Hey everyone! I just wanted to clear up a few things:
1. Yes, I use to have these stories online and yes, I took them down. 2013 has not been a wonderful time for my family and I've had to try and balance that along with school and work. Things seem to be getting a little bit better now, and I received quite a fair bit of emails asking what happened to the stories, so I decided to put them back up.
2. After this story is finished, I am not going to write anymore fanfiction. I'm sorry to say this, but it's time that I try and write my own story. I have this one idea in my head that has me pretty excited, and I'm going to try and get it published. So please keep your fingers crossed for me.
3. I have begun writing the next chapter (the first new one) and I promise to put it up before next Sunday.
4 LASTLY, I wanted to thank everyone who is still interested in this story, and I really wanted to thank those who were concerned about me. Your kind and inspiring words mean the world to me, and I will not forget it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Please, READ AND REVIEW!
Mrs. Granger sat on the passenger side of her husband's car, silently hating the day. She always hated the day when Hermione returned to Hogwarts. Despite being filled with four people, Mr. Granger's car buzzed with silence. She looked out the rear view mirror and frowned. Harry and Hermione sat as possibly far away from one another…well, while remaining inside the car of course. To make up for their proximity, their luggage rested in the empty middle seat. Each teenager looked out the window. Mrs. Granger sighed, considering what change of events occurred to lead the inseparable pair to silence. A familiar hand gently held hers, rubbing her palm comfortingly. She looked up at her husband, who gently motioned his head questioningly to the back seat. A half smile played at her lips. She squeezed her husband's hand, silent assuring him that he was correct. She turned her head and followed Harry and Hermione's example of looking out the window. Her mind filled with disappointment, perhaps she was wrong. Perhaps Harry and Hermione were nothing more than close friends. After all, just because they were so close did not mean they were suppose to be together.
The soft, albeit annoying, sound of radio static filled the car. Mrs. Granger turned her attention to her husband, whose focus wasn't on the road. "William," she scolded warningly.
"Just a moment Becca," he insisted, continuing to surf the radio channels, "Yes, this will do." He turned the volume up, filling his car with the most awkward pop song Mrs. Granger had ever heard. She frowned, "William?" she asked questioningly.
She watched him casually check the backseat for a reaction. He frowned for a moment, before his lips curled into a brilliant smile. He cleared his throat, and began to sing along to the cliché song...even though he knew none of the words. With every line his voice grew louder, and considerably more offensive to the ears. Subtly, Mrs. Granger checked the backseat and smiled. The two teenagers seemed to be communicating with their own silent language; attempting to figure out what Mr. Granger liked about such a horrible song.
By the end of the song, Mr. Granger was nearly screaming the lyrics, while his audience laughed until they cried. Mrs. Granger reassuringly stroked her husband's hand. When the song ended, the car erupted into applause. Mr. Granger blushed, "Sometimes I wish I had followed my dream of singing in a rock band." He sighed, "If I had known the reaction would be this wonderful I never would have become a dentist." He looked in the rear view mirror, "And my dear bookworm could accompany on the piano-"
"While Ronald and Headmistress McGonagall dance," Hermione finished for him, creating another round of laughter in the backseat.
Mrs. Granger casually checked the backseat one last time. She smiled softly as she over heard the two reminiscing over some dancing story she didn't know. She looked to her husband, who never ceased to amaze her. Without taking his eyes off the road he smiled proudly to himself, and squeezed his wife's hand. She smiled to herself and brought his hand to her lips, kissing it sweetly. She squeezed it once more, "Well done love," the sound of teenage laughter filled the small car once more. She patted his hand twice, "Well done."
We need to talk.
Hermione looked up from the shortest letter she had ever read, "Perhaps it's a good thing," she suggested halfheartedly, "Maybe she just missed you?"
Harry raised an eyebrow and gestured to the letter, "Is that what you really think?"
She reread the letter and frowned slightly, "Well…"
Harry sighed and sunk further into his seat in the back of Mr. Granger's car, "That's what I thought." He stared at the ceiling; "I should have told her that I was spending the holiday with you."
Hermione refolded the letter and placed it on Harry's leg, "Yes," she said gently, "That probably would have been best." She paused for a moment, "Is that what she's angry about?"
"I can't think of what else it could be," he answered honestly. "I chose to spend time with you instead of her."
"Well, just tell her that you were worried about me," Hermione said simply, "Ginny understands that we're best friends…"
There was that word again. Best Friends. The word echoed in his mind, filling his body with a rush of disappointment and confusion. With every passing second, he was growing to despise the word. His mind was beginning to loose control; surely he was going to explode if he heard it one more time.
"Harry, why didn't you tell Ginny that you were spending the Holidays with me?"
Harry thought for a moment. Honestly, he had an answer…but he wasn't sure Hermione would want to hear it. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear it. "She isn't too pleased about what happened with Ron," he said delicately.
Hermione nodded knowingly, "I see."
Harry shrugged, "That particularly bad article in the Prophet didn't help either."
"But she knows it's all rubbish. She knows that you view me as nothing but a close friend."
The sentence ripped Harry apart, "Right," he whispered to himself before returning his attention out the window. He pressed his cheek against the cool glass and sighed, causing the glass to fog up.
"Harry, have you ever thought that perhaps," Hermione paused, "Maybe this has happened for a reason?" She brushed her bushy hair behind her ear, "You aren't planning to have a future with her-"
"Are you saying I should break up with her?" Harry asked Hermione.
A nervous smile covered her lips, "No, not exactly." She looked down at her hands, "It's just that Ginny wants to have a future with you, and you seem less than thrilled to even think about it." She looked up at Harry, "And you two always end up in horrible rows over every little thing."
He crossed his arms in disbelief, "You want me to break up with Ginny!"
"No," Hermione insisted again. She thought for a moment and frowned, shaking her head embarrassedly, "No, I just…when I think of love I think of someone you're so comfortable around that you're not afraid to tell the truth, no matter how bad it is." She grinned girlishly, "When you're not with the other person they're constantly on your mind… and even when you're with that person they're all you can think about." She blushed, "When you love someone, when you really love someone, the future isn't scary because you know they'll always be a part of it." She looked to Harry, "Is that how you feel about Ginny?"
Harry remained quiet for a moment, "So love is like Mr. Knightly and Emma?"
Hermione shrugged, "I could be wrong."
"Our Mione wrong?" Harry laughed, "Hufflepuff has a better chance of winning the Quidditch cup before you're wrong."
Hermione blushed and rolled her eyes, "Rubbish." She reached into her purple bag for a moment or two before finding yet another Jane Austen novel.
A comfortable silence washed over the car. Harry leaned against the car door and watched Hermione read. He loved watching her read. Her face was littered in concentration, but at the same time she was so at ease. Her head would tilt the further she got down the page, causing her hair to spill in front of her face. For a while she would move it out of the way, but after two or three occurrences she accepted the fate and left her hair to shield her from the rest of the car. Harry had an overwhelming urge to brush her hair behind her ear himself…
He looked down at his lap where Ginny's letter laid. He let Hermione's words wash over him. How did he feel about Ginny? He was sure that he loved her when he was a sixth year…but everything had changed since then. They were not the same people they were two years ago, but did that matter? People always change, but that's not a reason to stop loving someone, right?
He glanced over at Hermione and frowned. Is it possible to love someone for years and never even realize it?
Did he love Hermione?
He decided to test himself. He closed his eyes and tried to picture his future…
…Unless Ginny dyed her hair and got a perm, it was certainly not with her.
His eyes opened wide and he stared at the back of Mr. Granger's seat. A small smile played at his lips…everything Hermione said he was sure he felt. He was sure that he loved her.
He was sure that he wanted Hermione to know.
He took a deep breath and summoned all of his Gryffindor courage, "Hermione?"
"I, I…I well, I-"
Hermione mentally marked her place in the novel and set it aside. She looked up at Harry, "What is it Harry?"
He gulped nervously, "Hermione, everything you said." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, "You know, about l-love." He took another deep breath, "I know what you mean. I feel that way about-"
"-We're here!" Mr. Granger yelled as he put the car in park. He looked out the rear view mirror, "Make sure you have everything."
Hermione smiled at him, "Yes Dad." She looked back to Harry and patted his hand comfortingly, "I'm happy for you Harry." She gave his hand a gentle squeeze, "Congratulations."
Confusion filled every ounce of him as he watched the Grangers get out of the car. "Congratulations?" He whispered. What a weird answer to give someone who just confessed their more than platonic feelings. He replayed the conversation in his head. I feel that way about…
Harry smacked his forehead. This was clearly going to take some explaining.
Mr. Granger knocked on Harry's window, "Lad, the train will leave without you!"
Harry quickly unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car, "Sorry Mr. Granger."
"You best hold onto your keys, Dad." Hermione smiled accusingly at Harry, "Last time Harry missed the train he carjacked Mr. Weasley's flying car."
Mrs. Granger laughed, "No he didn't." She looked to Harry and her laughter quieted down. She sighed, "You did steal a car, didn't you?"
Hermione patted her Mother's arm, "That's another story for another day Mum."
Harry shrugged, "If it makes you feel any better, we landed the car in relatively one piece."
Mr. and Mrs. Granger exchanged quiet, confused, laughs, and as subtly as possible Mr. Granger locked the car, causing the horn the blare three consecutively loud times.
Harry walked beside Hermione through the train station, "Your parents must think I'm a criminal now."
"Criminal is just a name people give to someone who has done something in the name of evil." She answered knowingly, "You, Mr. Potter, are not a criminal."
"Oh, well then what am I?" Harry teased, "I'm fairly certain I, and when I say I…I mean we, have broken quiet a few laws."
"True," Hermione agreed, "But we did them for good reasons."
"So, criminals do things with the intention of being evil. What do you call someone who does it for good reasons?"
"A hero," Hermione said simply as she smiled up at Harry.
Harry blushed at her words and melted at the sight of her smile, "Thanks," he answered shyly. "Hermione, what I was saying in the car. I feel that way about-"
"-Oh Harry," Hermione stopped walking and looked at a young boy standing in front of the platform. He shifted nervously from side to side as he stared at the brick column. Hermione turned to her parents, "I'll be right back to say good bye."
He was obviously a first year, but aside from that, Hermione didn't know much about him. She walked confidently up to the boy, "Did you have a pleasant Christmas break?"
The boy looked nervously around the train station. His parents had always told him not to talk to strangers. They told him that the only people you can trust are family. Well, that's what they told him when he was younger, before they found out about his…peculiarity. Now, they don't say much. His mother promised they would say good-bye at the platform…but they weren't here. Instead, his mum dropped him off on her way to work…at seven that morning. He thought about ignoring the girl, but her brown eyes filled him with a sense of trust he had been missing, "Y-yes."
Hermione smiled warmly at him, "Good," she moved a little closer to him and dropped her voice to a whisper, "Who's going to when the Quidditch cup?"
The boy's blue eyes shined with relief, "Hufflepuff!" He frowned, "Well, hopefully it will be Hufflepuff."
"Gryffindor is doing really well this year," Hermione argued softly. "What's your name?"
"Sullivan," he paused, "but everyone calls me Sully."
"Pleased to meet you Sully," she stuck her hand out, "My name is Hermione, I'm the Head Girl." She looked to the column, "Are you nervous?"
"I've done it before," he assured Hermione, "But there were other people doing it too."
Hermione looked at the clock, "It's still a bit early for everyone to arrive." She returned her attention to Sully, "Can I tell you a secret?"
The eleven year old nodded, "I won't tell a soul."
Hermione smiled kindly at the boy, "Sometimes I'm afraid to enter the platform too, but then I just remind myself that nothing bad will happen," she looked at Harry and smiled secretly to herself, choosing to leave out what happened to him, "And when that doesn't work, I run."
Sully looked over to her family, "And you've done that for seven years?"
She looked down at Sully. Despite her reassuring words he still seemed unconvinced. Hermione held out her hand to the first year, "Would you like to go through together?"
The first year debated between the embarrassment of holding hands with a near grownup, like he was still a child, or dealing with the brick wall alone. His fear quickly won. He held tightly onto Hermione's hand. He looked back to her family, "Is that Harry Potter?"
"It is," she looked back to Harry, and waved, "He'll be riding on the train with us." She looked back to Sully, "Would you like to meet him?"
The first year's eyes grew wide. He nodded eagerly, "Yes!"
Hermione squeezed Sully's hand gently, "Let's get you on the train and then I'll introduce the two of you." She looked ahead to the column, "Would you like to run?"
She heard the first year take a deep breath, "Yes." She held tightly onto his hand and they ran through the column.
Harry watched Hermione hurry to the boy's side. Even though he was out of hear shot he swore he could hear her kind, comforting words, reassuring the boy that nothing would happen to him. He watched her gently offer her hand to him, which he seemed to instantly accept. Moments later, they were gone.
"She's going to be a wonderful mother someday," Mrs. Granger sighed happily.
Harry found himself nodding, "Yeah," he whispered to himself. Any kid who had Hermione as a Mum would grow up in a household full of kindness and warmth. Something he sorely lacked as he grew up with the Dursleys.
He looked at Mr. and Mrs. Granger, knowing that Hermione's warmth surely came from them. The week he had spent with them had been one of the best in his life. The week provided him with enough memories to make his childhood, or lack there of, worth it. "Thank you both so much for having me over," He rubbed the back of his neck, "It was the best Christmas I've ever had."
Tears began to fill in Mrs. Granger's eyes. She pulled the teenager into a motherly hug, "It was wonderful having you, Harry." She pulled back so she could take a good look at him, "You are welcome anytime." She smiled softly, "Maybe the next time you come over you can tell us the story where you stole that car."
Harry laughed, "I will."
Mrs. Granger nodded and kissed the top of his head, "Good." She quietly wiped away the tear that spilled out. Harry held out his hand for Mr. Granger, "Thank you sir."
Mr. Granger smiled and gripped Harry's hand, perhaps a touch too tightly. "Anytime Harry." He dropped his hand and watched his daughter reappear…only to be attacked by her mother's hug moments later. Mr. Granger's smile faded, "Potter," he said seriously, "Please look out for Hermione." He crossed his arms, "I know you two look out for one another…but if anything were to happen to her," He coughed, hiding his emotions, "Just please look out for her. I know there are many things she doesn't share with Rebecca and I." He sighed, "I know she likes us to believe she's in less danger than what she really is." His eyes narrowed on Harry, "Promise me you'll keep her safe."
"I promise sir," he answered honestly, "I don't know what I would do without her."
Mr. Granger smacked Harry's shoulder and nodded, "Good." He smacked his shoulder once more, "Remember that."
Harry nodded to himself as he watched Mr. Granger walk away and say goodbye to his daughter. He would remember that. All his life had been filled with uncertainty and doubt, but there was one thing he knew for sure. He couldn't imagine his life without Hermione. He smiled to himself; that had to be what love is.
He really was in love with Hermione.
The thought alone filled Harry with indescribable happiness. Not a jealous monster…but someone so unbelievably happy. He wanted to shout it from the astronomy tower, to spell it out in the night sky…he wanted to…
…He needed to break up with Ginny.
He looked up and found Hermione smiling at him, causing his heart to somersault. Her mouth continued to move, but Harry couldn't hear anything over the sound of his much too loudly thinking brain.
He shook his head, trying to silent the thoughts, but it merely whispered instead of shouted, "Sorry, I," he blushed embarrassedly, "What did you say?"
Mr. Granger and Mrs. Granger laughed, "Sounds like someone's got a lot on his mind," Mr. Granger said as he teased Harry by ruffling his hair. Harry's blush grew and he attempted to smooth down his hair.
Concern covered Hermione's face. Harry usually wasn't distracted like that…there were only two times when he got distracted; when there was a pretty girl near by, or there was trouble of some sort. She looked around the station and frowned, her fear growing. There wasn't a girl in sight. She took a step closer to Harry, lightly touching his hand, "Harry, are you hearing things?" She whispered.
"No," he assured her, "No I'm fine, I just got distracted."
Hermione studied him for a moment more; there was something he wasn't telling her. She was sure of it. She looked into his eyes, "Will you tell me later?"
The words echoed in his head. He smiled nervously and nodded, "Yes."
Hermione remained unsure, but she brushed it off. If they were in danger Harry would not be so calm…and he wouldn't have such a goofy grin on his face. She gave him a skeptical glance before she turned back to her parents, giving them one last hug good-bye, "I'll write you tonight," she promised. She smiled sadly as she felt her mother's tears fall in her hair.
"Stay safe," Mrs. Granger choked out. She pulled away from her daughter and looked to Harry, "Both of you."
Hermione looked to Harry. He smiled one-sidedly and offered her his arm, just as he had so many times before. She accepted, it was second nature after all these years. After everything they had gotten into she felt more confident than ever when she told her Mum, "We will." The two waved goodbye to the Grangers, and with arms still linked, walked through the brick column.
Harry's eyes settled on the bright red Hogwarts Express. He let out a small sigh of relief, "I've always been worried that one time I wouldn't make it through."
Hermione laughed, "Let me guess, second year didn't help that fear?"
"The only thing it helped was growing the fear," Harry reasoned. He looked to the clock and frowned, "It can't really be nine fifty."
"No it is," Hermione said casually, "McGonagall wanted the Head Boy and Girl to be at the platform no later than ten." She turned to Harry, blocking his way to the train, "Do you remember the first year who was afraid to go to the platform?" she didn't wait for his acknowledgement, "Well, his name is Sully."
Harry nodded slowly, "That's nice?"
Hermione smiled mischievously, "It is." She looked to the compartment where Sully sat, anxiously waiting to meet the Harry Potter. "He recognized you, and I…well I said that once he got to the platform I would introduce you."
"-Now wait one moment," She interrupted, "This isn't the media. This isn't an adult who wants part of your fortune. Sully is a little first year who lit up at the chance to just meet his hero." Harry opened his mouth, but Hermione beat him once more, "Did I mention that I would owe you one big favor?" Her shoulders lowered, "Please?" she asked him softly.
Harry couldn't help but grin, "Sure, I'll meet Sully."
Hermione's face lit up. She threw her arms around Harry's neck, pulling him into a hug. "Thank you, Harry! It'll mean so much to him."
Harry rested his cheek on top of her head full of curls; "You know I would do anything for you." He heard her whisper a muted response into his shoulder.
"Yes, I would do anything for you and Ron," he agreed, despite being thoroughly confused.
"No Harry," She pulled out of the hug and glanced behind him, "Ron's here."
Harry turned around. Even if there had been a crowd full of people, the Weasley red hair stood out miles away. He watched Ron awkwardly walk towards the two. For whatever reason, his instincts told him to block Hermione. And that's just what he did. He stood protectively in front of her, "Hey Ron."
Ron managed a small smile, "Harry." He looked behind him, making eye contact with Hermione, "Hello Hermione."
She took a small side step from behind Harry, "Hello Ronald."
Harry looked around the platform, somewhat nervously, "Is Ginny here?"
"No, she's still doing last minute packing." He ran a hand nervously through his hair, "I actually came here early because I knew that you were going to be here Hermione." He looked down at his feet, "I was hoping we could talk."
Hermione nodded her head once, quickly running through all possible scenarios in her head, but nearly all were very, very, bad. As much as she dreaded the talk, she knew she at least owed Ron an explanation of some sort, "I would like that," she smiled softly.
Harry watched the two exchange equally relieved smiles. For the first time in a long time, he felt like a third wheel. He gestured to the train, "I'm going to go meet Sully."
She smiled sincerely, "Thank you Harry. I'll be on the train in a few minutes," she assured him. She watched Harry wave a quick, confused, goodbye before disappearing onto the train.
She crossed her arms close to her chest, partly because of the cool January morning that no heat could cover, and partly in preparation for the conversation she was about to have with Ron. She smiled politely at him, "Did you have a pleasant Christmas?"
Ron nodded, "Yeah, France was great." He rocked back and forth on his heels, "It was great to see the family happy again."
"I'm glad, your family deserves to be happy," she answered honestly. An awkward silence washed over the two. "And you?" Ron asked politely, "Did you have a happy Christmas?"
Hermione thought back to the time she spent with Harry and her family. She smiled to herself, "I did." Ron nodded, but said nothing, letting another silence hang in the air. Hermione looked back to the train, longing to see the excitement on Sully's face. She frowned acceptingly and looked back to Ron, "You know I should really be on the train-"
"-Hermione," Ron pleaded taking a step towards her, "I just, I wanted to talk to you." He cleared his throat, "I wanted to thank you actually."
Hermione's head and heart where equally stunned. Each believing that her blasted ears had deceived her, "What?"
Ron smiled, "I wanted to thank you." He shrugged, "I was going through a hard time, and you never abandoned me. You were always there for me. Even if it wasn't in the way I thought you would be." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a week's worth of letters. Her letters. "Even after we broke up, you were still there for me." He looked down at the letters, "I'm sorry I couldn't write you back," he muttered. He shoved the letters back in his pocket, "I never was very good at the whole feelings thing."
Hermione smiled softly, "You're doing fine," she said encouragingly. "Ron, I'm so sorry, I never should have lead you on-"
He held his hand up, stopping Hermione's sentence, "You don't need to say anything Hermione." He rubbed the back of his head, "I felt the same way." He gestured between the two of them, "It seemed like we fit. Right? We should have fit?"
Hermione sighed and shrugged acceptingly. She didn't have an explanation either. "We should have fit."
"It all made sense up here," he said gesturing to his head, "That should have been my first clue that something was wrong."
Hermione laughed softly and shook her head, "Honestly Ron, you're much brighter than what you give yourself credit for."
He shrugged, "I thought that after the deluminator led me to you, that it was fate's way of saying that you were the one." He frowned, "But I think I was wrong. I think it leads me to the person who needs me the most." He shuffled his feet; "While I was at Auror training I brought it with me. I thought that maybe I could hear your voice." He shook his head, "But I always heard Ginny or George." He shrugged once more, "Or maybe I hear the person I need the most? I haven't quite figured it out yet."
He paused, "I do love you Hermione," Ron confirmed, "But I didn't realize how I loved you." He smiled slightly at her, "I didn't realize until you," he gestured behind him, "Well you remember."
She thought back to when Ron proposed. She nodded, "I remember," she said softly.
"I look at my Mum and Dad, and I know that's what I want." He frowned, "We were never like that. We had the bickering part down, it was just the other stuff." He grabbed a hold of her hand, "I think we're better as mates."
Hermione couldn't help but laugh, "I think this is the most we've agreed in years." She studied Ron for a moment, "I can't believe you aren't angry."
Ron shrugged, "I was at first. But someone's been helping me with that."
"I'm glad," she said sweetly, "May I ask whom?"
Ron blushed deep red and rubbed his arm nervously, "Luna, actually."
A small smile hinted at her lips, "Luna?"
"She and her father stopped by the house while we were getting ready to go to the beach house. Mum found out that they had no plans for the holidays and she invited them to join us since she and Ginny are becoming inseparable." He looked at his feet, "One night after everyone had gone to bed, I went for a walk on the beach. I had just read the article in the prophet and I was angry." His eyes grew wide, "Not at you," he paused, "Well maybe a little with you, but I knew it was all rubbish, and I was mad that they would write that." He smiled to himself, "She was out looking for shells so she could make her dad a new wind chime. Did you know that their sound tells friendly ghosts that they accept company?" He cleared his throat, "Uh, anyways, before I knew it we were walking on the beach and talking." He looked to Hermione, "She just has this way of calming me down." He smiled, "We walked on the beach every night for the rest of the week."
"Talking with Luna makes me," he searched for the word, "Happy." He grinned brightly, "I haven't felt this happy in a long time." He frowned, "I'm sorry Hermione, I shouldn't be saying this."
Hermione shook her head, "Honestly Ron, I'm happy for you." She smiled up at the redhead, "I'm glad you've found someone that makes you happy." She crossed her arms, "Are you seeing each other?"
Ron grinned shyly, "No." He looked down at his feet, "We're going to write each other while she's at Hogwarts, and I already told the captain that I couldn't practice on the next three Hogsmeade trips."
"Luna's a very lucky girl."
"Thank you Hermione." He smiled down at her, "Thank you for never giving up on me." He held his arms open, inviting her into a hug, "Mates?"
Hermione smiled and wrapped her arms around his middle, "Always."
He rested his chin on top of her head, "No matter what, you, me, and Harry will always be there for each other." He paused, "Even if my sister is ready to rip him a new one-"
Hermione felt her heart drop with guilt. The last thing she wanted is for Harry to get in trouble when he was just trying to look out for her. She pulled away and looked at Ron, "Harry was just worried about me."
Ron nodded, "I know. That's just the way you two are. When he's not with you, he worries and you're the same way. It'll probably always be like that." He shrugged, "I get it. Ginny might not, but she never saw you two the way I did. She doesn't know that apart, you're brilliant, but together you're-" he smiled, "unstoppable. She just hasn't seen it like I have. For a while, you were all he had," he laughed to himself, "You two are practically family. Of course he wants to protect you and make sure you're all right."
The fluidity of Ron's speech took Hermione off guard, "Thanks," she whispered as her brows wrinkled with lines of deep thoughts…thoughts that would take more than a train ride to sort through. She looked at the train behind her, "I should probably-"
"-Right," Ron nodded. He smiled one-sidedly, "Good luck with your N.E.W.T.S"
Normally, the mention of N.E.W.T.S would fill Hermione with an anxious excitement about creating a study regiment, but her thoughts were elsewhere. As she waved goodbye to Ron she looked to the Hogwart's Express and smiled at the sight of the timid first year talking excitedly with a raven-haired boy. The same raven haired boy who happened to occupy all her thoughts.
Harry believed that after everything he had been through, he had lost the element of surprise. With the exception of a very select few, the entire wizarding world wanted a piece of him. Well no, not him, not Harry. They wanted a piece of the famous Harry Potter, the boy who defeated death twice.
He could predict, down to the word, what Sully would say to him. It would begin with a long, awkward, gawk at his forehead. Then once he picked his jaw off the floor, he would ask what it was like to fight Voldemort, a name that most still struggled to say. Harry would answer generically, choosing to leave out the nightmares he still had about that night.
Harry walked down the train; turning his head at every window he passed to make sure Hermione was all right. He was so focused on the windows that it took him a moment to realize he passed Sully's compartment. He spun on his heels, and hurried back to the only occupied compartment on the train. He stood in the entrance, "Sully?"
The boy turned his head away from the window and looked at the older boy in front of him. His eyes grew wide and his mouth opened nervously, "H-Harry Potter? You're the-"
Harry breathed in, waiting to hear exactly what they all said…
"-old Gryffindor captain! The youngest seeker of the century!"
Harry let the words play back in his head. He smiled at the first year, "That's me."
Perhaps there were some people who could surprise him after all…
"You should play quidditch again," Sully replied quickly, "Professionally."
Harry laughed and sat down across from the first year, "I think I'll stick to playing for fun." He quickly checked out the window, but only for a moment, "So, who's your team?"
"The Kestrels," he answered quickly. His eyebrows rose questioningly, "Who's your team?"
"My best mate's the new keeper for the Canons-"
"-Ron Weasley," Sully finished for him, nodding his head excitedly, "He use to play for Gryffindor too." He thought for a moment, "After Oliver Tree."
Harry laughed at the nickname his former captain had received, "Wood," Harry corrected.
"The Kestrels are going to when the quidditch cup this year," Sully said confidentially, "Their seeker is the quickest one I've ever seen!" He thought for a moment, "But I only saw them once when Headmistress McGonagall took me to see them."
"Hang on," Harry leaned forward, "When did the Headmistress take you to a Quidditch game?"
"Over the summer," Sully shrugged, "I think she does that for everyone like me."
"Like you?" Harry frowned, "What do you mean?"
Sully sighed, "I'm muggleborn." he whispered. "And I didn't have many friends." He shrugged, "I still don't have many friends," he said bluntly. "No one really likes Hufflepuff."
"I like Hufflepuff."
Sully looked up, "You do?"
Harry nodded, "Hufflepuff house is loyal, dedicated, and hardworking." He thought about Cedric and Tonks. He smiled sadly as their faces appeared in his mind, "You're very lucky to be in Hufflepuff."
"Thanks." He looked out the window, "Hey Harry?"
"Is that the Hermione Granger?" He looked back to Harry, "The one I've heard stories about? The one who broke all of those school rules?"
Once again, Sully had surprised him. His laughter echoed throughout the compartment, and he could almost certainly say it echoed through the train as well.
"What's so funny?"
Harry looked up and found Hermione standing in the entrance to the compartment, just like she had been when he first saw her. Only this time, the sight of her made him laugh even harder.
Hermione looked over to the first year with an amused smile on his face, "Sully?"
He shrugged innocently, "I don't know. I asked him you were the Hermione Granger I've heard stories about."
An embarrassed blush tinted her cheeks. She crossed her arms, "And what, may I ask, is so funny about that?"
Harry clutched his aching sides and attempted to calm himself, "He asked if you were the one who-" his laughter started up, louder than ever.
Hermione felt her smile growing as she found herself laughing along with him. She quickly cleared her throat and looked to Sully, "I am I the one who…?"
"Broke all those school rules." The confused first year answered, not seeing what the big deal was.
Hermione delicately bit her lip, not daring to look at Harry. If she were to look at him, she would surely laugh uncontrollably with him…and that's just not what Head Girls do. She tucked her hair behind her ears, "I only broke school rules when absolutely necessary. That does not give others permission to do the same," she said kindly, yet firmly, to Sully. She raised an eyebrow, "Is that understood?"
He nodded, "I won't break any school rules."
Hermione smiled brightly, "I'm sure you won't Sully." She looked over to Harry, whose laughter had died down to occasional chuckles, "We should be in the Head Compartment, the train will be leaving soon."
Harry nodded. He looked to Sully, "I'll see you at Hogwarts." He smiled his goodbye and joined Hermione on the walk to the Head's Compartment. He snuck a glance at the Head Girl, who despite her best intentions had a proud smirk on her face. She met Harry's eyes and her grin grew, "Shut it Potter," she teased.
Harry wrapped an arm around her shoulders, "Think about how proud Fred and Sirius must be." He wiped an imaginary tear from his eye, "They must be so proud of their little trouble maker."
Hermione rolled her eyes, "Honestly, I cannot believe that's what I'm known for." She frowned disappointedly, "I should focus more on my studies."
Harry sighed, "I know no matter what I say you'll spend the next few months doing nothing but preparing for the N-"
"-I'll never be prepared in time! I hardly touched my books over vacation. What I should have done is locked myself in my room and made copious amounts of notes for ancient runes-"
Hermione stopped walking and looked around. Not only had she passed the Head's Compartment but she was centimeters away from running into the conductor's door. Her eyebrows wrinkled questioningly, "Perhaps I should focus on N.E.W.T.S once we get back to Hogwarts?"
"That sounds like a brilliant idea to me." He slid the door open for her, "After you."
Hermione smiled kindly, "Why thank you kind sir."
Harry laughed, "You shouldn't say that," he teased, "Remember what happened last time?"
Hermione walked through the doorway and laughed, "They loved the story you told. Brave Harry Potter saving the poor defenseless princess-"
"Hang on, she wasn't defenseless. If I remember correctly she was the smartest princess in the school. The Brave Harry Potter boldly defeated the dragon to save the smartest-"
"Merlin Potter, all this hero worship is going to your head." Draco spat with disgust, "Defeating the dark lord wasn't enough for you, was it? You had to beef it up with a princess."
Harry and Hermione exchanged surprised looks. Hermione was the first to crack, with a soft laugh escaping her lips. She smiled at Draco and shook her head, "No no, Harry was just talking about this story he told…" Draco's face shined with fake enthusiasm. Hermione tilted her head indifferently, "Never mind." She sat down across from him, "Did you have a pleasant Christmas?"
Draco stretched his legs, claiming the entire side to himself…not that Harry would have wanted it any different. He shrugged, "I actually studied the majority of the time."
Hermione paled, "Really? T-this early?"
Draco laughed, "Early? Granger these tests determine our future!" He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall, hoping to get some sleep, "It's never too early to begin studying."
Hermione stared at the Slytherin with disbelief. He was absolutely right, why had she let herself become so…distracted.
She looked over to Harry, who simply shook his head, "Mione he probably over heard us in the hallway. I promise you'll get more than enough studying in. You're brilliant." He rested a hand on her shoulder, "I'll help however I can."
Draco made a sour face, "Potter, don't waste your time flirting with her. She's spoken for."
Hermione blushed and quickly looked away from Harry, "Actually Draco, Ron and I decided to just be friends."
Draco's eyes opened, "Really?" he asked skeptically, "Because you and Weasel looked pretty cozy on the platform."
"They're just friends Malfoy," Harry answered firmly, partly to convince Draco…and partly to remind himself.
Draco laughed, "And what about you Potter? Did you and Red stop fighting and have a lovey-dovey Christmas?"
"Ginny went to France with her-"
Draco watched as a flash of bright red walked into the compartment and with a loud smack that echoed the train, slapped Harry. Draco's eyes grew wide and he swung his legs off of the seat, preparing himself for the best seat in what promised to be an entertaining fight. He looked over to Hermione, who had wordlessly closed the door and silenced the compartment, "I'll take that as a no."
"You never told me! You let me find out through Skeeter's protégée that you chose to spend the holiday with," she allowed her eyes to angrily flick towards the other girl in the compartment, "Hermione," she spat bitterly, "Instead of with me."
An excited smirk covered Draco's face, this was just getting better and better.
"Ginny," Harry said gently, "Can we discuss this later?"
She shook her head, "No," she said firmly as she crossed her arms, "Harry Potter, I deserve answers. I deserve to know why you abandoned your family!"
"I didn't abandon anyone, Ginny! When Hermione said no to Ron's proposal-"
Draco's eyebrows raised in surprise. He looked at Hermione, "Ron proposed and you said no?"
She smiled sadly, "You don't read much of the Prophet, do you?"
"-Malfoy," Ginny yelled sharply, her blue eyes locked on him, "Can you leave us alone for one bloody moment?"
Malfoy planted his feet firmly on the floor and crossed his arms, "Last time I checked, this was the Head's Compartment. If anyone should be leaving, it should be you."
Ginny considered this for a moment, "You're right." She looked to Harry, "Let's talk about this somewhere else."
"-Gin, I can't."
"Why not? He's right. We shouldn't be fighting here."
Harry sighed. The only answer he could come up with was the honest one, the one that he knew would only make things worse, "I can't leave Hermione."
"Why not Harry?" Ginny crossed her arms, "And don't you dare lie and say it's because of the attacker-"
"-That's exactly why," Hermione interrupted, "Ginny, this is all my fault. Please," she looked over to Harry, "don't be angry with him. I'm the one who ruined his Christmas. The plan was for all of us to spend Christmas together, but after Ron proposed, I had to go-
"-No, Harry, she deserves to know," she looked back to Ginny, "Harry didn't want to spend Christmas without you, but it's his mission to keep me safe. He knew that I would let my guard down when I was with my parents, and he had to make sure that I wasn't attacked. Every night he couldn't sleep because his thoughts kept coming back to not being with you."
The anger in Ginny's eyes slowly started to melt away. Her eyes shifted to Harry, "Really?"
"-And on the way to the train station he told me how he feels about you." Hermione sighed to herself, saying what she knew was one hundred percent true; "He believes that when you're in love, the future isn't scary because he knows the other person will be in it." She smiled softly at Ginny, "You're very lucky to have him, Ginny. Please don't ever forget that."
Tears filled both of the girls' eyes. One had tears of happiness, while the other shed silent tears hoping that one-day someone could mean that about her. Hermione watched as Ginny slinked her arms around Harry's neck and peppered kisses all over his face, repeating her sincere apologies over and over again. She felt someone lightly touch her shoulder. She looked up and found Draco gesturing to the doorway. She nodded her head; she had no desire to stay in that compartment any longer. She grabbed a hold of her purple bag, "Draco and I will be studying outside." She said to no one in particular, not really expecting a response back. She followed Draco out of the compartment, closing the door without looking back. He led them to the small suite that was normally used for prefect meetings, and sat in one of two black leather chairs, "And once again, Granger comes to the rescue."
Hermione shrugged and sat across from him, "He did me a favor earlier today, I wanted to repay him."
Draco watched her carefully as she pulled out a library's worth of schoolbooks, "You would have done it no matter what." Hermione shrugged once more and continued to gather her supplies.
"Granger," He said bluntly, leaving Hermione no choice but to look at him. He smiled slightly at her as he awkwardly reached out and patted her shoulder, "You did good."
Hermione laughed and rolled her eyes, "Thanks Draco." She looked down at the books in front of her before picking up two of the heavier ones, "Potions or Defense?"
"Is this because of what I said about studying over break? Because Potter was right, I was just messing around with you."
Hermione smiled slightly, feeling a little of her self-assurance returning, "Well then we're both behind. Now pick, Potions or Defense?"
Draco frowned. Although neither would talk about it, he had seen the tears that she thought went unnoticed. Perhaps he pitied her, or perhaps he was genuinely touched by her kindness. Or he was catching a cold and he was becoming delusional.
Yes, he was convinced it was the third possibility. Regardless, he wanted his once enemy to be happy…
"Potions," he answered glumly.
…Even if it meant spending his napping-time studying for a test that was months away.
So, what do you think? Please REVIEW! I will post the new chapter within the week.