Disclaimer: Everything is property
of J. K. Rowling. No infringement is intended and no profit is being
Summary: Though Voldemort hasn't been
not everything at Hogwarts has changed: Christmas is still a
Note: The main characters have gone through
big changes, in some cases- that make them very different. The story
place in seventh year; there is lots of time for them to develop
And Ron has been spending too much time with his brother Bill, the
Weasley. With that in mind… read on.
Unsurprisingly, the Potions lab was cold,
and overall unbearable. But that was okay, because they were
Hermione Granger gathered her quills,
and other supplies as quickly as she could, not wanting to be late
Arithmancy. She looked very much annoyed. In fact, if one got close
one could even hear her muttering under her breath. "… Don't know
he expects us to… illegal! And do you know," she added crossly to
boys on either side of her, "that that's-"
"Very advanced magic," finished the tall,
one. "We know. You've mentioned it about thirty times."
"Twenty-eight," Harry corrected. "And
Hermione gave him a cross look. "Well, it
Ron shrugged. "And Snape's an evil, two-faced
with a nose like a troll. Some things go without saying,
She huffed at the name (if there was one
Hermione hated, it was nicknames; unfortunately due to the length of
given name she had quite a few), but had to admit that Ron had a
Both of her friends stopped dead. Harry spoke
"Hermione, you've just admitted that Ron was right about
Ron nodded vigorously. "I didn't even have to
your arm! What's up with you lately?"
"Stress," Hermione answered automatically.
do realize that the N.E.W.T.s are-"
"In June," Ron finished. "We know. And just
the record, 'only' does not belong anywhere near 'six months
Hermione glowered. It was unsettling to know
she was so stressed out, she hadn't even noticed that Ron had been
Pathetic, really. "I'm going to Arithmancy," she said finally. "I'll
you two at lunch."
Harry stared at her retreating back.
tells me funny things are going on."
Ron wrinkled his nose. "Or will
Lunch was generally a very relaxing
if you had time to eat it properly. Hermione didn't; not only was
preoccupied about the N.E.W.T.s already, but Voldemort was still on
loose and Snape had given a five-foot-long essay to be handed in on
Well, there was that and the fact that Ron adamantly refused to stop
her "Mione," which was getting old. Fast.
She scooped up the last few bites of her
pie somewhat disinterestedly. Ron (whom she'd tuned out) was trying
wheedle her out of her Transfiguration essay. Across the table,
was discussing tap-dancing charms with one of her friends. On her
side, Harry just looked lost. "Got to go," she said, standing up and
her backpack over one shoulder. "I want to get some studying in
Care of Magical Creatures."
Harry met Ron's gaze, and both shrugged.
was like that sometimes. When she was gone, he commented, "She needs
break even more than we do."
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "If we could only
her to go home for vacation."
"And then make sure she doesn't
Harry stopped himself. "Impossible." He shook his head. "It can't be
Ron, however, was already madly scribbling
on a scrap piece of parchment. "Yes," he said, smiling brightly as
examined his work, "it can."
Harry read the outline of Ron's letter and
"You are so lucky that Hermione's parents like you so
"That's not luck," Ron retorted. "It's called
Harry, you ought to try it sometime."
Harry snorted. "They only like you because
have perfect teeth."
Ron faked a hurt look. "You don't think I'm
"Maybe we should ask Hermione." Not even a
second later, Harry could not believe he had said
Ron looked, if anything, even more stunned
Harry. "Okay," he said finally, "maybe it is the teeth." He
a bit more, then handed it to Harry. "What do you think so
Dear Mr. & Mrs.
Hello, how are you?
hope things are going well in the Muggle world.
Everyone's favorite hardworking Head Girl
already driving herself
(and us) crazy studying.
and I (we're naturally very concerned) think it would be a good idea
she went home for vacation so that she doesn't burn herself out. The
of us alone won't be able to keep her away from the books.
Send a reply back with
Harry read and re-read the letter, eyebrows
"Have you been taking lessons from Percy?" he finally asked, a
grin on his face.
Ron looked deeply offended. "I told you,
it's called charm!"
"You think Percy is charming?"
"Point taken." Ron sighed. "Guess we'd better
The next morning, Ron, Harry and Hermione
down to breakfast early. They had a Potions test first period and
(especially Hermione) thought that some last-minute studying was in
Imagine Hermione's surprise when Pigwidgeon dropped off not only a
for Ron, but one for her as well.
"What's this?" Hermione unrolled her
and, by force of habit, checked the signature first. "Ron… why would
parents send me mail with Pig?"
Ron, looking like a two-year-old caught with
hand in the cookie jar, quickly stuffed his own letter into his
"Er…" He looked to Harry for help, but Harry couldn't say anything:
started laughing at Ron's expression and was choking on his pancake.
thumped him on the back, resolutely not looking at his other best
"Why were you sending owls to my
Ron thumped Harry a little too hard and the
Who Lived (and Grew Up, too) fell off of his chair onto the floor.
Harry," Ron apologized, grinning sheepishly.
"Ron…" Hermione was using her warning voice
"Crikey!" Ron exclaimed, "Look at the time.
late for Potions. Let's go, 'Mione." He grabbed her hand and
dragged her off to class, which was humorous in itself, Harry
Never would have guessed there would come a day when Ron
to go to Potions.
Hermione realized fully that she had no
against Ron. Aside from the fact that she was about two-thirds of
weight, he was also a lot stronger than she was and a head and a
taller. If he ever took it upon himself to kiss her, Hermione
he would either have to bend double or else pick her clean off of
ground. Now, where did that interesting thought come
Inevitably, due to Ron's unnecessary haste
had exaggerated the urgency to get to the dungeons), they were five
early for class, and Hermione took the time out to read her letter.
Oh no, thought Hermione morosely,
been talking to Ron again.
We've just made reservations via Ron's owl
little thing, isn't he?) for you to come home for Christmas on the
Express, as we are having a big family gathering. Ron and Harry are
too, of course; we can't have Harry staying with the Dursleys, can
I've already okayed it with Mrs. Weasley- delightful woman. Really
Anyway, darling, we'll see you at King's
Station on the twenty-second.
Mom and Dad
Hermione sighed. Ron and Harry? At her house?
thought of the state their dorm room was in and shuddered, although
insisted that 'it's not our fault Seamus and Dean let Parvati and
toss their stuff all over.' Actually, she wondered more about how
it would take them to lock her books up and hide them somewhere.
also wondered if Ron would finally make good on his promise to burn
copy of Hogwarts; A History next time he got his hands on
She didn't have much time to wonder, however,
Snape chose that moment to enter the Potions lab. (It took him all
two seconds to take five points off Gryffindor because Harry and Ron
talking and examining something under the table.)
Potions passed otherwise uneventfully,
unless you counted Neville failing to blow anything up as an event
did). "Because Veritaserum needs to brew for so long," Snape was
"you'll need to leave your potions here over the break. Carry them
my office, and make sure you remember which one is yours. And, for
sake, don't spill them."
Hermione scowled. We're students; that
make us completely stupid. Still, he had a point- half-brewed
was one of the deadliest poisons known to man. She picked up her
and carried it carefully into his office, setting it on a shelf
'seventh years.' When everyone else had done the same, the bell
Harry and Ron fairly skipped out of the
Lavender, Parvati and Seamus, behind them, linked arms and actually
skip, all the while singing the graduation song: "No more cauldrons,
more newts; no more dungeons, Snape's a Skrewt!" Hermione caught
eye and grinned. The Dream Team hooked their arms together, and the
Gryffindors did the entire song in a round.
"Oy! Hermione!" Harry called up the stairs.
you don't hurry up we'll miss the train!"
She peeked over the railing of the stairwell
called down to him, "Harry, I can't leave without my books- and I
Ron, who'd been descending the stairs
cheerily, stopped. "Yes?" He drew out the word, putting on the
look borrowed from the twins.
"Did you hide my books, Ronald
"No," Ron answered, drawing out the word
"I packed them for you." He tossed a tiny box up to her. "Travel
for your convenience."
Hermione looked as if she didn't know whether
be indignant or grateful. She bit the inside of her cheek. Ever
Ron had discovered his uncanny ability for wandless magic (this had
after one particularly nasty detention spent mucking out Hagrid's
Harry joked that he'd inhaled a unicorn tail hair),
he'd been surprising everyone left and right.
Hermione hadn't still been besting him in every class, she would've
slightly worried. She was already jealous as it was. "Erm… thanks."
floated her trunk down the stairs ahead of her.
"Good luck getting it open," Ron muttered
his breath. Harry snorted. He knew that Hermione would take a while
swallowing her pride and admitting that she couldn't.
They made it to the train station without
incident, considering they'd never gone home for the holidays
Ron, who was getting so tall that it almost appeared that it was in
he, and not Hagrid, who was the half-giant, had to put his feet up
the seat opposite him in order to sit comfortably. Harry and
took the other two seats, Harry across from him and Hermione beside
"Are Mark and Louise picking us up in a car,
Ron's voice startled Hermione out of her
she'd been staring past his legs out the window at the station,
what the future would bring. She looked at him with a strange
on her face. Since when did Ron call her parents by their first
"Yes," she answered somewhat reluctantly, "but don't you even think
pulling a Sirius and enchanting it to fly while they're driving.
of how much fun my father allegedly said that would be."
"Flying cars?" Ron said airily. "How utterly
No, I was thinking more along the lines of interesting exhaust
psychedelic paint jobs… or maybe transfiguring it into a giant
"I highly doubt that Malfoy would be
by being immortalized in a Muggle invention, Ron."
"I had no intention of flattering the little
Ron cracked his knuckles.
Hermione snorted. "I gathered that much."
was one last all-aboard call and the train lurched into motion. On
reflection, she supposed that moment was doomed to be interrupted;
door swung open and who, of all people, stepped inside but Draco
It was still unfair, though.
"Speak of the devil," Ron commented dryly,
expression not changing a bit. Hermione was proud of him for that.
had matured so much those past few years that it sometimes scared
"Off to a JDE convention, I see."
Malfoy scowled. It was a nice change, because
had most definitely been very prominent of late. "Keep out of it,
Your family really can't afford another blemish on their
"The only blemish I see around here is you,"
Harry looked up and spoke for the first time.
got your tongue, Malfoy?"
He sneered. "No, Potter, just a
Hermione put on her most innocent expression.
like a ferret to me."
"I wouldn't be so damned cocky if I were you,
Mudblood Granger. My father-"
"Has a lot of nerve, not teaching his son any
Ron finished for him, unable to hold back his temper any longer.
seemed to notice that Harry and Hermione both had their wands
and pointed towards him. In another split second he remembered Ron's
aptitude for wandless magic. He cleared off, dual shadows trailing
all the way.
"Well," Harry said into the sudden, stiff
"That was unpleasant."
"Agreed," Ron muttered in a decidedly darker
than he'd been using minutes before. "He'll get what's coming to
"Ron," Hermione warned in her Mrs. Weasley
"I don't want you going after him. I mean it. He's- he's dangerous,
he has connections, he'll-"
Ron silenced her with a shake of his head. "I
mean me, 'Mione. Contrary to popular belief, I am not
"I never said you were stupid."
Harry tuned them out. It was good to know
they had grown out of their childish bickering- while they could
go at it like a professional debate team, their arguments were far
frequent and had much more meaning. Although, there was that one
when Hermione had been rumored to be dating Terry Boot of Ravenclaw…
Harry smiled to himself. He could recall
particular argument with astounding clarity. Some things never
Mark and Louise Granger were waiting outside
barrier at King's Cross Station, looking something between
and in very good spirits. It was an odd combination; comforting and
all at once. Comforting, because even in times like these people
be happy; and saddening because parents were worried about their
and she was just coming home from school.
Hermione was soon engulfed in a warm embrace
her mother and subsequently from her father. It looked as if she
turning a bit blue under the pressure.
Ron sighed inwardly, fighting to maintain his
aloof exterior. It saved him from having to share his thoughts. He
if anyone would be shocked if they knew what he thought about.
it seemed, knew or at least suspected. It was difficult to keep
when you sometimes ended up the only person in your dorm not
in the common room because of your best friend's nightmares. Other
friends got curious.
"Hullo, Louise," Ron said with a grin, taking
gloved hand and kissing it.
Hermione let out a choked gasp and nearly
Crookshanks. Harry just barely managed to hide his smile behind his
Since when was Ron suave and debonair?
Mark Granger shook a warning finger at the
Weasley. "Keep your hands off my wife, you scoundrel!"
Ron grinned even wider and shook hands with
Granger. "Can I help it if I have a weakness for Granger
This sent Hermione into a huge coughing fit.
unable to restrain himself any longer at the absurdity of Ron's
laughed loudly. Hermione's parents turned to him.
"Harry," Mrs. Granger said fondly. "It's been
long time! Last time we saw you, you were…"
"Several inches shorter and about fifty
lighter," her husband finished.
"That's just the winter cloak," Ron muttered,
a swipe from Harry.
"And look how handsome he's become, Mark! He
be beating off women with a stick!"
"Not only Ginny anymore," Hermione agreed
her breath. Ron, however, caught it and sent her a Look. She
Harry, when he was finished turning red,
the four of them to the car.
The Granger residence was a medium-sized
house a fair way out of town. It was decorated with snow and
lights (which Ron found fascinating, even though he already knew all
electric lights from two summers ago), and a fat Muggle lawn gnome
a Santa hat stood by the birdbath in the front yard. Ron grinned,
Hermione's first experience with a real gnome.
Inside, a Christmas tree was decorated with
of the Christmas lights, a smaller variety, and this time in white
of red and green. Presents, wrapped in silver, red, green and gold
littered the floor beneath it. Ron thought the house looked very
with all the decorations.
After Harry and Ron dropped their stuff off
everyone gathered in the kitchen for some cocoa. Louise Granger was
the greatest chef in the family- that title was secured by her
but she made a mean cup of hot chocolate. That was good, because the
in the van was on the fritz again and everyone needed their eyebrows
out. "The three of you will have to share a room," she apologized as
stirred in some more chocolate powder. "We've got more relatives
we'd originally counted on, but the second guest bedroom will be big
The children can have 'Mione's room."
Hermione looked a little worried- she
had some highly sensitive Muggle stuff in there, Ron thought. After
it would be useless at Hogwarts. Or maybe she just didn't want a
of toddlers going through her underwear drawer.
Ron noted with amusement how Hermione's
eyebrows shot up at this statement. He shot a look at Ron and Harry
said nothing. Obviously he knew his place in the Granger household.
if one of us would try something funny with the other in the room.
it's not like Hermione can't take care of herself…He recalled,
again, the time she'd slapped Malfoy, and grinned into his
Hermione saw this, and kicked him under the
Ron glanced up in time to see the Mrs. Weasley look again. This one
quite clearly, 'Don't get any ideas.'
Ron grinned even wider and raised his
He got another Mrs. Weasley expression.
act innocent.' (Ron didn't catch the part of her face that said,
too cute, and it's driving me crazy.')
Ron grimaced. Too many
Harry watched the whole silent expression
a knowing look on his face. He wondered if they even noticed they
staring at each other, but decided not to break the silence.
he turned his thoughts to more serious matters.
It had been two weeks since he'd last heard
Dark activity anywhere, and he didn't guess that was a good sign. He
there was going to be a strike around Christmas time, as there had
year before; it wasn't good for the light side's morale and the
Eaters loved that. He hadn't heard from Sirius in almost a year,
was either very good because he was hiding himself so well, or very
because he'd been killed and no one had bothered to tell Harry. At
very least it was worrisome; Sirius could have at least sent him an
every once in a while. It gave Harry something else to be
He was so preoccupied, in fact, that he
notice when the chatter around him ceased. He was sitting with his
cupped in his right hand while his left fingers drummed on the
looking somewhat forlorn.
"Harry," Hermione finally said
Harry's head snapped up. "Er- sorry," he
"I was just, er… thinking."
Everyone, including Hermione, was stunned.
finally cracked a grin. "I get the point. I'll stop brooding, but
have to help. I declare a snowball war- teens versus
Mrs. Granger shook her head. "Not today. I'm
"Count me out," Mr. Granger agreed. "You
"So how're we going to divvy up the teams?"
asked, testing the wetness of the snow. It would have soaked through
gloves, but of course they were charmed. "Boys against girl would,
not be fair."
"Agreed," Harry said. "So what about Prefects
Hermione hit him in the leg with a fat, wet
"Well," and here Harry sighed dramatically,
only other option I can think of is Weasleys versus Potter, and even
Ron's snowball caught him mid-chest, causing him to stumble. He
back to regroup, but his foot hit a snowdrift and he fell, laughing,
Then came a deluge of other snowballs; Harry
tell for sure which of his friends threw which. "I surrender," he
once his arms were pinned down by the wet snow.
Ron reached down and pulled him back up
His ears were still red from Harry's well-meant jab, or perhaps from
cold; Harry had trouble telling anymore. "What did I say?" he asked
"'Mione's not dating Fred anymore," Ron said
Hermione hit him in the leg with a snowball.
many times do I have to tell you? I did not date
Uh oh, thought Harry, is that my
to leave? Hey, wait a minute. Something got misinterpreted
"No, you only went around Hogsmeade with him,
linked, without Harry and I-"
Hermione's temper flared. "You had
she said impatiently. "Get it together, Ron-" A snowball hit her
behind. She whirled around, scooping up a handful of snow as she did
but there was nobody there.
Another snowball hit her from behind; this
Ron was behind her.
"You magicked that first snowball!" she
Harry felt a smile tugging at his lips.
and you know what they say about cheaters."
Ron caught the near-identical gleams in his
eyes and didn't like it. "Er- they're all devastatingly handsome?"
asked, taking small steps backwards and judging the distance to the
"I'll tell Malfoy you said so," Hermione
trying not to grin as she packed her snowball harder. "Actually,
I was going to say was-"
"Cheaters never prosper," Harry
and they proceeded to bombard Ron with snowballs.
It was dark that night, and cold. It was
a perfect time for sleeping; it should have been too
Ron heard the fist hit the wall again, softer
time, but knew that no one would wake up. Hermione's parents had
though all of her nightmares the last time he'd visited, and she had
some pretty nasty ones.
"No," Harry groaned, facing away from him.
Run, Lupin… hold him off…" He quieted down a bit after that, only to
vocal again seconds later. "Hermione! Stay back!" Harry rolled over
stuffed his face into his pillow, muffling his next few
In the half-silence, Ron heard something
a quiet sniffle from the bed on his other side. He could barely make
one pale arm against the bedcovers.
Hermione jumped a bit when he reached up and
her hand in his, then let out all of her breath at once. "Is it
this bad?" she asked him, leaning over the side of the bed to see
Ron looked away at his other friend, who had
again and was murmuring something about Neville in his sleep. "It
get worse," he confessed, not wanting to lie to her.
"My God," Hermione breathed, closing her
"It's no wonder Seamus and the others sleep in the common
"They can't usually hear him through the
Ron responded. There was a question written in the next pause, and
answered it darkly: "They only do that when he starts
Hermione put her other hand over her mouth to
the sob. "How do you stand that? Hearing him experience the pain in
dreams? He can't get away, not even when he's sleeping."
Ron didn't answer, just shook his head
"Hermione! Don’t! Stay away! NO!" Harry
shouted the last bit, and Ron heard Hermione cover another
"Never mind, just keep talking. Ron? Don't
"No… Ron, leave her… can't help her now… You
Ron squeezed her hand tighter. "Best not to
about it," he advised.
"Can you reach the stereo?" Hermione suddenly
She'd shown him how to use it years ago; he'd been hooked on Muggle
Ron stretched out a limber arm and shoved the
into the socket, then touched the power button. Nothing
Hermione swore worse than Ron had ever
she could, half-sitting up in bed to examine his work in the
"Are you sure it's plugged in properly? Please tell me it just isn't
Harry interrupted her again, this time with
soft pounding on the wall. "Avada," he muttered. "Avada… Ava- no,
auris. Not Crucio! No!" He had curled up into a ball in his sleep
was rocking back and forth.
Ron shook his head and Hermione flopped back
the pillows. "The power's out," she growled. "I don't believe it.
one time you need a distraction and-"
"Do you want me to distract you?" Ron broke
"I mean, ah… that came out wrong."
Under other circumstances, Hermione would
laughed. "If you think you can do it without waking Harry," she
"He needs all the sleep he can get, nightmares or no."
"My singing voice isn't that bad.
can sleep through anything these days." Ron took a deep breath,
absently stroking the back of Hermione's hand. He searched his mind
something soothing, then began; a low note which already sounded
mournful. "When the night has come… and the land is dark," he sang,
really warmed up and a tad roughly. "And the moon is the only light
Harry took this moment to interrupt with,
take me… he's innocent! Ron, tell them!"
Ron tried resolutely not to be distracted.
I won't be afraid, just as long as you stand by me. Stand by me," he
now having to ignore both Hermione's inarticulate sniffling and
cries for help. He lost himself in the chorus for a while, not
how many times he actually sang it; he might've skipped a line or he
sung it a hundred times; it didn't matter. It wasn't working. "If
sky that we look upon should tumble and fall,"
"Sirius, thassa trap… get away,
"All the mountains should crumble to the
Ginny? Not Ginny. I don't want Harry to have dreams about
sister, let alone nightmares.
"It's cursed- cursed- make it stop…
Hermione's hand was shaking in his grip. "I
cry; no I won't shed a tear," although he wasn't really sure of that
Hermione kept on the way she was going, "Just as long as you stand
me…" He finished the song and the room was quiet again; 'Mione's
was limp and he hoped she was deeply asleep, because he didn't want
wake up to her crying again. Harry, too, was silent, or mostly so;
kept repeating, "No, no, take me," in a very soft voice, still
back and forth in his sleeping bag. Ron closed his eyes. It was
to be a very long night. He kissed Hermione's hand, then gently
his from hers and drifted into an uneasy sleep.
Breakfast that morning was a silent affair-
and Mrs. Granger had gone off to fetch relatives from the train
and Ron was off somewhere doing who-knew-what. Hermione was tired
felt slightly awkward at having experienced her friend's nightmare;
was looking even more subdued than usual. He was blotting a sheet of
with one hand and eating a piece of toast with the other when Ron
in through the back door, sticking his wand into his
"Someone got up early," Hermione commented,
jam on her toast.
"You know me," Ron answered distractedly,
the other piece of warm bread off of her plate. Hermione thought it
odd that there was a trickle of sweat running down his forehead and
if he'd just been out on his morning run again. (She didn't admit to
that she had noticed the other rivulets of sweat that were
down the back of his neck, presumably down his back and- she
That's enough! He's Ron! You got over him in fifth
"Always busy, never a moment to lose."
Hermione snorted, trying to cover her
stare, and slapped at his hand as he made off with her breakfast.
make it sound like you aren't the guy who leaves his homework until
morning it's due."
"I'm busy the rest of the time," Ron
mouth half-full. He swallowed and pulled out a chair. "I never said
was Plan Ahead Man."
Crookshanks meowed in agreement and jumped
Ron's lap. Hermione glared at him. Traitor. "Procrastination
is more like it," she muttered, taking a big bite of her (now cold)
Ron feigned indignancy. "Thank you for
me in front of my cat."
"Crookshanks is not your property! He
belongs to anyone; he does what he wants."
"That makes him as much mine as yours then,
it?" Ron perfected this little quip with a knowing
"Ooh," Hermione made a frustrated sound and
something that sounded suspiciously like curse words under her
She pointed the rest of her breakfast at him, punctuating her words
shakes of toast. "You had better behave for Christmas." With that,
stacked their dishes in the dishwasher, grabbed her coat, and ran
for a breath of fresh air.
Harry had never met Hermione's relatives
and all of a sudden he had a lot of names to memorize at once. There
Kevin and Katie, three-year-old twins who had a Gred-and-Forge-ish
about them; there was Aunt Grace, a slender woman in her
and there was Uncle Hector, with a shiny patch atop his head (Harry
watched him peel off the twins' boots and witnessed Katie's comment
this- "Daddy, you've got a big bare-naked spot up there!").
other aunt, Erin, had appeared with her cousins Elena, twelve; and
fifteen. This left something to be desired for sleeping arrangements
Aunt Erin gladly agreed to sleep on the couch
the lounge, and Elena didn’t mind sharing Hermione's room with the
Grace and Hector had the first guest bedroom to themselves, which
He was a slightly moody teenager, Harry
and probably a bit spoiled; he refused to sleep on the sofa in the
room or on the floor in Hermione's ("I'm not sleepin' in a
room!"). They finally settled the matter by having Ron and Hermione
into the basement to 'find' an old army cot (which Danny thought was
ultimate cool) and set it up in the guest bedroom.
Harry's attention was drawn away from the
antics (they were doing their best to dress Crookshanks up like a
Crookshanks wasn't having any of it) and focused on the door to the
the three of them were staying in. Ron and Hermione had been in
unsupervised, for twenty minutes. He wondered if that were safe and
Ron followed Hermione down the stairs,
to duck his head about halfway down to compensate for the low
"What exactly are we looking for, 'Mione?" He stood up too soon at
bottom and smacked his head on a beam, cursing.
Hermione didn't bother to tell him to watch
language. "We are not looking for anything- we're going to
something into a cot…"
Ron snorted. "We? Have you forgotten how
bad I am at Transfiguration?" He watched doubtfully as Hermione
a rug out from hiding in a corner.
She pointed her wand at it. "Give me a break,
could've done this in first year if you'd studied a little
we just have to do it really fast so that the Muggles don't
"Who's going to see us in your basement?" Ron
slightly flustered. "Anyway, my wand's upstairs-"
Hermione made her frustrated noise and
the cot. Ron didn't really see what she was on about- she obviously
no problems in the Transfiguration department and there was no
he could see for him to actually go to the basement. "Speaking of,"
said, looking up from lifting an end of the cot, motioning for Ron
do the same, "what were you doing this morning?"
Ron's jaw tightened. So that's what she
me down here for. "I'll tell you later. Ready?" She nodded, and
they carried the cot upstairs.
"So what was it?" Hermione asked as Ron shut
door softly behind him.
He leaned back against it and closed his
sighing heavily. "Promise you won't tell Harry," he said, his tone
Hermione's brow furrowed. "Okay," she said,
unsure of what to expect.
"I was ward-casting," Ron said quietly,
at the floor.
Hermione's mouth fell open as the full impact
what Ron had said hit her. "You… that's… How?" she finally asked.
both knew how much practice, skill and energy it took to cast
He rubbed his eyes with one hand. "A gift,"
said finally. "Dumbledore-" And here he stopped, for they both knew
much the man meant to him, and how much it hurt him that his mentor
role model was missing in action, "He wanted someone to be able to
over Harry, someone close, that could report to him. Of course you
his first choice, especially because of my admittedly volatile
Hermione didn't laugh- "but you were already plenty busy with being
Prefect." Ron paused here for a moment, then continued, "And then
the fact that, well, you don't witness his nightmares like some of
do…" He shrugged. "Dumbledore fed me some potion… must've been
making sure I wasn't working for the enemy. That's how I learned the
wandless thing, anyway."
"That would explain the drastic change in
DADA marks, at least," Hermione murmured, still somewhat shocked.
that's really dangerous, are you sure-"
"If I had any doubts, 'Mione, I settled them
long time ago. It's the only thing I can do, in school at least, to
the light side. For Harry's sake."
Hermione felt her eyes tearing up. "Oh- oh
I'm so proud of you."
Oh no, Ron thought, she's getting
girly again. "Hermione- don't cry, please don't cry."
It was too little too late, however, and
only sent her further over the edge. A fat tear rolled down one
and Ron reached over to brush it away. Feeling awkward as ever, he
her close to him and let her cry it out, wondering why on Earth he'd
to tell her that, then.
None too soon, the door pushed open behind
and Harry gave a startled exclamation. "Sorry, Ron… I'm not
anything, am I?"
Hermione had the presence of mind to wipe the
from her face before looking up. "Oh, you!" Without thinking, she
something from the bed and threw it at him.
Harry stepped back, laughing at the object
caught in one hand. It was fluffy and missing an eye. "What's this
it's at home?" he asked, grinning.
Hermione tried to glare, but she took one
at the stuffed animal Harry was holding and burst out laughing.
been wondering where that had got to," she said. "I haven't seen
"Glad I could be of help. So what is
"Well," Hermione said, "it was a rat once. I
Crookshanks got hold of it, though, and you know what he's
Harry allowed himself a moment of reflection.
year before, Wormtail had been on the Hogwarts grounds again. Once
transformed, Crookshanks lost no time whatsoever in taking a large
of the tail that had given him the nickname. "Filthy creatures," he
unconsciously twisting what he presumed used to be the neck of the
animal. The remaining eye popped off. Harry looked at it somewhat
and sighed. "They just don't make them like they used
The next evening, all twelve of them gathered
an incredibly crowded dining-room table. The last twenty-four hours
been somewhat uneventful, if you counted Elena's continued squealing
how cute Ron was as uneventful, or indeed if 'uneventful' was
with Katie and Kevin running amok. Harry was quite certain that they
some magical abilities; how they'd managed to get Crookshanks
a bassinet without getting their eyes clawed out was a mystery to
At this particular moment, Katie and Kevin
squabbling over who had eaten more mashed potatoes; Ron, who had
to sit on Katie's right, had some in his hair but was pretending not
notice. Hermione was looking slightly exhausted and Harry cringed,
he must've been yelling in his sleep the night before.
It was, much to Danny's chagrin, his and
turn to help clear the table. Grace and Hector went upstairs to put
twins to bed, and the Dream Team retired to the study to
"I can't believe the three-year-olds have
energy than I do," Hermione yawned, flopping down onto one end of
Harry, being extraordinarily perceptive as he
sat at the other end. Ron raised an eyebrow at him, but flopped down
the two. "Now what?" he asked.
Hermione shrugged. "We could watch a video,
you want. Mum rented one for us…" The rest of her words were
by a yawn.
Ron shrugged. "Works for me."
Hermione got up just long enough to pop the
in the VCR. She then fast-forwarded through about fifteen minutes of
video- "What is she wearing? Honestly." Finally, the title
on the screen.
"'My Best Friend's Wedding?'" Ron asked
"That sounds very girly. Should I be running from the room
She shrugged. "I don't know. I've
seen it before."
Harry told them both to hush up. "I'm trying
watch the movie!"
A half hour later, they were thoroughly
in the plot and betting on the outcome of the movie. "I'm telling
guys, she's going to end up losing her best friend for this. She's
totally cruel; not only that, but this blonde chick's going to end
hating her guts," Harry punctuated this sentiment with a shake of a
of popcorn in the air.
Ron shook his head. "I don't think so. He's
too nice to hate her forever just because she tried to break up his
I don't know about the girl, though. He turned his head to look at
who was half-asleep on his shoulder, just barely holding on to
He wondered how much caffeine she'd had to drink to even stay that
"What do you think, Herm?"
"That's me in five years," Hermione yawned
Harry and Ron exchanged looks: Harry's was
and open and grinning; Ron's, somewhat confused and almost wistful.
he said, and they watched the rest of the movie in
By the end, no one was awake enough to shut
the television. Harry was leaning back over the arm of the sofa,
around just enough so that his head didn't droop over the side. Ron,
him, had his feet up on the table and Hermione pretty much in his
Her head rested on Harry's knee, but her feet were on Ron's other
Ron had his arm curled around her waist in a somewhat sleepy attempt
keep her from falling and jarring herself awake.
Blissfully, Christmas Eve was free of
and the only dreams experienced were of sugarplums. (Except in Ron's
but we won't get in to that; suffice it to say that he was rather
to find Hermione in his lap when he awoke.)
None of the adults had the heart to wake the
teens Christmas morning, but it was not so with Elena and Danny (who
actually muttered, "Threesome," under his breath). Luckily for him,
twins ran screaming through the room and saved him from the wrath of
particularly vengeful Ron, who would have gone after Kevin for
into his presents with such vigor but was somewhat pinned down by
who was being uncharacteristically slow in getting up. Harry,
rolled over and fell off of the couch flat-out, which woke
"Morning, sunshine," Ron yawned
stretching full-out on the couch now that Harry was gone.
"Merry Christmas, Ron," Hermione muttered
"Sure, ignore the guy laying on a heap on the
Harry sat up and eyed the two of them suspiciously. "How long
I been on the floor, by the way?"
Ron ignored him. "Come on, you two-
Ignoring Hermione's "Ron, you're such a
- he made his way over to the mound of presents wrapped in brown
(wrapped brown both so as not to stand out to Muggle eyes, and
owl claws were likely to scratch up fancy ribbons anyway). Doling
out between Harry, Hermione and himself, Ron noted that there seemed
be more than usual- Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred and George, along
his parents, had all sent gifts. He grinned at the dragonhide jacket
claimed he'd spelled from a dragon's shed skin. It was most
the coolest thing in his wardrobe.
Hermione had wondered at first about opening
presents in front of Muggles, but realized she needn't worry: they
had Unremarkable charms on them to keep nonfamiliars from noticing
while they were being delivered. She opened the package from Fred
George cautiously and laughed when she saw the Canary Creams in
new stylish wrappers.
Harry's own presents included a subscription
a Quidditch magazine, a large square of fudge, and some dragonhide
(Hermione was trying very hard not to be horrified at the length of
dragonhide skirt Charlie had sent her, or lack thereof.) All in all,
was a very rewarding Christmas, but Harry had never even imagined
his gift from Hermione and her parents would be anything so
At around eleven, the doorbell rang. Hermione
up, grinning, and ran to answer it. Harry dismissed it as nothing
at first, but when she came back a minute later he was totally
"Sirius!" he exclaimed, and rushed forward to
his godfather. Behind him was Professor Lupin; luckily for everyone
the Muggles had moved to the living room. "What are you two doing
"Dropping by for a well-needed rest," Sirius
"Have you any idea what we've been going through trying to contact
But Alastor Moody won't let us- says it's too risky. Still-" here he
Harry's hair affectionately, "it's good to be here."
Harry thought at that moment that he really
to thank Hermione- but she and Ron had gone, and he was grateful.
was a time for his family, he felt, although they would be welcome
My family, he thought, then grinned.
do have a family after all; I have Sirius and Remus and Hermione and
and the rest of the Weasleys.
At that moment, Harry thought he must be the
boy in the world.
Going back to school was not an entirely
prospect after the vacation. Harry and Ron had successfully given
her vacation, whether for better or for worse. Three days with twins
been trying, but probably not as trying as keeping Hermione out of
library would have been.
Ron was almost ready to go back to Potions
was good, as he was about three minutes late for it) after the final
with the terrors; he'd decided that they were more than a match for
and George any day. Scowling at his professor as Snape confiscated
points, he sank down into his chair between Hermione and Harry. "I
we'll have to be testing the Veritaserum," he muttered
"My Veritaserum is nothing to worry
Hermione said matter-of-factly. "It's me who should be doing the
I've got to drink yours as Snape's just paired Harry with
Ron wrinkled his nose. "Poor Harry. Maybe we
be trying this in the hospital wing."
Hermione slapped his arm playfully. "Don't be
They stared down at their goblets (which
from appearances at least, perfectly equal in quality) for a few
"Well, this is it," Ron said, raising his, "I suppose we'd best get
over with." And he took a sip.
Willpower alone kept Ron from spitting it all
his best friend. He swallowed quickly. "That stuff tastes like-"
here he said something which made Hermione say, "Ron!") He shrugged.
at least we know it's working."
Hermione laughed. "Okay- right, to the
Umm… when's your birthday?"
"April twelfth," Ron answered without
"What, in your opinion, is the stupidest
you've ever done?"
"I said, 'Neville's right, Hermione, you
a girl…' To your face."
Hermione grinned a little at this… it was
interesting. "What's your favorite color?"
"Blue," answered Ron immediately. "Come on,
ask me something interesting."
She was not long in asking. "Why must you
call me that?"
Ron's eyes grew wide. "Uh, Hermione, don't
me that. You don't want to hear the answer- ask me something else,
"Answer my question, Ron," she said sternly,
quite interested in what he had to say.
Ron sulked another second before answering
"If you take out the 'o', it spells, 'mine.'" He turned a brilliant
of red for about three seconds, and then the effects of the potion
off. "I told you that you didn't want to know," he said, shrugging.
it's your turn. Bottoms up, Hermione."
She was about to resist and say something
but figured it was probably futile. She coughed a bit into her hand
she'd taken a swig- Veritaserum was nasty stuff indeed. "Oh,
it really does taste like-"
"Hermione!" Ron looked totally shocked that
just said that. "Oh, wait, this could be fun…"
I have a very bad feeling about this,
"What's your middle name?"
"Louise," she answered sourly. She's always
"Do you really think Lavender and Seamus make
"Yes. They deserve each other." Hermione was
beginning to smile a little. Veritaserum made everything just that
Ron grinned, getting into the swing of
"What color are Viktor Krum's knickers?"
"No idea, although I suspect they've got the
Quidditch team's logo on them."
"Is he really a gentleman?"
"No. He's a total prat. I only went to the
Ball with him because he asked me before you did." Oh no, she
miserably. I meant to say, 'because he asked me first.' But I
have gone with Neville, and he asked next- oh, this is
"Do you love me?"
It took Hermione's brain about fifteen
to process that fully- she couldn't tell if he was serious or if he
joking, if he was just teasing her or if he really wanted to know-
he wanted her to answer in the affirmative or not- but it didn't
what he wanted to hear- "Yes," she said, not making eye
She felt hands on her shoulders and was
to look up at Ron's face. Hermione tried and failed to read the
brewing there. His eyes twinkled merrily at her. "Good."
And he kissed her, there, in the middle of
Hermione took a minute to be totally aware
yes, Ron was kissing her and yes, it was in Snape's classroom and
they were probably going to get detention. She also registered that
been correct: Ron really did have to bend quite far down to kiss
She also noticed that he tasted like
and decided thus that no, it was definitely not a
Ron pulled away then, and whatever part of
class had been paying attention burst into applause. Hermione turned
especially so when Ron muttered something about Veritaserum-breath,
she cuffed him on the shoulder.
Across the room, Harry grinned to himself. He
looking a bit green around the gills but none the worse for wear.
he could have sworn that, if even for just a minute, Professor Snape