Her Heart’s Desire
Hermione had set up camp in one of the empty classrooms on the third floor. She knelt in the middle of the floor, complicated runes drawn on the floor around her and a little wall mirror, borrowed from Parvati Patil, on a head-high stand in the precise center of the circle. She was so involved in her project that it took Ron three calls to get her attention. "Oy! Hermione! Hey, you! Know-it-all!"
She shook her hair out of her face and looked up. "What?"
"Notice how she answered to that one," Ron commented to Harry, who laughed. "Look, you," he said to Hermione, "we’re going down to dinner. Come on, leave your stuff, nobody’ll touch it."
"No, no, no," she said impatiently, consulting her book for the next rune. "I think I’ve almost got it."
"What’s all this?" he wanted to know, squinting at the floor.
"Ron! Get off!"
"What? I’m not--"
"You’re scuffing the runes--" She shoved him aside by the knees and scowled at the floor. "Aargh! That one took forever, too."
"What is this?" Harry wanted to know, looking down at the runes and then at the mirror.
She sat back on her heels. "Extra credit."
"Extra credit?" Ron's face crumpled with disgust. "Hermione, we’re not two weeks into the year!" His expression brightened with sudden hope. "Does this mean you've given up on house-elf rights?"
"No, it doesn't!" She turned her back on him and said to Harry, "You remember those Psychological Charms we were talking about in class? I asked Professor Flitwick if I could have a go at replicating one."
"The Mirror of Erised."
"Ah, no way!" Ron walked over the precise rune that Hermione had just spent five minutes drawing and peered into the mirror. "I don’t see anything but me," he called out. "You sure this is working right?"
"It’s not working at all," she said. "I’m trying to get the runes right, if someone would just stop scuffing them--"
She watched her lead pipe of a hint go sailing right over Ron’s fiery head, and sighed. How did the cleverest witch in fourth year have as her two best mates such a pair of goofuses?
Ron turned away from the mirror, his brows drawing together. "Professor Flitwick let you tackle this? Are you sure?"
Harry picked up the thread. "Yeah, Dumbledore made the last one. Isn't it awfully hard?"
Hermione busied herself with her rune books. "I didn't exactly tell him which spell I was going to try . . ."
Ron rolled his eyes. "Hermione, do you even know the meaning of the word overwork? You're definitely coming to dinner now."
"I’ll get something later," she said. "You go on."
"You sure?" Harry asked.
"I’ll be fine, really."
Ron reached for her elbow. "Hermione, it’s pork chops tonight. You know there’s never any leftovers from that if you're late. Come on, you’ll starve if you don’t come down now--"
She jerked away from his touch a little more quickly than she really meant to. "I’m not going to wilt away from waiting a bit to eat dinner, Ron! I’ve almost got it, another half hour should do it--"
"Fine," he grumbled. "C’mon, Harry, let’s go. I guess she doesn’t want us around."
He stomped off, Harry trailing after, and Hermione got back to her work.
Half an hour had been underestimating it, although it didn’t help that she had to redo the ones that Ron had walked on. It was closer to an hour later when she set the chalk aside, flexed her fingers, and stretched her arms above her head, wincing at the creak of joints. "Okay," she muttered. "Let’s see--" She bent over the library book again. "All right. Here we go."
The last layer of charms was the most complicated, as it was what stitched all the other charms together and forced them to work as one. Hermione made sure she had the pronunciation spot-on before she even attempted to say them.
Light flashed from every rune and bounced off the mirror. Hermione lowered her wand and blinked away the dancing purple spots that were left on her vision.
Had it worked?
She’d spent some time thinking about what she would see in her Mirror of Erised. Finally, she’d decided on herself with an armful of books she’d written--famous, respected books on magic--and surrounded by free and independent house-elves. What a wonderful picture!
She stepped delicately over the runes and approached the mirror. There was a figure in it--she blinked at the purple spots again--
It wasn’t her.
She gaped at the figure in the mirror, staring at the long nose . . . the crooked grin . . . the freckles, not yet faded from the summer . . . the fiery mop of hair.
Ron Weasley was her heart’s desire?
It was impossible!
She wanted--him? What for?
The answer came so quickly that she almost groaned. She wanted him. Just him.
She wanted him to look around a room and when he found her face, break out in a grin, just because he was looking at her. She wanted him to come up by her side when they were in the middle of a crowd and loop his arms around her waist without even asking her. She wanted to have the right to put her arms around him, and to--
She put her hands to her flaming face.
Ron Weasley, her heart’s desire? How could he--when had she--why would she ever--
Ron was just Ron, one of her dearest and best friends. He teased her and made fun of her all the time. He drove her crazy. He was such a boy, so thick-skulled they could have used his head as the end of a battering ram and any door in the world would give out first.
But he was also absolutely determined to take care of her. He tried to make her eat or sleep when he thought she was doing too much, which was practically all the time. Whenever anyone else--Malfoy, say--made fun of her, he leapt to her defense. He considered that teasing her was his job, and she ruddy well wasn’t going to have to take it from anyone else.
And at the end of last year, when she’d heard that awful crack of bone and seen him disappearing into the Whomping Willow, her heart had all but stopped . . .
Somewhere in the past three years, being one of his best mates had started falling short. She couldn't pinpoint where or when it had happened. Maybe it didn't matter. All she knew, in this frozen, eternal, blinding moment, was that it wasn't enough anymore.
Wondering, agape, she’d just lifted her hand to touch the surface of the mirror, when his voice said right in her ear, "So--is it working?"
He jolted backward. "Whoa! Jumpy, a bit?"
She stared at him--the real him, not the reflected him--with her heart beating wildly. "What are you doing?"
He held out his hands. "Bringing your dinner, you nutter." He was carrying four pork chops, two in each fist.
"Sorry, Hermione," Harry said from outside the circle. He held several rolls and what looked like a plate of pudding. "It looked like you were done."
"I am done--" She darted a glance at the mirror, which reflected Ron’s face exactly as he stood before her. "I--think."
Had it worked? Had it really showed her what she wanted most of all? Or was there some strange flaw within the layers of charms she’d laid down?
She backed away, so there was nothing between Ron and the mirror. "Ron, what do you see?" She knew what he’d seen last time--they’d told her when she got back from the holidays.
Ron tilted his head one way, then the other. "Nothing."
"You. The room. Hey . . . hey! I don’t see me! What good’s a mirror you don’t see yourself in?"
Harry grinned widely. "Don’t you get it, mate? Your deepest, most desperate desire is to become invisible."
Ron started eating one of the chops he carried. "Right, exactly! Then I could sneak into the girls’ shower--"
Totally disgusted, Hermione picked up the book and her bit of chalk and shoved them savagely into her bag. "You know, the two of you together might have just enough brains to fill an eggcup. Give that food here, before Ron gobbles the lot."
Harry gave her his plate, then took the three remaining chops away from Ron and passed them on as well. "Don’t worry about it, Hermione, you’ll get it."
"Yeah," Ron said through his mouthful, "maybe in time for our grandchildren to use it."
"Shut up," she muttered, tearing a roll in half.
It hadn't shown Ron his deepest desire. It had shown him her, and he couldn't--
She looked up at him. He pulled his hand back from her plate of pudding and grinned with all the innocence of a baby shark. She glared. He laughed, grabbed a roll, and started playing catch with Harry.
No. No, of course not.
What she’d seen in the mirror really had been Ron--the real Ron, not anything that her own mind had put there. She must have flubbed up on one of the charms, and all it did was blank out the viewer’s image, while still showing everything else. It hadn’t been her deepest, most desperate desire. How silly, to think that Ron was what she wanted--
Her own practicality said sharply, Don’t be stupid.
It would be silly to deny what she now knew. Whether or not all the charms were working as they should, whether or not she’d made herself a true Mirror of Erised, the little hand mirror had still shown her a desire she’d never suspected within herself.
She snuck a sideways look at Ron. He’d shoved the entire roll in his mouth and was attempting to chew. She shook her head. Couldn’t she desire someone who acted a wee bit more like a grown-up?
But then he wouldn’t be Ron.
What was she going to do now?