After He Left Us
Weeks had passed following Ron's break up from their journey. He had given up on them. He left Harry and Hermione stranded in the middle of nowhere in favor of warm bed and home cooked meal. He choose what was easy over what was right. Oddly enough, Hermione was the most upset. She spent her nights crying to sleep days after Ron left. Harry tried his hardest to console her. His guilt rose in abundance seeing his best female friend suffer. At first, he really could not fault Ron for leaving them. It was his intention in the beginning to not taking them with him but Ron had insisted to come whatever his reason was at the time. Now after all this time they spent in this journey together when things got really hard, he walked out of it and that hurt.
At the third day, Hermione had stopped crying completely. Harry did not know what brought her sudden changes but was happy about it nonetheless. She continued her research of the Horcruxes, of the Deathly Hallows and of grey hexes and curses from the book that she had liberated from the Black family library. Harry busied himself with training battle movement from the same grey books, sharpening his reflexes and broadening his multi-spells combinations; Abilities that Hermione insisted that he learn.
They had grown closer during the next week. They spent their night chatting about their life and started to share a bed. Nothing happened except some cuddling to ward off cold from the chilling November nights. Harry learned more about Hermione's pre-Hogwarts life from those nightly chats than the seven years they had spent together at the school combined. Harry too, after some persuasion from Hermione, spilled the rather dark history of his life at the Dursley. It helped that during these nights, Hermione held him in her warm hug until they both fell asleep. He still spared Hermione some of the worse details though but she now knew the general idea of it.
Hermione spent the remainder of the night crying until dawn with Harry sleeping in her arms. This time it wasn't because of the betrayal of the lanky red haired boy but for the beaten and battered boy sleeping in her arms. That night she made a vow to protect Harry, to stand by him no matter what. Everyone who loved him had left him alone to bear this impossible burden. Harry had been deprived of love since the very beginning of his life and what small amount of it had been robbed from him far too soon.
Hermione regretted her decision last year to give up on Harry for Ron. She had thought it was a lost cause anyway since Harry never looked her way in a romantic sense. She surmised all of his caring and compassionate gestures to her for the last five years as only brotherly feelings but now she was not sure anymore. Harry had not known love; he would not recognise, it let alone justify it. It could all have been love all along. Yet, even if he would only think of her as a sister, she could live with it. At least Harry would always be a constant in her life as she to him. Ron could not hold a commitment. His twice betrayal had proven it. Hermione's mother had warned her of that kind of people.
"I will stand by you Harry. No matter what. I wish I can tell you that I love you so much." Hermione whispered to the dark haired boy who was sleeping beside her. Then she sealed her vow with a light kiss on his dry lips. Harry did not stir until dawn.
The following morning found Harry spooning Hermione on their shared bunk. It was not the first time he woke up to this but something seemed different that morning. He felt happier than the previous morning. He even felt happier than he did in a long time since Dumbledore's funeral. He tried to jog his memory of their previous night's talk to try to remember what it was that made him deliriously chipper this morning. He remembered telling Hermione about his life at the Dursleys. That was a sour memory, so it did not make sense to be this happy about it afterward.
Giving up, he decided to wake up and carefully entangled his limbs from around Hermione's sleeping form to go to the loo.
"Morning Hermione!" He greeted his best friend who was still sitting on the bunk rubbing her sleepy eyes. She looked worn out and tired with dark circles around her eyes.
"Morning" Hermione let out a yawn escape her mouth, then looked at Harry. He looked like he had just come out of the bathroom. Water was still dripping from his hair and he stood there holding his wet towel in his right hand. A boyish grin adorned his face. "You seem awfully chipper this morning."
Harry's grin went wider at her annoyed look. Really, she looked so cute when she's like that. What? Do I really think Hermione's cute? Well, she is. There's nothing wrong with admitting to the truth. With messed up hair and pouty lips, not to mention her small crease between her eyebrows when she's thinking something or annoyed just like now. Oh dear Merlin! Potter you're doomed. When you think a mused up, unbathed, annoyed Hermione cute then you're definitely doomed. Merlin! She makes Ginny look like fake.
Harry was a little startled by his revelation. This thought made him warm and tingles spread through his body. His body felt lighter when he stepped towards her. An evil smirk formed on his face and with a quick act, he wrapped his wet towel around Hermione's sleepy head making the girl shriek.
"Harry!! This is not funny!" Hermione struggled for a few seconds with Harry's towel. When she finally got free, Harry had doubled over the bunk at her side with laughter. She slapped the towel on Harry's back repeatedly but the victim boy just laughed harder.
"Stop laughing! It really was not funny, Harry!"
"Oh, yes it was!" Shouted Harry back between his laughter.
"At least you could dry it up first."
"Wouldn't be funny if I did that."
She huffed and walked to the bathroom while muttering about boys and their childishness along the way.
Harry looked at her retreating back from his position lying on his side on the bunk with his arm supporting his head. Her hips were swaying delightfully while she walked with her pyjama bottom riding low on her hips, showing him the small dent in the middle of her lower back. Harry did not remember her wearing this small and sexy looking pyjamas when Ron was around. Had she worn them for him?
Groaning, Harry dropped his head on the bed and banged his head on it several time. Damn! Potter. You're screwed when you start to think delusional thoughts like that. Of course she's not wearing them because of you. She just didn't have the time to wear it before now. Oh yeah! And I am Merlin.
He let out a long sigh and muttered. "I am so screwed."
Their relationship went through a prominent shifting starting that morning. They became closer than before and Harry was flirting with Hermione almost every day. Hermione was surprised by this but she elated at the same time. She did not want any more complications in their new warmer and more intimate relationship, so she decided to be honest with Harry about her feelings. If Harry wanted to continue flirting with her, he had to know about her feelings.
Therefore, five days later when the night again found both of them sharing one blanket, Hermione told Harry everything. She told him that she had fancied him since the first year and that she admired his sense of justice and adored his bravery. His friendship had answered her longing of acceptance. She had found kindred spirit in him that she had vowed to forever be his best friend for as long as he wanted her. She would never leave him no matter what and that feeling had developed into affection at the beginning of third year. That year she was devoted, truly, deeply in him. Although she had promised herself never to hope for any return feeling from him, she could not help but wish it. Harry's affectionate gesture and caring to her had made it hard for her not to fall for him. It had been hard to see him fall for other girls and last year was the last straw for her. Her devotion to him had made it impossible for her to have a relationship with other boys, because if she accepted other's love, then it would have meant she would be away from Harry; that was why it had not worked with Viktor Krum, because other boys would not understand her special relationship with Harry and by addition Ron.
"So why did you date Ron?" Harry asked.
"He was … the closest thing to you. Dating him would have meant … I wouldn't have to leave you because he's your best friend and we would still be together. And the fact that he fancied me made it easy… at that time but …"
"But he left us anyway. He left you. He left you but you stayed."
"I told you I would never leave you. Do you remember how I was after he left Harry?" Harry nodded. "I was so distraught. Not because I was in love with him but because it hurt when the one we trust turned his back on us. I stopped crying after three days because finally I made up my mind that he was not worth it."
Hermione touched Harry's cheek and caressed it with her palm. "You are worth it Harry. And considering my reason to pursue romantic relationship with him, I think … If he can leave you then why should I care about him? He definitely does not care. He is just like other boys who doesn't understand us, doesn't understand me. He made me choose while my reason to return his feeling was you. Since the start of sixth year, I struggled with my-self whether I made the right decision but he made it easy that night. When he made me choose, it was clear to me that Ronald Weasley and I would never work. I will never trust him anymore. He had a rather bad record on trust, you know."
"Yeah. With you in third year and me in fourth year and now…." Harry looked deeply into Hermione's eyes. "But you never leave me Hermione. You were always there for me even when I was stupid enough to trust a mere book over you and risk your life in fifth year. Merlin, I am sorry for taking you for granted - I… "
Hermione put her finger on his lips, automatically stopping his apology. She smiled at him saying with her eyes that he was forgiven already.
"Please stay" Harry whispered behind her finger, his voice low and barely heard.
"I will stay with you Harry, always."
Hermione looked into his eyes when she said that. Both of them laid side by side, facing each other. Her eyes penetrated deeply into Harry's heart. He saw honesty in those chocolate orbs. He saw the depth of Hermione's devotion and felt her love for him glow in her eyes and it warmed his heart. He was not alone in this. Now he was sure she felt it too and his heart sparked with renewed energy. By Merlin, he could see it in his mind now what his future would be like, and in all of them, there was Hermione. For a seventeen years old boy who could never foresee his future before and who was always surrounded by death, that was a tremendous achievement. For the first time in Harry's short and miserable life, he felt hope. For the first time since the funeral, Harry felt sure that he had more chance to defeat Voldermort than ever before. He would win this war if only to have Hermione constantly in his future life.
His relationship with Cho, the girl he had dreamed of for three years, had only brought more trouble to his already difficult year at school. Even when he was involved with Ginny, when he thought she made him happy, what he felt when he was with her were pale in comparison to what Hermione made him feel right now.
So once again, Harry took a leaf from Gryffindor book. He charged ahead. There it was, right in front of him; hope, happiness, future and love.
That night changed everything although actually everything did not really change. Everything was still the same. Harry was still affectionate with her and cared for her with the addition of kisses every now and then. Hermione was still worried about him and worked hard to help him win the war. Another addition was when she worried too much Harry would hold her and kiss her thoroughly, leaving both of them breathless and hot. They spent every night cuddled up together, sharing kisses, tasting young love and the beauty of making love. That was by most their favourite part of the deal.
It was awful. The adventure of breaking into Batihlda Bagshoot's home has proven to be disastrous and had cost them Harry's Holly wand. Hermione had lent him her wand. Harry had refused at first but Hermione had insisted and said that Harry was a better fighter than she was. Hermione had once again frozen in place when Nagini recoiled and poised to strike her. Her legs had felt like lead and stuck to the floor. It was first year all over again with the stinking troll looming over her small, hunched form under the sink. It had called for Harry's quick reflexes to get her out of that situation by diverting the snake's attention on him and in the end, made him broke his wand. It was no one's fault actually but Hermione felt guilty anyway.
Harry had done many stupid things in his life. When he thought about them afterwards, he always regretted them. Just like now. He shouldn't have left Hermione's wand at the tent under their pillow but they only had one wand and Hermione might need it to protect herself if something happened when he was away. He had promised himself to protect her just like she protected him all this time. Granted he should never have left her on her own like this in the first place, but the glowing doe Patronus was so beautiful and mesmerizing that it compelled him to follow its path. Now he was shivering next to an almost frozen lake with a cursed locket and an irate prat of a so-called best friend and no wand.
Harry had just finished stabbing the locket with Gryffindor sword that he had fetched from the bottom of the cold lake. Ron stood beside him with a strange expression on his face. Harry thought he knew what was on his mind right now. The part of Voldermort's soul that had arisen from the locket had played with their mind. It had taunted Ron with images of him and Hermione making out, saying and pointing out all the things that Ron was envious of Harry. The deserter prat had appeared out of nowhere to help Harry out of the lake and by some unfortunate incident, he had happened to be the one who held the sword. Harry wanted to end the Horcrux right away, so he pulled the locket from his inside pocket and put it on a slab of stone. He commanded in Parseltongue to open it and told Ron to stab it with the sword. When the images were shown, Harry did not trust him to hold the sword, so he summoned the boy's wand and knocked him off with the Expelliarmus, then finished the business by stabbing the cursed locked right at its centre. Green evil looking smoke rose up from it and it let out a long bloodcurdling scream into the air. They had to shut their ears with both hands in an effort to protect their eardrums.
"Is that true Harry?" Ron implored after they regained some of their sense of things and their ears stopped ringing from the blood-curling scream of Voldermort's part of soul.
Harry looked at him briefly, then picked up the Sword.
"You have the gall to ask that."
A frown formed on Ron's forehead. "What do you mean?" his confusion showed on his face. "I asked…"
"YOU left me Ron!" Harry's voice barely hid his anger toward the lanky red head while he pointed Ron's own wand at his face. "Left US alone in the middle of this blasted forest! And now you have the gall to ask that?!"
Harry moved forward and pointed the wand right in front of the other's boy's nose. "You have betrayed me Ron. Twice. And I've had enough of it. I have revoked your rights on this journey. I don't have to answer anything to you anymore."
"But I saved your life!" Ron tried to argue while his eyes darted nervously on the business end of the wand in front of his nose. He knew that an angered Harry was dangerous.
"Oh yeah? I've saved your father's and your sister's life at a great risk of my own and don't forget I saved your life too last year, remember?" Harry's eyes hardened. "Should I call for a wizard's debt, Ron? I'll say that you and I are even."
"Hermione would like me to come and she'll accept me back." The red haired boy cried desperately.
"Should I remind you that this is MY journey? Despite my refusal to take the both of you with me, you INSISTED to come along." Harry's sneer matched the one of Draco Malfoy's. "Hermione does not have a say in this. She can drop out of this if she so much as wants it. After all, had she 'chosen' you, as you so eloquently said, she would follow you that night. The fact that she stays with me speaks out loud about where her loyalty lies."
"I don't believe you." Panic made Ron loose his bearing quickly and he shouted it to Harry who ignored it.
"Fine" Harry said calmly. He dropped the wand and fingering its end with his left hand fingers. "Tell you what. I'll give you a shot to ask her yourself, to humour you, and let's see what she'll say shall we?."
"Hermione will listen to me." Ron said determinedly
Harry snorted loudly "Since when?"
When he saw the red head was scowling and his face was getting redder, he lifted Ron's wand again and pointed it across the other boy's shoulder.
When Ron refused to budge, he lifted his eyebrows impatiently. The red head turned around in a huff and walked towards the tent.
Hermione was pacing in front of the tent's flap anxiously. An hour ago, she had been sleeping soundly in a warm cocoon that was Harry's arms but when she awoke thirty minutes ago, she found out not only Harry had left her to sleep alone, he was also nowhere to be found. She had searched everywhere around the tent even a few steps away from their ward but still she could not find him. Then she started to think and worry that Harry might leave her. She dismissed that thought completely after a minute. Harry had had his fill of betrayal. He would not do that to her. If it were to happen, it would be herself leaving him, not the other way around, but of course, she would rather die than betraying Harry. She had promised to Harry and to herself that she would stand by him no matter what.
A dim light in the middle of the dark forest to the left side of the tent broke Hermione out of her musing. Her initial response was to panic. She thought that Death Eater had found out their hiding place or worse snatcher had. She ran back into the tent to summon her wand then crouched near the inside of the flap to peek outside. The light had become brighter and soon she saw that it was a wand light.
'Perhaps it is Harry' Hermione thought 'But Harry does not have a wand and I have my wand with me'
Hermione was waiting nervously. She wanted to run but remembered that Harry was still missing. What if they had caught him already?
'Then I must not run. I am the only one who can save Harry from the inside if he is caught'
With that new resolve, Hermione hardened herself, running a list of every possible worse curses, hexes, and jinxes in her mind, reliving all battle strategy that Harry had thought her the past couple of months.
Then he heard her name called.
Harry saw the tent about ten paces in front of them. After they walked a few more steps, he called out to Hermione. When she took more than two minutes to come out of the tent, he assumed she was still sleeping. Then two minutes later the bushy haired girl peek out of the flap with a nervous face and wand in hand. Harry cursed himself inwardly for acting like a stupid Griffyndor again. Charging ahead without so much as a thought of consequences. She had to be worried to find him gone. She probably thought that he was caught by some random Death Eater or snatcher.
He called again.
"Hermione it's me, Harry. Come out and look who I found"
Harry turned to Ron when he walked to follow him into the ward.
"Stay here!" The other boy opened his mouth to protest when Harry spoke again. "The wards will repel you. We modified it to only allow us to enter"
Fuming, Ron accepted it and waited just outside of the ward's boundary while Harry walk through it meeting Hermione half way to the tent.
"What is he doing here?" Hermione asked harshly. Harry reckoned she was still upset towards their so-called best friend, well ex best friend if they wanted to be honest. "I thought he was back at the Burrow sleeping in his warm bed and eating mommy's warm meal."
Harry took a deep breath and sighed while running his left hand through his hair.
"Err…How to say this… he wanted to redeem himself…" He said looking at Hermione in the eye.
Hermione looked at him sceptically. Clearly, his pretty best friend plus girlfriend didn't believe him.
"Alright it might be too much. He …" Harry struggled to find a word. Inside he questioned himself why did he make excuse for the git? Maybe it was the good in him that would like to give anyone second chances. Well that kind of thought had cost Dumbledore his life. So maybe this time he would pass.
"He wanted us back." Harry said. Clear and simple. "I think he may have thought of it through and decided to come back or …"
"Or he was just wandering around all this time. Lost and starving. When finally he found you, he decided to join us rather than die of hunger out there. Merlin knows, he only thinks with his stomach!" Hermione hissed.
"I think he would be dead if he was lost for all the time he left us" Harry pointed out. Really, with stomach like that, Ron would most likely be dead if he did not eat for three days.
"Fine! Then he went back home. Found out that the situation there is no better than here, perhaps his house is destroyed and they have had to move to Hogwarts and fight. So he decided to come back to us thinking less food is better than loosing his life. Regardless of what his reason is, Harry, I won't take him back. I can't forgive a betrayer. Not now, not ever. Should I remind you that we're in a war Harry. This is no child's play. Any kind of betrayal is unacceptable. If he can't get that into his tick head and tea-spoon size of a brain then he should get the hell out of here and away from us because I don't care!"
"I don't know what moral they teach in this wizarding world - or is it just him? but if he thinks that it's okay to betray his best friend over and over again because he can't act mature, then he has another thing coming. Just because he's Pureblood and well versed in wizarding society doesn't mean he can step on us. If we accept him back he will never learn and I am fed up with his constant whining all the time."
With that lengthy rant finished, Hermione shot past Harry to the edge of the ward where Ron stood impatiently. Hermione had pointed out unarguable grounds there. The more Harry thought about it, the more he sided with her.
Seeing Hermione approach him eagerly, in his mind she looked eager to see him, the Weasley boy smiled brightly at her.
"Hermione! You'll let me in, right? I was thinking about you a lot these past couple of months I can't leave you alone. I care for you too much for that."
"Well, you should not leave in the first place then."
"Oh you know me. I don't mostly think with my head when I was upset."
Hermione regarded him with cold eyes. She folded her arms across her chest.
"Get lost Ron. We don't want you here anymore."
"What? But you need me. I can help."
"I am sorry but we can handle it by ourselves. We had to, you know, because our prat of a best friend left us stranded in the middle of nowhere after emptying our ration and had the gall to complain about it. We come out pretty good you know. With one less mouth to feed, made this journey more bearable."
"But I know all of your project and secret; surely you can't dismiss me just like that. What if some Death Eather caught on that information…"
"That won't be a problem."
Hermione waved her wand in front of Ron's face and incanted "Obliviate"
Harry's jaw dropped in shock of what his girlfriend was doing to their other (Ex) best friend.
"Now Ron, you won't remember anything about Harry's project. What you need to know is that you left Harry for your own selfish need. I allow you to remember where we are right now because it won't be of any use if the next time you want to look for us again. We'll move our tent away from here and you aren't likely to find us again. Now go!"
Ron blinked his eyes several times before focusing on Hermione
"So are you coming or not Hermione?"
"I'd rather be here with Harry than anywhere with you Ron."
"Fine! Then you choose him. You always choose him. I should've known."
Harry had shaken himself out of his shock long enough to realise he still had Ron's wand. He called out to the red head and threw him his wand.
"Ron! You forgot your wand!"
Ron caught it with a bit of confusion marred on his face but dismissed it within seconds, thinking he had really forgotten his wand in his fury. With a glare towards Hermione and Harry, he spun around and disapparated with a crack.
Hermione turned around, walked past Harry into the tent. Harry just stood there in disbelief of what Hermione had done to Ron. After he shaken himself out of his stupor he followed his girlfriend inside to find her packing.
"It has to be done Harry. He know too much of our secret. I only removed the knowledge of the Hhorcruxes and the Hallows. He will think that you are away to train to fight Voldermort but will be at loss on what we are doing while we are away since we left Bill's wedding"
Harry tilted his head to the side thinking about her reasoning and found no flaws in it except for the erasing memory part.
"But you're okay, right? With what you have done to him?"
"I erased my parents' memories of me. I assure you that was a hundred times harder for me, you know."
Harry walked over to her and touched her shoulder. She was busying herself with packing her books and kitchen utensils but he knew she just acted strong while her insides crumbled.
"Hey…" Harry's voice was soft and soothing.
He turned his girl around and opened his arms to her. She shot like a bullet and buried her face in his chest. Seconds later, Harry was consoling a sobbing girl in his arms. He had become good at it after consoling the same girl few months ago and holding her in his arms every night for a week afterwards while they slept.
Harry knew that Hermione was not upset because she had to erase Ron's memory. It had to be done. She was more upset about the reason behind it. Of Ron's betrayal. Of her parents' Obliviation. Harry could only imagine how hard it was for her to erase her parents' memory of her and knowing that they would not remember her, which meant that she could consider herself an orphan. Harry vowed to himself that he would finish this war and come out of it alive. He had a reason to live now. He would do anything to ensure Hermione's happiness. He loved her so much it hurt to be without her. Together they would live. Together they would succeed. Together they would love.