Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters; I just borrow them for fun sometimes!
"Bravery and Broomstick Wood"
"Ron, I…I can't believe you were able to do that!" I stare at him, my mouth agape, as the bathroom sink opens up to reveal the Chamber of Secrets. He looks at me and shrugs with a half-smile.
"Always the tone of surprise, eh?" I laugh incredulously and notice that, despite his words, he is surprised himself. "I dunno, I just practiced what Harry told the locket to do and…and apparently it works."
I can feel my face heat up and my stomach swoop as my affection for him swells. He has more than proven himself over the last year and I have fallen even more in love with him than I thought possible. I smile grandly at him and then look around for the broom we brought with us. I stoop down to pick it up and hand it to him, and he takes it with a deep breath.
"Ready, then?" I look at him expectantly.
"Yeah…yeah, let's go." He nods emphatically, steeling himself. "Never imagined I'd go back down here…"
I squeeze his arm in an attempt to reassure him, and he looks at me with a grateful smile. He swings one leg over the old broom and guides me behind him. I take an unsure seat and automatically wrap both arms around his waist. He grunts when I grasp too tightly.
"Oh, sorry!" I squeak.
"S'ok. You'll need to hold on tight, we're going to have to take a bit of a dive."
I gulp as we begin to levitate and wrench my eyes shut as we begin our descent to the Chamber. I instinctively place my head against Ron's back as we fly down to the deepest cavity of Hogwarts.
"Look over there, see that rubble? That's where the wall collapsed the last time we were down here."
I look to where Ron is pointing and shudder to think what could have happened to them all had Fawkes not rescued them. Ron expertly maneuvers us around the rocks and we are flying steadily once again. I can feel Ron's heart beating madly within his chest as I rest my head against him. I give him a reassuring squeeze around his middle and I feel his muscles relax slightly.
I can hear blasts occurring above us and I shudder involuntarily. Thankfully, Ron slows us to a halt and we land softly. For the first time, I open my eyes and take in the sight of the decrepit Chamber of Secrets. I knew what we were coming down here for, but the sight of it still makes me gasp. There, ten yards away from where Ron and I stand, is the decaying and putrid corpse of the Basilisk. It's eyes have been gouged shut and its long body is trailing from a long cave where it undoubtedly came from. Ron immediately grasps my hand in his and gives it a squeeze.
"S'all right, Hermione, it can't hurt us. Well, apart from the nauseating stench, o' course…"
Suddenly I am overwhelmed with memories from second year. The horrid feeling when I saw its eye in the mirror and the flashing feeling of being petrified. Coming to in the hospital wing, unaware that I had been out of commission for weeks. The elation of running into the Great Hall for the end-of-year feast…We were such children then, barely contemplating where our futures would lead.
I realize that I have let my mind wander and I come back to the present, looking into Ron's questioning eyes.
"Right, then. Let's…uh…let's figure out how to get these fangs out, shall we?" I look at Ron, hoping he'll take the lead. Thankfully, he does. He walks to the huge snake and examines the fangs protruding from its mouth, clamped shut in death. He shivers and looks at me.
"D'you know any spells that could wrench these out?"
I think as hard as I can and shake my head. The only spells that come to mind would shatter the teeth, and we need them in tact to destroy the horcrux. Suddenly I see Ron's eyes light up. He points his wand at one of the teeth and shouts "Odonto Extractum!" It shakes in its cavity for a moment then falls to the ground with a loud "POP!"
"Brilliant, Ron!" I cry, scooping up the tooth gingerly.
"Mum used it when we were kids, when we had stubborn loose teeth. I just now remembered it," he said sheepishly, shrugging again. I laugh and smile kindly at him.
"Well, good then, keep going! We'll need a bunch of them!" He returns my smile and continues extracting the fangs. "While you do that, I'm going to go ahead and destroy the cup, shall I?"
Suddenly, Ron turns to me and drops the fangs he's been collecting. His mouth drops open and he rushes to my side.
"What?" I ask. "I'm perfectly capable of destro—" But he cuts me off before I can finish.
"I know that, Hermione. I just want to be with you while you do this. When I destroyed the locket…well, it—it wasn't easy. I think you should be the one to destroy it, Merlin knows we all deserve a shot at killing a bit of You-Know-Who, but I just want to be with you should you, uh…get…distracted by it."
My eyes surely show him how confused I am by his speech, and his face immediately turns beet-red.
"Ron," I begin. "What—what happened when you destroyed the locket?"
"Nothing, it was nothing. It just…well, it makes you feel things, it…it shows you what you're most afraid of, it makes you miserable; it—it taunted me, really. Took me a minute before I remembered what I was supposed to be doing, that's all." I see something dark flash across his eyes, something like fear and sadness.
"What did it taunt you with, exactly?" I ask him.
"I—it's nothing, I'll tell you one day, I promise." He forces a half-smile and nods to me, encouraging me to do what I have to do. He hands me a fang and I take the cup out of a parcel I've carried with me.
I place the cup down on the ground and get to my knees, holding the fang above it. I see Ron squat down to my level and I feel him place a reassuring hand on my back with his wand at the ready. I give him a small smile and take a deep breath, plunging the fang into the cup.
We are both blown backwards by the force of the horcrux as it breaks open. I see a swirling blue mist and the sound of screaming rings in my ears. The blue mist begins to surround me and I hear hissing voices all around me.
"…Never good enough…you'll never be good enough…your parents don't understand you…you'll never fit in with wizards….filthy blood…you're not really one of them….never smart enough….nothing you do will ever be enough…"
I feel every ounce of hope begin to drain from my body, as if I am surrounded by a hundred dementors. I can hear Ron calling to me as if from miles away while the voices continue to torment me.
"He left you for another…not pretty enough, not charming enough…she was everything you could never be. He wants gorgeous, not plain. He will never want you…never want you…"
"HERMIONE!" Ron's voice cuts through the others. "Don't listen to them! Do you hear me? DON'T LISTEN! Stab it again, stab it again!"
"He doesn't love you, he never will. It won't be long before another girl comes and takes him from you…all the looks and touches from him mean nothing, he's just toying with you…he doesn't love you, and why should he? You're a mudblood. You have nothing to give…"
I can feel the tears streaming down my cheeks as the voices don't let up. They are making me feel useless and miserable, but there is nothing I can do to stop them. They're right, everything the voices tell me is the truth…
"You don't know enough to save your friend…he will fall to the Dark Lord…and it will be your fault, all your fault—you don't know enough, you haven't learned enough…the Dark Lord will kill Harry Potter and you won't be able to help him…he will die, and it will be your fault. The man you love will never forgive you…he'll never love you."
"HERMIONE! STAB THE CUP!"
Suddenly, the sound of Ron's voice reaches me, shoots straight to my heart once more and I remember what I have to do. I bring my hands down and stab the fang into the cup once more. The voices immediately stop and the blue mist disappears. The horcrux is destroyed. I let out a ragged breath and pull my knees to my chest, unable to meet Ron's eyes. He's heard everything, I'm sure of it. I've never been more humiliated in my life.
Ron's hand tentatively touches my shoulder.
"Hermione…? Are you all right?"
I quickly wipe my eyes with my sleeve and sniffle back the rest of my tears.
"…Yes. I-I-I'm fine, Ron. It's done with, it's gone."
"You did well, Hermione. Loads better than me. It took me a lot longer to make the voices go away." I look up at this, forcing myself to look into his concerned eyes.
"What…what did they say to you?" It was his turn to look away, and he took several moments before he looked back at me.
"They…well, the mist became these off-looking images of you and Harry…telling me…telling me basically everything I was afraid of. That my mother loves Harry more than me, that I'll never amount to anything and that I'm the least loved out of all my brothers…" he trails off, looking away from me once more.
"Oh, Ron," I say, momentarily forgetting my own painful experience. "You know that's not true. Your mother loves you very much, your whole family is so proud of you. I'm proud of you, too."
"That…that's not all, Hermione," he begins, looking unsure as to whether he actually wants to continue.
"It's ok, Ron. You don't have to go on…"
"No," he states. "No, I do. I have to—you deserve to hear it. Especially after…after what I just heard." My face flushes as I nod for him to continue. "The version of you said…it…it said that you loved Harry. That you wanted him. That no girl in her right mind would choose me over Harry." His voice broke, and I could see his eyes fill with tears—something I have rarely seen. "Then….then…both images came together and…were…and you were kissing…and then I heard Harry screaming for me, and that's when I was finally able to stab it with the sword again."
He takes a deep breath, swallowing the tears he refused to let fall. Suddenly, words are no longer necessary. The horcruxes chose to torture us with the thought of being apart, the thought of not caring for each other. They knew that the worst thing we could both think of…was the possibility that we aren't meant for each other. The questions that have plagued me about our relationship have been answered. The horcruxes tried to tear us apart, but they failed. They've finally brought us together.
I smile weakly at Ron and he slowly stands up, extended his hand to help me follow suit. When I stand up, I don't let go of his hand. I squeeze it and then bring my arms around his neck and he wordlessly hugs me, lifting me off my feet and squeezing me around my waist. I feel safe, I feel protected. I bury my face in his neck and once again smell the evergreen scent of his soap, the scent that makes me feel like I have finally come home every time.
I pull my head back from his neck and look into his eyes. My breath catches in my throat and I feel his heartbeat speed up against my own. My eyes drift down to his lips, thinking that the time has finally come. Suddenly, a loud crash from far above knocks me out of my reverie. I had completely forgotten there was a war going on around us.
"Ron! We have to get these fangs up there to Harry! There's a battle going on! There are more horcruxes!"
Ron stumbles over to the discarded fangs and begins to gather them in his arms. I pick up the broom and hold it near me while he finishes picking them up. Suddenly I notice the scent of the broom; the dusty old broom that we found in the Room of Requirement. It smells of old wood, a comforting smell that reminds me of Ron, though it never has before. I smile, knowing that whenever I smell it from now on, I'll remember this moment in the Chamber of Secrets. I'll remember it as the moment that Ron and I fully realized our feelings for each other—our love for each other.
We get on the broom and begin to soar out of the Chamber, back to the battle raging around us. We reach the bathroom and climb off the broom, tearing for the hallway. As Ron and I burst around a corner and see Harry running in our direction.
"Where the hell have you been?"