Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 7 of 45

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He was the kind of sleeper who could sleep through anything. Hermione and Harry had both been amazed at his uncanny ability to do so during the past year. Howling winds, loud stinging rain, locomotives that rumbled by at odd hours of the night, sirens, and fog horns did nothing to infringe on his sleep while camping. Yet this morning, the first hint of sunshine into the room had awakened him. He'd forgotten to draw the curtains when he crawled into bed last night and as soon as the rays hit his eyelids they fluttered open. He had to take a moment to remind himself where he was. He didn't have to check the fire or check the enchantments or draw more water. There were no Horcruxes to find, no Snatchers to watch for. They were done.


Ron almost felt a smile coming on. Then he looked around the room at the many filled beds and the mattress on the floor. There was Dad, Bill, Charlie, Percy, and George. He threw his legs over the side of the bed, sick with the realisation that was what was left of his family. They would never be whole again.

He would give nothing more than to continue lying on this bed for the rest of the day and let his body recharge. He hadn't even stopped to realise in the chaos of the Battle that he'd been on his feet for hours on end. He'd been hit with hexes and slammed into a wall, nearly drowned, and sprayed with broken glass. He was sore in places he didn't know he could be. His arms and shoulders and back and legs, every inch of him, ached. Lying here surrounded by his incomplete family made his stomach churn though. So he chanced the fact that nobody else was awake at this early hour and crept quietly past Harry and Percy and George, and down the stairs.

A female form was in the common room, resting in the very same chair Harry had been in yesterday. Ron stopped short at the bottom of the stairs. He was wearing nothing but his shorts and a vest and was somehow uncomfortable at the thought of any girl, but one girl in particular, seeing him in so little. He relaxed upon seeing it was only his sister and continued down to the common room. awaiting the sarcastic comment he was sure she was likely to launch his way about his lack of clothing. Surprisingly, she said nothing. She looked him up and down, but didn't say a word.

"Couldn't sleep?" Ron broke the silence and settled onto the couch like he had yesterday with Harry. Ginny shook her head, her eyes trained on her brother. "Me either. Tried counting mooncalfs and everything," he sighed wearily and rubbed his eyes, wondering if Ginny noticed the deep bags under them. "Are they - mum and Hermione - are they still asleep?" he inquired softly. Ginny merely nodded and Ron couldn't help but notice it looked as if she had something else on her mind.

He wasn't quite sure what to say to his sister after everything. They hadn't really had a moment alone together in the past day. She seemed like she wanted to speak to him and he wasn't sure whether he speak first. He pulled a pillow onto his lap and fixed his eyes on a tapestry behind his sister. There was a noble lady at the center of the deep red and blue with a unicorn on one side and a lion on the other. There were French words at the top he vaguely recalled Hermione translating for him years ago, but he couldn't remember what they meant. This whole common room was full of things Hermione had told him about – the framed painting above the corner table, the globe on the lowboy, there was even a story behind the bronze chandelier. He hadn't thought about it at all yesterday, how much she was a part of every bit of this castle and every memory of his time here.

"She talks in her sleep," Ginny spoke suddenly and the way she looked at Ron told him he needn't ask who she was referring to. "She never used to do that." Ron knew Ginny spoke as someone who had shared a room with Hermione countless times over the years.

"A lot of things change in a year," he tried to dismiss.

"She says your name in her sleep," Ginny clarified, "like she's calling for you." Ron sucked in a deep breath through his nose and tried not to let the comment rattle him. That syllable that had sounded like a word yesterday morning really had been his name. She said his name in her sleep. The simple fact that she'd called for him and he hadn't been there caused a pang deep in his chest. He had trouble trying not to remember the last time Hermione had called for him.

"Did mum hear?" he murmured, trying to push aside the guilt. He could see his sister was surprised that he made no attempt to deny what she'd said.

"I don't think so." Ron made no attempt to hide the look of relief that washed over his face. "What happened to her?" Ginny implored, raising her voice considerably from the hushed tones they'd been speaking in. Ron kept his mouth shut and his eyes focused on the ceiling, still avoiding Ginny's imploring gaze. He knew this would happen. He knew the questions would start. "It sounds like she's scared or in pain or something." Her voice was thick with concern, but Ron still remained silent and refused to answer or even look at her. "What happened?" Ginny pressed again, her words a bit louder this time. Ron simply closed his eyes. "Tell me!"

"Blimey, Ginny, pipe down!" he hissed angrily at her raised voice and looked to the stairs warily.

"Pipe down?" she snorted. "That's all you can say?"

"Yeah, that's all I can say."

"You're unbelievable!" Ginny cackled in disbelief. "You three and your effing secrets!" The remark caused Ron to snap his head around and finally look toward his sister. She and Harry had seemed quite happy last night, but there was a genuine anger behind her words now that alarmed him. He wondered what kind of conversation they had and what Harry had refused to tell her. Truth be told, he was touched by her concern and fierce loyalty. He should expect no less from her. His sister had turned into quite the fiery young woman. Still, Ron figured whatever was making Hermione talk in her sleep, and he had more than a hunch as to what it was, was for Hermione to tell and not him. "Something happened to her. I know it did."

He remained silent, but his pained expression gave him away. He knew his sister could tell her suspicions were right so she continued to press.

"Was it Snatchers? Or Death Eaters? Was it…V-Voldemort?" she hesitated only slightly before stammering out his name. "Please, tell me. It's awful to listen to her like that."

"Like it's easy for me?" Ron finally snapped, his eyes suddenly ablaze. "To hear her like that and not be able to do anything…you have no idea…" Ron's voice drifted off as he recalled the helpless feeling of hearing Hermione's desperate screams echoing about the cellar and not being able to do a single thing. He knew Ginny could detect that he was speaking about much more than just the murmuring in her sleep and he quickly averted his eyes. He returned his attention to the tapestry with the unicorn and the lion and the words he couldn't translate, À Mon Seul Désir.

For a long time neither said anything. Ron had never talked to his sister about his feelings for Hermione. The way she'd teased them both at dinner last night conveyed more than just a slight inkling of their feelings for each other. He wondered if Harry had said anything to her last spring. His best mate's merciless teasing the past twenty-four hours indicated he'd long known Ron had carried a torch for Hermione. Perhaps, like Harry, Ginny had just figured it out for herself. Either way, he knew he'd just given himself away completely with his last words.

"I think you must do something," Ginny finally offered quietly. "You must do something or else she wouldn't call for you."

The surprisingly supportive words caused Ron to finally turn his eyes from the tapestry and look back to his sister.

"It's just not my place to say," he sighed. "If Hermione wants to tell you, so be it. But I can't. It's not…I just can't."

"So something did happen to her?"

"A lot of stuff happened this year." Ron sighed wearily, running his hands through his overlong hair.

"She's one of my best friends, Ron."

"Then maybe she'll tell you." He gave an honest shrug. "But please don't ask her about it. Please."

He knew his father had eyed the mark where Bellatrix Lestrange had held a knife to Hermione's throat last night at dinner. He knew they all could see the burn scars from the treasure. It was only a matter of time before questions like Ginny's started flooding in. For now, he wanted to do all he could to prevent reliving the events that had been difficult enough to endure the first time though. For now, they'd just try to forget.

Fortunately, Ginny did not seem particularly eager to talk any further either. Ron wasn't sure how much Harry had told her and he wasn't sure what he was allowed to say now that their ordeal was finally over. He wanted to tell Ginny how Harry had taken comfort in her discarded robes yesterday, how often he'd seen him gazing at her dot on the Marauder's Map this year, but he said nothing. They simply sat in silence while the rest of Gryffindor tower gradually awoke to face the morning after.

The lingering effects of the firewhiskey that had been ingested in such copious amounts last night were still obvious on many who staggered down the stairs. Oliver Wood didn't even offer a good morning. He simply stumbled toward them in his underwear, belched loudly and then plopped down on the couch beside Ron. He congratulated Ron then, not on the part he had played in helping bring down Voldemort, but on being Gryffindor keeper and helping win the House Cup two years in a row. Ron was grateful for the change in conversation. Wood appeared more than happy to discuss Keeper tactics with Ron and answer Ginny's questions about what it was like playing with Puddlemere United and if Benjy Williams really did wear the same pair of socks all season long. Ron hadn't had an innocent talk about Quidditch since last spring before the final game versus Ravenclaw. The lighthearted discussion was a welcome change.

The rest of the morning was a decidedly somber affair however. The conversation as the rest of his family staggered down the stairs was a horribly awkward mixture of useless pleasantries about the weather and the quality of Hogwarts mattresses and discussion about when they would be departing for the Burrow. Breakfast was the worst. All his mum and dad could talk about was when they would collect Fred, where he would go, who would contact the undertaker, how they would transport him. Ron hardly touched his kipper and remained silent throughout the meal. Hermione had to keep her hand pressed down on his leg like she had last night to keep it from bouncing. He was quite confident that both his eldest brothers could see the action, but neither said anything.

He knew Hermione was well aware he wanted to remain in the castle. The way he'd dragged his feet out of the common room and left Gryffindor tower behind that morning made it all too obvious. Professor McGonagall's announcement that the Hogwarts Express would be transporting them back to London raised his spirits slightly, but they were quickly dashed when she informed them that an additional coach had been added to transport the dead.

The solemn words only served to remind Ron of the promise he and Hermione had made last night to Lavender's parents to visit the hospital wing. While he knew it wouldn't be a pleasant affair he was looking forward to it in an odd way. Amid all the chaos and the odd mixture of mourning and celebration, he doubted many were making a trip to Madame Pomfrey's a priority. The castle seemed divided into those too stricken by their own grief to think much about anything else and those so delighted by their triumph everything else seemed insignificant. Ron wasn't quite sure where he fit or his family for that matter.

Harry had left right after breakfast with McGonagall to go visit the White Tomb and return the Elder Wand to Dumbledore. Ron knew he planned on telling her about Snape as well and he secretly hoped McGonagall would insist on fetching her fallen colleague herself. He still didn't fancy returning to the Shrieking Shack to fetch the body of a man he despised. When he'd confessed that much to Hermione she'd launched into a diatribe about why Ron needed to appreciate and honor the sacrifices of Severus Snape.

"I don't understand why you can't see that he had to do it," she maintained as they sat on an empty bench in the Great Hall, looking out at the newly repaired fireplace. She sounded thoroughly exasperated that he hadn't had a complete change of heart in the past twenty-four hours.

"I don't understand why you can't see that he didn't have to be a complete wanker." Ron was equally exasperated. "He didn't have to be so horrible to everyone."

"But he did! People in our Potions class had parents who were Death Eaters. People who spoke to Voldemort on a daily basis," she argued.

"I don't get it. He treated you worse than anybody, Hermione."

"It made me stronger," she stated firmly.

"No, it made you cry!" Ron snorted. "That doesn't make you stronger! That just makes you cry!"

"We can't make Harry go and get him alone." She returned to the argument she knew Ron couldn't say no to.

"I know," he replied un-enthusiastically. "I just don't want to spend the entire walk there talking about what a hero he was."

"How can you not see how brave he was?" Hermione cried then, so loudly that other people still lingering in the Great Hall after breakfast turned to look at them. She brought her voice back to a whisper. "He was loyal to Dumbledore - "

"And he killed Dumbledore."

"Because Dumbledore asked him too," she reminded. "He lived his whole life alone, not caring that everybody hated him."

"Gee, I wonder why they hated him," Ron grumbled. "It couldn't have been because he treated everybody like complete rubbish."

"He risked his life every day for all of us!"

"Just because he was in love with Harry's mum! Not because he loved all of us. And oops! Oh yeah, he betrayed her and got her killed."

"And felt regret!"

"So he spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it and get revenge? So what? He still got her killed!"

"So he deserved to die like he did?"

"I didn't say that," Ron sighed.

"You didn't have to," Hermione snapped crossly.

"What are you two fighting about now?" Ginny's voice sounded suddenly as she appeared behind them.

"Nothing," Ron dismissed, though one look at Hermione's face told him their conversation was far from over. He wondered how many times they would have it before they just agreed to disagree. "Is Harry back?" he changed the subject abruptly, "did he talk to McGonagall?"

"He did."

"Is he ready to go?" Ron steeled himself for the long walk to the Shrieking Shack.

"Actually, he wants to go alone," Ginny informed, puffing her chest out a bit at the words. Ron thought about their conversation earlier and how angry she'd gotten about the secrets they kept. He couldn't help but think she sounded a bit pleased with herself that she finally knew something about Harry that he and Hermione didn't.

"Alone?" Hermione's forehead creased worriedly. "Why?"

"I think he wants to do this on his own," Ginny informed. "Anyway, mum and dad said the train to King's Cross is leaving Hogsmeade at eleven. They're going to Filch's office now to…" her voice drifted off. Ron watched her swallow whatever words she'd been about to say and gather her strength. "They're getting Fred ready to come home."

"Are we taking him home?" Ron felt suddenly ill at the thought. "Isn't…well, I thought somebody else was in charge of all that. Why do we have to take him? "

"Because there's too many," Hermione answered quietly, "there's too many for Mr. Underhill to take himself." The mention of Mr. Underhill, the kindly old undertaker who suddenly had more business than he ever wanted, made Ron stiffen. He swallowed the now familiar lump that formed in his throat that formed whenever he thought about how many had been killed, but tried to look strong as he saw both Hermione and Ginny's eyes start to glisten with tears. He wondered when a time would come when any of them could go an hour without wanting to cry. Every time he started to feel halfway normal something else would come crashing down and remind him that the world would never feel normal again. Not as long as his brother wasn't it.

"Anyway." Ginny steeled herself suddenly and stood up straight. "The boats and the carriages obviously aren't running so they said be ready to walk over to the station together by ten."

"Where are you going?" Ron frowned.

"With Harry." Her voice echoed behind her as she marched away.

"But I thought he wanted to be alone?" he called to his sister's back, but there was no reply. He sat and watched her leave, suddenly reminded of all the times Harry had told him he was studying alone in the library last year only to find out later from Hermione he had in fact been studying with Ginny.

"They sure don't seem to have missed a beat, do they?" Hermione remarked, seeming to be thinking the same thing.

"Yeah, did you see them last night?" Ron recalled how affectionate the two had been. It really had felt like the end of sixth year all over again. "Snogging in the corner when mum wasn't looking?" He gave a snort and shook his head, but the mere mention of snogging caused him to think about him and Hermione's own lack thereof. She seemed to be thinking the same thing and an awkward silence ensued. He looked down at the top of his trainers. "Do you want to…er…"


"Do you want to go to the hospital wing?"

Ron wasn't even sure why he'd blurted it out. He just felt like he needed to say something, anything so that the last thing he said hadn't been about snogging. Hermione's disappointment was obvious.

"You know, to go see Lavender?" he explained further, but the mention of his ex-girlfriend didn't help remove the look of dissatisfaction on Hermione's face. Merlin's beard, he was making a right mess of things. "Just because, you know, we told her parents we would." He wasn't even sure why he was still talking anymore.

"Right." Hermione nodded her head.

"And – and also Seamus told me last night that Lee got both his arms broken," he added quickly in an attempt to repair the damage. "And I heard old Dung showed up and lost a hand dueling Macnair."

"Don't you think you ought to go be with your family?" Hermione asked quietly.

Ron turned the query over in his head. Did he want to go see his family? Did he want to go see his brother, currently wrapped in a sheet and lying on the ground in the office of a man who hated him? Did he want to talk about funeral arrangements and how they'd transport him back to the Burrow?

"No," he remarked sharply. "No, I want to go to the hospital wing."

Hermione's eyes carefully searched his. Her face held the same expression it had after he'd been Splinched last fall. Not in the immediate aftermath when her hands had been trembling and her eyes full of tears, but in the days and weeks afterward when she had tended to him, adjusting his sling, applying the Dittany twice daily, and asking him all the time how he felt and what he was up for. She took in a deep breath and gave a restrained nod of the head. She laced her hand in his and stood up from the bench suddenly.

"If you want to go then…let's go."


Ron tried not to to piece each fallen bit of masonry with a memory as they walked the corridors, but it was difficult not to do so. He recalled where Peeves had dropped a Snargaluff plant that had, in gruesome fashion, literally squeezed off the head of a Death Eater. He passed another spot where he vividly remembered seeing another Death Eater use the Cruciatus curse on a short blonde witch in a Hufflepuff sweater. Ron recalled wanting to stop and do something, but being forced to continue on. He wondered what had happened to the little blonde witch. He couldn't recall seeing her among the dead. He wondered if perhaps she would be in the hospital wing with Lavender.

Hermione looked increasingly pale the closer they drew to the hospital wing. He wondered if she was reliving the same moments from the battle as well. He knew she'd been distressed at how little they'd actually been able to intervene and how many people they'd had to walk by when Ron knew all she'd probably wanted to do was help.

"What?" He noted her peaked expression as they neared the large oaken doors they'd spent nearly as much time behind during their years at Hogwarts as some classrooms.

"I just…I feel a bit odd about going to see her," she admitted with a loud swallow, stopping short of the doors.

"Who?" Ron asked stupidly and Hermione just gave him a knowing look.

"It's just that I spent so much of last year being so angry with her, hating her." She gave a pathetic laugh and looked rather ashamed. "Probably the same way you hated Viktor." Ron opened up his mouth to speak, but she silenced him with a look that told him this was not the time to deny the nature of his extreme dislike for a certain Bulgarian Seeker. "And every night last year when she came upstairs I had to listen to her go on about …well..." Her cheeks flushed as she left the rest of the sentence up to Ron's imagination. "I just spent so much time resenting her is all and now - " She turned her eyes to the doors as if picturing Lavender lying on the other side. "Now I just feel so bad for her."

Ron was quiet. He debated cracking a joke about how he might have warmed up to Viktor Krum if he'd stood up to Voldemort and taken on a werewolf or two, but he decided to be as honest as she was being instead.

"It's me you should have resented, not her," he murmured uncomfortably. His words marked the first time either of them had ever really spoken about his relationship with Lavender and he wasn't entirely sure what to say. "All she did was notice me." He realised as he said the last words that Hermione could probably say the same about Viktor. "I just…" His voice trailed off as he tried to figure out what on earth he could possibly say to excuse his behavior last year. I just liked the attention. I just wanted to make you jealous. I just really enjoyed somebody telling me how fit I was all the time. I just really enjoyed finally having a snog. They exchanged honest and embarrassed glances as Ron fought over what to say. She seemed as unsure as he was whether they wanted to continue talking about the matter or not.

"Shall we go in?" She took in a deep breath, clearly opting not to discuss it any further. Ron just nodded his head and steeled himself for what lay behind the door.

Every one of the white beds was filled and was host to everything from wizards to, Ron knew Hermione was pleased to see, house elves. A bed in one corner of the room had even been completely transformed into a mossy forest floor that looked a great deal like Classroom Eleven where Firenze had once taught. Other beds had been replaced with peculiar looking giant slings and hammocks. There were odd mechanical contraptions that propped up limbs, there was even a young wizard who was suspended in an odd purple bubble and appeared to have been immobilized. Another still was bandaged completely from head to toe with only small dark holes where the mouth, nose and eyes should be.

"Don't stare, Ron," Hermione whispered as he gaped at the bandaged patient.

"Well, how are we supposed to find anyone?" Ron whispered back with a slight edge to his voice. He had hardly realized during the Battle how many people had come to fight in that second charge that had brought his brother Charlie. This wasn't just his fellow classmates. Most of the people he saw in here were people he'd never seen before in his life. Suddenly, he felt like coming here was a huge mistake. This felt more like St. Mungo's than the familiar hospital wing they'd spent so much time in where he, Harry, and Hermione had been the only patients.

"Maybe we could ask Madam Pomfrey?" Hermione glanced across the hall to the school nurse. She was tending to a witch who had a strange yellow pus-like liquid seeping uncontrollably out from beneath her fingernails. Ron blanched and turned away quickly at the disgusting sight.

"She looks a bit busy." Seizing Hermione's hand, he began walking briskly down the line of hospital beds, desperately searching for a familiar face

There was a bald wizard with a Phoenix tattoo on his forehead moaning in his sleep and a shaggy bearded fellow who Ron could easily mistake for a distant, albeit much smaller, relative of Hagrid's. Ron wondered if they were all Order of the Phoenix members. He never thought about how large the Order actually was.

"Look, Dung is here!" He brightened suddenly at the sight of someone they knew, even if it was Mundungus Fletcher. He was fast asleep against the bed sheets, his straggly ginger hair a sharp contrast to the white linen. As Ron drew closer he saw that while Dung still had both his hands he was indeed missing all the fingers on his right one. All that remained were five short nubs that Madame Pomfrey appeared to be treating with a bright orange goopy substance. Considering the cowardly nature of his actions on the flight from Privet Drive so many months ago, Ron wondered what the circumstances of his arrival to Hogwarts had been and how he had come to be in the state he was.

"Think we should let him know we were here?" he asked hesitantly. Last time he exchanged words with Mundungus, he hadn't exactly been pleasant with him, but it still felt odd to see an Order member, especially one who had apparently been wounded in the line of duty, and not say hello.

"Oh, Dung'll be up in a bit." A shockingly cheerful voice suddenly sounded from the bed behind them. They spun around and pulled back the privacy screen to see a familiar head of dreadlocks and bright brown eyes staring back at them. "He wakes up about every hour and asks Madame Pomfrey for a smoke and a glass of London Dry!"

"Lee!" Ron cried jubilantly. Lee Jordan's arms were wrapped in plaster and sticking straight out in front of his body like a mummy, but Ron leaned down to attempt to embrace the former Gryffindor anyway. "Bit ridiculous, eh?" Lee managed a laugh at his absurd looking arms. "Madame Pomfrey says I only need to keep them like this until tonight. They're a bloody pain. I can't even itch my own nose!"

"What happened to you? I saw you and George taking down Yaxley after Kreacher got him with the knife."

"Oh, that house elf? Yeah, that was bloody brilliant. Looked like he was carving up a Christmas turkey!" Lee laughed though Hermione once again looked horrified at Ron's delight in the violent attack. "It was Goyle. Great bloke didn't even use magic. Just snapped both my arms," he grumbled nonchalantly as if he were talking about snapping a broomstick. "Probably would have offed me if he had the chance, but Dung over there stepped in."

"Dung looked out for someone other than himself?" Ron laughed incredulously.

"Sure enough!" Lee echoed Ron's surprise. They both peered curiously back around the privacy curtain at the dozing pile of rags that was Mundungus Fletcher, finding it hard to believe the thieving coward had voluntarily done something for another person. "Reckon he'll be knocking at my door asking for payment for his heroics soon enough," he added with a chuckle, but the laughter soon faded away. Ron looked awkwardly around the room, out the window to the stone bridge, back over to where Mundungus had started to snore. They all seemed to want to acknowledge the same thing, the only real thing he and Hermione had in common with Lee Jordan aside from being Gryffindors, but nobody seemed able to form the words.

"How's George?" Lee finally asked after the silence became too much. Ron's eyes turned immediately to the stone floor. He wanted to tell Lee that his brother was doing fine, but George had done little more than sip tea that morning at breakfast. Last night he'd retreated to the dormitory without so much as a word to anybody and today he had been shuffling down the corridor so slowly it looked almost as if his brothers were pushing him along. He reckoned George had probably only said about five words to anyone in the past twenty-four hours.

"He would love to see you," Hermione spoke honestly, seeming to sense Ron's hesitation to lie to Lee about his brother's state.

"How long are you lot staying at Hogwarts?" Lee asked hopefully. "Because I should be out of here tonight once these come off. I heard Rosmerta's opening up the Three Broomsticks tonight to everyone. Open bar! We could go and - "

"We've leaving this morning for the Burrow," Ron interrupted, his displeasure at delivering the news evident. The same unspoken words seemed to fill the space between them again, the words that explained why they were leaving so soon that Ron couldn't speak.

"The funeral is this weekend," Hermione spoke calmly for him again. Hearing the word 'funeral' from Hermione's lips set his teeth on edge. He glanced over at her with wide eyes, horrified that she'd been so blunt , but Lee's voice silenced anything he had been about to say to Hermione.

"You know I'll be there."

"All right then," Ron pedaled backwards suddenly, uncomfortable at where the conversation was going. It was like being with his family when all they could talk about was funeral arrangements. He couldn't stand it. "We need to get moving."

"It's good to see you well, Lee," Hermione smiled, stumbling backwards after Ron who now had a viselike grip on her hand.

"So the two of you, huh?" Lee questioned suddenly and nodded toward their joined hands in question with a wide grin. Ron saw Hermione look down to their hands then the same as he did. Neither one of them answered Lee, but she looked like she was trying hard not to suppress a smile. Lee cackled with laughter, but Ron just rolled his eyes. He expected Lee wouldn't be the last person to make such a comment to them, but he was surprised at how funny it felt to hear someone refer to them as 'you two', like a pair. Like a couple. That's what they were now he supposed. They held hands and kipped. He poured her pumpkin juice and held hands with her under the table. They even planned holidays together on the other side of the world. They did everything but snog.

Aside from Harry's reference to it yesterday morning up in Gryffindor tower, they still hadn't talked about or even referred to their unexpected kiss in the Room of Requirement. Yet every time he looked at Hermione it was all he could think about. He wondered if she noticed the conspicuous absence of kissing as much as he did. She certainly seemed to have been thinking about it down in the Great Hall when he'd referenced Harry and Ginny. He desperately wanted to kiss her again, but he just couldn't make himself duplicate the way his mouth had come alive against hers. The closest he had come had been last night on the steps, but his mother had interrupted them. He looked down the row of beds, feeling guilty that he was thinking about something as silly as kissing Hermione in a place like this.

He caught sight of another familiar face on the far side of the room, which quickly pulled his thoughts back to the wounded. Parvati Patil was leaning over a patient, who was covered almost completely from head to toe in course green bandages. His stomach, and with it all thoughts of Hermione's mouth, dropped with the realisation that the person wrapped up like a mummy he had been gaping at earlier was Lavender Brown.

He mumbled to Hermione and nodded in Parvati's direction. He heard Hermione's breath catch in her throat as she pieced together the pieces just like he had. The sight of a heavily bandaged Lavender was hardly what either expected to see. The Browns had said she was doing well last night. Ron had thought that meant she would be like Lee, bandaged and in bed, but still herself. They walked across the room and hesitantly approached the edge of the cot.

"Hi, Parvati," Ron greeted awkwardly.

"Hello," Parvati greeted quietly, her eyes all too obviously taking notice of his and Hermione's close proximity and joined hands just like Lee's had.

"How is she?" Hermione whispered.

"She's alive," Parvati spoke in normal tones, indicating that Lavender was asleep and they didn't need to whisper. She stared long and hard at the pair and gave them a grateful smile. "Thanks to you two."

"No," Hermione dismissed quickly with a humble shake of the head. "No, we just - "

"Madame Pomfrey said if she'd been left there any longer…" Ron couldn't help but detect a bit of guilt in Parvati's voice.

"She's all right. That's all that matters," Hermione interrupted, clearly not eager to hear what her outlook would have been if she and Ron hadn't called anyone over.

"It's really great of you both to come by," Parvati smiled. "Seamus came down for a spell before he left yesterday, but it's mostly just been her parents and me." She hesitated a moment and then looked back up at them hopefully. "I'm staying with her in case she wakes up again. She's been in and out all morning. Her parents are at breakfast, see."

"Yeah, we saw them last night up in Gryffindor tower," Ron finally spoke.

"They've hardly left her side but to get her things and then this morning to go eat breakfast. I haven't eaten breakfast yet myself," Parvati informed. "Were you two planning on - "

"We'll stay," Ron offered suddenly before Parvati could even ask them the question. Hermione turned to him, looking thoroughly surprised and the slightest bit uncomfortable at the sudden offer of staying by Lavender's bedside. "We'll stay if you want to go eat something."

"That would be – oh, Ron, Hermione – that would be wonderful. I just, you know I don't want her to be all alone if she wakes up- "

"We'll stay," he repeated.

"If she does wake up and she's thirsty, she takes that potion there through a straw," Parvati motioned to the bedside, sounding so grateful for the brief respite. "And Madame Pomfrey should be by soon to check on her and change the dressings." She looked to the two then and appeared very much as if she was about to say something about their coupling like Lee had, but she didn't. She simply thanked them again and disappeared toward the door.

Ron looked over to Hermione, who still appeared quite surprised and uncomfortable by his offer. Ron couldn't explain himself. He felt guilty somehow. He felt like staying by her bed was the least they could do. Her face was bandaged so thoroughly that had Parvati not been seated beside her he knew they would have walked right by without recognising her. Her eyes, nose and mouth were the only things not covered in bandages. Her hair was even contained in the bandages and he couldn't help but wonder if the flesh had been torn from her scalp as he had heard Greyback enjoyed doing so much. He shuddered and his hand tightened around Hermione at the memory of how close she had come to being his victim. She could just as easily have been the one wrapped in bandages.

"Think we should write her a note so she knows we stopped by?" Ron questioned awkwardly. The Browns had brought most of Lavender's belongings down and there was a stack of papers, flowers, and ribbons by the bedside. Hermione carefully rummaged through the pile in search of something to write with.

She grabbed a fancy self-inking quill from the pile and a piece of pale pink parchment. Ron wasn't sure what they'd even begin to write on a note. Dear Lavender, Sorry you got your face ripped off. We just stopped by to say hello.

"Dear Lavender," Hermione started writing in her graceful looping handwriting. Ron knew Lavender would immediately recognize it. He wondered what she'd think when she saw the note signed from the both of them. The last thing he wanted was to make her feel any worse. "We just wanted to say…"

"Do you think we should say we?" he asked uncomfortably. "It's just - what you said at the door about last year – you remember how put out she was when she thought that we – well -"

"That was a long time ago." Hermione offered, of all things, a tiny smile to Ron. "A lot happens in a year." She reminded him as she rolled the quill back and forth between her fingers thoughtfully.

"I just don't want to…kick her when she's down, you know?"

"I think she's probably over you, Ron." There was a distinct teasing tone to Hermione's voice. Ron was comforted by the fact that they could tease and joke about his relationship with Lavender considering last year it had almost ruined their friendship.

"It was really brave of her to fight." He looked over to Lavender's bandaged body sadly.

"Well, then how about we say 'you are a true Gryffindor'?" Hermione began scribbling the words onto the pink parchment.

"Yeah. That's good. Say your decision to stay and fight was very brave."

"Incredibly brave," Hermione modified, "and very selfless. We are so glad that you are still with us and hope you will be well soon," she continued, putting particular emphasis on the subject of the sentence. Ron couldn't deny that he liked when she referred to them as a "we". Hermione sounded like she enjoyed saying it as well.

"We hoped to tell you in person, but…you were still sleeping."

"We wish you a speedy recovery and trust you will be on your feet again soon."

"How do we sign it?" Ron screwed his face up. "Your friends?"

"Cordially yours?"

"Best wishes?"

"Salutations?" They fired potential closings back and forth, not even realizing that Lavender's eyes had fluttered open suddenly.

"Ron?" Her voice was a faint whisper. Ron and Hermione didn't even hear it at first. "Ron? Hermione?" she asked again. "Is that you?" Hearing her voice come out of the bandaged body on the bed felt very odd. Her blue eyes were the only distinguishing feature and even they were hard to make out from the shadow the bandages cast on her face.

"You're awake." He sounded much too surprised and not as pleased as he knew he should.

"What are you doing here?" Lavender's voice sounded weakly.

"We uh – we wanted – we thought we'd come see you." Ron stammered, clapping his hand on top of Hermione's possessively. Lavender's eyes took in the sight of the two of them. After a slight pause, her lips curled in a pitiful attempt at a smile.

"So you are together." She didn't sound angry or sad; of all things she looked quite amused at the sight of the two of them there holding hands by her bedside.

"We saw your parents last night in Gryffindor Tower." Ron immediately attempted to carry the conversation in another direction. "They told us you were well." Lavender ignored his comment.

"None of us could quite figure out if you were when you showed up last night." Her scratchy voice sounded and it seemed to disappear completely at the last syllable. Ron wondered if her vocal chords had somehow been mangled when she'd been attacked. He didn't even bother correcting that it had now actually been two nights ago that they had arrived at Hogwarts. He figured she'd probably been asleep most of the past two days, which really did feel like one big long day anyway. "It seemed like you were, but we couldn't tell. Seamus thought so though," she continued. Ron tightened his sweaty hand around Hermione's, unsure how to reply to the comment. "Thanks for coming." She finally left the topic of their coupling.

"Dumbledore's Army," Ron sputtered out the first thing that came to his mind. Lavender looked at him curiously, confused by the random utterance and even Hermione looked bewildered. "Really came through in the end, didn't it?"

"We tried," Lavender creaked. Her usually high and airy voice sounded dry and raspy. "It was hard this year without you three."

"We couldn't have done any more than you lot did." Ron shrugged and turned to Hermione for confirmation. She just nodded her head vigorously. Ron tried to ignore the fact that she hadn't said a word since Lavender had awakened. "Resisting the Carrows, staying here, hiding out and never giving up. You were brilliant. All of you." The words flowed a bit more easily now. Ron suddenly wished he could address all of Gryffindor house and say the same thing, to thank them for the dedication and loyalty they had shown. Without them he doubted any of them would be standing there.

"It's because we knew you three were out there fighting." Again, Lavender's voice seemed to taper off and die at the last few syllables. They sounded almost painful and Ron saw Hermione wince upon hearing the strangled words. Hesitantly, she reached for the potion Parvati had referenced and held it before her in offering. Lavender's eyes held Hermione's for a moment. They were the only part on her that held any expression. She hesitated only a moment, blinked twice, and then sucked down the bubbly liquid.

"Thank you." Her voice sounded much clearer now.

"You're welcome," Hermione replied quietly and even offered a smile. Ron sensed a moment of understanding passing between them. The tiny action seemed to wash away the history – both real and imagined - between the two girls. He felt oddly out of place, like he was up in the girls dormitory and they might start gossiping about him at any moment.

"Parvati said I was barking, you know," Lavender wheezed suddenly and it almost sounded like she was trying to laugh. "Going after him last year." She motioned to Ron. "She reckoned he really fancied you, but I couldn't see it. Not after so many years of you two just being friends and rowing like you always did. I suppose you just see what you want to see, right?"

"Let's not - " Ron stammered. He could think of about a million things he'd rather do than rehash his actions with either girl, but Lavender continued. She seemed to want to talk about the events of the past few years. It was almost as if talking about all their silly school time drama could wash away the fact that she was lying in a hospital bed bandaged nearly from head to toe after a brutal mauling.

"That's why you came back from the Yule Ball in tears, isn't it?" Ron was somewhat relieved to see Hermione looked as uncomfortable as he did at the memories being dredged up. "I couldn't figure out why you'd be crying when you went with Viktor Krum. It's because he didn't ask you, isn't it?" Lavender asked the question, even though it seemed as if she already knew the answer. When Hermione didn't answer, she just looked to Ron then and laughed. "You really are an idiot."

There was no malice in her voice, but Ron frowned at the comment. Then the last thing Ron expected to happen occurred.

Hermione began laughing too.

It started off as a slight chuckle, but soon she was laughing outright. It was the first time Ron had heard her truly laugh in days. Deep belly laughs sounded from both girls as Ron looked on uncomfortably, not sure whether they were laughing at him directly or just the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

"Who honestly would have thought - back in first year - that of all the boys - in Gryffindor Tower - it would be Ron Weasley that ended up being the heartbreaker?" Lavender's words came out in halting jerky breaths as she and Hermione guffawed with laughter at each phrase.

Ron squirmed in the chair uncomfortably at her words however. He knew Hermione had been upset with him last year, but had he really broken her heart? The thought made his stomach churn. She'd been angry with him, of course. She'd been so angry she hadn't even wished him a "Happy Christmas", but he never thought getting on with Lavender had actually broken her heart. Hearing the words somehow made him feel like a thousand tiny knives were stabbing into his heart.

"Seamus told me something yesterday about the battle." Lavender cleared her throat suddenly, her demeanor changing and seeming a bit more solemn now. "He told me he heard from Michael Corner that you were the one that saved me." Her eyes locked on Hermione, who looked suddenly embarrassed at the reference to her actions in the battle.

"I was just throwing curses at any Death Eater that moved, I – I don't know who I got. I don't know that I-"

"Thank you."

"Ron killed him," Hermione blurted out suddenly. Ron's eyes flashed over to Hermione, annoyed that she'd revealed the secret that so far only she knew. He hadn't even told Harry yet.

"You killed the werewolf?" Lavender creaked after a long pause. The news that her attacker was no longer living appeared to cause the air to leave her lungs quite suddenly. She stared at Ron with wide eyes before sucking a shaky steadying breath in through her mouth.

"Uh, yeah, he's dead," Ron mumbled. He scratched his head uncomfortably, suddenly ashamed hearing somebody else speak the words that he'd killed somebody. "I didn't really mean to. It just sort of happened." The lie felt strange coming from his lips. When he flattened Greyback's skull, he hadn't known that the werewolf had attacked Lavender, but he had every intention of killing him. He'd told Hermione that last night.

Lavender remained silent. Ron thought he heard a sniffle and he looked to Hermione uncomfortably, unsure whether they should comfort her or not. She seemed to require a moment to collect herself. They sat side by side on the chair, their palms growing sweatier against each other each second Lavender remained silent.

"I'm sorry about your brother." Lavender finally spoke words that made Ron's whole body stiffen.

The brief acknowledgment was enough to remind him of McGonagall's words that morning about an extra carriage being added to the Hogwarts Express to transport the bodies. Here among the wounded he could almost pretend Fred was just badly maimed or unconscious, that he'd be back in the Burrow in a few days, or they could visit him at St. Mungo's like they'd visited dad back fifth year. But his brother was a body, a statistic the Daily Prophet would churn out when they discussed the losses in the great Battle of Hogwarts. He'd be a part of the index in the next edition of Hogwarts: A History, just another casualty in yet another wizarding war.

Hermione changed the conversation quickly, likely feeling Ron's hand tighten around hers in discomfort. She left yesterday's battle and the events of the past behind. They shared innocent recollections from younger years and laughed over more lighthearted days - escapades in the Gryffindor common room before they were even teenagers, Herbology lessons gone awry, and the misery that was double Potions their fifth year.

Ron was grateful when her parents finally arrived, but he felt guilty at the wave of relief that washed over him. He could escape. He could leave this hospital room and all its miserable maimed occupants behind. Lavender would remain, bandaged up in those awful green bandages for who knows how long. She wasn't like Lee Jordan, who would be back on his feet, waving his arms in no time. A werewolf's wounds were tough to heal. He knew that much from his brother, Bill. She would probably be scarred and disfigured for life.

He wondered, as he and Hermione glanced back to Lavender with a wave, if it was the last time he would ever see her. His brothers ran into classmates all the time in London, but Lavender lived all the way up in Leeds. He doubted their paths would cross often. He felt an odd twinge of sadness at the thought. Though his romantic feelings for her had been minimal at best even when they had been together, the string of childhood memories they had just exchanged showed just what a part of his life she, and all the other Gryffindors, had been for the past seven years. He felt odd looking at her and knowing he'd probably never see her again. Once they left Hogwarts Castle that would be the end of it. His childhood and all the carefree memories it had held would truly be over.

He doubted Hermione felt it as she made her way through the corridors to the courtyard a final time. He knew she intended to return for her final year to take her N.E.W.T.S. She'd mentioned her plans to finish her studies more than once in the past year. She wasn't saying goodbye to the castle the way he was. Ron's steps were slow and methodical as they clambered down the final staircase hand-in-hand.

He stopped and stared at the large cavernous entrance hall, remembering the first time he and Harry had stumbled through the doors together as wide eyed eleven year olds. If someone had told him first year that this is where his life would have led him – that he'd be walking out the door hand-in-hand with Hermione Granger after a year on the run battling Voldemort - he'd have shipped them off with a first class ticket to the closed ward at Saint Mungo's.

"What's the matter?" Hermione detected his reluctance as he stood before the double Oak front doors.

"Nothing," Ron glanced around the hall that, while still in shambles, was decidedly neater than it had been previously. Even in its state of disrepair, it looked as magnificent as it had when he was eleven. "Just saying goodbye."


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 7 of 45

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