It was late. Probably around two in the morning. Ron's restless sleep had been disturbed once more but this time it was by a light wooden clattering on the floor next to his bed.
"Bloody rat..." Ron muttered. Moaning he rolled over, allowing his arm to droop off the side of the bed and felt blindly around the floor for what he could only assume had been his wand being yet again knocked to the floor by his pet rat Scabbers.
'Why can't he just stay in his cage at night like a good rat...' He thought, irritated. His fingers closed around the end of the wand and he placed it back on the table next to his bed. "Scabbers..." He called quietly not wanting to wake the others. When he didn't come he called for him again. When he still didn't come Ron decided that it was best to just leave the stupid rat alone and go back to sleep.
About ten minutes later when it became quite clear that he wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep at least until he found Scabbers and locked him up again, he sat up and got out of bed.
He quietly slipped down the stairs into the Common Room. He was quite surprised to find the room quietly lit by the blaze in the fireplace. A girl with messy brown hair sat quietly facing the flames.
He quickly glanced around the room but saw no signs of Scabbers. He started to turn and walk back to his room but he must have somehow alerted the girl to his presence.
"Hermione?" He feigned surprise pretending he hadn't noticed her, "What are you still doing awake?" He walked to the couch facing the fireplace and sat down beside her. Scabbers sat up on her knee and she was absently stoking his fur.
"I couldn't sleep." She responded simply.
"Sorry 'bout him." Ron said apologetically.
"It's alright." She said, "He was keeping me company." She paused gazing at Scabbers but addressing Ron, "What are you still doing awake?"
"I couldn't sleep either. And then that stupid thing woke me up again." Ron looked at Scabbers irritably. The rat was staring eerily into the fire and didn't even notice Ron. Ron shrugged off.
"Yeah." Hermione breathed. She was much quieter than usual. They sat in silence for a moment with all three of them boy, girl, and rat staring off into the fire.
After some time Hermione turned to Ron, looking him in the eye for the first time that night. She hesitated, "Thanks." She said quietly.
Ron was puzzled. "For what?" She didn't answer right away.
"Being petrified... It was like a living death. I could still see and hear I just... couldn't move."
Ron bit his lip. He knew he had been to visit Hermione every day. He'd even accidentally fallen asleep half in the bed with her one night.
"I was really scared." She admitted, "But... when you where there... It didn't seem so bad. I knew I'd be ok." She looked back into the fire. Ron didn't know quite what to say.
"Yes well..." He began, "Harry was worried something else might happen to you." He lied. He had missed Hermione. Seeing her like that had stirred something in him. He didn't know what it was but he felt like he needed to protect her.
"You've got a pretty strong handshake Ron." She said not looking at him, her face unreadable. She almost sounded a bit angry. He was so happy to see her earlier that day in the great hall but when she started to hug him... He didn't know what came over him then.
He took a deep breath and started to slide a bit closer to her and tentatively began to reach out his arms. She on the other hand, seeing his offer of comfort, practically threw her arms around his neck.
Awkwardly Ron inched closer to put his arms comfortably about her. He felt her crying a bit. He hadn't really thought about what it was like to be petrified. But he was glad that he could offer her comfort when she needed it.
Especially now. He leaned his cheek against her soft but messy curls and gently stroked her hair. After a few minutes she calmed down a bit and they reluctantly left each others embrace.
"I'm glad that you were alright. You and Harry that is. I can't believe that Lockheart would do such a thing..." She said referring to the memory charms. She wished that it wasn't true. Such a great man and it all turned out to be a lie.
"I was- We were glad to see you back to normal today." Ron said quietly. "We missed you."
"Did you now?" Hermione mouth curled up slightly in a meek attempt at a smile.
"Yes. Well," Ron said standing up. "We didn't have anyone to do our homework for us." He said briskly, trying to save face. "Well Scabbers and I had better get back to bed." He said reaching for the rodent.
"Would you mind leaving him with me? I'll make sure he gets back to you in the morning. I'd like to sit up for a bit longer."
"Alright then." He said. "G'night Hermione."
"G'night Ron." He turned and started walking back towards the Boys dormitory.
"Um... Try to stay safe. I... kinda like having you around." He said and she smiled again. "To do my homework that is." He added quickly.
"Of course." She smiled a secret smile. He smiled a bit and then walked quickly back to his room. Lying down, he forced sleep to come.
True to her word Scabbers was back in his cage the next morning and neither of them spoke of their late night rendezvous.