DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter.
A/N: Alas, here's an update! I wonder if anyone still remembers this story… This fic has finally come to a conclusion. Sorry if it took me this long, it's all my lazy butt's fault! Thanks to everyone who supported this fic!
Chapter VIII: Drastic Measures
It was already three. The Gryffindor common room was enveloped with a deafening silence, since all of its occupants were still staying in their respective classrooms. Ron stared at the grandfather's clock, wishing for the time to slow down, but it seemed that with every tick of its fingers he was only reminded that he barely had four and a half hours to save his and Crookshanks' future.
An hour and a half ago he almost killed Crookshanks with his assault, and now he was paying the price of his stupidity. The prospect of staying as a cat forever scared him to no end, and it was worse that he couldn't do anything about it.
He had to make a plan, but no matter how hard he thought he couldn't think of anything that a four-legged feline could do smoothly. Where was his strategic mind gone off when he needed it the most? This was like playing wizard's chess with only a pawn to protect your king while your opponent still had all his pieces unscratched. Yet, trying something – no matter how stupid it was – was still better than doing just nothing and waiting for doomsday to arrive.
Without his thinking cap on he went up to the boy's dormitory and grabbed the three things that he thought could be of help to him.Plan A: Write to Hermione
There was no other choice but to tell everything to her, even to the risk of him being labeled as a pervert. He would explain their situation and beg Hermione to kiss his unconscious body that was lying in the hospital wing. Since verbal language had escaped him he resorted to writing a letter.
Only three things were needed in this plan: a parchment, a quill, and an ink. He gathered these from his trunk and brought them down to the common room. He settled on the space near the fireplace and stayed away from the carpet, just in case he spilled the ink.
He stretched the parchment to its full length. For a moment he pondered on what to write and realized that starting this letter was harder than he expected. Getting straight to the point would make him sound incredulous, and the last thing he wanted was Hermione disbelieving him. But he had to start.
He picked the quill using his mouth but dropped it again when he remembered that he still hadn't opened the ink bottle. Unsealing the cap was a chore, since the bottle always slipped from his claw. After a few minutes of impatient biting and slipping, the cap finally went off – with ninety percent of the bottle's content. The ink spilled on the floor beside him, and he was thankful that he didn't work on the carpet. Well, on the plus side the ink was already within his reach, he thought, and picked the quill again.
He dipped the quill on the spilled ink and started writing using his mouth. If opening the ink bottle was a chore, then writing using your mouth was torture. Ron kept on scribbling beyond the parchment because it was really hard to have control over the quill. His 'D' which started his supposed 'Dear Hermione' didn't look like a D at all but just a very thick jagged line with a slightly curved stoke below it. Surely, starting this letter was a whole lot harder than he expected, literally and figuratively.
After a good forty minutes of pointless scrawling and scratching of quill, with occasional spilling of ink, Ron surrendered and put his quill down. He stared at the product of his hardwork. Even the smartest decoder wouldn't understand its content, when even he, the writer, couldn't make the heads or tails of it. The parchment looked like an abstract black and white painting and not a single word, even a letter, was legible. Ron looked at the grandfather's clock again. He just wasted another precious hour and he couldn't help but sigh.
Plan A: Failure. But he still had three and a half hours. So it was time to do the next move.
Plan B: Use body language.
Since it was no use continuing the damn letter-writing, Ron devised another way of delivering his message to Hermione, which was using the sign language. After all, his bushy-haired bestfriend was good at deciphering complicated things and he only had to trust Hermione's intelligence for this plan to succeed. After checking the clock again Ron darted out of the common room. The sixth-year Gryffindors were having Transfiguration at this time so he hurried to the Transfiguration corridor and looked for his bestfriends.
Professor McGonagall was circling the classroom, correcting the wand movements of her students and wincing every now and then when they got the spell wrong. It would be hard to sneak in – he wouldn't want Hermione to get into trouble because of him. But time is galleons, just like what the twins had told him. He first tried to catch Hermione's eyes, but it was a fat chance that she would look his way. Why did she have to take the seat on the last row?
There was no other choice but to wait for them to finish. He knew Hermione too well to expect her to leave the class for her pet. Well, he should use his time wisely at least. He tried to rehearse doing sign language, only to find out that it was as hard as letter-writing, if not harder. He was making weird gestures and he knew he really looked stupid. Explaining his whole predicament through this retarded plan was impossible. But he had to give it a try.
Professor McGonagall said something to the class, but Ron didn't catch it. Then the students started to move and he realized that the class was already dismissed. He hurried to Hermione and tugged the hem of her robes to get her attention.
"Crookshanks, what are you doing here?" she still looked restless, the memory of the afternoon's event still imprinted on her haggard face. Harry just raised his eyebrow when he saw Ron the cat.
"Let's check on Ron now, Hermione," said Harry nonchalantly.
"Yeah, but we have to drop to the library first," Hermione replied, then she turned to Ron. "You shouldn't be hanging around here, dear. Go back to the common room."
Ron shook his head stubbornly and started waving his paws here and there, attempting to convey an understandable message. But he never had any talent in playing charades, even in his human form, so doing this while trapped in a cat's body was worse than the worst.
"Err…" Harry muttered, trying his best to suppress a chuckle. Hermione just looked at her pet blankly. "Are you hungry my dear?" she asked gently.
That was it. He should have abandoned this plan from the very beginning. Plan B: An obvious failure.
Ron just shrugged and walked out of the room, leaving a confused Hermione and a chortling Harry. He racked his brain again for another strategy, his feet leading him to a place even he didn't know. He walked for almost an eternity, when suddenly he bumped into someone. He looked up to see who it was, and his eyes sparkled with hope when he learned who was it.
Plan C: Get an interpreter.
It was Dobby. Usually, the house elf's staring tennis ball-sized eyes scared him to oblivion, but now little Dobby was a savior figure to him. There was something inside him telling that the house elves could understand animals since they weren't humans. There had to be some connection between them and the other lower beings, he knew it!
"You is Harry Potter's friend's cat, does you?" Dobby asked uncertainly. "You is should not be wondering around, because Harry Potter's friend will be worried!"
Good thing Dobby had started the conversation. Ron cleared his throat and started blurting everything he failed to tell Hermione.
"Nyaw meow nyaw nyaw nyaw! Meow meow nyaw nyaw, meow nyaw meow, nyaw nyaw nyaw! MEOW NYAW!" Ron paused to catch some air and looked up to the elf. Dobby was looking at him seriously and this made Ron hopeful. The house elf must be thinking of what he could do to help him! Ron's eyes sparkled as he tried to continue on explaining, but he was cut off by Dobby's angry voice.
"Harry Potter's friend's cat shouldn't be too noisy because you is disturbing the classes! Dobby is not understanding what a cat is saying!"
That shattered Ron into pieces. Dobby disapparated with a loud crack, leaving Ron the cat almost lifeless and hopeless. He was stupid to think that house elves were animals, and Hermione's nagging voice about S.P.E.W automatically ran in his head.
But he hadn't got any time to think about house elves. He just faced another fact. Plan C: Another failure.
Ron dragged his four worn-out feet again to go somewhere else, and after ten minutes of unconscious walking he found himself in the Great Hall, heading to the Gryffindor table to find his bestfriends. His grumbling stomach must be the one who led him there, but when he saw that Harry and Hermione were absent he left the hall and went to the place where his bestfriends were – the hospital wing.
And another idea popped in his head. This one made more sense than the others he had thought and with the rekindled hope in his mind he dashed to the infirmary to implement his plan.
Plan D: Wake Crookshanks up.
The worried faces of Harry and Hermione welcomed Ron when he sneaked inside the hospital wing. Crookshanks was lying still, only his regular breathing being the sign that he was still alive. The guilt on Hermione's face was very prominent, and Harry didn't even bother to console her this time. He knew that the only thing that would make her feel better was 'Ron' gaining consciousness.
Nobody was talking and only the scratching of quills from Madam Pomfrey's table could be heard. Ron looked at his body, and the memory of few hours ago came back to him: outside the Charms room after Hermione brought Crookshanks in the hospital wing.
Harry was already there, waiting for his bestfriends to arrive. He was confused when only Hermione walked towards him, wearing a grim face. Ron arrived just in time to hear Hermione's account of what had happened.
"…You see, he dragged me away from Crookshanks, and said that he desperately needed my help. He sounded urgent so I followed, and I asked him about the prefect meeting. He said that it was just a fluke, he just made that as an excuse to be alone with me," Hermione paused, blush creeping on her pale face. "I asked him what was the problem, but he didn't answer until we reached the Arithmancy corridor.
"We stopped in front of an armor suit then he faced me. He looked really serious, I've never seen him like that before. Then he asked me…" she stopped again, her face turning redder, if that was still possible.
"Asked you what?" Harry inquired curiously.
Hermione gulped and looked down, "Well, he asked me whether if he would do something really stupid to me, will I promise not to get mad. I stared at him confoundedly but he really looked dead serious, so I replied that I think I won't," she sighed and looked reflective for a moment, as if remembering what exactly had happened.
"What did he do?" Harry insisted.
"Er, he asked me to close my eyes and made me promise not to do anything until he says that I can open them. I found it suspicious but he quickly snapped that that was something I could do for him as his bestfriend. I really have no idea on what he was planning, but I closed my eyes anyway. Suddenly the armor suit fell on his head, and before I knew it he was already lying unconscious on the floor," Hermione's voice cracked a little and Harry knew that she was trying hard not to cry. Ron thought he had heard enough and left his bestfriends, and started to think of ways on how to get Hermione kiss poor Crookshanks.
Inside him, Ron knew that Hermione was aware of what Crookshanks really attempted to do, but she left that detail when he told Harry what happened (leaving poor Harry to wonder what on earth 'Ron' wanted to do with Hermione). Ron couldn't help but wonder – did Hermione just agreed on the prospect of him kissing her? He shook his head, trying to clear his mind of unnecessary things.
"Hermione, let's have our dinner first," Harry suggested.
"You go ahead, I'll stay here for a moment," she responded quite indifferently. Harry just shrugged, his stomach was already grumbling, so he mumbled a soft "See you later" before exiting the room.
Ron thought that this must be the perfect moment to wake Crookshanks up. He walked over the bed and tried to climbed on it. He was successful, and he jumped on Crookshanks' arms, tugged his sleeves and hissed loudly to wake him up. But Hermione was quick to stop him.
"Crookshanks!" she exclaimed softly, pulling him to her bosom, "Keep quiet or Madam Pomfrey will throw us out! And stop bothering Ron, okay?" Ron struggled but stopped when he knew that it was futile. For an enduring moment he felt that Plan D was another failure. And it seemed that Crookshanks had no intention of waking up.
He trembled. He could already feel that his fate was already being dictated – that he would be staying as a half-kneazle for the rest of his life! It was terrible, but as time continued to slip away he couldn't help but admit defeat. It was all over, and it was all because of his stupidity.
He would watch from far away as his two dearest friends, Harry and Hermione, graduate from Hogwarts, pursue their own careers and start their own families. And Crookshanks, who would be living as Ronald Weasley would take that same path as well, while he, the grumpy old Ron would be spending nine painstaking lifetimes before he could finally rest in peace.
All his dreams had come to an end at that very instant. From the corner of his eye he saw that it was already quarter to six, and though he knew that he could still do something within the remaining time, all of his strength and hope suddenly vanished as he stared at his lifeless body.
"I hope he wakes up soon," Hermione muttered sadly. Ron could feel the painful tightening in his chest and he thought his heart was being squeezed mercilessly. Though she was holding him at that moment he felt very distant to her. Hermione was already out of his reach, a cherished dream he had to let go before frustration killed him. How many times had he dreamt of staying with her for the rest of his life, of living with her in a nice and simple home, of having her as the mother of his children…
For the fifth time an idea popped in his head again, making him more agitated. Unable to contain his excitement he tried to struggle out of Hermione's embrace. She made a little effort to restrain him and let him go in the end.
Ron crept behind her stealthily, praying for this plan to work. This was his last chance and he wanted all the luck in this world to be by his side, just for this minute. Hermione was sitting beside Crookshanks' bed, her face still gloomy and tired. Ron took a deep breath, dashed towards Hermione and throw himself on her back.
That took Hermione by surprise and she had already lost her balance before she could let out a gasp. Ron concentrated all his weight on her back and inwardly apologized to his bestfriend for the pain he was causing her as he tried his best not to pierce her back with his claws. This was the only way for this plan to succeed so he tried to feel not too guilty.
Then, as if everything happened in slow motion, Hermione fell over the sleeping Crookshanks, wide-eyed in surprise, and before she could grasp on something to prevent her fall her face had already landed on Crookshanks, their noses bumping and her lips slowly pressing on his…
Ron's mind started to swirl and his vision became hazy. He was so drained, and he was glad to feel something soft on his back. He didn't even had the strength to open his eyes when he felt something soft on his lips. He didn't know if it was already there before he started to feel dizzy, but all he knew was that it felt good. This has to be something heaven sent, he thought. He wanted to relish that wonderful moment and stay like that forever but the soft thing pulled away as sudden as he felt it.
"I-I'm so sorry! I-I d-didn't mean to-, i-it w-was an accident! I-I'm really sorry!" Ron heard Hermione stammered and when he opened his eyes he saw her scandalized face. She was as red as a tomato.
As if her lips just fueled him with energy Ron felt perfectly healthy again and he tried to sit up, making Hermione stutter again. "R-Ron I-I r-really didn't mean to! I-I s-swear! I'm glad that you're already awake b-but-"
"But what?" Ron asked in mock innocence, but he failed to suppress a teasing leer. Crookshanks let out a tired 'meow' and he and Ron caught each other's eyes. Crookshanks looked as grouchy as before but Ron gave him a grateful grin, and he felt that the half-kneazle was grinning back at him. Ron tried to flex his muscles, wiggle his toes and stretch his fingers. He saw his reflection on the glass infront of him. He winked and the image winked back. Extreme joy transmitted a powerful blaze on his overworked nerves. Yes, he was back in his real body! Plan E was a success!
"Y-you s-see, I-I lost my balance when Crookshanks knocked me off a-and I-I, er, w-well, er," Hermione stared hardly on the floor, as if wishing for it to open and swallow her whole body, just to save her from the humiliation she was feeling. Her ears were already as red as her face, unable to continue what she was about to say. Ron watched her amusedly. She looked really cute when she was like that.
Feeling really elated that he had triumphed over his dilemma Ron decided to celebrate by teasing his charming friend. After all, she was the one who caused all this trouble and he thought that she had to pay for it sweetly…
"Then what happened?" Ron challenged her to continue. Hermione looked nervously at him, and Ron could read in her eyes that she was begging him to stop this interrogation. But Ron wouldn't take that. "What happened?" he asked again.
"Y-you a-already know! W-why d-do you have to ask?" she fumed embarrassingly.
"Well I was only half-awake so I only have a vague idea of what had happened."
"I said it was an accident!"
"What's the accident then?" Ron asked persistently. Knowing that Hermione wouldn't answer him he let the matter rest on his hand. "I was in the middle of nowhere when suddenly I felt something on my lips," he looked at Hermione with a smirk on his face, making her flinch. "Then when I opened my eyes I saw you ranting about something. Am I right in thinking that you actually stole a kiss from me?"
"I SAID IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!"
"Weasley if you're already feeling fine then can you please escort Miss Granger out before you two shatter my ears?" Madam Pomfrey snapped angrily as she went over to them, obviously to check on Ron. Hermione rolled her eyes, trying to contain her temper while Madam Pomfrey made a last check on Ron's injury.
"You're okay now so you may go," the nurse grunted. "Continue your bickering outside so you won't disturb the other patients!" After throwing an angry glare to the red-head Hermione marched out of the room furiously while Ron and Crookshanks followed, Ron shutting the door behind them.
They stayed silent for a moment before Ron started, "You were saying that you accidentally kissed me, right?"
"Crookshanks knocked me off from behind and I really didn't expect it! I just lost my balance!" she hissed through gritted teeth, trying to keep her cool since Ron had just been out of the infirmary. She had to give him some consideration.
"That is lamest excuse I've ever heard Miss Granger," teased Ron. Normally when Hermione was this angry he was also glaring at her crossly, but this time was different. The seething face of Hermione was just priceless.
"You have to be thankful Ron that you just came out of the hospital wing or else I wouldn't be this tolerant with you!"
"But that was my first kiss! You do owe me a proper explanation!"
"Haven't I already given you one? Ronald Weasley you're such a jerk!" and she walked away but in a swift motion Ron grabbed her wrist. "Hey, you don't have to be so worked up with it. I'm just joking."
"Your brain surely got a huge damage after being hit twice, eh?" she snarled, but the tension on her face was subsiding. Ron broke into his usual lopsided grin. Crookshanks just growled in boredom.
"You know, Crookshanks is a smart ass, but that never stopped him from being a git," pondered Ron loudly. Hermione arched her brows and Crookshanks howled angrily. "Are you starting another row with my cat?"
Ron wanted to correct her about the cat thing ('Crookshanks is a half-kneazle!' he thought) but held his tongue. He just smirked at Crookshanks who was glaring at him, "No, I just thought that the reason your pet is like that is because he is very unfortuate to be born as a cat."
"And what about him being a cat?"
"Well, cats can't write letters, can't do sign language, and can't utter anything sensible, which makes them really pathetic." Crookshanks hissed at Ron's words but Ron just ignored him. Hermione, on the other hand, just stared at him with a baffled expression.
"Ron, you're just hungry. Let's just eat, Harry might already be in the common room waiting for us," she turned on her heel but Ron stopped her again.
"Wait," Ron exclaimed, grabbing her arm. Hermione stared at him quizzically but Ron was seeing her in a different light. All of his thoughts for the past twenty-four hours were Hermione-centered, and he knew that he couldn't already control the eddy of emotions inside his chest without losing his sanity. He almost lost her few minutes ago, and he had to prove to himself that he already had her back.
"What?" she asked, clueless at what was going on inside the head of her bestfriend.
"Well, I just thought that it wasn't fair on my part," Hermione wanted to ask what he meant but Ron had already closed the gap between them, and with a surprising gracefulness he had never achieved before he claimed her lips with his. Hermione was taken aback, her heart stopping for a moment, but then she closed her eyes and let herself fall into his sweet kiss. Her lips are so soft, Ron thought and he wished that he could kiss her like this forever. He reluctantly pulled away to breathe, his cheeks flushed.
"Now we're even," he grinned, pinching her nose affectionately. He didn't know where he got his courage to this, but at that moment he was felt that he truly was a proud Gryffindor. Hermione was blushing again. Crookshanks was already nowhere in sight.
"You've got a funny way of getting revenge," she mumbled at last, and she smiled sweetly at the red-head. Ron pulled her closer to him, felt her cheeks with his, drinking on her wonderful scent. He was glad that she was already his. He would tell her his adventure as Crookshanks later, but now he just wanted to cuddle her. Like the way she cuddled him in his cat form.
"You know what, when I hold a girl like this I will never let her go," he whispered in her ear.
"I know," she replied softly. "But I wanted to fill my stomach first. You don't want me dying in your arms because of starvation."
"Right," Ron chuckled. He released her from his embrace and kissed her nose before they went, hands intertwined, to the Great Hall.