The Sugar Quill
Author: Stella (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Understanding  Chapter: Chapter 2: Making Up
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Understanding

Chapter Two: Making Up

It wasn’t the dream per se that woke Harry at half past two the next morning. He didn’t stir during the tossing and turning and he didn’t hear the muffled groans.

He had actually been sleeping rather comfortably (as he had through most of his stay at the Burrow) when a shouted, “Ouch!” pulled him back to consciousness, with a jolt. His eyes flew open to see Ron hopping about the room, rubbing at his knee, and cursing at an innocent-looking pair of trousers on the floor.

“Ron?” Harry asked in confusion.

Ron was either ignoring him or didn’t hear him as he stumbled his way over to the door of the bedroom. Either way, he didn’t answer.

“Ron?” he called again, in a louder voice.

Ron had pulled open the door – muttering something rude about doorknobs that refused to stay in one place – but still didn’t respond as he practically fell into the hallway.

Harry sat up, worried. It wasn’t like Ron to be so disoriented when he woke up. He felt his stomach lurch in concern. Reluctantly throwing back his covers and slipping on his glasses, he ran out into the hall, catching up to Ron as he started descending the first set of stairs.

“Ron, what’s wrong?” Harry asked, grabbing his arm.

Ron pulled away and went for the stairs again, muttering quickly, “’S’ all right, Harry. Go back to sleep.”

Harry hurried down the steps and blocked Ron’s way, just as they reached the landing. With an annoyed grunt, Ron reached out a hand and tried to push past without actually hurting him. “Get out of the way, Harry,” he said distractedly.

“Not until you wake up and tell me what’s wrong,” Harry insisted, standing his ground. He’d never seen Ron like this. His eyes were unfocused, as though he were seeing something wholly other than his best friend standing in front of him.

“I just…I need to check on something, is all…” Ron said lamely.

“On what?”

Ron let out a frustrated sigh. “I just need to check on Hermione, all right?”

Harry blinked in confusion. Whatever he had been expecting Ron to say, that hadn’t been it. Why would Hermione need checking on? Ron took advantage of Harry’s bewilderment to race down the next set of stairs.

It took a moment for Harry to react, but he quickly scrambled down after him, hoping to prevent Ron from doing anything that would embarrass himself later. He skidded to an abrupt halt at the next landing. Ron was banging loudly on the door to Ginny’s room.

“Hermione? Hermione, open up the door,” Ron yelled. “Hermione, do you hear me? Hermione?!”

Harry glanced nervously up and down the stairs. “Ron, quiet down,” he whispered frantically. He half expected Percy to appear suddenly on the staircase, scolding them for disturbing the much-needed rest of an important Ministry official.

Of course, the way Ron was going on, he might very well wake Mr. Weasley. He tried vainly to shush Ron again.

Ron was just raising his fist to continue knocking when the door swung open. He nearly hit Ginny in the nose.

“Ron, what is the matter with—” Ginny didn’t get a chance to finish, because Ron pushed past her into the room.

Harry stared after him in shock. It was not like Ron to go barging into a girl’s room, even if it was Ginny’s.

Hermione was rising, disoriented, from her bed. Ron seemed to catch sight of her suddenly and stopped short; his ears turned bright pink.

“Hermione?” he said, sounding uncertain.

“What’s going on, Ron?” Hermione asked, fighting down a yawn. Suddenly her eyes snapped toward the door. “Is everything all right?” she asked, worriedly. “Is Harry…”

“I’m fine, Hermione. I’m right here.” Harry stepped up right behind Ginny and closed the door behind him.

Hermione sighed in relief and reached for her dressing gown. “Then, what happened? Why did you two come storming in here?”

Ron came storming in,” Harry answered, defensively. “I was just following him. I thought he was sleepwalking for a bit there.”

Hermione smiled at Ron with amusement as she tied her belt. “Sleepwalking? I didn’t know that you sleepwalk!”

Ron rounded on him, suddenly looking wide awake, a blush rising on his cheeks. “I don’t! What are you on about?!”

Harry shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. “I don’t know. You were falling all over the place trying to get out of the room and you wouldn’t answer me when I called you. I figured you were having a bad dream. All you would say was that you had to see Hermione or something.”

Ginny giggled very quietly, but Ron must have heard because he glared at her. She shrugged her shoulders, but stopped giggling.

Harry had to fight down the desire to laugh as well, especially when Ron was looking as though he would rather be gutting live scorpions in Potions at the moment. Apparently, he didn’t appreciate the humor in the situation.

“Ron, what happened?” Hermione asked, looking concerned.

Ron turned around, but wouldn’t look at Hermione. He focused instead on a corner of the room that stored a small mountain of stuffed animals in various stages of neglect and abuse. Some of them must have been enchanted, because they were yawning and stretching their arms.

“Erm…” Ron started and immediately fell silent again.

Harry glanced back and forth between Ron and Hermione, hoping that they weren’t about to have another fight. Hermione was looking at Ron with a strangely eager expression on her face. It was a bit like the way she looked when she had just figured out the answer to a difficult homework question.

Ron didn’t seem to appreciate it. “What are you all staring at?” he blurted out, suddenly. He spun around and made his way toward Harry and Ginny, who nearly had to jump out of his way. “Just forget about it. Go back to sleep.”

Harry stared at him in confusion. They had run down here in the middle of the night for no reason at all?

But Ron wasn’t going anywhere fast. At least, not if Hermione had anything to say about it.

“Ron, does this have anything to do with our fight?” she called out, just as he was passing Ginny.

Ron turned around, looking incensed for some reason. “What fight?! It’s not as if you stayed around long enough for there to be a fight!”

Harry could feel his jaw drop. Hermione must have been surprised as well, because she took a tiny step back.

But Ron wasn’t finished. He advanced on Hermione, who seemed to have collected herself and, crossing her arms, dealt him a furious glare as he spoke. “Besides, it’s not as if you care what a thick prat like me thinks anyway, do you? You’d better just go back to your big know-it-all books, because I ruddy well can’t have anything intelligent to say!”

Hermione rolled her eyes and marched over to him. “Honestly, Ron, don’t be stupid! If you’re so anxious to have a fight, then fine. Let’s do!”

“Fine!” Ron said, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring down at her. “Fine!”

Harry had the sudden desire to back slowly out of the room. Come to think of it, he probably should have stayed in bed in the first place…

But, to his surprise, there was no fight. Ron and Hermione just glared at each other as the seconds ticked by and neither of them seemed to be able to think of anything to fight about. It had turned into a staring contest.

A moment later, Hermione looked away with another roll of her eyes and Harry was sure that everything was going to be forgotten. Unfortunately, Ron couldn’t keep himself from grunting in satisfaction and Hermione’s anger immediately flared.

“You’re the one who wanted a fight, Ron. If you have something to say, then say it. Otherwise, I’d like to go back to sleep, if you don’t mind!”

“I don’t want a fight,” Ron answered, sounding more frustrated than angry. “I just…I just want you to stay in the room for five minutes and not go prancing out with your nose in the air.”

The Weasleys were going to wake up, Harry decided. There was no way that a few walls were going to block out the sound of Hermione’s screaming after that. He wondered if she might even slap Ron like she had Draco Malfoy in third year.

So it came as a bit of a shock when Hermione’s expression went from fury to a look Harry had never seen before. It was almost…affectionate. She was staring at Ron as though he had just given her the nicest compliment in the world.

Ron looked just as surprised as Harry felt. He watched Hermione uncertainly, as though sure she might still smack him. He seemed completely at a loss as to how to react.

“Excuse me,” Hermione said finally, in a brisk tone of voice that completely belied the expression on her face. “I did not have my nose in the air.”

Ron snorted, looking more comfortable with this reaction. “Please, Hermione, if you’d had your nose any higher, you’d’ve been licking the ceiling.”

Harry stifled his laughter more quickly than Ginny did, but she managed to keep it to a strange sort of snorting sound that only made Harry want to laugh more.

Hermione went slightly pink and her eyes narrowed. “So, what was the dream about, then, Ron? I’m sure you want to tell us all about it.”

“Er…no. That’s all right. Don’t rightly remember it now,” Ron mumbled, his ears going red.

Hermione looked at him skeptically, but shrugged. “Well, I can’t go back to sleep, now, can I? Should we go down and get some tea?”

Harry was completely baffled by the sudden shift in conversation, but Ron only grinned. “Do you do hot chocolate?”

“Who said I was going to make the tea?” snapped Hermione, as she walked toward the door. Harry noticed in amusement that her nose was rather high.

Ron trailed after her with a mock-hurt expression on his face. “Oi, I’m the one who’s just been traumatized by the nightmare.”

“Yes, I’m sure you’ll be scarred for life.”

“If I’m not treated the right way…” Ron pulled the door open and nudged Hermione through it. “Who knows what’ll happen? Might fail my O.W.L.s , I might.”

“Ron!”

Ron and Hermione had already started down the stairs when they remembered about Harry and Ginny, who were staring after them in shocked disbelief.

“Aren’t you coming?” Hermione asked.

“Yeah. Sorry for waking you up and all,” added Ron, not looking particularly sorry.

“No,” said Harry, a bit too eagerly. They may have been his best friends, but he’d had about enough of Ron and Hermione for the night. “Er…reckon I’d better get some sleep.”

“All right,” said Hermione, with a shrug. “Coming, Ginny?”

Ginny shook her head fervently. “Thanks…thanks for asking. ‘M still a bit tired.”

“You did get to sleep rather late, didn’t you?” Hermione said, kindly.

Harry thought he saw Ginny’s cheeks go briefly pink. “Yes,” she agreed with a rather forced smile.

“See you in the morning, then.”

“G’night.”

It might have been Harry’s imagination, but neither Ron nor Hermione seemed especially disappointed to be going down together alone. He shrugged his shoulders and turned so quickly to go upstairs that he nearly plowed over Ginny, who was heading into her room. The hair on the back of her head was extremely mussed — the bright red strands sticking out in so many directions that it almost looked as though a small explosion had taken place.

“Goodnight,” Harry said.

Ginny turned around to look at him, drowsily. “Yeah. G’night.”

Harry smiled and was about to head upstairs, when Ginny’s expression suddenly changed.

“What’s the…” he started, but Ginny pulled her door closed and frantically shushed him, motioning that he should hurry upstairs. He had barely gotten up two steps when a voice stopped him.

“Harry, Ginny, what are you two doing up?”

Harry rotated around slowly on the steps to face Mrs. Weasley, who was standing on the downstairs carrying a small bundle. He knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong, but for some reason, he felt like he might be in trouble. He glanced over at Ginny, but she was facing her mother as well.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Ginny answered quickly.

“Me, neither,” Harry said, though he wasn’t sure why they were lying.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Weasley, climbing the rest of the stairs to the landing. “I thought that someone might be using Fred and George’s toilet. You can use our bathroom, if you need, you know?”

“Yeah, thanks,” Harry answered, annoyed at himself for not thinking of that excuse.

Mrs. Weasley smiled warmly and patted the bundle in her arms, which Harry now saw was a pile of towels. “I washed the towels this morning, but forgot to bring them up. I’ll just put Hermione’s over by her bed, so she’ll have it in the…”

“I’ll do it, Mum!” said Ginny enthusiastically. A bit too enthusiastically perhaps, but Mrs. Weasley didn’t seem to notice.

“Thank you, Ginny. Here’s yours, as well.” She handed over two towels.

“I’ll take up the rest, if you want,” Harry offered.

“Oh, Harry, there’s a dear.” Mrs. Weasley gave him the rest of the towels, obviously relieved not to have to climb two more flights of stairs. “Now, I can just get what I needed from the kitchen and be off to bed.”

An image popped into Harry’s head of Mrs. Weasley walking into the kitchen to find Ron and Hermione arguing heatedly over the kitchen table. They seemed to have made up, but who knew with them? Ginny must have had the same thought, because they blurted out, in unison: “I’ll get it for you!”

He and Ginny exchanged a quick, nervous glance, then turned back to Mrs. Weasley. She was looking back and forth between them with what might have been suspicion, Harry wasn’t sure.

“That’s all right,” she said slowly. “Don’t want to trouble you two, if you were going to bed.”

“Oh, I’m wide awake,” said Harry, at the same time that Ginny said, “I was just going to study for awhile.”

If Mrs. Weasley had been suspicious before, she seemed to have gotten over it now. “Dad left his glasses by the mantelpiece, I think, and…and there was one other thing. What was it, now?” Mrs. Weasley tapped her bottom lip for a moment, then shrugged. “If you could just get the glasses, dears.”

“I’ll do it,” said Harry, balancing the towels carefully on the railing.

“Thank you, Harry.”

Harry nodded and ran quickly down the stairs. When he reached the bottom floor, he paused to listen down the hallway for voices. He could hear Ron’s laughter and was relieved that he wasn’t walking in on another argument.

“Hermione, it’s going to taste terrible! Nobody puts cinnamon in hot chocolate.”

“My mum puts cinnamon in hot chocolate!”

“Oh.”

Harry walked quickly into the kitchen and stopped short. He was suddenly very glad that Mrs. Weasley hadn’t come down.

Hermione was by the stove, mixing ingredients in two large mugs, while Ron leaned in over her shoulder, trying to add something to the mixture. They were standing very close together and their cheeks were practically touching.

“Ron, stop!” Hermione ordered. “I already put in the sugar.”

“It needs more,” Ron complained, pulling her hand out of the way. “Hot chocolate’s supposed to be sweet.”

“I know how to make hot chocolate, Ron, I…”

Harry cleared his throat.

Ron jumped and Hermione swung around whipping Ron in the face with her hair.

“Harry!” Ron yelled, breathing heavily. “You could’ve warned us you were there!”

“I did warn you,” Harry answered. “What did you want me to do, yell down before I came?”

“Oh, Ron, you’re spilling the sugar!” Hermione cried, quickly grabbing the tin from his hand and placing it on the counter.

“Sorry,” Ron said, turning back to wipe up the mess he had made.

“Everything all right, Harry?” Hermione asked.

Harry crossed over to the fireplace and snatched the glasses from the mantelpiece. “Just fetching Mr. Weasley’s glasses.”

Ron stopped cleaning abruptly and turned around. “Dad’s glasses?” he asked, warily.

“Yeah,” Harry told him. “Your mum was about to come down for them, but I told her I would.”

“That was nice of you, Harry,” Hermione said, cheerfully.

Ron looked at Harry uncomfortably, his ears turning red; Harry didn’t want to know why. “Yeah, thanks, Harry,” he mumbled.

“Sure.” Harry sighed and wished them both a good night again.

Harry trudged up the stairs slowly, glad that he was finally going to get to sleep. Once he gave Mrs. Weasley the glasses and delivered those towels, he reminded himself. He stopped mid-stride at the sound of Mrs. Weasley’s voice from the landing.

“Why don’t you just go sit in the kitchen, Ginny?”

“No, Mum. I’m fine right here. I’ll just keep the bathroom door open, and I’ve got my lamp.”

“All right, but if you get tired again, go right back to sleep.”

“Fine, Mum.”

Harry heard a soft sound that might have been a kiss, then Mrs. Weasley appeared at the top of the stairs.

“Oh, there you are, Harry!” she exclaimed, happily.

He started back up the steps to hand her the glasses. Thanking him again, profusely, Mrs. Weasley shuffled tiredly into her room, shutting the door with a soft thud.

Harry wasn’t surprised to find Ginny sitting in the middle of the landing, a quill in her hand, leaning over a large tome that Harry recognized as A History of Magic. She glanced up at him, bleary-eyed, as he reached the landing, and moved back to let him pass.

“Aren’t you going to sleep?” he asked.

Ginny shook her head. “No. Mum thought she might remember what she wanted from the kitchen later and I was afraid she would go down while Ron and Hermione were still there.” She looked back into the book, suddenly. “I was afraid they might be…you know…”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. Well, they’re not fighting right now.” He wasn’t going to tell her what they had looked like when he had gotten down there.

Ginny kept her head down, but looked up at him with her eyes. Her cheeks were very red. “Fighting. Right.” Her eyes snapped back to the book.

Harry watched her for a moment, wondering what the expression on her face meant. Maybe she was just tired. “Ginny, why don’t you go to bed? I’ll wait on them.”

Ginny shook her head. “No, I’m fine. I’ve been pushing off this essay all summer. If I’m going to do it, I’d better just get on with it.”

Harry stood awkwardly, glancing up the staircase. He really was tired. He could just go to sleep now. He looked back down at Ginny, who was blinking her eyes frequently as she read.

He firmed his resolve and – remembering to drop off two towels for the twins at the last minute – he walked slowly up the steps to Ron’s room. He lit a lamp and scrounged through his trunk till he found what he was looking for: The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Five. Snatching up the book, he tramped back down stairs.

Ginny was writing on a piece of parchment when he reached her and she didn’t notice him coming. He was about to open his mouth to announce himself, when a distant but clear sounding voice floated up from the kitchen.

“Admit it!” He heard Hermione saying.

The next moment he could hear Ron’s voice. “There’s nothing to admit. It does need more sugar.”

“Oh, come on, Ron. Can’t you just admit that it’s good? You know that you like it.”

“Says who? You just… What? What’s so funny?”

Hermione was giggling.

“Hermione, you’re going to choke if you don’t stop laughing.”

“You’ve got…chocolate…on…your nose,” Hermione managed to gasp out between giggles.

“What?!” There was a short pause. “There.”

“No, you missed it.” Hermione still sounded very amused, but she seemed to have gotten control of herself. “Here, I’ll get it.”

“Hermione, I’ve got it!”

“Oh, just hold still, Ron!”

There was silence suddenly. Harry couldn’t even hear Hermione giggling anymore.

“Harry!”

Harry jumped back in surprise at the loud sound of Ginny’s voice, almost tripping over the bottom step. Ginny was staring at him in shock.

“I…I thought you went to bed,” she said.

“No, I decided I’d better…”

Ron’s voice broke in again. “Did you get it?”

“I…yes.” Hermione’s voice sounded strange, more subdued than usual.

“Good. Oh and, Hermione, you’ve got a chocolate mustache. Just thought you might want to know.”

Harry turned to Ginny. “Can’t they hear us?” he asked.

Ginny shook her head. “No. But as long as they’re sitting at the table we can hear them.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Bill explained it to me once, but I don’t remember why.”

“Hermione, what are you doing? You’re supposed to lick off a chocolate mustache, not wipe it off.”

“Then why didn’t you lick the chocolate off of your nose?”

“Oi, my nose isn’t that long!”

“Why don’t you go to sleep, Harry?” Ginny asked, effectively drowning out the conversation downstairs.

“Why don’t you?” Harry countered.

Ginny bit her lip, watching, as Harry settled himself down across from her, leaning back against the open bathroom door and opening his book.

“This is a bit silly, isn’t it?” she said, before he could even start reading.

Harry nodded in agreement. “Yeah. So why don’t you just go to sleep?”

“Hmph.” Ginny pushed a piece of hair behind her ear and went back to her work.

Harry grinned in spite of himself and started reading the introduction (Why—After Four Years of School—You Still Don’t Really Know a Blessed Thing About Spells). However, studying was easier said than done, he realized quickly.

“Ron, no! It’s nearly three o’clock in the morning, we are not… Do you even know how to make cookies?”

“Er, no. Don’t you?”

“I’ve helped my father make them, but I can’t remember quite…”

“Hermione, I’m surprised at you!”

“What?”

“Do you mean to tell me that you haven’t memorized any cookbooks yet?”

“Oh, very funny Ron… Ron, where are you going?”

Ron must have gotten up from the table because Harry couldn’t hear an answer. He glanced over at the Weasleys’ door, suddenly wondering something.

“Ginny?” he asked.

“Hmm?” Ginny didn’t look up from her book.

“Can’t…can’t your parents hear them?”

Ginny shook her head. “They’ve got their door charmed; they won’t hear anything unless it’s an emergency.” She glanced up at him with a grin. “How else do you think Fred and George manage to get so much done on the Wheezes?”

Harry grinned back. He had actually been wondering about that.

“Ron, put those back!” Hermione’s voice intruded on the silence and Ginny went back to her essay. “Ron, please! You’re going to mess up my…”

“Now, let’s see here,” Ron said, in a scholarly tone of voice.

“Ron, what are you doing?”

“Why…I don’t believe it!”

“Ron, give me my…”

“I thought that these O.W.L.s were supposed to be comprehensive!”

“Ron, don’t move that…”

“There is absolutely nothing in here on how to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies! How do they expect us to survive in the real world with this worthless rubbish? I mean, what difference does it make if you can transfigure a pair of spectacles into a glass of milk, if you haven’t got any cookies to go with it?!”

Hermione seemed to be having a hard time deciding whether to laugh or be angry at Ron.

“Ron, just give it back to me.”

“You’re not going to…start studying or something if I do, will you?”

“No, but – come to think of it – now that you’ve got the book, maybe you should start stud…”

“Here you are, then.”

“Thanks ever so much.”

“Well, what are we going to do if we don’t make cookies?” Ron quickly added, “And don’t say we should study.”

“I wasn’t going to say that, Ron.”

“Right.”

“I was going to say that we could talk.”

“We are talking.”

“Yes, but we’re not talking about your dream.”

“I told you that I don’t want to…”

“Ron, it obviously upset you. I think that if you talked about it you might feel better.”

“I told you already, I don’t really remember it…”

Hermione interrupted quietly. “It had something to do with our fight, didn’t it?” She sounded almost guilty.

Ron answered, uncertainly, “No! Not really, I don’t think… Maybe.”

“I’m sorry,” Hermione said, after a pause.

“For what?”

“For walking out on you. That was…immature of me, I should have heard you out.”

Ron didn’t answer for a long moment. He was probably just as shocked as Harry was by her admission. “Hermione, there’s nothing for you to be sorry about. You had every right to walk out. I mean, I was yelling at you…”

“Oh, please! I was yelling at you, as well…”

“Yeah, but I was really screaming at you. I don’t know what got into me. You had every right…”

Hermione interrupted fiercely. “No, I didn’t. You were right. I knew that you were right, I just didn’t really want to hear about it right then…so I left.”

“I…I was right?” Ron sounded a bit shell-shocked.

“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” Hermione said, testily. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Who are you and what have you done with Hermione?”

“Oh, very funny, Ron.” A chair scrapped against the kitchen floor.

“No, no, sorry. I’m sorry. I was just kidding. C’mon, Hermione, sit down.”

“If you’re just going to make fun of me, then…”

“No! Now, what were you saying? Something about me being right…”

The chair scrapped loudly again and Harry could hear other muffled sounds that he couldn’t place.

“Ron, if you can’t have a serious conversation…”

“I’m sorry. Really. Honest. I won’t… Just… You keep going. I’ll shut it.”

“I don’t want you to shut it, I want to talk!”

“Then, we’ll talk. See? I’m talking!”

“Ron…”

“No, really. I was really… You were right before. I mean, I shouldn’t have been such a prat. You just wanted to study a little. You weren’t trying to take over the whole holiday with schoolwork. Harry and I like Quidditch and you like studying. That’s all. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. It was stupid.”

“It wasn’t stupid. And it isn’t that I don’t like Quidditch…well, I don’t like playing it much, but I do like watching most of the time, especially if it’s Gryffindor playing, and Harry, of course, but I like watching it even if it’s people I don’t know, like at the Quidditch Cup, though I don’t think I appreciate it as much as you do because…”

Harry suddenly found that he was able to focus on his reading again.

“Hermione, was there a point to this?”

Yes! I just meant that it isn’t that I don’t enjoy doing things with you and Harry and it isn’t that I like studying so much…”

“That’s what I don’t get, though!”

“What?”

“Why do you do it so much if you don’t enjoy it?”

“Because I need to do it, if I want to do really well.”

“But…you do…I mean, you do like learning about things, don’t you? You always seem happy when you figure out something new.”

“Oh, yes! I love learning about things!”

“You just don’t like drilling it into your head three hundred times.”

“Well, I like knowing it really well and…well…”

“And making sure that anyone who’ll listen knows that you know it…” Ron sounded very amused.

“No, I do not!”

“Come on, Hermione! Be honest. You love sticking it to Malfoy that the Muggle-born witch can run rings around him in every subject.”

“I’m not trying to prove anything to Malfoy, of all people!”

“Then who are you trying to prove it to? The rest of us already know you’re brilliant.”

It took Hermione a while to answer. “I don’t know. Professor McGonagall, maybe.”

“What are you talking about? You’re McGonagall’s dream student! You’re the only one she ever seems really pleased with…”

“Well, that’s not true. I’m sure there are other students…”

“Just none that you can think of off-hand.”

“Well, no…” Hermione sounded rather pleased.

“So you’re not trying to prove anything to Malfoy and his idiots and you haven’t got anything to prove to the rest of us.” Ron finished quietly, “That just leaves one person.”

Hermione answered very slowly. “I suppose…I might be trying to prove something to myself. That I can be just as good as any pure-blood… But I do care a lot about what McGonagall thinks…”

“Sure you do! She’s got the highest standards of any witch or wizard alive. If you break her then you can break anybody!”

“Break her!” Hermione giggled loudly. “She isn’t a horse, Ron. Break her, honestly.”

“Oi, I’m a pure-blood here. Don’t go around insulting me, or I might think you got a B in Herbology once, or something.”

It took a while for Hermione’s giggles to die down. “I’ve been honest with you, haven’t I?” she asked finally.

“Er…I think so. What…”

“Now it’s your turn to be honest with me.”

“What are you on about? I’m always honest with…”

“The dream was about our fight, wasn’t it?”

“What?! The dream?! NO! It had nothing to do with…”

“Ron, it will really help if you talk about it.”

“Hermione, enough with the dream! And save that look for Harry, it isn’t going to work on me!”

“What look?!”

“You know. The one you always give Harry when you think something’s wrong with him…”

“You mean, the ‘I’m really worried about my best friend, and I wish he would confide in me’ look? Is that the one you mean, Ron?”

“No. I mean, the ‘I’m really worried about my best friend, and I wish he would spill his guts to me so that I could tell him exactly how to solve all of his problems’ look.”

“So? What’s wrong with that? I usually am able to help Harry with his problems, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, and annoy him half to death while you do it. Honestly, Hermione, no wonder he doesn’t tell us everything!”

Harry’s insides squirmed guiltily and he glanced over at Ginny. She was still writing and seemed to be oblivious to the conversation, though he couldn’t imagine how she managed to miss it.

“Ron, you don’t really think Harry’s hiding important things from us, do you?” Hermione’s voice sounded very serious.

“Dunno. Not anything very important, I don’t think. But I know he doesn’t tell us everything.” There was an awkward sounding pause. “You knew that, didn’t you, Hermione?”

“I suppose so,” Hermione admitted. “I just didn’t like to think about it too much. He does tell us most things, though, don’t you think?”

“Well, more than he tells anyone else, I reckon. ‘Cept maybe Dumbledore or S…”

Harry coughed loudly to drown out Sirius’s name. Ginny didn’t seem to be listening, but it was best to be safe.

“Hermione?”

“Yes?”

“D’ you…do you reckon he has nightmares?”

Harry could feel himself blushing. This was not a conversation he should be listening to. Ron and Hermione would be horrified if they knew he was listening, but part of him still felt intensely curious about what they would say.

“I think he must. He had that nightmare last summer, remember? When his scar was hurting him. And then he had that dream during Divination, when his scar hurt him again.”

“So, you think there’re probably other dreams he doesn’t tell us about?”

“Maybe…probably…if he doesn’t think they’re important, then he doesn’t tell anyone.” Hermione’s voice had gone very soft. “I know that I had a few bad dreams this summer, what with everything. I didn’t even think about telling Harry about them.”

“Didn’t want to worry him?”

Hermione must have nodded her head, because Harry couldn’t hear her answer, but he knew that it must be the reason.

“Is that why you don’t want to tell me your dream, Ron?”

“No, not exactly.” Ron cleared his throat. “It’s just…kind of private, I guess…”

“Ron…”

“Really, Hermione, you don’t want to hear it.” There was a pause and Harry could almost imagine the look that Hermione was giving Ron. “Fine. But you won’t…you won’t say anything, even to Harry.”

Harry was starting to feel even more uncomfortable, he tried to concentrate on his reading, but couldn’t really block out the conversation.

“I promise, Ron.”

“All right. It was stupid, really. I dreamt we were at Hogwarts. It was…it was second year, when Harry and I went down to the Chamber of Secrets…”

“To find Ginny.”

“Yeah, only it was different this time. I mean, we still overheard the teachers talking in the staff room, and we still dragged Lockhart down with us, but…but it wasn’t Ginny who was down there. She wasn’t the one who had been taken.” Ron paused for so long that Harry thought he might not continue. But finally he started speaking again. “And when Lockhart brought the ceiling down on us, I was the one who got stuck on the other side alone, not Harry. So I went on into the Chamber and I saw her lying there, but it wasn’t Ginny and there was no Tom Riddle, no diary, no sword of Gryffindor. Just me and her and the basilisk. And I knew that I couldn’t save her. I knew that we were both going to die down there and I felt so…” Ron broke off with a strangled groan. “I felt really helpless. I felt like my whole life was a waste just because I couldn’t save her. And then the basilisk came. I didn’t really see it, but I heard it coming and I knew what would happen… And then I woke up.”

Harry sat frozen, listening to the silence. Then Hermione’s voice broke in softly.

“Who was it, Ron? If it wasn’t Ginny?”

Harry’s brow wrinkled in surprise. Hermione must know, she must have figured it out. Who else could it be?

Ron’s answer was just as quiet. “Who d’you think it was?”

“I think…I think it must have been me.”

Ron swallowed audibly. “Yeah. That’s who it was.”

There was a long silence in the kitchen before Hermione started speaking again.

“Thank you, Ron.”

“For what?”

“For coming to get me. Even if you knew you couldn’t save me.”

Ron didn’t say anything in response, but Harry could hear the sound of the chair legs scrapping against the floor and he thought Ron must have shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“And thanks for telling me, Ron. I know it was a really bad dream.”

“It seemed so real, you know?”

“I think so.”

Ron chuckled a little, but didn’t really sound amused. “Blimey, I think I’m going to have nightmares about my nightmare. D’you reckon Harry ever dreams about it? I mean, I never even got into the Chamber, I don’t know what it was really like. Must have been even worse than my dream.”

Harry leaned back his head thoughtfully, and decided that the Chamber had been worse than Ron’s dream. Finding Ginny like that, thinking she must be dead, meeting Tom, and the horror that slowly dawned on him about what had been going on all year long and how evil Riddle really was. It had definitely been worse.

“But Harry got out. He saved Ginny and he got out. He seemed all right afterward, maybe he didn’t have dreams about it.”

“D’you…d’you think Ginny dreams about it? She seemed all right too, but…how could she never dream about? I mean, it went on for her for months, not just a few hours. She must still have been really upset about it.”

“I…I think she did… How could she not? She must have…”

A loud scratch distracted Harry and he looked over at Ginny. She was still writing on her parchment, but there was now a large inkblot on it that she seemed to be ignoring. On closer inspection, Harry saw that her face was very white and that her eyes were shining suspiciously brightly. He leaned toward her to ask if she was all right, but the writing on the parchment caught his attention instead.

There was no essay on the parchment. There was a heading and what looked like the beginning of a paragraph, but the rest was nothing but gibberish words and phrases with various names from wizarding history scattered about. He saw his own name in there too, along with Hermione’s and Ron’s and the rest of the Weasleys. Towards the very end of the writing, right before the inkblot, written in slightly larger letters than most of the rest was the name, TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE.

Harry’s breath hitched in his throat. Ginny hadn’t been concentrating on her homework at all; she had been listening to the entire conversation. She had heard everything they said and she was still listening to them discuss whether or not she had nightmares after her first year.

Harry reacted without thinking. “Ginny?” he heard himself say.

Ginny looked up at him with watery eyes and Harry found himself at a loss. He knew that he should probably say something sensitive and comforting, but he hadn’t really thought anything out. Instead, he said the first thing that popped into his head.

“Er, do you want to play chess?”

Ginny blinked. “What?”

Harry berated himself silently and hurriedly tried to explain. “I mean, I can’t really concentrate on my reading, do you maybe want to play something while we wait?”

Ginny stared at him for a few moments, her brow slightly wrinkled. Then she nodded slowly. “All right. But not chess, I don’t think I’m awake enough for it.”

Harry scratched his head. “Ron’s got Exploding Snap cards and Gobstones in his room…” He wrinkled his nose; he didn’t really like Gobstones, but maybe Ginny did.

Ginny was getting some color back in her cheeks. “I’ve got some cards in my room, too. I’ll go get them.”

“I’ll do it,” Harry offered.

Ginny shook her head. “No, I’d rather do it.”

Harry nodded without saying anything. He reached over to cover her inkbottle as she closed her book and got up to go.

He pretended not to notice her hurriedly crumbling her parchment and stuffing it into the pocket of her robe.

//
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