Chapter 8 : The Importance of the Third Wheel
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Ron sat eating his relatively-burnt breakfast with his brothers and sister. He wondered if anyone but himself had noticed Harry and Hermione weren't there. It was pretty much certain they were together, probably sitting in the shade of a tree, talking about anything and everything. Ron sighed heavily and stabbed him bacon with his fork, causing it to shatter all over his plate.
He wasn't unhappy his friends were talking again, but Ron had to admit he was enjoying spending more time with Harry. In their fourth year, Harry had gotten strangely close to Hermione and he'd sort of gotten shunned away. They'd never fully recovered their friendship from that argument over the Goblet of Fire and it seemed as though he'd filled that void with Hermione and never looked back. Ron wasn't exactly excluded from the group, but he always seemed to find out things last. In the weeks Hermione had been all pissy with Harry, he'd turned to Ron. True, it was because she was ignoring him, but it was nice to have things relatively the way they were before their fourth year.
Now that they were "together" again, Ron would go back to being the third wheel. He knew they weren't doing it on purpose, but it still bothered him. He'd been there from the beginning, too, not just Hermione.
"When d'you think the two lovebirds will come back?" George asked as he put his plate in the sink.
"Who knows, they could be snogging for hours," Fred replied.
"They're probably just talking," Ginny said.
"Speaking of which, when did they get back on good terms?" Fred asked.
Ron and Ginny looked at each other.
"It's not really our place to say," Ron murmured.
"So you knew about this?" George asked.
"And didn't tell us?"
Ginny sighed. "It happened really late last night, it wasn't like they've been speaking for weeks."
Fred smirked. "What were they doing late last night?"
"Come off it! Harry just took her to the docks."
Ginny raised her eyebrows. "Did he tell you that? He wouldn't tell me anything."
"Well, I sort of came up with the plan, so..."
"Okay, well now you've got to tell what happened, I want to know," Ginny said.
Ron looked at the three eager faces staring at him and sighed. He figured Harry wouldn't care, anyway. "You remember that one day when everyone was aggravating Mum and Harry and Hermione snuck away?"
"Well, they went out to the docks and appearently had some heart to heart moment, I dunno, but it was really significant. So I told Harry to try and recreate it so maybe Hermione would soften up and let her guard down." He shrugged. "I guess it worked."
Ginny grinned. "Who knew my brother was such a romantic."
"Oh look, speak of the lovebirds now."
They looked to where George was pointing. Harry and Hermione were standing side by side, hands intertwined, hair windswept, and cheeks reddened from the sun.
"And where have you been?" Ginny asked, her smile even bigger.
"Out," said Hermione simply.
"You didn't think it would behoove you to tell someone where you were going?" asked Fred.
"It's not like we went to Switzerland or something," laughed Hermione.
"You're being extremely pleasant," George said.
She rolled her eyes. "Obviously, we've reconsiled, so you can stop making it the elephant in the room."
"You're being awfully quiet, Harry," teased Fred.
"There's not much to say," he said slowly.
Ron kept his eyes on the ground, but he knew Fred and George were scrutinizing the two with theirs.
"Don't you two have things to do for the joke shop?" Ginny eventually asked.
"No," they replied in unison.
Ginny walked over to Hermione and took her hand; Hermione let go of Harry's. "Well, Hermione and I have things to do."
"We do?" she asked.
"Of course," Ginny said through her teeth as she pulled Hermione upstairs.
"And Harry and I have some homework to finish," Ron piped up.
"Right," Harry said as he followed Ron up to his room.
Ron shut the door behind them. "I'd like to apologize for them."
Harry chuckled. "No big deal."
"So where did you and 'Mione go?"
"Nowhere." He kicked off his shoes and plopped on his bed. "We just walked and talked."
"You seem to be doing a lot of that lately."
"Yeah, well, we haven't spoken since June, so we have a lot to catch up on."
The two stayed silent for a while. Ron began examining his wand, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw Harry drumming his fingers on his knee. Ron stayed quiet and observed Harry stealthily. He seemed to be anxious about something, but Ron decided it'd be better to just not say anything, in case Harry didn't want to talk about it.
"Ron, can I ask you something?" Harry finally asked.
Guess he does want to talk, Ron thought. He put down his wand and looked at Harry. "Sure."
"Were you being serious when you said I was in love with Hermione?"
Ron was about to laugh, but the look on Harry's face gave him the notion not to. "Of course not, I was just messing with you. Why?"
"Because I think you were right."
Ron nearly choked on his spit. He knew Harry'd had a crush on Hermione, but that was years ago. He was honestly just teasing Harry before. Where did this all come from? And why was Harry being so blatant? "What?" he sputtered.
"I know you know I used to like her. I think everyone knew but Hermione, actually... You remember how you tried to talk me out of not telling her?"
"Yeah, you told me you didn't want to ruin your friendship or whatever. But you also said you stopped liking her a long time ago."
"That's what I thought too! But today I just... I don't know. I-I was looking at her, and..."
"No wonder you looked constipated," Ron laughed.
"I got rid of those feelings for a reason, Ron."
"You don't just 'get rid' of feelings."
Harry sighed and nodded knowingly. "I know. But tricking myself into believing it worked-"
"Until now," he finished. "Well, you know what I'm going to say. You should just tell her."
"I can't, there are too many risks, way more than two years ago."
Ron swallowed. "Harry, if he hasn't done anything to her by now-"
"I'm not going to risk it. He hasn't done it lately, but he can get into my mind, which means he'll know how I feel about everyone. I've lost two people already, almost you, I'm not-"
"But I'm fine. A few weeks at Mungo's and I'm still here."
"Wish I could say the same for Sirius and Lupin," he said sadly.
"Dumbledore didn't let you practice Occlumency, there wasn't much you could do."
"I could've done a lot more. But I don't want to talk about it. I just thought I'd let you know."
Ron scratched his head. "Maybe you should tell my dad. If you're worried about Hermione, maybe they can give her extra protection or something."
"I'm not worried about her, I just... I don't know."
There was an awkward silence.
"What do you need me to do?" Ron asked.
"Just stay quiet. At least until I figure this all out, okay?"
Ron nodded. He wasn't sure exactly what logic Harry was using, but he thought it best not to ask. "Just out of curiosity, do you just think you fancy Hermione, or do you think you're in love with her?"
He watched as Harry knitted his eyebrows in deep thought. After a moment, he finally said, "I think I love her."
"Well, congratulations, I suppose. Hopefully it'll work out?"
"I doubt it."
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