Chapter 9: Lies
George shivered as he shrugged into his heavy coat, breathing into his hands in an attempt to warm them. Glancing over at Hermione, he watched with a frown as she stalled in putting on her own coat. What was she waiting for? It was freezing!
"It's getting cold out," he observed, hoping this would shake her out of whatever funk she was in.
She had been like this the past few weeks. During their 'flying lessons,' which had turned into snogging sessions, she would be perfectly happy and okay one minute, then quiet the next. In the beginning, there was less sadness and distance, but over the course of their outings, as the weather grew colder, so did her mood.
"Yes," she agreed distractedly.
Finally, she slipped into her coat and turned to George, offering him a tiny smile.
"Are you okay?" he asked, creasing his brow in concern.
"Yeah," she replied quietly. "Just a lot on my mind, I suppose."
"Anything you wanna talk about?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Y'know," he said, walking over to her. He wrapped his arms around her and could't help but smile when she rested her head against his chest. "We can tell him about us. There's no need for all this secrecy."
"I know," she said with a tiny shrug of her shoulders. "I just don't want whatever this is between us to become too much of a distraction. We're still on the run and if—"
"Hermione, trust me," he said in a serious tone. "Everything will be fine. Everything is fine. No harm will come to any of us. I promise. Fred and I won't let anything happen to you."
She knew it would be a losing battle, trying to convince George their relationship was a bad idea. No matter how much danger it did or did not put them in, she couldn't stand the thought of losing him. And while she hated the idea of lying to Fred about them, she still thought it might be better to keep things quiet. She feared that outing their relationship might be distracting and set off a chain reaction of unfortunate events.
She couldn't help but play out worst case scenarios in which one or all of them ended up dead…or worse.
"What's today's date?" she asked, deciding it was best to change the subject. She didn't want to think about losing him.
She knew the Winter Solstice was soon approaching, what with the weather turning icy, but she seemed to have lost track of time lately.
George squinted his eyes in thought. "5th of November. Why?"
"No reason," she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "It really is getting cold," she finally agreed.
He grinned and tightened his hold on her.
"I know of some fantastic ways to keep you warm," he offered mischievously, bending down to press his lips against hers in a lingering kiss.
She chuckled against his mouth, wrapping her arms around his neck. She could definitely get used to this. Just when she was getting into it and finally finding herself warm, the coin in her pocket began to vibrate. Reluctantly, she pulled away and sighed, attempting to hide a grimace.
"We should probably get back," she said, hoping her voice didn't sound too urgent. "We've been out here a while."
She inwardly cringed at the disappointed look on his face. He looked as though he had just been told he couldn't have his promised favourite dessert.
"Yeah, I s'pose," he agreed glumly.
George bent to pick up the long forgotten brooms before taking Hermione's hand in his. A second later, they found themselves back in the tent.
"Loqui per pecuniam," Hermione whispered at the coin as she settled onto her bed. She folded her legs beneath her and waited for Harry to respond.
She rolled her eyes, grateful he couldn't see her annoyance. Who else would have answered his call?
"Yeah," she said. "What is it?"
She frowned, scenarios of Harry and Ron narrowly escaping capture flashing across her mind.
"What happened?" she asked, holding her breath as she waited for the worst.
There was nothing that could have prepared her for such a statement. She stared at the coin, her brain working out what Harry had just told her. It had to be a lie. It couldn't have been true. Ron would never have done that. He would never betray Harry.
She must have heard him wrong.
She then bit back a laugh, thinking he was playing some sort of cruel joke. Except this wasn't funny. This was mean and cruel.
"Hermione, I'm serious. Ron's gone. He just…left."
Numb. That was all she felt. Actually, she wasn't sure that was an accurate depiction of how she really felt. There was anger too. And betrayal. So much betrayal. How could Ron leave?
Then a sickening thought struck her.
Harry was alone…
"Why?" she asked with the greatest amount of urgency in her voice.
"I don't know," Harry responded, the panic evident in his voice. "He kept going on about how much you and I talk and how he's never involved and…I don't know, Hermione. One minute he was fine and the next he was just…blowing up at me about us and — I don't know what to do. He was wearing the locket."
"Did he take it with him?"
"No. I made him take it off before he…left. He just sounded so angry. He kept blaming me for not being able to find the Horcruxes. Then he blamed me for…abandoning you. Said it was my fault we left you behind."
"Did you try to find him?"
There was a pause before she heard his voice again.
"I—how, Hermione?" He sounded annoyed. "What was I supposed to do? Run after him? Scream into the night until someone captured me?"
That's what she would have done.
"Well, you should've done something, Harry. You shouldn't have just let him go like that! What if something happens to him? This wouldn't have happened if I was there."
That wasn't exactly fair and she knew it. But she was angry at Ron for not just leaving her, but for leaving him, as well. Harry had no control over the situation. It wasn't really his fault.
"You're actually worried about him? Hermione, I have enough to worry about what with finding these bloody Horcruxes and worrying about you. Now I have to worry about him as well?"
"Do you want me to come find you?"
"No," he responded shortly. "Just stay put. I'll be fine."
"Harry, you're all alone—"
"I said I'll be fine," he snapped.
Before she could say any more, he closed the connection. Dropping her head in her hands, she sighed. How could this have happened? How was Harry going to survive on his own? She worried enough about the two of them by themselves enough as is, but now that it was just him, her worry increased tenfold.
"Hey, Hermione?" George called from the entrance to her room. He held a pair of brooms in his hands, looking at her with concern as she lay on her side, facing away from him. "Are you ready to go flying?"
She did not respond.
Setting down the brooms, he entered her room, sitting down on the edge of her bed. Still, she did not acknowledge him.
"Everything all right?" he asked.
Hesitantly, he gently placed a hand on her shoulder and shook gently, thinking perhaps she was asleep. When she let out a shuddering sigh, he retracted his hand.
He wondered if he did anything wrong or did something to offend her. He thought hard about the day before and how she wanted to return to the tent so soon. She appeared to be enjoying the time she spent with him over the weeks. Sure, she was jumpy whenever Fred walked in on them in the tent, even if they were just talking, but he had never seen her so withdrawn.
He hadn't even seen her for almost a whole day.
"Hermione?" he tried again.
Frowning, he got up and wordlessly left her room, casting a glance at her over his shoulder to see if she would react. He was almost certain he caught her wiping her face.
Before he left, he closed the flap, leaving it untied, and joined his brother in the sitting room.
"What's with her?" Fred asked when George flopped down in an armchair. "Don't think she left her room once since you two came back from your lessons. Did something happen?"
"Nah," George said, masking his concern with an indifferent shrug. Something did happen, but he wasn't sure what. "She just wants to work on her knitting."
Fred furrowed his brow and looked up from the wireless that sat in his lap.
"I didn't realise how much she liked knitting," he said.
George shrugged again, which didn't satiate Fred's curiosity.
"Is there something going on?"
"No," George sighed.
Fred stared at his brother, not completely convinced. It was unlike George to keep secrets from him and vice versa. Even so, he had to trust his brother that everything was okay. Shaking his head, Fred returned to the wireless, knowing it was useless to try and get George to talk about something he obviously did not want to discuss.
"What?" Hermione asked flatly.
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay," Harry said.
"Oh, you wanted to make sure I was okay? How thoughtful." Her voice carried a tone that was full of hurt and betrayal.
"I doubt it," she snapped, closing the connection before he could apologise more.
Since Ron's departure, she and Harry had been talking every night, each conversation as short and hostile as the last. They never talked about anything of importance; they mostly wanted to make sure one another was still alive. Each conversation ended up with Hermione in tears and feeling even more hurt.
That night was no different.
Weeks passed and Hermione was beginning to feel bad that she had hardly made an appearance with the twins. George snuck into her room every once in a while when Fred was asleep. Sometimes they talked, but they mostly just sat in silence. George did most of the talking, telling her about mundane, useless topics that she cared little about.
His visits seemed to temporarily improve her moods, but only slightly. As soon as he left, her thoughts immediately returned to how angry she felt.
Eventually, she dragged herself out of her room and joined the twins in the sitting room. As usual, Fred was tinkering away on the wireless while George sat on the floor and sorted through his collection of chocolate frog cards.
Fred was the first to notice her.
"Ah, so she returns from her knitting den," he greeted her with a cheery smile. "We thought we'd have to send in a search party. Thought maybe the yarn swallowed you alive."
Her returning smile was hesitant as she sat on the couch by George. He looked up at her, silently asking her if she was okay.
Truthfully, she was conflicted: she was hurt by Ron's betrayal towards Harry, but comforted by George's presence. Of course she was not okay, but his presence helped somewhat.
The best she could offer him was a tiny shrug of her shoulders, indicating that she would be okay.
"How's knitting?" Fred asked.
"Okay, I suppose," she replied, turning her attention to him.
"Anything we can see?"
"I haven't really finished anything yet," she admitted.
At least that wasn't a lie. She did try her hand at knitting. She wasn't bad, but she hadn't been using magic to help her like she did with the house elves' hats. She was just too tired to use magic.
"You know it's bad luck to leave knitting projects unfinished, right?" George teased, grinning at her.
She scowled at him, hoping she didn't look too angry. She intended it to be a mock-scowl, but by the taken aback look on his face, she had failed. She shook her head, hoping he would take it as an apology and turned her attention to Fred, who was working on his wireless.
By mid December, her conversations with Harry had become decreasingly hostile. The words they exchanged were still brief, but the anger they shared had become less and less.
"Hi, Hermione," Harry greeted hesitantly.
"Harry," she returned formally.
"I've been thinking."
Harry hesitated. "I think we should go to Godric's Hollow."
"Yes, I suppose we should."
Hermione sighed before launching into a lecture on how it was the birthplace of Godric Gryffindor and how he really ought to read more. She then read him the passage in A History of Magic that discussed the place.
They then discussed Bathilda Bagshot and how Dumbledore must have given the sword to her to keep safe. By the end of it, they had both been talking so excitedly, they both forgot they were angry. Hermione hardly even flinched when Harry almost mentioned Ron's name when he informed her Muriel said Bagshot currently lived in Godric's Hollow.
"Where should we meet?" Hermione wondered, a smile plastered on her face. "And when?"
"I don't think I can. Besides, we should really plan this out. It'll be dangerous, certainly. We'll need to use your Invisibility Cloak. Polyjuice potion might be advisable, as well. Yes — the thicker our disguises, the better."
"When should we go to Godroc's Hollow?"
She thought a moment. "Christmas Eve. There will be plenty of Muggles to hide amongst."
"Are you really with the twins?"
"Yes, of course I am. Where else would I be?"
"Are you with them at their flat?"
"Harry, I have to go. They're expecting me."
Hermione quickly closed the connection, closing her eyes. She hated lying to Harry and knew he would be able to catch her in a lie even through the coin. Stowing the coin under her mattress, she left her room. Giving him the illusion that she was safe made him worry less about her and ensured his safety.
She found George alone in the sitting room, reading her copy of Beedle the Bard.
"Y'know," he said when she sat down next to him on the couch, "Mum used to read this to us when we were kids."
"Yes, I know," she replied quietly. She wondered why he was reading it — and how he got it. Did he go into her room?
Noticing the panic stricken look on her face, he smiled and bumped her shoulder with his. "You left it lying around."
Silently, she nodded.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Again, she nodded.
"Fine," she said softly. "I'm sorry I've been so—"
He shook his head firmly. "There's no need to apologise, Hermione," he said. "You're under a lot of stress. I get it. It's almost Christmas and you're without your friends for the first time. Don't worry. Fred and I have special plans for Christmas."
She frowned; she hadn't realised how close to Christmas it was. Soon, she would be meeting with Harry. Soon, it would be her turn to turn her back on the twins. Could she really do it? Should she do it?
"You don't have to," she said, hating herself for leaving Fred and George — the only two people she could truly depend on. "Where's Fred?"
"In his room." He glanced down at her and wrapped his arm around her. Putting the book down, he held her close to him. "I have to say, I'm still a bit surprised you haven't left us yet."
She stiffened. Did he know something? Did she forget the silencing charm when she made her plans with Harry?
"I thought you would've left us ages ago to go find Harry and Ron," he admitted.
She relaxed a little; she was safe. But she still couldn't get rid of the sinking feeling that she would have to leave the twins. She felt bad, but she had to. She had a duty first to Harry, no matter what. She promised him that even though he and Ron left her behind, she would still help them any way she could.
"I could never leave you," she whispered, hating herself for lying to George.
Before he could respond, she looked up at him and kissed him.
A/N: SO sorry this is late. I got a little busy and things came up and I've just been so exhausted the past week. I should hopefully be back on schedule now. If you're on Twitter, you should follow me CallinectesFF. On there, I'll make announcements about updates (if they're late or not) and such. And if you don't have a Twitter account, they're free to make, so join up and follow me! :) As always, I'll be responding to review with sneak peeks of the next chapter. Thanks for reading!