A/N This is my first published story that I wrote ages ago but only just decided to actually upload.
Basically this is just a collection of missing moments from Philosopher's Stone to Deathly Hallows, that are all about Ron and Hermione because I think I'm a tad obsessed. Each chapter will have 3-4 moments. I hope it isn't too confusing.
Disclaimer: J.K Rowling owns Harry Potter and my soul. Please don't sue me.
Building Blocks, Foundations and a Troll
(Friends, Back through the trapdoor, LOLcat, The thing about Lockhart…)
"Erm... Is it okay if I sit here?"
Ron tore his eyes away from the food in front of him and turned around to see who the speaker was. He glanced at her for a split second before looking back at his plate. It was a piled a little higher than usual, even by his standards, but after the evening he had had who could blame him? He couldn't explain to himself why his roast beef was so captivating at this very moment; maybe it was the guilt? Or even the unwilling gratitude? Either way he couldn't look at the girl standing behind him without feeling a twinge of discomfort.
"It's all right if it's not," added the girl, turning pink in the face. "It's just all the other tables are full and -"
"It's fine. You can sit here," Harry replied. "Can't she, Ron?"
Harry looked at Ron as he spoke, who nodded and hastily swallowed the lump of chewed potato he had in his mouth. "Yeah. 'Course."
As Hermione set her plate on the table next to his, Ron felt his ears start to burn. He was very aware that the last time they had sat like this she had ended up crying for hours in a toilet cubicle. He busied himself with his food to try and avoid being the first to break the awkward silence that was growing around the three of them. The silence was only intensified by their fellow Gryffindors, who were all crammed into the common room and talking excitedly about how a troll could've got into the school. Thankfully, the rest of the story hadn't reached them yet and the students responsible for the troll's incapacitation weren't being bothered for their version of events. Instead they were sat in a quiet corner of the common room, avoiding each other's gaze.
"It's a bit weird eating in the common room, isn't it?" said Hermione in a slightly higher voice than usual.
Ron and Harry both made noises of agreement but soon fell silent again. Ron was thankful that she had tried to start a conversation and was desperately trying to think of something to say to keep it going, but was drawing a blank. He met Harry's eyes briefly and saw he was struggling with a similar problem. With each passing second, Ron felt the atmosphere grow tenser. Normally you couldn't shut this girl up, despite him trying very hard to make it happen. Now that she finally had learnt to close her mouth, he found himself wishing she would fill the silence with anything that would make the uneasy feeling in his stomach stop.
"It's still good though. The food, I mean," Ron added when the other two looked at him blankly.
"Yes, it's always really good," nodded Harry in a valiant effort trying to keep the conversation flowing.
Hermione looked down at her plate thoughtfully. "I wonder who makes it."
After a few seconds she looked back at Ron and seemed terrified that he and Harry would once again fail to formulate replies and their pathetic attempt at conversation would wilt and die once more. Ron felt sorry for her as he watched her squirm in her seat. She was trying so hard to be nice them and he felt powerless to help her. If someone had told him 24 hours ago that he would be desperately trying to think of something to say to Hermione Granger to keep her talking to him, he would've probably thought they were mental.
She was annoying. She was bossy. In fact she was infuriating in every way. But here she was; sat quietly next to him, trying to make up for them saving her life. Admittedly she wouldn't have needed saving if he hadn't said she had no friends, but thinking about this did nothing to help the feeling in Ron's stomach. He had to say something.
"I wonder how they make the food so good."
He cursed himself for this flimsy sentiment, but Hermione eyes seemed to shine with gratitude at his attempt to keep the silence from eclipsing them once more. It was a few seconds before Harry spoke.
Ron watched a small smile slowly creep onto his friends face and he let out a small nervous laugh and was slightly surprised to see Hermione copy him. The three of them looked at each briefly before they all erupted into laughter that lasted slightly longer than the joke truly deserved. Instantly the tension melted away.
Just as they all regained control of themselves, Harry was called across the common room by a very excited looking Fred and George. They all froze as there was no doubt in their minds as to what this could be about; the story of them taking on a mountain troll had somehow got out. Obviously in the Chinese whispers way that rumours worked, Ron and Hermione's names had been forgotten in favour of making The Boy Who Lived a hero once more.
Harry grimaced in a 'here-we-go' kind of way and started making his way over to the twins. Before he could even begin to think what his brothers would make of his involvement in the incident, Hermione turned to address him. He suddenly felt slightly nervous. Surely Hermione couldn't be about to revert to her old self and start demanding an apology or that they stop enjoying themselves and make a start on their potions essays?
"Talking of magic," she said uncertainly, "that was some very skillful Charm work back there."
Ron stared. Praise from Hermione was the last thing he had expected.
"Thanks," he grinned sheepishly. He arranged his features into a serious expression and leaned forward in his chair. "The trick is to make the 'gar' nice and long."
For a moment she just looked at his determinedly straight face, as if trying to work out if he was being sarcastic or not. Then her face broke into a wide smile that Ron couldn't help but return as relief flooded his body. He noticed for the first time that Hermione had bits of metal and plastic on her back teeth, probably some crazy Muggle superstition or something, he thought. He started to ask her what it was, but thought it might sound a bit rude and decided against it. After all, today he had already annoyed Hermione, made her cry and locked a violent beast, three times her size, in a small room with her. Now was not the time to question her strange Muggle customs.
It was only after Fred and George had bounded over to Ron with Harry trailing behind them to shake his hand, bow to him several times and repeatedly refer to him as 'Sir Ronniekins the Troll-Slayer', that he wondered how on earth he had gone two months without noticing the weird contraption on Hermione's teeth. Her teeth weren't exactly easily over looked.
The reason he had seen the contraption, Ron thought as he tried and failed to stop the twins re-enacting the fight with the troll with Lee Jordan as the troll, was that it was the first time he had properly seen her teeth. It was with an unfamiliar surge of something like pride, that Ron realised that the reason for this was it was the first time that he had made Hermione Granger smile.
As soon as she stepped through the flames, Hermione felt the icy cold of the potion disappear. It was quickly replaced by an even more unpleasant sensation: fear. Being as quiet as she possibly could, she ran around the troll, which was thankfully still unconscious, and made her way to the large wooden door on the other side of the room. She wretched in open, stepped through it and then silently closed it behind her. Only once the door was fully shut did she turn around and call out into the chamber.
She could hear her shaking voice echo off the high ceiling as she tried to put whatever Harry was facing out of her mind and focus on the job in hand. Her eyes frantically searched the floor for a sign of her other best friend. As she began to walk slowly forwards, her breaths became sharper as she fought harder to stop panic setting in. Eventually she found what she was looking for; a flash of red hair, unmoving on the floor.
Sprinting through the gigantic chess pieces, she realised that Ron was still knocked out, lying on his back, his long limbs splayed around him. When she reached him, she fell to her knees and turned his head so she could see his face. Immediately she saw the grazed lump on his forehead where the chess piece had struck him, but was relieved to see that it wasn't bleeding. She had to get him out of here and quickly. Carrying him was out of the question as he was so much taller than her but Hermione couldn't think of any way to bring Ron around.
"Ron, can you hear me?" she whispered, lightly tapping his cheek, "Please, Ron, wake up!"
As she looked wildly around for something to help her, Hermione only saw the chess pieces towering over her and doubled her attempts to revive Ron. She was more scared than she had ever been in her life. This was nothing compared to her first day at Hogwarts, going into the forest or even being cornered by a mountain troll. She was stuck, miles under the school with her two best friends, one of which was in need of medical attention and the other was in very real danger. Worst of all was that she was the only one who could help them.
"Come on!" she cried, now slapping Ron a lot harder than she wanted to but she could feel the tears coming and was becoming desperate. "RON! Please!"
After several moments, Ron's eyes flickered and opened. Hermione froze and felt a pang of guilt when she saw how red his cheek looked underneath the dirt. Ron blearily looked up at her and blinked slowly.
"Ron, are you okay?" Hermione breathlessly asked.
"'Ermione? What… Where… Harry… The Stone…" Ron muttered, his eyes trying to focus as he began to prop himself up on his elbows.
Without thinking, Hermione grabbed him around the neck and pulled him into a tight hug.
"Oh, thank goodness!" she breathed. She heard him say something but the sound was muffled in her bushy hair. Hermione pulled away and held Ron up by the shoulders to stop him from falling back down.
"'Hermione, you're strangling me." Ron groaned weakly.
Hermione gasped, realising her mistake. "I'm so sorry, Ron, it's just I'm so relieved and we need to get out of here and get help quickly." She started getting to her feet and tried to drag Ron up with her. Unfortunately, Ron stayed sitting down, swaying slightly.
"What? Where… Where's Harry?" he mumbled, looking around for any sign of him.
Still trying to get Ron to his feet, Hermione launched into an explanation.
"After we won the chess game, we went to the next room but only one of us could get into the last chamber. Snape had already got through so Harry has gone after him and I came back to get you and then find Dumbledore or someone to go and help Harry because he is on his own against Snape!"
She could tell by the slightly blank look on Ron's face that only part of her speech had registered as she tried in vain to pull him up.
"Harry is fighting Snape? Right now?"
"Yes, Ron, that's why we have to-"
"We've got to help him!" Ron said as he groggily started trying to stand. He finally got to his feet and staggered a bit before leaning on Hermione for support. Hermione struggled to keep him up-right as he was putting most of his weight on her diminutive frame.
"We've got to go back and get Dumbledore!" While glad that Ron was finally standing, his failure to fully grasp the situation, mixed with her over-whelming sense of fear, was starting to annoy her.
"I'm not leaving Harry," Ron said and started to stumble towards the door leading to the troll's chamber. However he only managed a few steps before he fell back into Hermione, who had been trying to pull him back.
"For goodness sake, Ron! You are twelve years old and barely conscious!" She shrieked hysterically. "What on earth do you expect to accomplish?"
Ron glared at her defiantly for a few seconds. Finally he put his hand over the bump on his head and screwed his face up in pain.
"Please, Ron!" Hermione pleaded. "We've got to go and get help!"
She watched Ron as he took one final look at the door behind him and nodded. This was followed by a look of regret and him massaging his head again. Grateful that he was finally co-operating, Hermione grabbed his hand and started half dragging him to the opposite side of the board.
At first Ron could only stagger but by the time they had reached the room filled with flying keys he was able to run. Neither of them spoke until they were halfway across the chamber, when Ron slowed down.
"Brooms," he said, pulling Hermione to a stop.
Fearing that the blow to his head had been more serious than she originally feared, Hermione replied in a gentle voice. "Yes, they're brooms. Now let's go, shall we?"
Ron looked puzzled by her tone of voice and didn't respond to her trying to pull him further across the room.
"We need them though."
Hermione looked at the old brooms on the floor and then back at Ron. She could feel the panic start to bubble inside her. She couldn't leave him but if he kept stopping for ridiculous reasons like this then she wouldn't really have a choice.
"Ron, can we just-" she began but Ron interrupted her.
"How else do you expect to get up to the trapdoor?"
Finally understanding his idea, Hermione ran over to the brooms they had discarded earlier, retrieved two of them and sprinted the rest of the way across the chamber with Ron hot on her heels.
"Honestly, you're meant to be the smart one," Hermione heard Ron mutter as she opened the door to the first room and Ron took one of the brooms from her.
"Yes, well, I'm under a lot of pressure at the moment!" she replied hotly as the two of them continued running. She could see Devil's Snare had recouped after their last encounter with it and it looked as dangerous as ever.
"Well, I'll leave you to wind down a bit while I collect the fire wood. Oh no! There isn't any!" he teased in mock panic, coming to a halt a safe distance away from the flailing vines.
Hermione bit back her retort and, scowling, shot bluebell flames at the Devil's Snare and started to mount her broom. Ron had already started to hover next to her before she was ready to fly. Taking a steadying breath against the new wave of nerves, she kicked off and followed Ron up and over the now withering plant. She shot up the passageway as fast as she felt she was capable of.
"I hate flying, I really hate flying…" she muttered to herself.
As the cold air whipped her long hair out of her face, Hermione became aware of the stitch that was stabbing her ribs. She also remembered Harry and wondered how long it had been since she left him. Had he gone through with the plan and ventured through the flames? Of course he had, Hermione thought with a mixture of pride and distress. Nothing could have stopped Harry trying to get the Stone… Or could it? She was almost certain Snape was there already and Harry was right, he wasn't really a match for him.
She tried to push away this disturbing thought away as she saw she was coming to the end of the vertical passageway. Above her she could just make out Ron, silhouetted against the entrance. He was quite a way ahead of her. It wasn't until he was nearly at the end of the passageway that she realised a very large problem that awaited him there.
But it was too late. She heard him cry out in shock and several loud barks. She couldn't see anything that was happening above her. Horror gripped her insides tighter than it had done that entire night as she started to speed up. Hermione knew she would struggle to control the broom at this speed but she needed to help him, even though she had no idea how. The wind whistled loudly in her ears as she desperately tried to think of a plan.
Nearing the end of the passage Hermione started to notice that the dog's barks were no longer audible. Wondering if her hearing was somehow damaged during the flight, Hermione shot out of the trapdoor, lost control of her broom and landed in a heap next to the harp Snape had used to put Fluffy to sleep. However, at some point after she had jumped through the trapdoor, Fluffy had obviously decided that he didn't like the instrument and had reduced it to splinters.
Hermione sat up quickly and was surprised to see that Fluffy was settling down for a nap on the opposite side of the open trapdoor. Confused, she realised for the first time since reaching the corridor that a noise, oddly like an owl, was coming from by the door that lead to the rest of the school. Turning around to find the source of the noise, she saw a white faced Ron, sitting down backed up against the door playing Harry's flute, his broomstick lay abandoned in front of him. He was staring unblinking at Fluffy's slumbering form.
On shaking legs, that were now covered in grazes from her broomstick crash, she stood up and made her way over to Ron, not taking her eyes off the animal in front of her. When she reached the door she pulled Ron up by the scruff of his neck and quietly opened the door. When they were both safely on the other side and Hermione had closed the door behind them and leant with her back against it and let out a breath she didn't realise she had been holding.
Ron took the flute away from his lips and leant against the door next to her. "How the hell did we forget about the three headed dog?" he asked weakly.
Hermione was unsure if she would ever be able to speak again and merely shook her head at Ron, who smiled at her. The colour was slowly returning to his face.
"Nice landing by the way."
Hermione found her voice had miraculously recovered.
"Oh, shut up."
Once again the pair started running down the stairs, neither of them talking. As they reached the Entrance Hall, they stopped.
"Where do we go?" asked Ron, looking around the hall.
"We need Dumbledore! I wish I knew where his office was…" fretted Hermione. Now they had reached the main school and the shock of seeing Fluffy again had abated, her last, but hopefully not final, conversation with Harry came flooding back to her. She saw panic start to form on Ron's features
"What if he's still in London? How're we-"
"Fortunately, Mr Weasley, I am not."
Hermione spun around and saw Dumbledore striding surprising fast for a man his age through the oak front doors, his silver hair and beard glowing in the moonlight.
"Professor Dumbledore!" they both exclaimed as Hermione ran forward to explain but as she reached him he gave her a look that silenced her.
Dumbledore looked down at Hermione, the glanced up at Ron. His, observations, though brief, seemed to tell him everything he needed to know.
"He's gone after him, hasn't he?"*
Hermione looked into the piercing blue eyes. She had expected to see confusion and maybe anger. After all, she and Ron were first years out of bed and her record wasn't exactly clean when it came to such matters. However, as she nodded silently in reply, she saw a flash of terror and found it most unsettling.
Without another word, Dumbledore hurried towards the stairs leading towards the third floor.
Hermione stared after him for a few moments, not quite sure of what had just happened. Did Dumbledore know about how much they had discovered about the secret hidden deep underneath the castle? Did Dumbledore already suspect Snape? How could he possibly know that Harry was in danger, if he was referring to Harry at all? Realising she couldn't just stand in the Entrance Hall all night thinking about the confusing exchange, she turned to Ron and saw he was open mouthed and still staring at the spot he had last seen the headmaster leave.
"Ron, I think we should go to the hospital wing." She found herself whispering, although she wasn't sure why. "That lump on your head looks rather nasty."
Ron didn't reply. He just continued starting, unblinking.
"We can't stay here. Can you hear me?" She moved in front of him as she spoke. His behaviour had been so erratic since she had found him in the giant chessboard chamber that she wanted to have Madam Pomfrey check him over sooner rather than later.
"He knows my name," Ron said, finally looking down at Hermione.
"Dumbledore. He knows my name."
Ron's eyes looked rather glazed as he spoke in a faraway voice.
"So? You're his student, of course he does," snapped Hermione, once again trying to drag Ron against his will to somewhere more sensible than his current location.
"But it's Dumbledore, Hermione," he spoke as if he were explaining basic maths to her, which did nothing but infuriate Hermione.
"This really isn't the time to be star struck, Ron. Now move!" she growled, giving him a firm push to get him to walk properly.
"Just because he doesn't know your name…"
She punched him in the arm which seemed to jolt him out of his haze.
They walked in silence for a few minutes. The corridors were deserted and mostly moonlit. Hermione had expected to bump into a teacher on patrol or at least Filch as they made their way to the hospital wing, but they met no one. She was very grateful for this as she didn't want to have to explain why she was out of bed again and this time looking more than worse for wear.
When they reached the doors to the hospital wing, Ron tried to open them but found they were locked.
"Gryffindor Tower?" Ron asked, shrugging his shoulders.
"What about your head?" It didn't seem to be too bad a bump but Hermione would feel a lot better when she was sure Ron was all right.
"It's fine. Well all right, it hurts like hell but I'll be alright eventually," he added when she gave him a sceptical look.
"Look, Hermione," Ron continued when she started to protest, "It's not like anything valuable was damaged."
He gave her a cheeky grin, which she grudgingly returned and they started making their way up hurriedly through the castle.
The Fat Lady arched her eyebrows when they gave her the password, but they made no explanation as to why they were returning so late and why they were dishevelled, dirty and injured and proceeded to climb through the portrait hole.
Hermione inspected the clock on the wall and saw that it was three in the morning. The fire was long extinguished and the only company they had was a few broken quills discarded on the tables and Trevor the toad. Despite the lateness of the hour, the last thing she wanted to do was go up to her dormitory. Ron was apparently in the same frame of mind and they simultaneously headed towards the comfy sofas by the fire place.
"Neville recovered then," Ron laughed shakily.
Hermione smiled guiltily as they sat next to each other on the sofa opposite the fire. Her thoughts abruptly turned towards more serious matters.
"Harry will be okay, won't he?" she asked without looking at Ron and instead gazed at the charred wood in front of her.
There was a small pause before Ron replied in a quiet voice.
"Yeah. Dumbledore's with him."
Hermione was about to voice her worries about Dumbledore not making it on time but she just couldn't bring herself to do it. Ron somehow seemed to know what she had been about to say.
"Look," he said, turning his head to look at her. "He's the Boy Who Lived, isn't he? He'll be fine. You'll see. Harry will get the Stone, Snape will get sacked and we will all be happier for the experience."
While she could see the worry in his eyes, she could also detect the underlying confidence he had in his friend and Hermione found more comfort in that than any nickname.
The two friends spent the night sat next to each other on the sofa, millions thoughts running through their heads but never feeling the need to say any of them aloud, until eventually the night's events caught up with them and they drifted off to sleep.
Ron readjusted his bag on his shoulder as he made his way down the staircase towards the hospital wing. It was slightly heavier than usual and once again he found himself questioning Hermione's crazy determination with her schoolwork. Normally it wasn't too bad as the extra weight was distributed between him and Harry, but this evening Harry had Quidditch practise so everything was packed into Ron's bag.
He opened the door to the hospital wing, giving Madam Pomfrey a small wave as he made his way over to a bed in the far end of the ward that was completely obscured from view by a curtain. Madam Pomfrey eyed him suspiciously but allowed him to approach the bed.
"I keep telling her to rest but she won't listen. Are you still sure you don't know what happened?"
Ron could feel himself go red under the glare of the Hogwarts matron but knew that if he just kept playing dumb they all might actually get away with it.
"No. No idea." He couldn't quite meet her eyes and he could tell she still suspected foul play but she opened the curtains just to let him walk through anyway.
"Not too long, Mr Weasley," she said as she turned to go to her office. "This isn't a holiday camp, you know."
"Barking," he muttered under his breath as he walked through the curtain and closed it behind him.
He was unsurprised to see Hermione sat up in bed with a book open on her lap. He was slightly repulsed to see it was one of Gilderoy Lockhart's but he was getting used to Hermione's obsession with pompous git so it wasn't that shocking. What was still somewhat shocking, however, was the brown fur that covered Hermione's face, arms and pointy ears. Over the past couple of days the Polyjuice Potion had started to wear off and Hermione was becoming gradually less feline. She still had a tail but it was a lot smaller now; Ron could just see it poking out the other side of the bed. Her eyes were just starting to return their natural brown and her fingernails were not nearly as sharp as they were.
When he had first seen what had happened to her he was obviously worried but now they knew Hermione was going to be fine in a week or so the situation had started to become fairly comical. Well, it had to him at least.
"Hi," he said, sitting down on the chair next to the bed. "I brought you a present!"
Hermione looked up, closed her book and smiled at him.
"It had better not be another saucer of milk," she frowned, "because I told you before that cats can't even have-"
"I know, I know. I heard you last time," Ron grinned, remembering yesterday's visit. She had been angry with him at first but she eventually lightened up and started to see the funny side. Well, Ron reflected, she had started speaking to him again by the end of the visit. "Today's is much better, you're going to love it."
He rummaged in his bags for a few minutes while she watched him sceptically. Eventually he found what he was looking for and pulled out several rolls of parchment with a flourish.
"Transfiguration and Potions notes and a Charms essay!" he announced handing them to her.
"Oh, thanks!" she said as she took them off him and started to skim read the Transfiguration notes. "You could try and make your handwriting legible, you know," she added with a frown
Ron pulled a face but didn't say anything. Deep down he knew she probably had a point but he was never going to tell her that. Instead he made the point he had made every day since term had restarted.
"Why are you still doing the homework? Flitwick said you didn't have to when I asked him for an extra copy for you." He could tell she was ignoring him again but he carried on regardless. "You've been given a free pass, a holiday! Take it Hermione! Grab it with both paw- hands," he corrected himself hastily.
She gave him a withering look. Ron could tell just by looking at those yellow eyes that she knew exactly what he had nearly said.
"We've been through this." She sounded as though she was forcing herself to stay patient with him. "I don't want to fall behind." She continued reading the notes as if he hadn't spoken.
Ron laughed incredulously. "Hermione, if you had turned into tiger and ran off into the forest, lived there for four years and then sat your end of year exams, you would still get triple everyone else's score!"
Hermione ignored him but her expression softened. Ron knew that she wasn't really annoyed at him. They had this argument several times a day since they had become friends but it still mystified Ron that Hermione still believed she had to study.
They sat in silence for a few minutes while Hermione finished reading Ron's Transfiguration notes. Eventually she rolled up the parchment and placed it on her bedside table.
"So," she said. "Anything interesting happen today?"
Ron thought for a moment. Interesting by his standards was a lot different to Hermione's.
"Nothing really interesting happened in lessons," he started but Hermione interrupted.
"I'm sure it did, Ron. You just weren't paying attention." She lowered her voice. "What I meant to say was did you find out anything new today?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows at Ron and he understood what she meant immediately.
He shook his head. Now they knew Malfoy wasn't the heir of Slytherin, Ron found himself feeling slightly lost. He would've bet anything that they had guessed right. There wasn't anyone else it could be in Ron's eyes. Malfoy was just the sort of greasy slime ball who would hang around with a dirty great monster in a grand secret chamber. It was then that a sudden thought occurred to him.
"Malfoy was hanging around on the fourth floor! Maybe-"
"Oh, here we go," Hermione sighed.
"-that's where the Chamber is!" Ron finished, undeterred by Hermione's interruption.
"Ron. Please stop suspecting Malfoy. It is getting us nowhere."
Ron looked at Hermione for a few seconds. He knew she was right but it was so hard for him to let go of the theory that he had pegged all his hopes on.
"I was just so sure it was him!" he cried, punching the arm of his chair out of frustration.
"I know, Ron," said Hermione in a bored voice. "You have said so before."
"But I was just-"
"-so sure. I know."
Ron slumped back in his chair and folded his arms petulantly. "All right, all right! Keep your fur on."
Hermione opened her mouth to respond but Ron was saved by Madam Pomfrey who had stuck her head round the curtain to talk to Hermione.
"What would you like for dinner, dear? It's a choice between beef casserole or tuna pasta bake."
Ron looked up at Hermione with a smirk on his face. He could just see the pink tinge growing on her cheeks underneath her fur.
"Tuna pasta bake, please," she mumbled.
Madam Pomfrey smiled and went off to tend to the rest of her patients.
Hermione started busying herself with the pieces of parchment on her desk to avoid looking at Ron and they didn't speak for a few moments. Ron decided to let Hermione's eating habits go unmentioned.
"Look," he said quietly. Hermione looked up at his change of tone. "I know it's not Malfoy, okay? It's just he is such a git, I wanted it to be him just so I could take him down a peg or two."
Hermione looked relieved at his new outlook. "I know. I think I probably wanted it to be him as well. He is just too foul for words sometimes."
"Sometimes?" Ron laughed disbelievingly, "How about every waking moment? What I wouldn't give to punch him in the face…"
"Ron!" Hermione exclaimed. "You can't go around punching people in the face!"
"Malfoy is hardly a person," Ron snorted.
"That is beside the point," stated Hermione firmly. "Anyway, you've already punched him. Last year at the Hufflepuff game, remember?"
Ron cast his mind back to that beautiful day last year and allowed himself to reminisce until Hermione's voice cut through his daydreaming.
"It is nothing to be proud of."
Ron raised his eyebrows. He considered punching Malfoy one of the proudest moments of his life. Hermione saw the look on his face and tutted loudly.
"What? So you're saying you wouldn't be proud of yourself if you punched Malfoy?" Ron rounded on her.
Hermione looked scandalised. "Of course not! I don't go around punching people!"
Ron laughed at her indignation. "So you're saying you wouldn't hit anybody? Ever?"
"Or course not," she repeated incredulously.
"Not even Malfoy?"
"No. I would not even hit Malfoy in the face."
Ron looked at her dubiously. He couldn't believe anyone would pass up the chance to break Malfoy's nose.
"What about if he called you a- you know- M-word?" he reasoned.
Hermione shook her head. "He calls me that all the time. It's rather boring actually. It's not worth belching slugs over."
She continued looking at him, with that superior look on her face that Ron knew so well. Ron scowled at her and folded his arms again. The memories of that day were still painful. He glared at the end of her bed to show he was not about to relive it.
Instead of continuing along the moral high ground, she sighed and furrowed her brow.
"You know, I don't think I ever really thanked you for that," she said quietly.
Ron turned his head to look at her again.
"Thank me? What for?" he asked confused.
"Well," Hermione started, fiddling with her bed covers. "That day Malfoy first called me a you-know-what, you were the only one who stood up for me."
Ron was taken aback and felt as though the hospital wing had become slightly warmer than before.
"Yeah, well, everyone else was angry as well and stuff," he stuttered but Hermione cut across him.
"None of them tried to curse him," Hermione said with a small smile.
"I hit myself though," Ron blurted out. He didn't know how the conversation had taken this turn and was struggling to bring it back round to playful bickering and teasing.
"Just take the compliment, Ron," snapped Hermione.
"No need to be so catty about it…"
He knew he had gone too far when he saw the look in her eyes. If looks could kill he would've been on the floor by now. Hermione clenched her fists and hissed at him like a cat.
Ron stared at her. She seemed as shocked by her bizarre behaviour as he was. He could feel the corner of his mouth start to twitch but before he could even try and stop himself making what he was sure was a big mistake, he had started roaring with laughter.
Fortunately Hermione smiled at him, although rather reluctantly.
"Oh, shut up, Slug Boy," she scolded, throwing a pillow at him. "Or I will bring out the salt."
"You solved it! You solved it!"**
Hermione was sprinting up the Gryffindor table towards her two best friends. Their faces broke into wide smiles at the sight of her. As soon as she reached them, she flung her arms around both of them simultaneously and squeezed as tightly as she could.
"I knew you could do it!" she shouted excitedly. She could feel tears welling up in her eyes and she brushed them away impatiently as she let them go. Both of them goggled at her bemusedly.
"No lasting damage then?" grinned Harry as he massaged his neck.
Hermione told them of how as soon as she had been revived by Madam Pomfrey she had tried to explain about the Basilisk, but the matron had interrupted her by saying her "reckless friends had once again thrown themselves stupidly into harm's way" and had saved the day. Once Hermione had established that Harry and Ron were both fine, Professor McGonagall had filled her and the rest of the Basilisk's victims in on the past few months activities. She was horrified when she learnt that Ginny had been taken into the chamber, although it did explain why Harry and Ron had gone into the chamber in the first place.
"I'm so proud of you, both of you," she said and went to hug them both again but they hastily backed away looking scared.
"It was you who worked out that it was a basilisk, Hermione," Harry said, sitting back down at the Gryffindor table and picking up his goblet of Pumpkin juice. "We only worked out where the chamber was."
"But I was petrified before I could tell you," questioned Hermione, sitting down opposite him. "How could I have helped you?"
Ron, who had sat down next to Harry, started to chuckle. "Same way you always do."
He pulled out a small, crumpled piece of old looking parchment that she instantly recognised as the part of the library book she had torn out. To her it seemed like only a couple of hours since she had first read that piece of parchment, when in reality it had been several weeks. She slowly reached forward and took it from Ron.
"It was in my hand when I was attacked."
"Exactly," said Harry.
"So we just copied," chimed in Ron.
She sighed. She had the feeling that the two of them would never learn to do their own work.
Harry and Ron took turns in telling Hermione what they had been up to since she had been attacked while the other one ate. Hermione was shocked and appalled at the amount of rules they had broken. Sneaking off into the forest, listening in on the Minister for Magic's conversations, lying to Professor McGonagall… it was a miracle they hadn't been expelled. She couldn't imagine what it had been like for Ron to find out what had happened to Ginny the way he did. But something about this part of the story bothered her and she interrupted.
"But when Ginny was taken into the chamber, why didn't you tell Professor Lockhart that you knew where the entrance was? He could have easily saved- what?" Hermione stopped talking when she saw Harry and Ron exchange nervous looks.
"Haven't you heard?" Ron asked slyly.
"Heard what?" Hermione did not like the looks her friends were giving her. She automatically looked up at the teachers' table but there was no sign of Lockhart's handsome face.
"I'll let you take this one, mate," laughed Harry as he helped himself to some more vegetables.
Ron put down his cutlery and looked at Hermione with a very serious expression.
"Now, Hermione," he began in consoling voice, "What I am about to tell you may upset you a great deal; it may even break your heart."
Hermione laughed. Surely this was some kind of joke the two of them were playing on her.
"Ron, I doubt anything you say could ever break my heart."
In response Ron raised his eyebrows and said "Don't say I didn't warn you." He took a deep breath before he started speaking again. "Didn't you ever think it was weird that even though in his books he was a super powerful wizard who took on half the world and still managed to have time to do his hair, in real life you only ever saw him fail to perform basic spells and make time to do his hair?"
Hermione looked into Ron's smirking face and tried to think of a reasonable explanation. She had given this much thought over the year (much more than she would ever admit to Ron) and had never been able to come up with a decent excuse for Professor Lockahart's behaviour.
"Maybe he just doesn't like to show off?" she tried.
Across from her Harry snorted and started choking on his parsnips.
"Or maybe," Ron proclaimed, with the air of someone on the edge of definite victory, "he didn't do any of it."
"What?" Hermione could feel herself going pink.
"Maybe he just found people who actually had done these amazing things, put memory charms on them and then took the credit for all of their hard work?" Ron looked as though Christmas had come early, Malfoy had been expelled and the Chudley Cannons had won the league all on the same day.
Hermione felt as though all the air had left the Great Hall. It couldn't be true. It just couldn't. She had admired Professor Lockhart not just for his good looks, like all the other girls, but because of all the amazing things he had accomplished. He was smart and brave; it was just a happy twist of fate that he happened to be incredibly handsome. There was no way she could have been this badly mistaken.
"Now, come on," Hermione began hotly, "How could you possibly know that?"
"He told us. Right before he tried to wipe mine and Harry's memories and take the credit for discovering the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets." Ron was smiling as though nearly having his memory erased was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
Shocked to her core, Hermione looked to Harry (who was still rather red in the face from the parsnip incident) in the hope that he would contradict Ron. When he didn't, Hermione covered her face with her hands in embarrassment. After a few moments, she looked up to see Harry looking concerned and Ron with a look of superiority on his face.
"That's horrid," she finally muttered. "How did you get away? And where is he now?"
Ron and Harry looked at each other again.
"You can have this one," Ron said guiltily, nodding at Harry.
It took Harry the best part of half an hour to finish the rest of the story up until the feast had started. Of all the recaps she had received this evening this one had been the hardest to listen to. The idea of Ginny being possessed for most of the year was very hard to process.
When Harry had told her about Lockhart's fate Hermione couldn't help but feel he got what he deserved. This shocked her a bit. She had spent the year defending and admiring him but now she was partially glad that his scheme had backfired and he no longer knew who he was. Surely she wasn't this fickle?
It dawned on her that maybe her admiration for Lockhart had always just been a school girl crush, like Ron had always said. Of course, she would never, ever admit this to him.
When the ceiling of the Great Hall started to show the beginnings of dawn, Professor Dumbledore announced that it was time for the students to start making their way to their beds. Hermione rose with the rest of Gryffindor and began heading towards the Entrance Hall. In front of her she saw the Ravenclaw prefect, Penelope, who had been attacked with her and gave her a small smile of greeting. She went to talk to her properly, but Penelope had started talking to Percy Weasley, who seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
"So are you okay about Lockhart being a git all along then?" she heard Ron say conversationally behind her as they reached the marble staircase.
"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" she asked scathingly. This was a lie. Hermione was angry with herself for being fooled so easily by someone with no moral compass. She had never thought of herself to be the sort of girl who swooned over handsome men just because they had nice smiles and finding out she was troubled her a bit. Although now Hermione thought about it, Lockhart's smile wasn't really that attractive…
"Because you fancied the pillock?" offered Ron as they reached the top of the marble staircase. Hermione hit him on the arm and Harry laughed.
"Look everyone makes mistakes, even you," Ron teased, rubbing his arm. "Just don't fall for some prat next time."
Just as he finished talking, Ron walked straight into a suit of armour which fell on top of him, wailing loudly. While Hermione and Harry laughed so hard they had to cling to the wall to keep them upright, Ron scrambled to his feet swearing under his breath.
"I'm sick of things in this place attacking me," he muttered as they started heading towards Gryffindor Tower again, Hermione and Harry still chuckling at Ron's misfortune.
*Line from Philosophers Stone, Chapter 17
**Line from Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 18