A/N: Yay I'm back! It's been so long since I've written one of these notes at the start of a chapter so I'm a little lost. First off, I guess I would like to thank all of my friends who have helped me through a difficult period in my life. Next, I would like to thank everyone who reviewed or responded to my request for help a few days back. I am glad that so many of you like my work! Thank you to HungryHeadlessHunter, Deliberatee and emiya-excalibur on that.

Special shout-out to Taliesin19 and Gnom3y!

On another note, I have made slight edits to all the previous chapters and the only thing of notice is that Harry and Hermione are now 9 due to the incident happening a few days after Christmas, therefore causing the year to end around the time of the incident.

Sorry for this chapter taking longer than the promised date (Monday). I was trying to make it a longer chapter for you guys, while resolving a major concern that most of you have expressed.

Enjoy! :D

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter!

Standing By Your Side, Forever

"Sometimes you need to be alone, in order to find out who you really are and what you really want" ~ Unknown

Chapter 5 - Independence?

After Apolline 'pop'ed them out of the orphanage, Harry and Hermione were finally able to take a breath of fresh air.

"I apparated us directly to the entrance of the orphanage, so that we can make our way to our car. we'll have to head to the Ministry of Magic in order to apply for transport to France and back to the Delacour estate."

Harry and Hermione turned to find Apolline talking to them with a slight smile. Alain was a distance away, trying to start the car.

"Let's head to the car, we can introduce ourselves during the journey."

With a nod, Harry and Hermione headed towards the car before entering it, with Harry and Hermione taking the back seats while Apolline sat at the front, with Alain at the wheel.

The journey was spent talking, with Harry and Hermione introducing themselves to the Delacours and with the Delacours explaining different parts of the magical world to the children. However halfway throughout the journey, Hermione had fell distracted and started to think about her relationship with Harry.

She immediately thought about the slight kiss Harry had given her on the cheek as well as the moment they shared in what remained of the orphanage. While this had immediately brought a slight smile to her face, she started thinking about her part in the relationship. Throughout the relationship, even before they truly became friends, it had always been Harry who had protected her. Harry was the one who put himself in front of Hermione whenever they faced danger, selflessly doing his best to protect her, however, all that she had done was hide and cry behind Harry, frightened out of her wits.

She recalled when they had first met, when Hermione had been bullied by Peter and his gang. Harry had tried to protect her but ended up taking a beating himself.

Peter punched Harry a few more times and turned to leave. His goons tossed Harry on the floor beside Hermione and followed Peter away. Hermione was openly crying now. Harry pushed himself into a sitting position despite the aching pain in his stomach and held Hermione by the shoulder, comforting Hermione. "Don't cry now. They're gone. Your face doesn't look pretty when you cry."

While Hermione had only been pushed to the floor, Harry had taken a full beating. In the end, instead of Hermione helping Harry, who had clearly suffered more injuries, it was Harry who had to comfort Hermione.

Again, during the attack on the orphanage, Hermione had been frightened and was crying, while Harry had been the one who had to pull Hermione along.

Hermione was shivering in fear. Were it not for Harry's presence, Hermione would have collapsed minutes ago.

After both Harry and Hermione had been tortured by their crazed assailant, it was once again Harry who had miraculously healed her and proceeded to comfort her, all the while suffering from his one injuries.

It was then that Hermione came to a conclusion: She was relying too much on Harry. She felt like a burden, a deadweight to Harry. She felt like the useless one in her relationship with Harry. She needed to change.

If she continued the way she was, Harry would eventually see her for what she was - a burden - and leave her for someone else, someone who was more capable of standing by Harry's side, supporting him instead of hiding behind his back, causing problems for Harry.

She needed to become stronger for Harry. No, for herself. To prove to herself that she was more than a burden to Harry. The Delacour's arrival had given her the perfect opportunity to become stronger. According to the Delacours, she, like Harry, had magic. She would use this opportunity to learn more about magic, to become better, and to finally be able to stand by Harry's side, protecting him just as he had always protected her.

But first, she had to isolate herself to be independent. The last thing she would need is to become over dependent on Harry before she had the chance to learn to become stronger.

Line Break

After a long ride, during which both Harry and Hermione had fell asleep countless times, they had finally arrived in a road named Whitehall. Apolline gently shook Harry, who was still asleep, awake, while Hermione opened the door and stepped out of the car.

Apolline and Alain took the lead and walked into a telephone booth. Harry and Hermione, seeing how the phone booth seemed way too small to fit all four of them, decided to wait outside the car.

Harry was just about to reach for Hermione's hand, when Apolline told the two of them to walk into the phone booth with them. While Harry eyed the booth sceptically, Hermione immediately walked forward and entered the booth. Seeing that Hermione had somehow managed to squeeze into the booth, Harry decided to follow and stepped into the booth, only to find it much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Harry was still wondering how it was possible, when Alain spoke up, "Expansion charm. Makes something much bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside."

Harry nodded in understanding, before asking, "So... what are we doing here?" The inside of the booth, while much bigger than a regular phone booth, was identical to a regular phone booth, with a single phone attached to the opposite wall.

Alain chuckled and swung an arm around Harry's shoulders, gently leading Harry over to the phone. Harry tensed at the initial contact but slowly relaxed as he had gotten to know more about Alain Delacour and was slowly starting to trust him.

"Watch and learn... you children may need to know how to get into the Ministry sometime in the future." Alain told Harry, while dialling the numbers "62442". Harry looked confused once more before Hermione explained, "They spell out the words 'Magic'."

Alain smiled, "Correct, my dear, now get ready."

"Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business."

"Alain Delacour, Apolline Delacour, Harry and Hermione. Here to request an international portkey for return travel to France."

Four silver badges shot out of the slot, with each one having a different name on it.

Before Apolline had the time to give the badges out to the children, the floor of the phone booth crashed downwards, before finally jerking to a stop, arriving at a giant hall. The party of four made their way to a counter, where Alain requested to speak to Minister Fudge.

Within 5 minutes, they found themselves being led to the Minister's office. Harry and Hermione were told to wait outside while the Delacours entered the office to speak to Minister Fudge.

Harry and Hermione stood on opposite walls, facing each other. Harry noticed that Hermione;s behaviour had changed ever since the ride from the orphanage.

"Are you alright 'Mione?" Harry asked, concerned, while bending slightly, trying to reach see Hermione's eyes.

Hermione bit the bottom of her lips. Why is Harry making it so difficult for me?

"Yes, I'm fine." She replied curtly trying to end the conversation there. However, it was clear that Harry had other plans.

"What's wrong, 'Mione? You can tell me."

Luckily for Hermione, she was saved from answering the question by the Delacours who had just left the Minister's office.

Alain, oblivious to the slightly tense atmosphere between Harry and Hermione, begun to explain to the children how the portkey would work. However, Apolline was not so oblivious, and immediately noticed the interaction between Harry and Hermione, casting both slightly worried and concerned looks.

After Alain warned the children of the slight nausea they would feel on their first few uses of the portkey, he told them to grab on to the portkey, which was a pen. "You will eventually get used to it though!"

Due to the small size of the pen, Harry's hand was placed on top of Hermione's and Harry felt Hermione's hand tense ever so slightly, causing Harry to frown.

What happened?

Line Break

"Papa, Mama!" The first thing that Harry heard upon recovering from the effects of portkey travel was the sound of a girl around his and Hermione's age. When he opened his eyes, he saw a French girl hugging Alain and Apolline tightly. Behind her was another girl, with a deep resemblance to the younger girl, and looked around twelve. Both girls had sapphire blue eyes and silvery blonde hair, just like Apolline's. They must be the two daughters Apolline spoke of.

After the quick Delacour family reunion, the girl looked away from her parents and spotted Harry and Hermione standing some distance away. She immediately pointed to the two and asked, "Who are they?"

"Yes, I have something to discuss with you girls, if you could follow me to leisure room please. Harry, Hermione, you two follow as well."

Once everyone was seated comfortably in the leisure room, Alain started, "Girls, these two are Harry and Hermione. Harry, Hermione, this is Gabrielle," Alain pointed at the younger girl, who giggled and waved cheerily at the two. "And this is Fleur," Alain then pointed at the older girl, who merely nodded her head at Harry and Hermione. "Gabrielle is going to be 9 this year, just like Harry and Hermione, and Fleur is turning 12 this year."

"Gabrielle, Fleur, we were on our visit to Britain due to my position as Head of Defense of France and decided to spend some time going around the country. However, when we were passing by an orphanage, we noticed that it was in ruins and there were small fires in certain places. Of course, your mother and I decided to investigate. In one of the rooms, we found Harry and Hermione here and after a small test, we found out that they were actually magical. Therefore, we gave them the offer to stay with us for the time being before deciding what to do. I hope you girls will be ok with that."

Gabrielle looked so excited that Harry was almost afraid that she might burst from all the excitement. Gabrielle started rambling about all the different things they could do together when Alain cut her off and told her to calm down. Sheepishly, Gabrielle stopped rambling and blushed a deep red before lowering her head, staring at her feet.

On the other hand, Fleur seemed to be in deep thought and it was clear that she was conflicted on the issue. However, eventually, she nodded as well, showing her agreement.

"That's great! Now why don't the two of you come with me to see what we've bought for you while Apolline brings Harry and Hermione to their rooms?"

The girls agreed and followed their father enthusiastically, leaving Harry and Hermione with Apolline, who was gently shaking her head.

"They can be such a handful sometimes. Gabrielle on one hand, so active and cheerful, while Fleur, on the other hand, is so quiet. Now why don't the two of you follow me and I can show you to the rooms you would be staying in for the rest of the week. Now, would the two of you like a shared room, like the one the two of you had in the orphanage or would you like separate rooms?"

Harry smiled and was about to agree to a shared room when Hermione spoke up.

"Separate please."

Harry was shocked. First, Hermione's strange behavior. Next, Hermione refusing to tell Harry about her problems. And now, Hermione wanted separate rooms? Over the past few days, Harry had almost lost his friend twice. The first to his and her affections to each other and the second due to the attack on the orphanage. Would this incident cause another separation? Harry growled frustrated, before noticing that Apolline and Hermione had already walked of towards the rooms, causing him to jog in order to catch up to them.

When they reached the room, Harry immediately took hold of Hermione's hand, "Hermione, what's wrong, pleas speak to me. Remember what Ms. Claire said about speaking to each other about our problems?"

Hermione struggled to get her hand free from Harry's grasp, tears starting to form at the hurt her plan was causing to both her and to Harry. But it's necessary. She reminded herself, and with a final pull, Hermione's hand was free, allowing her to quickly run into her room before locking the door.

Apolline, who had witnessed the entire incident, gave Harry a gentle hug, whispering to him, "Give her some space. Girls need their own space sometimes. Let her think through her problems, maybe give her a day or two to calm down and then you could try to talk to her again, ok?"

Harry could only nod numbly, his vision still set on the locked door.

Line Break

Over the next few days, Hermione barely spoke to Harry, only exchanging slight greetings during meal times. Strangely, the only times she was out of her room were either for her meals or, strangely enough, to ask Alain or Apolline for magical textbooks.

After a few days of Hermione asking for magical textbooks, Alain simply brought Hermione to a small library the Delacours owned. This managed to get Hermione out of her room more, only to spend all of her time in the library studying.

Hermione was reading through the First Year's textbook on charms when she heard someone pulling a seat beside her and taking a seat. Not Harry again. Hermione had to take several deep breaths in order to stop herself from jumping out of her seat and crushing Harry with a hug.

However, when the person spoke, it was clear that it wasn't Harry.

"Hello?"

Hermione turned to see the youngest of the Delacours, Gabrielle.

"Hello. Was there something you needed?" Hermione answered.

Gabrielle shook her head cutely before speaking, "No. I've been seeing you in the library recently, I come to library a lot too. I want to learn to become better at magic than my sister!"

Hermione smiled, "I'm trying to learn more about magic too."

Gabrielle giggled before commenting, "Why don't we learn together? It can get very lonely in the library sometimes."

Hermione immediately agreed, these few days of solitude has not treated her well and she could definitely use the company.

After a few minutes, Gabrielle spoke up again, "Hermione, if you don't mind me asking, why do you want to learn magic so much?"

Hermione gave a slight smile, feeling slightly relieved that she could share her motives with someone else. Surely Gabrielle would understand, with both of them being in the similar situations.

"I need to get stronger so I can stand up for myself. The boy who came with me, he's my best friend, but throughout the years of us being friends, it had always been him protecting me from harm while I cried in the background, but now I want to be able to protect him as well, instead of being the weakling at the corner hiding while Harry protected me."

At the entrance of the library, Harry stood stunned. He was about to enter the library to look for Hermione when he heard the exchange between Hermione and Gabrielle.

At least now I understand what Hermione is trying to do. I'll give her some space, when she's finally ready she can talk to me.

With a sad smile on Harry's face, he walked away from the library.

Line Break

While Harry finally understood Hermione's intentions, it did not hurt any less whenever Hermione refused to look at him or sat several seats away from him at mealtime. He missed all the contact with Hermione, all the small cuddles on the couch in front of the fireplace while they read a book, or the occasional hugs they gave each other whenever they were happy.

Whenever Hermione was nearby, Harry couldn't help but give longing glances to Hermione. In all of his days at the Delacour's, he was lonely, it almost seemed like he was back in the days at the orphanage before he met Hermione. He had no companions but himself and his books, with the only people speaking to him being adults.

As Harry was deep in thought, he did not notice Fleur making her way over to Harry.

"Harry?"

Harry opened his eyes, swiping away at the few tears that had made it out of his eyes, before looking up, seeing Fleur Delacour.

Harry forced a small smile on his face and replied, "Hello Fleur."

Fleur frowned. Was he crying?

"I just wanted to apologise for how I was slightly rude to you and Hermione when you first arrived at our home."

Harry gave a true smile this time, "It's ok Fleur, it's natural that you were untrusting of us initially. Is that all?"

Fleur took a seat beside Harry on the couch, with her body turned slightly so that she could look into Harry's eyes.

"What's troubling you? It helps when you share it with someone, trust me."

Harry held the eye contact between Fleur and himself for a few seconds before letting out a sigh and cupping his face with his hands.

"It's nothing much, it's just that these few days, after the attack on the orphanage that Hermione and I lived in, Hermione seemed to have changed. While she seemed to be more confident, she didn't talk to me as much and started hiding in her room or the library. A few days ago, I overheard a conversation between Hermione and your sister and I found out that Hermione was trying to learn magic so that she can protect me like how I have been protecting her these few years.

"I understand her motives, but still it hurts not being able to hold her hand, or hug her."

Fleur nodded, "Girls never want to feel weak. I'm guessing that after the attack, Hermione saw how weak she was in needing you to protect her in every situation. I suggest that you give her her time to get stronger and become independent. She is doing this for you. Eventually, when she is satisfied with herself, she would come back."

Harry smiled, "Thank you Fleur. That really helped me in understanding."

Fleur returned the smile, gently patting his shoulder before walking off in the direction of the library.

Line Break

As Fleur entered the library, she noticed Gabrielle sitting with Hermione talking animatedly. She approached the pair with a smile.

"Gabrielle, could you let me talk to Hermione alone? Please?"

Gabrielle looked up to see her sister. Giving Fleur a small hug, she said, "Of course!"

As she walked off, she quickly turned around and waved at Hermione, "Bye Hermione! See you later!"

Hermione smiled in response and waved back, "Bye Gabrielle!"

Hermione then turned to Fleur who had taken the seat that Gabrielle was previously in, only to see Fleur with a frown on her face.

"Why are you doing this? Not only are you hurting yourself, but you are hurting Harry as well eith your actions over the past few days."

Hermione grew slightly frustrated, "I know that! But I need to become stronger so I can stand by Harry's side, protecting him like how he has protected me."

"You claim that you are doing this for Harry, to protect Harry. I only spoke to Harry for a few minutes, but in my conversation with him, it is obvious that he is hurt deeply by your actions. You say you are protecting him, but in the end, you end up hurting him on a much deeper level than what he was suffered while protecting you. These bullies, or the witch who attacked the orphanage, they hurt Harry on a physical level, Harry did it for you, while it had definitely hurt him, he managed to draw comfort with the fact that at least he was able to protect you. Now, you have hurt him on an emotional level. It's funny how the only person who can make you the happiest is also the one who can hurt you beyond repair. This is what he is feeling right now. I don't know much about the attack, but from what I have heard, Harry tried to protect you but was unable to stop the witch from torturing you. You think that you felt weak? What about Harry? The worst feeling in the world is when you know that you did the best that you could, yet it wasn't enough. Harry was already dealing with the guilt eating away at him after he was unable to protect you, now you cause him more pain by avoiding him. Tell me, if you really cared about Harry, what would be the right thing to do?

"I'm sorry for sounding so harsh. I understand that you want to get stronger. I understand that you want to stand by Harry as equals. I know that you actually care a lot about Harry. But both you need to wake up and see that what you are doing isn't helping either you or Harry but only hurting the both of you."

Hermione had tears in her eyes by the end of the Fleur's "speech". But she finally managed to see how wrong she actually was.

Hermione jumped out of her seat and hugged Fleur tightly, mumbling a thousand "Thank you"s under her breath.

Fleur returned the hug before smiling and whispering to Hermione.

"Now go clean yourself up before you go look for Harry and give him a hug too."

Hermione smiled before starting to pack her books. Fleur stopped her, "I'll clean it myself, go look for your boy."

Hermione grinned before running out, shouting a loud "Thank you!" to Fleur, leaving Fleur in the library with a satisfied smile on her face.

Line Break

Harry was still resting on the couch, with his head buried in his hands. Even after Fleur had left, he had stayed in this position thinking about his situation with Hermione. He really understood the need of allowing Hermione to be independent and he understand that he needed to give Hermione her own space until she was comfortable, but he still longed for Hermione and missed the days back in the orphanage where they would spend their days together.

"Harry! Harry!"

Harry lifted his head up and groaned. Even his head was playing tricks on him now, hearing Hermione's voice calling for him out of nowhere. He decided that he was probably too tired, with him getting little rest over the past few days and decided to take a late afternoon nap and hopefully catch some sleep.

When he stood up and turned however, he was greeted by the girl he had been worrying about over the past few days.

"Her... Hermione?"

Hermione could only nod mutely as tears started to gather at her eyes.

"Are... are you alright?" Harry was still unsure whether Hermione wanted to talk to him.

Instead of answering the question, Hermione walked forward and gave Harry a tight hug.

Harry hesitated for a second before immediately returning the hug, resting his chin on Hermione's shoulder. They held the embrace for a few minutes, both unwilling to let go of each other. However, Hermione was the one who first spoke up.

"Harry, I'm so sorry. I was so stupid. After everything that had happened, I just felt so weak. And I wanted to be able to stand by your side as an equal so I thought that I needed to grow stronger before you felt that I was too useless and left me. I'm so sorry Harry. You must have been hurt when I ignored you these few days."

Harry smiled. "What matters 'Mione, is that we are back together now. And 'Mione, I will never, never, find you useless. I love you 'Mione. I may have been protecting you physically over these years, making sure that you would never get hurt, but you, 'Mione, helped me emotionally. Back when I was 6, when I protected you from Peter and his gang of bullies, you gave me something that I never had, but had always longed for: a friend. You gave me more than that. You gave me a companion. After that for this past few years, you have been my source of happiness.

"So listen up Hermione. You are not useless. You are more than anything I can wish for. Never once have I truly thanked you for your companionship. Thank you my dear 'Mione, for being by my side."

Hermione was so glad that Harry had felt this way about her. "Thank you Harry. I will still try my best to become stronger though. I wanted to learn more about magic to protect you, to be able to watch your back as you have watched mine and I know that I will be able to do that someday."

Harry nodded, "I only have one request."

Hermione leaned back from Harry's embrace and asked, "What's that?"

Harry grinned, "Let me learn with you."

Hermione giggled and nodded her head, "Of course, Harry!" before giving him a playful contemplative look, "Unless you are too slow to keep up with me and Gabrielle!"

Harry looked insulted for a moment before realising that Hermione was teasing him. Before he could say anything however, Hermione had leapt away from him and started to run off.

Harry immediately took chase and shouted after Hermione, "You're gonna pay for that 'Mione!"

Hermione turned around and stuck her tongue out, "You have to catch me first, mister!"

Apolline, who was just walking down the corridor, noticed the chase between Harry and Hermione and smiled. She was glad that the pair were finally able to get back together. Both of them looked so depressed before and it was clear to everyone that they missed each other.

As she was clearing up the mess the children created from the chase, she noticed Fleur standing near the entrance of the library with a self-satisfied smile. Apolline gave Fleur a small hug and said, "Well done my little flower."

A/N: I wasn't supposed to cut this chapter off at this length. This chapter was supposed to be around 8-9k words, but as something had came up, my morning and afternoon had been taken up, therefore I had to rush as much as I could before I went to sleep. I was only able to reach about 4.5k words, which is 1k more than the usual. Hopefully this would be ok for now. To make up for this, I will be starting on the next chapter tomorrow and hopefully finish it within a day or so. It will cover the rest of the week and cover Harry and Hermione's decision on whether or not they want to stay with the Delacours.

Once again, if you liked it, please give me a follow or a favourite and if you didn't, suggestions and feedback is always welcome.

Until next time, Primevere :D