Disclaimer: JK Rowling rules. You know the drill.
Summary: Winner of the DLP February 2013 Apocalyptic/Dystopian Fiction Contest! Attempting to hold the trio together, Hermione grabs Ron just before he Apparates, accidentally abandoning Harry on the Horcrux hunt. Four years later, Harry is a changed man.
Preface: So this is the reason that updates to Harry Silvertongue have been rather slow: I spent much of January and a good chunk of February on this new dystopian story. It's my darkest story yet! Note that this is pretty close to the version entered in the contest, but I've made some minor tweaks and fixes where appropriate.
"Stop it! It's the Horcrux making you act like this, you know it's true! Just...take it off...please..." I felt hot tears streaking down my face, but I was desperate. My two best friends were at each others' throats. We'd been out here searching for these dreadful things for months, and it certainly didn't help that we'd been carrying one all this time. Even the name inspired dread: Horcruxes, physical soul anchors containing a shard of the blackest soul of our day. I'd heard the whispers myself, so I knew what Ron was going through. But Ron had always been...sensitive, and only Harry's preternatural ability to forgive made the friendship work through all its ups and downs.
But even Harry Potter's forgiveness was not infinite. He wore the Horcrux the most. He was the Boy-Who-Lived, bearer of the crushing burden of prophecy, destined to battle the most dangerous dark wizard in history...and that was only after obtaining and destroying these priceless and nigh-indestructible artifacts. How he kept on in the face of all that, I have no idea. How he seemed to be in better shape than both Ron and I despite it...
A heavy raindrop pelted the tent, causing us all to freeze at the noise. Then another, then another. I could smell the rain just before the downpour hit, and just to further the insult, thunder rumbled in the distance. Perfect.
"Making excuses for him again, Hermione?" Harry shook his head, seeming to come down from his anger once the rain had picked up. "How many times, Ron? How many times are we going to go through this?" I recognized the gesture: Harry was giving up on patching it up with Ron, at least for the moment. It drove the wedge splitting my heart in two just a little bit deeper.
"That's not fair!" Ron shot back. "That stuff's in the past!"
"A past that you seem intent on repeating every time the going gets tough," Harry said, his voice still steady and calm. He turned his back on us. "I've heard you whispering to Hermione behind my back, once again believing that I'm hiding something from you."
"She said it, too! She said she was disappointed, she—"
"I didn't say it like that, Harry," I cried. "Please, I didn't!"
"So it's like last year instead of fourth year, then?" His words cut me deeply. He was right, of course: I hadn't believed him about Draco Malfoy plotting, and Headmaster Dumbledore was dead...murdered in the very castle that was supposed to be the safest place in the country. Maybe if only I had listened, tried to help him...
"No, it's not like that," I argued, wiping my face as best I could. "I know you're disappointed, too, Harry! That's all I meant!" I pleaded silently for Harry to turn around, to not give up on me, too, but he didn't comply. The silence stretched for several seconds, and I could feel Ron's ire growing.
"So why are you still here?" Harry's voice was dead.
"Search me," Ron spat.
"Then go," Harry replied in the same monotone.
"Yeah, maybe I will!" Ron started to stomp away, then turned. "You don't care, do you? You heard what they said about Ginny, but you don't care! It's only the Forbidden Forest, isn't it? Harry I've-Faced-Worse Potter can handle it, so why couldn't she? Well, I care, all right? Giant spiders, other mental stuff—"
"Ron," I pleaded. I knew how that barb must have affected Harry. He had the entire Wizarding World relying on him, and with the first news about the girl he fancied all last year so ominous... Just another force tugging at Harry's will, stretching him too thin. "We talked about this: between Bill's scars, George's ear, and your supposed spattergroit—"
Ron, once again, was having none of that. "Oh, yes, you're sure, are you? I just won't bother myself about them, then. It's alright for you two, with your families safely out of the way!"
I staggered back, stunned that he would say such a thing. Harry's parents were dead, and I Memory Charmed mine and sent them packing. I made my own parents forget my entire existence, and Ron just tore the wound back open without a single thought.
Harry turned then, but instead of the fiery anger I expected – instead of the fiery anger I felt – his green-eyed stare was pure ice. "Leave the Horcrux. Get out of my sight."
Even Ron flinched at that. "So, that's it, then? You're just going to abandon—"
Harry blew out an incredulous breath, and I agreed with him. "After all that, you have the nerve to say I'm abandoning you? Honestly, Weasley, I've heard enough of your idiocy for one night. Leave the Horcrux and go."
"Idiot, am I? That's right—"
"Merlin! What's it going to take to get rid of you? Yes, you are an idiot and a coward, and frankly, at this point, I like my chances better without you."
Ron pulled his wand, but once Harry stopped fighting the escalation Ron sought, I was ready for the inevitable explosion. "Protego!" The strength of the barrier between the two of them forced them both to take a step back.
Ron glared at me for a moment before opening his mouth, but Harry beat him to the punch. "Leave the Horcrux," he said, then turned around and walked to his bunk.
Ron let out a frustrated yell and turned back to me. "Well?"
I knew it was coming, but inanely, despite the anger and heartbreak, I felt like I still had to try to stop this mistake. I needed to find a way to keep us together. I needed to think! "Well what?" I stalled, trying to muddle through the maelstrom of emotion and think.
"Are you staying, or what?"
"I..." I stalled again. I shut my eyes, thinking furiously. What could I possibly say to fix this? "I..."
"Come on, Hermione—"
"Yes, I'm staying! All right? We said we'd go with Harry. We said we'd help—"
"I get it. You choose him." He opened his mouth to accuse me further, then just shook his head, pulled off the locket, dropped it on the floor, and walked out of the tent.
"Ron, no, that's not—please, come back! Come back!" I charged out of the tent after him, not even sure what I hoped to accomplish. Their friendship was broken, possibly beyond all repair, now. But Harry needed all the help he could get, and right now Ron was the only other one who knew the whole story. He wasn't a coward, despite what Harry claimed, and I was sure Harry knew it and was only saying it to end the argument.
Ron used his height to take loping strides, but I was desperate to hold the three of us together. I caught him just as he reached the wards. "Ron, wait!" I grabbed his arm and suddenly felt the world squeeze around me, like I was being sucked through a straw. Ron just Apparated away and took me with him! I landed hard on wet flagstones in some village, where flickering torchlight cast long shadows between flashes of lightning
Ron spun around and looked at me in shock. "What—?"
My own shock turned to horror as I realized what we just did. "No!" I jumped up and tried to Apparate back to the tent, but quickly faltered as the wards I placed prevented me. It was dark, so I didn't get a good look at the place from which we Disapparated, and the surrounding wood had blurred in my mind so thoroughly that I couldn't picture anything nearby.
We couldn't get back. I couldn't back to Harry. "Harry...we..." We abandoned him. I abandoned him to Voldemort. "Voldemort..." My voice wouldn't work. My brain wouldn't work. No words...no thoughts could contain the depth of my horror. I sunk back to the flagstones and cried, only vaguely aware of the pops of Apparition around us.
I'm sure you've seen this setup before, but we shall descend into despair in no time.
As usual, let me know if you find any problems, and let me know what you think!