That Fateful Night

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Five years ago, Harry and Hermione's lives changed. Or, more accurately, their minds changed. The two had silently agreed not to let this change their lives. They decided to put their past behind them.

We were seventeen, Hermione told herself repeatedly. We're adults now. It was nothing.

Harry's thoughts scarcely differed from Hermione's. We're not seventeen anymore. It's time to grow up.

But though they told themselves these things countless times over the years, their hearts were never in it. All they ever ended up doing was replaying that fateful night.

~ooo~

Hermione was transitioning between the second and third stages of grief; anger and depression. She hated Ron for leaving her and Harry. But her tears of rage were gradually turning to tears of sorrow.

Harry had been tiptoeing around her ever since it happened. He made sure to never say anything that might remind her of Ron, but that left few things to say.

The silence was killing Hermione. She knew that Harry meant well. He was trying to give her space. But Hermione no longer wanted space.

She knew that sometime, Ron was going to come up in conversation. That night she decided she was ready to stop avoiding it.

Harry came in the tent when it was Hermione's turn to watch. He passed by her with his usual polite smile and tucked himself into his bed. "G'night, Hermione," he said. He then reached out and clicked off the light, plunging the tent into darkness.

Hermione stood up from her chair and started to walk toward the exit, then stopped in her tracks. She turned quickly and said abruptly, "Harry."

The light clicked back on and Harry sat up in his bed. Even with the light on, Harry's face was mostly hidden in the shadow of the bed above him. But the look of concern on his face was clear. "Is something wrong?" He asked.

"No," said Hermione. "Well... Sort of."

"What is it, Hermione?" Harry asked, sounding even more concerned.

She sighed. Harry's eyes widened in surprise when she came and sat on the edge of his bed. "This has to stop, Harry," she said firmly.

"What does?" Harry asked, now more confused than concerned.

"Not talking to each other," she explained.

"Oh..." Harry mumbled. "I'm sorry, Hermione. It's just...." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "Well, you haven't been yourself lately. I know that... R-Ron leaving really hurt you." He looked up at her apologetically as he said the name, but Hermione was careful to keep any hurt out of her expression. "I just... Well... I didn't want to say something that would hurt you even more."

"Harry," said Hermione gently, "I understand. I do. And I love that you went to so much trouble to spare my feelings. But we can't avoid the subject forever." She placed her hand on his. "You're my best friend, Harry," she whispered. "We can't not talk. You're all I've got left."

Harry stayed silent for a moment, letting what Hermione said sink in. Then he looked up at her and gave her the first real smile she had seen in weeks. "Alright then," he said. "Let's talk."

"Ask me something," Hermione said. "I see it in your eyes every time you look at me. You have questions. What do you want to know?"

He sighed. "Well, if you really don't mind talking about Ron..." He trailed off, looking at her and waiting for her approval. Hermione nodded. Harry nodded back and then continued uncomfortably. "Do you think Ron will come back."

Hermione shrugged. "I think about that a lot. I imagine it a lot. You know, what would he do? What would I say? But I don't know if I can really see it happening." She stopped, then looked back at Harry. "What do you think?"

The words flowed from Harry's mouth quickly, glad to finally be said out loud. "I'd like to think he will," said Harry. "He's my best friend. Our best friend. There's no way he'll stay gone."

"We never thought he would leave in the first place," said Hermione sharply.

"We have to cut him some slack," said Harry defensively. "Sure, he wasn't happy to begin with, but it was the Horcrux that sent him over the edge."

"We both wore that Horcrux, too, Harry," Hermione told him reasonably.

Harry sighed, then raised his hands in surrender. "Alright, you got me," he admitted, then leaned back onto his pillows. When he continued, it was in a whisper. "He always does."

"What?" Hermione asked.

"He always comes back," said Harry. "This isn't the first time he's left, but he always comes back."

"Do you ever think about that?" Hermione asked.

"What?"

"All the times he's left before." Hermione's voice got quieter slowly until she was whispering. "But I never left, Harry. Neither did you. Yes, it's admirable that Ron comes back. But even more admirable than always coming back is never leaving at all."

"Gryffindors don't value loyalty," Harry murmured. "I know Ron's made mistakes, even if they are easily avoidable. But he is a Gryffindor."

"So you think he'll come back?" Hermione asked.

"I do," he whispered.

"And what will you do when he does?" Hermione asked somewhat coldly.

"I suppose I'd welcome him back," he said thoughtfully. "I wouldn't want him to leave again, and being hostile would only encourage him to."

Hermione scoffed. "We put up with his hostility. I don't suppose it would hurt to give him a taste of his own medicine."

"If he comes back, it will be because he's come to his senses. Maybe he won't need a taste of his own medicine," said Harry gently.

Hermione sighed and leaned her head against the wall. "Why can't I be like you, Harry? Even after all you've been through, and all you're going through right now, you still aren't bitter."

He shrugged. "I figure if you're having a bad time, you should treat life better than life treated you."

Hermione shook her head. "Harry..." She whispered. She closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them again, she was suddenly aware of how close they were. "Thanks for never leaving, Harry. You're a great friend."

And then suddenly the space between them was gone. To this day, it was still unknown who had done it. But somehow they had kissed, and it was a while before they stopped. When they did, they stayed close for a moment, foreheads touching. They finally came back to reality when they heard a noise outside and jumped apart.

"I, um, s-suppose I should go take w-watch then," Hermione stuttered awkwardly.

Harry nodded as Hermione stood. "R-right."

Hermione smiled. "Good night, Harry," she said.

"Good night, Hermione."

Hermione sat outside the tent and Harry in his bed, both replaying what just happened.

                               ~ooo~

Five years later, they were doing the same thing: sitting in different places, both thinking about that fateful night.

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