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Louder Than Her Demons

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LTHD

Chapter One

Happy Birthday Harry

Harry sat on the front step of Grimmauld Place, a cigarette held loosely in his fingers. The sun was going down quickly and he watched the families in the park across the street begin making their way home.

As he watched the children running and playing, he couldn't help but wonder if one day that would be him. He had always wanted a family of his own. Sure he had Sirius, but he wanted to find a woman he could fall in love with. He wanted days filled with chasing a bunch of kids around and teaching them to fly. Things he hadn't had during his own childhood.

Everyone had expected him to marry Ginny, even he had thought that was what his future held. As it turned out, he had known not long after the war that it wasn't meant to be. His heart belonged to another and he had decided to end his relationship with Ginny the year before. It had been a hard decision. He loved her, but it was clear that they were better as friends. Ginny hadn't wanted to admit it but she knew it was true as well. She wasn't able to be what he needed her to be, and he couldn't give her the love she deserved.

They had split amicably and she was now happily dating a bloke she met in Romania while visiting Charlie.

Harry had dated a few women since then but hadn't found the right one yet. Well...he hadn't found one who compared to her.

He knew he wasn't trying very hard to move on. There had been times, before, when he had wanted to tell her, but it never felt like the right time. Then it was too late.

He finished his cigarette and dropped it into an old coffee can before getting up and walking back into the house.


 

There were people all about, smiling and laughing. He nodded as he passed Neville and Hannah in the hall and made his way to the kitchen.

It was supposed to be a happy day. After all, he hadn't had birthday parties when he was young. Hell, the Dursleys didn't give him food half the time, much less a party or cake. He supposed he ought to try to act happy for Mrs. Weasley's sake. She was the closest thing to a mother he'd ever had, and he didn't want her to think he didn't appreciate what she had done for him.

He made himself a plate of food before walking into the sitting room. Sirius was there, he and Ron playing a game of wizard's chess. By the looks of it, Sirius was giving Ron a run for his money. Harry laughed as Ron let out a string of curses at Sirius and sat down on the couch.

Looking around the room he was reminded, not for the first time that night, of the absence of a certain bushy haired witch. He looked down at his plate and tried to distract himself from that thought. He had hoped she might show up tonight, even though she had been gone for the last two years.

When the war was finally over, the Battle of Hogwarts finished, Hermione had been different. She was withdrawn, got anxious any time she left Grimmauld Place and she woke every night, screaming from nightmares. Harry tried everything he could think of to help her, but he had been struggling himself. He'd woken up one morning to find her room empty.

He had received an owl a week after her disappearance to let him know she was safe, but she wouldn't tell him where she had gone. Of course, she knew if she had, he would have gone after her. He had been sending her letters once a week since then, keeping her up to date on life at home. They were never returned so he hoped she was getting them, but they went unanswered and he missed her.

He looked toward the door and saw Remus walk into the room with Teddy, who ran directly to his Godfather. He set his plate on the table and pulled his godson on to his lap.

Harry smiled at the little boy as he changed his hair from turquoise to jet black. "Harry, is it time for presents?" the boy asked hopefully.

Harry pretended to think about it for a while and Teddy was silently pleading. Harry burst into laughter at the puppy dog eyes his Godson was giving him. "Sure Teddy, but I think I'm going to need some help. Do you know any little boys who have strong muscles?"

Teddy sat up straight, his hand waving in the air. "Me! Me! I do! Look!" he brought his arms up to show them how strong he was. Remus shook his head at his son's antics and went to gather everyone up.


 

After Teddy had helped him open each gift, Harry had thanked everyone and headed to the dining room. It was time for cake, a fact that Teddy had been very excited about and had loudly announced to all in attendance.

He stood behind a large cake lit with twenty-one candles. The people he considered family all gathered around and sang Happy Birthday loudly, and a bit off-key. When they finished the song Harry smiled, closed his eyes and blew out the candles.

When he opened his eyes again, everyone was silent with looks of shock on their faces. They were staring at him and he was beginning to feel a little self-conscious. He rubbed the back of his neck and muttered a sheepish thank you, clearly confused as to why everyone was staring at him. It was a moment before he realized that their eyes weren't focused on him at all but on something behind him.

He slowly turned his head to see what was going on, only to be met with the brown-eyed girl he had just wished for.

"Happy birthday Harry," she whispered.

His eyes widened. He didn't know what to say and he watched as her eyes went to the floor. She clasped and unclasped her hands in front of her and looked very nervous.

Harry approached her slowly, he was almost afraid that she would run away again. When he was close enough, he reached out and took her hand in his. The action of him pulling her closer to himself drew her eyes up to his and he saw the relief in them.

He quickly engulfed her in his arms, buried his face in her neck and let out a choked sob as she wrapped her arms around him in return. She was really there, he couldn't believe it. Her fingers were clinging to him, gripping his hair and neck. She was crying into his shoulder and he could feel the tears soaking into his shirt. He held her tighter trying to convey every ounce of love and forgiveness in the action.

He had so many questions, where had she been? Was she better? Was she going to leave again? It was the last question that he was afraid to ask. He lifted his face from her neck and kissed the top of her head. "'Mione?"

She looked up at him, her eyes filled with tears. The question he hadn't spoken, hanging in the air. "I'm here...I'm not going anywhere," she answered.

When they separated from their emotional embrace, Harry remembered that they had an audience. It seemed that no one knew what to do or say, after all, it wasn't just him that she had left. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and steered her further into the room.

Hermione's presence was met with a mixture of emotions from the occupants of the room but it was Mrs. Weasley who broke the silence first. She pulled the petite witch into a fierce hug, telling her how glad they all were to see her again. Much of the room felt the same as the Weasley matriarch, but Harry could see the redness creeping into Ron's face.

Harry walked over and placed a hand on the other man's back, pushing him out of the room. He needed another cigarette and Ron needed to cool off.


 

When they got to the front step Ron kicked at the railing before sitting down with his head in his hands. Harry knew that Ron had not coped well with Hermione's leaving. Neither of them had, but where Harry was sad and worried, Ron had been angry.

Sitting down next to his best friend, he offered him a smoke and then pulled out his own. He lit it with the tip of his wand and inhaled deeply. Ron spoke first, "Why did she come back? I mean, it's not that I'm mad that she's back, I'm not. I'm just still so bloody angry that she took off in the first place. No contact for two years and she just walks back in like she never left."

"I'm not sure what made her come back mate, I honestly don't care, I'm just happy she's here. I don't need a reason right now, she'll tell us when she's ready."

Ron shook his head. "Yeah well, some notice would have been nice, is all I'm saying."

"Listen, before she left she wasn't herself. She never left the house, you remember! She was like a ghost Ron, she was a shell of her former self. She used to light up a room when she walked into it. She laughed and joked, hell before she left, I would have given anything to hear her boss me around! Anything to indicate that my Hermione was still in there."

He took a minute to pull more sweet nicotine into his lungs and closed his eyes on his exhale. "We were both a mess and I tried to take care of her, but I was just as fucked up as she was. I know you're still angry about your failed relationship but it's not fair to her. Yes, you were dealing with the death of Fred and had your own problems for a time, but Ron you weren't here when she needed you."

Harry held up his hands as Ron turned his head sharply "No, mate, its true. You weren't here for her when she woke up screaming in the middle of the night or when she was so depressed she wouldn't eat. You weren't the one holding her after a panic attack, helping her slow down so she could breathe." He rubbed between his eyes, "You had the opportunity to show her that you cared and you chose to go out and live in your new found fame instead."

They had been over this already and hashed out their issues to get their friendship back on track, but Harry was still livid with how he had neglected Hermione. She had deserved better, and the fact that the man who claimed to love her had left her to face her demons without him, really made Harry question whether Ron had ever truly loved her or had just been in love with the idea of her.

Ron was quietly staring down at his feet. His cigarette almost gone, he flicked it into the coffee can, nodded his head once to Harry and made his way back inside.


 

When all of his guests had gone for the night, Harry found Sirius and Hermione in the library. They were talking quietly so he walked in and sat down with a Quidditch magazine.

"Son, did you enjoy your birthday party?" Sirius asked.

Harry grimaced, "Pads, you know I'm not fond of all the attention, but yes. It got better there at the end." He truly smiled at that and saw Hermione look down at her hands. Sirius had a knowing look in his eyes.

"Well, I'm glad you had a good time pup." he slapped his hands on his knees and stood up. "Kitten, it was so lovely to see you. Don't let him stay up too late." he winked at her. "I'll see you two in the morning."

Harry watched Sirius leave the library and then looked toward Hermione. He could see that she was worried about the conversation they were about to have but it needed to happen. He had to know what she had been doing all of this time, why she had left him.

"Look, Harry, I know you have questions and I promise I'll answer them. I just need you to know that I'm sorry." She was looking at him then, her face etched with guilt.

Harry let himself really look at her before answering. Her hair was longer than he remembered, the curls still wild but no longer bushy. Her face was free of makeup, allowing him to see the freckles across her nose. She looked healthy, he thought. Beautiful. He'd always thought she was beautiful.

"Why did you leave, Hermione?"

She looked heartbroken by the question and tears sprang to her eyes. "I needed to get away, I didn't want to drag you down anymore. You put your life on hold for me Harry. I couldn't let you do it anymore."

Harry frowned, "You have put your life on hold for me, more times than I can count 'Mione. You sacrificed so much to help me, to take care of me. I wanted to take care of you." he said in a low voice.

Nodding her head she said, "I know. I didn't mean to hurt you, but at the time I felt like I was doing the right thing."

Harry decided to let that go for now. "Where did you go?"

"Australia," she said as she looked down at her hands again. "I wanted to find my parents. I had hoped that if I could reverse the memory charm we could come back to England. That I could be with them again and maybe that would help."

Harry walked over and kneeled in front of her chair. He placed his hands on hers, "Did you?"

They had talked about going to find her parents and had even started planning the trip. He had insisted on going with her so she wouldn't be alone if she found out that the charm was irreversible.

He heard her sniffle, "Yeah, I found them. They were so happy Harry." Tears began falling down her cheeks. "I made an appointment at their practice in order to talk to them. I didn't think they would just talk to some random girl on the street, you know? So during my appointment, I made small talk, I asked my Mum questions about herself and Dad. I needed to know how they were." She wiped her eyes before continuing, "They told me that they were from England, but they had made the best decision of their lives moving to Australia." she got quiet for a moment and looked like she was in physical pain. "Umm." she paused again, holding back tears. "She said that they had two children, both adopted, ages five and seven. Mum looked so proud when she showed me their pictures, a boy, and a girl."

"Hermione I'm so sorry, love," he said as he pulled her into a hug.

When she pulled away she shook her head "I watched them all playing on the beach the last day I saw them, I knew that I couldn't take that away, Harry. They deserved to be happy."

His eyebrows furrowed and he cocked his head to the side. "Wait, Hermione. You just left them there?" he said, and she nodded her head. He couldn't imagine what she was going through. Yeah, he had lost his parents, but he never knew them. To have your parents for seventeen years and then lose them seemed unbearable to him. Especially knowing that they were alive and well but had no idea who she was.

He sat back on his heels as another thought occurred to him. If she had gone to Australia right after she had left here and decided to leave her parents alone, he didn't think she would have stuck around long after that.

"So where the hell have you been since then!" He hadn't meant for it to come out harsh but the words were already out of his mouth.

She sat up straight and looked down at him with angry eyes. "Don't you take that tone with me, Harry James Potter! What I did is my business and I don't have to share it with you!" She stood up and started for the door.

He jumped up to stop her, taking hold of her wrist. "'Mione, wait! You've been gone for two years! I've been so worried about you and I'm trying to understand. Please, don't shut me out." He moved his hand from her wrist to take her hand in his and squeeze it. "Please, Hermione."

Without turning back to him she whispered "I'm not alright Harry. I can't do this on my own anymore." He wrapped his arms around her from behind, caging her in, holding her together.

"You were never alone love. I was here all this time, thinking about you and wishing you would come home. You're going to be ok...I'm going to take care of you."


 

Harry walked into his bedroom after showing Hermione to her old room. She never did tell him where she had been after leaving her parents. He didn't want to pry but he was curious and a little bit angry that she hadn't come back home. He knew how stubborn she was though, and if she felt that she needed to do things on her own, no amount of pleading from him would have gotten her to change her mind.

He stripped down to his boxers and crawled into bed with a book. Everything would be alright, she had come back home and was willing to admit that she needed help. He would be there for her however she needed him to be.

A couple of hours later as he began to get comfortable and drift off to sleep, the silence was pierced by terrified screams.

"Please! I didn't take anything! Ahhhhhhhhh!"

When he burst into the room he could see her thrashing around in the sheets on her bed. He made his way over to sit on the side and helped untangle her legs from the sheets. Once she was free, she calmed a little and he ran a hand over her forehead to get her sweat soaked hair out of her face.

"Shhhhh, 'Mione wake up. Come on love, you're safe now. Wake up, love." She slowly calmed down and opened her eyes, only to immediately burst into tears.

"She never leaves...how do I make her leave?" Harry continued to run his fingers through her hair.

"Want me to stay? I don't mind." She nodded and moved over so he could climb into bed with her.

He laid on his back and pulled her over to lay her head on his chest. She threw her arm over his chest and he felt her breathing slow down as she succumbed to sleep once more.

"Don't worry 'Mione, you're safe now. I've got you."