Tie your Heart at Night to Mine, Love
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Righteous anger fueled her as she grabbed a handful of Floo Powder and threw it onto the tall flames of the fireplace. That had to stop. It had gone long enough and she had allowed it to go this far because… well, a good reason didn't occur to her at the moment, but Hermione supposed it had been a conjunction of more pressing things, diverting her attention to the point that she had let it go on unaddressed. They were avoiding her, that much was obvious. But, far worse than that, they had now failed Harry. And, after everything that had happened, failing Harry was utterly unacceptable.
Hermione had been rereading Damocles Belby's chapter on the Wolfsbane Potion for the umpteenth time, trying to identify where her attempts had gone wrong when the pop of Apparation caught her attention. One look was all it took for her to cringe. Oh, the sight of Harry… He had left the house looking as smartly as Ginny had managed to make him - apart from the hair, of course, the redheaded witch knew how to identify a lost battle before it even began. Even Hermione now believed it had a life of its own, not unlike hers in a way, except his looked more like atrocious bed hair and less like a child was trying to produce static electricity by rubbing a balloon on it for a school project at all times. Now that he had returned, however, Harry looked rather like he had lost some of his clothes on the way home and she worried for a bit that he had been mobbed by fans on the way home.
Hermione bit her lower lip and watched as he flopped on top of one of the garish orange sofas he had chosen for the living room a few months prior - something neither she nor Ginny commented on, given the grin on his face when he had shown them. He had, after all, been trying to make Number 12, Grimmauld Place home - their home - and far be it from them to find any fault in it. Plus, Luna had really liked the color. But the defeat she saw on his face now clashed with the bright hue and was one she hadn't seen since their time alone in the woods, the weight of not only the Horcrux clasped around his neck but of the entirety of the war lying heavily on his shoulders.
"I know it's a rather stupid question, and I'm known for asking cleverer ones, but are you okay?"
Harry didn't speak for a moment. He looked straight ahead, blew out a breath of air, and closed his eyes, allowing his head to fall back until it hit the top of the backrest with a dull thud. "It was a disaster, Hermione."
She shut the book and moved to sit on the sofa opposite his. "I'm sure it can't have been that bad."
"No, it wasn't that bad, I'm just being dramatic. They only ignored me, I should be used to it by now, right? The Boy-Who-Lived-To-Be-Ignored. Everything was brilliant."
"Don't take that tone with me, Harry. I believe you did say you would try to be a better friend, and I have never ignored you."
"I… You're right, I'm sorry. It's just… I'm not… I'm not smart enough. Books and cleverness would be exactly what was needed."
She winced. "That bad, then?"
"Actually, Snape would call me a dab hand at Potions in comparison." He smiled a smile that was rather a grimace and dragged his hand through his hair, dishevelling it even more. "I understood maybe half of what they were saying, I think. It should have been you there. I tried bringing up the things you told me to, but I gaped like a fish and they looked at me the way you look at an annoying child you don't particularly care to be around but can't get rid of. The way the Dursley's looked at me. Except I was standing before an entire committee of witches and wizards all old and talented enough to look down on me for it. It made me feel… less." Harry rubbed his scar. It was the first time Hermione saw him do it after the final battle. "They shouldn't have bloody invited me anyway, I'm not cut out for politics. I'm too stupid for it."
"You can be daft at times, but you're not stupid." Her words made the grimace shift a tiny bit towards a smile, and she returned it with a twitch of her own lips. Then, she sobered and said precisely what he needed to hear: the truth. "You won a war, Harry. You sparked loyalty and inspired hope throughout the entire British Wizarding World. There's nothing stupid about you."
"But there was a prophecy. I was chosen… It-He made me special, in a twisted way. I had to save the world, or at least die trying. Nowhere did it say something about changing it."
His words squeezed her chest so much she thought it would drip blood. It had been months since the war had ended. Had he been feeling like this all along?
Hermione scooted forward and laid a hand on his knee."You did enough, Harry. More than most people can in a lifetime. If you decide you don't want to do anything else, everyone will respect it. I will respect it. Love is not conditional to anything you may do or may not do. Just as your worth isn't measured by whether a psychopath handpicks you or not. But you must understand that defeating Voldemort was not the extent of your life, it was only a chapter you mostly didn't get to write. Lovely and useful as though words can be, I'm glad they're no longer the makings of your cage.
"You had most of your life skewed by a predestined fate so it's understandable that you would feel this way, but your potential, your value to society as a whole didn't end with the war, it barely scratched the surface. No one can demand you do anything else, but if you find yourself wanting to… You don't need a prophecy to do it. You can just choose to. What I mean by all this is, your decisions are your own, and yours alone, and you don't need a stark mad Seer to tell you what they are."
"I think I do." Hermione scoffed at this. "No, not that. I want Trewlaney as far away as I can keep her. Maybe even more than you do. Wanting to do things, I mean. I'm just terrible at it."
"You're not. Perhaps we approached this the wrong way." She tried to keep track of her own thoughts, firing a mile a minute inside her head. Plans upon strategies changing and unfolding in her mind. "We don't need the Council."
"I think we do, Hermione."
"Then you're thinking wrong." She smirked. "Stodgy old people didn't take the time to listen to you before and many people died because of it. Most of them are fools, wrapped up in their positions, titles, and self-importance. If they don't want you there, then we don't need them. We'll find other ways. We always have.
"Our most pressing goal at the moment is to make sure Umbridge doesn't become Minister. We have given her full reign over the narrative and therefore the chance to sway popular opinion. What she says goes because we haven't taken the time to contradict it, not really, and she has been painting herself as a victim of the war. There's her book, the constant interviews, and between the two I haven't seen more lies printed on parchment since… Well, not that long ago, to be honest. But the point is, it was an oversight on our part. All of that allowed her to gather support, appealing to people's compassion and abusing their memories of the horrors of the war, nevermind that she embraced, delighted in them. Perhaps she isn't as evil as Voldemort, but it's quite a fine, blurry line. Most witnesses of her actions aren't here to tell a different tale, but we know the truth. We've seen it."
"So we'll give interviews? Like last time?"
"It wouldn't hurt to do so, but no, Harry. What we need is a different political venue and I think I know just the one. But there are some things I need to do first."
If Professor McGonagall wouldn't see her, she knew just the Order member who would. Hermione barely stared at the green flames before stepping into them. "The Burrow."
This poppycock would end right now.
When she stomped a determined foot out on the other side, however, it was to be met with silence. The dull, overcast afternoon light illuminated only the spots directly lined with the windows, throwing large, lazy shadows on everything else. There were no self-cleaning dishes in the sink, nor were there self-knitting needles working by the armchair. As a matter of fact, the whole ground floor lay lifeless in a way she had never before seen, and... well… her determination dwindled a bit.
Right. Mr. Weasley still had a Ministry job he had to go to and, it being a workday, would be at work. Yet Mrs. Weasley ought to be around somewhere and it would be an hour or two at most until Mr. Weasley returned. She could wait, all she had was time now that there wasn't a potion to brew nor was there a friend to hammer with information over the head and pray to Circe some of it held. It still incensed her, their lack of care.
"Hello?" Hermione called.
The sound of footsteps steeled her resolve, so when Ronald reached the bottom of the stairs, the words were already halfway through her mouth.
"I came because I need to know what's going on."
He froze at the last step of the stairs. "Er…"
She felt her face fall. "Oh. I'm sorry, I thought it was your mother." Hermione stared at Ronald as he shifted from one foot to the other. His hair had grown a bit longer, curling slightly, and he had regained some of the weight they all had lost during their foray through the woods before the final battle. It had been too long since they had seen each other, not once after their argument about the kiss she had forgotten and his callousness about her parents. Another problem on her growing list of them, and she felt like a kettle ready to boil. "But you know what? I'm tired of this as well. We kissed and I forgot and I'm terribly sorry I did, so there you have it."
"Sorry we kissed or sorry you forgot?"
"Both, actually." She shot him a sad smile. "Ronald, I didn't mean anything by it. We were in the midst of a battle, the possibility of death hanging over our heads—"
"—And don't you dare get this the wrong way, what I mean by it is that we were euphoric and scared out of our minds beneath that, or at least we should have been, and… it felt as if it might be our last chance, our one final opportunity to make a daring choice, to try something new, yet there was no time to suddenly decide skydiving might be a new hobby nor could we circle the world in 80 days, or even—"
"Hermione, I haven't a clue of what the bleeding hell you're talking about, but I… I don't think we'd fit right together."
That put the brakes on her little speech. It even stopped her whole body while in the process of trying to convey her feelings, hands still in the air, and she realized her gaze hadn't even been directed at Ronald, which she rectified at once. "What?"
"Well, you're constantly reading—"
She gasped. "And you're constantly interrupting me!"
"Always bossing me and Harry around…"
Her lips had already parted to contradict him and defend her actions, she hadn't predicted this would be an easy conversation by far, but to complain about her reading? About her telling them what to do? Honestly! As a matter of fact, her reading and her assertiveness had saved their sorry arses on more than one occasion! Yet she held back those very words, hanging at the tip of her tongue, as her brain processed what he had said in a way different from the one her hurt feelings had done. It took Hermione a moment, but then it hit her. What Ron was doing. "Well, I suppose I am rather bossy."
Ron's smile confirmed her suspicions. "And me? I was always too bloody proud to admit I was wrong."
Of all the things she expected, for him to give her a way out never even made the list. She hadn't the faintest idea of why he was doing it. Yet she wished, with all her might, it was for the same reasons as she.
"We'd make a terrible pair," Hermione said.
"Not as friends, though."
"No, never as friends." She wanted to hug him then but hesitated on the account of things getting even more awkward. She'd give it time.
"I guess that settles that." Ron moved from the spot at the bottom of the stairs - where he had been standing since she surprised him by barging into his house and demanding an explanation - and went into the kitchen, opening cabinets and looking into drawers in search of something. If Hermione knew him at all, she would guess some sort of food. And she did know him, quite well. "There goes mum's hope of having grandchildren anytime soon."
"There's always Fleur and Bill… And you do know Harry and Ginny-"
It stopped him in his tracks, an expression of utter horror taking over his face. "That's bloody marvelous, 'Mione. Do you have to console me by putting the image of my best mate and my little sister doing what it takes to have a baby in my head?"
Hermione scrunched up her nose. "Well, at least you haven't had to hear it. Harry's like a brother to me, and I had to give him lessons on Silencing Spells. So I'm just… sharing the suffering a bit."
"Well, thanks for that." He muttered something that sounded a lot like 'Never going back to that bloody house again' before silence - neither comfortable nor uncomfortable - settled between them while he scavenged some more until he found a chocolate cake sitting inside the oven. He cut and served her a slice, gesturing for her to take a seat, in a rare show of hosting manners, before cutting himself one and doing the same. "I tried to apologize to you, y'know."
She picked at the icing, her appetite eluding her, and set her gaze on him. "When?"
Ronald demolished his own piece of cake, chewing a few times yet still talking around the food in his mouth, "A few weeks ago."
"But we haven't seen each other since the day we fought."
"I know," He said, mouth still rather full, yet eyeing the rest of the cake. He did swallow before elaborating, though. "That's because I decided to mail it instead."
Hermione furrowed her brows. "Perhaps it got lost, I haven't gotten any letters from you."
Ron shrugged. "Probably because I didn't send any."
Okay… "Could you be more specific? You're not making any sense whatsoever! Did you, at some point, come anywhere near sending me an apology or not?"
"Well, we fought around the time you told everyone about your parents… So I thought everything you had of them would have gotten erased, y'know, because of the spell… And I remembered you had sent me a picture along with your letter during the holidays that time. In third year, remember? We were in Egypt then, but I kept it. Had Pig deliver it, figured you'd know eventually."
Figured she…. Oh, God.
Instant tears sprung into her eyes and Hermione's heart hovered inside her chest, trying to decide whether to explode, fall, or sing. Her mouth, on the other hand, almost refused to work - something unthinkable, truly - and croaked out a single word, "How?"
"Mum says magical homes have all sorts of protection spells. It was in my room the whole time, so it wasn't affected by your spell. Too much distance and interference, I'd guess."
Her skin tingled all over and Hermione took a moment for the relief to sink in. The origin and meanings of that photograph had been a constant worry haunting her thoughts and creeping up on her when she least expected. Once she was certain her legs wouldn't give, Hermione rose from her seat, rounded the table, and hugged him. Whatever time she had decided to set for it was up, and blast any remaining awkwardness. Hermione then let go of Ron enough to hit him, for good measure, before she hugged him again.
"Ouch! Decide, your barmy woman, will you?"
"You're a prat, Ronald Weasley!" Hermione said, letting him go and pacing back and forth beside the kitchen table. Stopping every so often to aim a glare at him, she continued, "You don't send cryptic apology photographs to people, I don't have a crystal ball! And if I did, its only use would be to throw it at your head since you know I don't believe in Divination. I thought that the photograph was from Umbridge... I believed she was threatening my parents again."
"What? Why would-" Hermione watched realization dawn on his face. "Blimey! The Memorial Day, she... Right. A bloody tosser I was, that's for sure. Sorry."
She let the seriousness of it sink into him for only a short while.
"Well, apology accepted. And thank you." She took a moment to process everything, resisting the urge to hug him once again. It was, after all, a very thoughtful gesture to give her the only memento of her parents that still included her. "Does this mean you'll come back?"
"I was going to, way before, I swear. But then I heard Dad and Mum fighting. And if I had to bet, it has something to do with what you came here to know."
"Mum kept saying no son of hers would be an Auror and Dad told her the Order wouldn't force anything on any of us. I want to be an Auror." There was a gleam in his blue eyes, the same she saw there whenever the boys talked about Quidditch, and he even squared his shoulders a bit. "Been practicing with Tonks any chance I get. For someone so ungainly normally, she's one hell of a dueler, y'know? A dirty fighter, too. I think they intended to see if Harry would want an Auror position too, but he doesn't really seem that interested in it."
"I think he is. He just wanted some time off and had some silly notions I have since disabused him of. Can't say I blame him, though."
"You eating that?" He asked, and she pushed her plate towards him, the icing all over it, but the rest still intact. "Don't blame him either, but I don't think they have the time to wait it out. The way Dad said it, things are looking better for Umbridge, so the Order came up with some barmy plan or something to have us decide for ourselves. It's bloody stupid, is what it is, if you ask me."
Hermione retook her seat, a huff escaping her lips in the process. "That explains it, then."
He stopped before taking a bit, the fork still in the air. "Explains what?"
"Kingsley offered me a Ministry position. He told me it had nothing to do with the Order."
"So you refused?"
Hermione bit her lip and shook her head. "I said yes. I believed he was going behind the Order's back and thought I'd reach out to Professor McGonagall about it. And if it came to it, I could try to balance whatever ill-intent Kingsley had in mind from within. But Professor McGonagall has since disappeared to a place my letters can't seem to reach her, apparently, but she took the time to write to Harry to ask for my help."
"Convenient, innit? They're a bit off their nutter... Dumbledore would have us take whatever position he wanted us to while making it seem like it was our own idea."
"Yes... Their concern is admirable, though woefully misplaced. Harry's meeting with the Council, that they had him ask me to help with, ended up being… rather traumatic. So I came to see your dad about it. To figure out what's going on. I see how they thought it might be better, but that's no excuse. None of us is a child any longer and we're perfectly able to make our own choices. Yours would be a job as an Auror, right?"
"Yeah, got used to fighting, don't see how I could do anything else."
"You can, Ronald. You're a great strategist, you know? But they can use that in the DMLE, too. It's not just the spellcasting. Knowing how to plan is really useful. More so if you'll be Harry's partner."
"He does tend to rush into things, doesn't he?"
"Have you met him? Tall, dark-haired boy with the hugest penchant for trouble ever witnessed?" They both shared a smile. "It's a miracle we're all still alive, to be honest."
"Yeah... Well, I suppose that's it for me. An Auror career. You'll stick with Kingsley then?
"There are things that I want to change. There always were."
"And there are more of them now?"
"Well, yes. I've been reading…"
"Big surprise there," Ron said, in a deadpanned tone.
Hermione gave him a half-hearted slap and continued, "As I was saying... I've been reading and the things that are considered true about werewolves are not just incorrect, aren't merely ignorant mistakes. They're prejudiced. What if it's the same way for Vampires, Centaurs, Merpeople? I'm planning on tackling all those things. The Wizarding World is changing its views about Muggle-borns. Perhaps, if I push a little, it can change its views on others, too. Even if I fail, if people laugh at my face as they did when I started S.P.E.W... I think it's worth trying."
"They won't know what hit 'em."
Hermione smirked. "Oh, they will. I'll make sure of it. In fact, they'll see it coming soon."
Ron stilled. "You're scary, you know that? And it gets worse with age, too." His huffed laughter took the sting off his words a bit, and they shared a few more at her expense before things took a turn for what she dreaded would be a lot worse. "So... You've been reading about werewolves."
When had Ron begun to pay that much attention to what she said?
Yet, in the interest of full disclosure, Hermione told him everything. About the bond, the way she learned about it, the way Remus had behaved, the potion... Well, everything except for the kiss and her little adventure as an owl during the full moon. No one knew about her Animagus status, other than perhaps Professor Snape. And she could only wonder how he had come to know it in the first place.
"You're tied to him? To Lupin?" Ron asked.
Fair question. "Not exactly. It's more like… he's tied to me. It's the only reason he's alive, really, that spell should have killed him."
"And you like him." Oh, she almost preferred the clueless version of her redheaded friend. This one enjoyed putting her on the spot far too much. Either that, or he was genuinely curious, a trait that so far had only applied to her when it came to the Golden Trio.
She wrung her hands in her lap, trying to come up with a delicate way to say it. "It's a bit more complicated than that, but… yes."
Wondrous job, Hermione.
She waited on tenterhooks for his reaction, gauging every change in facial expression whilst hoping anger and revulsion never made an appearance.
"Yeah, I'm fine with it."
"Is it that difficult to believe?"
"A bit, yes."
"He's not a bad bloke, Lupin… Best DADA teacher we've had, too. I saw him the other day. He came to see Dad about something or other. Stopped to check-in on and talk to George. Been by a few times."
Oh. "How is he? George, I mean."
It was at times like this that Ron's carefree expression vanished, leaving a different person behind. The war had left marks buried deep below the surface in all of them, and even little things were prone to making one relive them, a word here, a smell or sound there. Hermione reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder until his eyes lost their glaze. "It's still hard on us all. George… is like he bloody lost himself. We can hear him, talking to Fred. He made one of those fireworks of him just for himself. Mum cries whenever she hears him. Dad says it's his own way of processing grief."
Hermione left soon after, her thoughts still on George, Ron, and the revelations of that afternoon. And she never even had to meet with Mr. Weasley. Once she arrived home, Hermione talked to each and every resident of Number Twelve. An envelope including their job aspirations was delivered to Professor McGonagall, along with the message:
Ask, next time. This is almost as bad as Dumbledore's manipulations and we won't stand for it.
Another was sent to Remus, comprised of three single words:
Did you know?
A/N: Hey everyone!
I meant to upload this chapter during the weekend but ended up having some health issues and needless to say my plans derailed a bit. I feel slightly better, though, so I'm posting this chapter hoping the writing and editing aren't looking too bad (fingers crossed). It ended up being really long and I already have some trouble editing normally, so… yeah. But I really wanted you to have it.
I'll try to answer the reviews for the last chapter before uploading this, but the website is having some problems and I don't know if it'll work. To be fair, I'm not even sure most of you will manage to read it, FFN has been finicky the last three days or so. But if you do, I hope you enjoy it!
P.S.: You all have been very kind and supportive and I'd like to leave a special thanks for that. Dealing with anxiety can be overwhelming at times, but having you guys understand and some even relate to it makes the weight lighter. Thank you.
Exploding Bonbons to foxylittlelady, Rav3nsRemorse, Fernanda21, WinterOrion, traceytree for the reviews.
To SabiondaPS7, StarGirl114, ktdidnt, Nille Brein, ElisaCFPS, aviiesmummy, dolphingirlrrg, ravenclaw197, miniminio, WinterOrion, NatRambles, FlameEternal, Isobelle Morris, Jces999, poetchickee, Arodri, diisha392, LG32, Rowena Black-Lupin, and awesomeperson133080 for adding the story to their favorites.
And to filmdork, ktdidnt, Nille Brein, ElisaCFPS, Ethgelder, dolphingirlrrg, ravenclaw197, larayray132434, miniminio, RosieJones95, spookygolin, Demiurga LB, blue-eyed-dragon23, DernMoldyShorts, LyraMRiddle, WinterOrion, NatRambles, VHubbard, FlameEternal, Isobelle Morris, Jces999, poetchickee, angel-ali, monkey201283, Arodri, Igotyou12, Rowena Black-Lupin, chibikitsune87, and FairyGrace27 for following the story.
Love you guys, hope your Halloween was extra spooky and sweet! :)