Ch. 8

Hermione entered the great hall and turned right. She went up the first staircase and stopped just past the painting of the snowy forest. There was a corridor to the left here which she took before opening the first door on the left.

She found she had to control her breathing before stepping inside the empty classroom. Hermione was, however, relieved to see that the classroom had continued to remain unused—the desks still rested in disarray at the back of the room and a pile of the same dusty volumes in the corner still lay as forgotten as ever.

A line of very short—short from use, not by nature--candlesticks rested on the windowsill. Hermione brushed her fingertip over the blackened wicks and stared out of the window. Yes, like with everything else in the room, the view remained the same—a clear picture of the grounds that lay between the castle and the forbidden forest. She could even see Hagrid's hut, from which smoke arose from the fire she knew Hagrid was keeping in the company of her daughter. Hermione remembered how she used to think about her children in this room even before she had any. And as Hermione looked down at the engraving on the windowsill she began to remember a whole lot of other things, too.

For on there on the window's ledge, the letters RW HG FOREVER were blaringly illuminated by the midday sun. One of Hermione's tears fell into the crevice made by the R, and she allowed herself to think of the day when those words were created.

fLaShBaCk

It was a loud and noisy night in the Gryffindor common room—the students were celebrating the end of their final exams, especially the rest of the seventh years, who were done for the rest of their lives.

Nevertheless, Hermione just couldn't seem to join in with the celebrations. It wasn't because she enjoyed the tests so much, as Dean Thomas had joked, seeing her sullen expression—it was that she just couldn't shake the thought out of her head that this was it. Their last days at Hogwarts had arrived, and Hermione wasn't ready to leave yet. So while everyone else was busy setting off fireworks and uncorking bottle after bottle of butterbeer, she sat on the couch, holding her knees up to her chest.

When next she looked up, she saw that her boyfriend, Ron, was sitting next to her. He held her hand and whispered into her ear, "The classroom?"

She nodded. Hand in hand, they left the commotion of the common room and strode through the castle. Past a snowy forest painting, down a corridor, and through a door they went until they came to their special place. The place they had found the year before and had been coming to as a pair for years. Ron leaned back on the floor and Hermione sat on his lap, reclining on his strong stomach.

"So what's wrong, Mione? You looked kind of upset back there," Ron said gently. "How come you weren't celebrating?"

"I-I don't know. I guess—I guess it just didn't seem right. I don't—I don't think I'm ready to let go yet. To graduate," she replied softly.

"But why? We'll be free, we can start working and living on our own. Surely you don't want to attend classes and patrol hallways on head girl duty for the rest of your life?"

"No. I mean, I know I have to move on. But—I'm scared."

"Of what? What is there to be scared of? You-Know--"

"No, I'm not scared of Voldemort. I-I..." Hermione sighed. "I'm scared of growing apart. Can Harry, you, and I stay such good friends when we're no longer living here together? What about us? No matter what you say, it's going to be a lot different when we are living and working independently. Leading separate lives."

"It will be different, yeah—look, Mione, things have to change. Just because we're not at Hogwarts together doesn't mean we can't still stay close. We can visit each other every day—we can apparate, remember?"

Hermione nodded weakly.

"Look—how about this. I'm going to make you a promise," Ron said. "Remember when I told you I loved you?" Hermione nodded and managed a smile.

"Well, I meant it. And I still do mean it—I mean, I still love you. And I always will. So today, three days before our graduation from Hogwarts, I promise that no matter how far apart we live, no matter what comes between us, we will always spend time with each other. I, Ronald Weasley, promise that we'll always be together."

"I like that promise," said Hermione, her voice cracking a bit.

"I was hoping you would."

"But how do I know its official?" asked Hermione. "Shouldn't we have some sort of seal or something?"

"But of course," replied Ron. He gently removed himself from underneath her, stood up, and offered her his hand. He pulled her up gently and led her towards the window before pulling out his wand. Muttering an incoherent word under his breath, he placed the tip of his wand on the windowsill and as he traced letters, using his wand as a sort of quill, and the ledge became magically engraved with: RW HG FOREVER.

"Consider it official now?" Ron asked, grinning.

Hermione smiled. "Almost. I, however think there's one last thing to be done. You know, to make sure the promise is absolutely unbreakable."

"What's that?"

In reply, Hermione reached up, put her arms around his neck and kissed him.

PrEsEnT

How could we forget the promise, Hermione wondered to herself. Another voice inside her head argued back. You had every right to break up, it said. He obviously stopped loving you, he was the one who broke the promise. But then she heard his words in her head again, echoing so clearly: "we will always spend time with each other."

Briefly, Hermione wondered why she was paying so much attention to this silly promise they made so many years ago. But if it's so silly, she wondered, then why did I come all the way up here again? Hermione thought this was definitely a fair point. As soon as she stepped out of Hagrid's hut she had known she was going to her and Ron's special place. This classroom would always be imprinted in her mind as just that—the place for her and Ron, and the two of them only. It was the room where she and Ron had shared many of their firsts as a couple, where they escaped from the pressures of their classes, confided their innermost fears in each other, and dreamt of their future.

And then all of a sudden, Hermione knew what she had to do. It was going to be hard, she knew, but the promise was nagging at the back of her head, reminding her of its importance. She was going to see Ron.

A/N: i think this is my favorite chapter that i've written for this story so far...at least, it was the most fun to write!

much thanks to those who have been reviewing!

marauder3lives--you know you rock!! thanks for taking the time to read all my stories!

BuckNC--thanks so much for the review you gave me on the last chapter--it was really encouraging! (and hope you're happy that I updated fairly quickly between chapters 7 and 8!)