Chapter 8- Reunion
The month that followed Harry's birthday was difficult to bear. They never once received word from Harry, although they wrote him nearly everyday. Remus assured them that he was doing better with the therapy, but that he was still keeping to himself. They tried not to take it personally, but it felt as if they had lost their best friend.
Fred, George, and Ginny were eventually filled in on what had happened to Harry when they realized that Hermione and Ron were upset about something. Thankfully it was Ron's parents that had told them, though Hermione was fairly certain they didn't tell them everything. Ginny, as expected, took the news especially hard. She barely slept or ate the first week after she found out. Over time, she began to act more like herself, but it was clear that she still felt badly for Harry.
Hermione had her good days and bad. There were times when she actually forgot for a moment all that had happened since the end of school, then it would all come rushing back and she would feel guilty for forgetting and trying to move on. It wasn't as if they had actually "lost" Harry, as they did Sirius, but it certainly felt like they had at times.
Ron was having an even worse time of it than her. He seemed to alternate between sadness and anger. Some days he acted as though he hated Harry for pushing them away like this. His moods were hard to predict, and it caused many fights between them. It was as though they were missing a part of themselves and that they couldn't function properly with out it.
There were a few blessed moments in which Ron and Hermione would allow themselves to open up to one another, and in those moments they found salvation in each other. They would reminisce about their adventures together and how things might be when they returned to Hogwarts. They would even hold hands like they did on Harry's birthday, or sit close to one another, or hug the other in reassurance. Their intimacy had innocently continued to grow, though they had yet to dare to kiss one another.
Hermione tried not to think too much about it. Matters of the heart were a wonderfully complicated thing and she knew that if it were meant to be, everything would work out in the end. For the time being, she focused on getting through the summer and anticipated when they could be reunited with Harry once again.
September 1st finally arrived, and Hermione and Ron eagerly looked forward to seeing their friend. They had searched hopefully for him at the train station, but Harry was no where to be found. They had known that Harry would probably just stay at Hogwarts, but there had still been the hope that he might join them on the annual train ride to school to uphold tradition.
Although they shared a compartment with Neville, Ginny, and Luna, they said very little the whole ride there. At one point, Malfoy had come around to goad everyone as usual.
"Where's Potty? Did he finally get a clue and decide to ditch the two of you?" Malfoy sneered.
There was no way that he could have known about what happened this summer, or how he had pushed his friends away, but his comment had cut a little too close to home. Ron rose from his seat and pulled out his wand with such ferocity that even Malfoy looked afraid.
"Leave. Now," said Ron through clenched teeth.
Malfoy looked as though he wanted to say something more, but then thought better of it. "You better watch your back Weasley," he spat, before turning and leaving with his two goons in tow.
Hermione reached for Ron's hand and pulled him back to the seat beside her. She could feel him shaking slightly so she wrapped her arm around his shoulders and pulled him close. They didn't have to say a word. They both knew that what Malfoy had said was the fear they had in their hearts. They were both terrified that their friendship with Harry was irreparable and that he would still push them away when they arrived to school. Hermione ignored the look their friends exchanged and concentrated on the scenery outside. It wouldn't be long now.
When the Hogwarts Express finally pulled into the train station in Hogsmeade, the pair ran ahead to one of the very first carriages and hopped aboard, anxious to get to school. Their ride towards the main gates had felt agonizingly slow, but they arrived soon enough. They quickly entered Hogwarts through the front entrance and surprisingly found someone waiting there for them.
"Professor… I mean Remus. It's good to see you," said Hermione, as she looked around for Harry.
"Actually, Hermione, I'm going to have to ask you to call me Professor once more," Remus said, smiling proudly.
"Do you mean you will be teaching here again?" asked Ron excitedly.
"Yes, I am."
"That's great! We've never had a better Defense professor," Ron admitted.
"I appreciate the vote of confidence," Remus replied. "How are you both?"
"We're fine. But we'd like to know about Harry. Is he still here? He hasn't written," said Hermione.
"Yes, he is," said Remus, smiling now. "In fact, he is waiting for you in the tower. He'd like to see you before the feast."
"Really?" asked Hermione, suddenly filled with relief.
Remus nodded and then laughed at them as they took off running through the school. They breathlessly arrived at the portrait that guarded the entrance to the Gryffindor Tower, but nearly panicked when they realized they didn't know the password yet. Thankfully, the Fat Lady swung open anyway and they stepped inside.
They stopped short when they saw Harry standing motionlessly across the room facing the fireplace, his arms crossed over his chest. Unsure of what to do, they stood there silently waiting for Harry to make the first move. Realizing that he had not heard them enter, Hermione called out to him. "Harry?"
Harry turned around and unfolded his arms so that they dropped by his sides as a smile slowly spread across his face. That was all the assurance that Ron and Hermione needed. They quickly crossed the room and embraced Harry warmly at the same time. Their arms wrapped around him and he seemed to lean on them for support, though Harry couldn't seem to return the hug himself. They stood that way for several minutes, relishing the feel of having their small friend in their arms.
"We've missed you so much," Hermione said softly.
Harry leaned into them a little more, his breath hitching slightly as though he may cry. Ron reached up and wrapped his arm around Harry's neck, pulling him towards him slightly. Hermione could hear him whisper in Harry's ear, "It's alright, mate."
Harry nodded gratefully and the pair finally pulled back, getting good look at him now. He looked much better than he did the last time they saw him. Harry had a gained a little weight, though his school robes were still a bit loose fitting, and he was sporting a new haircut that suited his naturally messy hair. But there was still a sadness in his eyes, and it was clear that he was worried about what they might say.
Hermione didn't want to upset him, but she just had to know why their best friend had pushed them away. Afraid of the answer, she couldn't help the tears that started falling down her face. "Why didn't you write? Why didn't you want to see us?" she asked, quickly wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, feeling foolish for being so emotional.
Harry looked at both of them pitifully. "I…I don't know how to explain it."
"Try," said Ron firmly.
Harry was silent for a long while as he worried his bottom lip between his teeth. He looked across the room, away from them, and stared. Several minutes passed in silence before he finally spoke. "It's just… I… I never wanted either of you to know anything about…" Harry finally said. "I…I felt… Why is this so hard?... I just… I was afraid of what you might think… or find out…"
"Why?" asked Hermione sadly. "What happened?"
"It's private, okay?" Harry pleaded desperately. He looked absolutely miserable about it all. "I've had an awful time of it for a very long time and I don't want to go into it. At least not right now…"
"But-" Hermione began. Ron had cut her off.
Putting a hand on Harry's shoulder he said, "We understand Harry. But you never have to be afraid to tell us anything. We'll never think of you differently. We care about you mate, we always will. But you have to understand how scared we were… we didn't know what to think when we saw… you know…."
Tears finally sprung to Harry's eyes, as he realized that Ron was indicating the self inflicted cuts that they had found on his arms. "Everything… everything was so messed up. I didn't know how to deal with it…"
Ron pulled Harry to him in a rough embrace, and said, "It's okay, Harry. You can tell us when you're ready."
Hermione joined them once more, wrapping her arms around Harry as well and resting her head on his shoulder. Harry leaned into her embrace and rested the side of his face against her hair. "Please don't push us away again," she pleaded.
"I won't," Harry said softly. "I'm sorry…"
Harry finally raised his arms and pulled his friends closer to him. Although it was unspoken, all three of them could feel it. They weren't truly whole unless they were all together. This was how it was meant to be. They stayed like this for a long while, until Hermione realized how late it was getting. Someone would notice soon that they were missing and come looking for them.
"We should be getting to the feast," said Hermione, always the sensible one. "Someone will notice that we're gone soon."
Ron and Harry both nodded, knowing that she was right. They walked out, arms around each other. Only when they reached the doors to the Great Hall did they pull apart.
The sight before them was mesmerizing. Although they had experienced the back to school feast every year it was still a sight to behold. The Great Hall was ablaze with the light of hundreds of candles that hovered just below the enchanted ceiling filled with twinkling stars. The golden plates reflected their light making everything seem aglow. Dumbledore had apparently made his speech because food was already overflowing from every platter. The heavenly smells wafted towards them, making their stomachs growl in anticipation.
Ron quickly led the way to the Gryffindor table and the threesome sat down at the end, ignoring the looks from their curious house mates wondering about their tardiness. Ron sat across from Harry and Hermione. When it was clear that they were still at the center of attention, he gave the others a glare as if to say, "Mind your own business."
Thankfully, it was enough to stop their inquisitive stares, at least for now. As everyone started to help themselves to glorious food, Hermione felt a hand slip into her own.
She looked down at her lap and saw that Ron and had reached under the table and had secretly taken not only her own, but Harry's hand as well. He gave them both a reassuring squeeze before pulling away and grabbing a turkey leg from a nearby platter.
Then the red head shot the both a million watt smile and said "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's eat!"
Harry and Hermione laughed at that and shared a smile. Together they both began adding the delicious food to their plates, thoroughly enjoying being in each other's presence once more.
Midway through their meal, Hermione caught Harry looking towards the staff table. Looking in the same direction she saw Remus watching him carefully. Their professor smiled reassuringly at Harry and then nodded, silently telling him that "everything was going to be okay."
And it would be too. Hermione and Ron would see to that. Never again would they allow Harry come to harm. He was with them now, where he should be.
A/N: Well, that's it. What did you think? It was a little anticlimactic, I know. I just couldn't picture Harry spilling everything right away. I've thought about doing some companion pieces, possibly with Harry's POV on everything that happened or how the trio's romantic relationship develops. Let me know what think I should do.
This story came about because I am always doing searches for stories with similar plot lines. There are loads of stories in which Severus or Sirius or some other Order member discovers the truth about Harry's home life, but it's rare to find any that involve both Hermione and Ron. I personally never found any that met my satisfaction. (If you know of any good ones, let me know). So instead I began fantasizing how a story like this might go. As with all my fan fics, it bounced around in my head until eventually I had to get it written down lest it torture me until I did. I swear I crave angst. I know it was rather cliché, but we all love them. Don't forget to leave me a review!