Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 3 of 45

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Much like the gargoyle outside the Headmaster's office, the Fat Lady did not bother troubling them for a password. She looked as if she'd consumed several vats of wine and her cheeks had an unnatural rosy tint to them.

"Oh, bless you three! I was hoping you'd come to see me again," she greeted cheerily. "I always knew you would do great things. All those nights sneaking out of the castle," she recalled fondly, seeming to forget how much she would grumble and complain every time she had had to open up the door at odd hours of the night for them. "Oh and Vi, would you look at this!" she spoke to the portrait to her left, eyeing Ron and Hermione's joined hands. Ron was suddenly vividly aware of the fact that he hadn't let go of her hand all morning. "I was right!" she appeared delighted at the sight of the pair, "I'm always right about that. Never wrong, you know! Saw it coming with your parents a mile away," she looked towards Harry. Ron just shifted uncomfortably.

"Erm - " he looked towards the door. "Can we just get inside - "

"Yes, come in, come in." The door finally swung open and the trio stepped through the familiar circular entryway. "I imagine you'll find it much like you left it last year."

Her words were a sharp reminder that it had been nearly a year since the three had last set foot inside the Gryffindor common room. The familiar squashy armchairs were in their usual place. The bulletin board had its normal request for Chocolate Frog cards and used books; there were even a couple fliers about sale items at his brothers' store. Ron was surprised at how much of an outsider he felt like as he stepped inside the room though. Despite how many years he, Harry, and Hermione had sat in front of this very fireplace and talked about Quidditch and Transfiguration lessons, he was well aware that this wasn't their common room anymore. It had been Ginny and Neville that sat here hatching out plans this past year. These weren't their textbooks or their quills scattered around the room. And in that moment Ron knew he would not be returning to Hogwarts for a seventh year. Life had taught him in the last year more than anything in these walls ever could.

"It looks just the same," Hermione remarked, more than the slightest touch of longing and sadness in her voice.

"It looks smaller," Harry disagreed, pausing by the fireplace.

Ron stopped at the table where he'd used to play Wizard's Chess with Harry and stared at a small tapestry of three men on a broom chasing a small yellow bird.

"Has that tapestry always been there?"

"Of course it has," Hermione dismissed with a laugh. "Remember, I told you first year that the Snidget was the original Snitch in early Quidditch?"

"Obviously not," Ron remarked dryly. Hermione just scowled at him in reply. They wandered slowly around the room together. "Hey, remember our first Christmas here, Harry?" Ron recalled, looking at the place where the Christmas tree always stood.

"And I couldn't believe I'd got any presents?" Harry smiled at the memory.

"What about your anonymous singing Valentine, you remember that?" Ron grinned and they all chuckled, knowing quite well who the Valentine had come from.

"What about that monstrous Potions essay we had to write fifth year on Befuddlement Draughts?"

"Only you would remember homework, Hermione." Ron shook his head, but even he couldn't disguise the smile on his face at her recollection. She had stayed up until morning helping him finish his.

He felt like his mum when she'd come to support Harry at the Triwizard Tournament fourth year. She had wandered the corridors, recalling all the details of her time at Hogwarts (many which Ron wished he hadn't heard), mumbling about how time flies. He hadn't appreciated or understood what she was saying then, but he did now. His carefree time at the school, in this very common room, felt like it was ages ago. Memories came rushing back, but they felt a bit like memories of somebody else. He could recall them easily enough, but he had trouble believing there had been a time when his life had been that carefree.

He looked across the room to Harry, who was now standing at the bottom of the staircase to the boys' dormitories. He gave Ron a look that said quite plainly he and Hermione were welcome to stay down here and reminisce, but there was a four poster bed somewhere up there with his name on it. The thought of sleep and a warm feather bed sounded too appealing to Ron and he too took a step towards the staircase after Harry. However, for the first time all morning Hermione did not move with him.

"What?" Ron laughed at the possibility of forgoing sleep. They could trade memories all they wanted later, but sleep was something they hadn't had since departing Bill and Fleur's over twenty-four hours ago. He took yet another step towards the staircase, pulling Hermione's arm along with him a bit more forcefully this time. A look of uncertainty crossed her face as she kept her feet planted firmly on the ground.

"Don't you want to come to bed?" he asked incredulously.

It took a moment for him to hear the words himself before he realised their intimate implication.

"I didn't – I mean - just sleep – in a bed - not with me – unless – oh, bugger." He tried to forge an explanation, but soon realised the best thing he could do to help the situation was to stop talking. Hermione turned her eyes to the floor, managing a smile despite her equally flushed face. It had been a long time since the two of them had had a moment like this. Things had been so natural and easy between them for so long. But even now the careless slip of the tongue did not cause Ron the deep mortification it would have last year. Times had changed.

He and Hermione had changed.

"I just thought it'd be nice to sleep."

She seemed to take a moment to turn his words over in her head. The moment felt like hours to Ron, who shifted his weight nervously as he awaited her response. The smile was tiny, just a slight raise in the corners of her mouth and a miniscule nod of the head. Ron breathed a sigh of relief, which was probably all too obvious, as she finally stepped forward and hand in hand followed him up the staircase in Hogwarts she'd only dared to travel once before.

The suggestive nature of the action wasn't lost on Ron. While it made his palms a bit sweatier than they already were, it also felt surprisingly natural, almost as if they'd done it a million times before. Ron climbed the stairs and stepped through the familiar doorway marked "seventh years". He looked around the room fondly. To the common eye it looked just like the previous three levels, albeit a bit neater, but as an inhabitant of this very room for the better part of a year he knew it had some stories to tell. This was, for example, the scene of a particularly nasty row with Harry the night his name came out of the Goblet of Fire. Here the two had agonised about dates to the Yule Ball and spoke wondrously about the possibility of a career as an Auror. He looked to Harry, who already had his shoes off and was curled up atop the neatly made bed that used to belong to him. Ron was surprised at how much the sight of his resting friend pleased him. Quietly, so as not to disturb Harry, he led Hermione over to the four-poster bed he had once occupied that now lay vacant.

"Here, look at this." He kept his voice at a whisper as he climbed onto the mattress.

"What am I looking for?" Hermione whispered back. Ron pointed to the back bedpost where he had carved the letters RBW with a Defodio charm late one night.

"You destroyed Hogwarts property!" she scolded.

"I would think you, of all people, would appreciate it," he offered with a laugh, pointing to the other bedposts that were all covered with engravings. "I was just trying to add to the history of Hogwarts!" It was the first hint of laughter from him all morning and Hermione chuckled at what even Ron knew was a lame attempt at an excuse. Harry stirred slightly in his bed at the sound of their laughter, probably a subtle reminder to the two that he was still there and attempting sleep.

"The history of Hogwarts," Hermione laughed softly to herself and looked to Ron with a fond smile.

"It's true. There's initials on here that go back at least twenty years," Ron informed. "Fred found Harry's dad's initials on his bunk." His brother's name seemed to echo around the empty bed chamber. Ron realised it was the first time he'd spoken his name all morning. He couldn't make himself believe that his brother was not merely in the hospital wing. He'd be up in no time. He'd take the piss out of Ron for bringing Hermione up to the dormitory. He'd make a quip about how ickle Ronniekins had a girl in bed. He'd be here. He had to be.

He felt the familiar sting in his nose as tears pushed against his will. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to force them back inside. He didn't speak or even look to Hermione. She sat helplessly beside him, her uncertainty at how to react all too evident. Ron wished he could tell her that just having her there beside him, holding his hand, was enough. That she'd always been enough. But like that moment in the Great Hall, he couldn't make any words come out of his mouth.

So instead he turned onto his back abruptly, his hand breaking free from Hermione's for the first time all morning, and began unlacing his trainers. Sleep was the answer. Sleep would allow his body to rest so his brain could at least begin to process the events of the morning. Whenever he started thinking about them now his brain didn't know which to focus on and he couldn't even figure out what he was supposed to be feeling. There was this tremendous relief that the seemingly impossible task they had set out to accomplish last summer had finally been achieved. There was also an unbelievable joy that the dark shadow that had haunted the wizarding world for years was finally gone. Yet there was an overwhelming sadness, a despondency that threatened to overtake his entire being, when he thought about the fact that his family would never be whole again and that poor Teddy Lupin would never know his parents.

So much had been lost that he hardly allowed himself to remember the feeling of sheer elation that coursed through his entire body whenever he recalled the feeling of Hermione's lips on his. He felt guilty remembering it, for even daring to be happy over a simple kiss – no matter how long he'd waited for it – when there was a room full of sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers who would never kiss anyone again.

Ron pulled his worn jumper over his head forcefully and tossed it to the floor. He didn't know what to feel, but he knew enough to know his dozing friend had the right idea. Sleep might not solve everything, but it would certainly help. He stretched out his long legs and hoped that the way he'd conveniently placed his body on only half of the mattress was invitation enough for Hermione to join him. He lay back on the bed, both hands behind his head, and stared up at the ceiling. He couldn't even recall the last time he'd been able to fall asleep without having to think about a Horcrux – what it might be, where they could find it, how to destroy it. He found it hard to wrap his mind around the fact that none of them would ever have to think about such things or even say the word again.

He heard Hermione's trainers thump to the floor on the other side of the bed. The sound seemed to echo about the room like some kind of monumental signal that she would be joining him for a kip. She pulled off her battered denim jacket next and held it up to observe its sorry condition. There was a hole above the right shoulder, the cuffs were frayed and singed slightly on one side and Ron thought he even detected a faint blood stain on the collar.

"If this jacket could tell a story," Hermione laughed nervously before dropping it on the floor. The attempt to make Ron smile a second time failed however. He was still staring up at the ceiling, almost like he was afraid to look at her as she stretched out beside him. He wondered if she'd imagined this moment, albeit under different circumstances, as many times as he had in his head. Down at the edge of the bed her feet touched his, but he couldn't tell if it was intentional or just a result of the bed not being large enough for two people.

They'd shared the same room for the last year, slept beside each other numerous times in dozens of different locations, he'd even slept by her bedside at Shell Cottage, much to Fleur and Bill's protest. But this was different and they both knew it. This was the kind of thing a couple did.

Calling upon a bit of courage, he unfolded his left arm from its resting spot behind his head and moved it around her shoulders carefully. Moving his arm around her like this felt new, different somehow than any of the countless other occasions when he'd wrapped her in a hug.

He glanced down at his own arm. There was a long gash that ran from elbow to wrist and a ghastly scrape that had ripped the skin off most of the knuckles on his right hand. He couldn't recall when or how he'd gotten either, but for the first time he realised just what a mess he was. His shoulder still bore the scars of his Splinching nearly a year ago as well as those from the brains that had attacked him fifth year. The burns on his hands that he received from the cursed treasure in the Lestrange vault still looked raw despite the Dittany Hermione had treated them with. He wondered if they would ever really go away or if they'd be like the brain scars. There was no telling how long burns from a cursed object would last. At this rate, he would look like Mad Eye Moody before he even reached his twentieth birthday.

Hermione seemed to note the battle scars as well. She touched the scrape on his knuckle gently with her finger. Ron watched with wide eyes as she began tracing the abrasions on his scarred hand with her forefinger. His eyes were so fixed on the movements of her finger he hardly noticed that she had repositioned her entire body. She was no longer on her back and facing the ceiling, but turned and facing him. Her entire leg now touched his leg, her body was now flush with his own, even pressing up against him in places. She glanced upwards and their eyes met for a moment, nervous only because they both were well aware this was something they'd never done before.

Ron suddenly became very aware of his own heart, right there, inches from Hermione. He felt it beating so fiercely, almost like it was about to break out from behind his ribcage. He thought, as he glanced down, he could even see the fabric of his shirt quaking in time with his heart. Hermione stretched her hand out and rested it right atop the heartbeat he knew neither of them could ignore.

"You feel that?" He made no attempt to hide or excuse the thumping beneath his chest.

"Yes, I feel it," she replied softly and she pressed her face into the folds of his striped shirt then with what appeared to be the tiniest of smiles. His arm tightened around her as he dared hold her a little closer then. The initials in the headboard, the questions he had for Dumbledore, the concern for Harry, quickly fell to the back of his mind. All that mattered in this moment was Hermione.

From across the room, Harry raised himself up on his elbows, suddenly very much awake. He didn't even bother to put on his glasses. He just squinted at the two of them suspiciously, like he was looking for something.

"You all right, Harry?" Ron sat up abruptly, momentarily displacing Hermione.

"Just wanted to make sure there was no snogging," Harry stated. Ron and Hermione immediately burst into nervous laughter.

"Snogging?" Ron laughed dismissively as if the matter were absurd, even with Hermione draped around his body the way she was. "Why would we be snogging?" he snorted in embarrassment.

" 'Cause you did not twelve hours ago in the middle of a war," Harry reminded them with the same squinty-eyed stare.

"Right. Yeah." Ron squirmed at the reminder of their passionate embrace last night. The three looked at each other for a beat then broke into a fit of laughter. Whether it was Harry's accusatory stare or the ridiculousness of his own initial denial that caused it, Ron wasn't sure, but it was the first time the three had shared a laugh all together since climbing out of the lake yesterday. Ron felt Hermione's chest heaving against him with each belly laugh she took and he wondered if she was aware that he could feel…parts of her moving against him. Parts he'd spent more time than he cared to admit thinking about over the past few years.

He couldn't help but be hit with the sudden memory of their first Hogsmeade trip together back in December of third year. She'd been taking off her jacket in the Three Broomsticks and she'd tugged so hard on one of her sleeves that she'd jerked her blouse right off her shoulder and he had caught a momentary glimpse of a thin white strap. He was so unused to thinking about Hermione as a girl, he'd almost asked what it was at first. He hadn't, of course, but he did spend the entire meal slurping Butterbeer and staring at her blouse. He remembered wondering why she even needed to wear a bra in the first place since the tiny bumps on her chest weren't really much too look at. In fact they were so unobtrusive he hadn't really taken notice of them again until the following year at the Quidditch World Cup when he'd gotten an involuntary glimpse down her dressing gown. He wanted to laugh as he thought of all the times after that he had sneaked looks when she was shelving books at the library or studying on the floor in front of the fire. He wondered if he'd still have to sneak looks. She hardly seemed to mind the fact that she was pressed up against him right now or that, whether it was intentional or not, he could see quite clearly down the front of her shirt.

"I mean it, no snogging while I'm in the room," Harry warned. Ron jerked his eyes up from the beautiful view and looked to his friend. The broad grin on Harry's face betrayed his seriousness and clearly told Ron he'd seen where he had been looking. "No shagging either," he added for good measure.

"Bloody hell, Harry!" Ron exclaimed, the innocent warning about snogging and brief laughter they had just shared quickly giving way to utter humiliation. Ron felt his face grow hot and he didn't even want to know what ridiculous shade of crimson his ears were turning. Harry cackled from his bed, obviously pleased at the discomfort he had caused him. Ron's arm was still wrapped around her shoulders, but he refused to look at Hermione, whose cheeks had also flushed considerably at the obscene remark.

Ron could hardly believe how quickly the tender moment between them had vanished so quickly. Her head no longer rested comfortably on his chest and they sat stiffly on the bed side-by-side like two planks of wood. He glanced down at her nervously, only to see she had a look on her face akin to the one she'd had before going in to take her OWLs. She was chewing on her lip, like she was waiting to answer a question, but she didn't know what it was going to be.

"You know, I reckon there's still a piece of Voldemort in him." Ron glared at his friend's bunk, hardly believing what Harry had just said. Hermione laughed at his brief attempt to inject some humour into the embarrassing situation and suddenly turned to him with wide eyes.

"Ron, you said his name!" Her tone was almost congratulatory as she turned to face him again.

"I suppose I did." He scratched his head with his free hand uncomfortably. "I reckon I might as well start now he's dead. Better late than never, eh?"

"It doesn't seem real, does it?" Her voice had a faraway tone to it and ever so slowly she moved back towards him. The awkwardness that had briefly enveloped them at Harry's suggestive remark fortunately seemed to melt away.


"Saying Voldemort is dead, all of this…finally being over," she returned her head to his chest and let out a long sigh. "We did it."

"We did," Ron murmured, daring to snake his arm around her a bit further.

"It doesn't feel real," she murmured again dreamily and Ron had to wonder whether she was talking about defeating Voldemort or lying on the bed with him. Neither one felt real to him.

He glanced down to Hermione, whose hand now rested on his chest again along with her head and whose eyes were slowly closing. He sensed it was the perfect moment to do something. To comb his fingers through her hair, to rub her back, to kiss her on top of her head. Anything. But he simply laid there, content to allow his chest to serve as her pillow while he tried to gather his nerves.

Everything had been so different last night. The energy, the intensity, even the blood coursing through his veins seemed to be of a different makeup. Now there was no place they had to be, no object to seek or puzzle to solve. Even the answer to the question he'd tormented himself with for years seemed quite obvious now, as he couldn't help but recall the way Hermione had pounced on him last night. Why then was his body so paralysed to act? He could manage simple things. Putting his arm around her had become so instinctive to both of them in the past year it was hardly out of the ordinary. But his mouth went dry and his tongue knotted in his mouth every time he even entertained the idea of kissing her again.

"Hermione," he called her name softly, but there was no reply. She was already fast asleep against him.

As much as he desired sleep, he doubted it would come to him easily. Being back in his old bed chamber brought back a torrent of memories. Feelings of inadequacy and failure, jealousy and rage, rows with Harry and Hermione, and lonely miserable nights where he'd all but cursed himself to sleep for his own idiocy. It seemed a generation ago that their biggest problem had once been hurt feelings and a silly school dance, yet so many of those emotions were still a part of him.

The past ten months he'd felt them all. Sometimes they'd been all he could feel. Yet there was a new feeling that bubbled inside of him this morning, one he hadn't ever allowed himself to truly feel for anyone. For years it had been clouded by all those other things, but now he could feel it stirring deep inside him. He wondered if perhaps it was that very feeling that was keeping him awake.

Sunshine streamed through the window and with a careful flick of Pettigrew's wand, he closed the bed curtains to block out the light. Still sleep would not come to him, no matter how much he desired it. Each time he closed his eyes to attempt sleep, horrible moments from last night played out behind his eyelids. First the explosion, then the smile on Fred's lifeless face, then Harry dragging him by the armpits to hide him.

Hermione shuddered beneath him suddenly and his thoughts quickly returned to her. This was a new development, something Ron had noticed at Shell Cottage. Hermione twitched in her sleep now. Not just a sporadic muscle twitch when she was slumbering, nor the violent thrashing Harry was sometimes victim to, but a trembling throughout her body that pained Ron to watch. Sometimes a noise would even sound from her mouth, a haunting sound somewhere between a whimper and a moan. He hadn't told anyone about it, not even Hermione, but he had more than a hunch as to the root of the condition. She'd never done it before they'd been brought to the Malfoy's; before she'd been left alone with Bellatrix Lestrange.

Ron never knew whether to wake her or not when it happened. While it was painful to watch and listen to, he feared Hermione's mortified reaction were he to explain why he'd woken her. Despite her tendency to burst into tears quite frequently, he knew this would be admitting to a kind of fear and pain that was far different. This was a kind of trauma he knew he couldn't even begin to imagine.

The faint whimper sounded from the back of her throat now and the fingers on her left hand, the one resting on Ron's chest, reached out instinctively and grabbed a handful of his shirt.

He whispered her name softly and moved the arm that had been draped loosely around her so that it now rested on her shoulder. Another brief spasm wracked her body. "Hermione," he whispered, a bit louder this time as he rubbed her shoulder gently. He didn't know what to do, he just knew he wanted whatever torment that was going on in her head to stop. Her fingers grasped his shirt tightly, like the pain was being amplified. "Hermione, it's okay." He wasn't even sure she could hear him, but he squeezed her gently as he spoke the words.

She opened her mouth then and a sound emerged then that was quite different from the last. It wasn't the plaintive whimper or distressed moan from before; it sounded very much like his name.

From the other side of his body, he reached his arm around and moved his hand on top of her hand, which was now gripping his shirt. "I'm here," he stated, clumsily trying to assure her of his presence. He doubted it would do anything, doubted she could even hear him or whether her subconscious even knew she was there with him.

The whimper sounded again. He felt like rubbish for not being able to do anything, the same way he'd felt when she'd been taken, the same way he'd felt when he'd heard her screaming. He felt like he'd failed her. And just then, beneath his own palm, he felt her fingers slowly loosen around his shirt. It was over. It had passed. And one last time, to no one in particular, he spoke her name.



A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 3 of 45

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