Author's note: Just to be clear, this is a Weasley friendly story! However, there may be a few comments about a certain Weasley at the beginning, but that's due to the situation at hand and they're pretty mild.
This will be a Harry/Hermione romance fic eventually, but also focuses a lot on the friendship between the Golden Trio.
Also, everything in the books happened except for the epilogue!
So, to sum up, this is a Weasley-friendly Harmony fic... I hope you enjoy it :)
1. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
14th December 2005
Harry's head is splitting; he hasn't felt pain like this in over seven years. This time, however, there's no Dark Lord to hold responsible, only himself and the two bottles of Fire Whiskey he finished off the night before. His agony is further amplified by his best friend and roommate slamming every drawer and cupboard she can lay her hands on. "Merlin, Hermione," he groans, "can't you be a little quieter?" He's rewarded with a withering glare, but at least she ceases clattering about and, instead, joins him at the kitchen table.
She sits with her arms folded across her chest and a look on her face worthy of Professor McGonagall; he's in no mood for a lecture so he merely rests his head on his arms and hopes she takes the hint. She doesn't. "Really, Harry" each word is like a stab to his brain, "this is the third morning this week that you've been hung-over. Do you expect me to be sympathetic when your misery is all your own doing? Do you think drinking yourself into a stupor all the time is setting a good example to your Godson? Or does he not matter anymore? Andie says you haven't called him all week, he's very upset Harry, he thinks he's done something wrong!"
If he's honest with himself, he stopped listening after her first question. It's whistling round and round his head and he can feel his temper rising and fighting to get the better of him. If he were in his right mind, and didn't still have half the contents of his latest drinking session swirling around in his bloodstream, he'd know Hermione was purely talking about his hangover, and nothing else, but he's not in his right mind and before he can stop himself he's mirroring her pose and answering her back in a tone that leaves her eyebrows almost kissing her hairline. "I'm sorry, Hermione" he spits out, "I'm sorry I've proven to be such a disappointment to you. I'm sorry I'm not the 'chosen one' anymore," he talks over her protestations, "I'm sorry that the love of my life decided she'd rather shack up with a bloody Slytherin, with Malfoy" he hisses the name through gritted teeth "than marry me!"
He slumps back into the chair he can't remember vacating; all his energy spent and his anger quickly turning to tears. He doesn't bother hiding them from Hermione; she's seen him in much worse states. "I'm sorry" he sobs, "I'm so, so sorry". He hears, more than sees, Hermione leave her own chair and make her way around the table to crouch in front of him. She tugs on his wrists, her soft hands cool against his clammy skin, until he turns in his chair to face her. "Don't you ever call yourself a disappointment, Harry," she says in a low, strong voice, "you could never be any such thing! You've been through so much that you don't deserve and I'm sorry for what I said, you know I didn't...I didn't mean it like that, Harry. I guess I'm just used to you dealing with everything in a, well a less alcohol fuelled manner. Honestly Harry," she gently wipes the tears off his cheeks before holding his face between her hands so he has to look her in the eyes, "it scares me to see you like this and, well, I don't know how to help you. Tell me, Harry, tell me what I can do to make this better."
The earnestness and concern in her chocolate eyes would break his heart if there was anything left to be broken, but he can't bring himself to give into her comfort. He stands abruptly, almost knocking her over in the process, and whispers, "Just leave me alone, Hermione. That's what you can do for me; just leave me alone." He walks away before she can protest; straight out of the front door, not even pausing to put his shoes on, and sets off up the street.
He's sure he'll regret his hastiness later, as the snow soaks his socked feet and the falling flakes and the mid-morning frost dampens his sparse clothing. He waits until he's at the end of the road, and he's almost sure there are no Muggles around, before he apparates to Hogsmeade. He bypasses The Three Broomsticks, as has become his custom, and makes his way to the Hog's Head.
Despite the interest it received following the war, thanks to its contribution to students under the Death Eaters' rule and the Battle of Hogwarts, it still maintains an air of abandon and more than a few cobwebs. There are only two other patrons in the bar when Harry enters shaking the white flakes from his hair. He receives only a cursory glance from the old man nearest the door before he returns to staring into his tumbler; presumably the answer to all of life's problems is at the bottom of it.
The only other person in the dingy room is one whom Harry could really do without seeing. An oily, smarmy little voice in his head hisses, "Red hair, and a hand-me-down robe; you must be a Weasley". The Weasley in question doesn't look round when the door slams shut behind Harry; he only pats the stool next to him and slides a bottle of Butterbeer into Harry's line of sight. The dark-haired wizard snorts at the choice of beverage but slides onto the stool and takes a large gulp of the warm liquid, regardless.
"So" the redhead starts, "fancy seeing you here." He's wearing a maroon jumper that can only be described as a 'Mrs Weasley special'; Harry wonders if he's getting his use out of it before the next one is issued in a couple of weeks. Ron lightly nudges his shoulder, interrupting Harry's musings, and states, "Mate, I think you've forgotten your shoes." Harry smiles a little, although it comes out as more of a grimace, and doesn't protest when his oldest friend mumbles some simple spells to dry his clothes; he's particularly grateful for the one that makes his socks as toasty warm as if they'd been hanging by the fire.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Ron ventures, when he realises Harry's not going to offer any information off his own back. The Boy-Who-Won merely shrugs his shoulders before offering up his own query, "Do you want to talk about how you knew where to find me?" Ron's cheeks turn a similar shade to his jumper and soon he's just one giant mass of sheepishly embarrassed red. "You know", Harry continues, "I thought that once you and Hermione broke up, I wouldn't have to deal with you both ganging up on me anymore. Clearly, I was mistaken." He gulps down the rest of his butterbeer and turns on his stool until he's fully facing his friend. His head feels a little clearer now which allows him to enjoy Ron's squirming and spluttering excuses.
Harry finally takes pity on him and sighs, "If you must know," he turns back to the bar and starts playing with his empty bottle, "I feel like shit. I thought, finally, I thought everything was falling in to place. I was looking to the future, a future I was going to share with G-, with her." He hasn't been able to say her name since their relationship ended, since she dumped me he thinks, bitterly. "I don't know what to do now," he continues, his voice dull and emotionless, "All these plans we had; places we'd visit, how many children we'd have, well, they're all nothing now. I don't know what to do anymore." Ron stays silent, partly because he knows Harry needs to get this out but also because he really doesn't know what to say to him. "I mean, why did she do it? And with him; Malfoy." That's the crux of it, Ron thinks; it's not so much what his sister's done that's eating Harry up, although that's bad enough as it is, but it's who she's done it with. The thought sends an unpleasant shiver down Ron's spine but he tries to repress his disgust and focus on his best friend, he's already had this all out with Ginny anyway.
"Was I that much of a rubbish boyfriend", Harry continues, "that even he was preferable? What did I do wrong? I thought we were happy", the last bit is whispered so quietly that the redhead has to strain to hear it. The pain and defeat radiating from his best friend is enough that all of Ron's previous anger at his sister and that rat comes bubbling back to the surface. He clenches his hands around the bottle in front of him and takes three deep breaths, in an attempt to control his emotions, before downing the rest of his drink.
He suddenly thinks that butterbeer is just not going to cut it and, so, he shouts through to Abe to get them some fire whiskey. He quashes the disapproving voice in his head, that sounds suspiciously like his ex-girlfriend, and decides that tomorrow can be for talking about feelings and making plans; today they'll get wasted and just forget about his bloody sister and her new bloody boyfriend.
As Ron tries to encourage Aberforth to join them, Harry takes a large gulp of his drink; the liquid burns its way down his throat and almost instantly allows a pleasant fuzziness to engulf his head. As his gaze locks with a pair of icy blue eyes he feels himself falling back down memory lane, into evenings spent in a large office discussing Voldemort, or the Tri-Wizard Tournament, or his Godfather. Those eyes have often haunted his dreams over the years, although they were set in a different face, but recently his dreams had been pleasant and images of his dead friends, family and classmates had been mostly absent. He wonders if they'll start making their presence known again, now he's fallen back into a misery that permeated him in the years following the war; he doesn't want to find out just yet so he downs the rest of his drink, enjoying the burning sensation and mental cloudiness that comes with it.
They've polished off three bottles between them, and have imposed upon Aberforth's hospitality for far too long, when Hermione eventually turns up. Even with Harry's blurred vision he can tell she's angry. He feels a smug, drunken, little grin stretch across his lips as he realises it's not him she's angry at, but the redhead snoring on the table next to him. "Ronald!" she shouts, startling him awake. "Wh-wh, eh?" Ron stutters, looking round wildly until his unsteady gaze falls on Hermione, his face blanching rapidly. The young witch stands with her hands on her hips, and a scowl on her face, reminding Harry too much of the Weasley matriarch; he can't fight the giggles bubbling up in him and they burst out before he can stop himself, soon Ron is joining him and both are blissfully ignorant to their friend's increasing impatience.
It's with great difficulty that Hermione gets them back to Grimmauld Place, her task impeded further by Ron falling back asleep mid-apparition. Eventually she gets them both dry and settled in Harry's room, ignoring Harry's protests that he can't share a bed with another Weasley, and takes herself off to her own bed. It's a little early for her to retire but she's had a trying day and thinks she deserves the repose. She grumbles to herself as she remembers her long and tearful talk with Ginny; she feels torn in her loyalties, which doesn't sit well with her. She's known for a while that Ginny was unhappy in the relationship and that she wanted out, but she'd had no idea about Malfoy, and she'd certainly had no idea that Harry was going to propose! She doesn't blame Ginny, exactly, for wanting to find happiness, for falling out of love, she knows herself how it can happen, but she does blame her for going behind Harry's back and letting him believe everything was rosy and good.
She can only imagine how Mrs Weasley, the biggest champion of the match, is feeling about the break-up and she wonders how difficult it will make future gatherings; this coming Christmas, in particular, is going to be interesting to say the least. It was awkward enough when she and Ron split, she felt for a long time that she would never be welcome at the Burrow again, and for a little while she believes Mrs Weasley was of a similar mind. This is different though, she concludes, in this scenario the split was orchestrated by a Weasley rather than another party, so Harry can't really be held solely responsible, and they've always had a closer bond with him anyway. She falls into a restless sleep filled with dreams of redheaded children chasing her through a maze and Harry falling off the Astronomy tower. After she wakes up for the third time feeling confused and distraught she decides to take a leaf out of her friends' book, and makes herself a nightcap of fire whiskey; her sleep is dreamless after that.