The End of the Beginning

Chapter 14

Harry and Hermione were standing at terminal fifty-seven, waiting on flight 341 from Bucharest. Once Ron joined them they would be catching their first of three connecting flights to get so Sydney, Australia. From there they would start their search for Hermione's parents.

Hermione had been quiet all morning. The only thing she had said since breakfast was to remind Harry which terminal they needed to await Ron. He knew her well enough to know that between her pacing and the way she kept biting her bottom lip that she was very anxious.

"What's bothering you?"

She looked at him as if she had just realized he was there. "Oh, it's nothing Harry."

"Hermione, at the rate you're pacing you are going to wear a groove into the floor. Tell me what's on your mind. Are you worried about finding your parents?"

"I'm not so much worried about finding them as I am what will happen then. What if I mess up the reversal spell for the memory charm? What if they're mad at me? What if they want to stay and forget all about me anyways? What if something happened to them? I just have no idea what is going to happen."

Hermione came to a stop in front of him, her hair frizzled from her constantly running her hands through it and her eyes were glassy from anxiety. Harry took her hands in his and gave them a firm squeeze while giving her his most reassuring smile.

"It's going to be alright Hermione."

She returned his smile, though it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"How can you be so sure?" her voice was barely above a whisper.

"Because I'm here." He gave her the biggest and stupidest grin he could. It had the desired effect; Hermione laughed and gave him a genuine smile.

"You can't know how grateful I am for that." She replied with that same quiet voice.

They stood for a minute just gazing at one another when an announcement came over the intercom.

"Oh Harry, his flight is here!"

Sure enough, Ron's flight was disgorging its passengers and it wasn't long before they caught sight of the lanky frame and red hair of the third member of their trio. Catching sight of them, Ron bounded over and wrapped them both in a hug.

"So good to see you two! Enjoy your time in Greece?" Ron looked happier than Harry had seen him in awhile.

Hermione stole a quick glance at Harry before responding, "Yes it was wonderful! I'll have to tell you all about Aristotle and…"

"Alright alright, maybe some other time Hermione. Let's go get some real food I'm starved." Hermione gave him a reproachful look.

"Well I did get you a very fascinating book on the origins of quidditch, but I suppose since you don't want to hear me out..."

"Didn't mean to cut you short 'Mione, I haven't eaten since sunrise."

"It's always food with you Ronald!"

"Glad to see you too 'Mione."

Even though they were bickering, Ron and Hermione were both smiling at each other. Harry couldn't help but grin, his two friends were back to normal. Their trio would survive the end of their relationship after all.

"Hey Harry, can Ron and I have a word in private?" she nervously bit her lip.

"Sure, I'll wait for you guys at the food court."

Hermione simply looked at Ron for a moment, trying to remember what she had rehearsed in her mind to say at this moment. For once in her life her mind went completely blank.

"Have I managed to stump the brilliant Hermione?" Ron chuckled and smiled at her.

"Nearly." Her voice sounded like it was coming from far away.

"Come on, what's wrong?"

"I…" she began, her throat constricting, "I'm sorry Ron. I hate that I pulled you in so many directions these past few weeks. It was awful of me to do what I did. I never…"

"Hermione, don't." Ron interrupted.

"But Ron…"

"No, don't do this to yourself. You did what you had to do. I respect that."

She let out a massive sigh and her shoulders slumped. "I just…I want you to know I'm sorry and that if you don't want to come you don't have to. You could go and be with your family."

Of course, she didn't want that at all. She wanted him to come nearly as badly as she wanted Harry. She needed both of her boys. Her boys. That was what the other Gryffindor girls had always called them.

"I'm going with you. You're my best friend. Besides, I know you don't actually want me to leave." Ron gave her a crooked grin.

Letting out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, Hermione laughed. "Good, because you're right. Thank you, Ron. You're a good friend. You know I love you right?"

His smile faded a little and she knew that it hurt him to think that she didn't mean it "that way" anymore, but she could see the genuine affection reflected in his glassy sky blue eyes.

A feeling akin to a large stone being dropped in Ron's stomach had briefly overwhelmed him, but he knew exactly what she meant and he had no desire to lose it.

"I know. I love you too."

Ron saw in her brown eyes a look of immense relief and she hugged him. It wasn't the bone crunching variety that she reserved for Harry, but it was just fine by Ron.

"You know, I would love for you to regale me on the origins of quidditch." He gave her a grin.

"Well, you see it all started in the fifth century BCE…"

She talked rapid fire as they walked towards the food court. Maybe it was a little dull and maybe there was a small ache in his chest, but Ron couldn't be any happier if he tried.

Harry saw his two friends walking towards him: her chatting non-stop about something and him looking genuinely interested. He chuckled to himself imagining what Hermione was subjecting him to.

"We better hurry if we don't want to miss our flight." He interjected into Hermione's diatribe about the origins of Olympic quidditch.

Mentioning the flight seemed to bring awareness to all three of what they were embarking upon. They both look worried and Harry felt his own face furrow into a concerned look, but he could also see in Ron and Hermione both the same steely determination they had always had when following him.

One more trip, one more adventure and maybe it would finally feel over. He certainly hoped so. Either way, come hell or high water, the three of them would face it together.

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