A/N: This is it, folks! The last chapter. I can't believe I finally finished this one. Many thanks goes to Jonelle, my fabulous beta, as she's helped me through this one all the way through. Thanks also to Manda, who's let me bounce ideas off her once or twice for this. Thanks to all who have alerted, favorited and reviewed. You really make my day with that. I hope this lives up to expectations. Thanks again!
Chapter 10- Full Circle
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 closer to his groin, 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 friends and sister 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 5 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."