Disclaimer: JKR owns.
A Late Night Visit
Chapter 16: Friends or Enemies?
[AN]: I'm so sorry it's been so long. I hope interest in this story hasn't withered too much. Since I know how annoying it is to have to go back and reread chapters to understand current ones, I'll give you a recap:
Harry tells Ron about his relationship with Hermione, goes to spend the rest of Christmas hol's at the Grangers. His and Hermione's relationship is becoming stronger as the Grangers approve of him and he and Hermione can be more public. And lastly, something is going on with Ginny and a certain Malfoy.
This chapter picks up with Harry and Hermione getting back to Hogwarts.
"Er, is it just me or is everyone staring at us?" Hermione whispered out of the corner of her mouth as she and Harry made their way down the Hogwarts Express, searching for an empty compartment.
Harry tugged her past an immobile group before realizing what she was talking about. The group of students they had just moved past were all staring wide-eyed at them. All around the corridor of the train, other people were turning to get a look at them and their conjoined hands. "Ah…"
They looked at each other, both wondering if they should let go. After a second though, Hermione squeezed his hand and continued walking down the corridor without letting go. Why should they care what other people thought about them after what they'd gone through over the holiday? This was what they wanted- to be public.
Harry tugged on her arm when he found an empty compartment, "Here we go…"
"This is the last time we're going to get to do this," Hermione said sadly as they closed the door and settled in.
Harry sent her a cheeky grin as he pulled her close, "Snog in a compartment alone? Come on now, we can always do this after graduation."
Hermione smiled into their kiss. "I meant take the train back to school," she said after they'd pulled apart, "We'll never take the Hogwarts Express to school ever again."
"And you're sad about that?"
"Just getting a little sentimental I guess," she replied with a shrug.
Harry kissed the corner of her mouth, "Can I try and make you feel better?"
Hermione grinned again as Harry's lips started to move more indefinitely over hers, "You can try…"
Harry kissed her deeply, making them both forget the whispered gossip outside or that this would be the last time for anything.
Harry and Hermione had taken the time to wait on the train for everyone else to get off. After silence resonated through the outside corridor for a good minute or so, Harry turned to Hermione, "Ready for this?"
"Yes. Are you?"
Harry leaned in and kissed her one last time before reaching down and taking her hand in his again, "Let's go."
They opened the compartment door and began walking towards the exit. They were relieved to find that the platform was relatively empty as they left the train. Or so they had thought.
"I always knew you'd make a good couple. There's just something about your energy that makes the hoffabugs rather peaceful when you're together."
"Luna!" Hermione exclaimed, jumping back into Harry.
Luna smiled serenely, "Hello. Did you have a nice trip? My ride was a little bumpy but I can't be sure whether to blame that on the carriage or not."
"Uh, yeah it was nice," Harry mumbled, glancing at Hermione.
Luna only smiled again, "I'll see you at the feast. I hear there's going to be lots of pudding. Congratulations," she added, finally nodding down to their hands.
"Er, thanks," Harry and Hermione said before Luna waved and headed off in the direction of the main gate where the thestrals were waiting for them.
Harry and Hermione shared a bewildered look as the Ravenclaw left.
"Well at least Luna Lovegood's on our side."
Hermione chuckled before pulling Harry in the direction of the carriages as well.
People were still gawking, mostly congratulating, as they journeyed into the Great Hall for the feast that night. As Harry and Hermione finally settled into seats at the Gryffindor table, the absence of a certain redhead became quite apparent. Ron was nowhere to be found, and Filch had already finished herding in the rest of the returning students.
Both Harry and Hermione were so preoccupied with their inconspicuous search for Ron that they didn't even notice his little sister take a seat across from them.
"Hey," Ginny greeted casually, "You both had a good Christmas, I take it?" she asked nodding at them, probably noticing how close they were.
Harry's eyes narrowed as soon as he looked at the girl, immediately reminded of the suspicious behaviour he'd witnessed with Malfoy earlier. Hermione stepped on his foot and he saw her shake her head out of the corner of his eyes, telling him to keep quiet on his assumptions. After a strange pause, he nodded, "Uh, yeah. Thanks for tipping her off."
"No problem. I reckoned if anyone was going to save you from your self-loathing, it'd be her."
Hermione flushed, "Yeah. So how was your Christmas, Gin?"
"Eh… kind of tough."
Harry and Hermione shared a guilty look, "Sorry."
Ginny only shrugged, "Mum and Percy were the worst, actually. And then when both you and Ron turned up gone, it got kind of got more horrible."
Hermione's head snapped up, "What? Ron- Ron's-"
"He went to George's flat in Diagon Alley and spent Christmas there."
A tense silence engulfed them. Ginny busied herself playing mindlessly with her goblet while Hermione looked disparagingly down at her empty plate. Harry ran a hand through his hair as the events of Christmas Eve replayed themselves in his memory. "It's all my fault…" he muttered.
Ginny looked up and gave them an apologetic look, "Um, I hope you don't mind, but I felt like I had to explain why you both left…"
Hermione bit her lip, "So everyone knows?"
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Are they mad?"
"No. I mean, they were all a bit shocked, but I managed to tell them that I was fine with it and that you two really loved each other. After that, they pretty much got over it," Ginny assured them, ending with a slight shrug.
"They probably think we're a couple of cowards," Hermione mumbled, looking back down at the still empty plate in front of her.
Ginny shook her head quickly, "Nah, Mum and Dad, or the rest of us, would never think that about you two. Ron was just a little more sensitive about it."
"That's putting it lightly," Harry snorted.
Ginny gave them a somewhat sympathetic look, "It'll be alright eventually."
"I hope you're right. So where is he now? It's not like him to miss a feast like this."
Ginny hesitated, "Uh, well… he didn't come back."
"What?" Hermione exclaimed, the shock evident on her face.
"Yeah. Told Mum that he was going to stay with George and help him look after the shop. He said he didn't need Hogwarts anymore."
"He doesn't need Hogwarts anymore?" she repeated scathingly.
Ginny shrugged, "I don't agree with it, but Mum and Dad decided that they didn't want to alienate him any more. Really, with the reputation you three got last year, I'm sure he could still make due without his diploma. Fred and George skipped out on their last semester and look where it got them- well, you know what I mean."
"He shouldn't use that as an excuse!"
"I don't think there's anything we can say to him now. He's stubborn like Mum." Ginny stopped for a moment to check the time on her wrist watch. She bristled, "Oh bugger, I've got to go. See you two later."
"But we haven't even eaten yet," Harry protested, but it was too late. Ginny was already out of her seat, half way to the big oak doors.
Harry watched her go before turning back to Hermione, "Do you think she's off to see Malfoy again?"
Hermione had to fight the urge not to roll her eyes, "Harry, how would Draco Malfoy be able to get in here? He's not a student."
"I dunno, I'm just saying," Harry whispered, looking back to the door. Ginny had already disappeared.
Hermione nudged his foot again, "Leave it alone. If there's anything she needs to tell us, she'll do it in her own time."
"Or we'll catch her snogging him like she did us," Harry muttered slyly, stealing a quick kiss on the cheek as he turned back around.
Hermione did roll her eyes that time, "We don't know if that's what's happening, and even if it is, I won't confront her over an afternoon study session."
Harry grinned and leaned in closer, "I like it when you talk dirty, Granger."
"Harry!" Hermione shrieked quietly, swatting away the hand that was moving up her inner thigh.
"What?" Harry asked innocently, not backing away.
Hermione poked him. "Behave," she warned.
"Behave?" Harry repeated incredulously, "This is the first night without your parents around Hermione. I will not behave."
"Don't make me make us leave," Hermione teased, taking a sip from her glass.
"Can we go? Please?"
"We haven't eaten yet!"
Harry began to creep his hand back up her leg, "We will later."
Hermione sighed, trying to feign annoyance, "Let's go before you attract the attention of the entire hall."
Harry smirked as he stood up with her, "Oh, you're just as excited as I am."
Hermione grinned while she tried to ignore the stares of all the students. "Maybe," she whispered back before leading the way out of the hall.
Harry and Hermione quickly made it back to their common room, and it was only a matter of seconds before Harry was on top of Hermione on her bed, unbuttoning her uniform blouse.
Harry moaned as Hermione's mouth passed over the soft spot on his neck. Even though everyone's stares and the absence of Ron made him uncomfortable, he wouldn't give this up for the world. He didn't care who knew it- he was madly in love with Hermione Granger.
"You know," Harry muttered in between kisses, "We could do it on the couch now. It's not like anyone's going to walk in on us."
Hermione sighed noisily and broke the kiss.
"Or not," Harry amended as Hermione turned away from him, "We don't have to do anything you don't want to…"
"No, it's not that," Hermione breathed, turning back to him with anxiety written all over her face, "It's… well, we could, couldn't we? Ron's not here to walk in on us."
"Yeah," Harry muttered. There was a long pause before he sighed too, "It's not the same is it?"
"I just wish I could've been there when you told him."
"Look, I don't like the fact that he's hurting either. But like I said before, I chose you. I'm not going to take that back now."
"But don't you see!" Hermione exclaimed, sitting up in her bed, "We shouldn't have to choose. Of course I'm happy that we don't have to hide anything anymore, but-" "It shouldn't be like this…"
"I know," Harry conceded. He sat up and wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder, "We need to do something, don't we?"
"We have to make Ron understand. Let's go to the shop. I'm sure-"
Harry shook his head, "Hermione, that'd probably only push him further away if we showed up their together, tonight. Trust me- this is something only blokes can understand."
"Well then, what-"
"I didn't say it was a bad idea. Let's just give it a bit."
"This Friday," Hermione said, "If he's not back on his own by Friday, then we'll go talk to him."
"Promise," Harry said, kissing her cheek. Another silence passed over them as Hermione tried to calm herself down. Harry, who was still resting on her shoulder with his arms around her let his hand slip down to her knickers, "So… do you still want to do it on the couch?"
To his delight, Hermione giggled and hit him over the head with a pillow laying nearby. Harry groaned before tackling her down on the bed. He knew what he'd said about the couch but he couldn't help but lock his lips with hers right then and there. They'd make it to the couch eventually.
Friday showed up in no time at all, and as Harry and mostly everyone else had expected, Ron was still a no show. Hermione had asked Ginny yesterday at dinner if she had heard anything from her older brother, but to no avail Ron was keeping oddly distant from his family too.
Harry was hoping that Hermione would've forgotten about their arrangement come Friday that they'd go and try to talk to Ron, but when he had walked in Friday afternoon after a quick pick up game of quidditch, Hermione was already ready to go.
Harry didn't put up a fight, and that's what found him sitting across the street from Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes in the newly revamped Diagon Alley. Florean Fortescue had made it out of the war alright and was quite honoured to have Harry Potter sitting freely in his shop which conveniently enough had a good view of George's closed shop. Harry was against the idea of hiding while Hermione went in to deal with an angry Ron, but as he felt earlier, he didn't want to fight about it with Hermione. He just hoped that their old best mate would keep his temper in check for Hermione's sake. If not… Harry wasn't so sure he'd be so forgiving…
Hermione had given Harry a quick kiss before taking off across the street. She didn't bother knocking on the front door, but let herself into the shop with a quick Alohomora.
She made her way into the back where she heard some noises, "Ron?"
The shuffling noises ceased into nothing and the shop got eerily quiet for a moment. Hermione was feeling nervous in the sudden silence and was about to call out again when she heard a voice behind her, "What are you doing here?"
Hermione gasped and spun around. A relieved breath escaped her lips once she found that Ron look neither starved nor deprived of sleep. Hopefully that was a good sign… "I just thought that I should come and explain-"
Ron's face scrunched up maliciously, "What, you're boyfriend didn't rub it in enough already? You had to come and finish me off?"
"No of course not!"
"Then what are you doing here?" Ron repeated himself, folding his arms across his chest.
Hermione sunk a little bit, "I just wanted to explain my share of things."
Ron rolled his eyes, "Again, your boyfriend already did that for you."
"Will you stop saying that word like it's poison?" Hermione finally snapped.
Ron quieted surprisingly fast so Hermione took advantage of his silence, "Look… we didn't plan this, okay? The feelings I have for Harry is something that I've always felt but never thought I could act on. We were broken up by the time this started to happen… and when it finally did happen… it made me truly happy, Ron. He makes me happy without even trying."
Ron scoffed bitterly, "Well I'm sorry I made you so miserable."
"It's not that you made me miserable, it's that we were never supposed to be that couple," Hermione explained desperately, hoping that the hole Ron had already dug for them wasn't too deep for repairs, "Our relationship is meant for friendship. That doesn't make him better than you, that's just how it is. I'm sorry."
"I don't want your pity Hermione," he spat, though Hermione could tell he wasn't as resentful with his words.
"Well I feel bad," Hermione said nevertheless. She knew that was the last thing he would want to hear but she'd made a promise to herself to tell him exactly how she felt, "I don't want you to think we did this on purpose or we wanted it to turn out like this because we didn't."
"That doesn't change things," Ron muttered relentlessly.
"But it could! If you could accept our apologies- accept the fact that he didn't steal anything from you and that we can still be friends- then everything could change. After all we've been through, we deserve that at least."
Ron was quiet for a moment, leaving Hermione to wonder if he'd already thought about the things she'd just said. After a few seconds though, he only shook his head, "I don't really fancy going back to two best mates who lie to me."
"We didn't want to hurt you," Hermione told him desperately, feeling the sense of defeat swelling upon her.
"Ron, one day you're going to find someone that I love like Harry, and you'll realize that the feelings you had for me never even came close to what you'll feel for that person."
Ron looked up, a different glint in his eyes. He was still sceptical, that was for sure, but now he looked less angry. Maybe she was getting through to him, "What makes you so sure?"
Hermione shook her head as she looked at him pleadingly, "It's just a feeling I have. Everything will turn out right eventually and you'll see why we did what we did to be together."
Ron snorted again, almost as if he was expecting that answer. His reply also seemed pre-formulated, "I'm going to need some time so if you could just go, I think that would be best for now."
"Take all the time you need," Harry said, standing just on the other side of the door. Both Ron and Hermione frowned at his sudden appearance but Harry continued anyway, "You'll always be our best mate, Ron. We'll never forget that."
Even though Ron still had an unpleasant look on his face, he didn't look half as angry as he did the last time he'd seen Harry. Hermione took this as a hopeful sign, "Will you at least come back to school? I don't think it's wise to put your education on hold, even if-"
Ron sighed belligerently and rolled his eyes, "I've got plenty of it, Hermione. Six and a half years of wizarding education and all of last year proves that I don't need to be stuck in classes and a uniform anymore."
"Come on, Hermione," Harry said coming up to her. Ron looked surprise to hear Harry defending him, "Ron can make his own decisions. Plus he's right- after the part he played in the war, who's going to hold the fact that he didn't graduate against him?"
Hermione looked like she had a hasty retort on the tip of her tongue, but held it in at the looks both Harry and Ron were giving her. "Oh, fine."
Ron scuffed his foot on the ground and shoved his hands in his pockets, "Look, I know you mean well. But I think I want this time for myself. George needs me, too. He's thinking about opening a shop in Dublin, and he'd definitely need some extra help if that were to happen."
"Well, he has the right man for the job. I'm sure you'd do great in Dublin, mate."
Ron's ears tinged pink at Harry's words and he mumbled, "Thanks."
Both Harry and Hermione were shocked to hear Ron's thanks. Hermione shot a hopeful look at Harry before turning back to Ron.
"Will you at least write?" she hedged, "After you find it in your heart to forgive us?"
"Yeah… sure…" Ron answered, though it was apparent to the couple that he wouldn't be writing anytime soon. Hermione, though sad to hear it, nodded understandingly. She knew that they were incredibly lucky that Ron wasn't raging on them right now. He seemed to be handling things as maturely as possibly and that's all she could've ever asked for.
"I'll have to complain to someone about how grueling and unnecessary the N.E.W.T.s are," Harry tried to joke.
To their delight, Ron grinned, "No N.E.W.T.s. Hadn't thought about that yet. Makes the whole thing much easier to walk away from."
"You would say that," Hermione huffed.
Both Ron and Harry couldn't fight their laughter, and shared a peaceful moment of contentment. It was the first cheerful moment the two had shared in quite a while. Too long, in Harry's books. He hoped that Ron would come around sooner than later- he didn't want to think of the possibility of going this long without feeling that mutual gratification.
"Well, it's getting late. I better get back to work," Ron said after a few moments, looking down to check the gold watch his parents had given him for his seventeenth birthday.
"Yeah, and we should be getting back to school, too," Hermione responded softly. Without warning, she lurched forward and wrapped her arms around Ron's middle, encompassing him in a tight hug.
"Thanks for hearing me out," she whispered, before letting go of him and taking a step back.
"Er, yeah, you're welcome," Ron answered slowly. His eyes then turned up to Harry.
"Good luck, mate," Harry said, following Hermione's example and holding his hand out.
Ron looked down to it before responding. Nimbly, he reached out and grasped Harry's hand. "You too," he answered gruffly.
The trio stood there in one last moment of silence, all of them basking in the memory of each other and the hope that one day everything would go back to normal. Finally, Harry reached for Hermione's hand and pulled her into him. Turning on the spot, the couple vanished into nothingness.
The next few months passed easily. Harry and Hermione both felt better that Ron wasn't still bitter over their new relationship, and was in the progress of forgiving them. It was already April, and so far Ron had written them a few letters to tell them about the new shop in Dublin and how he and George were coping well with Ireland.
Naturally, the news of Harry and Hermione being boyfriend and girlfriend didn't die down for months. After the initial shock of it passed after they had come back from Christmas hols, the rumor seemed to ignite, and on a daily basis, Harry and Hermione were met with a new story circulating them and their courtship.
"I heard Weasley went mad after he found out about them. That's why he's gone- locked up in St. Mungo's I heard."
"Hetty Godridge from Ravenclaw told me she saw Granger slip him a love potion after class one day!"
"I've heard they've been carrying on for ages. Since before the war even…"
Luckily, Harry and Hermione seemed to have their fair share of supporters, too. Mostly, it was the students of Gryffindor house, but even some of the other seventh years came to their defense when needed.
Ginny was the most adamant about denying any sort of affair that carried on while she and her brother were with the two main topics. Hermione and Harry were both surprised at the vigor of which she went upon telling everyone that she supported them, but were still very grateful for her efforts. It seemed like Ginny's main goal was to make it clear that she was not betrayed in any way, and that she was quite happy for them.
Besides Ginny, it didn't come as that great of a shock that Hagrid was one of Harry and Hermione's biggest supporters. Afternoons spent at Hagrid's hut became a weekly routine for Harry and Hermione, whenever they found themselves tired of staying in their common room.
That, occasional trips to the quidditch pitch, and study sessions with Ginny really made up the entirety of their interaction with people after classes. Sometimes Luna sat with them at lunch, which neither of them had a problem with. Mostly though, Harry and Hermione were eager to get back to their own dorm to engage in their own special form of interaction.
One afternoon, after a particularly grueling day of review studying in Transfiguration, Harry sat alone on Hermione's bed, pouring over the Marauder's Map. He was currently trying to find a new place for Hermione, his now girlfriend of six months, and he to go to snog.
"You know we could just stay here. We don't need to go exploring the castle," Hermione said from her wardrobe where she was currently changing out of her school uniform.
With a bit lip, Harry scratched his head with the tip of his wand and shook his head, "Hermione, love, snogging with you is always amazing, but I feel like we could be a little more creative here."
"Are you saying you need additional excitement?" Hermione asked, giving him a raised eyebrow around the corner of her wardrobe.
"I get plenty of excitement, but a little something extra is always nice. Don't you agree?"
Hermione shrugged thoughtfully, "I suppose."
"Oh!" Harry exclaimed, pointing out a place on the map, "I bet you we could sneak into the Room of Requirement. No one-"
"What is it?" Hermione asked with a frown.
Harry scoffed, "Bloody hell…"
"Harry?" Hermione walked over from the wardrobe and climbed on the bed with him to try and see what he was going mad over.
With her brows furrowed, Hermione came to lean over Harry's shoulder. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise as she read the labels Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy, side by side in the Room of Requirement.
"What the hell do you think they're doing there?" Harry asked, a hard tone in his voice.
Hermione glanced at him, somewhat worried, "I-I don't know Harry. Maybe-"
"What if he's hurting her?" he burst, "He's not even supposed to be in the castle."
Again, Hermione shook her head, "I don't think he is."
"You don't?" Harry repeated, not really listening to her. His eyes were trained on the two close dots. They weren't moving really… kind of just bobbing in place. Harry furrowed his eyebrows as he stared.
"No," Hermione continued, hoping he was listening, "Remember King's Cross? It looked like they had that planned out. Maybe- Maybe they've become friends."
She bit her lip, "It's not our place to judge."
"But it's Malfoy! What would Ron think-"
"Unless you want to be cursed by Ginny, I don't think telling Ron would be a good idea," Hermione warned quickly.
Finally, Harry seemed to relax. He sighed, "You're probably right. Bloody hell, I was only joking when I was talking about them snogging…"
"We don't know that's what they're doing. Ginny's a big girl anyway. I'm sure she knows what she's getting herself into. For all we know, Draco Malfoy could be a changed man."
Harry let out a bark of laughter, "And ehrumphant horns only giggle when they hear loud noises."
Hermione rolled her eyes with a smile on her face. She slid her hands up his back, hoping he would forget about Ginny and Malfoy for now. "Back to what you were doing," Hermione said lowly, close to his ear, "why don't we just go down by the lake? The sun's about to set…" She finished with a suggestive look.
Harry twisted up his mouth thoughtfully as he felt his girlfriend's lips skim over his neck, "Hmm, I guess that could work."
Hermione grinned, "I'll get the cloak."
Harry's eyes betrayed him as he watched Hermione jump off the bed and walk back to her wardrobe. He hoped that Ginny wasn't being hurt by Malfoy but for now he was content being blissfully unaware if that meant getting to spend a nice night by the lake with Hermione.
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