry felt a bit uneasy. He was telling the truth; he wasn't nearly as devestated as he used to be, but he wasn't sure he was ready to talk about it just yet. That was the reason he didn't reply to any of their letters.
"Are you sure? I know Dumbledore spoke with your aunt and uncle before he took you home, correct?" Harry nodded. "How were they treating you? I know you don't exactly get on well."
"Well, er, I suppose they left me alone a bit more, kind of let me do as I please. That was nice, seeing as how I wasn't exactly, er," he cleared his throat, "in the right mindset, I suppose."
"And I suppose that's why we never heard from you until you got here?"
"Yeah, sorry about that. I just didn't..." His voice trailed off. He couldn't find the right words to explain why he didn't reply to their letters without sounding like a complete jerk. 'Oh yeah, Mr. Weasley, I know you and your whole family were concerned about me, but I just didn't feel like letting you guys know I was alive, sorry.' How would that sound?
But Mr. Weasley just held up his hand knowingly. "I understand. It was just a bit strange when Hedwig would turn up here without a letter from you. It was especially hard on Hermione, poor girl." He seemed to have said the last part to himself rather than to Harry. "So, Harry, if you weren't speaking to anyone, and you weren't writing letters, what were you doing?"
"Mostly just staying in my room, staring at the walls, to be honest. I did my homework whenever I could, which was usually at night. I'd read everyone's letters when they came, and I'd really think about replying to them, but..." He trailed off again.
"You didn't want to," Mr. Weasley finished for him.
"No need to worry, you're here now, and that's all that matters, right?" He clapped Harry on the shoulder. "I do have to ask, and I'm terribly sorry for it, but have you been having any strange dreams lately?"
"No!" Harry said at once, almost cutting him off.
"Are you sure?" Mr. Weasley's eyes were full of concern and worry. Harry didn't like it.
"We just want to make sure nothing like that ever happens again, and to do that you have to tell us everything, Harry. No detail is too small, alright?"
"Okay." Harry sat for a few moments comtemplating the last dreams he could remember. The only extremely vivid one he could remember was about... but...
"Harry, what's the matter?"
Mr. Weasley's voice pulled him out of his thoughts. He, Harry, smiled and said it was nothing, then excused himself from the table, claiming he was tired and wanted to get ready for bed. Mr. Weasley bade him goodnight and Harry started for the living room in hopes Hermione still wanted to talk. She was already going up the stairs though, so Harry caught up with her and grabbed her hand to slow her down.
"Hermione, I was just wondering if-"
"Don't touch me," she snapped, pulling her hand away from his.
"Well, I just-"
"I don't want to talk to you!" She continued up the stairs at a bit of a run.
"Wrong bed, Harry," Ginny whisper-yelled. "She's over there."
"Oh, sorry, I've never been in here before."
"Are you going to wake her up or not?"
"I don't know. I mean, do you think she'd come?"
"Come where?" Hermione finally spoke up.
"Oh, you're up! I didn't know whether you-"
"Come where?" she repeated.
"Just for a walk," said Harry nervously.
"A walk? At," she looked at her watch, "two in the morning?"
"I know, but I just... I was hoping..." He sighed. Hermione figured he was probably losing his nerve at whatever he was trying to do. "Nevermind."
"Just go with him, Hermione," Ginny spoke up.
"Please?" Harry added.
Rolling her eyes, Hermione slid out of bed and slipped on her slippers.
"Good luck," Ginny muttered as they left.
"Where exactly are we going?" she asked as they walked out the door and across the yard. Harry pretended he didn't hear her and continued climbing over rocks and tall grasses. After five or ten more minutes of walking, he stopped abruptly. The moon was full and bright, so Hermione could see everything perfectly. As she took in the surroundings, she realized where she was and why Harry brought her there.
Harry walked to the end of the dock they were standing on and looked into the pond. "I remember that night when everyone was just fussing at each other and getting on everyone's nerves, except you and me," he began. "We were joking about how we could probably walk out and no one would notice, and eventually we did. I remember that we ended up here, and we just sat on the edge of the dock, right here. And we just sat together, not saying much." He looked up at the sky. "And then we layed down and tried to count all the stars, and when we got bored of that, we started to name them and find our own constellations." He looked back down at the pond and chuckled. "And then I remember we tried to tell the time by the cricket's chirps, but neither of us could remember the rule for it, so we made up our own time. I remember you kept wanting to go back in time every five minutes or so, so that the night wouldn't end. I actually believed it was working for a while... And then you got scared by a frog and fell in the water, pulling me with you. By then Mrs. Weasley had found us and was furious we'd just left the house for a midnight swim."
Hermione had been so deeply focused on what Harry was saying that she didn't even notice the tears rolling down her cheeks. Harry turned around and walked back to the middle of the dock where Hermione was standing.
"Tell me what's wrong, and I'll fix it."
"It's not that simple."
Harry nodded. "I know. I know why you're upset with me. I figured it out after I spoke with Mr. Weasley."
"Yes." He inhaled heavily. "You're still mad at me for hexing you."
Hermione's eyes widened in disbelief. "Why would I be mad at you for that?"
"I blasted you out of a window, Hermione. Who wouldn't be mad?"
"I was never mad nor will I ever be mad at you for that!" she yelled, getting angry. How could he ever think she would hold him accountable for that? "If anything it was my fault, you told me to leave-"
"Your fault? That's rubbish! You were being a friend! I didn't want you to leave! I just let my anger and frustration get the better of me!"
"You were just distraught, and under the given circumstances-!"
"What circumstances? Hermione, I could've killed you! I blew you through the Dormitories' window! The only reason you're still here is because I managed to level my head long enough to float you back up there, and even then, you had a giant piece of glass in the back of your head! If Ron hadn't have come back with McGonagall when he did," he shook his head vigarously. "I could've lost three people, almost four if you count Ron."
"Stop trying to tell me why I'm upset! Listen to me, Harry! The first thing I wanted to know when I woke up was if you were okay and when I could talk to you! I tried to ask Dumbledore where you were but he said you were better left alone, and next thing I knew, we were on the train back home! I didn't care about that stupid window because I trust you and I know you wouldn't let anything happen to me!"
"But everyone knows-"
"The only people that really know what happened are standing right here! I didn't even tell Ron the whole story! Everyone else just has their own fabrications of what happened! It's just a scar now" she said, fingering the scar on the back of her head where the glass had gotten caught, "and scars are only a mark of the past that have nothing to do with your future."
"Yes they do."
"Only if you let them."
The two had somewhat of a stare down. Harry eventually blinked and said, "If that's not what's bothering you, then what is it?"
"We've done enough talking for tonight, let's just continue some other time."
"No, I need to know now. We may not get another chance like this."
"Harry," she pleaded, "it's late, we can just-"
"Hermione, I'm not letting this go until you tell me. I'm sick of you not saying more than two words to me."
She threw her hands up. "Fine! You want to talk? Let's talk about how you never answered any of my letters!"
"Is that really what this is about?" he asked incredulously. "Some stupid parchment?"
"I didn't mean it like-"
"You have no idea what this summer has been like for me, what I had to go through just to get you those letters! My parents spent the beginning of the summer trying to enroll me in a Muggle school because they didn't want me around you! I had so many arguements with them over using owls because it's associated with magic and magic is associated with you! But I stuck up for you and told them that this," she pointed to her scar, "isn't who you really are! You don't know how many sacrifices I had to make to be able to come here and go back to Hogwarts! But that's what friends do for each other!"
Hermione was practically bawling and her voice was changing pitches because she was trying so hard to keep it from shaking.
"I spent a good month or so not knowing anything that was going on with you, in the magical community as a whole, or anywhere else! And then when I get here, and finally can get in contact with you, you don't write back? When I've been sitting at home going to bat for you over and over and over, nearly getting kicked out because all I wanted to do was send you a goddamn letter-"
"How was I supposed to know you were having such a hard time? I wasn't exactly having the best time of my life either!"
"That's not my point! You know we're all worried sick about you, and you can't have the decency to write at least a two sentence letter? You don't know how much I got ridiculed here!"
"Ridiculed? For what?"
"Did you ever noticed how most of their letters stopped coming?" Hermione asked, pointing behind her to the Burrow. "It's because they gave up on you! They stopped caring and they just gave up! But I never gave up! I kept writing and writing in hopes that you'll at least let me know you're safe! I wanted to let you know that I cared, that I'm still here, that the stupid window thing didn't matter! And then you get here, and everyone acts like they never stopped caring about you, and they probably told you all about how annoying I was, and you have the ordacity to tell Mr. Weasley everything he wants to know when I can't even get a hello?"
"What was I supposed to do? Just ignore him? It was easy to do that over a letter, that's why I never wrote back! I wanted to be left alone and none of you could seem to grasp that!"
"You couldn't have put it in a letter? It would've taken all of two seconds to say, 'Leave me alone, we'll talk when I get there.' You had me thinking you were hurt! I've gone days without sleep because I spent my nights waiting for a letter or worrying about you! You don't know how it feels-!"
"What do you mean, I don't know how it feels? You think I don't know what it's like, waiting for a letter that would never come?"
"Then why would you put me through it?" she screamed through clenched teeth. She glared at Harry with venom in her eyes, daring him to say the wrong thing. When he didn't answer, Hermione raised her arm to slap him.
Harry caught it by the wrist. "Don't hit me." Defiantly, Hermione raised her other hand, but Harry caught that one too. "Don't hit me," he repeated more sternly.
"Let me go." Hermione struggled against him but his grip solidified. "Let me go, Harry."
Hermione cried harder, but stopped struggling. "Just let me go."
"You don't want me, just let me go," she whined.
Harry's eyebrows knitted in confusion. "What do you mean, I don't want you?"
"You ignored my letters because you don't want me anymore."
"What?" He dropped her arms. "Why wouldn't I want you?"
"I don't know," she moaned. "I don't know. I was fighting so hard for you but you weren't... fighting for me. It felt like you didn't care."
"Hermione, you know I do, you know that."
"I know, I know. And I know you were going through a lot, but I still needed you. I needed to know I wasn't fighting a one-sided battle, that I wasn't fighting for someone who didn't want to be won. I needed my friend.
"For the longest time, I tried to remind myself that what I needed and what I wanted didn't matter, because you needed me more, but I couldn't. It still hurt me that you were flat-out ignoring me.
"So I tried and tried to convince myself that that wasn't how I felt, but when I saw you it all just came rushing back and I'm sorry," she sobbed, "I'm so sorry, I wasn't thinking, I was being selfish-"
She was cut off by Harry wrapping his arm around her, using his free hand to gently push her head into his chest and hold it there. In response Hermione squeezed him tightly around the middle.
"You weren't being selfish. If you had told me that's how you were feeling... I would've written back. I didn't know that's what it felt like to you."
"I didn't want to burden you with that, Harry. You were feeling bad enough already."
"Whatever's going on with me doesn't matter when it comes to something like that. Next time just tell me, okay?" He felt Hermione nod. "You know I love you, right?"
"I know. I love you too."
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