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Chapter 5 : Words Carefully Spoken and Carelessly Said
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What an idiot she had been. The cost of her satisfied curiosity was a life- far too high a price. And though it was no fault of their own, she suspected that she would always dislike thestrals. She recognized that it was illogical, but she would always associate them with those she had lost.
Now, as she silently climbed into a carriage after Harry and Ron, she wondered bitterly how many more faces she would be reminded of every time she saw a thestral by the time the war was done. How many more of the students around her, now hugging each other good-bye, would also be able to see the thestrals before the year was over.
Tearing her eyes away from the skeletal mounts, she looked up to find Harry and Ron’s worried gazes resting on her. When they had returned to the common room after the ceremony, they had immediately come to her, questioning what had happened to make her leave. Gaze stony, she had avoided their queries, and said only that she was ready to leave, if they would let her know when the time came. Then she had pulled out a textbook- she couldn’t even remember which- and stared blankly at the page, trying to ignore the people around her.
Looking away from their questioning eyes, Hermione glanced down from the carriage, mindlessly wondering if anyone else would join them. She saw Ginny, laden down with bags, pause for a moment as she drew near their carriage, as if uncertain whether or not to join them. Then Ginny’s eyes flickered up to Harry’s, and she seemed to understand something with resignation. Her eyes dropping, she hurried away from their carriage to join another fifth-year Gryffindor, only the droop of her shoulders giving away that she was hurt.
Hermione looked up at Harry, a dull spark of curiosity within her. His eyes were filled with guilt and pain, but there was a determination there too. With a sudden flash of sympathy, Hermione thought she understood. Harry had a certain hero’s complex about him. He would always be there to save those he cared about, whatever the cost. He must have broken things off with Ginny to protect her. And judging by Ginny’s reaction, she understood what he was doing, and she wasn’t too happy about it.
Sliding over to sit next to Harry, she lowered her head onto his shoulder with a sigh. She made no other sound, just reached over and squeezed his hand. After a moment, he returned the gesture. He seemed to understand that she was in a low place, too, and this was how they could give each other comfort.
Hermione looked over at Ron, suddenly grateful that she, at least, would not be separated from the one she cared about. She was surprised to see, though, that his eyes, resting on her and Harry, were suddenly chips of flint. The worry in his eyes had disappeared, replaced with a silent fury. She wondered what had brought this sudden shift in his emotions, then disregarded it. He was probably only angry with Harry for the hurt that he had caused Ginny, however necessary the action was.
When they reached the Hogwarts Express, Hermione climbed down and wearily looked around for the people she couldn’t leave without saying good-bye to. She, Harry, and Ron had by unspoken agreement decided that they would get their own compartment. All three of them were too burdened down by their own thoughts to be of much company, and she suddenly found that she wanted the company of no one but her oldest friends. She would see Ginny again, since she would be staying with the Weasleys for the summer, but this might be the last time she ever saw some of her friends. She now felt an emotion pierce through the dark void of her thoughts. Panic. She needed to find Neville and Luna, and say her final good-byes.
She found Neville first, struggling through the crowd. As she laid eyes on him, she felt a sudden burst of affection. When she had met him six years ago, he had been nothing but an awkward, bumbling boy. But over the last few years, he had matured so much. A small smile suddenly coming to her face, she called his name. When he turned around, she threw her arms around him.
“Neville, I’ll miss you. You just… you just be safe now, you hear me? Keep practicing your spells- you’ll be seventeen soon, and then you’ll be able to do magic without the trace. So practice at home, and tell your grandma to be safe too.”
Drawing back, she looked him in the eyes and whispered quietly, “Neville- Harry, Ron, and I, we’re not coming back in the fall.”
She saw his eyes widen with shock, and she added, “We’ve got something we have to do. I promise it’s important. You know we wouldn’t go off unless it was. I can’t tell you anything more, but you need to keep believing that things will get better. And take care of everyone, alright? I don’t know what will happen, but I trust you. Harry trusts you too. Watch Ginny especially- who knows what she might do. I know that Harry would really appreciate it if you’d make sure that she doesn’t do anything to anger anyone.”
He drew himself up, and there was a new sense of responsibility in his eyes as he sturdily answered, “Yeah, Hermione. I can do that.” As she gave him one last hug and then prepared to leave, she heard him say, “Hermione?”
She turned back to find his eyes serious. “Same thing for you, okay? Stay safe.”
Forcing a smile, she nodded. “Of course I will.” Then she walked away, a sudden bitter taste in her mouth, trying to avoid the feeling that she had just lied.
When she found Luna, she reminded her as well to take care and stay safe. Luna’s dreamy voice replied, “Yes, yes. I will try. And Hermione, everything will work out.”
Hermione felt an icy chill run down her spine. “What?”
“Just with everything. Your mind is spinning with worry, but it’ll work out. You know what I mean?” Then, a serene expression on her face, Luna drifted away without any more comment.
Hermione stared after her in shock. What had she meant? Surely Luna couldn’t know what it was that was still in the back of her mind?
Numbly, she climbed the train, trying to keep her emotions in check. She found Harry and Ron already seated, and sat down with them. She felt the train begin to move as she stared blankly into space.
After a few minutes, she heard Ron weakly attempt to make small talk. Harry joined in, relieved, and eventually Hermione did too, if only to keep her mind off what was to come. They discussed trivial matters for almost an hour before lapsing into silence. Finally, to break the awkward pause, Ron said, “So, Hermione, pretty lucky of you that you’re coming over to the Burrow tomorrow.”
Her head snapped up. Had he really just said that? Harry’s eyes registered a warning, but Ron went on, oblivious.
“I mean, never a dull moment at the Weasleys’ house. You could be spending all summer with your parents, doing boring Muggle things, but instead you get to come spend it with us.”
She stared at him in first astonishment, then blinding fury. In the back of her mind, she knew that he was only trying to lighten the mood by making a joke, but the insensitivity of the statement was unbelievable. True, she had not told him the exact circumstances of why she wanted to stay with his family for the summer, but he should have known better. There was nothing, nothing in the world that she wanted more than to be able to spend that summer with her parents. Even if it was just doing “Muggle things”. It was the simple, everyday things that she cherished so much. But she was giving it up, for them. The pain was unlike anything she had ever experienced, and he had the nerve to joke about it. Even Malfoy hadn’t done that.
She rose to her feet, her hand suddenly gripping her wand tightly. “Ronald Bilius Weasley, you… you IDIOT!” She imagined that her wild shout could be heard outside their compartment, but she couldn’t care less. Hand shaking, she slid the door open and rushed down the hallway, her anger subsiding to a torrent of tears. Locating an empty compartment, she entered it, closed the door, and sank to the floor, crying as though her heart would break.
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