Chapter 19

The party had ended early evening and Harry had left Hermione with a final longing glance, both holding hidden secret promises. Harry was now awkwardly sitting at Andromeda's kitchen table both enjoying some leftover pie from that afternoon. The conversation had been strained since they had returned and Harry knew that the questions were going to begin sooner or later. Even scarier was the fact that he had decided to answer honestly.

"Good pie," mumbled Andromeda deep in thought.

Harry cleared his throat and nodded adjusting the fork in his fingers.

"Did you enjoy yourself today?" Dromeda pressed causing Harry to inhale sharply.

"Yeah," he murmured unconvincingly, "It was really nice to see everyone."

"I bet it was."

"What's that supposed to mean?" his features contorted defensively.

"Well…" Dromeda continued, "You didn't exactly spend much time with the group."

"I didn't realize there was a group," Harry grumbled clearing his half eaten piece of pie into the garbage.

"Neither did Hermione," she muttered sarcastically and Harry tossed his plate into the sink dramatically spinning around.

"Alright! You know, I know you know."

"Know what?" Andromeda pushed further, "Why don't you tell me, what I apparently already know."

"Why are you acting like this?"

"Because I want to make sure you know exactly what you are doing."

Harry braced himself against the kitchen counter, "You don't know what you saw today."

"I'm pretty sure I do," Andromeda stood challenging Harry. "There's something going on between you and Hermione, am I wrong?"

"NO!" Harry yelled in response, "but it's more complicated than just that." he stammered out his hands shaking nervously, nobody had confronted him about his ominous feelings besides Ginny.

"Have you thought about the repercussions?" Andromeda continued to hammer him, "Harry have you thought about what this will do to your relationships? Your friendships? I can't believe that's the kind of person that you are Harry."

"You don't think I've thought about it?" Harry retorted anger flaring up inside. "I left! I walked away so I wouldn't hurt anybody! I buried my feelings, b…but something just happened!" Harry took a deep unsteady breath. "I love her."

Andromeda sighed heavily folding her napkin over her chair. "Harry… I know that you three went through a lot the last year, but…"

"I'm in love with her." Harry interrupted confidently.

"And is she in love with you?" Andromeda asked the question that Harry had feared most.

"I don't know," Harry muttered blankly wringing his hands together. He didn't know how Hermione felt and the prospect of doubt wedged its way into his mind. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his thumb and forefinger. "I don't know."

Andromeda did something he hadn't expected, she embraced him tightly. "My dear boy," she whispered against his cheek, "I don't want to see you both destroy everything you have grown to love."

"Me neither…" Harry muttered sadly.

"Why don't you stay the night," Andromeda patted his back soothingly, "and we can talk more about this in the morning after you've had a good long sleep."

Harry paused for a moment considering her offer. He was exhausted, and he would have a much clearer more rational head in the morning, but did he want one? Harry had let go of his doubts this afternoon and let his heart lead him rather than his head. There was a large chance that Hermione wouldn't come, that she would change her mind and he'd be forced to witness the union of Ron and her for the rest of his life. He could see it now, he would be the best man at their wedding, a godfather to one of their children, and these past few months would slip away into a memory. But what if she did show up and the two of them went to Australia. What would happen?

Harry paused for a long moment weighing his options. "I can't," he hesitated, "I'm leaving."

Andromeda knew he didn't mean for the night and she nodded heavily. "I was afraid you would say that. You could be making a huge mistake Harry."

"I know," Harry muttered solemnly, "but what if I'm not?"

Hermione paced in exasperation in front of a sitting Ron, who was perched curiously on the bed his eyes following her closely. She had been pacing and mumbling for what seemed like minutes and Ron had been surprisingly patient.

"I… I need to… tell… I need to tell you something!" she spat out quickly her eyes raging wildly with uncertainty.

"Okay," Ron tried soothingly. "Why don't you sit down?"

"I need to tell you something," Hermione continued to chatter, "and I need you to listen… to what I have to tell you because I have to tell you something and it's something I have to do… so I'm going to tell you-"

"Hermione!" Ron stood and grabbed her by the shoulders, "Slow down… whatever it is… it's okay…"

Hermione braced herself against her boyfriend unshed tears swimming in her eyes.

"Hermione," Ron said softer, "What's wrong?"

Hermione fell on the bed her hands folded tightly in her lap. "I need to do something."

"Okay…"

She cleared her throat, "I need to go find my parents… I want to try to… bring their memories back."

Ron nodded slowly, "Hermione, you know that's incredibly hard to do…"

She raised her eyes defensively leaning back, "And you don't think I can do it!"

"I think you can do anything you set your mind too," Ron said ignoring her defense understanding how upset she was.

Hermione sighed rubbing her forehead, "They are in Australia…" she explained slowly.

"When do we leave?" Ron responded rubbing patterns into her back.

Hermione hesitated for a minute avoiding his clear blue eyes boring into her, "I… I'm… Ron that's what I have to tell you… this is something I have to do… on my own."

The soothing circles stopped and his face fell, "You don't want me to come?"

Hermione's heart broke a little as she saw Ron's expression and choked back a sob. "It's not that… it's just that… Ron it's been so intense between us and I haven't thought about the things that I want or need and before I can continue to do this with you I need to get my priorities straightened out. It's not that I don't want you to come, Ron, because a part of me does… so badly, but I can't take you away from your family… not right now." She hated herself at that moment. She hadn't planned on telling him about Harry, but she had used his family as an excuse for him to remain at the Burrow and her heart broke a little more at how in her own perverted way of trying to protect him she was manipulating his emotions. She guessed now that no matter how perfect her grades had been or how high her O.W.L. scores were it could never change her flawed intentions.

Ron's face softened and he swallowed dryly, "Hermione… can I ask you something?"

Hermione waited anxiously playing with her necklace.

"Is… is there somebody else?"

Hermione's stomach dropped and she looked at him with a baffled expression. He knew.

Ron continued looking at his palms. "I know that we only just got together, but you've seemed so distant lately and I know you kept in touch with Krum…"

Hermione sighed, her heart rate slowing considerably and she took Ron's hand in hers, "Ron, I haven't talked to Krum in over a year, and we were just friends."

Ron's face lifted slightly and he gave her a sad half smile, "Then I want you to take as long as you need to do whatever it is you have to do. I don't want you to feel obligated to stay with me and my family. I know it hasn't been the most cheerful place and you're right, I can't leave them right now. Mum is hanging on by a thread and well you know the rest." He paused kissing the back of her hand softly, "I know you need to figure things out with you own family and for yourself. Just know that it won't change anything Hermione."

If only you knew Hermione thought and tried to swallow the guilt that had begun to inch up from her belly. She did the only thing she could think to do. She flung her arms around Ron tightly and buried her head into his neck as tears streamed heavily from her eyes. Her chest hurt with shame and she realized that she had the power to break not one, but two boy's hearts.

It had been a tearful goodbye from Andromeda and Harry promised that he would return soon. In truth he wouldn't be able to stay away from his godson for very long. Although he could feel the disapproval radiating from Andromeda she whispered into his ear as she hugged him goodbye, "I hope you both find what you're looking for."

He had returned to the Forest of Dean and although it felt like weeks it had only been several hours since he had been here with Hermione. He entered the tent and with a flick of his wand the few lanterns he had hanging from the walls illuminated. He fell back onto his bunk kicking off his loafers. Closing his eyes he tried to distract himself from ticking clock that taunted him as each second passed.

What if she didn't show up? He had already decided that there was fairly good chance of that happening. His stomach grumbled and he realized that he had barely eaten since this morning. A sudden crack startled him and he sat up quickly his head making contact with the edge of the latter.

He muttered curses to himself as he stood rubbing the spot on the side of his head that throbbed painfully and he was surprised when Hermione pushed open the draping's of the tent. Her eyes were swollen and her nose red and although she had tried to hide it he could tell she had spent the last hour or so crying.

Harry bit his tongue unsure of what to say. He had never been very good with crying girls and he had a feeling that asking her to dance wouldn't go over too well this time. "Are you okay?"

Hermione nodded a tight lipped smile and wiped at her face, "Just tired."

Harry's shoved his hands into his pockets and murmured, "Uh would you… like some water?"

Hermione nodded and Harry pulled his wand out and pointed at a glass sitting on the table. It immediately filled with water and Hermione took it gratefully.

The two fell into an awkward silence and stood rigidly refusing to look at one another.

"Are you hungry," Harry grumbled out hoarsely.

Hermione shrugged despondently. "I'm just going to lie down."

"Okay."

Harry had tried to hide the disappointment in his voice as best he could, but it was clearer than he had expected. He was instantly reminded of those months they had spent together after Ron had left. Hermione mourning, while Harry tried his best to bury his feelings. Although the circumstances were incredibly different for some reason he still felt the sting of rejection.

Hermione had heard Harry's voice drop a pang and she struggled to fight back tears. It had been one of the hardest things she had ever done, lie to Ron, and she felt sick just thinking about him. So she smashed her face in her pillow and let her emotions consume her.

Sighing heavily Harry grabbed his shoes and thrust them on carelessly. He discarded his oxford for a simpler t-shirt and immediately felt more comfortable in trainers and cotton. He left the tent as quickly as possible and murmured about taking a walk so Hermione wouldn't think he left. About twenty feet from the tent he stopped abruptly. His ears were trained for her voice and it wasn't hard to miss the muffled sobs escaping the tent. Harry paused unsure of what to do, continue on and leave her to grieve or turn around and comfort her? Harry backtracked slightly falling against the stump that she had pushed him onto earlier and he closed his eyes relishing in the memory of her hands roaming his chest.

He bit his lip and ran his fingers through his hair. Six months ago Harry would have continued walking, but it wasn't six months ago. It was now, and at this moment there was nothing that Harry wanted more than Hermione. So he stood slowly and returned to the tent. Hermione had sat up since he left and was shaking as soft sobs racked her frame. She looked up and tried to wipe away the smears of makeup, but Harry stopped her and sat beside her on the bunk placing an arm around her shoulders guiding her head back to the pillow. So the two lay, Harry's front facing her back, his arms folded securely around her stomach his nose pressed to her hair. Hermione struggled to calm down for some time, but eventually fell into the steady breathing pattern of slumber. When could fight his drooping eyelids no more he followed suit, the steady beat of her heart lulling him to sleep. Two teenagers lay in the tent, one in love and one confused, both beginning to find that one could not exist without the other.