Sometime after lunch, Ginny led Hermione to the room that they would be sharing and helped her unpack her trunks. The two shared stories of their summers so far, Ginny’s seemingly more interesting since they included the content of the letters sent between her and her boyfriend Michael Corner. Despite gushing over Michael, the conversation still ended up back on Harry and Ginny’s lingering feelings for him despite her being in a relationship with another.
They kept this up long enough for Hermione to finish unpacking and help Ginny decide where Michael and she should have their first date at Hogwarts this year. Then the sound of a loud pop caught their attention. The girls shared a knowing expression and exited their room to find Fred and George looking down the stairway outside Ron’s room. They had recently passed their Apparition test, so the two chose to Apparate any distance greater than a few feet.
“Blimey, it’s Dumbledore!” Fred exclaimed.
Hermione gasped and walked to stand beside them. Indeed, Dumbledore had just entered the place in bright blue robes that lightened the dark house around him. Hermione ran to Ron’s closed door and knocked softly, not wanting Dumbledore to notice them yet. “Ron!” she called out in a low voice.
“Hermione? What is it?” Ron’s curious voice returned, growing louder as he grew closer to the door.
“It’s Dumbledore! He’s here!” Hermione said with an excited grin on her face as Ron opened the door.
The group rushed downstairs. Mrs. Weasley had just started to tell them that this was private business for the Order when Dumbledore interrupted her.
“That’s quite alright, Molly. There’s actually something I need to discuss with them,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling mainly at Ron and Hermione, who smiled with relief and pride.
“I wanted to remind you that, at this time, anything you send in a letter has the potential to be read by unwanted eyes,” Dumbledore began, receiving fairly confused expressions in response. “For this reason, I am requesting that you don’t inform Harry of our whereabouts or what we are doing here.” His eyes met each of theirs, but stayed on Ron and Hermione’s the longest.
“But Professor,” Hermione said. “We don’t know when Harry will be arriving. Shouldn’t we at least tell him something so he doesn’t worry? He must be wondering what Voldemort has been doing since he last saw him.” Ron twitched beside her at the mention of his name.
“I’m sure you are quite right, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said, smiling calmly. “But your owls might be intercepted, and for that reason, I ask you not to tell Mr. Potter anything.”
“Nothing at all?” Ginny asked.
“Surely not nothing, Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore mused. “Just nothing that could not bode well if it fell into the wrong hands. Will you all swear to it?”
They each nodded, though somewhat reluctantly, as Dumbledore’s bright blue eyes bore into theirs one by one.
“Splendid,” he said, smiling at Mrs. Weasley. “Molly, I must be going.”
Mrs. Weasley nodded and bid him farewell as he left, not seeming the least bit surprised at how short his visit was.
“Oh, poor Harry!” Hermione exclaimed, looking over the letter Ron said he’d received from Harry earlier, asking if he knew when he’d be able to come visit him at the Burrow, as well as if he’d heard any new news concerning Voldemort. “I bet they’re being just horrible too him!” The Dursleys, Harry’s uncle, aunt, and cousin, whom he lived with, were very cruel to Harry and he was always relieved to leave them for the year. Hermione was comforted slightly by finding out that some members of the Order were keeping watch on Harry at all times, but this did not help Harry, since he was not aware of this.
“What am I supposed to say?” Ron asked, frowning at the letter. Answering any of Harry’s questions directly, or even correcting him that they weren’t at the Burrow, would be violating Dumbledore’s request.
“Just tell him that you can’t tell him anything through a letter, I suppose,” Hermione said, sighing and looking out the window of the dingy room Ron slept in. She had come in to visit him shortly after breakfast, and when the subject landed on Dumbledore’s brief visit, Ron remembered his unanswered letter to Harry.
Ron shook his head and got up to get some parchment and quill to respond. Hermione could tell he was upset as well. Keeping Harry in the dark did seem really unfair, but they trusted and respected Dumbledore too much to disobey him.
“How’s this?” Ron asked, holding out his finished letter.
Hermione took and scanned his short response. “I’m sure Professor Dumbledore would approve,” she said. “You told him ‘we’ can’t say anything, though. Do you think Harry will know we’re together?” She looked up at Ron, smiling.
“Together?” Ron started, his face and ears turning a light shade of pink. “Oh… oh right,” he said. He shook his head smiling and gave the letter to an extremely excited Pigwidgeon.
“What did you think I meant?” Hermione said, grinning at him as he returned to his seat beside Hermione on the bed. Pigwidgeon fluttered out the window, dropping every so often from the weight of the letter tied to his leg.
“Well… you know…” The color returned to Ron’s cheeks as he gave her a seemingly confident smile. “That we’re here together.”
“That’s not what you thought!” Hermione laughed and pushed him playfully. She didn’t know why it made her laugh. Maybe it was the contrast of Ron to the dreary house. She was so glad she didn’t have to be here alone. She was also relieved she no longer had to pretend that there was no imminent danger in the world due to Voldemort’s return, as she did when she was with her parents. When she finally stopped laughing, she looked at Ron to see why he hadn’t responded, and saw him eyeing her very curiously. “What?” she asked, chuckling a bit.
“What are you laughing for?” he asked, his expression almost hurt.
“Ron!” Hermione said, giggling and leaning her head against him. “Sorry, it’s just… with everything that’s going on…” She paused to contain her laughter, which was now fading as her mind went back to the frightening reality. “I’m glad that you haven’t changed.” She looked down toward where Ron’s legs rested on the bed, her smile soft, all laughter gone.
It was a few moments before Ron replied. “Why would you think I’d change?” he asked.
Hermione shook her head and closed her eyes, leaning more against his arm, which remained tensely still at his side. “Everything’s changed, Ron… With Voldemort back…” She paused and smiled as Ron twitched again at his name. “Oh, Ron, when will you be able to use his name properly?”
“That’d… that’d be me changing, though… wouldn’t it?” Ron said. Hermione looked up at him and smiled warmly. For some reason, she knew he understood what she meant, how she was feeling. It was so comforting.
“Thank you, Ron…” she said, and his smile showed her he knew what she meant at that moment, as well. She leaned her head against him once more. She couldn’t feel any sadness or worry at this moment – her whole body, her heart all felt so warm. It felt so right when Ron slowly moved his arm around her, allowing her head to now rest upon his chest. They remained here for a moment, Ron eventually resting his head atop of hers...
Hermione jumped, causing Ron to bite his tongue, when a new owl arrived at the still open window and flew right toward her.
“Bloody hell…” Ron mumbled, the arm that was around Hermione now close to his face as he touched his finger to his tongue, checking for blood. Hermione sat up and opened the letter that had just landed on her lap.
“It’s Hedwig! Ron, it’s from Harry! He must have sent it shortly after he sent yours,” she mused. Ron mumbled something in agreement, still inspecting his tongue. “It’s more or less the same as what he wrote you…” She stood up, pacing the room as she took in the letter, her expression sympathetic. “I understand what Dumbledore told us, but it still seems so cruel to keep him in the dark…” She sighed and looked at Ron who was now sticking out his tongue, attempting to look at it in front of him. She scoffed and walked back to him, leaning down to look at his tongue. “It’s not bleeding, you know,” she said, her eyebrow raised as she smirked at his childish attempts.
Ron closed his mouth and cleared his throat. He looked terribly embarrassed, but perhaps that was also because Hermione’s face was in such close proximity to his own.
Hermione stood back up and walked to where Ron had only moments before found the parchment and quill. “‘There’s a fair amount going on, we’ll tell you everything when we see you,’” she dictated as she wrote. “At least now he can know that he is going to be able to leave his aunt and uncle’s.” She added a bit more and sealed the letter before returning it to the snowy white owl. Hedwig flew out the window.
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