The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment.

Acknowledgement – This was inspired by several scenes in the stories 'Portrait of a Wizard as a Young Man' and 'The Sweat of a Gladiator', both by the author canoncansodoff. They can be found on Portkey.

Introduction – This story contains yet another attempt to deal with the behavior of Ron and Hermione in HBP. (I know, all of my stories have started out with this issue. You'd think I was obsessed with it or something.) Some readers of my current story Hermione's Plan have thought I was being too easy on Ron, so they will be happy to see that this one has Ron acting like a prat. The idea just came to me one night and the whole thing was pretty much written in one day. Hope you like it.


The Ritual, Part 1

Hermione Granger bit her lip thoughtfully as she pondered the ritual she had just discovered. How would the other two react to this idea? For that matter, how did she feel about it? She sat there, working through different possible scenarios for several minutes before deciding to go through with it. Even if they didn't do the ritual, bringing up the subject might help answer some other questions she had been struggling with. She marked the page and closed the book, then stood up to go find Harry and Ron and show it to them.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had been living together in Grimmauld Place for a month now, searching for information on the Horcruxes. After a week at Privet Drive they had moved here and had renewed the Fidelius charm. Hermione had helped Harry cast the charm, and Ron was made the Secret Keeper. The only other person who had been let in on the secret so far was Remus, who checked in on them occasionally. Other than that, they were alone in the house, as the Order had stopped using the house as headquarters after Sirius died.

They were reasonably comfortable here, and each had their own room. Hermione had insisted that Harry take the master bedroom suite when he had tried to give it to her. Ron was in the room he had always used when they stayed here. Hermione had decided not to use the room she and Ginny had shared on the first floor, preferring to be on the second floor closer to the boys.

Harry did the cooking, pointing out that he had the most experience at it, having been cooking for the Dursleys for years. Hermione initially objected, not wanting him to be reminded of the treatment he had undergone at their hands, but he responded that he enjoyed cooking for people that appreciated it. Also, he found it a relaxing break from the tension filled nature of their researches.

The Black family library had been a gold mine of books on dark magic, some of which was totally revolting. Hermione spent virtually all day, every day up there, poring through the books to find a method for destroying the Horcruxes. They had already found one, right here in the house. It turned out that RAB was actually Sirius's brother Regulus, and that they had in fact found the locket here two years previously when they were cleaning the house. It was Ron who guessed that Kreacher had stolen the locket, and Hermione who remembered the stash of his treasures that she had discovered at Christmas that year when she tried to give him a present, and Harry who crawled in and fished it out. So now it was sitting on a table in the drawing room, waiting for them to figure out what to do with it.

The other problem that occupied Hermione's mind was her relationship with Ron – or lack thereof. Despite how obvious she had been during the previous school year about wanting to get together with him, they were still dancing around each other. She was getting tired of it. At first she had thought his reluctance to say anything to her was due to his shyness, but his escapades with Lavender had put that notion to rest. All they had right now was an occasional hug, which unusually flustered Ron. Honestly, the hugs she gave him were hardly different than the ones she gave Harry, and he never got flustered. She had hoped that this meant that Ron was struggling with some sort of romantic feelings for her. The only other indication she had of his interest in her was that Ron always looked annoyed when she sat on the couch next to Harry.

Frankly, he needed to give her more than that or she was going to give up and look elsewhere. Of course, her only other option right now was Harry, and she had long ago placed him into the 'off limits' category. Although she had lately begun to question exactly why he was off limits, she was still not comfortable thinking about him that way.


"You want us to do WHAT!?"

Hermione gave an exasperated sigh, although she was inwardly quite nervous about the whole thing. "I just explained it Ron. There is a class of rituals that have to be performed in the nude, and these are among them."

"That's disgusting!"

"Honestly, Ron, simple nudity is not that disgusting. We're all of age now and supposedly adults. We ought to be able to handle it." She looked at Harry for support and received an uncomfortable shrug. At least he wasn't objecting. She turned back to Ron and narrowed her eyes. "Or do you mean that the idea of seeing me nude is disgusting?"

Ron's eyes went wide. "No! I mean … well …" he was bright red now. "It's … it's just wrong."

"Ron, this is nothing compared to some of the rituals in these books. If you want to talk about 'wrong' consider human sacrifice. Or cutting someone's heart out of their chest while it's still beating."

Ron got a look of complete revulsion on his face. Harry broke in, attempting to lighten the mood. "Well, compared to that, nudity doesn't seem so bad, does it?" Hermione shot him a grateful look for backing her up.

"So, you think this is all right, then?" Ron challenged Harry.

Harry shrugged again. "Well, you and I have seen each other starkers plenty of times. I'll admit it will be uncomfortable with Hermione, but it will probably be even more uncomfortable for her, as the only girl." Ron's eyes narrowed now, a trace of suspicion working its way into his glare. He wheeled back to Hermione.

"I suppose it has to be all three of us, does it?"

"Well, technically, it only needs two of us. But there has to be at least one male and one female, and like Harry said, I'm the only girl here." She let that thought hang in the air. This was it. The ball was in Ron's court. Perhaps Ron recognized her challenge, perhaps not, but he let the opportunity pass him by, preferring to suddenly find an interest in his shoes. Hermione folded her arms across her chest and glared at him, but it had no effect as he wouldn't look up. Both of them were broken from this stalemate when Harry cleared his throat.

Harry was fully aware of what was going on between his two friends. In fact, he thought Ron was being a daft git about it. Ron would be lucky to have a girl like Hermione as a girlfriend. While Harry wasn't sure if it would work out, since the two of them did seem to antagonize each other quite a bit, he thought they ought to at least give it a try. But Ron just wouldn't take that final step. Down inside, Harry suspected that Ron didn't think that Hermione was pretty enough, but he would never say that out loud. If that were in fact the reason, he thought Ron was being ridiculous. While Hermione wasn't classically beautiful like Lavender or Ginny, she certainly wasn't ugly. Harry thought she was actually reasonably good looking.

Unfortunately this line of reasoning always led Harry to the uncomfortable question about why he hadn't ever considered Hermione as potential girlfriend material. The only answer he could come up with was that he had automatically consigned Hermione to the 'just friends' category, and the possibility of changing that classification had never come up. Probably because the night he had first noticed just how attractive Hermione was, and first looked at her 'that way', was the same night that he had decided that Ron was interested in her 'that way'.

"Actually, I think I should be one of the participants," Harry declared, now that he had his friends' attention. "I just feel that I should be involved in destroying it." There was an uncomfortable pause, but neither of his two friends objected. It was his show after all. They were just the assistants. If he felt that he had to be involved in the destruction of the Horcruxes, it was his decision. "So Ron," Harry continued, "it will be Hermione and me, and you can participate or not, your choice."

Ron now turned his glare on Harry, but Harry refused to back down, and met his gaze. "What about Ginny?" Ron demanded.

"What about her? I told you a month ago, I broke up with her."

"Why not do the ritual with her? Why does it have to be Hermione? I can apparate over to the Burrow right now, tell her the secret, and have her back here in five minutes. I'll guarantee you she wouldn't mind doing a naked ritual with you."

That statement led to a full set of glares. Hermione glared at Ron for bringing Harry's relationship with Ginny into this. She wasn't sure exactly why, but the idea of Harry and Ginny being nude together bothered her. That thought in turn made her uneasy. 'So, you're more comfortable with the idea of you and Harry being nude together than Harry and Ginny being nude together?' an annoying inner voice challenged. As Hermione had no answer for the inner voice she ignored it, and continued to glare at Ron.

Harry also glared at Ron for bring up his relationship with Ginny. "Ron, I've told you I don't want Ginny involved in this, and that's final."

Ron glared at both of them for making the situation so uncomfortable for him. Why couldn't things just stay the same while he figured out what he wanted? As long as he was uncomfortable, he wanted to make sure they were too. "So," he countered, "you'd rather see Hermione naked than let Ginny know about this project, is that right?"

Harry and Hermione's eyes met briefly, sharing a touch of embarrassment with the way Ron had just worded that, but in that look they also communicated to each other a willingness to go through with it. They turned back to Ron and Harry found his voice first.

"What difference does that make to you?" he challenged.

Hermione followed right after. "Yes, why exactly would you care if Harry sees me in the nude?" Inside she silently pleaded with him. 'Come on, this is your last chance. Speak up and tell me you have feelings for me.'

It was not to be. With a final glare at each of them, Ron snapped, "OK, fine. Just leave me out of it," and stomped from the room.

Hermione was determined that she would not cry about the situation, but the moisture gathering in her eyes seemed intent on ignoring her wishes. She was staring at the door with her hands clenched into fists at her sides when she felt Harry come up behind her and put his arms around her. Without thinking she leaned her head back into his chest and sighed.

"I'm sorry," he offered.

"Why?" She wondered just how much he had figured out.

"I'm sorry it's not working out between you and Ron. I'm not completely blind. Even I can see what you're trying to do. It doesn't seem to be working though, and I'm sorry you're being hurt."

"Thanks, I appreciate it. And thank you for being here for me." She put her arms over his and hugged them to herself. "Well, I'm not going to waste any more time worrying about him. I've embarrassed myself enough already chasing after him. We've got more important things to do." She let go of his arms and twisted around to face him, stepping back slightly as he released her. "Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

Both of them turned pink as they turned their thoughts to what they had committed to do, and both of them noticed and shared a laugh. "Do you think we'll get to the point where we can talk about it, much less do it, without blushing?" Harry asked, still chuckling.

"I think I have an idea," Hermione replied thoughtfully.


Harry and Hermione met each other at the top of the second floor landing a short time later. Hermione had suggested that they needed to get comfortable being nude in each others' presence before they attempted the ritual, as one stammered incantation could prove disastrous. So they were going to disrobe and do a walk through without actually saying the words, repeating the process until they were comfortable with it. In order to avoid the discomfort of watching each other undress, she had suggested that they both take all of their clothes off in their bedrooms, leaving only one article of clothing remaining. Harry had chosen an old tee shirt of Dudley's that came halfway down to his knees, and Hermione had borrowed a tee shirt from him that covered her to nearly the same extent. Harry had added the suggestion that they do the acclimation in the drawing room instead of one of their bedrooms, and Hermione had readily agreed. So now they smiled at each other, each sneaking a glance down at the other's bare legs, and padded barefoot down the stairs to the first floor drawing room. When informed of their plan, Ron had declared in a huff that he would be in the kitchen and that they should 'have fun doing whatever it is that you're going to do'.

Now that the moment of revelation was at hand, both of them were considerably more nervous than they had been when it was just a theoretical discussion. Finally Harry blurted out, "On three then?" Hermione nodded.

"One, two, three." They both reached down and simultaneously pulled the hem of their tee shirts over their heads and quickly looked up to take in the sight before them.

"Uh, Harry," Hermione offered after a few seconds, her voice a bit higher pitched than usual. "Remember that bit about maintaining eye contact?"

"You're not exactly looking at my eyes either."

"OK, perhaps we should just forget that rule. Just don't stare at any one place for too long and try to look at my face occasionally … oh my!"

Harry fought to keep from covering himself with his hands, as the whole point of the exercise was for them to see all of each other. "Hermione, I'm sorry. I just couldn't help it. Please don't think I'm …"

"No, no that's all right," Hermione stammered, finally tearing her eyes away from Harry's growing problem. "It's just a natural reaction, I know. I just didn't expect it to happen so quickly."

"Well, I mean, that pretty much sort of happens with teenage males when they see an attractive naked woman," Harry replied, still struggling to look away from Hermione's body. There was just no safe place to look. Her shapely legs led to a small patch of curly hair at her crotch, and when he jerked his eyes away from that they landed on her waist, which he had no idea was so nice and slender, as she rarely wore tight-fitting clothing, and moving up from there were her lovely breasts which were nice and firm and curvy and … Stop that!! he ordered himself.

Hermione's figure wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but she was, after all, nearly eighteen and kept herself in good condition. Her body was as firm and shapely as it would probably ever get. And Harry didn't exactly have a lot of experience viewing nude women for comparison. And he was a seventeen year old boy after all. All-in-all, she looked perfect as far as he was concerned.

"So, you think I'm attractive?" Hermione found herself asking shyly.

"If I didn't before I sure do now," Harry blurted out before he could catch himself. This comment left both of them bright red. "Well, I guess we have a ways to go with the whole blushing thing," Harry remarked with a nervous laugh, trying to collect his runaway thoughts and steer them toward less dangerous territory.

"Right," Hermione declared firmly, fighting the same battle. She was not thinking about touching that, and she was most certainly not thinking about how it would feel inside her.

Harry decided that he should keep talking, figuring that talking about it was preferable to silently thinking about it, since his thoughts were being so resistant to his demands that they behave. "Um, you do look good, Hermione," he stammered. "You have really nice … I mean a very nice figure."

Hermione was grateful to him for breaking the ice. "Thanks Harry, you do too." No, that didn't sound right. Boys didn't have nice figures. "I mean, you have a good looking body." She felt herself responding to that thought, and hoped Harry wouldn't notice. Unfortunately for both of them, the part of her that was responding was exactly the part of her he couldn't stop glancing at. And his mouth was still on autopilot, trying to come up with anything to fill the awkward silences.

"So … your, ah, your nipples – sometimes they're soft and now they're hard. Why is that?"

"Well," Hermione responded, trying for a calm, clinical answer, "that happens to women either when they're cold or when they're aroused." Whoops. Should have left out that last part. However, it seemed that her brain was also sending thoughts directly to her mouth without much control.

"It's not very cold in here," Harry pointed out, finally managing to look into her eyes.

"No, it isn't," Hermione said, swallowing hard, realizing that staring into those green eyes wasn't helping her at all.

They both found themselves involuntarily moving toward each other, locked in a gaze that seemed to reveal in each of them things they had never seen before. Harry reached out his hand to take her arm (Her arm! Focus on her arm and not on what's right next to it!) but as he made contact she jumped back two feet as though shocked back to her senses.

"Um … yes … all right then … let's take a look at that ritual, then, shall we?" she blurted out in a rush. She hurried over to the chair where she had put the book and bent down to pick it up.


Hermione whirled to look back at Harry, who had his hand to his mouth in mortification. He tried to shake his head to indicate that he didn't really have anything to say, but she put her hand on her hip and gave him a look that let him know she wasn't going to accept that answer. "Well," he stammered, "I … uh … I just noticed that you have a really nice looking bum."

"Oh." She blushed again, pleased at the compliment in spite of her continued embarrassment, and embarrassed even more by the fact that she was pleased. "Well, so do you."

Harry gave her a strange look. "I haven't turned around yet, Hermione. You haven't even seen my bum."

If possible, she was now even more embarrassed. "Ah yes, about that. You see, I, uh, actually I accidentally walked in on you when you were getting into the shower the other day."

"Oh. Of course, right, well that explains it, yes," Harry rambled, wondering why his mind was making such a big deal out of the fact that she had seen him getting into the shower and apparently thought his bum was worth commenting favorably on, when after all they were both completely starkers right now right next to each other and boy did she look good and wasn't his problem ever going to relax? He managed to stop both his mental and verbal rambling and cleared his throat.

Hermione took that as a signal that this conversation was finished and turned back to the book, opening it up and placing it on a table, where they both stood next to each other reading it. That should help, right, since they weren't looking directly at each other any more?


Each of them was acutely aware that they were within inches of each other's naked bodies, and the fact that their hips occasionally bumped, which neither would have given a second thought to before, or that her breasts were just slightly out of his line of sight for the book or that a certain part of him was pointing directly up at the book all conspired to make it take considerably longer than it should have for them to read about the ritual Hermione had selected. Harry, thinking that it might help if he acted the way he would normally act in this situation, and just forget that they weren't wearing any clothing, reached out and put his arm around her waist.

That didn't help either. His brain insisted on calculating exactly how far his fingers would have to move to be able to touch her breast. For her part, Hermione's brain was making a similar calculation regarding her hand and a certain engorged organ. Finally, after forcing himself to focus on the words written on the parchment of the book, Harry's eye locked on one particular word and his brain refused to let it move on.

"It says this ritual has to be done by virgins."

Hermione immediately stiffened and pulled away from his arm. That movement prompted his brain to attempt to assess what it was that had made her do that, since his arm had been very happy where it was.

Oh no!

"Hermione!" he gasped. "I'm sorry! I never meant to imply that you had … I mean that you weren't … I mean … Arrgh!"

Hermione smiled at his reaction to the thought that he had offended her. In fact, her reaction had been prompted by the fear that he was referring to his own non-virginal status. She moved back toward him and put her hand on his arm to calm him down, just as she had a hundred times in the past. "That's OK, Harry. Your comment just surprised me, that's all. Don't worry, I haven't done anything like that. I've always thought that should be saved for marriage."

Harry's relief was palpable. "Oh good. Me too." He wasn't sure why he was so relieved. And it wasn't just because her virginity was required for this ritual. He supposed that it was because he thought of her as a sister, and guys were expected to be protective of that sort of thing. Like Ron and Ginny for example. Unfortunately, he was having trouble convincing himself that that was the only reason. He certainly didn't seem to be having brotherly thoughts about her right now.

As it happened, Hermione was having very similar thoughts about Harry's revelation about his lack of sexual experience, and she didn't have the overprotective brother excuse to fall back on. She forced herself to move those thoughts in another direction. "Well," she admitted. "It's not like I've actually had the opportunity to test those principles. Honestly, I've never even kissed a boy."

Harry's forehead crinkled into a frown. "But what about Viktor? Ginny said you two had snogged."

"What? Why would she say that? I never told her …" One possible reason occurred to her, but Hermione didn't want to go there right now. "Well, maybe she misunderstood me. He did give me a peck on the cheek goodnight kiss after the ball. I never really went out with him on what you would call a proper date. I was too worried about you …" Another thought she didn't want to pursue right now nagged at her, and she pushed it aside as well. (It went something along these lines: 1) She was supposedly the thing Viktor would 'sorely miss'. 2) She was much more concerned about Harry than about Viktor. 3) What then did that say about how she felt about Harry, or how he felt about her?)

They were talking together more or less normally now. Perhaps they were finally getting accustomed to the nudity. By unspoken mutual consent, they dropped the subject of Viktor and went back to their reading.

They continued studying the ritual in silence, only noticing after several minutes that they were holding hands. Perhaps subconsciously not wanting to let go, Hermione reached up with her other hand to take hold of the page. She waited and looked at him, silently querying, until he nodded that he was ready and she turned it. Having already read through the ritual once, she waited with bated breath to see his reaction to the sketch on the new page.

"Hermione?" His voice had a slight quaver. "I have to touch you there? And you have to hold me there?"

"It seems so," she answered as evenly as she could. "Do you think you can do that?"

"I … I …" he attempted to answer but failed, partly because he wasn't sure what the answer was. "Isn't there some other ritual we could do instead?" he finally managed, thereby avoiding the question temporarily.

Hermione bit her lip before answering. "Yes, but the other ones would all involve us having sex."

Harry jerked back involuntarily, but she squeezed his hand so that he couldn't let go and pull away too far. "No!" he almost shouted. "That would be much worse!" He had been trying for quite a while now to keep his mind from going in that direction, and now the barriers he had been erecting to curb it were instantly shattered. It wasn't until almost a minute later that he got his roaming thoughts under control enough that he noticed the crestfallen look on Hermione's face, and the slight quiver of her lips.

"Oh no," he groaned. "I've managed to insult you again haven't I?"

Hermione shrugged, stalling for time until she could answer without her voice breaking. "I guess that depends."

Harry frowned until he figured out what she was implying, then offered a hesitant smile. "Hermione, I think it should be obvious that I didn't say that because I don't find you attractive." His face flushed while Hermione' eyes dropped to where he was still displaying his unflagging appreciation for her current state of undress, and a smile of her own crept onto her face. "I'm sure that having sex with you would not be at all unpleasant. What I meant was that I wouldn't want you to have to give up something so precious to you. You just said you wanted to wait until you were married, and I would hate to take that from you."

Hermione turned her eyes to him with a warm glow of appreciation, and said softly. "Thank you Harry. But you know I would be willing to do even that if we had to."

Harry swallowed hard. What an incredible offer she was making. But he knew she was completely sincere about it, and furthermore he had known it even without her saying so.

"I … I really don't deserve you, Hermione," Harry finally replied, matching her soft tone and warm gaze. Both of them were still working out all of the possible meanings of this declaration when they were interrupted by a pounding on the door.

"Aren't you two finished in there yet?"

Alarmed expressions broke out on both their faces, which each tried to hide from the other.

"No Ron, we're not," Hermione managed to shout back. "But you're welcome to come in here and join us if you're willing to." It was clear to all three of them that she meant 'willing to get naked'.

Harry and Hermione held their breath, each silently hoping that Ron would decline the offer. "No," came his irritated voice finally. "Don't worry about it. Take all the time you need." Stomping noises marked his progress back down the stairs to the kitchen.

"Whew. I'm glad he didn't take you up on that," Harry stated without thinking what that would sound like.

"Oh?" Hermione replied, her voice betraying a bit more interest than she wanted to admit to.

"I mean, it would have been pretty awkward if he were to see how I'm reacting to you," Harry said sheepishly, gesturing at his still erect member. "And frankly, I have no desire to see what his reaction would look like either.

"Perhaps you're overestimating what his reaction would be," Hermione suggested, the tone of her voice a mixture of hopefulness and uncertainty. Harry scowled inwardly. If Ron's behavior had her thinking so little of herself then he deserved to lose her, the big git.

"I hardly think so," Harry replied forcefully, allowing his gaze to sweep over the luscious contours of the once forbidden territory of his best friend's body.

Hermione's face was bright red again, but her eyes sparkled as she pressed close to kiss his cheek and whispered, "I think I'll take that as a compliment."

Harry's arm had found its way around her waist again and he pulled her even closer. "I meant it that way."

Her heart pounding, Hermione frantically searched for something to say. "Doesn't that hurt?" she blurted out.

"What?" asked Harry, clearly perplexed.

Hermione gestured downward. "It's been hard for nearly half an hour. Doesn't that get uncomfortable?"

Now it was Harry's face's turn to be bright red. "Ahh, um, I'll probably deal with that later."

Hermione was giddy with these new feelings of desirability. Her self-esteem had taken a real beating during the fiasco with Ron, but was now soaring. As a result, her imagination was recklessly ignoring all the flashing lights and warning bells her mind had created marking the 'off limits' designation for Harry Potter. "And just what might you be thinking about while you're dealing with that particular problem?" she asked coyly.

Harry just gaped at her as the remaining barriers in his mind shattered. He was not thinking about Hermione Granger like this. He could not think about Hermione Granger like this. It didn't work. He was, in fact, thinking about Hermione Granger like this. With a supreme effort he cleared his throat once more and mumbled, "I think we better get back to this ritual before one of us does or says something we might regret." Hermione agreed, but if anything, their faces showed that 'regret' was an apt description of how they felt about not pursuing that line of inquiry.

The tension, however, was not abated in the slightest by the intimate positions required by the ritual they were rehearsing. First Hermione positioned herself in front of Harry and had him place his hands there. Then she reached down and put her hand there. Unfortunately, each of them could not resist … adjusting … their hand positions a little, and the pressure kept increasing. Finally, Harry moaned.

"Hermione, I'm afraid I'm enjoying this way more than I should be."

"I … I am, too." Suddenly she gasped. "H … Harry! I don't think you should be moving your fingers like that!"

"My fingers! What about your hand! Hermione, you'd better stop … Aaaahhh!!"

Harry fought to get his breath back while Hermione turned to face him, gazing wonderingly at the messy fluid coating the palm of her hand.

"Oh Hermione, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to … I just … I …" Hermione reached out and wiped her hand on Dudley's shirt, while pressing one of the fingers on her other hand to his lips. Then she put both of her arms around his neck and pulled herself tightly against him.

"Don't be sorry. I'm not." Then she kissed him. And he kissed her back. Some time later they pulled away to breathe.

"Are you sure we should be doing this?" Harry asked hesitantly. The part of his brain that was screaming Yes! Yes! was gradually beating down the part that was still objecting.

"I think so. It feels right to me," Hermione replied with a bright smile.

"I think you're right," Harry admitted, as a beaming smile lit up his own face. "Of course, you always are." He leaned forward to kiss her again. He couldn't believe what he had been missing. Why had it taken him so long to figure this out? His hands roamed up and down her bare back, eventually coming to rest on her bum, where he gave it a squeeze. He was rewarded by a little squeak of delight from Hermione, and she let her own hands wander.

Eventually they pulled apart again for more air. Harry sighed and asked the question he had been trying not to think about. "What about Ron?"

Hermione smiled back at him. She refused to waste any more time worrying about that, and her heart felt lighter than it ever had in her life. "He made his choice. I've made my choice. You've made your choice."

Harry tightened his arms around her back and hugged her into him for all he was worth, and Hermione did the same. Then he pulled his head back and grinned.

"Good choice."


A/N I don't have any plans right now to take this any further, but if I get another inspiration I might try another chapter showing them doing the ritual, and/or considering one of the other rituals (you know which kind I'm talking about, right?). But it will probably stay a one-shot.

It's ironic, but almost exactly a year ago I got a sudden inspiration for a different one-shot, and wrote and posted Greater Love while I was in the middle of posting End Game. The really sad thing is that Greater Love probably has the best chance of any of my stories of actually happening in canon.