Harry calls him on the phone sometimes. (Every time he remembers how Ron learned to use it so he could talk to Hermione while she was at university.) They are quietly, painfully polite. It never used to be like this.

Hermione comes home once when they're in the middle of a conversation, the door slamming loudly behind her. Ron stops in the middle of a sentence.

"I have to go," he says, and hangs up.

Hermione clutches her bag to her chest, guilt stricken by something on Harry's face.

"You're early," Harry says, putting the phone down carefully.

"Sorry," she says. "Our teacher got sick halfway through class, so."

Harry forces himself to smile past the heaviness in his chest and kisses her lightly. "I hope he didn't pass it on to you."

"I feel fine," she says, relaxing by inches as he takes her coat and offers to make tea.

They drink tea and talk about the news and what to have for dinner and whether Harry can get next weekend off work to go see Hermione's parents. Throughout it all Hermione throws anxious glances at him and Harry finds it steadily harder to continue normal conversation.

Eventually he falls silent and Hermione dares to ask, "How's Ron?"

Harry shrugs and takes the empty cups to the sink. "Alright. Still working with George."



Harry runs the water and adds washing-up liquid.

"Has George promoted him yet?"

"Ron reckons he's getting all of the responsibility and none of the pay."

"He should find another job, he never liked working at the shop anyway."

"Yeah. Well."

Harry watches bubbles form in the sink. Hermione gets up and hesitates for only a second before wrapping her arms around him from behind, resting her chin on his shoulder. He leans back into her, breathing in her scent. His sinuses start to burn and his vision blurs.

"Oh, Harry," she whispers. "I'm so sorry."

He takes off his glasses and wipes his eyes with his sleeve. "At least I get to talk to him," he says, but his voice wavers. He feels rather than hears her sigh, and for a moment he feels completely in tune with her. She misses Ron like he does. They always worked best as a trio, two of them never completely made sense.

And yet.

She kisses his cheek and he knows if he could go back, he wouldn't.