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The things that the locket had just shown Ron were still etched in his mind as he moved over to where his friend sat on the ground. The red head had his head in his hands, and his shoulders were shaking.
"Where is she, Harry? I have to see her, to explain myself, to apologize. She needs to know… that I love her, more than anything, before she makes her choice," Ron sobbed, and Harry's heart broke.
What was he going to do now? He had never planned on Ron coming back. But if he wanted to say that, then he also should say that he had never planned on falling for Hermione, of starting to explore his feelings for her and hers for him.
"And, Harry, I'm sorry to you too. I didn't mean to get so angry, and I didn't mean any of the things I said. I was a git, and I'm really sorry," he said, interrupting Harry's thoughts.
"I know, Ron," was he all he said, not completely forgiving him yet.
"Can I see her?" he asked.
He had to tell him, but now that Ron was back he did not want him to leave. He did not want to be alone. But as soon as he took Ron back to the campsite, he would realize that Hermione was no longer here.
"Ron… Hermione's gone…"
Ron's head shot up and he stared blankly at Harry.
"What do you mean… gone? She isn't…" he trailed off.
"No, no she's alive. And safe. She just isn't here anymore. I sent her away," Harry whispered in response, hanging his head in shame. This was the first time he had said out loud what he had done, and he hated himself for it. It sounded worse in words than it did in his head. He waited for the explosion from Ron as what he had done settled in, but it did not come.
Ron just stared at him, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, and his face turning from red to white to purple and back to white.
"Well, I guess that was the best thing for her," was what he finally said, and Harry's eyes shot up to meet Ron's.
"I wanted her to be safe too, from the beginning. I just didn't have the gall to say no to her. But you did, and you did the best thing. So where do we go from here?" was all Ron said.
"Back to the tent, I suppose," Harry responded, and the two silently walked back to their campsite.
"You know what I meant, Harry. What's our next move?" Ron questioned.
"I don't know about your next move, but I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going to go. You left, Ron. You can't expect me to just welcome you back with open arms and tell you everything I'm thinking. Besides, if I remember correctly, you didn't think I was doing a very good job of leading you anywhere. So why don't YOU tell ME the next move," Harry fumed.
"Calm down, Harry," Ron said, taking a step back from him, which further angered Harry some more.
He didn't really know where this courage to shout at Ron had come from. Never before had he really ever challenged his friend, or was the one to start an argument with him. Normally before this had happened, he would just forgive Ron for whatever he had done and they would both be on their way. But this time was beginning to seem a lot different. What Ron had done was not something that Harry could just forgive and forget about.
"Don't tell me to calm down. The things you said to me, Ron… you're supposed to be my friend, and friends don't say that. I would never criticize you the way you did me. And to insult the memory of my family… they might be dead, Ron, but right now they've been nicer to me than you have. I didn't force you to follow me on this hunt. I've never forced you to do anything. You came with me by your own choice, and I took that as you trusting me, and being there to help me out. And then you walked out. You insulted me, you insulted Hermione, and you left. You can't possibly expect me to be fine with that," he shouted, his chest heaving with deep breaths.
"But I came back, Harry. I found you, and I just saved your life," Ron pleaded.
"I know that, Ron, and I'm taking that into account. I'm not throwing you out, you can stay as long as you'd like. But… it's going to take some time for me to be able to trust you again. You just have to understand that," Harry told him, his voice softer now.
Ron hung his head in shame and whispered over and over again how sorry he was.
"I know you are, Ron. Let's just take it one day at a time. Get some sleep. Your cot's been waiting for you," with that, Harry turned away from the youngest Weasley male and went to sleep.
They had done it. He and Ron had found another Horcrux: The cup of Helga Hufflepuff. But it did not happen easily. Without Hermione, nothing happened easily. Harry, while he had been sleeping, unconsciously entered Voldemort's mind. The Dark Lord was thinking about his Horcruxes, and Harry was able to catch a glimpse of the whereabouts of one of them. He and Ron went straight to Bellatrix Lestrange's vault in Gringotts as soon as he woke rom the vision.
It was simple enough getting in. Ron disguised his face and Harry went under the invisibility cloak. They Imperiused a goblin, who took them down to the vault. Once they got the cup, things became more difficult.
With all of the commotion, Harry's Imperius curse had lifted and the goblin was able to notify the guards. A battle ensued. The goblins were strong fighters, nearly killing both of the teenagers at least once. It was not until Harry decided to think like Hermione, did they come up with a plan to escape. It was crazy, and dangerous, which was Hermione in a nutshell. But her plans were also fool proof. With that thought, Harry jumped on the back of the guard dragon and Ron followed suit, giving them a way out.
Now, they were in Hogwarts, more specifically in the Room of Requirement, surrounded by their peers, who were all exclaiming how they knew that Harry Potter would come to save them.
Harry was still in shock about what they had just gotten free from. Shock hit him even more, however, when the crowd parted as a female voice called out his name, revealing Ginny Weasley standing there staring at him. Harry stared at her too, but not with the same look of love reflecting in them that Ginny's brown eyes held for him. He was surprised… because he felt nothing for her.
Nothing was not what he actually felt, of course. He still thought she was beautiful. He was worried that she would be here when the fight broke out. He felt guilty because, yes, he did still care about her, but something in him had changed. His heart no longer did flips when he saw her. There was no angry green monster writhing inside of him at the thought that she might have forgotten about him. He still cared about her, but he did not care, because he had found someone else that his heart yearned for more.
And she was standing right behind Ginny. Her jaw was clenched tight from trying to keep her features calm. Harry watched as Hermione's anger filled eyes flickered back and forth between he and Ron. He visibly saw her take a deep breath before she walked over to them. She stopped directly in front of Harry, but her eyes sought out Ron's.
"I'll deal with you later," she hissed at him.
Finally, her eyes met Harry's. "I'd like to speak with you first."
As she said this, a door appeared out of nowhere on the wall off to their left, and she led him through it. The room she brought him into was tiny. There was no furniture or a fireplace. There was just one lonely window that looked out over the Black Lake that allowed the moon to shine through.
"Hermione, would you please look at me?" Harry pleaded.
They had been in the room for at least two minutes and she had yet to look at or speak to him. In fact, she faced away from him.
"Hermione, I am so sorry."
Harry's left cheek burned red hot from the force behind her slap. Tears were streaming freely from her narrowed eyes. She looked more dangerous than he had ever seen her before.
"How dare you? How could you do that to me? I chose to stay with you! I let Ron walk out of my life, possibly forever, because I care more about you! It was never a choice to me. I swore to stay with you, to protect and help you. I erased my parents memories for you! And this is what you do to me? You send me away? How? How could you do it? No, don't answer that. I know exactly what you'll say anyway. Right now we have a war to fight, so like I promised, I will stick by your side until the end. We'll deal with the rest later. I'm your best friend, Harry. So fight for that. Keep fighting so that once this is over you can spend the rest of your life trying to make it up to me."
With that, Hermione swiftly wiped away her tears and left the room, squaring her shoulders, and leaving behind a very surprised and guilty Harry.
Author's Note: Okay, here I go with the apologies again. I'm sure everyone has completely forgotten about this story, for which I am so so so sorry, a hundred times over. The summer was really busy with my full time job, and I just never had any motivation to write. Then this semester has started off hectic. And ugh. I've honestly been working on this chapter for like three months ish. I don't think it'll be that long of a wait for the next chapter. I decided to start watching Harry Potter tonight, so I was able to get some more motivation.
A few words about this chapter. I skipped over the whole stealing the cup from Gringotts scene because I didn't really think it was important to the story. The story is about Harry and Hermione, so I just wanted to get right to the point where they meet up again, and I didn't really feel like writing out the whole scene because nothing was different except for the fact that Hermione was not there. I hope that's okay with everyone.
A few words about upcoming chapters. In watching the second Deathly Hallows movie tonight, I remembered how much I disliked what the directors and script writers did to Hermione's character. I may have mentioned that before, I may not have, I can't remember. But they just made her seem so weak, like Ron had to do everything for her and she was no longer the strong Hermione Granger we know and love. Like really, I don't think Hermione would ever doubt herself and say "I can't." That's not in her vocabulary. So, if the need arises, I'm going to make her into the strong character that she is. If the need arises. I don't have any other chapters written out yet, so I don't know as to what fight scenes I'm going to be adding in, if any. If anyone would like to give any suggestions, I'm totally open to anything.
Okay, now that that long AN is out of the way, I apologize once again, and please please let me know what you thought of this chapter, what you'd like to see in later chapters, or even if you want to scold me for taking forever to upload, that's fine too, just go ahead and review. Thanks to everyone who has done so this far, and also a big shout out to all that have added this story to their alerts.