He had lost Hermione somewhere.
The torch lit halls were endless, and the shadows behind every column
suggested lurking monsters. He knew that it wasn’t really night, that
sometime these dark corridors would break into the sunlight, but it felt
as though he had been wandering for hours. He had been here before, but
he didn’t remember the corridors stretching out for miles. What if he
never found her?
He turned a corner and light shone from the
end of the corridor. Breaking into a run, he charged toward the beckoning
light. He knew where he was going and what he would find there. His bare
feet made small slapping noises on the stone. The flickering torches were
hot echoes of the sunlight waiting for him, but the light seemed to grow
no closer- this hallway was forever. He groped for his wand, and stopped
in mid-stride when he realized it was no longer in his pajama pocket.
He had lost it. It would take her now, and it was his fault. A thousand
kisses were on his mind, all of them hers and his. Distant kisses, now,
kisses that had happened but never would again. And what would he do?
His eyes were fixed, unseeing, on the daylight. It began to advance slowly
toward him, as if it were hesitant about moving, but could no longer wait.
Ron blinked the water from his eyes, and watched, awed, as the end of
the corridor crept closer.
He began to run.
When he burst into the courtyard, he found
the pool empty. There were no laughing women gathered around it. His disappointment
was enormous; he had been certain he would find her here. Without thinking,
he went to the edge of the pool and sat down, his long legs dangling in
the water. She should be here. She’d promised. He sighed, and the wind
caught the sound and threw it sharply, bouncing it off the stone. His
pajamas were wet, and he shivered as he stood, even though the courtyard
was flooded with sunlight. He left a trail of damp footprints as he walked
to the balcony where he hoisted himself upon the railing with his back
to the view below. He would wait. Idly, he watched the sun catch the red
hairs on his forearm and turn them to gold.
"I got lost."
Her voice was like the first pebble breaking
the surface of a lake. It rippled through him and through him. He raised
his head and saw her standing no more than a foot away. The black of her
Hogwarts robes looked incongruous against the backdrop of the courtyard.
They were crumpled and dusty, as though she had squeezed and clambered
through tight places to get to him. He stretched out his arms, and she
stepped into the circle they made. His eyes closed. He was about to say
something about how afraid he’d been, how certain he was that he had lost
her, but her lips were on his. He clung to her, the damp from his pajamas
soaking her robes. There was no need for breath; this was life sustaining.
He opened his eyes and found himself staring
up into pitch-blackness. There was no doubt he was awake now; he could
hear Neville snoring. Remnants of the dream hung in the air, impossible
to ignore. He could still feel the pressure of her lips and…He sat up
suddenly, determined to shake the image from his mind. He needed to focus.
They were going to be spending a lot of time in library together researching
the spell and he wasn’t going to be much help if he was thinking about…ridiculous
dreams. He would just have to put it out of his mind entirely, and forget
Ron was still trying to do that the next morning
at breakfast. His plate, piled high with sausages, egg, and tomato, sat
untouched as he stared blankly into the far corner of the room. He’d come
to several conclusions in the wee hours of the morning, after he’d been
unable, or unwilling, to fall back to sleep. First, he’d decided that
it was ridiculous to get worked up over a couple of silly dreams that
obviously didn’t mean anything. Second, he reckoned it wasn’t unreasonable
for Hermione to show up in his dream. She was one of his best friends,
after all, and he was around her all the time. Why shouldn’t she
be in one of his dreams? What she had actually been doing in the dream
was immaterial. He blushed then, and vigorously rubbed his hands over
his face in frustration. He felt like an idiot. She’d probably even shown
up in Harry’s dreams before, right? She was his best friend, too. But
the thought of Hermione kissing Harry like she had in the dream was so
bizarre that he felt like laughing. Besides, he thought with an irrational
rush of irritation, Harry didn’t have any business dreaming about kissing
her anyway. Ron turned abruptly to look at Harry, who was drawing a diagram
in the air with his wand.
"…and so the opposing Seeker is distracted
long enough to miss the Snitch." He and Ginny were engrossed in a
conversation about Quidditch strategies.
Ginny was nodding in agreement. "Right.
‘Course you’d need an excellent Seeker to pull it off. And we all know
who the best Seeker at Hogwarts is…"
Harry grinned. "Oh, Ginny, you don’t have
to say that."
"I was referring of course, to Draco Malfoy."
She smiled serenely, and then stuck her tongue out at him. He laughed
and threw the roll he was holding at her, which she neatly dodged. "Honestly,
Harry, it’s brilliant. Ooh, I can’t wait to see it! They’ll never see
it coming. Sounds a bit like that move from the Wales-Romania match last
year, when the Welsh Keeper pulled …" She broke off, noticing Ron’s
sudden movement. "Ron? Are you all right? You look odd." Ron
was looking at Harry, with narrowed eyes.
Harry gave him a questioning look. "What?
Why are you staring at me?"
"I’m not staring."
"Yes you are. You’re staring at me."
"I’m not staring at you. I’m… looking
in your direction. There’s a difference. Oh, stop grinning at me, you
prat, and eat your bread."
Harry’s grin grew even wider. "I can’t.
I threw it at Ginny." The two of them laughed, and Ginny picked up
the conversation where she’d left off. Ron stood up abruptly and stalked
out of the Hall. The stupid dream was starting to make life difficult,
and he hadn’t even seen Hermione yet.
Hermione was fighting the desire
to be severely annoyed. She had been waiting for Ron in the library for
almost a half an hour. They had been meeting every night after Quidditch
practice, trying to find as much information as possible on elemental
magic and proxy spells and so far, they hadn’t had much luck. In fact,
about they only things they had found were warnings against doing
the very spell they were planning to attempt. This had ended any discussion
of telling Harry about the spell, because they both knew he would never
let them try it. Hermione knew that he worried about putting them in danger,
but if this spell worked…it was worth the risk. It didn’t make the task
any easier, however. After one particularly gruesome description of a
proxy spell gone wrong, she’d looked up to meet Ron’s grim smile.
"Let’s get this one right, shall we?"
Right. So where was he?
She turned back to the book that lay open in
front her, and had barely started to read when she noticed someone standing
next to her. Draco Malfoy was leaning against the table next to her, with
an annoying smirk on his pointed face. "So, Granger, did Potter and
Weasley finally drop you? Where are your boyfriends, anyway?"
He smirked even wider.
Hermione leaned back in her chair, crossing
her arms in front of her. "I don’t know, Malfoy. Where are yours?"
she replied, giving him an innocent look. It took him a moment to realize
she was referring to his hulking companions, Crabbe and Goyle. He gave
her a slightly nauseous glower, and left.
"Slimy git," she murmured. As much
as she disapproved of swearing, there were some situations that merited
comment. There was a commotion in the hallway, and she heard Malfoy’s
loud "Watch where you’re going, Weasley!" and Ron appeared in
the doorway, his Quidditch robes slung over his shoulder. He waved at
her with one hand, while leaning out the door to make a rude gesture with
the other. He turned and ran over to the table, panting slightly. Her
arms still crossed, Hermione waited for an explanation.
He dropped into the chair next to her. "I’m
sorry, Hermione, but practice ran late and I just couldn’t get Harry to
stop talking about this new move he came up with. I have to admit, it’s
really cool, but people kept asking questions and he had all these diagrams.
So I had to wait until he paused to ask if anyone else had a question
and I jumped up and yelled ‘Right! Good practice, mates!’ and I ran out
the door. Probably looked like I’d gone nutters, but at least I got out."
He broke off, looking at her. "You’re not really mad, are you? Look,
I didn’t even stop to take a shower! I know I’m really late but…I’m sorry,
He was trying to be contrite, and Hermione
knew it. But she was having the hardest time concentrating on what he
was saying. She’d already noticed that he hadn’t taken a shower. His hair
was slightly damp and lay in little curls at the back of his neck and
his cheeks were slightly flushed from the exertion. His chair was close
enough that she could smell him, a mixture of outside air, dirt, sweat,
and boy. It was disconcerting, because she realized that she liked
it. She must not have been very discreet either, because he sat back.
"Hermione?" he ventured, tentatively.
"Do I smell bad, or something? I just thought it would save time
if I skipped the shower but I could go and…"
He shrugged. "I can go and shower, if
you want me to."
"No! I mean, you don’t have to. Um, let’s
just get started, okay?" Her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment.
Inwardly, she cringed. She was starting to think like Lavender and Pavarti,
and that needed to be avoided at all costs. He grinned, apparently relieved
to have avoided a row. Hermione turned back to the stack of books in front
of her, and handed the top most one to Ron. "Dig in!"
Ron was starting to get worried. They had been
in the library for hours and they were no better off than when they’d
started. Madam Pince had started hinting that she’d like them to go, and
Ron was beginning to agree with her. Hermione looked exhausted, with blue
shadows gathering under her eyes. So far, all they had was a list of warnings.
Hermione had argued that at least they would know what not to do,
but he was having a harder time being optimistic. They both knew that
time was running out, it was only two weeks to Halloween, and they were
no closer to understanding the spell than before. Not to mention the fact
that they still hadn’t figured out how to actually get to Aquae Sulis.
He leaned back in his chair and sighed.
"Hermione? What’s say we just hop a train
down to Bath."
Her head snapped up and she glared at him.
"Oh, honestly Ron! It’d take at least ten hours and, ooh, you’re
teasing me, aren’t you?"
He knew he shouldn’t be teasing her, not just
now, but she looked so tired and it seemed the only way to distract her.
He gave her the biggest grin he had in his arsenal, and hoped that she
wouldn’t hit him. "Yes, Hermione, I’m teasing. Look, maybe we should
stop for the night." To Ron’s surprise, she gave a weary sigh, and
nodded. She started to close books and clean up the messy table. Ron picked
up a large green book and was moving to put it away, when he noticed the
book that lay underneath it. It was open to a page that contained a single
picture. A picture of a gorgon’s head, exactly like the one in his dream.
He dropped the book is holding and leaned down to examine the picture
more closely. Yes, it was exactly the same.
Hermione came and stood next to him. "What
is it? Did you find something?" She looked down at the picture. "Oh,
yes, the statue. I haven’t found much else on it, besides what Flitwick
said in his lecture. Apparently…Ron? What’s wrong? You look a little sick,
"I had a dream about this," Ron mumbled.
"What?" said Hermione.
"I said, I had a dream about this."
Ron’s ears were very red, and he wasn’t meeting Hermione’s eyes. "Only-"
he abruptly shut his mouth.
"Only what?" Hermione said impatiently.
"This could be important, Ron."
"It’s not important. Forget I said anything."
"Forget I said anything, ok?"
"Fine." Hermione turned around and
stalked toward the door.
He chased after her, and grabbed her arm. "Oh
Hermione! Wait! It’s… not important what happened in the dream. The important
thing is the fact that I dreamt about it in the first place!" She
pulled her arm back, but followed him back to the table. She sat in her
chair, wary and obviously still angry. Ron’s brain was racing. He had
to tell her something about the dream, but a highly censored version,
to be sure. "Look. I had a dream, but I don’t really remember much
of what happened. There was a tunnel…and a pool… and the statue. That’s
about all." He was pleased with himself, because it was mostly true.
He really didn’t remember much except those things. And of course, Hermione.
But it would be a bloody cold day in hell before he told her that last
bit. He searched her face. It didn’t look as though she believed him.
He was obviously lying. She
just couldn’t figure out why. He looked so earnest, leaning forward in
his chair with that pleading look on his face. She wanted to believe him,
but…no, there was definitely something he wasn’t telling her. "Ron,
maybe there’s something in your dream that will help us with the spell.
It could be important! Maybe something that could help Harry."
He shook his head vigorously.
"Believe me, it had nothing to do with Harry." He wasn’t meeting
her eyes again.
Hermione leaned forward suddenly,
and grasped his hands. "Alright. You don’t have to tell me. Just
promise, if you have any more dreams, you’ll tell me about them?"
He gave her a lopsided grin and squeezed her hands. He looked down then,
as if realizing for the first time that he was holding them. She wondered
if she should take them back, but they felt so nice where they were. Ron
lifted his head and she looked right into his hazel eyes. She was dimly
aware that her hand no longer rested in his, but had moved to rest on
his muscular forearms. There was a connection moving between them now
and she found she couldn’t take her eyes away from his. She wanted to
be closer to him, and leaned forward just a bit, noticing as she did that
he did the same.
"Miss Granger and Mr.
Weasley! How odd to find you two here so late on a Friday evening!"
She jerked back, and tried
to bring her brain back into focus. Hogwart’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore
was standing in front of them, smiling serenely.
"Uh, hello, Professor
Dumbledore," she stammered. Ron mumbled the same.
Dumbledore moved closer to
the table, his long white beard swishing in front of him. "I was
just picking up a little bedtime reading," and he indicated the book
under his arm. "When I saw you two sitting there, I thought I might
come and say hello. I’m not…interrupting, am I?" Hermione shook her
head and Dumbledore gave her a beatific smile. "Excellent!"
Hermione searched for something
to say. "Um…what are you reading, Headmaster?" The book he carried
was oversized and a brilliant shade of lime-green.
"This? Why, it’s a treatise
on understanding Muggle sports." He held the book so they could see
the flashing gold words on the cover: Why Play Something Without A
Broom? Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance. Dumbledore went on. "I
was remembering one fine summer holiday I spent traveling through southern
England. I had stopped at Dragon Hill, in Uffington, as there is a rather
intriguing local legend concerning a large chalk figure of a dragon etched
into the hillside. It seems the townspeople claim the mound is actually
the burial place of a large dragon that used to torment the countryside.
I have a particular fondness for dragon-lore and so naturally I wanted
to see it. It really is beautiful country, but I was a bit disappointed
to find that the dragon rather looked more like a horse."
His tone was wistful and he
appeared to be entirely lost in this memory. Hermione couldn’t help but
wonder what this story had to do with his book on Muggle sports. She knew
he was probably the most powerful wizard of their age, but, honestly.
The man did tend to ramble.
"Ah, yes, well. I enjoyed
the journey, regardless, and wanted to take home some small souvenir.
I chose a strangely shaped rock and suddenly, I found myself in quite
another place entirely! It seems I’d been dropped right in the middle
of a Muggle football game. It startled me, I don’t mind telling you. A
herd of Muggles running straight at me! Apparently, I was standing in
front of net that was rather important to them. Strange sport, Muggle
football. Thought I might do a bit of reading on it tonight." He
turned to leave, but Hermione’s voice stopped him.
"Professor. I don’t understand how you
ended up at the game…how could you…" Something inside her brain had
just clicked on. "Unless the rock was a Portkey!"
"Oh well done, Miss Granger! Indeed, I
had stumbled upon an ancient Portkey. They’re more common than you might
think. Most magical sites used to be connected by Portkey, back before
each one needed to be registered with the Ministry. Back before there
even was a Ministry, for that matter. Yes, I imagine there are still a
few lying about. You never know where one might be hiding." He winked
at her, and ambled out the door.
"What’s he on about?" said Ron, half
amused, half exasperated. But Hermione was already on her way to the front
desk. She couldn’t take the time to explain- she needed to get to the
"That sneaky old codger," Ron said
in an admiring voice.
"Ron!" Hermione’s response was automatic.
"Yeah, yeah. So we’re looking for a portkey,
They were now in front of the Fat Lady, who
was regarding them with great interest. "Haddock," said Ron
"There you are, dears." She said
cheerfully, and swung forward. Hermione hoped she hadn’t heard too much
of their conversation.
She followed Ron into the common room. It was
especially crowded now that Quidditch practice was over. It seemed that
half of Gryffindor tower was out on the pitch whenever the team practiced.
Quidditch groupies, thought Hermione with derision. She didn’t lump herself
in with that lot, although she wasted her fair share of evenings watching
practice. That was different, she thought defensively. Sometimes the only
way to get Harry and Ron to do their homework at all was to grab them
on the way off the field and hustle them to the library. It wasn’t as
though she went down there to gawk at the players and giggle with her
friends. Well, occasionally Ginny came with her.
She was distracted by the sound of Harry’s
laughter from across the room. He and Ginny were sitting by the fire playing
chess. Hermione made her way over to them, glancing behind her to make
sure Ron was following. As she approached, she saw the source of Harry’s
amusement. Ginny was playing with Ron’s chess set, and the pieces were
behaving very oddly. Instead of staying on their spaces and waiting for
instructions, they were staring up at her with expressions of adoration,
heedless of their locations on the board. "Listen," Hermione
heard her say earnestly, "Turn around now and play the game. Pawn
to Knight Four. Come on! Pawn to Knight Four." Harry let out another
peal of laughter.
Ron let out a sigh of exasperation. "Every
time you play with them, Ginny, they’re no good for at least a week."
Ginny and Harry looked up from their game.
"Where’ve you been all night?" Harry demanded.
"The library. Ron’s having trouble with
Weaving Charms, so we’re studying the theory." Harry shot Ron a commiserating
Ron shrugged. "Yeah, well, I’m still not
clear on the difference between interlacing and knotting, so I think I’m
going to find a table, and… uh, hit the books." Ginny and Harry looked
at him strangely.
"Who are you and what have you done with
my brother?" Ginny asked. "It’s Friday night."
Ron summoned an indignant expression. "Are
you implying that I am less than diligent in my studies? Just for that,
I’m leaving you two layabouts to your unproductive idling." He turned
and swept away, not quite managing to conceal a grin.
"What did you do to him, Hermione?"
The question caught her off guard. "Nothing!
I-" Too late, she realized Ginny was teasing her. She felt color
creep into her cheeks as she tried to formulate a response. Why was this
so hard? It seemed like everything that had to do with Ron made her touchy
"Hermione?" Ron called. He’d staked
out a table near a window. "Are you coming?"
"Yeah," she called back with relief.
She waved a hand at Harry and Ginny and headed off. She missed the significant
look Ginny shot Harry, and his answering grin.
Hermione slid into her seat with a sigh. "Okay.
Back to work."
Ron looked at her in disbelief. "Work
at what? I thought you said that the book we needed was in the restricted
"It is," Hermione said patiently.
"If there’s a portkey to Aquae Sulis anywhere around here, it should
be in The Dangers of Ancient
Magical Artifacts. We’ve got to get our hands on it somehow."
"This is the first time I’ve ever missed
Lockhart," said Ron.
"I know. It’s going to be nearly impossible
to get a professor to sign off to let one of us get a book from
the restricted section." Her voice was despairing. "I think
even Trelawney would know better than that."
Ron leaned back in his chair to stretch and
noticed the common room was beginning to clear out. It was well past midnight.
Neville was the only sixth year left in the common room. He was busily
scribbling something a few tables away. Ron glanced over at Hermione,
who was skimming through a book for the third time, looking for a sentence
or word they might have missed. "Come on, Hermione. It’s late. It’s
obvious that we’re not going to figure this out tonight."
"Just a few more minutes," she insisted.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. "There’s no use for it, Ron. We’ve
got to get our hands on that book."
"So you’ve said a hundred times tonight.
Why don’t we just borrow the Invisibility Cloak?"
"You mean steal it. Were you planning
to explain why you wanted it, or just sneak it out of Harry’s trunk?
Ron had the grace to look slightly guilty.
"Well, it’s for his own good, isn’t it?"
"I’m not stealing," said Hermione
"You act as if you’ve never done it before."
"That was different."
"I don’t see how."
"It just was!" They’d entered
full combative mode. Ron started to devise a comment about logic and girls,
but Neville appeared at their table just in time to prevent it.
"Am I interrupting something?" he
asked, a bit timidly.
"No! And why does everyone keep asking
that?" Hermione screeched. Neville backed up a few steps.
Ron cleared his throat. "No, it’s all
right, Neville." He said in the most casual tone he could muster.
Across the table, Hermione buried her face in her arms.
Neville’s glance flickered back and forth between
the two of them. "Er- okay. I just wanted to ask your opinion about
something." He pushed two pieces of parchment across the table. "Do
you think these look alike?"
Ron peered down at the bits of parchment. "Why
do you have two scraps of parchment with your Gran’s signature on them?"
he asked, puzzled. Hermione raised her head and picked up them up from
Neville looked very pleased for some reason.
"D’you really think they look alike?" he said, eagerly.
"Why wouldn’t they?" Hermione asked.
Light began to dawn. "Neville," asked
Ron, "Did you forge your Gran’s signature?"
Neville blushed. "Well…Snape keeps giving
me these notes- you know, about how badly I’m doing, and how I’m a danger
to others-" His eyes darted to his feet. "And he wants them
signed and returned to him- but I think I’d rather be expelled than have
her read them." He finished in a whisper.
Hermione was scandalized. "Neville, we’re
prefects. You can’t come over here and tell us you’re going to
forge a note for a professor." Obviously, this had not occurred to
Neville. His blush faded to a clammy pallor.
"Lay off, Hermione," said Ron. "We’re
not going to rat you out, Neville." Hermione looked poised to protest,
but Ron met her eyes squarely. She couldn’t want to turn Neville
in. It was just her misplaced sense of obligation. He was glad his conscience
wasn’t quite so inconvenient.
"All right," she finally sighed.
As Neville swayed with relief, Ron grinned at Hermione and snatched the
parchment from her fingers.
"Neville, this is really good!" he
said, impressed. A terrible and wonderful idea began to formulate in his
brain. "Is your Gran’s the only signature you can copy? Could you
do, say, a professor’s?" Hermione looked up at him sharply.
"Yeah, no problem," said Neville.
"I can copy anyone’s. I’ve always been able- but it’s not a very
useful talent unless you’re in trouble as often as I am."
"Oh, I don’t know, Neville." Ron
said enigmatically. "I think it could be a very useful talent."
Author’s Notes: Will Neville
save the day? Will Harry catch on? And most importantly…will Ron take
a shower? Stay tuned, dear readers.