A/N: So here it is the last chapter. Thanks to all who have read and especially those who take the time to review! Hopefully now I can focus on Children of Prophecies. *grin* Thanks as always to Jonelle for being a fabulous beta!
Chapter 6- Full Circle
Neville gasped for breath after he stumbled through the portrait hole into the Gryffindor common room. Leaning against the wall just to the right of the portrait hole, his eyes wandered around the room before they lit on the three people he was looking for. After he took a second to get his breath back as much as he could, he crossed the room to Harry, Hermione and Ginny. He puzzled for a second over the fact that Ginny was sitting very close to Harry since he thought that Hermione didn't know about the two of them, but he shrugged it off.
"Hospital wing. We need to get to the hospital wing," Neville panted out.
"Why? What's wrong? Who's there?" Hermione asked, standing up in a panic.
Neville just looked at her for a minute before answering. "Ron."
Her eyes got wide and her face paled before she swayed on her feet. Harry immediately shot to her side, supporting Hermione by wrapping an arm around her. Ginny, on the other hand, burst through the portrait hole so fast that Neville barely realized that she had left already.
"Ron is going to be fine now. I'll fill you in on what happened once we get down to the hospital wing. But I only want to tell this story once," Neville reassured them. The three of them made their way down to see Ron.
Ginny was already at his bedside when the trio arrived. With Ron's hand in hers and tears welling in her eyes, Ginny turned to Neville.
"All right, explain, please. What happened to Ron?" Ginny demanded. She looked nervous, yet at the same time, fierce.
Neville shuffled his feet before starting to speak. "I had gone back to the room for a book I needed for my revisions. Ron was sitting in the window seat, looking very strange. He was going on and on about Romilda Vane and how beautiful and perfect she was."
"Do what?" Harry said, spluttering. "After what he did and said to you yesterday?"
"That's it exactly, Harry. I knew that something seriously had to be wrong with Ron. His heart wouldn't have changed that fast—" Neville answered.
"Wait, changed that fast how?" Hermione asked. Both boys looked at each other before Neville caved under her scrutiny.
"It's something that Ron should share if he's going to," Harry interrupted, wisely backing out of Hermione's reach.
Neville cleared his throat. "Anyway, I remembered you, Harry telling me about Hermione warning you that Romilda Vane and some other girls were trying to slip you love potions."
"Excuse me?" Ginny remarked, looking furious. She gazed over at Harry as if to ask silently the veracity of the statement. When he nodded, she started to fume.
"I thought that it might be that Ron had had something with one of those potions in it. That suspicion grew stronger when I saw a box of chocolates with a card written to Harry on the front. Romilda had sent it." Neville looked apologetically toward Ginny.
"Since I'm not in Potions this year, I knew that there was no way that I could brew the antidote. Plus, I had no idea what Ron was planning to do next, but I couldn't let him screw up his chances for happiness any further. So I took him to Professor Slughorn."
"But if he had the antidote, why is he here?" Hermione interjected. "It's a simple potion really."
Neville fidgeted. Taking a deep breath while firmly looking at the ground, he started. "While Professor Slughorn brewed the antidote, he told me some stories about my parents. That led him to offer me some mead, especially when I mentioned that Ron was celebrating his birthday today and what bad luck he had to have for this to happen today of all days.
"The professor and I were toasting when Ron swallowed a gulp down. He had already had the antidote, see, which he had said tasted horrible. I think he wanted whatever he could to get that taste out of his mouth." Neville paused and looked at the three of them. "Something was wrong with the mead. Ron started convulsing. It's the way my grandfather died, the one I saw die. Professor Slughorn panicked, I guess. He just stood there in shock. I remembered about bezoars and thought that there would be one in the professor's potion stores. I found it quickly and shoved it in Ron's mouth, forcing him to swallow. Then I brought him up here, told Madame Pomfrey what happened and left to get you three."
By this point, Hermione had taken up vigil on the other side of Ron from Ginny. Holding his hand much like Ginny, she asked without looking at Neville. "But how did you remember the bezoar?"
"Hermione, I understand the theory and ingredients behind potions since that's for the most part a matter of revision. It's the brewing part that kept me from doing well on my O.W.L. I have problems remembering the directions while I'm brewing and it's not like the professor's attitude toward us Gryffindors helped." He took a deep breath before breathing out, "Snape," here he grimaced, "spoke about bezoars on the very first day of Potions in the questions he asked Harry. I made sure to revise everything in the first year over and over until I could quote it." He shrugged.
Neville was saved from having to answer any other questions by the return of Madam Pomfrey with Professors Dumbledore, Slughorn and Snape. They discussed the possibilities of who might have done this and why.
Hermione held Ron's hand in both of hers, holding it close to her cheek. She was still holding vigil at Ron's bedside. Regardless of whatever he had done or how small or mad he had made her feel, Hermione knew that she couldn't leave Ron alone in that hospital bed. It didn't matter to her that Ginny had stayed until the evening meal. She resolutely stayed by his bed, even to the point of eschewing her revision work. Early in the vigil, Madam Pomfrey had told the two girls that Ron was to rest as much as possible, which meant that they weren't to bother him. The potions that the matron had given Ron kept him under to the point that Hermione had not even seen him awake yet.
"Oh, Ron, why can you never eat chocolate in moderation? Why did you eat those chocolates? Why didn't you read who they were from? You could have figured it out if only you had bothered to read." She closed her eyes and brought his hand to her lips. "What am I saying? It's not your fault that Romilda Vane is an egotistical, psychotic, insane witch."
Opening her eyes, one hand released his to brush his hair back from his face. A slight smile crossed her face. "If I know your sister, she'll have something planned as payback before tomorrow. Romilda deserves it so even if I see it, I'll deliberately turn a blind eye. In fact, I might offer my services to Ginny tonight."
Gently cupping his cheek, tears welled up in her eyes as she thought about how close she came to losing him today. "Oh, this is all my fault. If only I had talked to you at breakfast, instead of storming away, then you would never have been there to eat those darn chocolates." Wiping her eyes with her free hand, she continued. "I just couldn't sit there and talk to you without wanting to tell you everything. We haven't talked in so long, but even before Lavender came into the picture, I never talked to you like I should have. I was too scared to let you know how much I care about you. I knew that it would scare you off and then I wouldn't even have your friendship anymore. I didn't think that I could survive here without at least your friendship. But having been without you these past months, I can't keep it inside." She let a small grunt at herself. "Even though I can only say this while you're asleep, Ron," her voice reduced to a whisper. "I love you."
She tucked his hand against her cheek, revelling in the rough feel of it. At that moment, Madame Pomfrey entered the hospital wing back from her evening meal.
"Miss Granger, it's time for you to go. You need to eat something before bed. Mr. Weasley will be fine. You can come see him in the morning," the nurse told the young witch gently, yet firmly.
Hermione nodded before lowering Ron's hand to the bed softly. She leaned over to drop a kiss on Ron's cheek before leaving the room. Since she didn't bother to look back, she didn't see two bright blue eyes pop open and Ron's hand reach up to the spot where she kissed him.
Ginny carefully slipped Harry's Invisibility Cloak over her head. Her wand firmly gripped in her hand, she whispered "Lumos" before unfolding the Marauder's Map. Harry was in his bed asleep, completely unaware of what she was about to do and that's exactly how she wanted it to stay. Glancing at the map reassuring herself that he was still there, she crept down the Gryffindor girls' stairs to the room one below hers.
Knowing that Romilda would have kept more of the potion in case her first attempt didn't work, Ginny searched her room while under Harry's cloak. The occupants of the room were all asleep and did not hear Ginny's exploring of everything in the vicinity of Romilda's bed. It wasn't until Ginny investigated the other girl's wardrobe that she found what she was looking for. Disgusted by the fact that the younger witch kept the potion vial in her lingerie drawer, Ginny gingerly picked up the vial. Even though she thought about casting a Cleaning Charm, she slipped the vial into her robe pocket.
Ginny quickly scampered down the stairs, thinking that everyone was surely upstairs in their rooms asleep. Yet, when she went to open the portrait hole, a voice behind her spoke up.
"You know, you really should cast a Muffliato on your feet when you go down the stairs under that cloak, Ginny," Hermione said, rising from the couch in front of the fire. "If I know you, you're on your way to do something to get Romilda Vane back." Without waiting for confirmation, Hermione trudged on. "Would you like some help?"
Ginny was completely taken aback. "Are you sure you're Hermione Granger? Gryffindor prefect? Are you sure that you want to help?"
Hermione's face hardened as she answered. "Absolutely. That egotistical witch deserves to be taken down a peg or two. She needs to learn not to mess with our brothers."
"Hermione, you don't really think of Ron as your brother, do you?" Ginny asked warily.
"No, but I do think of Harry that way," Hermione responded with a lift of an eyebrow.
"Well, then, absolutely I would love help," Ginny asserted. She went on to explain her plan. Hermione offered a minor tweak to it before the two made their way to the kitchens to ask Dobby for help.
It was rather late when the two fell into their beds, but not before setting their alarms to go off very early. They didn't want to miss the show that they were sure would occur at breakfast the next morning.
Harry paused at the bottom of the boys' staircase to let his eyes sweep around the room, looking for his girlfriend or his best friend. Seeing no telltale sign of Weasley red hair or the bushy brown that belonged to Hermione, Harry decided to wait for five minutes on one of the couches. Demelza Robins called out to Harry.
"Are you looking for Hermione, Harry?"
"Yes, actually," Harry answered with a nod.
"She already left with Ginny for breakfast," Demelza told him.
Harry made his way down to the Great Hall, wondering why his best friend and girlfriend hadn't bothered to wait for him. Still, his eyes brightened once they landed on Ginny. Crossing to sit beside her, he leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"Good morning, Gin. Morning, Hermione," Harry stated. Once he was seated, he began filling his plate with his traditional breakfast. He poured himself some pumpkin juice before asking the two girls, "So what was the hurry to get to breakfast that you couldn't wait for me?"
Hermione and Ginny shared a guarded look before Ginny answered, laying a hand on Harry's thigh, "Nothing really." Her hand began to inch its way up his thigh, causing him to jump and look around to make sure no one saw that. He lifted her hand up and gripped it in his, holding it against his knee.
A flurry of whispers started up the moment that Romilda Vane walked into the Great Hall. Hermione and Ginny had smiles on their faces that resembled cats eating canaries. Harry, completely oblivious to all of this, continued eating while surreptitiously scanning the Marauder's Map for Malfoy. Ginny leaned over to whisper.
"If you're looking for Malfoy, he's sitting right over there." She subtly pointed him out to Harry. It was then that Harry realized that Ginny and Hermione had both chosen to sit facing the other tables. Normally they sat facing each other, but today they were sitting side by side. He wondered what was up.
Harry hadn't been aware of the twittering going on after Romilda's entrance until Malfoy stood up and strode over to kneel beside Romilda's seat. The blond Slytherin tried to take her hand, but she shrunk back from him.
"Romilda, sweet Romilda. Please, say you'll be mine. What am I saying? Of course, you'll be mine, for no one could love you more," Draco stated before being pushed out of the way by Millicent Bulstrode.
"No one could love Romy more than me!" Millicent shouted at Draco, who had gone sprawling across the floor.
Romilda's face showed shock with her eyes wide and her mouth slack. She slid down the bench closer toward the end where the trio was sitting. Several other Slytherins started to head toward the Gryffindor table, causing Romilda to slide further down the bench. When she ran into Dean Thomas, he, knowing what she had done to Ron, pushed her off of him and back toward the crowd of green-edged robes. She fell off the bench in her haste to try to leave. Blaise Zabini and Theo Nott rushed to her aid. Romilda stumbled backward, the soles of her shoes unable to grip anything to allow her to get up on her feet. Finally, the young Gryffindor took to her feet and fairly flew out of the Great Hall. Almost the entire Slytherin table ran after her, with dreamy looks on their faces calling her name and pleading with her to wait for them.
After a few moments of shocked silence, the majority of the student body that was left in the hall were roaring with laughter. Harry turned toward Hermione and Ginny, whose laughter was overflowing. He narrowed his eyes to look suspiciously at the two of them.
"Do you two ladies have any explanations on what exactly took place here?" Harry crossed his arms. The two girls struggled to contain their laughter. After several moments, they looked at each other before answering Harry together.
"Live by the potion, die by the potion."
Ron had spent most of the night planning out what he wanted to say to Hermione. Now the only rub was getting her alone. Shortly after breakfast with Madame Pomfrey, Ron heard voices outside the door and quickly shut his eyes in an effort to fake sleep in case it was his friends. He thought he had a way that might get Hermione by herself.
Sounds of feet running past the hospital wing filled the room as the door opened. Voices could be heard screaming "Romilda!" Ron didn't know what to think of that, but tried to regulate his breathing to simulate sleep.
He heard the footsteps of his sister and friends make their way to his bedside.
"Darn! He's still asleep. Don't you think he would have woken up by now?" Ginny said plaintively.
"Gin, he was poisoned. I think we should give him a little leeway here, don't you think?" Harry responded. Since when does Harry call Ginny 'Gin' and since when does she let him?
All thoughts about Harry and Ginny fled when soft skin gently lifted his hand, enveloping it. With the electric feel, he knew instantly that it was Hermione. He had to fight with himself to not open his eyes and give himself away. Ron allowed himself to fantasize about Hermione's hands running over his body. Those images were causing him to become aroused. Pitching a tent in the hospital bed would not be a good idea. Immediately he forced thoughts of things like Snape in Neville's grandmother's clothes, which promptly deflated anything that has been on the rise.
Coming to a decision about a way to ensure that Hermione would stay behind when Harry and Ginny left, he promptly let out a small moan and murmured "Hermione." Her hand tightened around his at the sound of her name on his lips.
Harry's voice seemed to drone in Ron's ears. Nothing being said registered in Ron's brain, not even the sounds of two sets of footsteps leaving the wing. It wasn't until lips touched his cheek that his brain finally came to life.
Not wanting to startle Hermione, he waited until she had eased back to sit in the chair beside him before slowly opening his eyes.
"Hi," he said softly. Her face softened and a smile spread slowly across her face. In his eyes, she had never looked more beautiful.
"Hi," she responded sheepishly, averting her eyes to study the white cloth below their hands. She tried to pull her hand away, but Ron just flipped his over to grip hers firmly.
Ron wished with all his heart that he could hear the internal dialogue that he knew had to be running through Hermione's mind at the moment. An uncomfortable silence stretched over the couple.
"Um, how are you feeling?" Hermione asked tentatively.
Ron shrugged. "I'm not sure that I'm feeling much of anything. Madam Pomfrey keeps giving me potions, which keep me kind of numb. How are you?"
"You're the one in the hospital wing, but you ask me how I am?" Hermione said wryly. "I'm fine, Ron. Slightly worried about the fact that my two best friends end up in the hospital wing a lot, but overall, I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" Ron asked her, truly taking her appearance now. Dark circles were etched in the skin under her eyes. Her head lolled forward as if she wanted nothing more than to drop it onto the side of the bed and into sleep. Even though he was used to her running herself down, this was the most tired he had ever seen her.
When she heard that phrase, her back stiffened and her eyes shot to his. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"You look tired. That's all I'm saying," Ron said, trying to reassure Hermione that he wasn't intimating anything else.
"Well, so would you if you stayed up all night," she muttered. Then, as if realizing she had said that aloud, she clapped her hand over her mouth.
"Why were you up all night?" Ron asked. He was worried that something had happened to her.
"I don't know, Ron, maybe I was just a little worried about you," Hermione said rather caustically. She tried to pull her hand away from his again, but he gripped hers tighter.
"You were worried about me?" Ron queried.
"Of course I was. You hadn't woken up and even though Madam Pomfrey said you would be okay, I needed to see you awake to believe it," she answered.
Another stretch of silence ensued.
Hermione's voice, small and low, broke it. "I'm sorry."
Ron was puzzled. What did she have to be sorry for? So he decided to ask her. "What for?"
"How I've treated you since Valentine's Day, how I treated you yesterday morning on your birthday, for not listening to you. Lots of things really." She ran the fingers of her free hand over the back of his closest hand.
"Well, if you're going to apologize for that, then I guess I better apologize for kissing you," Ron stated before vehemently shaking his head. "No, wait, I'm not going to apologize for that. Because I'm not sorry. I am sorry, however, that I did not break up with Lavender before I kissed you though. It was rather impulsive of me, I know."
"I just don't get how you can be so impulsive and yet be the best tactician in chess I've ever seen," Hermione said, frustrated.
"When it comes to moves on the chessboard, I know what I'm doing; with you, not so much," Ron replied. "I'm scared that I'll lose my queen. Sure, I can win without her, but it's much easier to win with her skills and abilities."
"Leave it to you to create a chess analogy," Hermione said, her eyes going wide once the implications of the words hit her. "Wait, your queen? I'm your queen?"
"I want you to be," Ron answered firmly, taking his Gryffindor courage up and holding it tight. "I've wanted you to be since second year."
"Are you serious?" Hermione questioned rhetorically. Her mouth, which had been agape, snapped closed. "If that's the case, then why did you start dating Lavender?"
Ron started to fidget in the bed. He took a deep breath before admitting, "I was jealous."
"Of what?" Hermione asked.
"Don't you mean of whom?" Ron responded. "Viktor Krum."
"But why? I mean, all we did was go to the dance together," Hermione replied.
"So you didn't kiss him?" Ron said sarcastically. He was totally amazed when she responded honestly with a "no." Knowing Hermione and how to tell if she was lying, Ron knew that she was telling him the truth when she said that she hadn't kissed Krum. He almost missed her next words.
"Our kiss on Valentine's Day was my first kiss," she admitted, cheeks aflame.
"I was Hermione's first kiss?" Ron repeated to himself. "But what about the rumours of you and Krum?"
"Parvati started them. I just never bothered to correct people who said it because I didn't think it mattered."
"But it did matter. I would never have snogged Lavender if I had known you hadn't kissed Krum."
"What?" Hermione was confused. Ron explained what had happened when he and Harry had come across Ginny and Dean. He wasn't sure what caused that look to cross Hermione's face, but it normally meant that she had figured something out.
"So will you?" Ron asked her.
"Will I what?" Hermione answered, tilting her head.
"Be my queen?"
Hermione relished the feel of Ron's arm thrown over her shoulder. She was so pleased that Madam Pomfrey had felt he was well enough to venture down to the Great Hall for the evening meal. However, Ron was still a little shaky on his feet so Hermione was more than happy to help him.
As they were turning the corner on one of the landings, they saw the staircase start to move. She heard Ron curse under his breath, knowing that it would take them longer to make their way down now. Seeing the sheen of sweat shimmer on his forehead, she thought it might be best if they rested a moment. Hermione took her wand from her pocket and conjured a chair for Ron to sit in. Ron's arm slipped from around her neck as he slid into the chair. She rotated her head in a circle before rolling her shoulders to get some of the tension out that had formed while she had supported Ron.
A large hand wrapped around her wrist and tugged. She tumbled down into Ron's lap. Her hands flew up to grip his shoulders as she tried to steady herself in his lap.
"Sorry. You were too far away," Ron said, his lips brushing over her hair.
"Ron, I was no more than three metres away from you," Hermione stated, laughing.
"See, too far!"
He pulled her close and captured her lips with his. Hermione got lost in his embrace. It wasn't until the clamouring of feet rushing past broke through that she pulled away from Ron. Turning her head, she saw the back of whom she thought must be Romilda Vane rushing into the loo, still being chased by several Slytherins.
"I don't know why she thinks a loo will be an effective escape. Some girls are chasing her too," Hermione commented with a giggle. She placed her hand over her mouth to try to stop the laughter that was welling within her. Several giggles couldn't be contained. Ron just looked at her, uncertain as to why she was laughing.
The creak of the staircase settling back into place signalled that they could continue their journey. Hermione helped Ron stand and placed his arm across her shoulders. Together they managed to traverse the stairs and settle at the end of the Gryffindor table. It was still early so most students hadn't made it into the hall yet for the meal. Still, Hermione was shocked when Ron grabbed her hand to tuck it close to his side. They hadn't discussed whether or not they were going to tell everyone about them. Yet, it looked like Ron was all for revealing everything.
She and Ron sat eating and chatting. Both heads turned when they heard Harry's voice drifting over the chatter of the other students. Once Hermione caught sight of Harry and Ginny strolling over to the Gryffindor table hand-in-hand, she immediately turned to Ron to catch his reaction since she knew that this was what Harry was most worried about. A huge grin covered his face at the sight.
"Are you really okay with this?" she wondered aloud.
"Why wouldn't I be? He's my best mate. She's my little sister. If I can't trust them with each other, who could I trust with them?" he answered.
"But you've been so overprotective of Ginny. Harry was so worried about how you would react," Hermione responded.
"I was overprotective of Ginny with the other guys because they weren't Harry. Ever since the end of her first year when he saved her, I've thought that they were meant to be together. I just didn't want her doing anything with those other guys that she might wish later she had only done with Harry."
Hermione was astounded at this revelation. She turned to her boyfriend and threw her arms around him.
"Wow! I didn't know you had it in you," Hermione said before pulling back to resume her eating. By this point, Harry and Ginny had joined them at the table. After Harry had seated himself across from Hermione, he and Ginny started a routine that almost looked practiced. He divvied out the food for them both while Ginny poured their juice into their goblets. Ron just turned to Hermione and raised an eyebrow. She took it to mean, See? Perfect for each other!
In an amused voice, Ron addressed the two of them. "Is there anything the two of you would like to share with me?"
"It's great seeing you out of the hospital wing, Ron," Ginny said. Tapping her finger against her chin, she turned to Harry. "Wasn't there something we were meaning to tell Ron, but couldn't because he landed himself in a bed with Madam Pomfrey hovering nearby?"
Harry grinned before playing along. "You know, I think there was, but for the life of me, I can't remember. Was it something to do with Quidditch?"
Before they could continue their banter, the door to the Great Hall banged open. Romilda rushed through it, heading for the head table. Crabbe and Goyle lumbered behind her.
"Oh, Romy, just let us protect you. You're so beautiful," Crabbe said in a rather high-pitched voice.
Ginny turned to Harry, whispering, "I've never heard his voice before. That's scary."
"We're more than willing to share, Romy," Goyle pleaded.
"You know, I didn't realize he could talk before," Hermione said, shaking her head. The four of them just watched as Romilda ran up behind the head table, trying to use the table to get away from the two huge Slytherins. She crouched behind Professor McGonagall's empty chair. Professor Snape stood up to stop his two students from approaching the Gryffindor girl.
"Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Goyle, why do you insist on pestering this," he sneered at Romilda, "Gryffindor? Surely you have better things to do than chase a Gryffindor?"
"But Professor Snape, she's beautiful and, and, and" both boys stammered. Snape stepped between them to turn to face their backs. He reached up and slapped the back of their heads.
"Please, show some control. Really! One would think you were a Hufflepuff with the way you're behaving," Snape snapped. He grabbed both by their collars and led them out of the hall.
Ron's eyes were wide when Hermione stopped laughing. She wondered what was running through his head.
"Did I miss something?" Ron asked. "Why is it that those two goons are fawning all over Romilda?"
Harry laughed and related what he had seen that morning at breakfast. Both guys turned to their respective girlfriends.
"You know, this has Ginny's fingerprints all over it," Ron said, looking between the two girls.
"Oh, I don't know," Harry said. "Ginny's very good at pranks and all, but just something about this has a distinct Hermione feel to it. Do you think there's a way to get them to admit it?"
"Normally I would suggest a good tickle charm, but I think we might have graduated above that now," Ron said, pondering what they could do. "I wonder if we kissed them into submission if they would reveal all."
"I thought it was withholding kisses that would get us answers, not actually kissing them," Harry said. The two witches giggled at the thoughts being bandied about by their men.
After a few more minutes of banter between the two wizards, Ron turned to Ginny and did his best to wheedle out of her what was going on. Hermione was very content to let the two of them discuss it as she knew that Ron would be able to get it out of her if he tried. She was somewhat surprised when Harry leaned over the table to talk to her.
"Hermione, you realize, don't you," he pointed between Ron and Hermione before Ginny and himself, "that this would never have happened if you hadn't read that book about customs."
"Oh, I think it would have happened, Harry. Just maybe not this soon and not in this way," she answered. She shrugged. "We'll never know how things could have been if there had been no Kissing Friday in our lives this year."