Because there needed to be a sequel to "what was lost". This one is angsty-yet-fluffy enough to appease my mood.
Ron is likable still here, as in "what was lost" there's no falling out. He'll remain likable if I decide to pursue this universe I created longer.
This one takes place during and right after the "what was lost" ended.
(dh-au, sequel to wwl // Regardless of what was done, Ron is still his friend, so he tries to keep the displays of affection to a minimum.)
They wait a few days before resuming their endless journey.
After the screaming ceases and the whispers begin, Harry tries his utmost best not to listen, but the only thing separating him from his friends in a curtain, so it's kind of rather difficult. He can, of course, cast a silencing spell in their general direction, but Hermione took her wand with her and to retrieve it would defeat to point of his idea of giving them privacy.
So he closes his eyes, and tries to let the warm water of the tub relax him and allow him to shut out the world around him, but fails.
"Is it because of Harry?"
As carefully as he possibly can, not wanting to make sloshing noises, Harry brings his knees up and presses his forehead against them. He feels sick. Physically sick. He can feel Ron's pained words like stabs in his gut, even when a little voice in the back of his head whispers (he hurt you first) rebuttals for it, trying to ease the sick feeling overwhelming him. It's worse because he doesn't feel guilty, doesn't feel guilty that he has Hermione now, actually feels elated when she claims she loves him.
That, Harry realizes, is the problem. He feels bad for hurting Ron, but not for loving Hermione. That's why he feels sick, for all he knows he should feel guilty and completely wretched for loving Hermione knowing Ron has feelings for her too. He should, but he doesn't.
Instead, he just feels sick.
"I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm not sorry I love Harry."
Ah. Harry chuckles weakly, feeling slightly mollified now. At least, this proves he's not alone on this. At least, once again, Hermione is there to, unknowingly, support him completely.
As the whispering dies, and Harry has gone through one jerky rollercoaster of emotions, ending up feeling exhausted, mildly sick and grateful at the same time, he's able to relax. Not long after that, Hermione is back to his side.
"You don't look good, Harry…"
He chuckles weakly again, raising his head and tilting it back until it rests against the edge of the tub. "You think?"
Her face twist in a painful grimace, but Hermione has never let him down, so she sits next to his shoulder on the edge of the tub and urges him to straighten up a little, and then guides him to rest his head on her thigh. She strokes his damp hair gently for a few minutes before he breaks the silence.
"I feel sick."
"Are you coming down with the Flu?"
"Not that kind of sick… I feel sick for hurting Ron…"
Harry closes his eyes tightly, trying desperately to push back the burning in them, and presses his face further into Hermione's leg. "I'm not sorry I love you, Hermione. Could never be sorry for it, actually." Her sharp intake of breath tells him she wasn't expecting that confession, but he presses on. "I just… wish this could have been avoided, that… Ron wasn't hurt because of me…"
"But it isn't because of you. Harry…" Hermione grabs his chin and forces him to look up, her face free of pain and regret, her eyes, though glistening with unshed tears and sadness, are sincere. "It's not your fault that I fell in love with you. These things, they happen to everyone in the world… We feel it worse because of everything else going on around us, but… Know this, one of us was bound to get hurt; if not Ron, it could have been me… or you."
"No, stop. If we start letting our guilt dictate how to act and who to love, then we, all three of us, suffer," she pauses, takes a deep breath, and whispers. "Ron doesn't love me, not like he thinks he does. You heard what I told him, you know why… I love you, Harry, and even though a part of me would die if it were to happen, I'd gladly let you go if you found happiness with someone else…"
Unvoiced, Harry still hears the rest of her tirade. That's true love.
He grabs the hand stroking his head, and brings it to his lips, kissing it lovingly. "I'll never leave you, Hermione. You're the best part of my life, of me. I can't function without you." Disregarding his nude state, because it's not a new sight for her, he steps out of the tub and pulls her into his arms. "There is no me without you, Hermione."
"Oh, Harry," she whimpers, returning his embrace. "There's also no me without you, so please stop rushing off on your own. I can't lose you now."
They stay like that until Harry starts to shiver, to which Hermione tries to give him a disapproving glance and fails, ending up casting a warming charm on him before ordering him to dress and go to sleep.
"What about you?"
"It's my turn to take watch."
"No, Hermione, let me-"
"Harry, you need sleep. You dived into a freezing pond trying to retrieve the Sword, while I slept here, so it's my turn." She obviously anticipates his protest, because she hurries to cut him off. "Don't fight me on this, please, it's not long before dawn anyway."
Sighing in defeat, he nods. They walk out of the bathroom, pausing to exchange a gentle kiss before going their separate ways. Harry sees Ron sleeping soundly, if his snores are anything to go by, and for a second thinks of crawling into the adjoining bunk bed, but stops, knowing Hermione will simply crawl into his side as soon as her turn is over. Besides, Harry reasons, while he doesn't want to flaunt his new relationship with her into Ron's face, he's not going to simply hide it from him. It'd be pointless, Ron already knows they're together, might even know how together they really are.
Shaking his head, he turns to the curtained side of the bedrooms, where Hermione's bed, the only real bed, is and slips under the blankets, falling asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.
Harry wakes up the next morning feeling mildly rested but at peace, and to the hovering face of his red-haired best friend.
Ron's face is like a blank canvas, no emotion whatsoever playing across it. And he finds out why when he tries to sit up only to discover there's someone lying on his chest. That Hermione is lying on his chest.
Forcing down his urge to flinch, he greets his friend softly. "Hey…"
Surprisingly, Ron answers in the same way. "Morning. It's still early, but I thought you could take the next watch while I go get us something to eat."
"Oh, that… that's a brilliant idea, just let me…"
Ron nods and walks away.
Harry sighs and looks down at the sleeping face of Hermione, noting with relief that her dreams seem to be pleasant, as she wears a lovely smile on her face. Carefully, he manages to shimmy out from under her without waking her up, and quietly, he dresses and then walks towards the kitchen. But not before dropping a kiss to her temple.
Ron's searching the cabinets for something, probably assessing how much they have and what he should hunt for them to eat. But as he watches him, Harry gets another idea.
"Let's go into the muggle world."
He looks around them for a second, frowning, before looking at his friend again. "Just for a few days. We just destroyed the Locket, so that's another Horcrux down. We have the Sword, so unless we come up with a good plan of where to start looking for the other Horcruxes, I say we take a break. At least, let's find someplace warmer to stay, until we're absolutely sure we have to move…"
"The tent is about to fall apart… I see your point, but will it be safe?"
"Can you imagine the Death Eaters trying to looks for us in the muggle world?"
They share a quick grin at the thought, knowing those bigoted purebloods would be so painfully obvious to spot, that even if they do find them, they could probably lose them fairly quick.
Ron's grin breaks into a frown though. "We'd be endangering innocents."
"They are in danger, already, and besides they know nothing about the Undesirable Number 1. Plus, it'd be fairly easy to hide my scar from them, so they'll see only three teenagers looking for a place to stay."
"You'll ask Hermione first, right?"
"Of course," he says, grinning. "I don't know of any place where we could go, anyway, and she probably does."
As it turns out, Hermione does know of a place where they can stay for a couple of days. A small, cosy B&B on the side of the highway located next to the small village near the Forest of Dean.
It's perfect. Out of the way, yet a comfortable fifteen-minute walk from the village, and thankfully, not overly expensive (and it is kind of great Hermione thought of bringing some pounds with her, as Harry only carries galleons).
It's weird for a while, mainly when Hermione is requesting a room with two beds, but other than getting a mildly startled look from the receptionist, nothing else happens. But, of course, by the pained expression on Ron's face, even when that very morning he saw them sleeping together, it's obvious the red-haired boy had not really assimilated what it meant.
There's no room for doubts now.
Briefly, Harry thinks, that it's going to be hard to keep the displays of affection to a minimum when in such close quarters. So, maybe, this isn't such a good idea.
However, Hermione is quick to fix this problem by conjuring up curtains to separate the two bed once they're all inside their room. Then, she turns to face Ron, but whatever she's planned to say remains a secret as their friend stop her from explaining.
"Don't, Hermione, there's no need to explain. I really don't want to know, just…" he pauses, grimaces, and motions with one of his hand in their general direction as he looks away. "Just keep it to yourselves, yeah? Keep it quite…"
Hermione huffs indignantly, crossing her arms over her chest and seeming to be getting ready for a long rant. "Honestly, Ron, it's not like we're going to-"
The look of pain and desperation Ron sends their way is enough to shut Hermione up rather effectively, making them both flinch. She steps back, dropping her gaze, and fidgets uncomfortably.
"Right, then… Maybe it'd be better to get some more sleep now before heading out for lunch, and then we can start making plans for when we go back to the road…"
Quickly, Hermione disappears behind the curtains surrounding one of the beds, the one closest to the windows, leaving both boys standing awkwardly in her wake.
Harry clears his throat nervously, feeling sick all over again. "Ron, I…"
Ron shakes his head, the grimace of pain deepening, forestalling his apology. "No, Harry, it's-okay. It's not like I thought-just that I didn't think I'd have to see you…"
"We're not heartless, Ron. We're not going to do anything to make you uncomfortable-to hurt you… more," he says, frowning at him because it's true. He and Hermione talked it over while they dismantled the tent, that they aren't going to flaunt their relationship in front of their friend. "We're not going to rub our relationship in your face, you know. We'll keep the displays of affection to a minimum when you're around, but I'm not staying away from Hermione."
"I know, Harry." Ron growls in frustration as he gives him a dark glare, but soon sighs in resignation and looks away. "I just need time. You can't expect me to be happy right away, I mean, yeah, Hermione explained it to me, but-give me time."
With a pained frown on his face, Ron steps over his bed, disappearing behind the curtains surrounding it as well. Harry sighs exhausted, feeling incredibly glad that Hermione managed to ensure everyone's privacy by conjuring the thick curtains around each bed. Incredibly because when the time came to start up watch again, Ron won't have to witness anything that hurts him more.
He locks the door, casting an advanced locking spell for good measure, before joining Hermione. It's still early in the morning, and an extra couple of hours of sleep sound good.
Hermione is already tucked in, propped up on some pillows and reading one of the many books she brought with her. She looks up anxiously as he enters what can only be described as their "room", marking the page she's on before closing the book and putting it aside. "How is he?"
Harry sighs again, toeing off his shoes and slowly starts to divest. "You didn't hear?"
"No, I placed a Silencing Charm on the curtains, so no sound goes in or out," she says, still looking anxious, of course, as he has yet to answer her question.
He looks up, noting with no small amount of amazement that the conjured curtains went from ceiling to floor, kind of merging with both, except for the part that's obviously the entrance. Shaking his head to focus on Hermione, he smiles ruefully. "I dunno. Not bad, but not good either. Needs time, he says."
She hums her answer, but remains in silence after that. Quickly, once he's stripped down to his boxers, Harry slips on the flannel pants Hermione laid out for him and hurries to get into bed. Not waiting for permission, Harry pulls her into arms and cuddles her. Hermione giggles softly but their joy is short lived; the issue of their friend still hanging over them.
"I told him we won't rub this-us, in his face, but that I'm not keeping my distance," says Harry after a while, letting Hermione nudge him over until his laying mostly on his back with her snuggling up into his side, using his shoulder as her pillow.
"It's going to be okay, Harry. Ron's right in saying he needs time," Hermione says softly, nodding mostly to reassure herself; but they both know they're walking a fine line here, and one misstep and the friendship the three of them have had the past years will collapse in a huge, painful mess. "And as I tried to say before, it's not like we are going to be shagging right next to him or anything."
Harry seizes on that and tries to bring some humour into their chat, if only to see her smile. "No shagging, got it. But snogging is fine, yeah?"
Delightfully, Hermione smiles amusedly and slaps his chest in mock irritation. "No snogging either."
He pouts and she can't help the laugh bubbling up in her. After a while, their merriment subdues and they enjoy this rare moment of peace.
"Harry," begins Hermione, tentatively, breaking the comfortable silence and looking up at him with a serious expression. "Do you really feel like snogging now?"
He blinks, looks up at the ceiling and then back at her. "Honestly?"
She huffs softly, poking his side. "Yes, of course honestly."
Grabbing the hand she places on his chest, Harry entwines their fingers. "Not really, Hermione." At her startled look, he hastens to elaborate. "Last week… it was wonderful. You know that, I've told you enough. It was what we needed, a respite, and the fact that we got to be honest with ourselves, and each other, about our feelings is a great plus. But Ron brought back with him the reality of the War… at least for me it did so."
"It did for me as well, Harry."
"Yeah… I love you, Hermione, and I'm not pushing you away. But I truly think we have to focus on ending this as soon as we can," he pauses, leans over to kiss her lips lightly and then pulls back, grinning at her. "After it's over, we can get back to snogging and all the other good stuff."
Hermione laughs again, releasing his hand to grab his head, forces it down and kisses him. "You'll still kiss me, right?"
"Of course… I reckon we'll both need it from time to time."
"And you'll cuddle me too?"
"Anything you want, Hermione."
With one last kiss, she places her head back on his shoulder, letting out a huge yawn. "Time to sleep, Harry. I placed an alarm to wake us in a few hours and a ward around the room, so no worries for now."
He doesn't go to sleep right away, though. Harry stays awake longer, watching her sleep peacefully instead. This girl-this young woman, he knows, will be his sole reason for ending this bloody War.
To keep her safe, to make her happy.
Yes, Ron's return brought back the reality they'd managed to avoid the past several days, but not the despair. They're closer to their goal now, and while they still have no clue where to go next, Harry feels confident in their progress-success.
Harry's found his reason to fight-to win.
There's hope now.
I might follow on this, but I don't know yet. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it!
If you find any typos, please let me know!Document created with wvWare/wvWare version 1.2.7