(A/N) Good lord, I’ve been away awhile, haven’t I? I was inspired to write this after seeing HP5 . . . and may I just say, woo-freakin’-hoo for the change in screenwriters!
Legilimens . . . or Not
Ron sucked on his sugarquill and scowled at the spell diagram on his parchment. He could have sworn it had gone the other way in class. Of course, when he’d tried it in class, he’d set his desk on fire. But he’d put it out straight away, so surely that wasn’t too many points off, was it?
He pulled out his textbook and started flipping through it. Bugger all, what chapter were they on anyway?
A loud thump and a tortured groan from the table announced that Hermione and her book-bag had arrived. "Oh, Ron, good, I’ve been meaning to talk to you."
"Yeah, me too," he said, squinting at a page for a moment. No--no, that was the one for turning yourself into a dung beetle. He riffled through the text again. "Can you give me some help here?"
She started unpacking her mammoth stack of homework. Ron paused in thumbing through the chapters and checked to make sure she was distributing the weight properly. One broken table per term was about Filch’s limit.
"It’s not easy, is it?" she asked.
"You can say that again," Ron muttered, returning to the spell diagram. Was it possibly upside-down? He let the book collapse to the table, and, shoving his hands through his hair, let out a gusty sigh that riffled his parchment. "I’m not sure I’m doing this right."
She smiled brightly at him. "I think you are, if that helps."
Having expected her to charge in and prove definitively that he wasn’t doing it right, Ron scowled. "That’s a comfort." Was she going through a make-Ron-do-it-himself phase? Bloody inconvenient of her.
"I mean, it took me by surprise too."
He paused with the sugarquill halfway to his mouth. School never took Hermione by surprise. She knew all the lessons coming up before the teachers did.
She kept chattering. "Well, not completely by surprise--I was hoping, you know--"
That sounded more like her.
"--but I never expected it like that."
What? On a Wednesday?
"I must say you are handling it very well, considering you clearly had no idea it was coming."
Oh, god, even worse than a make-Ron-do-it-himself phase. It was a lie-to-Ron-about-his-scholastic-aptitude-in-hopes-of-increasing-his-confidence-and-thereby-improving-his-marks phase. He hated those, and moved to deflate this one before it got more irritating. "Uh, did you miss the bit where I set my desk on fire?"
She blinked at him. "Where you what?"
"Desk. Fire? Bad?"
Hermione’s mouth moved a few times, then she said, "Ron, what are we talking about?"
He pointed at his book. "Homework."
She was quick, you had to give her that. "Right," she said, reaching out for his parchment. "Homework. Now let’s see--"
He slapped his hand down over hers. "Why?" he asked. "What were we talking about?"
"Homework," she said, trying to tug her trapped hand free.
Knowing she was lying, he stared her down. She met his gaze stubbornly, her chin set. After a moment, however, her eyes skittered away. She tossed her hair back, and he knew he had her. She did the exact same thing when he beat her at Wizard Chess.
"Well?" he said.
She let out her breath through her nose and looked pointedly at the common room fireplace. Ron followed her gaze to the couple sitting there. He looked quickly back at Hermione. "Really?" he asked. "We were?"
"Well, I was," she said, finally rescuing her hand. "Since when do you talk about homework anyway?"
He looked again at his sister and Harry. They’d snaffled one of the couches, precious real estate, and now she sat with her bare feet propped on his knees. She was telling some story, to judge by her quickly moving mouth and hands, and Harry listened with a half-smile that grew into a grin every so often. As Ron watched, he said something that made his sister laugh out loud.
He looked quickly back at his homework. "I’m handling it well?" he asked the spot where his attempted spell diagram had been. Hermione had captured it and was now correcting it with impatient flourishes of her quill.
She stopped to answer him, however. "Very well. I thought you were going to be a total prat."
Ron looked back at his friend and Ginny. He shrugged. "Could be worse," he said. "He could be Dean Thomas." He thought. "She could be Cho Chang. So. Y’know. It worked out."
She scrutinized him. "Oh," she said softly. "You’re handling it even better than I thought."
"Look," he said, "if you’re done with my homework, give it here."
"Is it because there’s someone more important to Ginny than yourself?"
"No," he said, trying for the parchment.
"Is it because there’s someone more important to Harry than yourself?"
He made a rude noise. "No!"
She chucked the parchment back at him. "Then what is it? I’m not blind, you know."
"Dunno," he muttered, studying his repaired spell diagram. "Is this right?"
"Of course it’s right," she said, insulted. "Now copy it over or you’ll get in trouble. And pay attention to the vertices this time, unless you want to be a sea slug."
He started to, but paused when a rare laugh from Harry rang out over the common-room noise. He looked over again. "’S’good, what they have," he said. "Innit?"
"Yeah," Hermione said. "Really good. Makes you envious."
Something about the pitying look on her face prompted Ron to point out, "Well, I had a girl, y’know."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "You had a barnacle."
Privately, Ron thought she was bang on the mark, but you couldn’t let Hermione know that too often--she could get really full of herself. "She wasn’t a barnacle."
"She was," Hermione said, pulling out a roll of parchment, opening a text, and starting to make notes. "You just liked her for her lips."
"I liked more than her lips," he said. "I liked--uh--" He floundered around, trying to think of something.
Hermione glanced up, then glared so hard he should by rights have a hole in his chest.
Ron looked down, realized that he was holding his hands as if he had a full-size Quaffle in each one, and hastily slapped them palms-down the table. "--her personality," he finished.
"Right," Hermione said, sounding as if she’d eaten an Acid Pop. "Her personality gets a lot of notice."
She was one to talk, chasing round after pretty-boy athletes. But Ron resisted the urge to give in to a good squabble, as that would just convince Hermione she was right, in that mysterious girl-logic she had. He returned to the subject of Harry and Ginny. "I’m just blowed if I can figure out when it happened."
She slapped her quill down."Are you trying to ask if I was keeping an eye on it? That’s disgusting, even for you." She started to pack her things away.
"Huh? Where’re you going?"
"Clearly you’d rather talk about Lav-Lav and her scintillating personality--"
"No, I wouldn’t. I was talking about Harry suddenly noticing my sister."
She paused with an enormous Herbology text half-in and half-out of her bag. "You were?"
"Yeah, what were you--" He realized what she’d thought. "What, really?" He grinned widely. "Interesting."
"Oh, God," she said, rolling her eyes toward the ceiling and recommencing the packing.
A muffled snort escaped him, and she paused to glare again. "Sit down," he said. "Don’t you know when I’m winding you up by now?"
She paused, her cheeks reddening. "Of course I do," she said primly.
"Right, because you’re the all-seeing one," he said. "You certainly seemed to know all about them." He jerked his head toward the fire.
The flattery worked; she sat back down. "It’s not hard to notice if you keep your eyes open."
"Yeah, but when did things change?"
"Actually, that I don’t know. Sometime this year, clearly, but--" She lifted her hands expressively, as if to say that some things were beyond even her powers of perception. "These things--sometimes they happen in an instant."
"Hunh," he said, looking at Harry. "What, he just looked at her one day and saw something different?"
"I suppose," she said. "Something like that."
He looked back across the table at her, and then found he couldn’t look away. The common room seemed to dissolve, until the only thing he could see was Hermione, looking back at him.
Her face was almost as familiar to him as his own, but the longer he stared at her, the more she seemed like a stranger. He couldn’t seem to drag the air he needed into his lungs, and a thin, distant ringing started in his ears. An odd feeling crept over him--something he’d never felt before--something like--like--
"Hermione," he croaked.
Her voice was no more than a wisp of breath. "Yes."
"Can you check my Herbology homework?"
Her dazed expression cleared. She grabbed her books and stomped away, tossing a "Do it yourself," over her shoulder.
Ron sagged in his chair, staring at the quill and scribbled-upon bit of parchment she’d left behind. Now, more than ever, he was glad she couldn’t read his mind.