Chapter 6 : Three Conversations
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A group of mostly red headed witches and wizards walked along Hogwarts’s battle scarred corridors, largely quiet, still reflecting on the astounding story that Harry, Ron and Hermione had shared with them that night. Bill, Fleur and Charlie were heading to Shell cottage, the rest were destined for different beds in the various dormitories of Gryffindor Tower.
Ron deliberately slowed his pace a little and he and Hermione soon fell behind Harry, Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys.
“You OK?” queried Ron, looking at Hermione with both concern and affection. “That was more than a little rough.”
Hermione grasped Ron’s arm and pulled him closer. “Thanks to you. You were wonderful, you really helped me.”
“We helped each other.”
Hermione nodded. They continued walking in silence.
“I’m surprised what Kingsley said about us three needing to stay together tonight for security reasons,” Hermione said after a while, looking a little perplexed.
“Why? It seemed reasonable to me.”
“Well, there hasn’t been any security around us this evening. He hasn’t provided an escort back to the tower either. Surely the castle has been secured by now.”
“You don’t mind sharing the dorm with Harry and I, do you?” asked Ron, beginning to feel a little queasy.
“No, of course not,” Hermione replied, though she didn’t look as certain as her words sounded, “it’s just that I’m not sure everyone is going to understand.”
“We’ve all been sleeping in the same room together for the last nine months.”
“Yes, but other people don’t know that and we’re not living in a tent anymore. We’re not on the run.”
“Well, if you prefer to sleep in your old dorm, I’m sure Kingsley wouldn’t mind.” Ron sounded disappointed.
“That’s not what he said.”
“Um, Hermione, Kingsley only said that because I asked him to,” Ron confessed. “I didn’t want a battle with Mum over sleeping arrangements.”
“You said that to Kingsley without asking me first!” hissed Hermione. “Do you know how embarrassing that is? Merlin, what does Kingsley think?”
“Well uh __”
“And you don’t get to decide where I’m sleeping, Ron! Just because we’re now going together doesn’t mean you get to make my decisions for me.”
“I am letting you make your own decisions, why do you think I’m telling you about this now.”
“It’s a bit late now! The damage is already done. You had no right.”
“Well I’m sorry, excuse me for thinking you might have wanted to be with me. I must have misheard you when you said you cared about me. I thought I was helping you.”
“That’s not the point, Ron. You’re being obtuse.”
“Oh, so I’m being stupid now, am I? I may not be as smart as you, Hermione, but I know trying to work out what your girlfriend needs, without being told, and then doing it is important.”
“You’re unbelievable, Ron! You were doing it for me, were you? It wasn’t because you were planning on a little snogging? So what’s going to happen next? Is Kingsley going to call Harry out to a special meeting so you can get me alone?”
“Didn’t think about that. I think I’ll run after him and ask him to do just that,” Ron tried to joke.
“Don’t try and charm your way out of this, Ronald. You can’t take me for granted like that.”
“Take you for granted? I don’t take you for granted, Hermione.”
“You have a funny way of showing it!” Her nostrils flared.
“What about you. You…” Ron choked of the ugly retort that was forming in his mind. He didn’t want to hurt Hermione. He realised he didn’t even want to be fighting Hermione. He took a deep breath, trying to regain his calm.
Hermione was staring at him hard, eyes blazing, wondering why he had stopped.
Ron looked into her eyes and spoke gently, “I’m sorry Hermione. You’re right. I should have asked you before I spoke to Kingsley. I didn’t mean to upset or embarrass you though. I’m sorry.”
Hermione didn’t know what to say. She was still angry, but she didn’t really want to keep on fighting either. She continued to stare at Ron, breathing hard, allowing him to take the discussion where he wanted.
Ron felt an overwhelming burst of love for Hermione and words began to flow. They poured out of him. He couldn’t have stopped even if he had wanted to. The overflow of emotions from the debrief, from the battle, from the last few days swept away all barriers, all embarrassment. This was nothing like the tentative revelations, the shared confessions of love that had taken place at Shell Cottage, wonderful though that had been. It was an unstoppable torrent that laid his soul bare to Hermione, even as it revealed it to Ron himself.
“I don’t want to fight you, Hermione, and I don’t want to hurt you,” he had started gently, “it’s like hurting myself.”
He took her hands in his and looked deeply into her eyes with a look that conveyed supreme tenderness and an overwhelming need for her to understand, to know. His words started softly, then rose in a steady rhythm. “You are right here at my centre, Hermione, you are my core. Nothing fills me more completely than your joy, nothing warms me more quickly than your smile, nothing drains me faster than your disdain, and nothing hurts me more deeply than your pain. There is nothing more precious to me than you, nothing.”
All anger had fled Hermione’s eyes. She stood there transfixed, her jaw dropping, her eyes riveted on Ron.
Ron now had tears in the corners of his eyes and was shaking just a little with the depth of feeling that was flowing through him toward Hermione. “You are the inspiration of my best actions, the source of my courage, the focus of all my hopes. I love you, Hermione, with all my being. I think I have for a very long time. I would die for you, I think you know that, though I never want to leave you, never. I regret every hurt I have ever caused you more than you can ever know and I never want to be the source of your hurt again. More than anything, I want to make you happy.”
Hermione was crying now, unable to say a word, aware of nothing other than Ron and the stream of words he was pouring forth.
“And Hermione it is the most indescribably wonderful, scarcely believable thing that you love me too. I don’t understand that, but I want to. I need to. I never want to do anything that would change that, risk your love for me, drive you away. I never want to take you for granted or take for granted your love.”
“Hermione, I long to make love to you, not today, not tomorrow, but when you are ready. At times it is all I can think of. You are so unbelievably beautiful.” Hermione was taken aback. They never talked about this, but she felt her own desire rising at his words, her body responding. She understood that she, too, longed for this. Ron continued relentlessly; “My body aches for you. I want to touch you and kiss you everywhere. I want to hold you and fill you and wrap myself around you. I want to love you with my body as I do with my heart.”
“But, Hermione, I am scared, so scared. I’m scared I’m going to stuff this up. I’m so good at that. I’m scared of the power of what I feel for you, I’m scared I’m going to do something stupid and destroy what we have, what we might have in the future. I couldn’t bear that. I want so badly to build a future with you. I want so badly to be with you in every possible way. So forgive me, Hermione, if I take a wrong step. Help me to understand how to do this right. There is nothing more important to me.”
Hermione gently cupped Ron’s face in her hands. “Oh my beautiful, beautiful Ron, nothing is going to drive me away. I love you so much. I’m scared too, Ron, really scared, scared of losing control, scared I will mess this up if I don’t lose control and give myself up to the power of this thing between us.” Her body was shaking but she plunged on. “We have to trust each other with our feelings just as we have always done with our very lives, then we can be each other’s guide. It will be our great, grand, wonderful adventure, just the two of us, the adventure of our lives, literally. I so much want to share that journey with you, Ron.”
They moved in to kiss one another. It was a kiss unlike any other they had ever shared. It spoke of tenderness and love but it also held the promise of unbridled passion. More than anything it spoke of implied but as yet unvoiced promises. When they broke apart, Ron felt the need to make those promises explicit. He looked at Hermione with unreserved love and with the utter certainty that came from came from recognition of his deepest truth, he spoke;
“Hermione Jean Granger, I can’t imagine a life without you, I don’t want to try. I want to build a life together with you. I promise to love you, to support you, to stay in there with you no matter what. I will never abandon you again.”
Hermione gasped. Her head was swimming, her heart caught in her throat. She gathered all her courage, all her love for Ron, her own deep truth and replied in a bright clear determined voice;
“Ronald Bilius Weasley I can’t imagine a life without you, not one I would care to live. I want to build a life together with you. I promise to love you, to support you, to stay in there with you no matter what. I will never close you out. I will never give up on you, on us.”
They stood there, face to face, hands clasped in front of them, eyes shining brightly, glistening with tears of joy, grinning from ear to ear, on the verge of giggles.
“Did we just become engaged?” asked Hermione incredulously.
“No, my brilliant, beautiful Hermione, I think we just got married.”
“We will do it properly one day, when we’re both ready, when we both decide, but we will do it.”
“Yes we will,” Hermione stated simply, her heart filled with utter joy. She added with a wicked grin that held more than a hint of desire, “you know, Ron, if you hurry after Kingsley you could still get him to tie up Harry in meetings all night.”
Arm in arm, happier than they had ever been before in their lives, they headed for Gryffindor Tower and a new life together.
As they walked, Ron spoke again; “Hermione, I believe it should only be up to us how things go between us now. I know I should have talked to you first, but that is why I talked to Kingsley. I don’t think it’s up to my Mum where we sleep or what we do, even at the Burrow. We’ve been through too much together to go back to that.”
“She is not going to like it and she is going to have a very hard week this week as it is. We all are. You have to take that into consideration.”
“I don’t want to hurt or fight her either if it isn’t necessary. I should be asking you first, though, what you want, that is what’s important to me.”
“What do you want, Ron?” Hermione had stopped walking and was looking expectantly at Ron.
“I want to share a room with you. I don’t want share it with Harry. I want it understood that what happens in that room is our business only. I want to start that adventure of our lives that you talked about with you as my guide at whatever pace you choose.”
“That’s what I want too, Ron,” replied Hermione in a small voice, becoming nervous, “I want it very much. I don’t want to hurt your Mum, though, or Harry for that matter.”
“Maybe we should leave it for this week and then when the opportunity arises we can talk to your parents.”
“I’ll talk to my Dad, he’ll understand and it will be a whole lot easier if we get him on our side. But, Hermione, if they say no, I won’t stay at the Burrow. I meant it when I said it is only up to us what happens between us, OK?”
“More than OK.”
They resumed their march back to Gryffindor Tower.
The next morning, after breakfast, Molly and Arthur went for a walk in the grounds of Hogwarts. Reminders of the battle were everywhere; masonry blasted from the castle and from shattered gargoyles was strewn across the lawns, there were deep gouges in the earth and many of the once graceful trees were deeply charred. There was even the occasional arrow , long since loosed from a centaur’s bow, piercing the grass. The reminders oppressed them, but they wanted some private time just together, something that had been virtually impossible from the time they arrived for the battle.
At last they found a bench that afforded views less impacted by the battle. They sat, Molly nestling her head into Arthur’s shoulder, Arthur putting his arm around her.
“Oh Arthur, we are going home, leaving one of our own behind. It’s not right. It’s just not right. We are supposed to keep them all safe, to bring them all home with us. It’s our job.”
“I know, Molly, it feels so wrong. It is wrong. He is…was too young.” Arthur’s eyes were narrowly focused, his jaw muscles taut. “If it had to be someone it should have been me.”
Molly jerked up in fright. “No Arthur, Arthur no, don’t make me think about that, it’s already too much. I couldn’t bear it if __”
“Oh Molly, love, I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m going to miss him so much.”
“If anyone had ever told me I would miss Fred’s silly tricks, his endless teasing, I would have thought them mad.”
“I was watching George teasing Ron yesterday. His heart wasn’t in it. It was pathetic. I found myself willing him on. ‘You can do better son, for Fred’s sake’. We’re going to have to make sure we don’t lose George too.”
“It’s not going to be easy. I hope he lets us help. You know independent they ….”
“We’ll do it as a family. That’s who we are, what you and I created. When it really counts, we all come together. …We got Percy back when it counted.”
“We got Percy back.”
They fell silent.
“We could so easily have lost Ron.” Molly whispered at last.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. That story they told. I knew they were in danger, we all were, but Merlin, that story.”
“I am so proud of them. I’m proud of all of us, actually.”
“The load they had to carry. No one should have asked grown adults to carry that, but children!”
“I don’t believe they’ve been children for some time, at least not since Dumbledore died.”
“They shouldn’t have had to grow up so soon.”
“I don’t like it, but I think Harry was right, it had to be those three. Everything was asked of them and they gave it. I wonder if the world will ever understand how much they owe them.”
“We could have lost all of them, Arthur. Hermione was tortured! We could have lost them all so easily.”
“I know, I know. Their story deeply shocked me too. It still does. But do you know the most important thing I will always remember about last night, Molly?”
“The love. The love and friendship those three have for each other is extraordinary, beautiful. The love that was behind Harry’s walk into the forest, that is something else again. And then there’s our two youngest. They are both very much in love with people who return it in full force. We are not talking about teenage crushes here.”
“No, no we’re not. What Hermione went through at Malfoy manor is terrible, but Ron’s recounting of it tore my heart. He is still feeling the pain of it, still trying to protect her from it. Hermione is trying to take on Ron’s pain too and support him. The love is very deep.”
“It is pretty clear they have the life-bond. They are still very young for that to have formed. Times like they’ve been through this year can bring it on early, though. It did with us.”
“I’m sure you’re right about the life-bond but I now think it formed between them some time ago, maybe as early as their fourth year.”
“Are you sure? Merlin knows they’ve faced enough danger together over the years, but that young? That’s very, very rare.”
“Pretty sure. It explains a lot. It’s why they kept on fighting each other, kept on hurting each other but always returned to each other, always dancing around each other, always focusing on each other. It was the only way they could handle something as powerful as a life-bond when they were so young, so immature. No matter how much they hurt each other though, they were always there for each other when it was important. You have to remember too that Hermione is muggle born. A life-bond isn’t that common among magical folk. It is very rare among muggles, I understand. Even a smart girl like Hermione could not have understood what had hit her.”
“They aren’t dancing around each other anymore,” Arthur observed. “The barriers they’ve erected between themselves have been blown away by this war. They won’t be holding back anymore, not for long anyway. We’re going to have to let them make their own decisions, Molly.”
“What are you saying, Arthur?”
“I think Ron and Hermione will want to share a room, maybe not tonight, but soon. They will want Harry to move into another room. I believe we should allow that to happen.”
“Arthur, we didn’t even permit Bill and Fleur to share a room together and they were engaged.”
Arthur turned around to face his wife. “Molly, look at me, do you honestly believe that Bill and Fleur’s relationship at that time, the journey they had shared to that point is remotely comparable to Ron and Hermione’s?”
Molly paused before replying. “No, Arthur, I don’t, but they are still both so young.”
“No younger than we were.”
“Yes, but we’re the parents now. We’re supposed to be looking out for them.”
“And that’s what we should do, Molly my love. They are going to need all the support we can give them. They are going to find it hard enough recovering from the trauma they’ve been through and navigating their new relationship. They don’t need to be fighting us as well.”
“You are right, I suppose. We’d lose anyway, our parents did.”
“Yes we would. I’m fairly certain that Ron put Kingsley up to that little announcement about security last night. He didn’t want a fight with you about sleeping arrangements, dearest Mollywobbles.”
Molly burst out laughing. When she finally stopped, she turned to Arthur saying “If you told me a year ago that our little Ronnie would have the Minister of Magic running interference for him on his love life...” They both burst into the deepest laugh they had shared since before the battle, since before Fred had been killed.
“We still have a problem though, Arthur.”
“Ginny. If Ron and Hermione share a room, Ginny will want to move in with Harry. It will be very hard to stop her. I know she loves Harry, but she is still underage. She’s had to grow up a lot in the last year but she’s not ready yet for an adult relationship. She’ll only hurt herself and Harry.”
“We just have to be very firm with her. And we have to trust Harry.”
“Harry is still a teenage boy, a teenage boy who has just won a war and can now lay down the burdens he has had to carry for seven years, a teenage boy who is madly in love with Ginny. You’re asking an awful lot of him.”
“I know, I know, but do we have a choice. I would never kick Harry out of our home. Would you want that?”
“Never! Harry is our son too.”
“So we have to trust him. We have to trust his love for Ginny. You saw him last night. That wasn’t teenage hormones.”
“No it wasn’t. I was deeply moved. There was so much care, so much concern, so much tenderness. It’s the real thing for Harry. You’re right Arthur. We have to trust that love.”
“In the end, what else is there to trust in but love? We are very blessed, Molly dearest.”
“That we are. That we are.” Leaning into each other, finding a moments peace, they rested in companionable silence.
In the Great Hall, Oliver Grantham had just finished his breakfast. A young blonde witch in her mid-twenties came up him.
“Good morning, Mr Grantham.”
“Ah Keira,” he smiled, “you have it?”
“Yes sir.” She handed him a small thin dossier.
“Good, Good.” He gave the document a quick scan, and then he stood and headed briskly for the door. “Come, Keira, let’s walk and talk.” He didn’t want their discussion overheard.
“Give me the highlights, Keira.”
“Well, as you would expect, Harry Potter is a legend in the school. More surprising, perhaps, is that so are Granger and Weasley. Granger is widely regarded as the brightest witch to attend the school in some time.” Keira was finding it difficult to keep up Grantham’s pace and talk at the same time. She wasn’t going to tell her boss that though. Grantham realising her discomfort took pity on her and slowed down.
Keira continued, “Weasley is mostly famous for being Potter’s best friend, though his relationship with Granger is a subject of much amusement, speculation and puzzlement. Apparently, their shouting matches are still a talking point in all four houses.”
“I’m not really interested in their love life.”
“The main thing is that the three of them have been virtually inseparable since first year. Some of the stories of their exploits are plainly not credible, though they are widely believed in Hogwarts. For example, they are supposed to have stopped the Dark Lord returning in full bodily form when they were still in first year, fighting giant triple headed dogs and life size magical chess pieces along the way. Ridiculous!”
“So what can be believed?”
“It’s beyond dispute that they formed and trained the now famous DA in secret right under noses of the Ministry of Magic and Dolores Umbridge when they were in fifth year. The ministry didn’t want the kids to know how to fight. The kids knew, even then, they would need to. Pretty impressive really.”
“Anything that would indicate their political leanings? Their values?” asked Grantham.
“You might find this interesting,” replied Keira. “Just after the 1994 Quidditch world cup, Granger founded an organisation called S.P.E.W. or the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. Potter was secretary and Weasley was treasurer. Apparently the Longbottom boy, you know the “Snake Killer”, was also a member.”
“Excellent Keira, excellent. Thanks for your quick work,” said Grantham. “Do you know how the report on the Weasley family is progressing?”
“You should have it later this afternoon, I think”
“Good. Ok I’ll see you back in the office later today.” He dismissed Keira and turned to his own thoughts. The information about S.P.E.W. supported what he already suspected; that Potter, Granger and the Weasleys favoured radical causes and were likely to use their influence to promote them. “Merlin I hope Granger never gets better at choosing acronyms,” he thought wryly.
Grantham edited a small legal gazette and was able to use that to obtain press credentials for today’s conference. The S.P.E.W. information could prove very useful. The Press Conference was going to be fun, he smiled to himself.
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