Ron’s assumption that he and Hermione would be too busy for one another once they returned to school turned out to be exceptionally accurate. The first week of classes had gone by in a blur for Ron. He was given so much material to read – all of which his professors hinted had showed up on past N.E.W.T. exams – that he felt like his head would quite literally explode.
Hermione seemed to be doing all right so far, even with her difficult course load. But Hermione thrived under pressure to the point where she drove herself and everyone else around her crazy.
Ron had wanted to say that at least they didn’t have to deal with Snape this year, but after seeing the way Harry looked during the summer whenever their former Potions Master’s name was mentioned, he thought it best not to make any references to Snape.
Now that he thought about it, Harry had been pretty withdrawn all week. Ron figured it was hard for him to be at Hogwarts now that Dumbledore was gone, so he and Hermione had given him his space.
On Friday night at a little after seven, Harry disappeared upstairs to change for his first extra lesson with Tonks.
When he was gone, Hermione moved close to Ron on the sofa in front of the fire, saying in a hushed whisper, “we should tell him now.”
“Now? Why don’t we just wait until he comes back from his lesson with Tonks?”
“Because we’ve already put off telling him all week and I know you’ll just come up with another excuse as to why we shouldn’t do it when he gets back,” she said tersely.
“Fine, let’s just tell him and get it over with,” he said, growing annoyed. She had put off telling Harry as much as he had, so she shouldn’t be trying to make this out to be all his fault.
They climbed the stairs leading up to the dormitories, finding the door to the seventh year boys’ room open. Harry was sitting on his bed pulling his trainers on.
Hermione walked briskly inside, taking charge, and Ron dutifully followed after her.
“Harry, can we talk to you for a minute?” She said, coming to stand in front of him.
He looked at her and then at Ron, who was hanging back a little, before shrugging. “All right, what is it?”
She suddenly felt a lot less confident. He’ll understand. He’s your best friend. Just explain it to him logically and rationally, said a small voice in her head. But a much louder voice said, all he’ll understand is that his two best friends have been shagging behind his back since the summer. You’re too smart to delude yourself with the notion that he’s going to be all right with it. The latter seemed to be the much more likely outcome of the two.
“Ron and I need to tell you something,” she said, hoping her voice didn’t betray the anxiousness she was feeling.
“That you two are together? I already figured that out for myself,” said Harry. Seeing his friends stunned expressions he added, “I saw you at The Burrow together.”
He didn’t sound upset but he didn’t sound overly thrilled by it either. Hermione was starting to think this was part of the reason he had been distant with her and Ron for days now.
“How long has this been going on?” He asked them.
“Since July,” Ron spoke up.
“Finally decided I was worth telling, did you?” Said Harry, barely controlling his temper.
“That’s not why we didn’t say anything,” Hermione jumped in. “We weren’t sure how you would react to the news. We didn’t want you to feel like anything would change between the three of us. No matter what our relationship, Ron and I are still your best friends.”
Somehow that thought wasn’t very comforting to Harry at the moment. “I need to go,” he said, standing up. “I’m going to be late.”
Harry walked passed them without another word. He had known for a while that his friends’ feelings for one another were much more than strictly platonic, especially after the way they had acted towards each other last year. That was why he had made a promise to himself that he would never betray Ron by acting on his own feelings, which he had spent years trying to bury.
* * *
On Saturday afternoon, Hermione wanted Ron go up to the boys’ dorm to talk to Harry, who had refused to talk to either one of them since the night before.
“Hermione, I’m telling you, he just needs some time to cool off and he’ll be fine.”
Hermione could not have disagreed with him more. “Ron, this isn’t some meaningless row you like you and I have, where if we ignore it long enough things will go back to the way they were,” she argued, from where they sat at their own table in the common room. “We’ve been lying to him since before he came to The Burrow. That’s not even the worst part. He’s going to be feeling betrayed and thinking that we don’t need him anymore. That our involvement is going to change our friendship. He needs to know we’re still going to be there for him.”
“Since you seem to know an awful lot about what Harry’s going through, why don’t you talk to him?” Ron said.
She shook her head. “I can’t. You have to do it. You’re his best mate.”
“So are you.”
“Yes, but it’s different. This is something you and Harry need to work out.”
“All right,” Ron said, pushing back from the table. He still didn’t understand why he had to be the one to do it, but if he didn’t go talk to Harry Hermione was just going to spend the rest of the weekend nagging him. “But if he hexes me, you get to talk to him next.”
With that, Ron reluctantly trudged up the stairs. He climbed them more slowly than he normally would, trying to prolong his confrontation with Harry. But all too soon, he reached the dorm they shared, finding Harry sitting on his bed with his Charms text out in front of him.
“You know, you can read that downstairs with us,” Ron said, strolling into the room.
“There’s less distractions up here,” Harry said, keeping his eyes on the book.
Instead of skirting around the issue further, Ron said, “look, I’m sorry we didn’t tell you sooner.”
“Ron, it doesn’t matter,” Harry said, finally looking at him. “I already knew you were going to get together and after last year, this doesn’t come as any great shock.”
“If you saw this coming then why is it bothering you so much?”
“Come off it, Harry,” he said, not believing the lie for a second. “You wouldn’t be sulking up here if it didn’t.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t wish you both the best, but you didn’t need to come up here and give me a speech on how we’re all still friends and nothing’s going to change,” said Harry, getting irritated.
“That obvious, huh?” Ron said sheepishly.
Harry didn’t answer, he just went back to staring at his book, though Ron was sure he wasn’t reading it.
Hermione wasn’t going to let him off the hook until he came out of there with something. “What’s bothering you then?”
Harry had to compose himself before responding. Ron was turning into as much a nag as Hermione. “Let’s see,” he said, pretending to think it over. “Dumbledore’s dead and left no instructions for me on how to find the remaining horcruxes. Snape, the person who’s responsible for my parents deaths is still out there somewhere. I’m going to have to leave Hogwarts before the end of the year to fight Voldemort, whether Remus finds where the horcruxes are or not. And I’ve got Seamus along with half the people here thinking I’m the reason their friends and family are dead, while the other half walk around like I’m some sort of hero. Take you pick,” he said, as he finished ticking off each item on his fingers.
Ron didn’t know what to say to Harry after that. He’d been there since the beginning with Harry, but even now he marveled at all Harry had to deal with and yet was still able to maintain his sanity.
“You’re really okay with us together, then?”
“Yes, I’m fine with it,” Harry snapped.
Ron wasn’t an expert at reading people but ‘fine’ was not the word he would have used to describe how his friend was feeling. “Harry?” He prodded.
Harry gave him a pained look. “Ron, please just leave this alone.”
“For Christ’s sake, Harry, you’re my best mate,” Ron said, sitting on his bed across from Harry. “Tell me what’s going on.”
Harry just raked a hand through his hair. This was the one secret he had worked so long and so hard to keep. The one secret he had shared with no one, and didn’t even like thinking about himself because every time he did he felt like he was betraying Ron in some way. But one look at Ron and he could see the stubborn resolve on his friend’s face. Ron wasn’t going anywhere until he gave him an answer he was satisfied with. And if Ron didn’t go back downstairs soon, Hermione would probably come up to see what was going on and that would just make everything worse. But he already shared everything with Ron, so what was one more secret?
“It’s Hermione,” he mumbled, speaking so low and so fast Ron could barely make out what he said.
“What about her?”
Harry just looked at him. Did he have to spell it out for Ron? Fortunately, Ron’s mouth opened to form a small ‘o’ as he finally figured out what Harry was saying.
Ron was so thunderstruck he didn’t know how to respond. “Blimey, Harry, you never said anything. I thought you and Ginny – “
“I care about Ginny,” Harry stated immediately. All he needed was for Ron to think he had used his sister because he could never have Hermione. “But it’s not the same.”
Then, quite unexpectedly, Ron got angry. “All these years and you never said anything to me!” Ron shouted at him. “Did you feel sorry for me, was that it? Did you think that if Hermione knew the brave and righteous Harry Potter fancied her she would forget all about someone like me?”
“No, that’s not it at all,” Harry said in return, his own temper shining through. “I never said anything because I always knew you were the one she wanted. It was like you two had this connection I couldn’t touch.” If Ron really knew Hermione at all then he would know she didn’t care about things like fame or money. She wasn’t like Pansy Parkinson who used to leach off of Draco Malfoy, hoping he would some day marry her and she would inherit all the wealth that came with being a Malfoy.
Ron didn’t look like he heard a word Harry said. He shot off the bed and came face to face with Seamus who was standing in the doorway.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“It’s my room too,” was Seamus’s response.
“Then don’t skulk around eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.”
Seamus snorted. “As if I care about you fucked up little threesome.” Then he flounced down on his bed and pulled the hangings shut.
Predictably, Ron stormed out of the dorm after that.