Chapter 1 - Sacrifice
"Ron?" Hermione whispered as she leaned over his still form which now resided in a bed in the hospital wing.
It hadn't been very long since they had returned from beneath the trap door on the third floor, but Ron still hadn't woken up and Hermione was so worried she could hardly stand it. What if he died?! Her eyes welled up with tears just thinking about it. She had never known anyone to die before, and Ron... well, for some unexplainable reason that transcended their friendship, she felt that she wouldn't be able to handle it if he left her. She shook her head. He wouldn't be leaving her if he died, she rationalized. It wasn't as if he belonged to her...
"Ron..." Hermione tried again, moving her face a few inches closer to his as she leaned even further over the bed. She paused as if hoping for a reply from him this time, but when none came, she sighed and sat down in the chair at his bedside. "Look," she began again as she stared at his completely still form. "I know you thought you were doing something really brave back there, sacrificing yourself so Harry could go on... and yeah, you were brave... but Ron, honestly." Hermione sighed again. "Was there really no other way? I seriously thought you were..."
She stiffened up a bit and tried to blink back the tears that were threatening the corners of her eyes as she thought about how she had been terrified that Ron would die when he told them what he was about to do on the chess board. Then, she had been terrified again to see him lying there motionless on the floor after it had happened.
"The point is, that was really dumb of you. If you had died, how do you think I would have felt about it?" Hermione sniffed and glared at Ron's motionless face. "And Harry too," she added hastily. "Do you think no one would really mind very much if you snuffed it down there? Well I would have!" Hermione's foot stomped slightly at her last words and she sighed again. "Just... think about that, will you?"
Hermione knew she was being a little silly. It was ridiculous, for one thing, to be lecturing an unconscious person, and on top of all of that, what Ron had done really was about the bravest thing Hermione had ever heard of, and she knew that he had done the right thing. He had saved them both.
"Maybe you saved us. Maybe you did help Harry to stop You-Know-Who from coming back..." Hermione glanced over her shoulder at Harry where he slept in the bed next to Ron's. "But... well, I just didn't like it, okay? So next time try thinking a bit more about what you're doing before you just go off and do it. And maybe you should check with me first, you know! I am your friend..."
Hermione sighed again and looked away from Ron. Even though he couldn't hear her, she felt her face heat up with embarrassment at her words.
"Okay, fine. You did the right thing, okay?" Hermione said as if Ron had actually been arguing with her this whole time. "But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it."
Hermione fell silent and scooted forward slightly in her chair towards Ron's bed.
"Ron?" she whispered again after a moment, her voice barely audible. "Please wake up." Her eyes filled with tears again and she blinked them back, wiping slightly at the edges of her eyes with the back of her hand. And then she leaned forward and laid her head down slowly on the side of Ron's mattress, her face still turned towards his face. She tucked her arms under her head as a pillow and sighed again. "Wake up, okay?" she said as her eyes fluttered shut. "I'm not leaving until you do."
Two hours later, Ron's eyes cracked open and he blinked several times, trying to remember where he was. But then he remembered everything: the chess board, falling off the knight, Hermione telling him not to do it, his assurances that it was the only way for Harry to go on... and now he was in the hospital wing. But... what had happened to Hermione and Harry?
"Hermione!" he said suddenly in a hoarse voice. "Harry!" Then he felt someone by his side. Hermione's head popped up from where she had been sleeping on the edge of his mattress. "Hermione!" Ron said in alarm when he realized who was beside him.
"Ron! You're awake!"
"Are you okay? Where's Harry? What happened?" Ron asked frantically, sitting up slightly in his bed.
"We're fine," Hermione said, grinning slightly. "Harry's right there." Hermione turned to glance over her shoulder again to the bed next to Ron's where Harry was sleeping soundly.
"Oh. Okay." Ron settled back into his pillow, feeling a bit ill from his panic, but other than that, he wasn't sure why he should even be bothered with staying any longer in the infirmary. "Do you think I can get out of here now? Where's Madame Pomfrey?"
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed, her eyes wide. "You can't leave the hospital tonight."
"But why not? I feel fine."
"You almost died!" Hermione wailed, her eyes narrowing slightly but watering at the same time.
"I...did?" Ron asked softly. He hadn't exactly realized this after all, having been asleep for all of it.
"Well... yes," Hermione said, blushing slightly. "I mean you could have..."
Ron stared at Hermione for a moment, thinking about what she meant. But his curiosity for what had happened after he had been knocked out was too strong.
"So what happened?" he asked slowly.
"Later," Hermione whispered as she caught sight of Madame Pomfrey heading out of her office. "Madame Pomfrey's coming."
Hermione moved away from Ron's bed and disappeared behind the curtain which surrounded her own bed on the other side of Ron's. Ron watched as Madame Pomfrey disappeared behind the curtain.
"Miss Granger," she began, "what are you doing awake?"
"Oh, I couldn't sleep," Hermione answered, and Ron grinned slightly as he looked down his bed to the spot where Hermione had just been sleeping sounding with her head in her arms on the edge of his mattress.