TITLE: Cross the Line
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: After Ron is poisoned, he and Hermione come to an understanding about their feud over Lavender. Part 5 in the Ron/Hermione saga.
PAIRING: Ron/Hermione, obviously
RATING: K+ -- fine holiday fun
DISCLAIMER: My name is not JK Rowling. I am in no way affiliated with her, Warner Bros., Scholastic, or Harry Potter. This is purely to satisfy my muse, which was incredibly disappointed that Ron chose Lavender (LAVENDER!) and simply wanted to do something about it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This takes place during chapter 19 ("Elf Tails") of HBP and starts the morning after Ron is poisoned but before Harry has all those fun discussions with Lavender about Ron's feelings. It is told first from Harry's POV, then Hermione's.
This story is based on the songs "True" by Ryan Cabrera, "Why Don't You Kiss Her" by Jesse McCartney, and "Find a Way" by Loudness.
EDIT: This had originally been conceived as a one-shot, but I got a request to continue, and who am I to argue with that? Besides, I thought we needed to see Ron's POV here, and also because I think Ron and Hermione should have more of a discussion about what happened. So I separated the story so that each member of the trio had his or her own chapter -- each one based on a different song.
Also, anyone who read this previously may notice that even the stuff that was here in the original has been edited, so you may want to re-read it.
There are also four "prequels" to this, and several planned "sequels".
Cross the LinePart One: Harry
"I've waited all my life to cross this line, to the only thing that's true…" – Ryan Cabrera
Harry went to see Ron first thing in the morning. In addition to checking on whether or not he had woken, he had to tell Ron about McLaggen being Keeper in their next Quidditch match. At first, he wasn't certain whether he should tell Ron while he was in this condition – the shock of the news might kill him – but then Harry decided that if he was going to tell him at all, he might as while do it while Madame Pomfrey was nearby.
Several people stopped him in the halls to ask if the rumors were true. Ernie Macmillan seemed most worried about Ron's health, and Seamus had asked if they were positive it wasn't lovesickness, but most of the others just wanted to know if it was a deliberate attack, like Katie's had been. He couldn't believe that more people weren't worried about this, simply because Ron had been in the Potions master's room at the time. Didn't they know that he had drunk a glass of mead specifically poured by the Potions master? It wasn't as though he had accidentally swallowed something in a glass vial from one of the shelves. Even after the many discussions he and the other Weasleys had held the previous night, Harry was still no closer to finding out what had happened. But he knew it had something to do with the cursed necklace that had hurt Katie.
Hermione was asleep next to Ron's bed when Harry wandered into the hospital wing. At first, Harry was surprised. He had walked Hermione back to the Gryffindor dormitories the night before and saw her walk up to bed. Was it possible she had sneaked out during the night and popped in while everyone else was gone?
He wandered over to her. She had folded her arms on top of the sheets and was resting her head on her arms; her mouth hung open slightly, and there was a small puddle of drool on the blanket. He shook her gently. "Hermione?"
She woke with a start and immediately looked at Ron. It took a moment for her to realize that it wasn't Ron who had spoken. She looked at Harry. "Oh, Harry," she said, clearly disappointed. "Good morning."
"Have you been here all night?" Harry asked, one eyebrow raised. He didn't even bother to ask how she had managed to sneak down without being caught – his invisibility cloak was folded up on the floor beside her chair. This was a most interesting, though admittedly not unexpected, turn of events.
Hermione nodded. "I couldn't sleep. I kept having these horrible dreams and I… I just had to make sure that he was all right."
Harry looked at Ron, who was still sound asleep and snoring, then turned back to Hermione. "Did he wake up at all?"
"No," she said. "I don't think so, anyway."
She looked a wreck, and Harry could tell that even being beside Ron and having constant reassurance that he was, in fact, alive, had not helped her sleep any. He sighed. "Hermione, you should go get some breakfast." He didn't want to say that she looked awful; he had more tact than that.
"But if he wakes up – " she said, chewing on her nails.
"Then I'll be here," said Harry. "You really should eat something – besides your fingernails." He tried to laugh, but it just wouldn't come out, and it didn't look like it would have done Hermione any good anyway.
Hermione whimpered and nodded, skulking out of the room while casting frequent glances at Ron over her shoulder, as though she expected him to wake up in the few seconds before she left the hospital wing.
Actually, it took Ron another ten minutes to come out of it, and he seemed very surprised at both finding Harry standing over him, peering into his face, and being in the hospital wing in the first place.
"You all right there, mate?" Harry asked, when he saw that Ron was awake.
Ron looked extremely confused. His eyes darted about the room nervously. "Er, what's going on?"
Harry explained what had happened – everything from the Chocolate Cauldrons spiked with Romilda Vane's love potion to the poisoned oak-matured mead Professor Slughorn had given them. Ron seemed more upset with the thought of mooning over Romilda Vane than he did with the thought of being poisoned, though he did ask Harry if he thought Slughorn was behind the whole thing.
"I don't think so," said Harry, taking Hermione's abandoned chair by Ron's bed. "He seemed surprised by everything." He paused for a second, gauging Ron's reaction. "Ginny reckons the poison was meant for Dumbledore."
Ron's eyebrows disappeared into his hair. "Why?"
"The mead was supposed to be Dumbledore's Christmas present, but Slughorn kept it."
"Maybe someone's trying to poison Slughorn," Ron said.
Harry shook his head. "We've already thought of that, but we couldn't think of anyone who might want to poison him, or why they would." He paused again, turning over the events of the previous night in his mind, trying to remember what else he, Hermione, Ginny, Fred, and George had discussed. Then his and Hermione's conversation with Hagrid popped into his head. "Oh! I almost forgot."
He told Ron everything that Hagrid had told them about Snape and Dumbledore's argument, but Ron didn't seem to think it was that big of a deal either. "Well, Snape's bound to get tired of being a spy, right? I mean, that can't be easy."
Harry couldn't believe his ears. This was Snape they were talking about – a teacher loathed by the majority of the student body, and no one was willing to believe that maybe, just maybe, he could be on the wrong side. Why wouldn't anyone listen to him? These weren't just paranoid delusions because he didn't like Snape and Malfoy; something strange was definitely going on between those two, and no one believed him.
Ron looked anxiously around the room. "Hermione not come to see me, then?" he asked, in what Harry supposed was to be a casual way. His voice quickly turned bitter. "Of course not," he said. "She's probably off snogging Krum or McLaggen or some other ruddy Quidditch player."
Harry had had quite enough. This row between Ron and Hermione had to stop. He chose not to point out that Ron himself was a "ruddy Quidditch player" and also that if it weren't for Hermione, he wouldn't have even made the team – though Harry would never have let McLaggen play Keeper if he hadn't been desperate. "Don't take this the wrong way, mate," Harry said, hoping that he didn't sound as irritated as he thought he did, "but are you trying to be the world's biggest git, or does it just come naturally?"
The look on Ron's face was priceless. It was halfway between shock and fury, and if Harry hadn't been so angry with him, he might have found it funny. "Why am I the git?" Ron asked. "She's the one off snogging famous Quidditch – "
"At least she didn't do it in front of you all the time," said Harry. "Which, by the way, I've been meaning to talk to you about. And it was two years ago, Ron. You can't be mad at her for something she might have done two years ago."
Ron's face was almost the same color as his hair. "You said you thought – "
"I thought, Ron," Harry said, this time purposely pumping exasperation into his tone. "But I don't really know. And I'm not about to ask Hermione about it. If she wanted to snog Krum, that's her business. It's not ours."
"But – but Ginny said – "
"Ginny was just mad at you for telling off her and Dean." Harry's insides squirmed uncomfortably as he thought about that confrontation by the portrait hole. He was personally glad Ron had told them off, but that was what had started this whole mess. "And anyway, Hermione was here all night. She's only not here now because I made her go eat some breakfast. She looked terrible."
Ron flushed, if possible, even darker. "She was here all night?"
"Yes, you prat," said Harry. "She couldn't sleep. She kept having nightmares." Harry groaned loudly. "Sheesh, you two. Why don't you just shag and get it over with?"
Ron sputtered indignantly. "What – what are you… I don't – I don't know what you're talking about," he said, though Harry noticed that he didn't look him in the eye as he said that, and his ears were a brilliant shade of pink.
Harry couldn't help but grin. "Oh, so that wasn't Hermione's name you moaned in your sleep last night?"
All the color drained out of Ron's face.
"Oh, don't worry, mate," Harry said, still smiling. He had known for quite some time that both Hermione and Ron fancied each other, but they didn't seem to realize it. It was driving him mad. "I don't think anyone else realized what you were saying. Trust me, Fred and George would have said something about it if they had."
Ron buried his face in his hands. "Oy, Fred and George heard it?" He groaned into his hands. Then he suddenly looked up. "Hang on, what were they doing here?"
Harry stared incredulously at Ron. "You were poisoned, you daft git. They came to make sure you were okay." He nodded at their birthday gift to Ron, which still sat – unopened – on the bedside table. "And to wish you a happy birthday."
"Oh, excellent!" Ron said, when he caught sight of the package. He pulled it onto his lap and began ripping off the paper. "Cool!" he said, when he had opened it. He pulled a quill out of the box. "It's one of their Spell-Check Quills. This'll help with my essays!"
Harry grinned. "Can't ask Hermione for help, then."
Ron flushed pink but said nothing. Harry sometimes thought that Ron did so poorly on purpose, just so Hermione would help him with his homework. Ron loudly cleared his throat and made a big deal about his new quill. "Can't wait to try it out," he said, but he didn't sound as enthusiastic as he had before.
They sat in silence for a while, and Harry debated telling Ron that McLaggen would play Keeper during the match against Hufflepuff. With the way he felt about McLaggen – especially after Hermione had taken him to Slughorn's Christmas party instead of Ron – Harry wasn't sure it was wise to get Ron all riled up so soon after being poisoned. But he should tell him soon or Ron would surely hear it from someone else, and Harry wanted the news to come from him.
He had just opened his mouth to say something when Ron asked, "Er, Lavender doesn't know I'm here, does she?"
Harry shrugged. He certainly hadn't told her. She'd still been asleep when Harry went down for breakfast that morning, because he wanted to come up to the hospital wing and check on Ron as soon as possible. "She must know by now," Harry said. "It's all over the school."
Ron brightened slightly at that. "It is?"
"Yeah," said Harry, nodding. "I expect you'll want to hit Seamus when you're feeling up to it."
"Why?" Ron asked, his eyes narrowing. "What did that prat say?"
Harry shook his head. "Doesn't matter. But you'll want to hit him."
"I'm surprised she hasn't come to see me yet," Ron said, collapsing on his pillows. It took Harry a moment to realize that Ron was talking about Lavender and not Hermione. "She asked me the other night why I wasn't wearing my Christmas present." He made a face, and Harry had to stifle his laughter. "Can you actually see me wearing that thing?"
"Oh, but Won-Won," Harry said, fluttering his eyelashes in a spot-on impression of Lavender, "you're my sweetheart! Why wouldn't you want the whole school to know?"
Ron snarled and hurled one of his pillows at Harry and missed by a mile – a remarkable feat, considering Harry was sitting less than a foot from his bed. "Nice aim, Won-Won," said Harry. "Good thing you're Keeper and not Chaser, or we'd lose every match."
Ron's face fell, and Harry immediately cursed himself for having brought up the subject of Quidditch. Now the whole McLaggen discussion would be unavoidable. "I expect you'll have to find a replacement," Ron said, sounding so pathetic that Harry felt like killing himself. "I guess I won't be able to play for a while."
Harry coughed. "I, er, already found a replacement."
"Not McLaggen?" Ron asked, though from the tone of his voice he knew what the answer would be.
"He was the next best after you," Harry said, trying to sound sympathetic. It wasn't that difficult; he really did feel sorry for Ron. "I had to pick someone. We play Hufflepuff next week, and he'll need to start practicing with the team."
"I guess," Ron said, still sounding thoroughly dejected.
"Look, mate," said Harry, "it's just temporary. I don't want that git on the team any more than you do, but we'll need a Keeper. Just use it as an incentive to get better, so you can wipe that smarmy smile off his face."
Ron huffed. "Hermione will probably want to snog him even more," he said, "now that he's the Gryffindor Keeper."
Harry grabbed Ron's discarded pillow and smacked him upside the head with it. "Will you shut it? Just tell her you fancy her and be done with it!"
Ron ripped the pillow out of Harry's hands and threw it at him again, and again, he missed. "I do not fancy Hermione!"
Harry rolled his eyes, then laid back and jerked around, imitating Ron the previous night. "Er-my-nee," he said, tossing his head back and forth. When he sat up, Ron was scowling at him. "Pretty obvious, mate. I mean, you weren't calling my name in your sleep."
"Me and Hermione," Ron said, shaking his head. He sighed and looked at Harry. "Don't you think it would be weird?"
Harry laughed. Ron and Hermione had fancied each other for so many years that Harry had long ago gotten used to the idea. Granted, it had taken him a while to get used to it, but he had come to terms with it eventually. He had a sneaking suspicion that they fought so often because there were so mad for each other that they needed somewhere for all that energy to go "Weird? I think it's brilliant."
Ron looked incredulous. "You don't think it's weird?"
"I guess I'm just so used to the idea of you two being desperately in love with each other," Harry said, lifting one shoulder in a barely perceptible shrug. He paused, narrowing his eyes. "Why? Do you think it would be weird?"
Ron wouldn't look him in the eye. "I mean, it's me and Hermione. We've been friends for so long, I just don't think we could…"
"Cross the line?" Harry asked, finishing Ron's statement. Ron nodded. "That's bollocks, Ron. You and Hermione are made for each other. You two row like an old married couple. If you don't fancy her, you're pretty good at faking it."
A disgusted tutting noise behind him made Harry turn, and he saw that Hermione had returned. Eating had done her a world of good; she looked much better than she had that morning, except for the scowl on her face.
"I'll just go then, shall I?" she asked, her voice curt, and Harry suddenly realized – she thought they were talking about Lavender.
Desperate to prevent another fight from breaking out, Harry leapt out of the chair and hurried over to Hermione. "Hermione!" he said, a little too loudly than was natural. He grabbed her by the elbow and dragged her over to Ron's bed. She went with minimal struggle. "Good. You can keep Ron company. I've got to, er, talk to the team. About Saturday."
Hermione sat down in the chair as primly as possible, turning her nose up slightly. She said nothing.
Harry coughed uncomfortably. "Er, yeah." He looked at Ron, who was facing away from Hermione, his arms folded defiantly across his chest. "See you later, mate. I'll be back after lunch."
He turned around and left, the silence looming heavily behind him. As he shut the door behind him, he wondered if both of them would be alive when he returned.