A/N: Written for team het in the first running of the triatharon on livejournal :)
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be :(
"It was dusk, and Ron and Hermione had just turned up in the common room, pink-faced from the cold wind and looking as though they'd had the time of their lives."
—Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, pg. 157, American hardcover
"'Bye, Harry!" Ron called out from the courtyard. Harry waved gloomily back and then walked into the castle. Ron caught Hermione's eye, and she frowned at Harry's retreating form.
"I'm worried about him," she stated.
Ron snorted. "When aren't you? Come on, then, we'll catch up with the others."
Hermione sighed and then turned to face Ron. She smiled slightly, and he grinned back, both of them easily forgetting the row they'd been having just a few days before. That was the way things worked between them, thought Ron as he and Hermione began to make their way towards Hogsmeade and away from Hogwarts. They rowed, they made up, they were friends again, then they'd row again and the cycle would repeat. Just like his parents.
"So what do you want to do today?" Hermione asked, looking a little breathless. Her cheeks were flushed from the wind and her wild hair swirled prettily in the air.
"Everything," said Ron. "We've got to see everything, so we can tell Harry."
Hermione looked genuinely excited, and Ron was pleased. She'd been so stressed out lately with her strange disappearing acts Ron couldn't figure out and he was glad she was able to let go and have a little fun, if only for a day. She was too strung out, that Hermione. He liked her much better when she was relaxed, and when she was smiling like that, showing too much teeth and gums. She really did look nice like that...
"So," said Ron loudly, derailing that train of thought. "Where to first? Honeydukes? The Three Broomsticks? Zonko's?"
Practically bouncing, Hermione clapped her hands and said, "The owl post office!"
Ron inwardly groaned. Only for Hermione, he thought.
It didn't take them too long to arrive at the village, and once there, the two stood in awe at the hustle and bustle of the busy town. Witches and wizards hurried along the streets, using magic freely and without consequence. Merchants bellowed out their products from their stands and shoppers haggled with the prices. All the shops were decorated for Halloween, as well, and carved pumpkins with animated faces cat-called at passers-by.
"Brilliant," Ron breathed, eyes wide. It was even more remarkable than he'd thought. His brothers hadn't been able to properly describe how truly amazing Hogsmeade was.
"Ooh, look," Hermione squealed, grasping Ron's arm and pointing towards a man demonstrating a potion that could make someone a foot taller for an hour. Unfortunately, the potion didn't seem to work quite like it was supposed to, and while the man's legs had lengthened, his arms had not, and now he looked like an absurd giraffe.
"I saw that once before," said Ron knowledgably. "Charlie tried to make it once over the summer when he was home from school. Made his neck reach all the way to the ceiling! Had to be taken to St Mungo's when Mum and Dad couldn't fix it."
Hermione laughed and Ron felt pleased.
"Come on," she said, tugging on his arm, which he'd forgotten she was holding. "I want to see the owls."
Ron groaned but allowed Hermione to tug him down the path towards the post office. "I don't see why we have to see some ruddy owls when we get them enough at school."
"Oh hush," she tsked, her breath puffing in the cool air. They reached the store front, and with a look of eager anticipation, Hermione pushed open the door and dragged Ron into possibly the world's loudest shop. Owls upon owls lined the walls, all screeching and hooting up a storm. Ron wrinkled his nose. Ugh. The place didn't exactly smell like a bed of roses, either.
"Look at the little ones over there," Hermione said, pointing to a row of miniature owls. "They're so small!"
Merlin, Ron thought, she can be such a girl sometimes.
"Oh, and look over there!" she said, tugging on Ron's hand. "It's a color chart! Oh, my, how interesting! Look, Ron, they really fast birds are the red ones, over there, see? And the slower owls, well, they're probably the older ones, they're a darker brown, and—"
"Hermione," whined Ron, "come on, let's do something fun. I've been to a post office before, this is nothing new."
"Oh." Hermione dropped Ron's hand and bit her lip. "Okay. You're right. I'm sorry, I've just never seen an owl post office before. I didn't grow up around magic, you know."
Ron's cheeks flushed and he shuffled his feet, feeling guilty. "Yeah, I know. But there's lots of other more fun things to do around here. Er..." He scratched the back of his neck. "We can stop by here on the way back to school, if you want."
Hermione contemplated this for a moment before smiling brightly. It was the same smile that had been making Ron's stomach squirm more than usual lately. "Sounds good," she said. "How about we just walk along the street and go into a store that strikes our fancy?"
Ron nodded, and the two quickly exited the loud, smelly post office. Directly across the street stood Honeydukes, and Ron turned pleading eyes on Hermione. She giggled and grabbed his arm once more, pulling him across the busy road. Ron's stomach lurched again—Must have been breakfast, he thought—and let Hermione drag him into the sweet shop.
It was packed with students, of course. In a corner, Ron could see Fred and George stuffing a basket full with sweets and chocolate; against the wall, Neville, Seamus, and Dean were talking animatedly about something. The shop was very warm, and very crowded. Someone jostled Hermione, and she fell backwards against Ron's chest.
Blushing madly, Ron righted her and said into her ear, "Let's go to the chocolate section, you know how much Harry likes it."
Hermione's hair bounced her agreement, and Ron steered them towards the back wall, where a small mob had gathered.
"They're giving away free fudge!" a random Hufflepuff announced, and Ron brightened.
"Excellent," he said, grinning. "Harry'll love it. Here, Hermione, just—push your way—there you go—watch it, you! Ah, here we are."
In front of Ron stood a plump, pleasant looking woman holding a large tray filled with fudge. Ron licked his lips. "Would you like to try some of our new fudge?" she asked.
"Yes, please," said Hermione, giving Ron a look that said Don't forget your manners.
"Can we get some extra for our friend?" he asked, giving the woman his best pleading look, the one that always worked on his mum. "He wasn't able to come today. Sick and that."
"Ron!" Hermione hissed at the same time the woman said, "Oh, of course!" and gave him several extra pieces of fudge.
Stuffing a piece into his mouth, Ron gave a muffled "Fank you" and dragged Hermione towards a display case of Cockroach Clusters and other sweets.
"You shouldn't have lied," Hermione scolded, putting her hands on her hips.
Ron grinned to himself; Hermione always looked so bossy when she did that. She reminded him of his mum when she was angry with his dad. "Aw, Hermione, lay off. It didn't hurt nobody. Besides, it's for Harry."
Hermione's face softened. "Oh...all right. Just don't do it again."
Ron's smile broadened. "Yes, Mum."
Hermione smacked him lightly on the arm.
Half an hour later, and several Knuts poorer, Hermione and Ron stumbled out of Honeydukes and back into the cool, refreshing air.
"My," said Hermione, fanning her flushed face, "it was so warm in there. Let's stroll for a bit, to cool down. Then maybe we could try the Three Broomsticks for lunch."
"Okay." Ron nodded in the direction of Zonko's. "Mind if we hop in there next? Buying a few tricks might cheer Harry up."
Hermione wrinkled her nose, and Ron was quick to add, "You made me go into the ruddy owl shop."
Rolling her eyes, she said, "Fine, fine. Just don't think you can pull any jokes on me, Ron Weasley. And if those twins are there, we're leaving immediately."
Ron laughed, and glanced at Hermione out of the corner of his eye. Noticing how red she still was, he said, "You all right? Your face is all blotchy."
"Thank you," she replied dryly. "Can we sit down for a few minutes? I'm still all hot and sweaty."
Hot and sweaty. Ron bit his lip and coughed as his belly jumped. "Yeah, sure," he said, "there's a bench there."
They sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, enjoying the scenery, when Ron suddenly became very aware of how closely Hermione was sitting to him on the bench. Bloody hell, he thought with growing horror, her thigh was pressed up right against his!
Ron realized that the squirming in his belly was actually coming from a location much farther south, and his eyes widened in surprise. Not here! he thought wildly. Not here, not in Hogsmeade, not with Hermione sitting right next to me, you stupid body!
It was bad enough when he got them in class, from a glimpse of Lavender's blossoming bosom, or Parvati's long hair spilling over her shoulders, but he'd never got a stiffie over Hermione before!
At least not while you were awake, said a treacherous part of his mind.
With a muffled yelp, Ron leapt off the bench, holding his shopping bag in front of his trousers, and said, "You cool now? Good, let's go."
Hermione looked surprised. "Wait, Ron! Where are you going?"
"To Zonko's," he said, turning around and striding towards the shop without looking back. Hermione didn't follow him, and he was glad (wasn't he?). Ron perused the shelves in the joke shop, avoiding making eye contact with Fred and George, who were there with Lee Jordan, and bought a few novelty items to give to Harry and Ginny with what little money he had, saving just enough for lunch. As he was leaving the shop, he saw Hermione flouncing down the street and into Shivencraft's.
Ron rolled his eyes—predictable Hermione—and followed her into the store a few moments later. The shop was nearly empty, and it wasn't hard locating Hermione as she inspected a display case of quills. He approached tentatively, aware that she wasn't very happy, and nudged her gently with his shoulder.
"I'm not speaking to you," she said, holding up a peacock feather.
"Aw, come on, Hermione," said Ron, "don't be angry. I just didn't want to waste anymore time sitting around."
"Well, you could have waited," she snapped. "I wanted us to spend the day together."
Ron opened his mouth and then closed it again. "Oh," he said lamely. He ducked his head and fiddled with the hem of his cloak. Just then, Ron's stomach growled loudly, and Hermione turned her head to stare at him.
Face burning, he mumbled an apology, and Hermione giggled. Shaking her head, she said, "Oh Ron," and walked to the cashier to purchase a few quills. Ron blushed some more, but at least she was no longer angry with him, and soon the two were making their way towards the Three Broomsticks.
"I can't wait to see what it's like in there," Ron was saying as they walked down the street, Hermione struggling to keep up with his long stride. "Fred and George claimed they saw an ogre in there once. I hope we see something like that!"
"An ogre? Really?" Hermione mused. She grinned at Ron and pushed open the door to the pub. The loud roar of students, patrons, and other questionable species slammed into Ron, and he was momentarily stunned.
"Hey, Ron! Ron, over here!"
Shaking his head, Ron looked up and saw Neville waving at him and Hermione from a booth in the corner. With him were Seamus and Dean, as well as Lavender, Parvati and her twin, Padma, and a few other Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs.
"Come on," he said, nodding in their direction, "let's go before the seats are all gone."
Hermione bit he lip and said, "Oh, I thought we could sit together but—I suppose it is too crowded."
She allowed Ron to guide them towards Seamus and the others, and when they arrived, he and Hermione were forced to share a rather small empty space on a bench. Ron was smushed between a wall and Hermione, and she was squeezed between him and Seamus, who was talking animatedly with Dean about his struggles to turn water into rum.
Across from Ron sat Lavender, Parvati, her twin Padma, and another Ravenclaw, all discussing the expensive robes they'd seen in Gladrags. Ron rolled his eyes, grateful that Hermione wasn't like that. She'd never drag him into something as utterly boring as a clothes shop. He'd never understand what others saw in those types of silly girly girls.
Soon, Ron found himself engaged in a rapid-fire conversation with Seamus about professional Quidditch teams and their chances at the World Cup that year; Hermione was leaning forward in her seat and was speaking with Neville about some such boring school thing. Ron was in the middle of arguing the superiority of the Cannons and how they were all just tricking the league into thinking they sucked, when Hermione poked him in the ribs.
Hermione was struggling with the arm of her coat. "Will you help?" she asked. "It's really warm in here and I can't get it off."
Ron turned in his seat and helped Hermione remove her jacket and draped it on the space of bench between them. And then Ron raised his eyes and froze.
Bad idea, he thought. He was taller than Hermione, taller than most everybody, and Hermione had chosen to wear a sweater that dipped down in the front. It didn't show much, but it showed enough. Ron could see the swell of Hermione's breasts, breasts he had only started noticing that year with increasing interest, and quickly looked away.
A really bad idea. Ron squeezed his thighs together to stop the ache between his legs.
Madam Rosmerta came around not too long after, and her very ample attributes further contributed to Ron's embarrassment (and probably every other boys' at the table), but eventually they were all able to resume their conversations once she was gone.
Ron was in the middle of asserting the finer points of Keeping to Dean when their food arrived at their table atop a floating, accompanied tray. Ernie Macmillan, closest to the food, grabbed the tray and began handing out the plates.
"Who ordered the fish and chips?" Ernie asked.
"I did," said Ron and Hermione at the same time. She glanced at him and chuckled, and Ron smiled back. Ernie passed them their two plates, and Ron's stomach growled loudly at the aroma. He didn't waste any time, and after pouring a generous helping of vinegar onto his fish, Ron took a massive bite and chewed noisily.
"Oh, honestly," said Hermione, looking disgusted. She'd only just begun cutting up her fish. "Must you be so crude?"
"I'm a growin' boy," he said around his mouthful. Hermione huffed and took a dainty bite of her fish. Ron watched her chew for a moment before tearing his gaze away and staring down at his plate. He really hated being thirteen sometimes.
"Where are you two going next?" Neville asked Ron and Hermione.
"You have to go the Shrieking Shack," said Seamus earnestly. "I swear I heard a howl when me an' Dean were there!"
Ron opened his mouth to agree, but Hermione cut him off. "I don't think we're going to have time to see it."
"What!" Ron gaped at her. "We've plenty of time! Come on, Hermione, why not?"
"I just don't think it's a good idea," she replied, primly refolding the napkin in her lap.
Feeling grumpy, Ron folded his arms and suddenly decided he didn't feel hungry anymore. The whole point of coming out to Hogsmeade was to see the Shack! Everyone else has seen it but Ron, he was sure of it, and he just couldn't go back to school and tell Harry he hadn't visited the Shack because Hermione had said no.
"Well, I'm going," he declared, and Hermione's head snapped around.
"I really don't think it's a go—"
"So tell me about this feetball, Dean," said Ron loudly, turning away from Hermione, who made a frustrated noise.
Dean eagerly launched into an explanation about Muggle feetball and Ron pretended to listen, all the while hyper-aware of Hermione's growing ire. He really didn't want to get in another fight with her, so he leaned over and nudged her gently with his elbow.
Hermione sniffed and ignored him, turning up her nose.
"Hey," he said, racking his brain to think of something to say that would get her to talk to him again. Hermione usually loved hearing tales about Ron's large family, and with the Shrieking Shack still on his mind, Ron blurted out the first thing he could think of.
"Did I ever tell you about the time Charlie almost got suspended when he was in school?"
Hermione's head whipped around, her hair scratching Ron's cheek, and looked quite scandalized. "No!" she breathed. "Whatever happened?"
Ron inwardly grinned, glad to have his Hermione back, and shoved a couple of chips into his mouth. "It was his fifth year, I think," he said, chewing thoughtfully. "Near the end of term. There was this girl he fancied for yonks, and he'd finally asked her out, but she was right stuck up and had demanded Charlie take her to that poncy place near the edge of town."
Ron paused and chuckled at the memory of an ecstatic Bill retelling the story to Ron, Ginny, and the twins after their brothers had returned from another school year at Hogwarts.
"Well?" Hermione prompted, looking eager. Through the window over Hermione's shoulder Ron could see that the wind had picked up. Ron frowned slightly; he hadn't brought a scarf.
"Er, right." He shook his head. "Anyway, Charlie agreed to take her there, but there weren't any Hogsmeade weekends left, so he had to find a way to sneak out of the castle."
"But that's against the rules!" Hermione exclaimed, eyes wide. Ron grinned at her and took one last bite of vinegar-soaked fish.
"Bill said Charlie was trying to impress her," said Ron with an incredulous laugh. The things blokes did to get a girl to like them. "Charlie refused to tell anyone—even Dumbledore!—how he'd been able to get out one Friday night, but he and his date managed to make it all the way into town and even eat all their meal before running into trouble."
Hermione covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh dear," she murmured. "Well, it serves him right, breaking the rules like that! And all to impress a girl. Honestly."
Ron shrugged and took a sip of butterbeer. The Three Broomsticks had quieted down significantly since they'd arrived there, and only Neville, Seamus, and Dean remained at their table. Ron had completely missed seeing the others leave. No loss there, he thought.
"We're off to see the rest of the town," announced Seamus, as he, Dean, and Neville stood from their chairs and put on their coats. "See you later, you two."
Ron and Hermione bid farewell and watched the three leave, then Ron turned and smiled at Hermione. "We might as well leave, too. No point in staying in here...anymore..." He trailed off as he watched Madam Rosmerta flounce over to a table and begin wiping it down with a washcloth. Ron gulped.
Hermione made an annoyed sound, and Ron turned to find her glaring at him, hands on hips and lips pursed. Flushing madly, he ducked his head and finished tying his cloak around his throat, then moved to help Hermione into her jacket.
"Erm, where to next?" he asked.
Raising an eyebrow, Hermione finished buttoning up and then wrapped her long scarf around her neck, catching some of her wild hair. "I need to pick up some things from Dervish and Banges. My scales are getting old and aren't properly measuring potions ingredients and... Oh, I almost forgot!"
Hermione turned back towards their empty table and placed a few Galleons on top of her folded napkin. Ron grimaced and then did the same. There goes the last of it, he thought glumly.
"Dervish and Banges it is, then," he said aloud. Rosmerta waved at them as they exited the Three Broomsticks, causing Ron to blush again and Hermione to tut.
The magical equipment shop was at the other end of Hogsmeade, but Ron and Hermione enjoyed walking along the main street and taking in the sights and sounds. Every once in a while, Hermione would grab Ron's arm and drag him into a shop that had looked interesting to her. Naturally, Ron would be bored out of his mind, but then he in turn would drag Hermione into the Quidditch supply store, where they stayed for a long time while Ron stared in rapture at the new Firebolts on display.
As the sky grew darker, Ron knew that they'd be returning to school soon, but he found that he really didn't want the day to end. He and Hermione were having too much fun. Once they got back to school, they'd have responsibilities again, and schoolwork, and teachers, and rules. Here, they were free from that.
"We should be heading back," said Hermione from behind her scarf. The wind was burning Ron's cheeks, even after he'd pulled up the hood. He nodded reluctantly, and the two strolled back down the street towards the road that would take them back to Hogwarts. They still had half an hour, though, before the teachers came to collect them, and Ron was determined to squeeze out the last ounce of fun possible.
When they reached the dirt path that led to the Shrieking Shack, Ron gave Hermione a pleading look, complete with round eyes and a bit lip. Sighing, she nodded and followed Ron down the trail. The path wasn't well-maintained and Hermione kept tripping over roots that stuck out from the ground. Finally, they reached the broken fence that blocked anyone from moving closer to the dilapidated house sitting ominously on a small hill.
"Oh," Hermione said, a little breathless. "Oh, well, that is rather impressive, I suppose. Harry would love it."
"Yeah." Ron grinned and braced himself against the fence railings. "We've got to figure out a way to get him out here."
Hermione clucked her tongue but didn't say anything. After a minute, she sighed and smiled. "You never finished telling me what happened to Charlie."
Ron's face lit up. "Oh yeah! I'd forgotten." Ron rubbed his chin, because his dad always did that when he was thinking, and said, "Well, like I said, Charlie and that girl managed to go unrecognized when they were in town, and apparently his date was impressed with whatever Charlie had done to get them there, so she suggested they go somewhere, erm...more private." Ron had whispered that last part and felt his face burn. Hermione's cheeks had also turned a rosy pink, he noticed.
"Like a...a hotel?" she whispered, sounding scandalized.
Swallowing, Ron nodded and said, "Yeah, but Charlie...Well, he didn't have the money, you know? So he—er—suggested the Shack."
Hermione's hands flew to her mouth and her eyes became round as saucers. "No!" she exclaimed. She turned towards the Shack and wrinkled her nose. "That's not very romantic, is it?"
"I don't think it was romance on Charlie's mind, to be honest with you."
"Oh, Ron!" she snapped. "Must you be so rude?"
Ron grinned to himself, pleased that he'd got Hermione riled up. "I'm a boy, what do you expect?"
Sniffing, she said, "Some manners would be nice. You are in the presence of a lady, you know."
Ron burst out laughing and Hermione smacked him lightly on the arm. "Stop it," she said.
With a guffaw, Ron turned back towards the creaking house and smiled. "Well, anyway...The girl agreed to go to the Shack and they even managed to break through the door with little effort." Ron closed his eyes and remembered the look of glee on Bill's face when he was retelling the story.
"Apparently, though, there are protection spells all over the place up there," he continued, feeling Hermione's eyes on him. "And they went off, only Charlie didn't know because they were silent. So he and the bird were, well..." He coughed. "Bill said they were snogging on a torn-up sofa when all of a sudden Snape burst into the room!" Ron started to laugh at the memory.
Hermione's eyes were filled with
mirth, though she looked like she was struggling between laughing and
being appalled. "Oh, that's awful!" she exclaimed. "Of all the people,
it had to be Professor Snape. How on earth did he know someone was in
Ron shook his head and wiped his eyes. "Charlie later said Dumbledore had made Snape remove the charms that he'd placed on the Shack, though I dunno why Snape had put spells on the place to begin with." He grinned at Hermione, who smiled back prettily.
"Anyway, Charlie and his girl were mortified, of course, because it's bad enough being caught out of school snogging in an abandoned shack, but add Snape to the mix..." Ron barked out a laugh. "Bill said Charlie's face would turn red every time he'd look at Snape. And of course, the git took a hundred points from Gryffindor, nearly causing them to lose the House Cup that year. Charlie wasn't the most popular guy when he returned to school in September."
Hermione giggled into the palm of her hand. "I can't believe that! Is that why he was almost suspended? Because he was out of school bounds?"
Nodding, Ron said, "Yeah, and oh, you should have seen my mum when Charlie came over for the summer! He had to de-gnome the garden every day, do the dishes, mow the lawn with the rusty Muggle lawnmower Dad had found, all kinds of stuff. He was miserable." Ron chuckled. "It was great."
"He's your brother!" said Hermione, though she didn't look very shocked. She was beginning to appreciate the sibling bond better now; at first, Hermione had been both appalled and confused with Ron's behavior towards Ginny and his brothers, not quite understanding how they could all fight so viciously but still love each other, but Ron had eventually explained that they were family, and family stuck together.
"He was fine," Ron said dismissively. "Won every Quidditch game his sixth year. Put him back in everyone's good graces."
Hermione rolled her eyes and wrapped her jacket tighter around her body, shivering a little from the wind. Ron was surprised that he hadn't felt the bighting cold since he and Hermione had come to see the Shack. Across the horizon, the sun was slowly making its descent into night.
"It's time to go," said Hermione, looking at her watch, and Ron's heart sank.
"Yeah, I s'pose," he mumbled, kicking at the dirt. He and Hermione walked back along the path and joined the large group of students trekking back towards school. Hermione's hair whipped madly in the wind and Ron's nose felt like it was going to break off at any second, but it was by far one of the best days he'd ever had.
"This was amazing," he said, as they worked their way through the maze of corridors inside the castle. "We've really got to get Harry out there some how."
Hermione muttered something about 'rules', but Ron pretended not to hear.
"I had a lot of fun today, Ron," she announced suddenly, once they reached the Fat Lady's portrait.
Ron smiled and said, "You definitely needed to relax. You're way too tightly wound."
"I am not!" she protested, stamping her foot, and Ron laughed. Hermione shook her head in exasperation, then grinned and looked up at the Fat Lady. "Fortuna major."
The portrait swung open, but before Ron could climb through, Hermione grabbed his hand and squeezed. Ron's cheeks turned pink, as did Hermione's, and he helped her through the door. With one last wistful look behind him, Ron climbed through the portrait and found his two best friends waiting for him on the other side.