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Chapter 2 : Chapter Two
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First Year: 1992
"I'm exhausted," Harry groaned, rubbing his eyes as he yawned. Hermione and Ron glanced at each other, then nodded and put down their books.
"I don't think I can read another word," Ron agreed, looking over at Hermione to hear her say something when he was finished talking. Hermione looked torn.
"Er- well, I'm tired too, but I can always read more," she admitted.
Ron and Harry exchanged endearing glances and then turned to stare at her with a looks of exasperation.
"You read too much, Hermione."
"So I've heard."
"You think to much, Hermione."
"You talk too much, Hermione."
She paused before answering Ron, smiling slightly at the friendly banter.
"That's not new either, but less common, definitely."
He grinned at her.
"Well, I'm going to bed," Harry said, and the two of them to turned away from each other and back towards him. "Goodnight, you two."
"Oh, goodnight Harry," Hermione said, smiling at him. "Sleep well."
She knew he'd been having nightmares about the Mirror of Erised ever since the end of Christmas break, and was rather concerned for him. She understood that loosing people could be hard, but she'd never actually lost a parent before, and therefore had no means to commiserate with him aside from guesswork. And she was pretty sure Harry didn't want guesswork. As a matter of fact, he didn't think he'd much be into talking about his parents' death either.
"Coming, Ron?" Harry asked as he stepped forward to the staircase. Ron shrugged.
"I'm not very tired. I'll be up later, mate. You can go."
"Alright," Harry agreed, and he trudged towards the staircase.
Hermione sighed in a weary sort of way and reached over her chair to pick up an alarmingly large book.
"What are you doing?" Ron asked, frowning.
"Reading," Hermione told him. "I know you're not a genius, Ron, but that's really pushing the limit."
"I thought we all agreed to stop for the night."
Hermione shook her head.
"This is pleasure reading."
"Oh for the love of Merlin," Ron said, shaking his head. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Can you think of anything better to do?"
From the look on Ron's face after she said that, Hermione knew that she had walked straight into his trap.
"No," Hermione said immediately, and she turned back to her book.
"C'mon. Just one game."
"One teensy, weensy little game?"
"One game turns into two, two to three, three to four, so on and so forth. And it's already late."
"Not even one game?"
"Ron!" Hermione snapped, throwing her book aside and glaring at him. "No chess tonight, alright?"
"But Harry has already gone to bed, and I can't sleep without a game of chess."
"Sure you can. You did it just last night."
"Yes, you did."
"Oh yeah, I did," he admitted, and then his expression grew triumphant. "But I can't go two nights in a row without a game of chess. It's been so long since I played."
"More like it's been so long since you beat one of us and got to brag about it," Hermione muttered under her breath.
"What was that?" Ron asked, and Hermione looked up.
Ron was already grinning.
"I see what it is! You're jealous."
"Because I always beat you at chess."
"That's just not true."
"Really? Name one time you beat me."
Hermione frowned, trying to think.
"Well, never, but that's not the point."
"Oh, it isn't?"
"No, it isn't."
"You're jealous! Hah!"
"I am not, Ron. Stop being ridiculous."
"How am I being ridiculous?"
"Well, you're making an assumption that I'm jealous of your chess playing abilities when in reality, I'm just not in the mood to play. That's ridiculous in my opinion."
"What else have you got to do? And don't say homework, because I know you're done. And don't say reading, because the fact that we're having this argument means that you're not really that attached to that book anyways."
"No, the fact that we're having this argument means that you're persistent and obnoxious, actually," Hermione told him, but Ron could see a light smile playing at her lips.
"Oh, come on Hermione. Don't think about what you could be doing, then, think about what I'll do if I can't play chess."
"Go to bed, perhaps. Ever think of that?"
"I will go to bed! Just as soon as I've played a chess game."
"Have you finished your transfiguration essay?" Hermione asked, swinging the conversation her way.
"Er- what?" Ron asked, surprised by this abrupt change of topic.
"Your transfiguration essay. The one that's due on Wednesday."
"It's Monday. I'll do it tomorrow."
Hermione puffed up angrily.
"You most certainly will not! Do you want to get a T on it?"
"Do you think I'd care that much if I did?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows. She knew for a fact that Ron did care about his grades. That was why he got so panicked whenever an essay was due and he didn't understand the subject. That was why he needed her so badly to stay up late with him every time he procrastinated and needed someone with him to get it done. Before they'd become friends, Hermione hadn't seen this. She'd watched Harry and Ron lounging around when something was due and just assumed that they didn't care about their grades. But upon looking at both of them more closely, she'd realized that they were both very smart and cared about how they did in school. The real issue was that they were both terrible procrastinators, always leaving things to the last minute. Every time Ron wanted a game of chess, Harry readily agreed, and every time Harry wanted to talk about Quidditch, all he had to do is go to Ron. They were partners in crime, really. Each was a bad influence on the other, and all Hermione could do was sit there and plead with them to work on their homework while they rolled their eyes about how annoying she was. Sometimes it was a tiresome job. Actually, most of the time it was a tiresome job.
"Ron, let me tell you how tomorrow's going to go," Hermione said firmly. "We're going to wake up and go to breakfast. We'll have our classes. During break, you and Harry will play a game of chess, claiming that you have all evening to do your essays. Like the stupid girl I am, I'll sit there and allow it because I'll know there's nothing I'm going to be able to do about it. When break is over, we'll go to our next few classes. After those, we'll eat dinner. You'll probably want to stop and say hello to Hagrid, because the weather's supposed to be nice. By the time we get back, it'll just have gotten dark out, and when I remind you to do your essay you'll think 'wow, we have tons of time left!' and begin a game of exploding snap. Upon finishing said game of exploding snap, I once again will tell you to do your essay. You'll protest, and three seconds later something in the common room will remind you of Quidditch. You'll talk about Quidditch until you get bored of it and suggest a game of chess. I'll warn you that you're going to fail the essay. You'll deny it and play. Suddenly, it'll be ten o'clock at night and you will have written absolutely nothing. You will beg and plead with me to write your essay, and I will protest, saying that it is not right to indulge your procrastination. You'll plead with me until I am so annoyed I'm forced to help you write your essay. The next morning we'll all be exhausted and I'll be slightly ticked off at you. Then... it'll start all over again."
Ron paused, taking this all in. Then he said,
"Did you just call yourself stupid?"
"Ron, that doesn't change everything else I said. You're both horrible procrastinators, and it's getting tiresome."
Even as she said it, she knew in her heart it wouldn't change anything.
"Please, you know you love it," Ron smirked. "Now play chess with me."
"It's because you're scared, isn't it?"
"I'm not scared!" Hermione protested.
"Okay," Ron said, now smirking devilishly at her. "I'm going to make you a deal."
"A deal?" Hermione asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.
"A deal," Ron reiterated. "If you play a game of chess with me, I'll give you some pointers. And if you let me give you pointers, I'll let you help me with my essay."
"Ron, you idiot, both of those benefit you."
"Aha, but they also both benefit you."
"Pray tell... how?"
"You want to get better at chess. I can help you there."
Hermione didn't doubt it, but she did hate to admit it. The problem with Ron was that he was excellent at the game, but he was less than modest and loved gloating. On the other hand, she always secretly felt proud of him when he won. Even when he was beating her, it showed how brilliant he was. And for some reason, Hermione loved that. It was strange, but when Harry and Ron played chess, she was always rooting for Ron. She knew she probably shouldn't be picking favorites out of the two of them, but there was something...
No, god, she couldn't think like that. Hermione shook her head to rid it of strange thoughts that she couldn't understand and didn't want to bother with.
"And the essay?" she responded. "How exactly is that supposed to benefit me?"
"Well," Ron began jauntily, "tomorrow, after dinner and before nighttime, I'll already have the essay done, so I can just give it to Harry to copy and you'll be saved from nagging us like you usually do. Plus, you'll be able to go to bed early for once."
Hermione bit her lip. That did actually sound rather good. She hadn't really gone to bed at a decent hour ever since the night Ron and Harry had saved her from the troll.
"Okay, you've got a deal."
Two hours later, Ron had finished helping Hermione with chess. While she hated to admit it, she actually did feel a little bit better at the game. Biting back the urge to smile, she gently reminded Ron that it was time to work on his essay. So he did. Without the slightest bit of mumbling, grumbling or complaining, Ron pulled out his essay and sat down at a chair at the table in the back of the common room. Hermione sat down next to him, reading it over her shoulder. When she looked over at Ron, she could see that he was slightly pink. She wondered why. To ease the tension, she tried to stop herself from grabbing his arm whenever he made a mistake on writing something. She'd speak very slowly in his ear when she needed to say something. It was relaxed, yet charged. And she didn't understand why. She was legitimately befuddled by how different her relationship with Ron was than her relationship with Harry. She didn't bicker with Harry. And things weren't as tentative with Harry. Hermione had picked these things up almost immediately after the start of her friendship with the two boys.
Quietly, she guided Ron through his essay, half wishing he would have just gone to bed when she'd asked him too. The thing about Ron was that he was smart, perhaps even smarter than Harry. He probably wasn't as good at Defense Against Dark Arts, but when he put his mind to something he grasped it with relative ease, surprising both himself and Hermione. Ron often let his temper overpower his common sense, but he did have a reasonably good amount of it. He was more street smart than Harry, but less people smart than Harry. Hermione liked thinking about the way Harry and Ron differed. She had already inwardly started calling them 'her boys', although she'd never admit it out loud. She felt so motherly towards Harry. Not towards Ron, of course, with Ron it was very different. Ron was so infuriating, so frustrating, and so wonderful. He was lazy, but if he really put his mind to school, she thought his grades could be nearly as good as hers. And that was a huge compliment, as far as Hermione was concerned, because she personally thought that half the kids in her grade were complete dunderheads.
Finally, Ron completed his essay. Both he and Hermione slumped back against the couch, exhausted and trying to keep their eyes open so that they wouldn't fall asleep there in the Gryffindor common room, not even bothering to worry about posture or how they looked or how bad the cricks in their neck would be if they kept this up.
"That was really good, Ron," Hermione said finally, glancing over at him and beaming.
"Thanks," Ron muttered.
"No, really, Ron. You're smart."
He groaned loudly.
"Why do you sound so surprised, Hermione?" he asked, exasperated.
"Sorry," Hermione said. She paused, wanting to tell him that she was proud of him, but not being able to think of it without her stomach squirming uncomfortably. "Why don't you try harder, anyways?"
His eyes flickered away from hers before coming to rest on her face again.
"It's a long story."
"I've got time."
"Not too late for story time, really."
He relented, smile dropping a little bit.
"Everything I do, one of my brothers will already have done. It doesn't matter if I do well in school, because Bill got twelve O. , and he was Head Boy and Percy's a prefect and Charlie was Quidditch captain. There isn't anything I can do that will make me stand out, so why bother?"
Hermione was silent, just staring into his blue eyes.
"Shall we agree to disagree?" she asked finally. Ron's eyebrows shot up.
"Do you think there's anything left for me to do, Hermione?"
"What about chess?"
"It's just a hobby."
"What about being an excellent friend?"
"That's fruity and really wouldn't be counted, although thank you."
She bit her lip gazing at the couch, and then her eyes sparked and flashed back up to him. She got up onto her knees, facing him with enthusiasm on her face.
"Ron," she said, "we'll find something for you to do that makes you fifteen times better than all your brothers. We'll find it, and I'll help you achieve it, and you'll prove to them all just how ama—" she stopped herself—"just how great you are."
"Really?" he asked doubtfully.
"Really," Hermione said firmly. And he grinned.
"Thanks, Hermione," he breathed.
She smiled, looking content.
"Go to bed."
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