DISCLAIMER: In case you didn't know, I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters, terms, places, etc. They all belong to the wonderfully talented J.K. Rowling. I am merely borrowing them to place them into this story, and I do not want to actually make money from them, so, no matter how brilliant you think my work is, please refrain from paying me. ;-)
Hermione Granger ripped up the letter the owl had dropped onto her dining room table. No, she wasn't going back to that place. After what had happened last year, she never again wanted to see Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She didn't care that it was her last year, and she didn't care that she was Head Girl. If she went back, she knew she would see him.
Merlin, she hated him. She just wished the spoiled brat would get over himself and realize that the world doesn't revolve around him. The idiotic git grated her nerves so badly, she just wanted to punch him, which she did last year, but she wanted to do it again. No one had ever made her that angry…no one…not Ron, not Neville, not the twins…not even Malfoy.
Hermione wished she could forever curse Harry Potter for last year. But she couldn't, so she would just settle with not seeing him ever again and pretending he didn't exist anymore. She could live with that. Couldn't she? Maybe.
"Dammit!" No, she couldn't. Even if she didn't see him again, she'd still have to hear all the talk about him. The entire wizarding world still saw him as the hero, the great weapon against Voldemort. They didn't know Harry's true self, what he's become. Only she and Ron knew the truth. Even Dumbledore seemed oblivious to Harry's new behavior. Hermione couldn't go back to school with him, and it wasn't just because of whom he has become, but because of what he did to her.
The seventeen-year-old witch found herself drifting into the past. It was Christmas of her sixth year at Hogwarts, and she was sitting with her boyfriend, Harry. She was so happy in his arms next to the fire in the common room.
"I'm thirsty," he whispered in her ear. "I'm going to the kitchens real quick."
"Do you have to go?"
"I'll be right back."
She nodded, watching his back as he walked out the room.
"Any news from school yet?" Mrs. Granger's voice brought Hermione to the present.
Hermione looked at the pieces of parchment on the table. "No…No news yet. I'm sure it will arrive soon, though." She began gathering up the trash.
"Hm…Well, I'm sure you're right. But it had better come in the next couple of days; otherwise, we won't be able to get your supplies."
"I'm sure we'll have time." After throwing the torn letter into the trash can, Hermione gave her mother a kiss on the cheek. "I'm off."
"Okay, have fun, and be careful."
"Do you have everything?"
"Okay, see you tonight. Tell Ron I said, 'Hi.'"
Hermione ran out the door and got into the car. She was meeting Ron at the Leaky Cauldron to go out and eat lunch. Since her house wasn't hooked up to the Floo Network and she lived close to London, they decided the Leaky Cauldron would be the best place to meet.
This outing had become a weekly tradition for the two friends. Hermione now looked forward to Saturdays. Saturdays used to mean waking up to the noise of her little sister's Saturday morning shows and spending the day trying to block out the sounds and read. Now, they meant a day out of the house with her best friend.
She was greeted with a large hug from Ron when she arrived at the pub. Hermione stood on her toes and placed a light kiss on his cheek.
"Hey. How was the drive?"
Hermione shrugged. "The usual. Did you come by floo?" she questioned, noticing his cleanness.
"Yeah, but I washed up at the inn."
"Oh." She lowered her gaze to the table.
"Hey. Are you all right?"
She waved him off. "It's nothing."
"It's about our Hogwarts letters, isn't it?"
After a brief pause, Hermione nodded with a sigh; Ron always knew what was wrong. "I told my mum I hadn't gotten it this morning."
"Hermione," he scolded.
"I know…I just don't want to go back."
"Neither do I, but we have to. We can't live life without finishing school."
"But I can't see him again. Ron, if I do, I don't know if I'll be able to stop myself. Harry went too far too many times last year, and I can't stand aside and let him-"
Ron silenced her as an old hag walked by. "I know…I know," he said softly. "But if he changed once, he can change again."
Hermione gave him a look of pure surprise.
"And—and—if he can't, then we can't leave the rest of Gryffindor with a leader like him."
The witch thought about it. He was right. If only Harry was there to lead Gryffindor, who knows what might happen. "Okay. Okay. I'm sure I'll get another letter tomorrow. I'll go. But I don't like it," she responded grudgingly.
"Neither do I, but it's for the best, and we won't be surprised this time."
Hermione had watched Harry leave the room last Christmas, but she didn't see him come back. Worried, she had gone looking for him when he hadn't returned after thirty minutes. When she had found him…What she had seen…She had been left breathless; she didn't know what to do. Hermione had then run to the only person she could: Ron.
He had been as surprised as she had been when she had told him what had happened.
"I can't believe Harry would do that…I can't believe he did that," Ron had said.
"Well, he did. I saw him. I saw them," Hermione had cried out through hot tears. "It's true."
"I believe you, Hermione…Hermione, I believe you…Hermione?"
"Hermione? Hermione?" Ron asked.
It took Hermione a moment to realize it was the present-day Ron she was hearing.
She shook her head in an attempt to lose the memories. "I'm sorry…What?"
"Are you back?"
"You were staring out into space, as if you were somewhere else."
"Oh. I was just thinking."
Ron studied her. "I think remembering would be a better word to use."
"I can't get the images out of my head; they're always there, and I just see them over and over again. I see them in my dreams, when I'm awake, when I'm not even thinking about it. I just want them to go away."
Ron embraced her in a tight hug as she began to cry.
"What happened? What happened to him?" she said into his shoulder.
"I don't know…I just don't know."
NOTE TO READERS: I will be updating a chapter a week. No more, no fewer. Do not try to convince me to update more often: I will not consent. Thanks for reading, by the way. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you will continue to read it every week. Thanks, again! T.C.