A/N – I'm back, after having my 'nice rest' (not too long for you, I hope). This is my latest attempt. It's R/HG (clearly), hopefully with a decent amount of H/G thrown in, and is a seventh year fic, told from Ron's point of view. Somebody suggested this, and I thought I'd give it a shot. Updates may not be as frequent as 'Aftermath', but I will do my utmost not to leave you more than two or three days without one. Rated R again, just in case. Well – here goes. ~no more 3x5s~ Shezzly XXOO
At five to eleven on the first of September, Ron Weasley went stumbling through the barrier onto Platform 9 and ¾, closely followed by his cranky, and rather dishevelled, twin brothers.
"Thanks for dropping me," Ron said, trying to get his fallen-over trunk upright.
"Shut it," George said shortly, as Fred took hold of Ron's luggage and marched ahead to the eagerly puffing Hogwarts Express. "You know we'd much rather drop you on your bloody head for dragging us away from our business deal."
He took hold of Ron's shoulder and steered him towards the train. Fred, after handing the old trunk over to a baggage loader, turned to face Ron with his hands on his hips.
"I'm sorry," Ron said, rather desperately. "Mum's at the Ministry with Dad, and Bill's at work, and Charlie's overseas, and you're my brothers anyway. You were my last resort. Sorry, sorry."
The twins narrowed their eyes at him, in a weirdly identical fashion.
Finally, just as Ron was beginning to wince in anticipation of a blow to the face, Fred said, in injured tones: "We were your last resort?"
The twins were terrible when they were angry – they'd avoid speaking to you for weeks if necessary, and could be awfully cutting. Ron hated arguing with them (no matter how seldom he did so – brief, explosive encounters with their pranks notwithstanding), but of course, couldn't show his relief. That's not what brothers did. He rolled his eyes instead, and pushed past them to get onto the train.
"Have a lovely year, Ronnekins," George called, anger forgotten, blowing him a kiss.
"Yes, dear," added Fred, in an uncanny imitation of their mother, "don't get into any more trouble, or your father and I will be up to see the headmaster."
"I haven't been in real trouble for ages," Ron protested, but by this time the train doors were slamming closed of their own accord, and the clock was striking a resonant eleven. He waved to his brothers through the glass, and they waved back, waiting for the train to leave – more out of habit, he suspected, than any sense of responsibility.
Slowly, the Express chugged into motion, and within the space of a minute, was steaming pleasantly into the countryside.
Ron sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. It was strange not to have his mother or sister with him. Ginny was staying with Hermione these past two weeks, and he presumed the two girls had come together. He hadn't seen much of Harry this summer either, largely on Dumbledore's orders. They'd met once in London to buy their books, and Harry had seemed rather miserable, in fact. Ron was pretty sure the Dursleys had been getting him down – but it had been a very quiet sixth year, with barely a murmur from Voldemort, and Dumbledore was suspicious enough to disallow Harry's usual stay at The Burrow.
Speaking of Harry and 'Mione¸ he thought, and went off down the corridor to find them.
He slid the door to Compartment 12 open, and saw Harry and Ginny sitting opposite one another, talking quietly. They both jumped as the door grated, and then Harry stood.
"Hello," he said, and Ron grinned.
"Hello, stranger. How's things?"
Harry shrugged, but was clearly pleased to see him. They shook hands.
"Boys, for heaven's sake," Ginny said, rolling her eyes.
"What?" Ron protested.
"Nothing." He sat next to her, and she gave him a quick sideways hug. "Miss me?"
"Not particularly, no," he said, and she hit him on the arm. It hurt, but he pretended it didn't. There was a brief, comfortable silence.
"So," Ron said eventually. "Where's Hermione?"
Harry raised his eyebrows at Ginny. "Ah – didn't she tell you?"
"Didn't she tell me what?" he asked, feeling a sudden, odd writhing in his stomach. "Why, has something happened?"
"No, no," Harry said quickly. "Well, yes. But nothing bad."
"So what, then?"
"Well – she's Head Girl."
Ron stared at him, and then laughed out loud, incredulous. "Head Girl? Our 'Mione?"
"Don't sound so surprised," Ginny said.
"Oh, I'm not surprised exactly. We all sort of knew, didn't we? But – bloody hell, it means we're really there, aren't we? We're really in our last year."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, but he looked a little shifty. Ron's smile faded as he eyed Harry, who looked even more uncomfortable.
"What?" Ron demanded. "What else?"
"Nothing," Ginny insisted. She shot a quick, loaded glance at Harry, who was focussed on something out the window.
"Oh, come on. It's not like I won't find out eventually."
"You will," Ginny agreed firmly. "But not from us."
Ron was just about to protest when the door slid open again to reveal a rather flustered Hermione, her robes skewiff and her wild hair falling out of its band.
"Oh, here you are," she said, in a mixture of relief and confusion. "Has anybody noticed a first year by the name of Duncan Dowry?"
"Nice to see you too," Ron said, and she glanced at him.
"Sorry, sorry," she said irritably. "It's not you. And shouldn't you be in the prefect's compartment?"
"Who's going to care?" said Ron airily, and for once, Hermione didn't even argue.
"I have to find this bloody first year," she continued, and Ron knew she was worried then, because she never cursed. "He definitely got on the train, but now no-one knows where he is. Have you seen him?"
"Sorry Hermione," Harry said. "Me and Gin have been in here the whole time."
"Ron?" she said desperately.
He shook his head. "No. But I'll help if you like."
"No, no," she said, waving a hand. "No, you all stay here. Don't panic. No need to panic."
She swept out, only half-shutting the door behind her. A few moments later they could hear her rapid knocking on the next compartment.
Ron sighed, and couldn't suppress a smile. "It's good to be back," he said. And it was. It was good to be back on the train, with his best mates, heading for a feast and a decent night's sleep, even if there would be school after it all.
They played Exploding Snap, and ate loads of sweets, and pretty soon he'd forgotten about the strange half-secret the other two were keeping from him.
"Stupid rotten bloody weather," Ron muttered as they came into the Great Hall. "I'm freezing."
"Me too," said Ginny. Her hair was wet, even after the half-hearted drying charm they'd put together, and she was shivering.
Harry said nothing. Ron looked at him quickly, and then looked away. He was clearly deep in thought, and Ron never knew what to do when Harry was so concentrated. Usually, he ignored it, and felt inadequate.
They found places at the Gryffindor table, which was filling quickly. Ron waved to Seamus and Dean, who were just coming in, and put a hand on the empty spot beside him, saving it for Hermione.
She came in at the very last, when the room was just beginning to quiet for the Sorting. She was soaking wet, but composed.
"Oi. 'Mione!" he hissed, and waved a hand at her. A few people looked at him, including Hermione. She nodded and performed the self-drying spell before coming over.
"Thanks," she said quietly, slipping in and squeezing his arm briefly. "Sorry about before."
"That's OK," he said, feeling his face go red. Her hand was still a little damp and left a coolness on his skin. He willed himself to stop flushing. He didn't know why he was doing it. "You find him?"
"In the luggage compartment," she said, rolling her eyes. She would have gone on, but then the doors slammed open and McGonagall entered, in all her formidability, and Hermione fell immediately silent.
The Sorting dragged out, and, as usual, Ron's mind wandered. He looked at Harry, sitting quietly beside his sister, and then up to the staff table. Hagrid wasn't there. He'd gone on another expedition into giant country in the middle of last year, and still hadn't turned up. He was months overdue. Most were convinced he was dead, and Ron, to his shame, was beginning to agree.
He pushed that particular thought away. It was his first day back. He wasn't going to think about all of that dark stuff if he could help it.
His gaze ran over the Gryffindors. It was still odd not to have the twins around. Their joke shop was taking off, though, and they were happier than Ron had ever seen them. They were flatting in London with Lee Gordon and Angelina Johnson.
Dean Thomas smiled at him, and Ron managed a weak smile back. Dean had dated Ginny for half of the previous year, and then dumped her unceremoniously, right before the Yule Ball. He knew Dean felt bad about it now, and was constantly trying to redeem himself, but Ron continued to harbour a certain resentment.
He was just turning to look at the other tables when Dumbledore stood.
"Thank you, Professor McGonagall," he said loudly. The Sorting had wrapped itself up without him even noticing (nice, that), and Dumbledore was launching into his beginning of year speech. Ron could almost see the collective 'sitting up' of the Hogwarts students. He wondered if the headmaster would be controversial this year – beside him, Hermione was (quite unconsciously, he thought) wringing her hands.
"Welcome," Dumbledore went on, "to another year at Hogwarts. I hope you enjoy it as much as I intend to. I will inform you, yet again, that no student is to enter the Forbidden Forest without a staff member's supervision, and that the list of banned objects this year is hanging in Mr Filch's office."
There was a brief pause. The whole room was hanging on his words. Despite himself, Ron was holding his breath to hear the rest of it – the allusions to Voldemort and their united struggle.
What Dumbledore did say surprised him.
"I'd like to introduce you to our Head Boy and Girl this year," he announced mildly, "in the hopes that you will all recognise them when seeking some student leadership. Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy, please stand."
Ron almost stood himself, he was so shocked. Hermione, very nervous, rose to her feet, and across the room Malfoy did the same.
He had to grit his teeth to stop himself screaming.
True, Malfoy had converted to the side of Dumbledore's Army the previous year, when Lucius Malfoy escaped Azkaban and killed Draco's mother. Right in front of him. Apparently he'd been having doubts anyway, and that particular event had cemented those doubts. He'd been training with the DA ever since. Besides that, he'd lost his bullying and most of his nastiness, was generally polite, and even pleasant at times. He still remained largely aloof, but to all appearances, was decidedly changed. It was a small victory over Voldemort, to have the son of such a follower turn on the Dark Lord. (A/N – Same details as 'Aftermath', if you've read it).
OK, Ron could understand that. Almost. That didn't mean he could like Malfoy. There were years of enmity between them, and he just didn't believe that the snotty little first year who'd hated his, Harry's and Hermione's guts was buried.
The thing was, Harry and Hermione did. Harry had even said once, at the end of a DA meeting, that he – in his own words – "trusted him".
Trust. Malfoy. A couple of years ago, it would have sounded ludicrous.
And here he was, Head Boy.
Now, beyond the confusion and the anger, he felt a sudden, hard rush of jealousy. His heart gave a funny leap as he looked up at Hermione, the Great Hall applauding, and thought of her and Malfoy spending time together.
She sat down as soon as she possibly could, brushing her hair back behind an ear.
"Merlin, that was embarrassing," she muttered. Food was appearing on the central serving dishes. She glanced up and saw Ron staring at her. "What?"
If Malfoy tries anything, I'll make him wish he'd never been born, he thought.
"Congratulations," he said instead
She frowned a little. It made a familiar crinkle above her nose. "Thanks," she replied, rather suspiciously. "I was going to tell you before, but the first year went missing and …" She trailed off. "You're – alright with this?"
"Fine," he said shortly. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Ron …" she began, but he cut her off. He didn't want to talk about Malfoy.
"Spotted dick?" he said forcefully, picking up a serving spoon.
She looked at him a little longer, then sighed, and held out her plate.