Chapter 11! Well, this is the end of this story I'm afraid. I thought I might be able to get a few more chapters out of it, but I feel like I should end it here on a long, interesting note. But, don't worry, this isn't the last you'll hear from me!
The chair he slept in wasn't the most comfortable option available to him, but Ron was not going up to bed and leaving Hermione alone.
Ron had gotten Luna back to her tower safely and without any sort of interruption from Filch, Professors or younger students ready to snitch. His trip back to Gryffindor Tower had been equally uneventful, and he had been very glad for the lack of obstacles, for it meant that he could get back as soon as possible. He'd practically smashed his fist against the portrait of the Fat Lady to get her to wake up and let him in, before rushing into the common room and finding Hermione curled up on the couch in front of the fire, fast asleep.
Evidently, either Harry or Ginny had decided that it was the only sensible place to put her. Harry would not have been able to carry Hermione up the stairs without them turning into an amusement park attraction, and Ginny would not have been strong enough to carry Hermione's dead weight all they way up to her dormitory. If they simply let her sleep down there, people would naturally assume Hermione had dozed off while spending another late night up doing revision.
So, without a second thought, Ron had sat himself down in the massive red armchair adjacent to her and protectively watched her sleep. And as he did so, he thought about many things, including all that had transpired between the two of them in such a short about of time.
But, somewhere along the line, he must have finally given into his exhaustion and worry and fallen asleep, for he now found himself slowly slipping back into consciousness with an ache up his back.
Ron groaned and looked down at himself. He has slipped right down into the seat, his head almost level with his knees. His shirt was crumpled, his hair was sticking up at the back and there was a long drop of drool hanging from the corner of his mouth. He straightened up to ease the pressure on his back, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and looked out the window at the sky. It was still fairly dark, but it must have been close to morning, as light was turning the black sky into an array of reds and oranges.
He wrapped his arms around himself, thinking wistfully of his bed and its warm covers and soft mattress. It had not been a very good night's sleep for his muscles. They were cramped, but were easing as he stretched them.
He heaved a big yawn, ruffled his hair from the back to restore some order to its messiness and looked around at Hermione to see if she was still sleeping soundly.
But he was quite shocked to see her wide awake, watching him with a calm stare.
She was sitting upright, her legs curled up under her with Crookshanks dozing in her lap with a soft snore as she scratched him behind the ear with one fingernail. Her bushy hair framed her face and she looked very well rested, as if she'd spent a month in deep, refreshing slumber.
He smiled and rubbed his eyes. "Morning."
"Good morning.' She giggled.
"Did you sleep well?" he asked, stretching his long legs out for a moment and then flopping back down into the chair.
Hermione nodded. "Better than I have in a long while actually."
"You been awake long?"
She shrugged and looked down at Crookshanks. "I don't know; it seems like I've just been sitting here in one long moment.' She took a moment to pause in thought, before smiling to herself. 'I've been thinking."
Ron scratched the morning stubble along his jaw. 'What about?"
"Everything. My predicament, what I've been through this past fortnight…all that I've said, and all that I've done."
"You're regretting it.' He said. It wasn't a question.
She looked up at him, her expression one of slight surprise. "No, you see, that's the twist in the plot…I'm not regretting it. Well, you know… the lap dance I think I could have gone without experiencing, but the rest I'm actually thankful for. Somehow, I needed to do all those things. I've wanted to be like that for so long."
Ron rose out of his chair and moved over to the sofa. He flopped down beside her and she leant against him, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Tell me what it was like."
"What, giving a lap dance?"
"No! Not having any inhibition or worry."
Hermione smiled and let her ginger cat leap off her lap onto the floor. Even Ron, who always seemed impassive to most concerning things, actually did worry about his homework and what people thought of him and other silly little things. He could scarcely imagine what it must feel like to not have the emotion within him anymore.
"If you ever get the chance to experience it, do so.' She said. 'I can't really explain it they way it deserves to be explained."
Hermione sighed and thought for a moment of how best to describe the feeling. "Have you ever experienced a single moment in your life where you feel nothing but peace? No pain, physical or emotional, no obligation or need or stress?"
Ron nodded. "Yeah…when I'm asleep."
She giggled. "That moment where you linger between sleep and wakefulness. Where you're still alert enough to know what you're doing and where you are, but doped enough not to care about anything. It's like that, but all the time. You don't feel that anything is of much importance unless you want it to be so. Without worry or concern, you allow other emotions you didn't even realize you had come to the surface to take priority. It's just such a wonderful feeling of freedom and relief and peace that you don't ever want it to end."
Ron kissed the top of her head softly. "I bet that was an extra-special feeling for you, considering how much energy you spend worrying your knickers off on a daily basis."
"That's one way to put it I suppose." She laughed. "I know that I probably should be upset or irritated that this happened to me, but in a way I find myself grateful."
"Yes, grateful! I would not have been able to say or do half the things I did if it wasn't for this potion. I wouldn't have leant how to dress accordingly to the weather, I wouldn't have gone to that nightclub ever… and I wouldn't have been able to tell you how much I care about you."
Ron looked at her. "You wouldn't have?"
"No, of course not! I was not inclined to tell you any time soon, as a matter of fact.' She said. 'And honestly, would you really have told me without something to give you a little push?"
"Er…no, probably not."
"Exactly. We would have spent the next few years butting heads and lulling in a steely indifference to the way we really felt until it drove us mad and we cracked."
Ron snorted. "That, or the sexual frustration finally shoved us together."
"Yeah, that too I suppose." She sighed and folded her arms over her chest, staring pensively into the dying fireplace for a moment. "It's definitely opened my eyes, you know? I always thought people were a bit unmotivated by taking 'time out' from the pressures of school and work to relax. But now I see that if you don't, it can make you sick. I just need to find that balance in my life."
"Finally, you're learning." He laughed.
Hermione slapped him playfully in the chest. She exhaled slowly and summoned up that peace that only a few hours ago had come to her so easily. It took a surprising amount of energy to give herself permission to shut down, even for just a few moments. She'd been so well conditioned to always be on top, and her mind had always been focused on what she was doing, what she should be doing, or what was coming next.
She took in another deep, calming breath and let it out slowly. "Happiness keeps you sweet, trails keep you strong, sorrows keep you human, failures keep you humble, success keeps you glowing…but only God keeps going." She recited with a grin.
Ron blinked and looked at her. "What was that?"
"Something my father used to say to me when I was little, every night before I went to bed.' She said, reminiscing. 'I never really understood what it all meant, or why he was saying it to me. But I think it all kind of makes sense to me now."
He smiled and she moved around, swinging one leg over his knees so she sat in his lap facing him, straddling him. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him warmly.
"I'm glad it's like this." He said, stroking her hair.
"Mmmm, me too.' She mumbled into his neck.
"And to think,' he said, grimacing at the thought. 'It was all because of Pansy Parkinson."
Hermione laughed and sat back on his knees so she could look at him. "Oh, how I long for the day when that skeasy wench gets her much needed come-upance."
"What are you going to do about all this?" he asked. "You're Head Girl after all…you should report her."
"No, that wont satisfy me." Said Hermione, looking off into space with a secretive smirk.
Ron arched his eyebrows. "And what will satisfy you?"
"Nothing you can give me. Well, that is…' she said, giving him a soft, lingering, teasing kiss on the mouth. 'At least not yet."
He laughed, feeling that stirring in his stomach again. Was this the balance she was talking about? Without the potion as leverage, he would not have expected her to act so seductive.
Not that he was about to complain, of course.
"Well, what are you going to do about her then?" he asked, trying not to get excited down south.
Hermione smiled. "Oh, nothing you need to worry about my dear. It's the simple, old age solution for any having trouble with an arch nemesis."
Ron watched as she slipped off his lap, stood up, stretched and headed toward the girls staircase. "Which is?" he called after her.
"Vengeance, Ronald.' She said, giving him a smirk over her shoulder. 'Sweet, sweet vengeance."
Pansy was coming out of the girl's toilets when it happened.
It was nearing dinner time, and she'd been in the bathroom for the past fifteen minutes, fixing up her make-up and straightening her hair with the new charms she had learnt from the latest issue of Teen Witch Weekly. But, Myrtle had very inconveniently decided to come in and annoy her, so with a few finishing touches, Pansy had completed her beauty regime and exited the bathroom before she decided to hex Myrtle into the next world for good.
She slung her robes on her arm and walked swiftly down the hallway. She was meant to meet Millicent, so the two of them could hurry down and get a front row seat and witness the latest development in the Granger situation.
Its all just too bloody hilarious to pass up! she thought with a smirk.
Since day one, the two Slytherin girls had found the changes in Granger to be most amusing. Watching her fall apart piece by piece had become a very good way to spend their free time, and Pansy was looking forward to seeing how far this potion could take Granger. Showing up late for class, back-chatting teachers and becoming a slag were only the beginnings.
She tucked her short black hair behind her ear and headed right for the stairs…when a hand reached out, grabbed her arm and yanked her quite forcefully into a classroom.
Pansy cried out in surprise and shock as she stumbled into a table, hitting her hip hard on it. She heard the door slam shut behind her, and she spun around, leaning heavily against the desk to see who her assailant was.
"You!" she spat.
Hermione smiled sweetly at Pansy and folded her arms over her chest. "Who were you expecting?"
Pansy scowled at the nerve, before she spotted another person step out from behind the door. "Oh, what, you can't face me without at least one Weasley beside you?" she snapped.
Ginny Weasley snorted and pulled her wand out of her pocket. "Shut your mouth, Pansy, before I shut it for you."
"Kiss my ass, Weasley!"
"I'll do something to your arse in a minute if you don't shut your trap.' Growled Ginny
Remembering the fact that she too had a wand, Pansy scrambled around to the back of the desk and whipped her wand out of the robes she had been carrying.
Hermione laughed. "Oh look, she has a wand.' She said patronizingly advancing slowly. 'How very quaint."
"You stay away from me, Mudblood, or I'll…"
But Pansy didn't get to finish her sentence, for in that moment; Hermione closed the distance between them at a very alarming rate and, amazingly, snatched Pansy's wand out of her hand and tossed it over her shoulder to Ginny. Pansy could do nothing but gape as Hermione waved her wand, summoning a chair behind Pansy, and then pushing Pansy back down into it.
"Have a seat.' Said Hermione with a smirk.
"How dare you touch me.' Snarled Pansy, moving to get up. But Hermione simply waved her wand again wordlessly, and Pansy was flung back down into the chair. The next tome she tried to sit up, she found herself stuck to the seat and quite unable to move anything but her shoulders and head. 'What is the meaning of all this, Granger?"
"I think you know." Said Hermione. She was very calm, as if she and Pansy were old friends, discussing the weather over coffee.
Pansy frowned and looked at the brunette in front of her. She looked different somehow, and Pansy could tell instantly that she knew about what had been going on. Not only that, but she had been brought back to normal. But how? She wondered wildly. But it really didn't matter in that moment. Hermione was looking down at her with a heavy air of authority, and if she were anyone else, Pansy would have been intimidated. But he was not about to relent control to a Mudblood…especially not this one.
"Release me at once." Demanded Pansy again.
"Or what?' laughed Hermione, placing her hands on her hips. 'You are in no situation to be making unsubstantial threats to me, Pansy."
Pansy glared up at Hermione with all the hate she could muster, loathing that she was in such a situation. She could see Ginny moving around behind Hermione, lurking in the background and ready to jump in if she was needed.
"What the fuck do you want, Granger?" snarled Pansy, thrashing against her invisible binds to try and attack the Gryffindor in front of her.
Hermione's grin widened. "Well, it's all rather simple actually. I want you to go to McGonagall and confess to her that you brewed an illegal substance, gave it to me under false pretences and in turn endangered my life."
Pansy almost laughed her request was that ludicrous. "Illegal substance? I have no idea what you're on about."
Hermione eyes narrowed a little as she thought for a moment, and then reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a little vial with red, swirling liquid inside. Pansy felt her stomach clench. Surely she hadn't made her own Inhibition potion as well? And if so, what was she going to do with it? It took all Pansy's self control to force her expression not to give herself away.
"I don't suppose you know what this is, do you?" she asked, examining the vial idly.
"Never seen it before in my entire life." Said Pansy definitely.
"Really?" said Hermione, her eyebrows arching.
"Yes, really! Now let me go you…"
Pansy thrashed some more, making the chair buckle forward a little, but Hermione simply took her foot and planted it in the space between Pansy's legs to hold the chair in place and stop her moving.
"Ah ah, not so fast." Said Hermione. "Lets talk some more about this."
"About you giving me an Inhibition Potion which, if you had researched enough before you went ahead and brewed the bloody thing, you would know is as illegal to brew at Hogwarts as it is to make Ecstasy tablets at primary school."
Pansy frowned. "You're mad, Granger.' She hissed.
"Possibly, yes. But it makes life more colourful."
"Why would I give you an Inhibition potion?"
"Pansy, if I knew the way your mind worked, I would have booked myself in to see a shrink several years ago.' Said Hermione, giving Pansy a look.
Pansy snorted. "You think my entire life revolves around you?'
"I don't know, you tell me."
"You really must have taken something illegal if you think for a minute that…"
But, once again, Pansy didn't get to finish, as Hermione leant in very close to her face, her foot still holding the chair down, getting into Pansy's face.
"I know you did it. That night I saw you at rounds. You dropped this vial at my feet, no doubt thinking it would be rather funny to see the stuck-up bookworm loose her cool and go a bit A-wall for a while.' She snarled in a low voice. 'You're going to admit what you did, and we're not leaving this room until you do."
Pansy frowned, for once actually feeling a little intimidated by Granger. Her calm demeanor had all but vanished, and her aura was pulsating with a 'don't screw with me' vibe. Pansy guessed that it was the last thing Draco saw before Granger smacked him across the face back in third year.
She shifted and looked away defiantly. "You've got nothing on me."
Hermione sighed, feeling it a little ironic that she herself had been in Pansy's position just last night. She sent a silent thanks to Ron for his inspiration, before taking the vial out again.
"Do I have to force you?" asked Hermione.
Pansy eyed the vial cautiously. She wouldn't really…?
Hermione sighed impatiently. "Pansy, I'm tired, I'm behind in three classes and I'm rather dreadfully hung-over. Now you either admit to me what you did, or your innermost desires are going to be out in the open for everyone to see."
"I don't have to tell you shite, Mudblood."
Ginny started forward, her wand raised angrily as if she was about to attack Pansy in Hermione's defense, but Hermione, held up a hand and shook her head. Ginny, taking Hermione's hint, lowered her wand but kept a firm glare focused on the restrained Slytherin.
Pansy smirked as Hermione flashed the vial at her again. "You wouldn't have the guts to drop that."
Hermione smiled. "No, you're right. I probably wouldn't."
And then, the vial 'slipped' out of Hermione's hand and smashed to the floor.
Pansy looked down at the potion in horror. The red liquid spilt across the floor, soaking into the soles of her shoes. She looked up at the Head Girl before her, quite unable to say anything.
Hermione simple shrugged. "Whoops."
"Whoops?" cried Pansy. "You bitch! Merlin's beard, Granger… do you even realize what you've just done?"
"What's more important here, is that you realize what it is I've just done.'
Pansy shook her head. "I don't know what you hope to gain from doing that."
"Well, I imagine now that without the ability to inhibit yourself, you'll be more than willing to boast about how you fed me an Inhibition potion to the first person you run across.' Said Hermione. 'And if I have anything to do with it, that person shall be Professor McGonagall!"
"There's no way I'll open my mouth to anyone, Granger." sneered Pansy. She was completely appalled by what was happening to her. "You can bet your pretty little Gryffindor arse on that. Potion or no potion, my lips are sealed like a Gringotts vault. I've already bragged, and no longer feel any desire to do so. No-one will betray me in my house…I can assure you of that."
Hermione just arched her eyebrows, and if Pansy didn't know better, she would have guessed that Hermione was actually smug about something. But Pansy couldn't care less at the moment; all she wanted to do was get back to that book and figure out the antidote. She had seen first hand what this potion could do to people if left in their system long enough, and there were many secrets she didn't wish to share with people.
There was a long moment of silence in which the two brunettes just looked at each other with contempt, before Hermione smiled and pulled her wand out. Pansy flinched, afraid that she was going to do something more to her, but she simply waved her wand at the broken shards of glass on the floor. They flew up into her hand and repaired themselves, forming a perfectly made, empty vial once more. Then, still keeping her eyes on Pansy, Hermione raised her wand to her temple, spaced out for a moment, and when she pulled her wand away there was a single, silvery thread hanging from it.
Pansy frowned. "What…what are you doing?"
Hermione slipped the tendril of a memory into the vial and corked it shut. 'Preserving the evidence against you, Pansy. I'm sure McGonagall will me most interested to see your confession for herself."
"Oh yes. But don't worry, I wont be showing it to her just yet.' Said Hermione with a smirk. 'I'm rather enjoying watching you fret over the 'potion' I just gave you."
Pansy frowned, a dark suspicion rising in her chest as Hermione's grin widened. There was something about the way Hermione had said it. "What do you mean?' she asked in a low voice. 'What was in that potion?"
"Oh, just the basic ingredients of sugar, fruit extracts, H2O and a few others things.' Said Hermione. When Pansy just looked at her blankly, Hermione snorted and leant into Pansy's space again. 'In other words…red cordial."
Pansy was speechless as she watched Hermione take a few steps back, her hands on her hips and the vial tucked securely away in her pocket. So she, Hermione, had tricked her into giving a confession in not so many words…all with a stupid vial of red cordial! Now that she thought about it, when the vial had smashed, she had not seen any vapor rise up out of the ruins of glass. She had been too appalled to think about anything but what would happen to her if she had been infected.
"You know, Pansy, in some ways I should be thanking you for what you did to me.' Said Hermione, now back to her calm tones of superiority. 'If it weren't for you, I never would have gotten together with Ron. You're superb potion has changed my life for the better."
Pansy clenched her jaw and glared up at Hermione, mortified that she had not in fact ruined Granger's life like she had planned. "I'll get you for this." She snarled.
"Oh I'm sure you will.' Said Hermione, heading for the door. 'Anything less than a vow of revenge as I bask in your downfall and I would have been very disappointed."
And with that said, Hermione gave Pansy one last sweet smile, took Ginny's hand and left the room completely, leaving Pansy alone and still bound securely to her seat.
Hermione and Ginny walked swiftly down the hallway in silence. Ginny almost had to jog to keep up with Hermione's quick, determined strides. It was as if Hermione felt the need to get away from the scene of the crime as quickly as possible.
Once out of earshot, Hermione took the vial out of her pocket and handed it to Ginny. "Get this into Harry's Pensieve and show what it contains to as many people as you trust."
"Because, chances are that Pansy will try to steal that memory and destroy it as soon as possible. The more people there is that saw it, the lesser chance there is for her to wipe clean the evidence." Said Hermione. She was being rather business-like, as if it were an every day duty to imprison students and get confessions out of them.
Ginny snorted, pocketed the memory and looked at Hermione with a new found admiration. "You just kick arse, Hermione, have I told you that lately?"
Hermione smirked as they turned a corner. "No, but you needn't bother. I know how wonderful I am."
Ginny laughed. "Modesty is such a wonderful trait now adays."
Without saying anything, Hermione simply took out her wand and waved it over her shoulder, silently casting the spell to release Pansy.
"Where are you off to then?"
Ron looked up from buttoning up his shirt over to Harry's bed, where his best friend was currently lounging while flicking through his photo album…something he liked to do when he had a lot on his mind. "Just going to sweep my new girlfriend off her feet."
Harry snorted. "I never thought I'd see the day when the word 'girlfriend' in your vocabulary referred to Hermione."
"I know – weird." Said Ron, shivering.
Harry smiled and closed his album shut. "It only took you, what... three years to work it into your thick head?"
"Shut it, tosser. It took you longer to work it out about my little sister."
"But I was quicker at getting to the point about it."
"Yeah, by grabbing her and snogging her in front of the whole bloody tower.' Laughed Ron, throwing a sock at Harry's head.
Harry ducked it and laughed. "Look, as Hermione's rather adoptive brother I really should do my duty, sit you down under a spotlight and demand that you take care of her like Bill did to me about Ginny…but I don't feel the need. I'm glad for the two of you. I really am."
Ron smiled at him. "Thanks mate."
"It's good that you can have that with someone, you know. Someone to stand with and care for.' Continued Harry, almost to himself. 'Especially now with everything going on."
Ron, who had been doing up the button of his jeans, looked up at Harry and frowned. Harry was looking into space with a thoughtful expression, and there was almost and envious tone to his voice. "What are you on about?"
Harry blinked and looked at Ron. "Sorry?"
"Mate, you had someone you could stand with.' Said Ron. 'You had her and you let her go. You had what Hermione and I have…maybe even stronger or better! And you went ahead and pushed it all side."
"I had my reasons for doing that, Ron,' said Harry. 'You know that and so did Ginny."
"Yeah, and on some level I kind of get why you did it. But, no offence Harry, it was a rather block-headed thing to do."
Harry frowned and straightened up. "What?"
Ron sighed and ran a hand through his hair, knowing this was probably none of his business, but feeling an obligation to explain to Harry what was no-one else's place to. "Harry, I understand what its like to be scared for the people you care about. I think that maybe that's why I pushed Hermione away…you know, kept her at arms length. War does that to people I guess. Makes them cautious. Makes them nervous and practical."
"Our situations are most definitely not the same, Ron.' Said Harry shortly. 'You don't have some crazed maniac out of world domination out to get you."
"Don't I?" retorted Ron, arching his eyebrows. "This war isn't just about you, Harry. Its about oppression and power and about those who want to stand up enough to the people who try to take advantage of it. And believe me, you're not the only one in this castle who wants that bastard dead.' Ron and Harry just looked at each other for a moment, before Ron blew air through his lips and shoved his hands in his pockets. 'But we're not talking about Him here; we're talking about you and Ginny."
"Tell me you wouldn't have done the same.' Said Harry, getting to his feet. 'Tell me where you in my shoes, you wouldn't have taken Hermione out of the picture to spare her."
"Hermione's in the fire line anyway, and so is Ginny…regardless of who they keep company with! Even poor, defenseless muggles are in on it!' said Ron. 'It's a fact, Harry. I don't like it; none of us do! I want to take everyone I love deep underground for the next decade until this is all over, just so I'll be sure they won't fall victim to any of these senseless murders. But think about it, Harry – if you were going to be fighting a war that no-one could escape no matter what you did or said…wouldn't you want the person you cared about most somewhere where you could see them and protect them, rather than miles away where you couldn't?"
Harry clenched his jaw in thought, his green eyes boring into Ron for a long moment before they dropped to the floor. Really, Harry hadn't though about any of it like this.
Ron closed the distance between them and clapped Harry reassuringly on the back. "Look, you don't have to listen to a word I'm saying. But that asshole's already ruined your life so much and taken away so many of the people you care about – don't let this be another thing he screws up for you. If you want Ginny, then go back to her… but don't screw her around."
Harry looked up at Ron and frowned slightly in indecision. "What if she won't take me back?"
"Trust me, she will." Snorted Ron. "But, just remember what I told you last time; you break her heart…"
"And you break my legs. Yeah, I remember." Harry ruffled his hair and smiled at Ron in disbelief. "When did you become so serious and full of advice?"
"Puh-lease. With Hermione on the fritz, someone had to step up and take charge.' Said Ron. He sighed happily and rubbed his hands together. 'Speaking of her highness, I have a date to get to."
Harry pursed his lips in a smile and watched Ron cross to the door. "Oh, hey Ron?"
"Listen, um, about what you just said…I just…"
Ron smiled from the doorway to the boy's dorm. "Just forget it, alright?"
Harry nodded and smiled. "Sure, no problem."
"Ron, honestly, where the devil are you taking me?"
"For a walk."
"Uh huh…and is blindfolding your friend on a leisurely walk around the castle an unknown Weasley tradition?"
Ron smiled and looked down at Hermione again to see the black cloth still securely covering her eyes as he led her down the hallway by her hand. "Just relax, my love, everything is in order."
"I can't relax." She said stubbornly, stamping a foot as he led her up another flight of stairs. 'I'm being led around the castle by you, completely blindfolded, to lord-knows where…'
"What's that?' he laughed, kissing her hand. 'Don't you trust me?"
"No, it's not that.' She sighed. 'It's just…I just…'
"You just hate being out of control – yes, I know." He smiled. This had been the main reason he had blindfolded her in the first place. He wanted to test how much she really was back to her old self.
And her constant complaining from the Great Hall all the way up to the seventh floor had been a good enough indicator of her retuned normalcy.
Hermione pursed her lips, softly stroking his knuckles with her thumb as he continued to pull her along. "Can't you just tell me where it is we're going?"
"No, for the four hundredth and fifty seventh time this minute, I can not tell you.' He said flatly.
"Just please tell me we're not going to the Astronomy Tower, because that's the cheesiest place you could possibly take anyone on a first date, I'll have you know, Ronald Bilius Wealsey."
Ron stopped in his tracks and looked down at her in suspicion. "What makes you think I'm taking you there?"
"Well, we're on the seventh floor, aren't we?"
Even though she was blindfolded and half her face was hidden, he could still make out the smug expression on her face.
"How the blazes did you know we're on the seventh floor?"
"I've been counting the staircases."
"You've been what?"
"And the only place I know of that would be acceptable to take…now, how did you put it…oh yeah, 'a bird who you've been wanting to snog for a few years now', is the Astronomy Tower. You know, I don't even know why they still call it that. Its not like people go there to look at stars, more like they go there to look at their partners…"
"No, Hermione, we're not going up there." Said Ron, cutting her off.
"Then where are we going?"
"You'll see! Now belt up, will you?"
Hermione sighed in defeat and, very reluctantly, relinquished control to him. It was at times like this that she wished she didn't have that sense of worry about her anymore. Obviously Ron wanted to surprise her with something, but she just couldn't help herself; she had to know what was going on. Only just the other night she would have been more than content to simply let him guide her around the castle blindfolded; getting back into that state of mind without the potion was going to take some practice.
"Almost there.' Said Ron. 'You're not peeking, are you?"
"You charmed this blindfold on yourself so that I couldn't peek!"
"Oh yeah, so I did."
He led her around another few corners in silence before they finally came to a stop. Ron guided Hermione a few steps to her left by her shoulders and quickly kissed her. "Just wait here for a second, okay? And no more questions!" he added just as she opened her mouth to enquire about something.
She inwardly rolled her eyes and let her arms flop as his footsteps receded slightly. "Ron, I don't mean to be all jerky while you're trying very hard to be all sensitive and mushy, but it's almost curfew."
"So?" came his voice somewhere to her left. "You're Head Girl."
"And the usual rules don't apply to you. You're allowed to be out as long as you want."
Hermione thought for a moment on this, before smirking. "But, isn't that abusing my position?'
"I don't know…probably. Right, here we go!' He grabbed her shoulders again from behind and guided her forward a few steps. 'Now just don't flip out when I show you this, okay?"
"What? Ron, what have you…?"
But before she even finished her sentence, he had whipped the blindfold off her. She only had a second to cast a glance around, before he pushed open the door in front of them revealing the most extraordinary sight she had ever seen in the castle.
"Oh. My. God." She muttered, putting a hand to her mouth.
She was standing on the threshold of a nightclub. It was a huge expanse of space, just like the one she had been at only the night before. There were coloured lights flashing and there was smoke rising above the dance floor. The bar, the booths…it was all the same. Except for there were two little differences from its double in London; the room before her was completely empty of people and silent of music.
"Oh, Ron." She sighed happily.
Ron shoved his hands in his pocket and looked over her shoulder into the room he had created. "Hey, not bad!"
"You made this for me?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Yeah, I thought you'd like it! You know, considering I rather rudely pulled you away from the other one.' Said Ron apologetically. 'I mean, I know it's not the same thing…no massive orgy for one thing…"
"No, it's wonderful.' She giggled, leaning up and giving him a kiss. 'You're so sweet."
Ron's eyes widened and he covered her mouth. "Shh, don't say stuff like that – people will hear!"
Hermione laughed and the two of them walked into the Room of Requirement together, shutting the door firmly behind them so as not to be disturbed. It made the room suddenly so quiet for some reason, and it seemed a little eerie and somehow wrong to be in such a room without at least any music.
"Er, not to put a damper on the moment again,' said Hermione, looking around. 'But is there anything we can do about this music situation?
Ron shrugged and smiled at her. "You tell me."
Hermione frowned in thought for a moment, and then a second later very loud music began playing. Ron winced at the sudden blast of noise, but Hermione simple smiled and pulled her wand out. He opened his mouth to ask her what she was going to do, but she had already pointed it at him and flicked it upward. Instantly, his track pants and sweater transformed into a pair of jeans and shirt. He smiled as she then cast the same spell upon herself, putting her back in those jeans and halter top she had worn last time.
"Oh, how I've missed seeing you two." He said over the noise, admiring the perfect view he now had of her boobs.
Hermione smiled and looked up toward the ceiling as he closed the distance between them and ran his hands possessively up her sides. This had been the only time the two of them had been alone together all day, and as such she was more than happy to let him familiarize himself with her torso once more, just as she knew she would need a refresher course in a few minutes time.
Ron took her hand, led her down to the middle of the dance floor, and the two of them began dancing slowly together with the steady beat of the song Hermione had chosen. She wasn't as bold with her hips as she had been, but that was alright…he hadn't expected her to be. He didn't really mind either. He'd known her to be this way for so long; getting to know that other side of her was going to take more time than a week or so.
The music changed again to a slower, more intimate tune, and Hermione put her head on his chest. "I like us like this."
"Sure beats screaming bloody murder at each other."
"You know, I always imagined me telling you off was some sort of a fetish for you." She smiled.
Ron blushed; glad she couldn't see his face. "What on earth gave you that idea?"
"Oh, I don't know. Only the fact that you seem to pick fights with me at any opportunity given to you, and that you're probably the only guy in the entire world that looks forward to my time of the month, knowing in advance I have the temperament of an antagonized panther. Not to mention I always saw you 'conveniently' skip off hurriedly to another room after some of out little spats." She added with a sly smirk.
"You are way too observant for your own good, you know that?" said Ron, horrifically embarrassed.
"Its one of my best qualities." She said, giving him a quick kiss.
Ron wrapped his arms around her shoulder as she wrapped hers around his middle. They embraced as they swayed together, just enjoying a few silent moments along together. It was a relief just to be able to hold one another and, for the time being, forget about the terrors going on in the outside world, forget about the week that they had just had and be able to just enjoy each other's company.
As if sensing his thoughts, Hermione looked up at him. "What's the matter?"
"Hmm? Oh, nothing. Just…thinking, I guess."
Ron smiled down at her. "What I would do without you."
"Oh, suffer endlessly no doubt."
He laughed and twirled her. "Are you still upset? You know, about being back this way?"
Hermione thought for a moment. "No, not really. At the time, you know, I didn't want to do it. But while I was thinking about it this morning, I realized that that part of me isn't gone…it's just pushed aside. All I need to do is learn how to get 'Nutzo Hermione' back when I want her."
Ron snorted. "Nutzo Hermione?"
"According to Neville."
He smiled as she snuggled into him again, the song changing once more into another mellow song around them. "You know…I would have stuck with you, even if you had decided not to take that potion."
"Yeah, of course! I mean, sure, you would have been totally mental and uncontrollable…but then you'd be no different than you are now. Just mellower."
Hermione snorted. "Is this some sort of Weasley, male tradition in the art of wooing girls? Because if it is, let me be the first to tell you that you are not a very romantic race of people."
Ron sighed and smiled. "No its…it's not like that. I'm trying to say something and it's not coming out right."
"Just say it then. Don't dress it up with fancy words."
Ron looked down at her and bit his lip. How the hell was he meant to sum up seven years worth of feeling and emotion into one, simple sentence? And with his big, fumbling tongue, how was he meant to converse it to her with the right amount of grace it deserved?
After a very long moment, he smiled and shrugged. "I like you."
Hermione grinned. "Well, that's a start."
"Alright then…I like you a lot."
"Oh, you mean aside from my Nazi-like attitude towards homework, my appalling sleeping habits, my infuriating stubbornness towards Elf rights and my constant nagging in your ear?" she said, joking.
"No, I like you a lot.' He said, completely serious. 'Just as you are."
Hermione blinked, surprised at such a declaration. It was so unlike him to say something to profound. He was normally very awkward with expressing such things, especially to her. Where had that uncouth, gawky, immature and sometimes inarticulate boy she had met seven years ago on the Hogwarts Express gone to? When had he become so…grown up?
She smiled and stroked his cheek with her thumb. "Now that's romantic."
He grinned, satisfied that he had done something right, and kissed her, feeling content to do so for many more nights from now on.
Just as she was getting into it, he pulled back with a disgusted expression on his face. "What is it? I'm not that bad at kissing, am I?"
"What? No! No, of course you're not. It's just…"
He grimaced again. "Do we really owe our current state of happiness all to Pansy Parkinson and her vindictive, meddling nature?"
Hermione snorted, imaging what Pansy was doing now. "Sadly, I fear we do."
Ron shrugged, thought hard for a moment and then changed the song to the up-beat one he and Hermione had first danced together to the night before. He grabbed her waist and pulled her right up against him, showing off some more of his moves that he couldn't previously have shown her.
"Aw well,' he shrugged, kissing her softly. 'It could have turned out worse."
A/N – and there, my beauties, is where we end. I could have taken this story on for ages but, as I said before, I want to finish this on a high note. Surely your imaginations can fill in the blanks of the future! And yes, my Bridget Jones reference was probably a sin against literature, but I so badly wanted to put it in there. Thank you all for reading, and keep an eye out for me in the future.