author's note- This is dedicated to my best friend Gretchen, who insisted that I write this story. Hope you all enjoy it!
disclaimer- I don't own Harry Potter or it's characters.
The warm summer sun beat down on the back of the student's necks. The entire school seemed to have congregated outside to enjoy the weather of the last day before they left to return home.
Ron spent his last few hours with Dean and Seamus. The three boys wandered the banks of the dark lake, looking for smooth stones to skip across the water. Ron never seemed to be able to skip his stones, but his heart wasn't particularly into this ridiculous muggle game that Dean had taught them. All he had thought about since Dumbledore's funeral was how goddamn scared he was. Even if he joined in with Dean's games, his mind couldn't help but revert to the fact that their protector was dead. The Golden Trio was by itself now.
Across the lake, Hermione was sitting back against the tree, with her nose stuck in a book as always. The book was propped up against her knees lazily, and she allowed her mane of hair fall into her face haphazardly. She only did so to cover her tear-stained cheeks. Hermione didn't dare show a soul how frightened she was. She had to be strong. Stronger than anyone expected a seventeen-year old girl to be. She had to be strong for her parents and her friends, especially Harry. A new wave of acidic tears flowed out of her big brown eyes as her thoughts returned to Harry. "Hermione, stop it," she whispered to herself. Hermione was most scared of thinking what her life would be like without Harry. She depended on him most of all.
Back in the dank castle, Harry slowly trudged through the halls on his last day at Hogwarts, soaking up memories long gone. Each prolonged step resounded an echo, an echo so soft that Harry could hear only because the others had finally left him alone. Since Dumbledore's murder, Harry had felt his classmates were pressing him in all sides. Everyone wanted to know what had happened, who had done it, why Harry was there, and why Harry didn't have the nerve to save their beloved headmaster.
Harry usually ignored them and walked away; he had better things to do with his time. He had taken a fine interest in roaming the school, contemplating intricate plans in his head. He already knew to return to Grimmauld Place, and to perform the Avada Kedavra curse on Snape the instant he discovered that greasy-haired coward of a man. He knew he had to find the remainder of the horcruxes, but only with Ron. Although at the funeral both Ron and Hermione had insisted that they accompany him on his journey, Harry had resolutely decided on these solitary walks that Hermione couldn't come with him. It was too dangerous for her.
Back by the lake, Ron had casually walked over to Hermione. "Hey, do you know where Harry is?" questioned Ron hesitantly.
Hermione slowly lifted her head at the soothing sound of her friend's voice. "No," was her gentle reply, "no I don't…" The sun reflected into her teary eyes, causing Ron's jaw to drop.
"Hermione?" He asked, "Are you okay?" Ron knelt next to her as he began his attempt to comfort her. No response. "Hermione, tell me what's wrong."
She proceeded to wipe away the wetness from her cheeks and said, "I can't, Ron. I need to be stronger than this."
"Mione, you're my best friend. Please tell me." Ron's blue eyes searched Hermione's for any sign of submitting to his wishes. But there was none. Hermione sniffed loudly, and stood up, dusting herself in a rather dignified way.
"I told you, I can't," she mumbled under her breath and walked off toward the edge of the lake. Ron sat there, shocked that his best friend wouldn't talk to him. Looking down at the dried grass, he saw the book that Hermione had been reading was cracked wide open. He glanced at it quickly, expecting Hogwarts a History or some other boring textbook, but was stunned to find that she hadn't been reading this book. She had been writing it.
Bloody Hell, Ron thought, this is her diary! Feeling a tad bit guilty that his curiosity won the better of him, Ron turned the book toward him to read the latest excerpt.
I don't know what to do anymore. I'm so scared all the time. I'm scared that Voldemort will kill my parents; I'm scared that me and Ron's friendship is falling to pieces. I'm scared to die. I'm scared that Harry will die before I tell him that I need him, that I hope he doesn't die either, that I love him.
Ron's heart skipped a bit as he hastily slammed the diary shut. His eyes rose up to be greeted by Hermione's face a mere three inches from his nose.
"Damn it, Ronald!" Hermione barked as she ripped the book out of his grasp. "This is why I don't tell you anything anymore! You don't respect a girl's privacy and you don't know the meaning of the word 'trust'!" She took the small book and whapped it over Ron's head before running off toward the castle.
Ron's eyes watered quickly from the impact of the blow and ran after her. He caught up quickly and grabbed at her wrist, jerking her back toward him. "Let me go!" Hermione screamed, acid dripping with each word. Her body whipped around into his arms and he embraced her tightly.
"No. We need to talk."
She struggled at first but soon Hermione's knees buckled from underneath her as she fell into Ron's warm chest. Fresh tears sprung from her eyes, and Ron's robes soaked every drop. Hermione dropped slowly to the hard earth, dragging Ron with her. Her arms wrapped around his back gradually, her fingers splayed out, grabbing at his robes. "Oh, Ronald," she whimpered softly.
The two sat in each other's silent embrace for what felt like hours. Finally, Ron broke the silence. "I'm scared too, Hermione. Don't be ashamed."
Hermione sat back up swiftly. "But I have to be there for you two, especially Harry…" she breathed.
"Mione, I can watch out for myself. It's you that I'm worried about. You should just focus on watching your own back these days-"
"Harry can take care of himself. Speaking of Harry, I think there may be something that you need to tell him." Ron coughed and nodded subtly to the book in her hands. Hermione looked down at her now-moist-with-tears diary and smiled gently.
"Thanks Ron," Hermione sighed. She crawled forward and gave him a tender kiss on the forehead. "Are you sure I should?"
Back in the castle, Harry had ventured up to the Gryffindor common room and sat in the windowsill, mulling over his thoughts. His face was pressed against the window as he sullenly watched the students on the ground below him chatting happily. The portrait door squeaked open, and Harry's head jerked in the direction of the sound. His eyes were greeted by Hermione's figure stepping into the common room cautiously, as if it were midnight and she was trying to not wake anyone. Harry shrugged and his gaze returned back to the outside scenery.
"Hey," Harry heard softly over his shoulder. He had been too entranced that he hadn't heard Hermione walk over, or maybe she had been walking so softly that he couldn't hear her, or- "Whatcha doin'?" Hermione said, breaking his train of thought.
"Nothing. Just thinking."
"You've been thinking a lot lately, Harry." Hermione said as she climbed onto the cushiony windowsill.
"I know. I have a lot to think about lately," he replied without shifting his gaze from the window.
Hermione positioned herself so that she faced Harry directly. "About what?" she asked without hesitation.
"My life at Hogwarts, Voldemort, my parents, Dumbledore, Sirius, you…" He murmured without taking a breath. Hermione's stomach dropped when Harry told her that she had been the focus of some of his thoughts.
"Oh, how so?" Hermione asked tentatively.
Harry finally turned to look at her. Her beautiful lips were curved in an inquisitive smirk, and her hair was shining a golden brown from the sun. I can't change my decision now, thought Harry. "I don't want you to come with me this summer," he mumbled quickly.
Each word was like a blow to the face to Hermione. She lost all control of her emotion as her throat closed up, the beginning of another crying session. "But…but Harry, I have to be there for you."
Harry turned back to the window and stared at the rustling leaves on a nearby tree. "No. You can't."
"Harry, I want to help you; I want to be there," Hermione choked as she tried to push the tears back down. Her struggles were all for naught, for the tears swiftly began to leak down her face.
"No. You can't," repeated Harry firmly. He heard a sob erupt from Hermione, but maintained his stare at the tree.
Hermione sniffled and inched closer to Harry. "Why?" she cried. Hearing her cry was breaking Harry's heart, but he remained silent. "Why?!"
Harry turned to her slowly. She was so close to his body now. Her eyelashes were laced with tears, her cheeks red from anger, but she was still more beautiful than anyone he had ever met. "Don't you understand?" he began with a whisper, "Voldemort has taken everyone that I care for away from me. He took my parents, he took Sirius, he took Dumbledore, and I am not going to put you in that sort of danger…"
"But I can help you! I want to help you!" Hermione remarked.
"Hermione! Don't try to make me change my mind! I could never live with myself if I lost you! If I was responsible for your death, I…I…" Harry's voice trailed off.
"Harry. I couldn't live with myself if I wasn't with you through all this."
"Let me finish, Hermione."
"No. I need to tell you. I need to tell you that you can't die. I wouldn't be able to survive if I had known that you died and I could have helped you. I need to tell you that I need to be there with you. I'll be there by your side through the good and the bad. I need to tell you that I…I love you," Hermione gasped.
Harry didn't realize how close Hermione's face was to his until now. He leaned in closer and closer until he could smell the raspberry gloss on her lips. "Please let me go with you," she breathed.
"Since when did you get so damn persuasive, Hermione Granger?" were Harry's last words before his lips locked with hers in a deep, passionate kiss. "I love you…never leave my side, Hermione..." he muttered.
"I couldn't live with myself if I did."
author's note- Mad props to matchmaker Ron! The whole Ron and Hermione part was supposed to be more of a brother-sister love, but if you want to take it the other way, feel free. I'm not really sure how I feel about this one, but I wanted to finish it once I got started. And sorry if I didn't have the time right or anything, I wasn't sure if they stayed at all after Dumbledore's funeral…and I couldn't check my book because one of my friends is borrowing it. So, please review and feel free to correct or criticize anything that you find wrong!