Chapter 28 : The Burrow
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“What’s up?” Harry said, spraying crumbs from his full mouth.
“Has Hermione mentioned anything about problems at home?”
Harry tried not to look like he knew something. “What do you mean?”
“Well, she’s been off lately, hasn’t she? I thought it was just everything from last year, but she’s got another letter today. I just picked it up in the garden, it’s from her dad.”
Harry turned back to his sandwich to hide. “There’s nothing weird about that.”
“Well, it’s from just her dad, not her mom. I thought maybe something was wrong, they were splitting up or something.”
“Why don’t you ask Hermione?” Harry said.
“You don’t think it will upset her more...oh, afternoon.” Ron straightened up, greeting Hermione.
“What are you two up to, then?’
“Nothing.” Harry and Ron said in unison.
“I wasn’t quizzing you, I meant what are we doing today.” Hermione muttered. “What’s that?” She pointed to Ron’s hand.
“You’ve got mail, I grabbed it from an owl in the garden. From your dad, I think.”
“Oh, thanks.” Hermione took the letter and put it in her pocket.
“You don’t want to open it?” Ron said.
“I’ll read it later.” Hermione smiled, but couldn’t help feeling watched. She shoved the letter into her pocket, trying not to crush it too much. She was mostly just excited to get a letter from him, though she couldn’t tell anyone that. Ron left not long after, agreeing they would play some quidditch in the yard later. As soon as Ron was up the stairs, Hermione pulled the letter out and ripped it open.
“You don’t mind, do you, Harry?”
“Course not.” How could he? As much as he didn’t like Snape, he could understand Hermione. Sure she had her step dad, but she’d spent her whole life feeling like she was missing someone in her life. Then suddenly, he appeared. It was how he used to feel about Sirius. He could see the same rushed happiness he used to get from one of his letters. He didn’t want to tell Hermione though, didn’t want to talk about Sirius yet. “What does it say?”
“The order is really busy,” Hermione said, “He’s been helping Dumbledore put up way more security at the castle.” Hermione’s head sagged a bit, “He thinks it might be too dangerous to meet much at Hogwarts, so I’ll just have to keep sending letters for the most part.” Hermione folded up the letter and sighed, blinking quickly to avoid tears.
“I think you should tell Ron.” Harry said.
“He’s noticed you’ve been sensitive lately, and he’s already figured out it’s those letters.” Harry said.
“It’s too dangerous, though. Now You-Know-Who is back, everyone who knows is a risk. I’m not saying I don’t trust Ron, or anything...”
“I get it.” Harry thought about the discussions he had already had with Snape. The heightened fear he felt for Hermione, if he wasn’t able to keep the secret. Failing his occlumency lessons with Snape last year had made him more jittery. What if Voldemort was in his mind and just came across it accidentally? What would they do to Hermione? What would they do to Snape? And what would that do to Hermione? Something told Harry that if Ron knew how much danger Hermione might be in, he’d never sleep soundly again.
“Well, maybe if you just told him something.” Harry said, “Not the whole truth, but some of it.”
“I don’t know Harry, I’ll think about it.” Hermione muttered, turning away.
Harry focussed into his oatmeal for a moment, wondering how to word it. “Is that all that’s been bothering you, Hermione?”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought you might be waiting for another letter.” Harry raised his eyebrows for effect. For some reason, he was afraid to mention this other boy in Ron’s house. Even if they weren’t together, it still felt wrong.
Hermione took a long drink of her tea. “That one’s not coming. But it doesn’t matter, it’s not like we were anything.”
“Maybe it’s for the best, some things just aren’t meant to work out. Look at Cho and I. It’s hard to keep something up during summer when you’re apart.”
“Hey!’ Ginny had snuck up behind them. “Dean and I are doing fine, I’ll have you know!”
“No um, I didn’t mean you.” Harry stuttered, beginning to blush.
“He was talking to me.” Hermione said.
“Oh.” Ginny frowned. “Still nothing from the Ravenclaw boy?”
“No, it’s fine though, it’s not like it ever became anything anyway.”
“You know about him?” Harry asked.
“We tell each other everything.” Ginny said.
“Yes.” Hermione said.
Harry gulped. “Did you meet him then?”
“No.” Ginny said, “I never had the chance did I, it was just a few study dates and lunches. It’s a pity you couldn’t meet back at your family’s cabin this summer, though.”
“What happened at your family’s cabin?” Harry asked.
“Nothing.” The girls said in tandem.
Things had been going pretty well this summer. They played quidditch a lot with the four of them, and Ron didn’t even tease Hermione much about her terrible form. They had even had a few nice days alone together, before Harry came and while Ginny was busy. They went for walks around the land, did chores around the house, they even went into town a few times together. Things were so much more relaxed with Ron. With Draco, there was so much tension, whether anger or fear or lust. But Ron and Hermione were comfortable together, when they weren’t bickering that was.
Hermione made up her mind to tell Ron, or at least tell him a little bit. She’d wait until he next asked her what was going on, and then she would talk to him. It didn’t take long, Ron and Hermione were on their way out the door to go for a walk around the glen when Errol flew through the window and dropped a letter on Hermione’s head.
She took the letter, this one from her Mom and Dad and put it under her mug on the counter.
“You don’t want to read it right away?” Ron asked.
“It’s just from my parents, I’ll read it when we get back.” Hermione said. She was afraid if they waited in the house any longer, Harry or Ginny would find them and they would no longer be going alone.
They got out to the edge of the burrow property without being caught, and then it was home free. They made it to the woods and walked along one of the trails. Ron veered left at a fork and took her on the longer trek around, chewing on his lip. Hermione’s breath caught for a second, thinking he might kiss her, ask her to go with him, something.
“Didn’t you just get a letter from your dad yesterday?” Ron asked, tentatively.
This was what he was on about. Hermione’s shoulders sunk a little. “Sort of.” Hermione said, “Things have gotten complicated at home lately.”
Ron tried to seem like he wasn’t that interested, focussing on the path they were walking ahead.
“What’s going on?” Ron asked.
“Well, you know my step dad’s been around, basically since I was born.” Hermione kept walking, talking slowly and as casually as she could. “And he is my dad, practically.”
Ron nodded, “Yeah.”
“My biological father got ahold of my mother a while ago. He wanted to get to know me.”
Ron stopped and turned back for a second. “He kept out of your life for sixteen years, and now suddenly decided he wanted to be part of it? Sounds strange, Hermione.”
Hermione kept walking and pushed Ron along. “It’s as much my mom’s fault as any.” Hermione said. “She didn’t exactly tell him about me when I was born. But anyway, he managed to find out eventually I guess.”
“Oh.” Ron said.
Hermione looked at Ron, now walking beside her. “It’s all a bit complicated. Mom’s obviously not happy about this. My dad-er-step dad amazingly doesn’t really mind him. I guess he’s not much of a threat. But he’s a nice man, and he seems sincere.”
“You’ve met him already?” Ron asked.
“Yeah he came for dinner this summer, and he’s been writing me letters.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Ron asked.
“I don’t know, it was all just so strange.” Hermione said. “I mean he’s my dad, but at the same time, when I first met him he was just some stranger. He’d missed basically my entire life. I didn’t even know if I’d care.”
“Well, thanks for telling me now, anyway.” Ron said. “Are you-going to tell Harry?”
Hermione sighed. “It’s not like I was meaning to keep everything a secret. But with everything always going on, and everything Harry always goes through, my problems just seemed stupid compared to that.”
“But if it’s bothering you, if it’s making you upset, Hermione, we’ll always want to know.” Ron said.
“Alright,” Hermione said, smiling now.
Ron smiled back at her. They turned a corner in the trail, a place Hermione remembered was the halfway mark. They were now heading back to the burrow. She didn’t know what made her do it. Maybe being with Draco had made her braver, more comfortable in her own skin. She reached out and took Ron’s hand. He flinched and pulled back, but Hermione held tight and smiled at him. His whole face turned red and he looked away from her, but he didn’t let go. They walked hand in hand all the way back to the tree line. When they were in sight of the burrow, they let go and Ron shoved his hands in his pockets, stepping further away from her for good measure.
They spent the rest of the day playing quidditch, Hermione even having fun with it. The next day, they would be spending in daigon alley, and after that they’d be back to school soon. Everyone was trying to suck up as much summer fun as they could. Ron continued to be exceedingly nice all day to Hermione. They played on the same team a few times, Ron just laughing and encouraging her on when she messed something up while flying.
Still, she couldn’t help thinking about Draco as she flew through the air, still a little afraid but coping better than she usually did. She just wanted to close her eyes a few times, imagine the feel of her cheek against his back, her arms around his sturdy frame. She tried to push him from her mind and focus on the game, or Ron, or the oncoming school year. Anything but the blonde.
She managed pretty well with this, forgetting him for hours at a time when Ron and her played exploding snap, or walked around the grove near the burrow. Then suddenly it was the next day and they were rushing off to Daigon Alley, lists in hand. Hermione was by far the busiest of the group, needing the most books, quills, parchment, potions ingredients, and several other special odds and ends for her very specific class list. She was focused on a million different things, ticking everything off and following Ron’s shadow, barely looking up until they got into the robe shop. Hermione was double checking she had gotten all she needed for potions, shifting her heavy bags onto the floor to wait for the boys, when she looked up and caught Draco’s steely eyes.
She smiled at him, barely holding back a wave. He frowned at her and she snapped back to reality, realizing she was with Ron and Harry, and Draco was with his mother. It was dangerous to bring attention to each other. Still, she thought, he didn’t need to frown. She couldn’t help noticing the paleness of his face, how tired he looked, and wonder if he was alright. Maybe he was sick and that’s why he hadn’t written. Ron groaned as he and harry noticed the boy as well.
“In case you’re wondering what that smell is, mother, a mudblood just walked in.” * Draco said, smearing his best sneer across his face, and turning toward the trio.
Ron and Harry both drew their wands, but Hermione just stood, staring at him. She was dumbfounded. The last time he had used that word in earnest had been in third year, and she had punched him in the face for it. All she could do now was stare back at Draco, her jaw set, her tears about to spill. She thought she saw a flash of remorse in his cold grey eyes for a second, before he turned away, but she wasn’t sure of anything anymore. She turned away and focussed her eyes on the dress robes along the walls, all the way through the ensuing fight with Draco, Harry and Ron, Hermione refused to turn around. She managed to hold her tears back until they had left the shop and were down the street getting ice cream. Hermione turned away from the other boys and blocked out her sobs with the ice cream, trying to wipe at her tears unnoticed.
“Is something wrong, Hermione?” Hagrid asked.
“I’m fine.” Hermione wiped at her tears, refusing to turn around.
Harry took her by the shoulders and turned her around. “What’s wrong? Is it what Malfoy said?”
Hermione shook her head no, drying her eyes on her sleeves.
“Forget what that git said, Hermione. You shouldn’t let the garbage he comes up with bother you.”
“Just leave it alone, Ronald.” Hermione said coldly.
“We’re just saying, if that’s what you’re upset about...”
“Why do you always have to badger me about what I’m upset about?” Hermione said, “Can’t you just worry about the fact that I am upset and leave it at that?” Hermione turned to look at a window display and finish her icecream.
“What is her problem?” Ron said, frustrated.
“Best just leave it.” Hagrid said, urging them to continue on and stop staring at Hermione.
*quote from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Chapter 8-Draco’s Detour.
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