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A Tempting Pain

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Harry sighed and slumped down onto the bench in the garden. He took off his glasses and wiped them clean on his shirt, shaking his head as he did so. He slipped his glasses back on and observed the flowers blooming around him.

Bright orange poppies grew in the corner, roses on the other side of the garden. Chrysanthemums were somehow in full bloom, crawling up two feet into the air. Ginny had told him about stasis charms and garden-care spells she'd been using; they were paying off, it seemed.

The flowery smells drifting around in the breeze brought the memory of Hermione sitting hopelessly and broken in her own garden, wiping tears from her face. She had seemed so unhappy at the time Harry found her, after he got an earful from Ron about how 'horrible a mother and wife 'Mione is being.'

Harry had Floo'd over to Ron and Hermione's house after a few moments of trying to calm his anger with counting down from ten, then back up again. There were times when Ron was stupid, and there were times when Ron was just a downright prick. More often than not, though, he was both.

Harry recalled the conversation he had with Ron:

"What's wrong, mate?" Harry asked tiredly. Ron was glaring at the wall, where a picture of Hermione and Rose hung. Ron angrily turned to him.

"Hermione's what's wrong," he said shortly, through clenched teeth. Harry closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, his anger flaring again.

'Ron doesn't deserve her. Not at all,' Harry thought unnecessarily before prying his weight from the wall and walking out to the garden, knowing where Hermione would find her escape, as Ron was in the library.

Harry's heart ached from the memory, and from the conversation with Hermione that had followed. Harry had the idea to help her with the . . . situation for a few months, but he hoped that they would be able to resolve it on their own. He didn't think he'd ever propose it to her, because he knew she'd deny it until she was ready, and she hadn't seemed to be getting closer to that state just yet.

But Hermione had told him exactly the words he needed to offer his abilities to her:

'I can't keep doing this.'

That had been all the prompting Harry needed to make the offer. Hermione hadn't looked entirely convinced, or even comfortable with it, but eventually she asked about the location she would disappear to. In that moment, Harry knew she had been half-way there to saying yes.

Harry had given her a weak smile and answered her questions before hugging her quickly and pressing a kiss to her temple. He Disapparated out of the garden, not feeling like bumping into Ron again. He was honestly just too angry with his friend to face him.

He went home to Ginny and their kids and told his wife about what Hermione had said. Ginny's eyes glistened and she pulled Harry into a hug; it always hurt her to hear about how Ron mistreated Hermione. She'd told him once that it made her feel so helpless that she couldn't do a thing about her brother, because Hermione was stupid in love with him.

"We're doing the right thing," Harry said softly, and Ginny nodded fervently.

"I know," Ginny whispered thickly. Albus came barreling into the kitchen, and Ginny broke their hug and turned away to hide her tears. Harry grinned at his son and picked Albus up under the armpits with a shout.

"How's my favorite son?" Harry asked, resting the boy on his hip.

James yelled an affronted "Hey!" from his room down the hall. Albus giggled and then Ginny joined in, all traces of her anger and frustration gone.

Harry wandered out to his garden sometime later, hoping to relax before Ron showed up, as he undoubtedly would.

Harry had a blissful ten minutes of peace — peaceful even with loud squeals and thumping footsteps coming from inside the house from Albus, Lily, and James — before the redhead made his appearance.

Harry had expected panic, or confusion. He anticipated Ron to be angry after he figured out that Hermione had left him.

He hadn't expected Ron to look entirely broken. His ginger-haired friend looked so lost and sad that Harry almost regretted his decision to help hide Hermione and her kids.

Almost.

"Harry," Ron said thickly. Tears were rolling down his face. He was pale and shivering like he had a fever. It occurred to Harry then that Ron had needed Hermione just as much as she needed him, even if they weren't meant for each other.

"Where is she? I know you helped her," Ron whispered. A note was crushed between his fingers, his knuckles white from the grip. Harry knew it was the one Hermione left, explaining her absence.

"It wasn't me," Harry answered, avoiding Ron's eye, his heart twisting for his best friend. Ron nodded, as if coming to a decision. He took a hesitant step forward, then another. Harry scooted over on the bench, and Ron collapsed onto the space next to him.

"What did I do?" Ron asked hopelessly. Harry swallowed the lump in his throat. He wanted to yell, to scream the explanation to his friend's face. But he couldn't.

"You really hurt her, Ron," Harry said quietly. Ron took a deep breath, then nodded again.

"How can I fix this?" he asked.

"I don't know if you can. That's why Hermione left," Harry said. Ron bit his lip and put his head in his hands.

"Will I ever see them again?" Ron whispered. Tears fell onto the flowers beneath his feet, they were shiny and beautiful against the pink, velvety petals.

"I don't know," Harry answered. He was surprised to find that those words were true. It was up to Ron and Hermione, at that point, to figure things out.

Harry closed his eyes. He knew that Ron was hurting, the need to take away that pain was pushed to the back of his mind, knowing that it was essential for his friend to realize his mistakes even though it was hard.

But seeing his friend cry, Harry felt his own resolve crumble and he draped his arm around the redhead's shoulders. Wishing to offer Ron some sort of comfort, Harry formulated a plan in an attempt to soothe his pain.

"Do you want me to help look for them?" Harry asked softly, knowing that it would lead nowhere but feeling it was necessary. Ron shook his head.

"Okay," Harry whispered. Ron was just a little closer to understanding what he did wrong, and if it took pain to see it, then Harry would just have to watch.