Chapter 11 : Ron the Spy
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Harry stepped out into the cold night air and wondered how he could get around into the Mrs Figg’s back garden where she and Moody were stationed.
He turned to see Mrs Weasley hurrying towards him along the pavement.
“Hi, Mrs Weasley.”
“Come along, dear. We should get you back to your Aunt and Uncles house.”
“No,” said Harry firmly. “I’m not going back without Hermione.”
“How long will she be?”
“I’ve no idea. She’s having Dementor lessons.”
Mrs Weasley pulled a face making Harry smile.
“At least let’s keep moving. We can walk up down and still see if she’s coming out.”
“Okay,” said Harry and they walked slowly down the road.
“Harry, dear? Alastor asked me to be here tonight in case I could be of help. Is anything wrong?”
“Yes, but I don’t really know what it is. Hermione has been really upset by something, only she won’t tell me what it is.”
“Tonks may know,” said Mrs Weasley. “Professor McGonagall assigned her to look after Hermione. In fact, she only wanted Tonks to keep an eye on her.”
Harry looked around and saw Hermione emerge from Mrs Figg’s house.
“That was quick,” he said.
“I can see movement further up the street, Harry. You go to Hermione and I’ll head whoever it is off.”
“Okay. Thanks, Mrs Weasley. Bye.”
Harry half ran to meet Hermione.
“Okay?” he asked tentatively. Unfortunately, Hermione seemed incapable of speech.
He took her hand and said, “Let’s get back.”
Harry couldn’t quite understand how it had become so late. It had been early evening when they had left to visit Mrs Figg’s house; yet it was late at night when they arrived back again. It seemed to him that they had spent very little time in the company of Sapien.
This was the least of his concerns, however. Hermione was now shaking violently.
He guided her into the kitchen and tried to get her safely seated. It was some time before he was able to fill the kettle for a hot drink.
Suddenly Hermione said, “I need some air.”
She was up and at the back door before he had a chance to object. Harry hurried after her, but stopped a couple of feet from where she stood in the middle of the lawn.
Hermione turned, her eyes brimming with tears and mouthed some words silently.
Harry stepped forward at once and she threw herself at him, gripping him tightly and sobbing uncontrollably into his chest.
All he could do was hold her as she tried to stifle the noise of her cries. There were words somewhere in there too, but he couldn’t make out the meaning of any of them.
All he could do was bow his head down and hold her.
Harry had no sense of the time that passed while they stood together, but eventually he felt Hermione breathe in deeply and then she loosened her hold.
Harry did not remove his arms but whispered, “That was a while coming.”
Hermione nodded against him.
“Do you want to talk tonight?”
She shook her head.
She replied with a nod.
At sunset, Harry stepped out into the rear garden having spent all day with Hermione. He felt completely drained, but knew this was nothing compared to how Hermione was feeling.
“Sapien?” he said to the shadows.
“Yes, Harry Potter?” said the voice in his head.
“I was wondering,” said Harry.
“You would like to postpone our appointment? We understand. We’ve been feeling your emotions all day.”
“Yes. Hermione is exhausted. She’s sleeping now and I’d rather not disturb her.”
“Until tomorrow night, then?”
“Thank you, Sapien.”
Harry turned to go back inside when he heard the Dementor whisper, “It seems that not only Dementors are drawn to keep a vigil here.”
“What was that?” asked Harry, turning and drawing his wand in one swift movement.
“Come out!” he demanded, pointing his wand at one of the evergreen bushes at the end of the garden. “I can see you moving.”
Harry was shocked to see Ron’s head emerge as he stood up. He was looking thoroughly embarrassed, but by the time he joined Harry, he was looking angry and defiant.
“Come inside,” said Harry, pocketing his wand.
“No thanks,” said Ron abruptly.
“What were you doing out here anyway?”
“I needed to see for myself. Good job too!”
“What? How about seeing you and Hermione? Seeing her spend the entire day no more than two feet away from you, and with you putting your hands all over her at the slightest excuse.”
“Ron, that’s just not true.”
“I saw you, Harry! With my own eyes! I’m sorry, but you can’t lie your way out of it this time.”
“Well,” said Harry with false calmness, “if you were watching then you’d have seen that all I did was offer her my arms occasionally.”
“You were standing in the middle of this lawn holding hands for over an hour this morning.”
“How long have you been out here?” asked Harry, noticing Ron’s face looked very sun-burned.
“If you’re hungry, I’ll make you something to eat. How about cheese on toast?”
Harry smiled and immediately knew it was the wrong thing to do.
“I trusted you Harry!”
“Spying from those bushes is hardly a mark of trust, Ron.”
“You are supposed to be my best friend. What kind of a person steals his best friend’s girlfriend?”
“Well, first of all I haven’t stolen anyone’s girlfriend. All I’ve done is comfort a friend in need.”
“Ron, if you feel like crying I’m here for you. No hand-holding though. Apparently it’s the kind of thing that can upset a best friend and I really wouldn’t want to upset my other best friend.”
Ron threw a fist at his face which he easily dodged, but when he straightened up Ron was pointing his wand at him.
Ron instinctively pointed his wand at Hermione as she hurried out of the rear door. At this Harry drew his wand and Ron immediately pointed his back at Harry.
“Put those things away!” demanded Hermione. “Now!”
They lowered their wands slowly.
“Come inside, both of you,” she said sounding very cross. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your voices could be heard three streets away.”
They followed her inside.
“Harry, make us some drinks,” she ordered abruptly. “Ron, sit down. You’re all burned up.”
“It’s nothing,” he said, trying to wave her away.
“Don’t be silly,” said Hermione, pointing his wand at his face. “Stay still for a moment.”
A white mist emerged from the end of her wand and bathed Ron’s face. A moment later he was wet but no longer burned.
“Thanks,” he said sheepishly, touching his face.
Harry placed three steaming mugs of hot chocolate on the table and sat down.
“Ron, how come you managed to evade the Order? They are supposed to be on guard.”
“I told them Harry said I should practise stealth techniques. Moody was quite enthusiastic, actually. He even offered me his invisibility cloak.”
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Well, I’m glad you are finally here, Ron,” said Hermione.
“Yeah? It didn’t look like that to me,” he replied nastily.
“That will do,” said Harry.
“Thank you, Harry,” said Hermione pointedly. “As a matter of fact, I was very glad that I had one friend to comfort me. It would have been nice to have both of my best friends though.”
Hermione brought her mug to her lips in two hands. Harry watched as the cup trembled slightly, telling him she wasn’t quite as recovered as she first seemed. She took a quick fortifying sip of her drink and then carefully placed her mug down.
“Ron, I owe you an apology,” she began, still looking down at her drink. “I’m afraid something happened recently that greatly upset me. I didn’t feel that I could cope with anyone else knowing just yet. Harry has been badgering me to tell him what it was for some time. Well,” she added with a smile to Harry, “he was until he realised how serious it might be.
“I only decided today that I was definitely going to tell him; but it was only then that I realised just how upset I was. I’d just bottled everything up, you see? After a while it seemed easiest to deny that anything was wrong. I feel just terrible about not telling you both the truth.”
As interested as he was in hearing what Hermione wanted to say, at this moment Harry was watching Ron very carefully. It seemed to him that although Hermione was pouring her heart out, he was getting an altogether different impression.
“I felt I had to avoid the wedding for the same reason. I couldn’t bare the idea of so many people asking how I was and wanting to hear that everything was fine.”
Ron was looking down, his expression oddly blank. He hadn’t touched his drink and was toying with his wand.
“Hermione,” he said interrupting her. “I only need to hear one thing. I’ll forgive you, I promise. I just need to hear you admit what happened between you and hear you apologise.”
Hermione just stared at him open mouthed.
“Well?” he demanded angrily, an instant before Harry’s red stunner hit him square on the chest sending him flying.
Harry couldn’t ever remember seeing Hermione that angry with anyone before. Only her wish not to disturb Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had prevented her yelling herself hoarse.
“You heard him. Are you seriously telling me he didn’t have it coming after demanding you apologise?”
“It’s not up to you, Harry. You’ve no right to interfere.”
“Hermione, he wasn’t even listening to you.”
“So? Ron hardly ever listens, does he?”
“Look, how about if I have a word with him?”
“No, Harry, I think you’ve helped enough.”
“I absolutely forbid it, Harry. Give me your word that you won’t tell him anything.”
Harry scowled for a moment, but in the end said, “Okay. You’re making a mistake, but I promise. Besides, there’s not much I can tell him is there?”
“Just so I know, are we continuing with the no magic policy?”
“Yes, of course,” replied Harry, still nettled.
“I only ask because you appear to have forgotten.”
“You can talk!” he spat angrily.
“Well, one more lapse won’t hurt,” said Hermione, pointing her wand down at the still unconscious Ron.
Ron stirred at once but it was a moment or two before he came to himself.
“Up you get, Ron,” Hermione said kindly, helping him to his feet. He swayed slightly with a confused look on his face until he saw Harry.
Ron immediately looked around for his wand, but Hermione had it.
“I think we’ve had enough magic for this evening,” said Hermione firmly. “Harry, please remember to lock up. The back door is still unbolted. You can sleep downstairs tonight. The couch should be quite comfortable.”
Hermione stepped towards the door.
“Ron, come upstairs with me.”
“What?” said Harry and Ron in unison.
“You can sleep in Harry’s room tonight, but I want a private word with you before you turn in. Goodnight, Harry.”
The coldness in her tone towards him seemed to cut through Harry.
He felt angrier than he could remember, and yet at the same time he was so ashamed. He looked down at his hands. They were shaking badly, much like he felt inside.
He listened intently as the two of them quietly ascended the stairs. There were a couple of muffled words exchanged followed by the distinctive click of the guest bedroom door closing shut.
Harry stood rooted to the spot, waiting for a sound he never heard. He had expected to hear his own bedroom door being closed.
As the seconds stretched into minutes, Harry realised with a shock that it wouldn’t need to close it the room wasn’t being used.
In a daze he bolted the back door again and turned the lights out. Before he knew it he was sitting on the living room couch, still listening intently. All he could hear was Uncle Vernon’s familiar snoring.
Harry shivered. He could do with a blanket, but he certainly wasn’t going to go upstairs to the airing cupboard.
He lay back and stretched out, his legs overhanging the couch arm.
Harry knew he had been a fool to himself. Of course he had been there for Hermione as a friend. All she had wanted was comfort and understanding. She had stood still for an hour, saying nothing, but never once letting his hands go. He supposed she just needed to know he was there.
Still, a small part of his mind had to admit, he had begun to imagine that there might have been something more.
He would never have dreamt of saying anything, but he had enjoyed the fantasy while it lasted.
Harry turned over, wondering if Hermione would mind him summoning a blanket from upstairs.
He swore quietly to the room.
Thinking about Hermione, blankets and upstairs wasn’t helping.
Harry woke early even though he had slept for barely two hours. The first thing he did was kick over the neatly folded pile of blankets with a pillow on top that was beside him.
He groaned, realising the Hermione must have sent them for him last night. Of course, he had been too annoyed to put the lights on to see them.
Harry had hoped that the dawn would bring an ease to some of the pain he had felt the previous night. Unfortunately, he had been a little too optimistic in this regard.
Deciding he needed to get out of the house for a while, he washed quickly at the kitchen sink and resolved to go out on one of his longer circular walks. It seemed ages since he’d been out walking.
A long walk would also give him a little longer to practise how he was going to react around Ron and Hermione.
He crept to the front door and quietly slid the bolts. Harry turned the latch and opened the door. He immediately breathed in the calming fresh morning air.
It was Hermione.
Harry turned around and closed the door again.
“You going out?”
“I was just going for a walk,” he replied, aware that she was coming down the stairs but somehow quite unable to look her in the face.
“I was hoping we could talk, Harry,” she said quietly.
There was no trace of anger or annoyance in her voice, but very little registered with Harry as she rounded the newel and made for the kitchen.
Harry almost opened the front door again and ran. Almost.
He walked into the kitchen. Hermione was filling the kettle and had already taken two mugs out of the cupboard.
Harry sat down and studied the patterns in the Formica tabletop.
“Thanks for the blankets.”
“That’s alright. I was worried after that you might not find them.”
“I found them this morning.”
Hermione snorted, making Harry look up at her. He looked down almost at once, her features etched in his mind as he grew more embarrassed. Her hair was wild and her smiling face looked fresher and more relaxed than he remembered seeing for months.
Harry redoubled is attentions on the tabletop patterns, determined not to risk another peek into Hermione’s mind. He even shuddered at the possibility of this.
Hermione placed his tea down and sat opposite.
“If I don’t know better,” she said mischievously, making Harry tense. Just for something to do, he reached out and slid his drink towards him.
Harry considered lifting the mug, but right then he wasn’t sure if he could quite co-ordinate himself. Indeed, he doubted he had the strength to even lift it.
“You know? Moody is going to laugh himself silly when he hears. Tonks said he suspected Ron had grounds to be jealous. When he finds out there are two of you, goodness know what he’ll say.”
“This isn’t helping, Hermione. And it isn’t true,” he added as an afterthought.
She reached out to him but Harry pulled back.
“I’m sorry,” said Harry, more forcefully than he intended. “I think I’ll go for that walk now.”
“Harry, we need to talk.”
“It’s none of my business.”
“What exactly do you mean by that?”
“I just need time, Hermione. If you’ve made things up with Ron, then great. I’m pleased for you, even if I don’t sound it. I suppose I just never seriously considered.”
Harry stopped, feeling his face redden further.
“That’s hardly fair to Ron, is it?”
“No? Well, maybe it isn’t. It’s still true, though. Don’t worry, Hermione. I’m not about to interfere or cause friction.”
“I wanted to explain, Harry.”
“Please, Hermione. Not now. I can’t hear this now.”
“You’re not listening at all, are you?”
“No. All I’m asking for is a little time. Give me a chance to get used to the idea first.”
“What if that idea isn’t what you fear it is?”
“I allowed myself to care. I felt your pain more acutely than I’ve ever felt before. I know I’m being selfish, but please try to understand.”
“Understand? Harry, I get the impression that you intend to shift our friendship from the genuinely care category to the pretend to care one.”
“No,” he said whilst at the same time thinking she was half right. “That isn’t fair.”
Hermione smiled and seemed about to agree but he continued, quite determined to have his say no matter what it cost him.
“There couldn’t be any pretence about how much your friendship has meant to me. Your being here has meant more to me than I can say. Even through your pain, you brought me brightness and hope. I was wrong to mistake my happiness for something more in you. I’m sorry for that.”
Hermione didn’t respond at once. He could only imagine the expression on her face because he just couldn’t look up.
“Well, before you exchange all your feelings for pretend ones, perhaps you wouldn’t mind listening to one thing?”
Harry didn’t answer.
“I’ll say this only once, Harry. I’ll never mention it again unless you choose to raise the subject with me,” she began.
“For as long as I’ve known you properly, Harry, I’ve realised that you are an emotive person. I’m not saying you can’t think or work things out, but the over-riding factor in any decision you make is always what you feel. Call it instinct, if you like, but at the end of the day it is your emotions that motivate and drive you.
“It is also fairly obvious that your complete failure to learn Occlumency is a direct consequence of this. You can’t hide or deny your emotions because they are too important to you.”
Hermione took a deep shuddering breath.
“After everything that happened, Harry, I just wanted to escape. I made Tonks and Professor McGonagall hide the truth. I told them I just needed time to come to terms with my feelings. The truth was, of course, that coming here gave me an opportunity to pretend nothing was wrong.
“It didn’t work; as they told me it wouldn’t. They said you were the best person to confide in. I think that’s why they were so relieved I agreed to come here. You knew straight away, didn’t you? Not like poor Ron. I’ve never seen him so embarrassed as when I finally got him to listen.”
“He knows, then?” asked Harry flatly.
“Yes,” Hermione said in barely a whisper. “But I wanted you to know something. I was pretty much out of it all day yesterday, absorbed in myself.”
Harry shook his head and was about to protest when Hermione held up her hand.
“It can’t have been easy for you, Harry; just standing or sitting around for hours with me. I didn’t know it at the time, but you were just what I needed. I’ll be stronger now, and I won’t ever forget what a friend you have been. I honestly don’t think truly I appreciated how special you are to me before now. In fact, it almost seemed like a betrayal telling Ron before you.”
Harry gave half a shrug, still staring intently at the tabletop but started as he felt a hand rest gently on his shoulder. Hermione was at his side, although he hadn’t noticed her getting up.
“Harry, listen. I-,” she began when the sound of loud rattling and banging came from upstairs.
“What’s that?” asked Harry, looking up.
“It sounds like Ron,” said Hermione, turning and heading for the door. “I locked the bedroom door so we wouldn’t be disturbed while we talked. I’d better go and let him out before he wakes the entire house.”
Uncle Vernon began yelling right on queue.
Harry sighed and followed her as far as the front door. With a quick look to see Hermione hurrying upstairs, he opened the door and went out into the cool morning air.
“Harry Potter,” said a familiar disembodied voice.
“Oh. Hi, Sapien,” Harry replied without looking up. “I assumed you’d prefer it if I waited until dark before calling you.”
“Well, you could see us but otherwise the darkness isn’t important.”
Harry nodded and looked around.
“Where are you?”
“We are sitting next to you on this fallen tree trunk.”
“So close? I don’t feel cold or anything.”
“That is because you are not afraid. Well, not afraid of any thing. Of course, you do fear. You’re angry with yourself for allowing yourself to-.”
“Yeah, thanks, Sapien,” said Harry, cutting across him. “What time do you want to meet tonight?”
“Yes. The quicker I can stop looking like I’m talking to myself in public places the better.”
“We are quite concealed here, Harry Potter. We are afraid most of the other people haven’t enjoyed their day at the park. They seem to have left early.
Harry snorted and said, “Well, feeling strangely depressed and cold probably had some part to play.”
“Anyway, we have come here to teach you.”
“But how will I see what to do?”
“You are the Wizard, Harry Potter. We cannot demonstrate because we cannot perform magic.”
“Oh, right. You’re going to describe what I need to do?”
“Indeed. Now, we suggest you stand.”
“Calm your emotions,” directed Sapien.
“That has never been easy for me.”
“We are not asking you to stop feeling. All we want is for you to concentrate on the task in hand. You must be singularly determined.”
“Alright, Sapien. Tell me what to do.”
“You need to understand a little of the nature of the human soul. You must learn to recognise the particular feel of a unique and wonderful thing. The soul grows in a lifetime, although that life span may be short or long. Only we Dementors enjoy the privilege of actually feeling that life essence.
“You must learn to recognise the soul that is breaking lose from its mortal coil. This is something that should only happen when death is about to take someone.”
Harry nodded, listening intently now.
“We know you respect life, Harry Potter. Even so, we must warn you that should you take or damage a living soul from a sentient life-form that is not dying is a terrible crime against nature. The Brotherhood of Dementors would avenge that soul without mercy.”
“So, why aren’t you all attacking the Death Eaters then? How many killings have they been responsible for?”
“This is hardly the same thing.”
“I know,” admitted Harry. “In nature, life comes to an end all the time, with or without Voldemort.”
“Indeed. We cannot stress enough that the soul must be treated with the utmost respect. Done correctly, the removal should be painless. Dementors perform the Kiss with love, not hate, to break the final ties.”
“Very well. Firstly, listen to the sound the leaves are making in the trees.”
“Er, okay,” said Harry doubtfully.
“Close your eyes if that makes it easier. There are thousands leaves. As the wind blows, it makes individual leaves rub together. The sound is tiny, but when they all rustle the sound is quite distinctive.
“As a Dementor, we are blind. We cannot see the many souls around us, but they sing to us just as the leaves do to you.
“If you listen carefully, every now and again a sound will reach you that stands out from the rest. Your mind will direct you to look in the right direction, even though you may not be sure that you even heard something.”
Harry nodded slowly, his eyes still quite shut. Then the trees slowly quietened down until they were quite silent.
Harry opened his eyes. The trees were fading to be replaced with thousands of shimmering spots of light on the horizon. He also seemed to be floating a few feet above the ground. They were surrounded by darkness now, making the lights stand-out like stars. Some were bright while others were hardly visible at all. Most were still or moving very slowly.
“Look ahead. Pick one of the moving lights and concentrate. Bring it into your field of perception.”
Harry spotted one of the quicker moving lights. He guessed it was someone driving along the road that ran past the park. The road would normally be concealed from view by the trees.
“Forget your reality for a moment. Concentrate on the soul, not the vehicle or the road or the trees. They are not important.”
As Harry concentrated, the other stars seemed to grow fainter while the bright star slowed and came closer.
“Good. Remember this and then come back.”
Harry blinked in the bright daylight and sat down again. It had been a very strange feeling to be dragged back to the fallen trunk in the middle of the park.
“We were moving, weren’t we? We got closer to him, but it felt like I was pulling him towards me.”
“That is correct, Harry Potter. Now, do you recall what he looked like?”
“Well, he looked just like a bright spot of light.”
“Yes. He was healthy and happy. It would be a terrible thing for such a soul to be kissed.”
“Okay. I’m only interested in destroying one soul, though. What does Voldemort’s soul look like?”
“We are blind, Harry Potter. We cannot say what his soul looks like. What you have just seen is quite unlike what we Dementors sense.”
“Right. I’m sorry, Sapien. I didn’t think.”
“It is our nature to be blind. The lack of sight means nothing to a Dementor. He has lost nothing, so please do not worry about offending us.”
“I’m still sorry,” said Harry.
“Tonight you will destroy a soul that your friend will summon. It will not be Voldemort, however.”
“Hang on,” said Harry slowly. “I’m not about to kill anyone apart from Voldemort.”
“The Kiss does not kill,” Sapien reminded him.
“As good as,” retorted Harry. “What’s the point in living without a soul? I will not do it.”
“Your young friend didn’t agree either,” said Sapien sounding a little amused. “We will only say to you, as we did her, that the intended victim has robbed more people of productive lives than either of you could imagine. If you saw a catalogue of their crimes, you would unhesitatingly brand them evil.”
“Who is it?” asked Harry.
“Merely a subject for you to practise on,” replied Sapien.
“That’s not good enough.”
“No harm will come to them, we assure you. In fact, they are quite looking forward to it.”
“Oh, yes. You see he will forget his crimes the moment his soul is destroyed. He will no longer be burdened by his conscience. He will be free and innocent once more. He will be given another chance to begin again.”
“Yes, indeed. You see, the Ministry of Magic rarely allows a victim of a Dementor’s Kiss to re-enter society. However, they can and do begin their lives again. As their demons are excised, the motive for criminal or antisocial behaviour is usually gone.”
“Is that always true?”
“No. Where the individual returns to their previous influences, they are often tempted to fall into old habits.”
“Your friend said she could see the advantages. If a person forgets they performed an act of evil and also forgot their motive, could they not go on to lead productive lives?”
“Voldemort hasn’t exactly performed an act of evil, has he?”
“We don’t think she quite believed Voldemort himself could be redeemed. Remember, the kiss is always reserved as the last resort.”
“So, what’s his name and what did he do?”
“You are not his judge, Harry Potter. You are merely the executioner of his past life. He will come to you willingly at midnight. You will then either do it or not; but it would be a kindness to allow him to forget.”
“Hermione will never agree,” said Harry.
“That is the least of your worries where she is concerned, Harry Potter.”
“Hey, stop reading my mind! That’s private!”
“Do not be ashamed of your feelings for her. They are honest and true. She loves-”
“I’m warning you, Sapien,” said Harry angrily, getting up from the tree trunk and storming out of the clearing. “I’ll call you at midnight,” he shouted over his shoulder.
Harry’s anger with Sapien lasted him almost all the way home to Privet Drive. The Dementor had seen plainly the very thing Harry was willing himself to deny.
He would just have to try harder.
Harry turned out of the alley-way almost walked straight into Ron.
“Harry! Where have you been?”
“Erm, I just went for a walk.”
“Sure. I just needed to think. How’s Hermione?”
“Worried about you, mainly. Actually, that’s why I’m out here. I was hoping we could have a talk.”
Harry hesitated before nodding, knowing he had little choice. He turned and Ron followed him back down the short alley.
“I couldn’t believe she didn’t tell me,” Ron began presently. “I mean, I can understand why she didn’t tell you, Harry. She was afraid you’d go off on some half-baked rescue mission. Actually, maybe that should be revenge mission since it sounds like there is anyone left alive to rescue.”
Harry still had no idea what it was that Hermione had suffered, but he was by now expecting something very bad. He was also determined not to hear whatever it was from Ron.
“I could,” said Harry darkly. “I meant, that’s not entirely why she didn’t say anything. I did almost the same thing when Sirius was killed. I didn’t tell the Dursleys so they assumed he was still alive. Uncle Vernon still liked to make the odd dig at him, but there were times when I was glad to pretend Sirius was still with me.”
“Oh,” said Ron.
“It didn’t last long, actually. By the time Dumbledore came to collect me, I’d accepted what had happened.”
“I’ve apologised to Hermione,” said Ron awkwardly. “I’d like to apologise to you too, Harry.”
“There’s no need.”
“She said I should listen more in future,” Ron said with a smile.
“That sounds like Hermione.”
“She also mentioned something about you not listening to her properly either.”
Harry shrugged and they turned into the adjacent avenue.
“Last night, when we went upstairs,” began Ron.
Harry realised there was something else he didn’t want to hear from Ron; or anyone.
“Ron, I really don’t want to hear this. If you must know, Hermione tried to tell me as well this morning. I didn’t listen to her then and I’m not listening to you now. Do me a personal favour and spare me the sordid details, will you?”
“Harry, I wasn’t trying to boast or anything,” protested Ron, matching Harry’s quickening pace. “Do we have to walk this fast?”
“Not if you change the subject,” said Harry firmly.
“Okay, okay,” said Ron.
Harry relented and slowed down.
“Hermione said you think you’ve figured out a way to destroy the Horcruxes.”
“Yes. We’ll know tonight if it might work.”
“You know how then? Hermione said you’d need to be taught the Dementor’s secret tonight.”
“No, I learned that this afternoon,” said Harry, thinking back to the moment he’d seen that soul driving past the park. He’d felt that life and seemed to know instinctively how to destroy it.
“Really? How’s it done?”
“I gave my word not to say, Ron. So did Hermione about the part she needs to do.”
Ron frowned slightly.
“Ron, I know it sounds like I’m cutting you out, but it really isn’t like that. This really is a terrible thing we’re learning to do. Just imagine, reducing a person so they are worse than dead.”
“If it works it will be worth it.”
“If it works, it will mean we’ll have to put all our efforts into finding the hidden Horcruxes,” said Harry.
Then he made a decision. As angry as he felt with Ron at that moment, he knew he needed Ron’s help. Harry needed to put their differences aside for the greater good.
It was easier than Harry felt it should have been, but it was like slipping off a heavy overcoat. Perhaps it was Sapien’s influence, but Harry’s emotions calmed and evaporated leaving a colder, less emotional Harry.
“If you are still with me, I’d like you to take charge of something.”
“Of course I’m still with you! What do you want me to do?”
“I see it like this,” began Harry. “Hermione will do most of the research for us. She’ll need books and goodness knows what. I want you to do two things. First, you will be in charge of getting whatever she needs. Of course, I’ll fetch and carry; but you’ll act as banker and buyer. You’ll control the finances. Secondly, I want you to help track down whatever items she shortlists as potential Horcruxes.”
“Why me, Harry?”
“Well, Voldemort must not find out what we’re really doing. While you are getting what we need, I’ll be making sure that I’m in the news for any other purpose. I’m going to start a small war, Ron. It will be a war that cannot stand a hope of succeeding, but it should throw Voldemort of your scent.”
“That’s mad, Harry.”
“Insane,” agreed Harry. “I’m still going to destroy the Horcruxes, of course. I also expect we’ll have to fight to get hold of some of them, but as far as possible I want you to buy rather than us having to steal them. That way Voldemort won’t know what we are doing.”
“How will we afford it?”
“We’ll use the gold in my vault of course.”
“There isn’t enough gold, surely.”
“Don’t forget Sirius left me his gold too. The Black family was one of the richest in the Wizarding world.”
“Pity Sirius didn’t have a chance to enjoy it. He would have wanted you to have that money, Harry. It was for your future, not some mad scheme.”
“If we succeed, Sirius’ money and the money my parents left me will have been used for all our benefits, Ron. I won’t argue with you on this. My mind is made up. All I need is to hear you say yes.”
“Okay, Harry. Of course, I’ll help in any way I can.”
“Good. When we get the chance we’ll go to Gringotts and give you authorisation to withdraw cash on my behalf.”
“I wonder if Hermione knows about accountancy,” mused Ron.
“Don’t worry about the book-keeping, Ron. Just take what you need. I’m more concerned about your safety than the gold. You’ll be selling as much as you buy, I expect. We won’t need to keep artefacts we know aren’t Horcruxes.”
“Sure, but information won’t have a resale value.”
“You’ll just have to learn how to haggle, I suppose.”
“Hey! Remember who my brothers are? It’s in the blood, Harry.”
Harry smiled and nodded.
“You may find yourself in situations that might be considered beyond the law,” Harry reminded him.
“Let’s just not tell Hermione about that and then take it by ear,” suggested Ron.
“Good idea,” agreed Harry.
“Harry,” said Ron. “About Hermione.”
Harry slumped inside. He had hoped they would be past this.
“Harry, I said I was sorry and I am. What I didn’t say was that I’m still pretty mad at you. I know Hermione was upset and you were there for her, but I didn’t see just that. If Hermione wants to insist that nothing was going on; well, okay. I don’t think I was entirely wrong, though.”
Harry stopped and turned to face Ron.
He wasn’t sure what he was going to say, even at the moment he started speaking.
“Nothing actually happened, Ron.”
“I know. I saw, remember? I’m not taking about what happened.”
“Then you have absolutely nothing to complain about, Ron.”
“No, I suppose I don’t,” agreed Ron, who seemed to be waiting for more from Harry.
Harry was tempted to say a little more, but knew it would lead to still more awkward questions. Even an admission that for the few hours he’d remained so close to Hermione he’d been able to exclude almost every other fear he’d had. Her well-being had become the only thing he had any concern over.
“We should be getting back,” said Harry uncomfortably, who was quite determined not to give any assurances of his future conduct.
He moved off, but he was a few steps away before Ron hurried to catch him up.
“I knew she was wrong,” said Ron brightly as he matched Harry’s stride.
“Hermione. She said I shouldn’t say anything. She seemed to think you might hex me or something.”
“Not out here in broad daylight, Ron,” said Harry dryly. “There’s a nice dark alleyway we’ll need to cut through up ahead, though.”
“So, what happened to him?”
Ron returns to the Burrow, but not before letting something slip to Harry. Back at Privet Drive, Hermione is struggling to clear up after Ron's attempt at making a birthday cake for Harry. Hermione breaks down and finally tells Harry what happened.
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