Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 6 of 45

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When the torches went out on the third floor on the way up to Gryffindor Tower, everybody save Harry, Hermione, and Ron went into an immediate panic. Ron made no immediate effort to return the light from the Deluminator in his pocket however, not even when Hermione latched onto his wrist and Harry spun around to look at him. He found the darkness oddly comforting. If it was dark then he couldn't see all the places they walked past where the railing had been smashed and the corridors blown apart and he didn't have to think about the Battle. Only Hermione's imploring gaze caused him to flick his finger and relight the torches. Nervous laughter and chattering ensued, with everyone looking about wildly to see the source of the disturbance. Fortunately, nobody seemed to notice that the light that returned came out of Ron's pocket.

Shoving his hands deeper into his pockets, Ron continued toying with the instrument. If he accidentally put the lights out again, so be it. The smooth silver metal was an odd source of familiarity in a completely unfamiliar situation. Walking up to the common room surrounded by not only his entire family, but adults he was used to seeing only on Platform 9 ¾ at the beginning and end of each year was bizarre in every way.

Ron had not envied McGonagall's responsibility of finding places at Hogwarts for all the adults to stay. Many families had fortunately chosen to leave immediately after the feast. Cho Chang's father, a stern looking man with an intense stare, collected Cho as dessert had finished and Ron saw Zacharias Smith, who had pushed first years out of the way in his hurry to leave the castle last night, return with his mother simply to gather his things and then depart again. There were still dozens of families who would be staying the night however, those with wounded family members in the hospital wing or, like the Weasleys, bodies they still had to bear home.

McGonagall had initially attempted to direct everyone, current and former students alike, to the House they had been sorted into when they were eleven. However, parents who had been in Ravenclaw, but whose children were in Hufflepuff, put up quite a fuss about not being able to stay together. Shouting and chaos ensued and, unable to forcibly separate families after the traumatic events of the previous day, McGonagall simply allowed those in different houses to choose where to lay their heads that night. The result was House dormitories that were as crowded and mashed up as the tables had been in the Great Hall.

Ron knew after the events of last night he shouldn't feel resentful, but he felt uncomfortable about so many strangers entering his common room. He knew it was silly to feel that way, especially as it wasn't even his common room anymore. The atmosphere on the way up the stairs felt too celebratory for Ron though, too much like a party. That's why, even though turning them out had not been on purpose, he hadn't hurried to put the lights back on. He felt like the darkness was a necessary reminder of the panic and chaos that had swept this very corridor less than twenty-four hours ago and the people that had fallen there.

He fingered the Deluminator in his pocket and eyed Hermione. She had grown suddenly bashful on their walk up to Gryffindor Tower and seemed embarrassed about holding his hand. The action made Ron even more agitated than dinner in the Great Hall had. For years he had avoided contact with her for fear it might give way to those oddly charged and uncomfortable moments that had come to dominate their friendship. Now walking beside her and not touching her felt forced and unnatural somehow. His thumb grazed back and forth over the switch on the Deluminator as he noticed the way she kept her eye on his mum. She was walking just a few paces behind them and he knew that knowledge was what likely kept Hermione from taking his hand.

With another accidental flick of his thumb, all the light in the corridor immediately vanished for a second time and went into Ron's pocket. Shrieks of panic sounded and the herd of Gryffindors halted abruptly again.

"Why do you keep doing that?" Bill's voice suddenly hissed from beside Ron. Ron couldn't see him, but he guessed he was wearing the same look of disappointment he'd worn when Ron had shown up at his house this winter. Embarrassed at being admonished by his big brother, he quickly released the light from his pocket.

"It's not his fault," Hermione quickly replied in his defense before Ron could even stammer any sort of apology. Her earlier bashfulness quickly seemed to evaporate and she pulled his hand from his pocket and laced her fingers in his in an almost protective manner. "It's just habit."

"Yeah, it's just…habit," Ron repeated.

"Well, stop," Bill reprimanded. "You're scaring people."

Ron didn't bother replying that darkness was a stupid thing to be afraid of. He just tightened his grasp on Hermione's fingers and walked the rest of the way up to Gryffindor Tower in silence. The lights didn't go out again.

Neville seemed to be the only one among the herd of Gryffindors that knew the password, which Ron thought was a funny change in circumstance from the last time they'd been at Hogwarts. Disregarding the conversation about acquiring a keg of butterbeer, Ron weaved his way through the crowd and immediately made for the dormitory stairs. He gave little thought to how it would look to everyone else in the tower if he and Hermione walked up the stairs together until she began to squirm away from him.

"Come on, then," he laughed the same way he had that morning when they'd journeyed up the stairs together. He wanted to go up and lie on the bed again, have her use his chest as a pillow, and tangle her legs up in his like they had this morning. Maybe he could even try for that second kiss.

"No, Ron – if your mum sees – we ought to – I should stay down here," she stammered in protest.

"Why?" Ron asked dumbly, hardly caring what his mum saw.

"Just, go on up without me. I'll be right here," Hermione assured, rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb softly before breaking away and letting him climb the curved staircase alone.

His tattered jumper was still lying on the floor where he'd removed it hours earlier as was Hermione's denim jacket. The top quilt on the bed was wrinkled and bunched in places where they had laid hours before. Ron wondered what his mum would do if she saw the scene, complete with their discarded clothing. It certainly suggested much more than an innocent kip.

"Well, we'll have to conjure a mattress or two." His father's voice suddenly sounded from the doorway. Ron jerked his head over his shoulder to his dad and crouched down hurriedly to fetch Hermione's jacket, hoping he hadn't noticed it. Harry had arrived behind his father, followed by all his older brothers. The sight of them all in his old dormitory was beyond strange. Ron couldn't help but think it would take more than one or two. He wondered where Neville would sleep in the dorm full of Weasleys. It would be quite rude of his family just to kick him out of his own dormitory. He had sort of saved them all today and risked his life all year.

He could hear Neville's jovial voice sound from downstairs along with the rest of the Gryffindors, new and old alike. They were a noisy and boisterous bunch. Ron tried his best to ignore the commotion as he climbed back down the stairs and scanned the crowded room. Many of the adults had not seen each other since finishing at Hogwarts decades ago and the common room soon began to resemble what Ron imagined a twenty year Hogwarts reunion might look like. Neville's grandmother, clearly the oldest in the bunch, even talked about breaking open a bottle or two of Ogden's if they could secure one from the kitchens.

Ron spotted Harry not far from Mrs. Longbottom. He was surrounded by a group of adults and was wearing the false smile that only he, Hermione, and probably Ginny could detect. Ron noticed his hand entwined in his sister's and actually managed a smile at the sight. Hermione was not out among the crowd. She was tucked into a small alcove in the wall. It was a nook she'd often used to curl up in with a book last year. She looked lost in thought, with her feet tucked beneath her body and her knees hugged to her chest, when he arrived. He wondered if, surrounded by joyous reunited families, she was thinking about her own.

"Here." He handed her the jacket in greeting only to have her startle at his words. "You left this uh…you know…"

"Thank you." Hermione tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and nervously reached into her beaded bag. She pulled out a pair of trousers and a torn maroon shirt Ron had grown much too tired of wearing over the last year and handed them both to him. "Here's a change of clothes for you and Harry tomorrow."

"Right. Tomorrow."

The word rang in Ron's head. The past two days already seemed like one long day. He had trouble even figuring out when one day had ended and the other began. Now he would go back to a normal schedule of sleeping and waking and eating breakfast. He looked at Neville's swollen face and his brother's black eye. What would the day after the great Battle of Hogwarts be like? He searched the room for George, but could not find him. What would the day after so much had been lost be like? His eyes rested back on Hermione. What would the day after kissing Hermione Granger be like?

The day after the day after, he reminded himself. They'd gone almost an entire day now without so much as mentioning that wonderfully unexpected kiss. He'd had more than a few opportunities to duplicate it, especially if he factored in the hours behind the bed curtains and that moment outside the Great Hall this evening. He doubted they would have any more tonight. The room seemed to grow louder and more crowded by the minute.

Thankfully, at least the adoration downstairs in the Great Hall seemed to have passed. Most of the adults all seemed much more eager to relive old memories from the Quidditch Pitch and detentions with Apollyn Pringle than to shake hands with him or Harry and clap them on the back. Still, it was difficult to walk in any direction across the circular room without bumping into someone and being forced to have some kind of a conversation. Always the talk would end with inquiries about the trio's whereabouts and activities this year, where they'd traveled and what exactly the mission Dumbledore had left them had been. Ron took his cue from Harry and was evasive in answering most of the questions.

He dismissively told Kenneth Towler the burns on his face and arm were merely from protective enchantments, he refused to tell Romilda Vane whether Xenophilius Lovegood was a turncoat or not, and he rushed to change the subject when Katie Bell's parents had inquired about the cut on Hermione's neck.

He knew his mother was probably pleased that the common room was so full of family and students that there was next to nowhere he and Hermione could go to be alone. Every time they so much as edged near the dormitory stairs, somebody from his family seemed to find them. Bill had even gone so far as to provide them with an embarrassing reminder about the separate sleeping arrangements for boys and girls, which made them both go pink in the cheeks. Ron had more than a hunch their mum had supplied the words. Still, if it wasn't Bill, it was Neville or Angelina. It wasn't even that he didn't want to talk to them. He just wanted to talk to Hermione more.

Weary of the chaotic environment, the embarrassment, and the notion of sitting on the couch recounting their adventures to a room full of people, he finally seized Hermione's hand and dragged her towards the portrait hole.

"Ron, what are you doing?" She inquired, turning around to look back at the party, but before he could finish they ran headlong into a pair of middle-aged wizards. Both had wavy blonde hair and piercing blue eyes that fixed immediately upon Ron. They looked at him long and hard, as if trying to place him, before quickly extending their hands.

"You're Ron. Ron Weasley." Ron was slow to let go of Hermione's hand to take the stranger's outstretched one. He couldn't tell if it was a question or a point of fact. Clearly the two had not been in the Great Hall during McGonagall's embarrassing speech, in which she'd mentioned his name numerous times.

"Erm – yeah," he replied uncomfortably, unsure of the identity of the hand he was shaking. Hermione too seemed a bit confused at the warm smiles the strangers offered.

"And you must be Hermione Granger." They both shook Hermione's hand next. Seeming to detect the pair's confusion, the man quickly introduced himself. "We're Lavender's parents."

Ron shifted uncomfortably at the revelation. They appeared to be in shockingly good spirits, which Ron took to mean Lavender was still alive. He felt guilty that he hadn't thought about her at all since this morning in the Great Hall and even more guilty when he began to wonder how Lavender's parents even recognised him. He wondered what she had told them about him. They both looked genuinely pleased to meet him. Mrs. Brown even reached out and touched his arm gently.

"Lavender always spoke so fondly of you."

Shamefully, he averted his eyes from their warm smiles. All he could think about was how he'd treated their daughter last year. He'd enjoyed snogging her for the first month, but after that she became more of an accessory than a person he actually cared about. Snogging her just became something to do, like playing Snap or practicing Quidditch. When he'd tired of that, he'd spent most of his time trying to avoid her. He had no idea if she'd told her parents about how he'd acted. If she had, they certainly didn't seem to mind.

"You know, my brother, Bill, was attacked by a werewolf," Ron sputtered suddenly, eager to keep the conversation away from his relationship with their daughter, most of which he was confident the tall muscular man in front of him would not approve. "Last year - it was the same werewolf actually, and he got…mauled - like completely mauled." Hermione looked to Ron in horror, wordlessly telling him that speaking of maulings and their daughter's attacker was highly uncouth. Ron continued on despite her admonishing look. "He's just fine now. Likes his steaks a bit rare, but he's fine…just fine. Got married last year and all that, I reckon he'll probably have a kid soon." Hermione and the Browns both looked a bit unsure how to respond to Ron's nervous ramblings.

"Yes, she's going to be okay," Mrs. Brown smiled warmly. "She was only bitten on her neck and her wrist. Most of her other wounds are, well as awful as they are, they're only clawmarks and will be easier to heal." She spoke with a great deal of composure. The words were still a bit jarring to Ron, graphic reminders of the damage he'd seen with his own eyes that morning on her hands and face. "Fortunately, Madame Pomfrey said she developed a new treatment for werewolf wounds last year."

"Right, that was for – that was with – that's because of my brother." The Browns both smiled again at his nervous stammering.

"Parvati has been down with her. We've just come to bring her some of her things," Mr. Brown interjected and motioned with his head toward the common room. "They haven't changed anything? Girls are still the staircase on the right, correct?"

"Yes, Lavender's bed is the first one on your left at the top of the stairs," Hermione replied helpfully. The Browns both smiled appreciatively. For a moment, Ron feared she was going to lead Mrs. Brown inside and leave him standing there alone with her husband.

"Tell Lavender we'll come by and say hello," he sputtered suddenly. He didn't know why he'd said it. He reckoned it was more just to fill the awkward silence between them and because it sounded like the right thing to say than anything else. Hermione looked to him with wide eyes, looking thoroughly surprised. Even the Browns looked taken aback.

"I'm sure she'd like that." Mrs. Brown didn't look at all convinced that he would carry through with the words. She simply nodded her head and smiled before disappearing into the chaos of Gryffindor Tower with her husband.

Neither Ron nor Hermione said anything for a moment, their thoughts both likely occupied with their poor classmate covered in claw marks and lying in the hospital wing. Finally, Hermione spoke.

"Why did you say we would go visit her?"

"I dunno, I reckon we should," Ron shrugged awkwardly, hoping Hermione wasn't suddenly jealous of the fact that he felt a sense of obligation to visit his maimed ex-girlfriend. "It was awfully brave of her to stay and fight. I didn't know she had it in her."

"She's a Gryffindor," Hermione responded plainly.

"Yeah, but Lav was…" Was always a bit daft, he'd meant to say, but his voice fell away quickly as he saw the look on Hermione's face. He was afraid that his mention of Lavender had set her off, but was surprised to see she looked thoroughly nonplussed at the affectionate way he'd referred to her. She looked much more offended by the fact that he had been about to suggest she was a bit dim. He wondered if she felt as guilty as he did. He had never heard Hermione refer to Lavender in a flattering way before.

"I think she was brighter than she let on."

"Well, nobody looked bright with you around," Ron laughed, taking Hermione's hand in his and leaning into her shoulder playfully like he'd wanted to since leaving the Great Hall. Once again, being alone with her quickly pushed aside all the other thoughts floating around his head.

"Just because I was the only person who ever did the reading - "

"If we got assigned a chapter to read you read the entire book three times."

"I like to be thorough."

"You read all the books before we even got to Hogwarts."

"I wanted to be prepared!"

"You did the homework before it was even assigned!"

"You never did the homework even when it was assigned!"

"Oh, I think I did just the right amount of homework, thank you," Ron replied with a smile. The talk of schoolwork and their friendly bickering was strangely comforting. For the briefest of moments, he wondered what seventh year would have been like if he and Hermione had been here at Hogwarts. Would they have gotten as close as they had this year? Would they walk the halls hand-in-hand and sneak off to empty classrooms at odd hours of the night? His mind drifted at the possibilities as he led her halfway down the staircase, trying to recall where the closest empty classroom even was. Glancing behind to make sure no one else was about to walk through the portrait to join them, he simply opted to lower his body onto the stone and take a seat here on the steps.

"Why are we out here?" She asked what Ron figured was all too obvious.

"Just wanted a bit of…" He licked his lips thoughtfully, unable to tell her the simple truth. He wanted to be alone with her. "It was just getting crowded in there."

"I suppose it was." Hermione sighed in agreement. "It feels a bit odd having everyone's parents here, doesn't it?" He could see her own mention of parents had caused a brief look of sadness to wash over her face. He could only nod his head in agreement. "Do you think the enchantments on the stairs are still up?" she asked suddenly. Wondering what she could possibly be suggesting, Ron looked to her curiously.

"Why wouldn't they be?"

"It's just with so many families in the castle and only so many beds, you'd think they might lift them to house more people."

"Oh…yeah." He was embarrassed that perhaps she had seen his mind had strayed at the mention of the girl's dormitories. "Well, I'm not about to test them again." He could only imagine his mother's wrath at catching him trying to creep up the stairs to join Hermione. "No way."

"It's a bit silly, isn't it?" Hermione's eyes blazed in a manner Ron was used to seeing when she spoke of the plight of the Hogwarts house elves or a similar injustice. "To think that girls aren't just as likely to go into the boys' rooms."

"Yeah, I suppose." Ron thought he detected a bit of mischief in her eyes as she seemed to recall entering the boy's dormitories with him that morning. "Reckon it's a bit of old magic. You know back before girls went and did things for themselves."


"Yeah, like destroying horcruxes and jumping on top of dragons," he grinned.

"Must be." Hermione returned his smile and let out a deep sigh. She dropped her head onto his shoulder then for what felt like the millionth time that day. They rested like that in silence for a while. Ron's mind drifted back to how the morning had started and how much had managed to happen in not even twenty-four hours. His thoughts for some reason strayed back to Lavender Brown and the monster that had caused her such harm.

"It was Wingardium Leviosa," he mumbled suddenly. Hermione offered no response and her head did not move from its new favorite resting spot so Ron continued. "With Greyback – the piece of Lachlan the Lanky," he explained further and nodded to the place where Lachlan used to stand. "It was Wingardium Leviosa."

"You mean - " Hermione raised her head, suddenly realising what he was confessing.

"How I killed him, yeah." The words felt strange coming from his lips. He'd killed someone. He'd taken a life - a nasty, vile, disgusting life - but a life nonetheless. "Neville and I both stunned him and he was down and I could have just left him, but I saw this great big piece of stone lying there – a bit of Lachlan's head, I think, and I just… - " His voice drifted away absently and, of all things, a crooked smile appeared on his face. "It was easy. Just like the troll first year, really," he recalled. "But I wanted to do it. I could have left him, but… I wanted to kill him."

"That doesn't make you a bad person, Ron." Hermione seemed to detect the guilt in his voice.

"I wanted him to die," Ron muttered again and he couldn't lift his head to face her at the confession. The light-hearted nature of their early conversation about homework and assignments was all but forgotten. "I remember what he…" Ron started to speak, but he couldn't complete his sentence. He couldn't even give make himself recall the disgusting things Greyback had said about her back at the Malfoys'. He couldn't even give voice to the possibility that Greyback might have gotten to her. Because that's really what had made him drop the heavy piece of stone onto his head. He remembered all too well the relish in Greyback's voice at the thought of taking her back at the Malfoys'. The words had echoed in his ears as he looked to the stunned werewolf sprawled out on the floor. So he'd done it. He'd killed Greyback in an attempt to insure that he never got the chance to so much as smell Hermione again. And a small piece of Ron had delighted when the werewolf had dropped to the floor with a sickening crunch and grey matter and blood had gushed from his now flattened skull.

A surge of protectiveness swelled through him then and he lifted his eyes finally to look at Hermione. They hadn't talked about what had happened at the Malfoys', not about what she'd been through, and especially not his frantic reaction. Ron wanted to tell her he'd never let anything happen to her, never let anyone or anything hurt her as long as he stood on this earth. But all he could do was gaze at her. Hermione appeared at a loss for words. He wondered if she realised he'd killed for her as she stumbled over syllables and averted her eyes from the intensity of his stare.

"Hermione." He said her name with a strange and quiet confidence then and lifted his fingers to her chin. But no sooner had he spoken her name then somebody else did. It was his mother's voice sounding from the portrait hole.

"Hermione! Ron!" He dropped his hand from Hermione's cheek and tried to ignore the look of disappointment he could detect on her face. "There you are! We've been looking everywhere for you." Ron had no doubt as his mother spoke the words that she had probably been the only one searching for them. She eyed them warily, likely taking notice of the close proximity of their bodies and the way they were both leaning towards each other.

"We'll be in in a minute, mum," Ron tried to keep the edge off his voice. Mrs. Weasley made no effort to keep the edge off hers however.

"You'll be in now."

After ten months on the run fighting for their lives, after the last twenty-four hours especially, Ron felt ridiculous being summoned to bed by his mother. He detected a faint pink tinge to Hermione's cheeks as she immediately rose up and shuffled by her. He, on the other hand, was slow to get to his feet and he did not avoid his mum's eye as he passed by and re-entered the common room. He was quite a bit taller than her now and looked down at her with obvious displeasure. She hardly seemed ruffled and just clucked at him to hurry back inside.

The circular room was still crowded to the point where it looked as if several people had conjured their own squashy armchairs. Ron could smell the distinct aromas of butterbeer and firewhiskey, but he ignored their inviting smells along with Neville's jubilant invitation to join him and a handful of former Gryffindors reuniting by the fire. He paused at the back of the room where Hermione stood at the bottom of the girls' staircase.

"Goodnight then," he offered awkwardly, knowing his mother's eyes were still on him. He could detect an all too familiar look of disappointment on Hermione's face. "I'll uh – I'll see you tomorrow." The obvious words sounded lame coming from his lips and he just turned abruptly and marched up the stairs.

The rest of his family had all beaten him to bed, apparently oblivious to the celebration going on below as well. Ron crept quietly around the mattress Bill had conjured on the floor and shook his head at the odd sight of his father in a Hogwarts bed. He stripped down to his pants, suddenly very much aware of the fact that he was wearing the same set of clothes he had left Shell Cottage in days ago. He was unsure what tomorrow would hold, but hoped that perhaps a shower and fresh clothes would fit in somewhere.

He felt surprisingly lonely as he crawled underneath the covers of the bed. He'd grown so used to Hermione's touch all day, he felt oddly naked without her beside him. It wasn't just the physical contact of feeling her skin against his either. He was surprised at how much he had grown used to just having her nearby. For the past year he'd been able to listen to her breathing deepen as she drifted off to sleep or hear her turn restlessly in her sleeping bag. Now all he could hear was Charlie's snoring and the bed springs creak as his dad shifted positions.

He knew it was merely one night and he'd have to get used to it. After all, they'd hardly be staying in the same bedroom back at the Burrow. Still, after their afternoon curled up together atop this very bed, he couldn't help but think about his words to her about finding her parents and traveling to Australia. And he drifted off to sleep and wondered what it would be like to fall asleep next to Hermione every night.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 6 of 45

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