Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, Time Warners Bros, and various publishers (Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Inc., etc.). No money is being made off of this and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Ada Kensington, my awesome beta-reader, without whose wonderful suggestion there wouldn’t be this story in the first place.
by Shina Laris
The bell rang loudly, announcing the end of the last class in the day. Noises began to rise in the normally silent Transfiguration classroom as the seventh years hurriedly stuffed their books, parchments, and quills into their bags. Apparently, none of them could wait to begin their last weekend at Hogwarts. Some had even begun to dart out of the classroom in haste when Professor McGonagall interrupted them with a swift reminder. “By the way, please read the last chapter of Advanced Transfiguration and write an essay on the permanent consequences of a flawed self-transformation. It is to be turned in on Tuesday.”
Professor McGonagall turned towards her desk with a small smile, gathering her notes and books while promptly ignoring the groans and complaints following the unwelcoming assignment. In fact, the only person who didn’t seem to have anything to mumble under her breath about was Hermione. She had evidently expected it. Ron, however, hadn’t.
Completely disgruntled, Ron shoved his Advanced Transfiguration copy into his bag before scurrying out of the classroom, not bothering to wait for his two best friends. Now he had another essay from McGonagall to add to Snape’s and Sprout’s homework, and it was the week before school ended! Without a doubt, he was not very happy.
It was a minute before Harry and Hermione caught up with him as he rounded the corner to the first floor staircase.
“Would you believe them?” Ron asked his friend in a disgusted voice as Harry slowed down and tried to catch his breath. “Three essays! I mean, it’s the final week of school!”
When Harry finally got his breath back, he nodded in affirmative to Ron’s question. Hermione, however, was scoffing at them.
Ron glared at her. “What?”
“I can’t believe you two haven’t expected this,” said Hermione impatiently, climbing the staircase and trying to keep up with Ron’s long strides. “None of the professors have let us off the last week of the school year before. I’d imagine you would’ve learned that by now.”
“But this is our last year, Hermione!” objected Ron, staring at Hermione as though she were mad – which, he figured, she probably was.
“That doesn’t change anything, does it?” asked Hermione briskly, pursing her lips in a manner reminiscent of Professor McGonagall. “There’s still another week left before the school year ends.”
Ron stopped gawking at Hermione long enough to exchange an incredulous look with Harry, who obviously shared his opinions in the matter. Nobody would classify giving students stacks of homework the week before the school ended as normal. But then, Hermione wasn’t normal, either. She was in a special group of her own.
And that’s what makes her Hermione, Ron thought, slowing down a little as he noticed that Hermione was slightly out of breath in trying to keep up with him. He gave Harry a final shrug in Hermione’s direction, indicating that she was definitely crazy – to which Harry agreed heartily – before lapsing into silence for the rest of the way back to Gryffindor common room.
Long stretches of awkward silence existed amongst them a lot lately, despite all the reasons that should have led to happiness. The war with Voldemort was finally over, and the right side had won – something that was quite evident from the beginning. Light always triumphs over darkness. Why the Death Eaters couldn’t see that was beyond Ron. But they would have the rest of their lives to ponder about that in Azkaban, a place where they deserved to be in, considering all that they had done – and, obviously, none of those had been anything remotely good.
Ron couldn’t have cared less about the fates of the Death Eaters. They could rot in Azkaban for all he cared – actually, he would rather like it if they did rot in there. He had no trouble remembering how they had kidnapped Hermione as bait to lure Harry out of the safety line of Hogwarts… and of Dumbledore. Angers flared hotly inside him as the image of a stunned Hermione stumbled onto the earth, with pains evident on every line of her face, flickered in his mind. They all deserved to die for that alone.
Perhaps the most miraculous thing was they all got out of it alive, even when, in numerous times, they had given up hope on ever seeing each other again – at least not in this life. That alone should have been enough for celebration. Plus, they were finally done with their N.E.W.T.s, the one thing that Hermione had looked forward to this entire year (and the one thing that would never fail to nauseate Ron and Harry every time it was mentioned!). Given how Hermione had driven them to study for it days and nights, even in the midst of warfare, it was perfectly understandable that neither of the boys wished to hear the word ‘N.E.W.T.s’ again for the rest of their existences.
When they reached the Gryffindor Tower, Ron stepped up to the Fat Lady and muttered the password (Forget-me-not). The portrait swung open and the three of them climbed in as the Fat Lady called after them, “I won’t, dears!”
Being the last to get in, Harry closed the portrait behind him, grimacing slightly.
“She’s off her rocker, that one,” Ron declared, throwing his bag down on the far side of the couch and slumping down next to it.
“Yeah,” Harry said wearily, nodding as he sat down next to Ron.
“But she does have a point,” Hermione observed, pointedly, choosing the armchair opposite of them and opening her bag. “It is our final year here, you know.”
Ron snorted. “Oh, is it now?”
Hermione paused midway in taking her Herbology book out of her bag and glanced at him, eyes filled with annoyance. “My point is,” she said loftily, “she’s just trying to remind us that even when we’ve finished with our school years, we shouldn’t forget our time here. Neither should we forget all the friends that we’ve made here despite… despite the fact that we wouldn’t be able to see each other everyday anymore.” Her tone had softened considerably as she finished her sentence. She stared down at her opened book, not looking at either of them.
There was an eerie moment of silence in spite of the constant, raucous buzzing of conversation in the Gryffindor common room before Harry broke it. “We’ll never forget, Hermione,” he said quietly.
Hermione looked up at him, the corners of her lips tilting up a little before she shifted her gaze to Ron, who was staring at her rather intently. Quickly, Ron diverted his eyes, feeling himself getting a bit warm, especially at the ears.
He could sense Hermione’s expectant gaze on him, and he knew she was expecting him to say something… anything. But Ron couldn’t say it. Worlds simply had failed him. His mind was still trying to fully grasp the idea of not seeing his best friends, whom he had spent the best part of the last seven years with, frequently from now on.
Sure, the fact that there was another world besides that of Hogwarts didn’t escape him, but stepping away from Hogwarts and into it seemed so far away to Ron. He had always known that it would happen ‘someday,’ but that ‘someday’ was always a part of a hazy future, existing in an entirely different universe that had no tie to the old castle he had learned to call home for the large part of his relatively short life.
Now, it was merely a week away. After this week, his life would enter a whole new phase – a phase he wasn’t at all sure he was ready to enter.
He was excited about his training to be an Auror, that much he wouldn’t deny. But his excitement was reduced to almost nothing in comparison to his unwillingness to be separated from his friends. They wouldn’t get to see each other everyday anymore, due to their different careers; even if they could see each other everyday by Apparition, it just wouldn’t be the same…
“Ron?” Hermione’s voiced asked uncertainly, sounding as though she couldn’t make anything out of Ron’s silence.
Ron snapped out of his reverie at Hermione’s worried tone and glanced to meet her questioning eyes. What his gaze held, he didn’t know, but the crease on Hermione’s forehead appeared and her eyebrows crinkled together slightly upon meeting it.
“Are you all right, Ron?” she asked, slightly concerned.
Ron’s eyebrow quirked up. “’Course I’m all right. Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Well – you looked a bit…” she hesitated, still staring at him anxiously. After a few seconds, during which Ron looked at Hermione reassuringly and tried to convince her that he was absolutely fine, Hermione shook her head. “Never mind,” she said, with a small smile. “Anyway, how do you think we’re going to see each other after Hogwarts?” Despite her optimistic demeanour, her voice held a note of sadness that even Ron couldn’t miss.
He shrugged, unwilling to show that he was also unhappy at the prospect of leaving Hogwarts. “Dunno,” he answered casually. “I reckon we can always Apparate to each other’s flat, can’t we?”
“Yeah,” said Hermione, but she didn’t look any more cheerful. “So – er – are you two going to share the same flat?”
The two boys exchanged a thoughtful glance. “Maybe.” It was Harry who answered. “But that depends on whether we both get the N.E.W.T.s we need to become Aurors or not.”
Hermione could change from being sad to sarcastic in fractions of second, which she did now. Giving them both haughty glares, Hermione said, “Well, if you had listened to me to begin with, and started studying at the beginning of the year, you wouldn’t be worrying about your marks right now! But no, you’ve got to shirk your responsibilities until last minute possible –”
“Hermione,” Ron interrupted pointedly, leaning back into the couch. “We’re talking about flats, not N.E.W.T. marks.” It must have been the hundredth time that Hermione admonished them for cramming in the week before the N.E.W.T. exams, and Ron was tired of it. There needed to be a set number of times for everything.
After a last glare, mostly at him rather than at Harry, Hermione agreed appeared to have decided not to change the subject. “I wish I could share the same flat with you two,” she said.
“You could, you know,” was Ron’s answer. The fact that the three of them could still stay together after Hogwarts by sharing a flat had never occurred to him before for some bizarre reasons. It was a brilliant idea, too, except, of course, Hermione had already found a problem with it, just as she would find a problem with everything he had ever suggested.
“I was joking, Ron. My mum would kill me if I share a flat alone with two boys, even if you two are my best friends. Besides, my parents have already rented me a flat and paid a year for it as my graduation gift. I couldn’t pass it up.”
“Yeah,” Ron muttered, trying to keep the disappointment in his voice to the minimal. If there was one thing Ron hated, it was having his bubbles burst.
As much as Ron tried to hide it, Harry heard the disappointment nonetheless, and sent a sympathetic look his way, which, from the look of it, had multiple layers. Ron could only guess what one of them might be. Presently, Harry spoke up to soothe the growing, uncomfortable silence between them.
“I think maybe we should do our homework or something…” he suggested, earning a particularly dirty look from Ron.
Couldn’t he have chosen a subject that doesn’t involve work? Ron thought disgustedly. There’re only a million subjects out there fitting such description.
Pointedly ignoring Ron’s glare, Harry turned towards Hermione, awaiting her answer, which Ron could guess in his sleep. Typically, Hermione smiled at Harry and replied, “Good idea, Harry! We really should do it right now, so we won’t have so much homework for the rest of the weekend.”
“Well done, Harry,” Ron muttered under his breath.
“Either that or ‘the subject,’ Ron,” whispered Harry, grinning. It took Ron a second to fully understand what ‘the subject’ meant, and when he did, he could feel his face begin to heat up again.
“Shut up, Harry!” Ron hissed, throwing a furious glance in Hermione’s direction. That won him another significant grin from Harry, to which he responded with a frustrated growl.
Hermione looked up from her parchment, which was already filled with half a foot of tiny handwriting, and frowned at them irritably. “Well?” she demanded. “Aren’t you two supposed to be doing your essays?”
After giving Harry a last huffy glance, Ron reached down, opened his bag, and hauled out his Transfiguration book and quills. It was all Harry’s fault.
“Half a teaspoon of moonstone powder… two minutes… swirl in counter clockwise direction…” Ron muttered as he flipped quickly through yellow pages of the old, tattered copy of Encyclopaedia of Lesser Known Potions. It had been nearly two hours of frustration, and he was still barely two inches into his Potions essay. If it were Hermione, the essay would have been long since finished with at least an extra six inches for Snape to grade. But now, it was him, Ron, sitting here and unsuccessfully trying to research a very little known potion in a book with more than two thousand pages, so the essay would likely to remain unfinished until midnight. However, it wasn’t his fault that he had not the faintest idea in the area of researching – that was Hermione’s field!
Something she’s definitely good at, he thought, with a fond smile.
True. Through all the dangerous things they’d done, researching and knowledge were always things that Hermione did best. That was not to say that was all Hermione excelled in. No, she was good at so many things that it’d take hours for him to list them all. But those were amongst the first few virtues that would jump into the minds of those who knew Hermione.
The noun? ‘Know-it-all’ would express all that needed to be said (when it was put in a nice and sincere way, of course). It was the noun that Ron had called her every so often; most of the time, it was spoken out of frustration, but the undertone was something completely different. Fondness and pride were just the beginning of the list almost as long as Hermione’s accomplishments. However, frustration was perhaps the only emotion Hermione noticed when he uttered the name, for he had done his best to suppress all the others.
As one of Hermione’s best friends, Ron knew well enough that although Hermione sometimes prided herself to be a know-it-all, it wasn’t necessarily the nickname she’d liecessarily the nickname she’d li the adjective she wanted others to think about when her name was mentioned. That was very well; she was proud of them, but she also desperately wanted to prove that she was more than just brains. He knew all these, but it would be a long time before he even thought of telling Hermione such thing.
“– No way! He’s too much of a blockhead to even realise it yet, let alone do anything about it.”
“He must have known it to some extend. And plus, it isn’t as if he has a lot of time left to do it. He has to do it sometime this week.”
Frustrated, part with himself, part with the instigators of the above argument, Ron glanced up at them with half the mind to use his prefect privilege and impose upon them to ‘shut it!’ in order for him to concentrate on his essay, when he fond out that ‘they’ were Dean and Seamus. Had they been anyone else, he’d tell them to shut up right then and there, but with those two, a simple ‘shut up’ would not do the least bit damage. They’d simply wave it away with a few laughs and continue on. They had never taken him seriously, like they had Hermione.
If Hermione were here, she would unhesitantly make them write lines of the rest of their lives. However, Ron just wasn’t in the practice of making his friends write lines, even if they did disrupt the common room’s atmosphere. But he couldn’t deny the fact that he was really tempted to at the moment.
Especially when the bickering continued and began to branch off in a direction he didn’t like at all.
“– I think she’d be the one to do it,” Seamus said, looking very convinced of his opinion. “Lavender says she’s becoming a bit impatient, but I don’t think they’re gonna get together anytime soon though.”
Dean waved away his friend’s argument. “Nah, they’re gonna get together soon, all right. It’s been four years! Even they would’ve had it across to their heads by now.”
“Uh, it’s those two we’re talking about? But even if they did get it across, which I doubt, it’ll still be a long time before either of them does anything about it. If they’re done being in denial, then they’re still too coward to dare make the first move.”
“Just what are you two arguing about?” Ron snapped, at the end of his tether, inadvertently slamming the thick volume shut before remembering what page he was on. He’d have to start all over again.
He glared at the two boys, irritated, as if it were all their fault – which it partly was, he reminded himself.
Dean and Seamus, however, did not seem to have noticed. Instead, they paused slightly in their argument and exchanged a significant look before Dean spoke up.
“We’re discussing when you and Hermione are going to get together,” he explained calmly.
“Well, isn’t obvious that’s what we’re discussing?”
That was completely beside the point but Ron was too dumfounded to care. “Me and Hermione getting together? Are you two insane?”
“Yeah,” agreed Seamus, walking over and slapping Ron on the shoulder. “That’s what I told him. But does he listen? Of course not!”
“Just what are you agreeing with, Seamus?” Dean asked, raising an eyebrow and grinning. “That Ron and Hermione are getting together? Or that we’re insane? If it’s the former, then I’m the right one. If it’s the later, then please leave me out of it. If you want to be insane, then be my guest. But I’d rather be sane, thank you very much.”
There was essentially nothing Seamus could have replied to that, but still he opened his mouth to retort, presumably with something of sardonic content. However, it was never spoken, for he never got the chance to do so.
“Wait a minute!” Ron cut in before Seamus could utter a word. “What do you mean you’re right?” he demanded of Dean. “Me and Hermione getting together? That’s completely rubbish!”
“Oh, don’t even bother to deny it, Ron,” Dean said, half sniggering at the look on Ron’s face. “It’s obvious you’re crazy about Hermione.”
“No, I’m not!”
“You’re not what?” asked a familiar voice from the portrait hole direction. Ron glanced over to the speaker, and realised with sudden dread and acute embarrassment that it was Hermione. He got to his feet so fast that he was sure he couldn’t have been quicker had a Death Eater directed sneak attacks at him. Had she heard? He couldn’t be sure from the way she looked at him, but she would know shortly anyway from the way Dean and Seamus were acting.
“N-nothing,” Ron stammered out as Hermione’s face acquired a puzzled look when she strolled towards him, one arm hauling the well-used bag over her shoulder as the other clutching the newly checked out books close to her chest. Quickly, Ron did two Silencing Charms over his shoulders at the two sniggering boys. The snickers vanished instantly.
“What’s with them?” Hermione questioned, eyeing Dean and Seamus with amused puzzlement. Seamus was guffawing without letting out a sound while Dean was trying to say something between fits of sniggers, which were all in silence.
“Er – nothing.”
“Did you perform the Silencing Charms on them?”
“And why would you do that?” she asked, eyeing him suspiciously, clearly intrigued.
Ron felt a bit more uncomfortable – as if he weren’t uncomfortable enough already. “They… they were disrupting the common room,” he said lamely.
“Oh?” Hermione glanced back at the two boys who were gesturing mutely with their hands signs that all pointed to him lying.
“Sod off,” Ron hissed at them out of the corner of his mouth, although Hermione was sure to have heard it. After a few seconds of complete torture for Ron, they left, arms still making gestures that Ron would give anything just to get in front of Hermione’s vision line to prevent her from seeing them right then.
It was not ten seconds after Dean and Seamus left that Harry climbed into the common room and walked towards them. He looked from one of them to the other before asking, “Er – what is it?”
Ron shrugged, not keen upon filling Harry in on what he had missed. Harry would just react in the same way the other two had.
But Hermione, not understanding anything, said, “It’s Seamus and Dean. They were acting really weird… as if they were trying to say something.”
“Why didn’t they just say it then?”
“Ron put Silencing Charms on them,” she answered, jerking her head in his direction and still wearing that same amused expression on her face. “From what I’ve gathered, they obviously knew something Ron isn’t keen on letting everybody know.”
It only took Harry a second to realise just what Ron was trying his best to keep quiet. However, if Dean and Seamus were already on it, it wouldn’t be long before the whole school knows about it.
“Oh really, Ron?” Harry asked with a knowing smile as he sat on the couch.
Ron groaned and flopped down beside Harry, burying his face in his hands, muttering, “Not you too, Harry.”
Harry simply laughed.
“Am I the only one who doesn’t know what this secret is about?” Hermione demanded when Harry had stopped laughing his head off and had now leaned back to still his quickened breathing.
He pretended to screw up his eyes as if he were trying hard to think. “Yeah, just about so.”
Hermione turned abruptly towards Ron, indignation and hurt in her eyes. “Why I am being kept out of this? Am I not your best friend, too?”
“Of course you are!” said Ron hastily, throwing an angry look in Harry’s way. “It’s just that – it’s something I can’t tell you… yet.”
“Yet?” Hermione queried, irritably. “And just what do you mean by ‘yet’?” Her voice was getting louder as she spoke. “Everybody else knows about it!”
“But I didn’t tell them!” protested Ron. “I swear I’ve never told anybody about it. I – I don’t know how they all figured it out.”
Hermione scoffed. “That’s a highly unlikely story. How can everybody know about it if you never told them?”
“I didn’t make that up. It’s the truth! And besides, not everybody knows about it. Only Harry, Dean, and Seamus do.”
“There’re definitely more than that,” muttered Harry from the sideline of the fight that was raging on.
“Shut up, Harry!” Ron hissed at his best friend, beginning to feel panicked. He would not, must not, let her know a thing about it…
“Oh, so now you’re lying, too?” Hermione demanded, giving him a pained glare.
“I don’t –”
“It’s because I’m a girl, isn’t it?” she asked bitterly. “If I were a boy, both of you wouldn’t have kept me out of it, isn’t that right?”
I wouldn’t even have this problem if you were a boy, thought Ron. However, he explained hurriedly, “No, it’s not!” Trying to make her see the point without spilling out his entire secret wasn’t easy. “It’s not because you’re a girl. Well, it is… partly. B-but it’s not what you think it is. It’s not because you’re a girl, but b-because you’re a…” he struggled for the right word, “…a special girl.” He couldn’t believe he had just said that. What could have been more obvious?
In spite of the obviousness of it all, it didn’t seem as if Hermione had picked up on his strange word choice, at least not for the context he intended for it to hold. “Don’t bother explaining, Ron,” said Hermione coldly, as she hauled her bag over her shoulders before standing up. “I know just what kind of special girl I am. You don’t need to remind me.” With that, she hurried towards the girls’ dormitories without waiting for him to answer.
“Wait!” Ron called after her retreating back. Just what did she mean? “Listen to me, Hermione! I didn’t mean –” He never got the chance to finish his sentence, however, as Hermione had hurried out of sight.
Feeling extremely confused, he turned towards Harry, face begging for an explanation. “What was she talking about?”
“Er – I’m not sure,” Harry said slowly, “but I think she took in the word ‘special’ as a negative form of know-it-all.”
“B-but, I didn’t mean it that way!”
“I know you didn’t mean it that way, but Hermione certainly doesn’t.” A moment of silence elapsed before Harry continued, “Sorry, Ron. I shouldn’t have teased you. It wouldn’t have turned out this way if it weren’t for me.”
Normally, Ron wouldn’t have let Harry off the hook, but upon hearing his best friend’s apology, he felt he didn’t have the energy and the heart to say anything sarcastic back. “That’s all right, Harry,” he said, miserably. “It would’ve happened anyway. You know we’d manage to get into a fight even without your help. It’s not really your fault.”
“I was only trying to help.”
Ron gave him a half-hearted grin. “Then all you need to do is stop trying to help me with this from now on.”
To his surprise, Harry’s answer was, “Maybe that’d be a good idea. But I just want to give you some last advice. You really should ask her out sometime soon, or at least tell her how you feel. It’s nearly the end of school, Ron. You probably won’t get as much chances to tell her your feelings after next week. Know what I mean? Don’t let her get away.”
“But how can I let her get away when I haven’t even got her in the first place? And what if she doesn’t like me more than a friend?”
Ron’s full attention was snapped back into place. “She does? How do you know? Did she tell you that?”
“No. That’s what I guess from all the obviousness flying around. I guessed your feelings right, so I have as much of a chance getting her feelings right, too.”
“But what if you’re wrong? What if she doesn’t like me? It would be the end of our friendship if I ask her now.”
Harry sighed. “You have to take the chance, Ron. Life isn’t full of certainties. At least it’s better than liking her and not letting her know.”
“B-but, I just can’t go up to her and tell her I like her!” Ron protested, feeling embarrassed at telling Harry all this, but once he had got going, he just couldn’t help spilling everything out.
“Oh yes you can,” contradicted Harry. “Anybody can. I asked your sister out, didn’t I? And did it jeopardise my friendship with her? Well, at first I thought so, but it didn’t. It only turned out for the better. Just take the chance, Ron. You don’t have many chances left to choose.”
Harry’s steady and public relationship with his sister was something Ron was still trying to get used to after four months since that Valentine’s Day. He didn’t oppose of it, of course, as he had constituted in the formation of it. Despite what Hermione had told him of Harry discovering it for himself, Ron still thought he had helped Harry a lot. All those tips about Ginny were bound to be helpful sometimes, granted they were told from a brother’s and not a boyfriend’s view.
However, he didn’t answer Harry’s questions, even though they were all true. His doubts were too strong for assurance to override just then.
To the right, he heard Harry sigh again and joke, “Well, if you can’t say it out loud, then write something to her!”
But Ron took it more than a joke and thought that it was much better idea than all that he’d heard for nearly a month. “What d’you mean, ‘something’? Like a… like a love letter?” he asked, shuddering slightly at the thought. How in the world was he supposed to write something as mushy as that?
Harry seemed to be reading his thoughts, for he agreed readily, “No, definitely not a love letter. I don’t think Hermione would go for that.” He was lost in thoughts for a moment, then his face brightened. “How about a poem?”
“A poem?” Ron asked incredulously.
“Yes, a poem!”
“But I can’t write –”
“It doesn’t matter whether you can write a good poem or not; as long as it’s a poem that tells her how you feel, it works.”
“You’re nuts,” Ron declared, staring at Harry with the bemused expression on his face.
Harry shrugged. “Hey, it’s your choice! That’s all the advice I have.”
Ron just shook his head and tried to return to his Potions essay, still thinking that what Harry had suggested was well beyond crazy. However, after a while, the craziness of it all seemed to abate and, for once, he thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea as he had formerly thought it to be.
There was absolute silence, and darkness besieged every occupant of the seventh-year Gryffindor girls’ dormitory. The only source of light was from the full moon pouring in through the small window that faced the Forbidden Forest, casting a pale strip of light that wavered across the floor, illuminating anything it came to contact with.
For the past few years, ever since she knew about her former professor’s transformation each lunar month, Hermione had always thought about him every time the full moon came out. She felt for him, because nobody (at least nobody sensible) would like to be a werewolf, to have to turn into a wolf every full moon. That obviously wasn’t inviting. And it wasn’t fair that some had harder lives than others, especially someone as nice as Professor Lupin. However, fate doesn’t take each person’s personality into consideration when dealing out its judgement.
But tonight was an exceptional night. She had not spared a thought for Lupin the moment she slumped down onto bed, feeling decidedly worse than she had felt in days. And of course, the origin of it was Ron, again. It was always Ron. She would be glad if it were someone else for a change, but no one could rile her up and break her heart at the same time the way Ron could.
Before, it was through his words that had angered her, but now, she was unhappy because he wasn’t telling her something. She could always tell when the two of them were attempting to hide some secrets, especially when they acted as suspiciously as that. Normally, after a little badgering, she would get whatever it was out of them, but this time, it seemed that Ron had truly refused to tell her.
Had he told only Harry, then she would’ve understood it even though she wouldn’t have liked it, as it would mostly be ‘guy’ stuff that you can only share with your best mate. That wasn’t the case this time, however, since both Dean and Seamus also knew about it. The fact proved it wasn’t a top secret, and why Ron would keep her out of something like that was beyond her. She had proven herself to be as careful as either of them about keeping secrets, perhaps even more so. From the way Ron had obviously showed his reluctance to tell her… well, it hurt.
It hurt so much more knowing that she had fallen for him. Badly. But not only did he not like her (which was apparent), he also distrusted her as well, and the knowledge wasn’t comforting. Far from it, actually. It was hard to believe that, after seven years of knowing each other and being best friends, he still kept her out of things that any best friend would’ve been comfortable sharing with each other.
Nevertheless, if he did not trust her enough to impart with her whatever secret he was holding back, it couldn’t be possible that he should have any feelings for her, despite what Ginny might think. Although she was his little sister, Ginny didn’t know Ron half as well as Hermione did, for her understanding of him was influenced partly by her view of him as a young boy, when they were still very close. Of course, they were still close now, but Ginny didn’t know him now the way Harry and Hermione did. Or, on Hermione’s part, as well as she thought she did.
Suddenly, she perked up slightly, tilting her head towards the dormitory’s door and listening intently for a passing sound to reoccur. The sound was very faint, but she could discern it being a distinct sound of shattering glass. And it had come from the common room. It didn’t reoccur, however, and after a few minutes, during which Hermione tiptoed out of her bed and put on her dressing gown, she was out of her dormitory and on the staircases, leading down to the common room.
Who could possibly still be awake? It was at least two hours past midnight, and everybody should be sounded asleep. Evidently, somebody wasn’t…
Before she descended the last steps of the staircase, Hermione could make out the hazy form adjacent to the fireplace, crouching over the table. As she drew nearer, she was surprised to find that the hazy form turned out to be the one person whom she had no intention of seeing at that moment: Ron Weasley.
She stood in silence for a few seconds, trying to choose between approaching him and quietly going back to her bed. Deciding that the later would be much more pleasant, Hermione tried to creep upstairs noiselessly, but that wasn’t possible in the eerily quiet atmosphere of the common room after midnight.
Ron’s head snapped up instantly at a very silent noise she had inadvertently made, and his eyes widened in surprise upon seeing her. “Hermione?”
His reaction suddenly turned into panic, and he hastily shoved a piece of parchment he had on the table into his bag. Surely it wasn’t any homework that he was doing. She wondered briefly just what it might be.
“What are you doing here?” Ron demanded, still sounding a bit panicked. His expressions were composed – except for the frown lingering on his face and the flush rising to his cheeks. “How long have you been here?”
Hermione shrugged as she turned around from her retreat and strolled towards Ron. “It hasn’t been long. I was only here because I heard, or thought I heard, glass breaking down here and thought I should see if anybody’s here. I certainly wasn’t expecting you to still be studying.”
At the mention of this, Ron’s face seemed to flush deeper. Only then did Hermione notice a big, black blot on the floor, still fresh, that was perhaps the result of whatever had just shattered. Her presumption was proven right by the almost empty ink bottle that looked as if it had just been put together by a careless Reparo.
She shook her head to herself and muttered a spell to wipe out the ink before she sat down gingerly on the couch, unsure of whether she was welcomed at this particular moment.
“Er – thanks, Hermione,” Ron muttered lamely while putting all the Potions books scattering over the table away.
“You’re welcome,” replied Hermione quietly. After this, she couldn’t think of any thing else to say, and neither could Ron, so a long period of uncomfortable silence settled in, stretching every excruciating seconds out to what felt like minutes. Before the silence became too awkward, Hermione rummaged her mind for something to say, and finally came up with, “So, what were you doing? Your Potions homework?” She thought back to the outstretched books that were lying on the table before he put them away.
Somehow, Ron seemed to turn redder than he had previously. “No. Not my Potions homework.”
Hermione frowned. “Oh. So you’re finished with it, then?”
“No – I’m not.”
She was becoming more confused by the seconds. “You’re not? Then what were you doing? And why did you put your books away? Shouldn’t you be finishing it now?”
Ron merely shrugged, and she couldn’t tell if he chose not to answer or he was incapable of answering. He played with the quill in his hand, and his attention soon focused on it instead of her.
“Sorry ’bout earlier.”
“Huh?” Hermione glanced up at Ron’s voice, which had abruptly cut into her thoughts. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
“I – I just want to apologise about what I said earlier,” he mumbled, and Hermione had to strain her ears to decipher what he was saying. “I didn’t mean for it to come out like that, and I certainly did not want to imply that you’re a know-it-all. Well, you sort of are, but hey!” he added hastily, “that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Know-it-all is a good thing, you know. At least you excel in every subject!”
Hermione glowered at him slightly, but she couldn’t deny that something nice was swelling beneath her chest. She didn’t want to talk about their earlier fight, and would rather pretend that it never happened, but if Ron wanted to say something about it, at least apologising was a good idea on his part.
“But that’s not what I meant by ‘special’,” he continued. “It – it has to do with what I’m not telling you –”
The swelling in her heart depleted almost completely at that. She did not want to think about him keeping secrets from her, at least not when Seamus and Dean were enlightened as to what it was.
As if he was able to read her thoughts, Ron said hastily, “Please don’t misunderstand me, Hermione. It’s not that I don’t want you to know it, but it’s just not the right time yet. And believe me when I said that I never told Dean and Seamus about it. They figured it out themselves.”
It was a long second before Hermione answered slowly, “All right. I believe you.” Almost instantly, relief washed over Ron’s freckled face, and she could tell that he was trying hard not to smile. “However, I want to know just when you’ll let me on whatever you’re hiding.”
That was all it took to prevent the smile from spreading across his face. He suddenly became very fidgety. “Well, I – that –”
“Ron,” Hermione intercepted warningly. “I won’t wait a year for you to tell me what you’re keeping me out of.”
In his condition, Ron was obviously trying his best to think of the best solution to the present problem, and finally, a resigned look appeared on his face, announcing he had come to a solution he didn’t particularly like. “All right,” he sighed, sounding as though he would regret what he was about to say. “I’ll tell you on the Hogwarts Express.”
That was a week away, but Hermione felt that she shouldn’t complain right now. “Promise?” she questioned, feeling a smile tug at the corners of her mouth.
Ron struggled to look sober, but it wasn’t long before a smile spread out across his face. “Promise.”
For some reason, she couldn’t stop grinning at him as though she were a little girl and he had just handed her a huge bag of Honeydukes sweets.
“Do you need to do anything else?”
“No,” Ron answered, glancing briefly at his bag. “I reckon we should maybe try and get some sleep tonight.”
“That sounds like a good idea to me,” Hermione replied, happily. She pushed her hands flat against the seat and stood up, walking towards the spiral staircase. She paused slightly and turned around at Ron, who was picking up his bag and swinging it over his shoulders. “Good-night, Ron,” she said.
Ron looked at her. “’Night, Hermione,” he said. “And… Errr… Sorry for keeping you up.”
She smiled at him lingeringly. “That’s all right.” She wouldn’t have been able to sleep before, anyway, and from the way she was feeling right now, she was sure she would be awake for at least another hour.
The train was whistling loudly as the students rushed to the doors. Ron, Harry, and Hermione stood still and looked back at the castle, which appeared very small on the other side of the lake, partly hidden by the Forbidden Forest. It looked much more worn than it had seven years ago, mostly due to the damage it sustained during the final stages of the war. However, now that the war was over, Hogwarts was returning to normal, both on the surface and in spirit.
Ron thought that, aside from Hermione, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life. It was also his home for seven years, and now he had to leave it behind and find new home for himself. As much as he hated the thoughts, he couldn’t deny it. Luckily, he was also prepared for it.
Saying goodbye wasn’t always easy, especially to something so dear to you. But it was a must. And he needed to look to the positive side of the future instead of dwelling in the past. He glanced fleetingly at Hermione. He hoped that she would also be in his future, or else there’d be no positive side to it. A dreadful feeling began to spread from his gut through his body as he remembered that today would be the day that his future would be decided. He hadn’t forgotten his promise to Hermione a week ago, the promise that he now wished he hadn’t made.
“Hurry up, Ron!” Harry called from the door with Hermione standing next to him.
“All right, all right, I’m coming!” he shouted back, running quickly and jumping on the train as it slowly moved.
After catching his breath, he followed Harry and Hermione to a compartment Ginny had already saved for the four of them. All throughout the journey back, he felt and acted very tense, dreading the moment when he’d have to let Hermione in on his secret. He still couldn’t believe he had promised her that. Regret filled him as he began to lose the nerves he had worked up the night before.
After the food cart had passed, and after Ron refused to eat the large pile of sweets and chocolates, Ginny made an exasperated noise. “What’s wrong with you, Ron?” she exclaimed, with a half-sympathetic, half-annoyed look. “I know you’re sad about leaving Hogwarts and all, but you don’t have to be that way, you know. Neither Harry nor Hermione is taking it anywhere nearly as bad as you.”
“Acting what way?” Ron frowned at her confusedly; half of his mind was still in his own reverie.
“You’re acting all moody,” Ginny pointed out, grinning. “I understand how you feel (No you don’t, Ron thought to himself), but this is a bit too much. You haven’t spoken once for about a quarter of the journey, and it’s making everybody else feel bad too.”
“Sorry,” said Ron absentmindedly, clearly not heeding a word she’d said. “Didn’t mean to –”
“Are you thinking about going back on your promise, Ron?” Hermione demanded suddenly, glaring at him.
That certainly got him out of his thoughts.
“What are you talking about, Hermione?” Ginny cut in before Ron got the chance to open his mouth and explain. “What promise? What did he promise you?”
For once, Hermione promptly ignored Ginny. Her whole focus was on him. Ron felt himself begin to sweat. “Well – no,” he forced out the answer. “No, I wouldn’t go back on my promise.”
Great, Ron thought darkly. She still remembers it. And I’ve just found a way to make sure I have to tell her about it. Could I’ve been any stupider?
“Wait a minute,” Ginny spoke up as the room began to fall into silence. “Why haven’t either of you answered my question? What’s this promise?”
Ron searched for Harry’s eyes, pleading for intervention. Ginny was just making this harder than it already was. Luckily, Harry seemed to understand him, as well as understand just what that ‘promise’ must be.
“Let them be, Ginny,” he said quietly, touching her shoulder slightly. When Ginny looked ready to argue, he continued, “You’ll know soon enough. I promise.”
Ginny glanced at each and all of them for a second before shrugging. “Fine,” she snapped. “But you promised, Harry. And you can bet I’ll hold you to that promise.”
For the rest of the ride, Ron tried his best to act normal, wearied of another episode just like before. However, there were times when he couldn’t help lapsing into his own regretful premonitions, hoping that he’d live through today, unscathed.
After what seemed like a very short time, the train slowed down and finally pulled into a complete stop at platform nine and three-quarters. The noise level increased tremendously as everybody in all the compartments simultaneously stood up, opened the doors, and poured out onto the platform. Harry, Hermione, and Ginny did the same, but Ron did not move when Harry had passed through the door.
“What is it, Ron?” Hermione asked, turning around to look at him and sounding anxious.
Harry poked his head back in, and both he and Ginny threw Ron confused glances. Ron cleared his throat.
“Er – do you mind staying back for a few seconds, Hermione?” he queried pointedly, implying he didn’t want anybody else’s presence at the moment.
Ginny opened her mouth to snap back some comments, but Harry was pulling on her arms, saying, “Let’s go, Ginny.”
Soon, it was just Ron and Hermione standing, facing each other in the empty compartment. There was a pause before Hermione asked again, “What is it, Ron?”
Ron swallowed. Hard. He felt all the nervousness he was trying to suppress rush back at him in full force. “I – I just w-want to fulfil my promise,” he said finally, reaching inside his pocket and pulling out a folded piece of parchment he had slipped in from the very beginning of the day. His fingers played with it briefly before he steeled his courage and stretched out his arm, giving it to Hermione.
“What’s this?” Hermione asked, frowning absentmindedly at the folded parchment as she reached out and took it.
Ron took a deep breath to steady his voice. “What I promised I’d let you on. It’s all in there. No – you won’t be able to open it, Hermione,” he said quickly as Hermione’s fingers tried to flip the folds open. “I’ve put a Sealing Charm on it.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Promise me you won’t open it until you get home.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him.
“Just promise me.”
“All right,” she said dubiously, glancing down at the parchment lying in her hand. “I promise, although I don’t understand why you’ve found it necessary. I mean, I’d know it eventually.”
“You’ll understand when you’ve read it,” Ron muttered under his breath, as Hermione turned on her heels to lead the way to the platform, the way that Ron already knew too well.
“What was it you said, Ron?”
“Nothing,” he reassured hastily. “Nothing.”
“Well, hurry up!” she called over her shoulders as she disappeared around the door.
“All right,” he answered loudly, hurrying after her.
“Good-bye, Harry,” Hermione said, hugging Harry and giving him a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see you soon, all right?”
Harry would be staying with the Weasleys at the present, as there was no need for him to go back to Privet Drive anymore. Plus, the Dursleys wouldn’t want him back now that he was of age. They considered their responsibilities for him to be over the moment he returned to Hogwarts after last summer. To some certain degree, she was jealous of Harry for that. At least he wasn’t separated from both of his best friends like she was, although she knew that it was very unfair of her. If Sirius had been alive, Harry would have been able to live with him. Though, that was all in the past now…
“Bye, Hermione,” Harry echoed, hugging her close. “Both Ron and I will see you soon.” After a second, he let go of her, grinning. “Don’t worry. We won’t try to find a flat before you come. We agreed to let you have the honour of choosing our flat.”
Hermione felt compelled to grin back at him, and she did. “Thanks.”
Her attention was switched to Ginny. After a long hug, Ginny asked cheekily, “Did Ron tell you whatever he promised to tell?”
She wouldn’t classify giving her a note as ‘telling,’ but she nodded nonetheless. “Yes, he did.”
“Ooh, remember to tell me whatever it is he told you when you come over, all right? I don’t trust Harry to keep his words about letting me know, especially when it’s Ron’s secret we’re talking about.”
“I’ll let you know,” Hermione reassured, smiling slightly.
“Hermione, dear?” Mrs. Weasley said, waving madly a few metres away. “Your parents are here!”
She glanced in the direction of her parents, who were immediately attacked by Mr. Weasley. Trying to hide a smile, she said to Ginny, “Bye, Ginny,” and gave her another quick hug.
“Bye, Hermione! I’ll see you soon!”
Next was Mrs. Weasley’s turn. “Remember to take care of yourself, all right?” she asked fondly after drawing back from her motherly hug.
“I will, Mrs. Weasley.”
Last was saying good-bye to Ron. Unlike others, whose good-byes came naturally, saying good-bye to Ron seemed much harder to her than anything else. There weren’t any hugs or kisses; they just stood there, gazing at each other. Finally, Ron broke the silence.
“I reckon your parents are waiting, Hermione.” His voice sounded strangely odd.
“Yeah,” she answered quietly. “I should go now. Take care, will you, Ron?” However, she never moved; her feet seemed rooted to the spot. She did not want to be estranged from Ron – not for two days, and definitely not for at least a month.
“I will. And you take care too, Hermione.”
She didn’t know if she should hug him as she had done with the others or not. It seemed only natural for her to hug him, because they were best friends, and no one would find anything strange about it to comment on. However, she did not think about what others would think, but what Ron would. Mostly, she was afraid that if she hugged him right now, she would be unable to say good-bye, unable to leave him…
He solved it all for her by taking the lead and hugging her close to him. She had never felt safer and better than she was right then, in his arms, separate from the rest of the world. But the hug was too short, and when he pulled away, she felt a sort of hollow spot in her chest. She couldn’t bear leaving the warmth of his arms – it was the best place in the world.
Suddenly, like a bliss, she saw his head draw down near her face, and felt his breath on her, before he kissed her quickly to the right of her mouth. It was more like a peck, really, which happened in a fraction of second. However, it still left her in complete shock.
She was only revived back to the present when Ron let go of her and mumbled hoarsely, “Bye, Hermione,” in a rush and went to get his trunk, which was held by the twins, both of whom were with wicked grins plastered on their faces.
Gosh, tell me they didn’t just see that, Hermione thought abashedly to herself. She soon found out that, not only them, but all the remainder of the Weasleys, plus Harry and her parents, had witnessed the episode between Ron and her. She felt her face heat up to the point where she was certain that it must be as red as any Weasley’s hair.
If she was embarrassed, she couldn’t imagine how Ron must have felt at the moment. She’d bet on her last Galleons that the twins were teasing him right now, and she wanted so much to tell him to ignore them, although she’d like to have an explanation of his action just then.
However, she found it to be the wisest to keep her mouth closed and strode through the other grinning Weasleys and Harry to her parents. They both took turn and hugged her, muttering greetings and making no mention of the previous scene.
Being done with saying the last good-byes to everybody, Hermione followed her parents out to their car, and, after letting her dad throw her trunk into the car, climbed into it herself, hand reaching into her pocket for the parchment Ron gave her earlier. Now she was really interested in whatever his secret must be, hoping for what she knew was the impossible.
After performing a charm to unfold the parchment, Hermione set down to read it, feeling a bit shaky.
From: Ron Weasley
For all the years I’ve known you,
I never ask why we’re friends.
For all the times we’re together,
Feeling seldom rises on my end.
But it’s there...
After all the troubles we’ve been through,
I just trust you’ll always be there.
After all our blazing quarrels,
Why you choose me, I never care.
But deep down, I do…
I never treat you more than a friend,
’Cause my pride will never let me.
I never tell you, you’re my best friend,
But in my heart, you’ll always be.
Never did I think, you won’t be there,
It’s enough, knowing you’re with me.
Never did I think, goodbye will come,
I’ve taken for granted that with me you’ll be.
But I was wrong…
I never know my true feelings,
Till the time, when it’s too late.
Not till the day, farewell comes,
Does my heart spell what’s there for ages:
I Love You
To: Hermione Granger
PS: Will you come over to the Burrow this summer, Hermione? Just come over whenever your parents let you. Owl me first though. And… well, will you go out with me? Because what I said in the poem is the truth. All of it.
She smiled slightly to herself, clutching the parchment close to her chest. Ron loved her! She couldn’t believe it! Ron! Ronald Weasley truly loved her! And he had asked her out! That meant she wasn’t lonely in her love for him, which was the way she had come to think of her situation for years now. This was perhaps the best thing that had ever happened in her life…
“Hermione?” her mum asked tentatively. “Are you all right? Who gave you that piece of paper?”
“Ron,” Hermione answered automatically, still in her ecstasy.
“Oh, that tall, red-headed boy?” her dad questioned from the front, laughter evident in his voice. “He’s certainly handsome, isn’t he?”
Hermione could feel her face blush again, but she gathered her courage and asked hesitantly, “What do you two think of him?”
Her mum grinned at her knowingly, and said, “Well, he’s handsome, he’s from a very nice family, and from what you’ve talked of him, he seems to be an exceptionally nice young man. In general, I think we like him.”
“Good. Because you’re probably going to see a lot of him from now on.”