"I'd like to, Harry, can I meet you in your room after dinner?" Ron said hurriedly as he looked at his watch. He glanced around the corridor briefly and smiled apologetically. "I know it's important, but I have to be somewhere in a few minutes."
Harry nodded and released his friend. "See you after dinner, Ron." He said quietly. Hermione took his hand and the couple watched Ron dash off into the sea of bobbing heads heading for their respective houses. "Where do you think he's off to?" He asked before they too set off for the Gryffindor tower.
"I don't know." Hermione replied with a shrug. "Truthfully, I haven't paid much attention..." She said with guilt laced in her tone of voice.
"I think I saw when you two broke up." Harry said quietly as they pushed through another tapestry.
"What?" Hermione said louder than she'd planned. "You were unconscious!"
"You were reading to me when Ron came into the room." Harry said with a sigh. "At first you didn't want to go, the two of you argued and you kissed him on the cheek. After you talked for a few hours in the suite's common room, you hugged and both of you went back into the room." Harry finished and looked up to see her eyes wide.
"How did you know?" She asked in a whisper. "You weren't awake!"
When Merlin taught me about what he calls the dragon, I saw everything in a crystal." Harry explained. "We were in a cave that had thousands of crystals in the walls, ceiling, and floor. I didn't hear what was said but it looked like you two broke up then and Ron seemed to be ok with it all."
Hermione looked to the floor and nodded. "He was still angry, but he told me that it was obvious who I was in love with and he stepped back." She sighed and looked to her boyfriend. "I didn't mean to hurt him, Harry. I really didn't."
"I know, Hermione." Harry said reassuringly.
"We talked about a lot of things, really." She said after a moment. "He told me that it was best for the three of us if I stayed with you and he told me of the dream he had..."
"I've got to talk to him about that." Harry said quietly. "I visited both of you, as I said, and I need to let him know that..."
They didn't say much more as they continued on their path to their rooms. The entire way, they were hand-in-hand, comfortable with just being together.
Dinner time rolled around shortly after they had dropped off their books and they stopped by the Hospital Wing for Harry's next potion treatment. Ron wasn't present when they arrived and he still hadn't arrived by time they'd finished. With a collective sigh, they retired to their private common room and as Hermione did her homework, Harry stared blankly at the fire, trying to formulate what he would tell Ron.
"Sorry I didn't see you at dinner." Ron said as he stepped into the room. "I lost track of the time and had to go to the kitchens for something to eat."
"That's alright." Harry said as he motioned to a chair. "It gave me some time to think."
Ron sat in the offered chair and bit into an apple. "So," he said as he crunched on the fruit. "You wanted to talk?"
Harry nodded. "I need to tell you quite a bit." He turned and smiled at Hermione. "You don't have to leave." He said quietly as she started packing her books. "I'd rather you stayed."
"Are you sure?" She asked hesitantly then relaxed at his nod.
"Ron, there's quite a bit I need to tell you, like I said, some of it dealing with the Department of Mysteries..." Harry smiled reassuringly when Ron stiffened slightly. "I know about your nightmares, it was hard to miss them when you screamed in your sleep."
Ron blushed and immediately found a thread in the chair vastly interesting. "Sorry, I didn't know that I'd woken you up..."
"Don't apologize, Ron." Harry said quietly. "Those brains did a number on you and I'm surprised that you're doing so well without sleep."
"I sleep." Ron said defensively.
"I know, I was there when we won the Quidditch cup the last time you dreamed." Harry said as he looked to his feet.
"What?" Ron said evenly.
"After I'd jumped, I was given a chance to learn some new magical skills or spend eternity in a place called the Pit of Despair." Harry said quietly. He felt Hermione's hands on his shoulders immediately after he'd tensed at the recollection. Harry placed a hand on hers and sighed. "Mildly put, it was Hell, at least for me." He explained. "Imagine your worst fears and then imagine having to face them over and over without getting over them."
Ron paled as Harry's words sunk in. "You-you mean sp-spiders?"
Harry shook his head. "This fear goes deeper than a boggart, Ron. My boggart was a dementor, maybe I'm over that fear." He said thoughtfully. "But when I was there, it was a writhing mass of people trying to pull me in with them, clutching..." He visibly shuddered and shook his head. "I'll just say it wasn't pleasant." Hermione had seated herself next to Harry, taking his hand in hers as he retold what he'd seen. "I can't really describe how bad it was without remembering it..."
"Don't then." Hermione said softly.
Harry nodded. "I chose training." He said more confidently. "The entire time I was sleeping here, I was actually learning different things from the founders of Hogwarts and Merlin himself."
"Merlin?" Ron asked incredulously. "You hit pretty hard, Harry..."
"Ron, it's not funny." Hermione said evenly.
"It's alright." Harry said with a pat on her arm. "Ron, you were dreaming of winning the Quidditch cup, Malfoy banished my broom and I flew to the snitch without it, winning the game." Harry said quite seriously. "You crashed into Jack and I told you to watch over Hermione."
Ron's eyes went wide. "Y-you were there then..." He said in a harsh whisper. "Bloody hell! What do you get off making me feel like you weren't coming back, Harry!" Ron said as he shot to his feet.
"It wasn't my intention to make you feel bad, Ron." Harry said calmly. "I visited Hermione as well, I wanted you both to know that I was fine and I'd be coming back."
"Yeah, good job you did with that!" Ron spat angrily. "I thought that Malfoy pushed you off the tower! Everyone told me there wasn't a chance that would happen, but I pieced it together after a while!"
"What did you piece together, Ron?" Hermione asked testily.
"He jumped because of me, because of us!" Ron shouted as angry tears spilled from his eyes.
"I didn't do anything because of you, Ron." Harry said softly. "There's more to my past that you don't know, that you'd never have guessed." He explained as he stood to start pacing.
"Harry, you have to sit down, Madam Pomfrey said the potions won't help you recover if you're up and active." Hermione scolded as she guided him back to the sofa.
Harry sighed and instead leaned back against the soft cushions. "Ron, please sit down and let me finish..."
Ron looked at his best friend and frowned but did sit down. "If it wasn't me or Hermione, then what was it then?" He asked bitterly. "You told me you knew about us, Harry..."
"I'll get to that." Harry said quietly. "First, you need to know just how bad it is at the Dursleys'." Harry continued on to tell Ron about his youth, living in the cupboard under the stairs, the constant mental and emotional abuse interspersed with rare bouts of physical abuse. He described in detail what Harry Hunting was and the undernourishment he suffered through. "You see, there was much more that was there." Harry explained. "Realizing how I felt about Hermione and finding out, quite by accident, that you two had been dating hit me completely by surprise and reopened all those old memories and feelings that I thought I'd buried away."
Ron had winced and shuddered at the punishments Harry had gone through and by the end of the telling, he was looking at Harry with wide eyes. "Professor Dumbledore should be told all of this!" He said after a moment. "If that doesn't get you out of that place then nothing will!"
"Fortunately, Harry can leave when he's seventeen." Hermione said with a sigh of relief.
"I've been told that I have to spend a week at the Dursleys each year for the protections to continue to work." Harry said calmly. "I think I can handle that..."
"No, Harry!" Hermione said firmly. "You can stay with my family!"
"Or the Burrow!" Ron said excitedly. "We can take you straight from King's Cross!"
Harry shook his head. "Dumbledore is looking into it and they've been researching what my Mum did." He admitted with a glimmer of hope sparkling in his eyes. "Maybe I can keep away from them, stay in my room or something then apparate to either of your places after that."
"Apparate?" Ron said with a puzzled look on his face. "But you haven't taken the exam yet, you don't even have the proper training."
"Yes I do." Harry said with a slight smile. "Remember what I was saying about the founders and Merlin?" Ron nodded eagerly. "Well, I learned quite a bit, Apparation is one of them."
"Rowena?" Hermione asked with a raised eyebrow.
Harry nodded. "There are some advanced topics I want to talk to you about, Hermione, but that can wait for now..." Harry turned to Ron. "I learned a few new forms of magic, what loyalty and courage actually are, and Merlin showed me how to interpret the dragon." He smiled at the confused look on Ron's face and was happy to see that Hermione was nodding in recognition. "The dragon is a force that binds everything together, person to person, person to stone, stone to sky, and so on. Think of it as ribbons of magic that surround everything."
"So, you're saying that there's a ribbon of magic between me and Malfoy?" Ron asked disbelievingly.
Harry nodded. "And Voldemort, Pettigrew, the slugs you threw up in second year, the spiders in the forbidden forest..."
"Alright! I get the idea!" Ron said quickly. "But this stuff must be really advanced, how could you have learned it all? You have to do special research just to know about it."
"My guess is that time flows differently where Harry was." Hermione said matter-of-factly. "That and the meditations that Rowena taught him."
Harry laughed. "Yes, she taught me several meditative techniques that I used to memorize and story everything she taught me. It seemed like a few weeks went by to me, but there wasn't a change of time as we know it, I could have been there for the equivalent of several years instead of weeks or even days." Harry shook his head. "There are some things about the realm of the dead that I don't understand and I think I never crossed over..."
"Enough of this crossing over and dead talk." Ron said with a hint of distaste. "You're getting better now and that's what matters."
Harry smiled at his best friend. "Can you forgive me for being so stupid?" He asked hopefully.
"I don't blame you, Harry." Ron said reassuringly. "And after what you've told me, I don't blame Hermione or me either, though we should have paid more attention to you at the time."
"Everyone was blind, Ron." Harry said with a pat on his shoulder. "Dumbledore didn't even know."
Ron nodded. "Don't let that stuff stay bottled up anymore, ok? I don't want a repeat of Christmas."
Harry nodded. "I know, and again I'm sorry." He rubbed his eyes and felt himself grow groggy.
"It looks like the delayed sleeping draught is taking effect." Hermione announced as she caught hold of Harry's arm and helped him to stand.
"It seems our talk is over." Harry said sleepily.
"I'll see you in the morning, mate." Ron said as he helped Hermione support his weight and direct him to his bedroom. "I'll help him change, Hermione, why don't you get ready for bed?"
Hermione kissed Harry gently before smiling her thanks to Ron and rushing to her room to change.
"You're lucky, mate." Ron said as he helped his friend out of his clothes and into his pajamas. "Hermione's one hell of a girl, if you hurt her, I'm going to kill you, you know that?"
Harry laughed and yawned at the same time. "I know, Ron." He said as the room began to slide out of focus. Hermione reappeared just as Harry started to crawl into bed and she kissed Ron on the cheek.
"Thank you." She whispered as she hugged her best friend.
Ron hugged her back and shrugged. "I should let you finish up, goodnight." He smiled and left the room, closing the door behind him as he went. He peeked in just before the door closed fully and smiled a the scene unfolding before his eyes.
"Here, let me help you." Hermione said with a slight laugh as she helped Harry maneuver under the blankets. His head hit the pillow and Hermione pulled his glasses off, setting them on the bedside table, before slipping under the thick blankets next to him.
"Good luck, mate, I've got your back." Ron said quietly before Hermione said "NOX," casting the room into darkness. He closed the door behind him and let out a sigh of relief. Ron looked at his watch and grimaced. "Luna's going to kill me for being late..." With a renewed burst of energy, Ron Weasley trotted out of the room to meet his girlfriend in the Room of Requirement.
A/N: Well, there we have the conclusion, not too long, and I'm sorry about that, but Heartbroken is now finished! I had to struggle a bit to come up with the last two chapters seeing that I'd completed the requirements of the challenge when Harry woke up to find Hermione. Sorry it's taken so long to write this last, tiny chapter! Thanks for reading!